Industrious Illustrating #9: Fantasy (1/?)

For this week’s Industrious Illustrating, I want to share a painting I did as concept art for a fantasy visual novel idea I had. The painting itself isn’t done yet, but it’s in a finished enough state that I can show it to others . This is the Palace of Spades, which is a magical fusion of a Huaxia palace and an Albion castle. It floats above a deep pit in the middle of the capital city of Longjing/Sigillum — the two names given to the city by different populations of inhabitants.

The regions of Huaxia and Albion are loosely inspired by Ancient China and by medieval England, though the story takes place when the world is on the cusp of technological and societal change. After all, it’s almost been a thousand years since the Kingdom of Spades was founded by four heroes from Huaxia and Albion uniting their people to seal away the Great Leviathan, and the magical seal on the Great Leviathan is about to break. It’s now up to the current generation of Spades Royals to defeat Spades’s greatest threat once again…

To create this painting, I heavily referenced real-life pavilions, castles, and buildings for the architecture of the Palace of Spades. I’m still making more concept art and illustrations for this storyline, so I may end up sharing more of it when they’re finished!

Industrious Illustrating #8: Time/Sequence

Honestly, I’m not the proudest of this comic. I didn’t have the time to properly render or correct some of my drawings, so I would like to redo some of the pages if I ever posted these on my social media or printed them into a mini book. But for those who have been following along with my column, this comic is the result of the AEIOU (Activities Environments Interactions Objects Users) sketches I made a few weeks ago for Drawing Visualization. Yes, there’s a lot more to Toshiaki’s story than what I told in these six pages; I intend to eventually draw more comics that will tell his full story.


Also, thank you to everyone who stopped by my Artist Alley booth at Con Ja Nai in the MLB last Saturday! I managed to sell a decent amount of my prints and also had a lot of good conversations with the people who stopped by my booth. I look forward to attending more conventions and art fairs in the future!

Industrious Illustrating #7 – Background Art

Hello, and welcome back to another week of Industrious Illustrating! This week, I’m sharing some background paintings I made for the UMich anime club’s visual novel (interactive choose-your-own adventure video game made up entirely of cutscenes) project about three girls piloting big robots in space and falling in love with each other along the way. But the focus of these three backgrounds is less on the girls and more on setting a scene for the drama and action unfolding in the storyline.

For this background, I wanted to make an asteroid field that looks like a somber, quiet place where two people can have a conversation in the vacuum of space. The blue-grey color palette and lonesome star illuminating the dust clouds were selected for this purpose.

For this background, I wanted to make a desolate, empty desert where the dark sky, winding sand dunes, and distant mountains create a landscape where you can have a heart-to-heart with someone you didn’t actually know very well.

And this is just a regular starry background for any conversations, fights, etc. that happen while crossing the open expanse of space.

That’s all the background art I have to share this week, but that’s not the end of this post!

As a reminder, I’m selling artwork at Con Ja Nai tomorrow, which is UMich’s one-day anime convention in the Modern Languages Building, from noon to 6 PM! There will be a bunch of other artists and vendors also selling in the building, alongside a maid cafe, panels, anime showings, and more. My booth (Table A2) will look something like this.

I hope to see you guys there! If not, I hope you’ll stick around for more Industrious Illustrating as the semester draws to a close!

Industrious Illustrating #6 – Supplies

Geez, how have I gone this long without posting about my supplies? I guess it’s better late than never.
(Despite the posting date, this is not an April Fools’ Day joke. Unfortunate that my Friday posting schedule would lead to this confusion.)

My handy-dandy traditional supplies which I have been using for years are alcohol-based markers (mainly Copics), Winsor & Newton Professional-grade watercolors, and Copic multi-liner ink pens. Layering alcohol-based inks and watercolors on top of each other leads to vibrant mixtures of opaque and transparent colors on the paper. I also sometimes use Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils (not pictured) for additional texture, as the wax-based pigments repel water and create a unique look on the paper.

In terms of paper, I currently mostly use Smooth Bristol Board and both cold-press and hot-press watercolor paper. Bristol Board is a semi-thick type of smooth paper that somewhat resembles cardstock, and it holds inks + pigments quite well. For heavier-duty paintings with multiple layers of watercolors, though, I use one of the watercolor paper textures. Cold press is rougher and has more of a visible texture to it, while hot press is smoother, almost like a thicker version of Bristol Board. I use Arches-brand watercolor paper, but honestly it doesn’t feel that much better than the Strathmore 400 Series. I also prefer using value-priced XL or 300 Series Bristol Board from either Canson or Strathmore because it’s more cost efficient than buying higher quality but far more expensive paper pads.

I actually used to create my digital artwork on a cruddy little Wacom Intuos S until this Monday, when its USB port decided to crap out on me and leave me without a digital tablet. I borrowed a much, much better Wacom Intuos Pro Medium from the Stamps ECHO equipment borrowing office so that I could finish some school assignments, and I’ll receive my own personal Wacom Intuos Pro Medium this weekend. While a tablet with a screen would feel more tactile and closer to the experience of drawing on paper, currently I would prefer to have a portable tablet which won’t break if I’m a little rough with it.
I would recommend this tablet to people who are serious about drawing (whether as a hobby or as a job) and are looking for something portable and sturdy. While the initial price tag might seem pricey (between 300 to 400 dollars on Amazon), trust me when I say that purchasing and refilling traditional supplies instead of just using a tablet will become much, much more expensive over time. Also, it’s very useful to at least know how to use digital media in today’s commercial art world. That’s why I started to actually use Clip Studio Paint and Photoshop after I started attending university.

That’s all for this week! If you have any more questions about the supplies I use or what I think of them, feel free to ask them in the comments section!

Industrious Illustrating #5 – AEIOU

Welcome back to another week of Industrious Illustrating! This time, we’re going back to looking at sketches developing a more finished story.

The AEIOU in the title stands for Activities, Environments, Interactions, Objects, and Users, which is an acronym that my Drawing Visualization professor came up with for these sketch assignments. I was supposed to draw at least five sketches per page focused around these topics in relation to a planned short comic.






Not all of these sketches are going to be directly used in my short comic. The short comic will focus on an ex-soldier who contemplates the names he’s been called in the past when he has to decide whether or not he’ll answer to his civilian name of “Toshiaki Mizushima”. Some of these characters will appear in his flashbacks as former friends or current comrades, but they may not appear exactly the same as they appear in these sketches. Additionally, there’s a much longer post-apocalyptic cyberpunk story involving these characters and this world, so the short comic is just a teaser of the longer narrative I plan on telling someday.

Since this comic assignment is due next week, I should have a finished comic to show off for next week’s column. See you guys next Friday!

Industrious Illustrating #4: Making Prints

For the past few weeks, I’ve spent several late nights in the Digital Print Lab at Stamps watching the inkjet printers spit out pretty pieces of paper at an agonizingly slow pace. Why is that? Well, I’m planning on selling prints of my artwork at Con Ja Nai, which is the one-day anime convention held at UMich in the Modern Languages Building on April 9th this year. There’s many freelance illustrators who make a living off of selling their artwork at craft fairs or conventions, but for now I’m just selling my art as a fun side gig.

Anyway, I printed my favorite pieces onto 8.5 x 11″ and 11 x 17″ pieces of Epson Enhanced Matte Paper or Epson Luster Photo Paper so that they’ll look great hanging on someone’s wall someday.

However, the prints came out of the printer with white borders around them, so I had to trim the white borders off with a paper cutter. Some of my designs were also more suitable to smaller print sizes, so I printed multiple on a single sheet of paper and then cut them down to size by hand.

After being cut down to size, I’m currently storing them in a plastic bin that doubles as a display rack.

I package every print in a resealable clear plastic bag that also has one of my business cards in it. This protects the print from dust and damage while also letting the customer and passerby look at the art they just purchased. Also, I’ve had a few bad experiences with purchasing art at conventions and not receiving it in a plastic sleeve, so the nice art gets dented and damaged before I can put it on my wall, so I want to avoid doing that to anyone else. 🙁

I’m looking forward to meeting other artists and nerds at Con Ja Nai next month! Perhaps one of my future posts will go into how I design and order factory-produced merchandise that rounds out the rest of my sales stock, or perhaps I will go back to posting about my artistic process… Stay tuned!