Monday, November 24, 2014

Gardens & Goddesses Volume 2

The follow-up coloring book to my popular "Gardens & Goddesses" is now listed at my Etsy shop. *woohoo*  Now I'm getting very low on packing supply - the rigid cardboard document mailer in particular, in the coloring book size.  Placed an order earlier this week, expecting the box of mailers to be here by now, but then, the massive lake effect snowfall back East has delayed shipment via UPS.  T_T  Well, people were dying, so I shouldn't be complaining about a delay in shipment.  But this is a little early for holiday season mail mishap, I feel.  ^^;


This is a scan of the cover.  The delicate pink shades were hard for the scanner to capture correctly without going a little crazy in overall hue.  Had to do a bit of editing to tweak and adjust for more accurate depiction of color.  The cover of volume 2 was a 'traditional' ink and watercolor on paper illustration, so it looks a little different from my other two covers (which were digital illustration for coloring over scanned line art in ink on paper).  I like both approaches equally.  Just tend to pick whichever, depending on the mood.  There's no doubt though, that scanning or photographing the original on paper or canvas to try to get an accurate record is ALWAYS frustrating and time consuming.  (Not to mention the lack of 'undo' option... lol.)


Back to the coloring book.  I'm just thrilled to death about having 3 books published. ^_^  The first one was extremely exciting when it became a reality, but these two volumes that came out this fall are just as thrilling for me to behold.  The cover stock seems to be upgraded from the previous printing run to have a nice satin-like glossy look and feel.  The paper seems a little thicker.  Some editing from Ellen Million Graphics in terms of their logo and placement all contributes to an improved batch. :D  Just awesome.

As soon as I get those mailers (so I can process orders in a timely manner), I'll put these coloring book listings to the front of my shop, but for the time being, they're kind of stashed in the back (hidden deeper after several pages of listings). ^^;  Please hurry, UPS man!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Midnight Gardens Coloring Book


The much-anticipated dark fantasy coloring book has arrived~!!!  A huge box came to my front door the other day, and I've finally got around to making a listing at the AW shop on Etsy. :D Along with this listing, I also had to do some updating on the main web site at www.AuroraWings.com because Etsy won't let me list a slide show of all the images that are included in the book.  And although a handful of sample pages is always nice to go along with any book listings, I prefer to offer a thorough look-through for my customers and fans.  So they can clearly see for themselves what's included in the book and cross-reference their list of digis already on their computer, even.  Check out the slide show of the inside pages here.

This latest batch of coloring books has a nice glossy cover stock.  The print job is wonderful.  The cover has a satiny feel, rich, saturated colors, and this book, with the Las Calaveras as the cover, just has a powerful presence about it. :D

This book also has an interesting collection of images ranging from Catrinas (I do have a love of the skull painted beauties of the Day of the Dead celebration.), Japanese noh plays and folklore demons, an Asian tattoo art fantasy, a piece inspired by one of the many grimmer tales by the Brothers Grimm, some pieces inspired by Buddhist art, a piece inspired by Greek mythology, skull collecting mermaids, and some steampunk that leans slightly to the dark side.  Lots of different genres and quite a range of world traditions.


Many of the pieces you see in this book were done for the Enchanted Visions Project when I was an active contributing member.  I haven't felt particularly inspired by some of the more recent monthly themes and I haven't had  (or probably more accurately ... haven't made) time to participate in the activities of that collective.  At the beginning of my fantasy art career though, it forced me to create something on a regular basis and helped me expand my portfolio, which was great.  And I was able to take full advantage of the challenge of the themes, always trying my best to one up the previous effort.  Good times. ^_^

This year saw a massive and fast growth in my digi sales on Etsy, which ended up claiming much of my available time.  I would like to have more time to do larger scale artwork which also require more research into the themes.  Part of the fun I have when I make a larger, more committed fantasy pieces, is the research and brainstorming that go into each.  Sometimes I spend days scouring the Internet in multiple languages.  ^_^

I am not sure how the dark coloring book will be received.  Probably not as huge a success as my more mainstream Gardens & Goddesses, but the dark art niche is a strong one with very enthusiastic fans, so who knows?  I, for one, like both ends of the spectrum and everything in between, from bright and cheerful to dark and sinister.  ^_^  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Holiday Season

The Nutcracker 2014 commemorative ornament with Clara
Has a tendency to sneak up on us no matter how hard we try to be well prepared. ^^;  I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way.  Anyone who has retail experience knows how horribly hectic and unpleasant things can get.  I feel for workers at malls and busy retail shops this time of the year.  The customers get all stressed out, and they can get real mean...  ^^;

Many years ago, when I was still teaching ballet, I started out selling my ballet watercolor images on a single web page (This was back in 2001.).  Back then, I made everything at home with my printer and handled all customer service and made my trips to the post office.  This was all doable because, back in those days, there were four additional US Postal had branch offices placed throughout town, and it was relatively convenient for me to make multiple trips per week.

In 2005, I discovered CafePress and set up my shop.  And let me tell you, back then, things were FUN!!  I'm sure a lot of shopkeepers felt the warm fuzzy feeling as they made products with their images and set up sections to their shops.  Back then, the royalty percentage you set was honored in the 'market place'.  No weird commission math was done to our earnings - no, nothing like how it is today.   Then things started to get sour when CP started targeting the content providers (= shopkeepers) as a profit source to be manipulated as they grew in size.  First, their bonus structure got tweaked, then came the announcement that all market place sales will have the flat 10% royalty percentage "because that's the industry standard".  Then came, 10% sales fees imposed on your earnings unless you choose to pay shop fees upfront.  More recently, yet another tweaking of rules - unless you add a new design at least every 3 months, your earning percentage can plummet from 10% to 5%.  Yeah, ... no warm fuzzy feelings there these days. LOL

Waltz of the Flowers (Nutcracker 2014) 11 oz mug
Lots of CP shopkeepers ditched and migrated to, or at least expanded into setting up shops at Zazzle (I set up my shop, too.), the biggest competitor in the Print-On-Demand business.  At that time, they were still touting how we can set our own earning percentages with a good bonus potential, etc.  They did have a wonderful bonus program with reasonable tiers.  Things were going well.  Until a few years ago, when they started phasing out the bonus program, changing up the general layout (to the point of looking rather sterile, devoid of personality), optimizing for mobile devices.  Once again, things took the same course for the shopkeepers.  Generally much less fun, more tedious and time consuming to make a listing - all for much less money.  Gone were the warm fuzzy feelings.

I feel lucky that I do well on Etsy, so my shops at CP and Z have taken a complete backseat to my general operation as an artist these days (I've dropped Red Bubble and all other POD places because they simply made no sense when I analyzed the 'return on investiment' in terms of my time to these venues.).  Holiday season, however, is when I see a spike in sales from these two places.  The reason is that my ballet watercolor designs are of The Nutcracker.

I have not been able to update and add new designs as much as I've liked over the years - either busy teaching or painting my fantasy art.  But I usually managed to work on it in September to get ready for the holiday season.  This year, though, I completely, utterly FAILED.  ^^;  It was an email from CP customer service, which was forwarded from a customer who inquired about a 2014 version of a design! ^^;  I grudgingly got myself into action and started updating the commemorative gifts section.

Dance of the Snowflakes (The Nutcracker 2014) teapot
Ended up updating a lot of extra stuff. ^^;  Made some wrap-around designs for mugs and teapots.  My few years of selling tubed images came in handy to revamp some of my original watercolor illustrations with new backgrounds and giving my images new aspect ratios to fit a wider range of products.  ^_^
Nutcracker & Chipmunk Ballerina 2014 Ornament
Nutcracker earrings
Nutcracker mug (15 oz.)
Nutcracker mug (11 oz.) 
Nutcracker Pendant Necklace
I guess it's still simple and easy that it's kind of fun (minus the warm and fuzzy feeling, mind you).  ^^;  I needed to update some stuff over at the Z place, too, but it was a big disappointment that their previously already tedious way of making a listing got even more so after their "upgrade" to make things mobile-friendly...  Customers can still personalize stuff (well, at least those who are Internet savvy can, anyway...), so I'll keep my shop open and probably add new products/designs from time to time.  But I kind of miss the time in my life when all this was a lot more fun.  I feel a bit sentimental, looking back at the early days of my art making and attempting to make some money.  But things grow and change, and people do, too.  My art business has certainly grown, and the POD shops have become a very small portion of my income - still much larger than licensing my images to other companies.    It's kind of funny that CP and Z have become kind of like distant  relatives you only see during the winter holidays.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Sprite Number 56

Hard to believe the little flower baby series that started out with the "Woodland Bluebell Sprite" has grown to 56 sprites!  When I was a little girl, my favorite activities were drawing and gardening (I was the kind of kid who would spend what little allowance she had on seeds and plants at the nearby garden center.),so  it's not hard at all to figure out why this is the case.


My sprites are basically little elves representing the members of the plant kingdom.  Costumed in petals, leaves, seed pods, and whatnot, these little ones somehow manage to show different personalities, despite their general basic features being the same simple form.  ^_^  Naturally, some plants are harder to conceptualize into a sprite form.  Take, for example, Queen Anne's Lace.  I still have no idea after months of thinking on that particular plant. lol  One day, though, I will be struck with inspiration and he/she will appear on paper in 30 seconds or less.  That's how it usually goes.  I look at a photo of the plant and I'll know what to do.

I really hope I get to turn them into little figurines/sculptures some day.  That's another one of my plans I've been thinking for a while.  Been wanting to play with the polymer clay to turn these guys into 3D figures, but... with so many plans on the back burner, I have not been able to find time for it.  (Besides, I really need a new work space that can keep cat hair and dust at bay.  May have to build a separate studio...  Boy, wouldn't that be awesome?  I can dream ...  yes, I can.  ^_^ )

Just realized that I haven't posted my Spiderwort Sprite (Sprite # 55) here on the blog yet.  Oops.  She's such a cutie, I don't know how I could have spaced out.


She's a little shorter than many in the series, but I love her for her pigtails of leaves decorated with the flower clusters.  These flowers grew easily... like weeds... in Japan, where I grew up, but I have had no luck since I've moved to the arid desert west of the Rockies.  Soil is generally poor and things are extremely dry and inhospitable.  On top of everything, I just recently lost a large shade tree to either old age or more likely disease, and a huge trunk came falling down at my window one gusty day (Amazingly, no major damage to the house or the car port of our neighbor.). That took care of taking down the tree, but it also eliminated precious shade, where I might have been able to try growing this plant. T_T

I do like coloring my sprites (and other digis that I draw) when I find time.  I do enjoy coloring all of my line art, but I seem to be perpetually running behind, having more and more things piling up on my desk.  ^^;  Coloring my art is one of the few activities that I can do without hurrying.  I'm grateful that my mind doesn't feel the need to rush.  Art is still a meditative activity like gardening, even after it has become my work.  I feel so fortunate to be able to wake up excited every morning for the work that lies ahead for the day.  ^_^  ... Even when I have stuff piled up to do. lol

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Jack-o'-Lantern

Finally got around to making a jack-o'-lantern today! :D  Halloween brings the inner child in me (Well, actually, a lot of things do, but I'm not going to go into that today.).  But it's been particularly fun since my child was born many years ago.  We always crafted with pumpkins in one way or another.  We've played with paintings the faces on them with markers early on when she was young and then gradually moved onto using knives to carve.  I often let her just draw a face with markers and took over to do the carving.  This year we each got a pumpkin to play with.


Mine is a cross between a sugar skull and a jack-o'-lantern this year.  I wanted to take pictures with marigolds (one of the few plants that are still flowering this late in the season), but they're all too tall for this guy and I ended up propping him up in the sweet alyssums.


Tilt him skyward and he appears to be smiling.  ^_^


One of the other flowers that are still blooming is Mexican Sunflower, so I popped the blooms in the eye sockets.  Voila!  Perfect size! :D  So festive!

I'll try to take a picture of this with candle inside later when it gets darker.  Not guaranteeing anything since I was kind of impatient and I may not have scraped the inside enough to make it thin enough to allow light to show in the white area...

Well, it was a lot of fun and I got to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon (temperature in the 70s, calm and clear... just gorgeous), daydreaming and carving away.  Time well spent. ^_^

UPDATE: The third photo (flower eyes one) was featured in the weather segment of 11 News at 10 on KKCO on Halloween night. ^_^

Friday, October 24, 2014

Finally Here

Just checked my mail box to find a large envelope from the Gearhearts Steam-Punk Glamor Revue Magazine.  *exciting*  I just thought about this magazine a few days ago after completely forgetting about it for months.  You see, they contacted me at the beginning of this year about featuring my artwork "Steampunk Test Flight" (aka Steampunk Fantasia).  On their contract, they actually paid for the use of artwork (Which, unfortunately, is kind of rare.  Publications are always so damn eager to point out to you, 'But it's a great EXPOSURE!'. lol) and promised to send 2 copies of the magazine when they're out.

Well, months went by and I didn't hear anything about the magazine or didn't see anything in the mail, so I thought, "Oh, well, this is typical. I probably neither see any money or the magazine, I bet.".  This is sadly pretty much the attitude an artist develops after being out there for a while.  Lots of promises, lots of failed businesses, and lots of crooks ... that's what we deal with more often than I care to mention.  ^^;  Even the ones that pay the legitimate fee up front to use my images for posters, programs, books and magazines, I have seen maybe 1 in 10 would actually send me the final product they promise to send me.  I don't know what's going on with the rest.  Most likely an early onset senior moments galore.

So imagine my surprise when I saw a check in the mail from them a few months ago.  I didn't know which issue of the magazine the artwork was going to be featured on, so I had no idea when to expect what (or even expect anything at all as these types of things go).  I got the sense they were legit because of the artwork use agreement form I filled out and signed.  I was right.

After a few more weeks of waiting though, I thought, "Oh, looks like they forgot about sending me the magazines.  Whatever.".  You can just imagine how thrilled I was to actually see the physical copies of the magazine come in the mail.


You see the cover of the magazine to the left - an awesome cosplay!!  And there it is!  Just inside the awesome cover is my "Steampunk Test Flight"! :D  It's always strangely fun to see my art on print publications.  I don't know why or exactly what, but there's something special about it. :D  I had a lot of fun with this illustration, so it's also nice that somebody else out there liked it enough to have it on their magazine.  Thank you so much, Gearhearts Steam-Punk Glamor Revue!

I don't know if this is because I was born in Japan to Japanese parents, but I always automatically pick up a book in my left hand.  And in the case of English publications, I end up thumb-flipping pages starting with the back cover, moving towards the front.  On my first thumb-through, I didn't see my image anywhere. XD  I only saw it the second time around when I started from the cover, like I was supposed to. LOL

Oh, and you know what else that made me smile?  On the index, it is actually called "Frontspiece", the space my artwork occupies. ^^;  And they spelled my name correctly. *happy happy*  It really shouldn't be such a big deal, but this is another one of routine disappointments I encounter... incorrect spelling of my name.

The print and the line art digi of "Steampunk Test Flight" are available at my Etsy shop.  This image is also featured in the upcoming new coloring book, "Gardens & Goddesses volume 2".



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

New Release - Day of the Dead Marie Antoinette

I  thought I'd write about my doodling process today. :D  I say 'doodling', because that's pretty much the attitude that my personality requires for me to tackle something with enough playfulness.  Otherwise, I get a little too serious, and frankly, when that happens, the results are not that great. ^^;  Besides, we should always take things a little less seriously.  Stress is everywhere these days if we're not careful.  The last thing I'd want is 'art' to become 'not fun'.  I've been close in the past, but thankfully, I was able to catch myself in time to prevent a runaway disaster. LOL

Today, I released a new digi, Day of the Dead Marie.  She's a fun mishmash of Mexican Day of the Dead holiday's Catrina face with the Rococo excess of big hair and ornamentation.  Well, I thought it might be fun to draw something like that that involves a lot of details, and it was... for the most part. ^_^

This is where I start.  The rough sketch, or what I call 'the scribble'.   This can happen on any type of paper. (And I mean 'any' type of paper.  I've done a sprite sketch on the back of a store receipt! LOL)  I do have a sketch pad that I bought at an art supply store, but more often than not, an idea would come and I tend to grab any scrap paper with enough open area for a scribble.  This one ended up on a back side of an Etsy receipt I printed for a customer that didn't quite come out right when the printer was set on 'draft'.

When I get started on a poor quality paper like that (although I use a fairly heavy weight, acid-free printer paper for all business-related printings - not art-related printings, mind you), it makes sense to just scan the sketch and open it in my trusty old Corel Painter for digital inking and cleaning.  If I start on a thicker paper (highly unlikely unless I set out with clear intent to begin with), I'd ink on that paper.


And here's a screen shot of the project in Corel Painter.  I'm not a huge fan of the way the stylus tip glides so smoothly (really, too slick for me) on the drawing surface (Wacom Intuos 3).  I prefer the slight resistance of the bristol vellum (140 lb to 150 lb range) for inking...  But I persevere.  It's a trade off.  The 'erase' and 'undo' are truly the most priceless of the functions available when drawing digitally.  It's not fun to have an accident in ink on paper that you can't do much about...  really.  I'd be honest, sometimes I don't feel up to the challenge. LOL

This one took me two afternoons because of the mind-boggling hair details (Them pearls!) and the floral frame.  Although I've gotten pretty quick about drawing roses after drawing so many over the past few years.  The only two things I looked up reference for were the spider and the cat skull.


And here's the final preview of the PNG version of the digi listing.  Another huge plus of drawing digitally is the ease of removing the background's white.  ^_^  The digi is available at my Etsy shop (in JPG version and PNG version).  The JPG version is also listed at the Aurora Wings web shop.  I'm still undecided on how I am going to organize the PNG listings in the web shop, so I am yet to start offering them there.  ^^;  Honestly, one person making art, processing for listing, keeping up with social media, etc. is entirely TOO MUCH.  Or I'm getting too old for it. LOL XD

The ladies of both the Challenge Blog and Showcase Blog DTs have kindly made beautiful samples using this digi to have a stunning showcase.  You will not be disappointed to check out the blog post here.

Now, I really would love to do a color version of this if I can find time for it.  I'm going to keep my fingers crossed that I'll get to. :D