Friday, August 28, 2015

Summer Art Dump Part 1- Pre-TCAF, At TCAF, Pre-ALA

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I've been so busy lately finishing up Gizmo Grandma, doing freelance work, traveling to a handful of conventions all across the country (and even to Canada), that while I've found time to sketch and draw, I haven't found much time to sit down and scan.  As time progressed, my scan backlog grew and grew, and at two unscanned sketchbooks, I figured it was time to make it a priority.  After all, this blog isn't JUST about reviewing art supplies (although it seems that way lately), it's also about my process and even, sometimes, it's about my art.

Since I have over 100 scans, I'm going to upload this in three consecutive parts, and sprinkle them amongst my Walmart Art Supply Review series.

For those of you who've noticed that I often sketch with color pencils, and may be wondering why I do so, the reason is because it allows me to loosen up, without having to wait for ink to dry.  Sketching with permanent or semi permanent materials like ink, china marker, or color pencil is a great way to work on being more decisive, as it removes the ability to erase repeatedly.  I do not recommend this for production work, but I've found it's a great way to create more gestural, less fussy sketches, and it removes the mental burden of trying to make things perfect.

Daily Warm ups and Cool Downs, referenced from Pinterest boards and The Sartorialist.

Trying to get more referenced drawing in to my regular drawing rotation.

That's all for Part 1 of my three part summer sketch dump!  I'll be sharing Parts 2 and 3 soon, and I'm also planning on doing a teenage year retrospective video as an accompaniment to my Walmart, Target, and Dollar Tree art supply series, so keep an eye out for that! 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Brush Pen Review: Zebra Brush Pen FD-302-Soft-Fine

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I think (THINK) this brush pen marks the last of the bunch that Jetpens sent awhile back.   I wanted to make sure they were all finished before I started releasing posts for my upcoming series, Affordable Art Supplies, where I peruse Walmart, Target, and the Dollar Tree for decent supplies.  It'll be awhile before the queue loads up more brush pen reviews, but I think I've done a pretty decent job of covering a lot of brushpen options, and I feel like this Zebra FD-302 is a good note to end on.
The Pen
The Zebra FD-302 is much narrower in body than many of the brushpens I've featured here, and is probably meant to be held the way one would hold a brush for traditional calligraphy or sumi painting- with your hand vertical and your grip light.  If you don't hold your brush this way when you ink, the FD-302 may feel a bit thin and difficult to handle.

The cap does not come with a clip, nor does the barrel come with a grip, but you can post the cap to the back of the pen.  There are no notches or barrel protrusions to prevent the pen from rolling off your desk, but I didn't really notice much of a problem while doing this test.

The Zebra Brush Pen FD-302 in Soft and Fine has a fairly large brush for it's size.

From Left to Right:  Kuretake Fudegokochi (Regular), Kuretake No. 33 (recently reviewed!), and the Zebra FD- 302 in Soft-Fine.
As you can see, the FD-302 is between the Fudegokochi and No. 33 in size, about the size of a Pilot Pocket Brush in Soft.  It's a little softer than the Pilot Pocket Brush as well, but not overly soft. 

Zebra Brush Pen FD-302: $4.95
Kuretake Fudegokochi: $2.80
Pilot Pocket Brush Soft: $5.00
Kuretake No. 33: $3.30

From left to right:  Kuretake Fudegokochi, Kuretake No. 3, Zebra FD-302

Unlike the No. 33, the FD-302 Soft-Fine doesn't really have anywhere for your hand to rest, so I tended to choke up on the barrel, which made it even harder to ink with.  You could solve this issue easily, as the FD-302 is about as thick as a pencil, so you could use your favorite pencil grip.

From Left to Right:  Kuretake Fudegokochi, Kuretake No. 3, FD-302

If you find the Kuretake No. 6 and the Kuretake No. 33 are too soft or too large a brush, the FD-302 might be a great solution for larger lines and more variety in lineweight.

The Field Test

The nib is VERY soft, which makes it a little difficult to use, given how narrow the pen's body is.  This can make for very expressive lines, if you can manage the fine motor control.

The Verdict

Some of the reviews on Jetpens aren't very positive, but this brushpen wasn't bad.  If I had a more gestural style, this pen would be pretty great.  As it is, I still really like it, but the size of the barrel makes it difficult for me to hold it unmodified.  I'll have to add one of my favorite pencil grips so I don't have to clench the FD-302 so tightly.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Walmart Art Supply Review Introduction

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As this blog is completely unsponsored, and I receive no financial compensation from companies to write these reviews, nor do I receive donations from manufacturers, I really depend on the goodwill of my readers.  If you benefitted from this post, please consider contacting Royal Talens with a link to this post and your thoughts.  I would also sincerely appreciate it if you sent me an email with your thoughts, questions, or thanks.

I've mentioned many times on this blog that I grew up in a small town 40 minutes or so outside of New Orleans, Louisiana.  When Luling got a Walmart, I was 14, and it meant that for many, the monthly trek to town just to buy groceries and household necessities was now greatly shortened.  At that time, I was already very much interested in drawing and in comics, and had received some art supplies as presents in the past, but for the most part, Walmart was the source of most of my highschool comic supplies.

At the time, buying art supplies online was something I couldn't imagine.  This was before Amazon sold anything other than books, before DickBlick and Jerry's really had websites, before Jetpens ever opened its virtual doors, and while there were dedicated art supply stores in New Orleans, they were far away, expensive, and I had no experience with the materials they sold.  Buying supplies from Walmart, mostly pencils, erasers, and sketchbooks, was feasible for me, and while my options weren't vast, I had more options than I would have had we not had a Walmart.

This isn't a defense or advertisement for Walmart by any means.  This is admittance that for many of my readers, many of the kids I talk to at cons, ordering supplies online isn't a reality for them at this time.  Therefore, I feel like it's my duty to revisit my roots, and review some of the art supplies Walmart has to offer.

A caveat:  Your Walmart will differ from mine in what it carries.  You may have a Walmart with a much larger selection of art and craft supplies than my Walmart carries, or it may have a much smaller section.  For this post, I scoured the back-to-school section, the kids' art supply section, and the crafts section for supplies I hope will pass muster.  There are a couple exceptions:  I purchased Crayola watercolors and Crayola markers.

 I feel like those reviews will be the most interesting, because they'll support one of two theories:  A good artist can make good use of any materials provided OR Bad materials fight the artist, and make it more difficult to produce work.  Of course, I could just be a terrible artist who's work has been gilded by years of using great supplies, but somehow I think that after years of testing art supplies,  I'll probably struggle to compensate for the Crayolas' weaknesses, but hopefully figure out a few strategies to make the best of these products.  I hope to share those here, and maybe inspire a new generation of young small town artists to keep pushing, despite limited access to materials.

What I Went In Looking For:
  • Pencils
  • Inking Pens
  • Erasers
  • Watercolors
  • Markers
  • Paper

What I Saw

Rows of cardboard school supply display

The same ol same ol Crayolas in the kid's art supply section

A row of rollerball pens and mechanical pencils in the office supply section

And a little taste of actual art supplies in the crafts section

And hidden in the office supplies, a desk organizer to wrangle your supplies, should a pencil case not suffice


This would be fine for storing your brushes upright, and has trays to hold erasers and spare pencil leads, as well as tapes, thumbtacks, or paperclips.

What I Purchased:

  • Crayola Watercolors
  • Crayola Markers
  • Marker Paper
  • Small Sketchbook
  • Mechanical Pencils
  • Pentel White Vinyl Erasers
  • Generic Neon Eraser
  • Daler Rowney Watercolors
  • Daler Rowney Watercolor Brushes
  • Pencil Case
  • Triplus Fineliners
  • Flair Fineliners

    This isn't even the final shot of everything, because I went back to Walmart to better flesh out the 'inking' category.

What I Skipped:

  • Canson's XL Paper (I have this at home, I use it for Gizmo Granny pages, it's a perfectly fine watercolor paper that does require stretching beforehand for best results)
  • Watercolor palettes (I actually purchased two sets from this Walmart earlier in the week for mini watercolors.  Pretty much all palettes of this type are the same, they all work fine, it doesn't matter where you buy them, so buy the cheapest you can.  A 10 well round palette, which is my go to palette, was $0.97 each or a set of three different palettes was $3.47)
  • Crayons (I've never been proficient with them)
  • Color Pencils (same as above)
  • Cardstock (I use cardstock for commissions, it works fine as a marker paper as well as a lighter weight substitute for Bristol.   This is fine for beginners)

What I Spent:

So I also bought a couple books, a small bag of Kit-Kats, and a cat collar, which are things you probably wont be purchasing.  Without these, my total would have been:

Pencil Pouch- $3.97
Pencil Sharpener- $0.47
10 Piece Brushset- $4.47
Watercolors (Crayola)- $1.97
50 count super tip Crayola Markers- $6.96
"Art Craft" (Marker paper?)- $3.94
Sketchbook- $4.47
Triplus Fineliners 6 Pack- $5.97
Pentel Eraser-$1.46
Neon Eraser- $0.26
Daler Rowney 12 Piece watercolor set- $7.97
2 pack Pilot Precise V5-$3.64
10 piece mini paint set- $1.00
Papermate Flair Ultra Fine point 8 pack- $8.64
Mechanical pencils 2 pack with refills and erasers-$3.97

Total- $47.55

Keep in mind that some of these are redundant- I purchased three different watercolor sets, three types of fine liners, two brands of erasers, and I neglected to buy watercolor paper or cardstock, because I already have both, so your cost may vary.  I also didn't factor in tax, which is about 10% in Louisiana, so I really paid about $53 for all of this.

How this is going to work

I'm going to review each supply on its own, the way I normally review art supplies.  I'm not going to cut any slack when it comes to quality, though I will keep in mind availability, since that's the point of this series.  I'll probably link related reviews (both on this blog and on others) to help you guys with your decisions. 

Once the Walmart Art Supply review is finished, I'll start my Dollar Tree and Target reviews, as well as a Walgreens mini review, so if you're interested in cheap art supplies, keep watching this blog.

Disclaimer:  As with many of my review posts, I purchased these supplies out of my own pocket.  If you enjoy these types of reviews, or benefit from my experience, please consider donating to my Paypal, or purchasing something from my online shop.  One of the BEST ways you can show support for this blog is to purchase a copy of 7" Kara Volume 1, and if you buy it from the shop, you'll receive a sketch and one of the two Kara wooden charms shown in the Ponoko post.