Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sketch Fest #58 November 28 - 30

Finally got around to participating in a Sketch Fest event after missing so many months - my last one was February 2014.  I couldn't dedicate full 48 hours just to Sketch Fest, although I promised to give myself a time-off for Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  Well, y'know, when you make a living drawing and painting, an event where you draw and paint on prompts - even when it's for personal stuff and for fun - it still kind of feels like working.  LOL  As I've said before, the way my work space is set up right in the corner of our living room, it's hard for me to completely remove myself from work.  It's just too easy to walk on over and check on stuff online every so often. ^^;  I'm hoping to get my studio space back... some day. *fingers crossed*

Anyhow, I didn't see a lot of prompts that interested me, and frankly, the participation was relatively low, due to the fact that this is the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  It's people's vacation time and family time.  It does feel a bit anti-social to be doing art stuff... alone. LOL  Still not particularly motivated to do pin-up-y stuff (When am I ever?) or drawing glamorous women/fairies/mermaids, so I went to the whimsical, light stuff.  (After cooking and eating all that turkey, brainstorming on a prompt was not something I was inclined to do. Haha.)  Whimsical, light, seasonal stuff.  I can come up with something right away with these types of prompts.  ^_^

Here's my "Christmas Puppy", an ACEO in ink & watercolor for a prompt of "Christmas Puppy".  I think pretty much every child dreams of getting a puppy in a box on a Christmas morning.  I certainly entertained the idea, though it never happened. That's OK since I turned out to be a Crazy Cat Lady anyway. ^_^  Still, when I saw this prompt, I just had to take it.  ^_^

Next up is "Little Christmas Tree", also an ACEO in ink & watercolor.  This is for a prompt "The Cutest Christmas Tree".  I thought I'd draw a little toddler elf sitting down for a break with a cup of hot chocolate.  After all, it's not easy looking so cute in a Christmas Tree suit. Hehe.

And of course, if I paint a "Christmas Puppy", I'd have to make a "Christmas Kitty", too, right?  Here's "Christmas Light Kitten", to a prompt "Wrapped Up in Lights".  There was "Christmas Kitty" among the prompts, also, so it's kind of a combo - "two birds with one stone" kind of a deal here. :D  Once again, an ACEO in ink & watercolor.  This kitty is inspired by my cats whose antics are an endless source of ideas. ^_^

Time for me to get busy turning them into digis!! :D

Friday, November 28, 2014

Christmas Tree Sprite Colored

I'm so backed up with so many projects the past few months it's hard to keep track of what's what (and I don't like it!).  I used to be a finisher, who was unable to start a new project until the one in progress was completed.  Not any more.  I draw, ink, and leave.  Or I sketch and leave.  *shakes head*  So I'm happy to say I got around to coloring and finishing this one! :D

Christmas Tree Sprite ©Mitzi Sato-Wiuf 2014
Digital free-hand with some post processing in Corel Painter on Wacom Intuos 3.

Probably not the color scheme you'd think of when you first hear "Christmas Tree", but I thought about coloring him in blue or white when I first made the digi earlier this month.  I could totally see him in traditional green with red, green, and gold ornament, but I could totally picture him in a non-traditional approach as well.  In the end, this one won out - mostly because everyone else was coloring him in natural greens.  I wanted to do something different (The nonconformist tendency strikes again!). :D  Besides, I've always liked the look of white Christmas Tree (the artificial kind).  Every year, the stores seem to carry just one type of all-white Christmas Tree among so many others that are evergreen.  I've tried talking my family into having a white tree over the years, but they look at me like, "Uhhh, no.  You've got to be kidding." or "Why!?!?", as if I'm suggesting the tackiest thing ever. lol

Needless to say, this was fun to color.  Started coloring between cooking and tidying up to get ready for the Thanksgiving feast yesterday and finished up around noon today.  Shiny and sparkly things are fun to paint - especially for me, who loves to put random sparkly dots everywhere in my illustrations of fairies.  Highlights make things look so pretty and magical. :D   Anyhow, I love the way this one turned out.  ^_^

The JPG digi of this guy is at my Etsy shop and web shop.  PNG version is at Etsy (follow the link found in the item description of the JPG digi listing at Etsy).  300 dpi 5" x 6.5".

I just stopped by over at Sketch Fest to check the prompts and found a few that interested me.  ^_^  This will be my first SF since February of 2014.  Long time no see.  Hehe.  I almost gave up at 3:30, not because I was unmotivated, but I just didn't see any prompt that interested me.  Good thing I went back to check again later as more people had posted prompts.  ^_^  

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 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