The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread…

…and it’s a weird looking two-finger glove. No joke.

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I’ve been using my pen tablet (a wacom PTZ-930) for about six years, it’s old and beat up but works like a charm. It was time for an upgrade though so I took the tablet-monitor leap with the new Monoprice 19″. I only just got it, so it’s still too soon to give any kind of review, but what I can review is the little accessory I bought for it and it’s awesome.

It’s called a Smudge Guard. I had heard of it before but I didn’t think it would be worth the price since I never really had too much trouble, not to mention I had the desktop to monitor tablet so I didn’t have to worry about messing up my visual space. I was so so wrong.

I’ve had it for about two months now (I ordered it as soon as I found out about the Monoprice) and I wear it for 90% of my work day now. It was a little odd at first, but after a day or two I stopped noticing it on. It breaths and the material is really comfortable, but more than that it really works. I never really noticed how smeary and sweaty my hand got after drawing for a few hours… sorry that’s gross, but it’s true. After a month of working with the Smudge Guard on my hand I honestly can’t work without it. It feels weird. It has become an absolute must for my work space.

I’m raving about this thing right now, but I’m honestly considering buying another just in case something happens to my first one. I love it so much o_o

If you work with a tablet, go get one.

www.smudgeguard.com

EDIT: woops, the link wasn’t woking for some reason, it should be fine now.

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Decorative Sketching

There’s just something about the mindlessness of decorative work that I love.

Now, that’s not to say that there isn’t quite a lot of thought going into the work. There needs to be concept, creativity, construction and… composition (that’s a lot of ‘C’s). The piece needs to be not just detailed, but attractive and balanced. However, there is a certain “zen” that goes with the type of concentration involved in the repetitiveness of decorative design. I can lose myself in it for hours, so I use it as a time-sucking tool! When I’m getting ready to go on long flights, part of my packing process is to start the outline idea of one or two decorative sketches. If I’m bored on the plane, there is nothing better than to loose myself in one. Here is one from my latest round trip flight.

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Texture Sketching

Another little experiment with hair and clothing textures like this one that I posted before. I’m trying to simplify all of my lines more and more, letting the eye complete the image rather than the line… of course that’s what I said, then I got bored of what I was doing and scribbled shadows and what not all over it.

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When Sketching Goes Bad…

When I was a kid I was sketching away in my book all the time, which is awesome, but I kept making such a big mistake over and over again: When I drew something I didn’t like, I’d erase it, or scribble over it or tear it out and throw it away. I didn’t realize until much later just how much I was hurting myself by doing that. In fact, it wasn’t really until I started drawing in pen. When I gave up the option of the eraser I forced myself to commit to my lines. It was a little bit of a rough transition at first… I started out by drawing very sloooowly and tiny little lines, but as I became more comfortable and confident I sped up, until I was eventually doing even my gesture sketches with pen. I stopped caring so much about trying to be exact and “correct” with every line, and started to just enjoy the process. When I was tearing those pages out of my sketchbook, I was telling myself that those drawings weren’t good enough. My sketchbook pages became something sacred to me, something I couldn’t mess up. Even though I was still drawing all the time, I was spending a lot less time being creative and most of my time just fixing fixing fixing.

So in the spirit of letting go and not being so up tight about my sketches, here’s one that I didn’t like.

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Oh and you see that little black dot on her knee…? A gecko pooped on it. Yah. Everybody’s a critic.

Dog Sketch 3

Another pen sketch from dog sitting. This is the paw of the same dog from my last post =) Paws really are odd looking when you look at them up close…

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Dog Sketch 2

Another page out of my sketchbook. The scan was pretty wonky, which is why the lines are a so hard.

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I sketched this while dog/house sitting. She’s a Great Dane named Fizzlewitt doing her best to fit onto a very small chair.

Japan Trip Day 10 (Flight Home)

I have to say, I was feeling such a mix of sadness and relief on my way home from Japan. I had such an amazing time in a country for which I have so much love and respect… but at the same time, my feet were pancakes, my back was starting to feel like an 80 year old’s and I hadn’t had a full night’s sleep in weeks. It was time to go home and sleep it all off. I still had a 14 hour plane trip back to LA (on Korean Air, so it was pretty nice!), then a 4 hour layover and another 2 1/2 hour flight to Puerto Vallarta. I had the most amazing experience while sitting on the plane from Tokyo, though…

I love to draw the people around me on long flights or in settings where people are sitting still and not paying attention. I have to be a little sneaky about it though, since I don’t always get the best reactions from people when they see what I’m doing. I didn’t have too many options for this flight, since I couldn’t really see any of the people around me without leaning over them and staring awkwardly at the people beside me, so instead I drew a woman’s shoulder who was sitting in front and the the right of me, the man’s knee from across the aisle, and then the man’s hand who was seated next to me. I thought I was being sneaky, and I thought that the man next to me was actually asleep, but about half way through my drawing he sat up, tapped my hand and asked (in Japanese) if that was his hand that I was drawing. Oops..! I apologized and told him yes it was. I expected him to do what most people do; look at it for a bit, say it’s nice, then go back to whatever he was doing and hide his hands (or whatever I was drawing). Instead, he turned his light on and began admiring his hands! He kept pointing out the veins, positioning them in the way I had drawn them and saying “Omoshiroi… Omoshiroi desu ne?” (“Interesting… they’re interesting, aren’t they?”). He asked me a few questions and we managed to talk for a while in broken Japanese and broken English, then he went back to sleep (carefully putting his hands back in position for me), and I went back to drawing. He woke up a little while later as I was closer to finishing and again he admired what I had drawn for a bit, then asked to look through my sketchbook. He went through each page carefully, and commented on each drawing, before giving it back to me. Then he reached into his briefcase, pulled out a printout with some graphs on it, turned it over and began drawing. I continued drawing, but I was shocked when I looked over a little later to see that he had drawn my hands drawing his! And it was really beautiful!

He needed to keep the paper he had drawn his on, and he said that he didn’t want me to rip mine by taking it out, so instead we exchanged photos. We each signed our names on the drawings, then I took a photo of his on my camera and he took one with the phone he kept on a cord around his neck. Here’s mine,

and here is the drawing he did of me drawing! The lights in the cabin were all off, so the lighting is awful… but at least you can see it.

Signed by Nobuaki Komatsu.

We talked for a while longer and he showed me pictures on his phone of his wife and the shrine they had just visited, and I got to practice a lot more of my Japanese. So it turned out to be a very nice flight, and even though I was tired, the rest of the travel time back to Mexico wasn’t bad at all (despite being sat in the middle of a group of already drunk middle-aged tourists on their way to “Porto Valarta” from LA…).

Japan Trip Day 8

Day 8 was mostly a travel day for us, since we were heading back to Tokyo from Osaka, but we got up early in the morning and headed out to fit just a couple more things in. Our first stop was Osaka Castle. It’s a beautiful structure that pops up over the trees that surround it. I can’t imagine what it must have looked like when it was still in use; it must have been incredible!

The interior has been turned into a museum and each level is different. There are letters written by Hideyoshi Toyotomi himself, clothing worn by the people who lived in the castle, there are even little models mixed tiny live action reenactments (they’re adorable and Lan and I were hooked for a good 30 min even though we were in a hurry). When you get to the top you can walk out onto the balcony, and the view is beautiful.

The castle was great, but the best part was when I was suddenly mobbed by a group of school kids on a field trip. A girl was saying something to me (VERY LOUD) and I couldn’t quit understand at first. It sounded as if she was asking me where the bath was (“ofuro”)… then another girl whispered something to her and she said, “Where are you from?” (again VERY LOUD). I told them I was american in english and then japanese and got a chorus of “Woooooooow!!” and clapping. They practiced their english with me a little more, telling me things they liked and disliked. One girl said, “I am Japan.” then asked to shake hands. It was so cute! I wish I could have talked to them longer but we all had to move on so I shook a couple more hands and waved bye. Lan snapped a photo of the kids while they were asking me questions.

This was the first time any kids had actually stopped to talk to me, but throughout the whole trip we’ve passed by groups of school kids on their way somewhere to a chorus of “Hello! Hello! Hello!”. Almost always little boys, and almost always sounding more like “Herro!”

So we decided we had time for just one more stop after Osaka Castle before we headed out, and it would be the Osaka Ferris Wheel. It was a quick stop; a short train ride and we ran right over and hopped in line. There was almost no one there so we got right on. The view from the top was really pretty and we got to see the whole harbor .

That done, we hopped back on the train (after grabbing some takoyaki real quick) back to our hotel to grab our bags and make our way to the Shinkansen for one last trip back north to Tokyo.Here are some more train drawings and doodles.

The train ride wasn’t that bad and we were still hopeful that we’d make it to that movie we’d now tried twice to get to… but then there was the trek to our hotel… We got in at Tokyo Station, which is a beautiful station but nowhere near where our directions told us we needed to get onto the subway. Of course, we didn’t know that, we just followed the signs… for about 5 city blocks, with all of our luggage. Up stairs, down stairs, outside then back in. Finally we made it to the subway station we were looking for and had to walk another 2 city blocks just to get out of the station and to the hotel in Nihombashi! By the time we got there it was so late and we were so gross and tired we decided to just call it a night. Oh, and here’s the lovely view from our hotel window.

Yah, that’s an office. I could have reached across and stolen some of their pencils if I’d wanted to…

Japan Trip Day 7

Today was a special day trip from Osaka up into the mountains. From Nanba station we bought a train/cable car/bus pass for Koya San that included discounts to most of the temples and some restaurants in the area. From there it was about a two hour train ride through smaller and smaller stations until we were winding through the mountains.

It was a long ride so I had plenty of time to amuse myself by sketching the other passengers on the train.

When we finally arrived we immediately got lost (like we do). We ended up taking the wrong bus and thinking that the temple we were heading for was much closer then it actually was, we just started walking. We ended up walking in a long loop around part of the town and several temples, but it wasn’t so bad considering everywhere you look there’s something absolutely amazing. This post is going to be a little photo heavy… but just look at the place!

Since Koya San is so high up it it was definitely chilly and all of the leaves were changing colors. There were some trees that were so bright they didn’t even look like they could be real.

After a little more wandering around we caught another bus (the right one this time) to Okunoin Temple. This temple is the resting place of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism, and surrounding it is the largest cemetery in Japan: almost 200,000 gravestones dating back over a thousand years. It’s the beginning of the traditional pilgrimage route through the peninsula so the roads are packed with men and women carrying walking sticks and dressed in white cotton outfits with bells.

If you take your time, the walk to and from the central temple could take you all day. There are two entrances, the shorter one where the bus drops you off and the long one that starts in the middle of town. We began at the entrance by the bus station and made out way to the central temple. There is a small bridge near the center of the grounds that leads to the main temple, over which no photos are allowed. It’s a beautiful large building which you are allowed to enter and inside you can see the priests of the shrine at work or at prayers. On the way back, we just happened to accidentally bump into family grave site of Hideyoshi Toyotomi…! My Japanese history may be rough, but even I know who this guy was.

We managed to find the longer path on our way back out and it was worth the extra time. The paths are small, surrounded by enormous trees and gravestones in every direction. There are small yen offerings tucked away everywhere you look; in small bowls set out in from of shrines, placed on top of grave stones tree trunks and stones, and even tucked into the bark of trees. There are also tiny idols that you can find all over the place, often so hidden away you may never see them.

When we finally made our way out of the graveyard we realized it was a little late… and we still wanted to make it to the movie that we missed the day before! We had to sit and wait (shivering… it was cold) for about a half hour before the bus came, then it was back to the cable car down to the train station and back towards Osaka. Unfortunately for us it took a good 2 1/2 hours for the train to get back. We had completely misjudged our movie time again and missed it for the second time.

Oh well, there’s still time!