Nine Months In The Making

Animation.

My first real animation wasn’t supposed to take nine months. Actually, I was supposed to have it finished in two. But a lot came up, I had a lot to learn, and I went through a period of fluctuating self-esteem that crippled my workflow.

But I’m finally done, and it’s been quite the wild ride to this point. So here we are – the super-duper-animation-post-I’ve-been-thinking-about-for-awhile-now.

Let’s get into it!

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My Journey To Animation: A Brief History

Like most kids, I’d played around with notepads and stop motions. At one point, I even had this little animation kit thing (it included a zoetrope and was actually really awesome – I wish I had kept it!).

Last year, I made some little animated gifs. They were really REALLY labor-intensive – lots of tracing and stuff. I documented that on Steeplechase in this post.

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However, I couldn’t keep folding papers into eighths in lieu of a lightboard. I had to face the fact that I needed to use the computer if I was going to take this from a passing whim to a serious hobby.

Now before you come at me with that “but-Disney-cartoons-are-all-made-on-paper-you-tech-spoiled-millenial” snobbishness, allow me to defend myself. Disney is a company made up of hundreds of people. Disney animators don’t have to worry about:

  • storyboarding
  • inbetweening
  • lineart
  • coloring
  • shading
  • backgrounds
  • sound mixing
  • editing
  • producing
  • directing
  • lack of inspiration. (Well, maybe not.)

If you’re an independent animator (meaning you’re a one-man-show), then you have to do all of that yourself. Oh yeah, and animate, too. 😛 A computer program makes it much easier and smoother to make your own animations without a inking, painting, or backgrounds department.

I ended up purchasing a drawing tablet on Amazon. Technically, his name is Cedric, and he’s Constance’s secret admirer. (Clara, I guess I should have warned you about that. ;)) After doing some research, I found out how to legally download an ancient version of Flash, Adobe’s ever-popular animation program.

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shhhh, this picture’s kinda old.

So I was all set! Now – to actually animate something.

I had heard about Multi-Animator Projects (we affectionately call them MAPs), so I decided I should start there.

What is a Multi-Animator Project (MAP)?

Basically, someone takes a song, divides it into 10-second parts, and posts it up for “auditions”. There are all kinds of MAPs (fandom, original character, vent, positivity, beginner-friendly, etc.) for all kinds of tastes. Most of them are kind of edgy or centered on Warrior Cats, but there are more than a few acceptable ones. Most of the time, anyway.

I decided to go out on a limb and just admit my noobiness to a MAP host and beg ask for a part. And he was gracious enough to accept!

So here I was, with my tablet, my Flash, my MAP part – and absolutely no idea what I had gotten into.

Zoetrope_Stories

I started by cutting the audio. I downloaded the song we were using, put it into my fancy audio editing software, and clipped it down to just my part.

Audio cutting
Totally not just Windows Movie Maker. 😉 Also you have to set a picture for it so you can turn it into an mp4 and then turn that mp4 into an mp3…and I have a weird sense of humor.

Once I had the audio for my part, I imported into Flash and set it in its own layer, so that I could start animating.

Audio on its own layer

(Layers are just what they sound like – different layers of stuff that you can stack on top of each other. For example, if the tail of your character is the only thing that’s moving, you can put the character’s still body on one layer and the tail on another and just animate the tail without having to redraw the body over and over again.)

The next step was to make an animatic – a moving storyboard. I sketched out all the poses that I wanted my character to be in and put them at the right times for the music. (We call those poses keyframes.) As in, I wanted my wolf to stand up at the first “oh-oh-oh”, so I drew him in a standing position and put it at that time in the timeline (the number bar at the top).

(Also, I was a doofus and deleted all my sketch layers. 😦 So I have virtually no pictures to show for it.)

Rough sketches came next. I filled in the gaps between my keyframes with ugly, scribbly drawings. It was important that I made a sketch for every single frame, because I’m not the sort of person who can just freehand pretty drawings.

Before I got into anything fancy, though, I made the background. (It took me two and a half hours and a ton of headbanging, hairpulling, and complaining on how hard it is to do a nice gradient in Flash.) The reason I made it so early on is simple – it’s like painting. You do the background first to get an idea of what your setting will look like before you start coloring things in, so that you don’t end up with a background that looks like a cheap mid-90s green screen job.

Background

Background + sketches
Sketches + background! This is a screenshot of the WIP I put on Youtube (I hadn’t decided I liked the heavy lines on the background yet).

After the rough sketches moved the way I wanted them to, I started on lineartthe pretty lines that turn this tornado of chicken scratch into an actual wolf. I traced them over my sketches on a new layer.

Lineart

With the lineart moving along nicely, I filled in the color. At this point, he looks flat and out of place, but we’re about to fix that with…

Color

shading! It took me a little while to decide how to do the shading. I eventually decided on running over the appropriate areas with an opaque black (so that the lineart and color shows through, but it’s darker). This was a time-consuming, labor-intensive process that I got through by listening to music.

Shading

Shading is all well and good, but without ground shadows, it was still looking funny. Of course, my wolf goes into a heavily shadowed place halfway through the sequence, so I didn’t have to do the shadows after that point, but I did need dramatic ground shadows for the first half. I have to confess that I cheated a bit – instead of trying to freehand the shadows (and inevidably messing it up, because shadows are my nemeses), I just copied the lineart, turned it all black, flipped it upside down, angled it, and set the opacity. Which was definitely much more accurate than trying to freehand everything.

Ground Shadows

After a few final touches (and a lot of celebration), I converted my Flash file to an mp4, uploaded it to YouTube, notified my MAP host that I’d finished (finally!) and…

*drumroll*

here it is!

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Click the picture to watch!

I know that a lot of you guys are not allowed on YouTube, so Madison has been kind enough to put it into her media files and give me the link, so you guys can watch! If you live in a cave and don’t know who Madi is, be sure to check her out!

(Wait – does this mean I have a sponsor? NO WAY.)

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Bottom line?

Animation is hard. It’s frustrating, labor-intensive, patience-testing, difficult on perfectionists…

…and SO. MUCH. FUN.

With my first animation now under my belt, I’m going to promptly sign up for another MAP. Why? I live by a little maxim, and it applies to pretty much everything. It goes:

The best way to do it better is to do it more.

So I’m going to go at it again, animate something else, and learn even more than I learned this time around.

Let’s just hope that this one doesn’t take nine months to complete. 😉

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

 

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Two Drawings (I guess this doesn’t really count as an art dump)

(I am seriously on a roll with these posts. There are so many little squares filled in on my calendar! Yay. I’m actually being a blogger.)

My drawing goes in seasons. There are weeks where I’m making one amazing piece after another. There are weeks when I don’t draw anything. There are weeks where whenever my pencil touches paper, I get Lolina all over again. But after one of those weeks, I usually have a good week, and that’s what happened today.

Saturday morning, I started drawing faces, just for practice. I came out with twelve of them and I think they’re not too bad.

Twelve Faces

I really like a lot of these faces. So I decided to give them names.

Top row, left to right: Alastair (I love this name so much), Megan, Jenny, Tao

Middle row, left to right: Asha, Mahmud, Dashiell (he looks like Dash from The Incredibles, doesn’t he?) and Sasha (she’s technically already a character).

Bottom row, left to right: Mia, Bri, Raymundo, and Cole (yep, like the Ninjago character, I based his hair off the Lego piece).

All in all, I think it turned out really good and I got so much practice out of it. I’ll definitely be doing more of these.

But the fun’s not over yet. I won’t over-hype this one, but it features Syre and Sasha (you know, from this story).

Skating

Hold it in, Tess. Don’t brag about how near-perfect their posings are. Don’t emphasize Syre’s hilariously adorable expression. Don’t say how much you love how Sasha has weight. Just….let them look. Let. Them. Look.

Suggestions and comments are always welcome!

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

2018 Art Dumps, Issue 1

(I just tagged this post as “fun”. Seriously, Tess?)
(But I wouldn’t say I’m doing so bad. After all, this is my FIFTH post this year so far. Considering that I didn’t post last year until Februray 15th, I’m doin’ great. *looks haughtily at those coordinated people who treat their blogs like actual websites and not end-of-the-pipeline imagination dumping grounds*)

Welcome to Issue One of my 2018 Art Dumps (of which most are yet to be made), in which I show you a bunch of pictures you never asked to see and expect you to know how much blood, sweat, graphite and tears went into them. Stick around until the end and you might see something resembling actual talent.

I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, I guess. I have been making improvements. It hasn’t been quick or easy, but I’m getting there. However, I have had my fair share of creeping myself out with strange facial expressions that are a result of bad proportions. (We’ll get to a nice example of that, too.)

The other thing to note is that when I scanned these in, I could barely see the lines, so I had to adjust the brightness and contrast and all that fun. The result is that the background is almost always grey. Oh well, it’s easier on the eyes anyways.

So, without further adieu,

let’s get into it!

(Disclaimer: These are in no particular order, are sometimes kind of cringey and weird looking, and are by no means professional artwork. I’m self taught so yeah.)
(Disclaimer 2: If I catch you stealing any of my artwork I will not hesitate to call you out on it. I mean not like you’d wanna steal it, but just in case you think it’s good enough. XD)

In general my art is 75% wolves and 25% everything else. I’m intrigued to say that it’s not the same case here. The breakdown is 62.5% wolves, 34% humans, and 7% horses. (I calculated carefully, but somehow it adds up to 103.5%. We’ll say that extra 3.5% is eraser shavings.

The reason I haven’t drawn as many wolves as I usually do is because I’ve been animating wolves for that MAP thing I’m doing. (I mean, after spending an hour doing nothing but drawing wolves, I’m not really in the mood to draw any more wolves.) But I have done quite a few – including a series I call Fifteen Wolf Sketches.

F.W.S. came out of a flashcard project I had to do for my Hebrew class. We were supposed to draw pictures on one side and write vocabulary words on the other. My teacher was really miffed at me because I took wayyyy too long to do these, but I think the result was worth it. Let’s go!

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For the vocabulary word for “river”. I’d never drawn a wolf doing this so this was a ton of fun.

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To descend. Yup, they’re going down quickly – imho, the top one is to die for. LOOK AT HIS LITTLE FEETS.

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To take. My sister got so disturbed by the rabbit, it was funny.

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To put.

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To be pregnant. The passage we’re doing is the first chapters of Exodus, so yep, we gotta learn all the words. *awkward smile*

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WOOK AT TEH BEBES. THEY’RE TINY BOLLS OF FLOOF.
Ahem. To nurse.

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To go up. This ended up being one of my favorites.

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To come. Conversely, this is one of my least favorites.

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To draw water. Hey, I don’t think I did so bad, seeing as I couldn’t use any references at all for this. XD

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To drink. Well, a form of drinking, anyways. This one is more of the passive version to drink.

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To, erm, give birth. Yeah, I wasn’t going to draw that exactly, so I just drew this puppeh meeting his daddy. Awwwwwe….

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To see. Her eyebrows are like, not there. Not the best of the bunch.

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To stand.

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To call. I think I’ve drawn this drawing five times over. It doesn’t get old, though.

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To walk. Ahhh, I saved the best of these sketches for last. Here’s my wittle OC Archer, with leg positions that are SPOT ON. Ahhhh.

And now we enter the realm of the Epic Sketchbook. I really need to give him a name – if anyone has any suggestions, I’d appreciate it. He’s enormous and has taught me a lot about drawing large.

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Here’s the first drawing I did in him – sort of like a christening. I wish I’d put more definition in his ears but he’s cute.

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I am quite proud of this. It took soooooo long (like, three hours) from start to finish, but it’s so worth it. I’m so happy to have this in my sketchbook because it actually has color and makes me look like a pro. XD

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A random horse! Haha. I do still love horses. I just don’t draw them as often as I used to. In reality, they’re incredibly hard to draw and pose. But this is proof that I still do it – and I stepped out of my usual outlining style and did soft colored pencil around everything.

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In speaking of horses, here’s a partially colored cab. His gait looks subdued but meh, it’s okay. That cab was very hard to draw, and as a result the sizing is a little skewed, but it’s not noticiable if you’re just glancing (which you probably are ;))

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This driver looks quite dapper, lap blanket and all. What a shame that I never colored him.

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I suppose this also goes under the heading of horse-human drawings. I was interested in drawing humans at this point, but a little under-referenced. But it isn’t exactly easy to use references in a hotel room, which is where I did this. Because of this, we’ll ignore the fact that her horse has no near rein, her head is tiny in comparison to her shoulders, she looks like she’s about to fall asleep, and the stray lines on the bottom. Oh well.

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I had grand dreams for this drawing. I was going to completely shade it and make it look wonderful. But I suppose I sort of lost interest. It’s at this point a scrap that needs finishing.

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These buildings, though, are pretty awesome.

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(ignore the drawing on the back please. this was finished while I was just doodling.)

A little bit of human-wolf affection. Awe. My human bodies are half-decent. They’ll certainly work for now. I have the ability to convey a lot of poses using the top-secret method I use. My faces, though, leave a lot to be desired. I hide them a lot of the time with hair or other things, because when I draw them they end up looking like this a lot of the time:

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This is a bona fide Tess mess up! I dubbed her Lolina (not sure why?) and she looks like a nutcracker. The effect is worse than my scanner makes it. THOSE TEETH, WHAT HAPPENED.

It was after dear Lolina that I decided to not draw lips at all. After a bunch more like her, human faces started to make a bit of sense.

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I’ve found that profiles are the easiest to draw. It’s all in the nose. And hair is quite easy now that I’ve been practicing. I will admit that I draw most men’s hair in a certain way. It’s not the way I particularly like it, it’s just the way I’ve found that it’s easiest to draw.

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When I took the pictures for this post, this drawing was only half-done. I’ve finished it since then. (These are Nano charries :D) I really liked the facial proportions here. After I finish faces, tho, the next battle will be clothes. Because I can’t draw clothes right now to save my life and so everyone wears about the same thing.

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(I added the captions. Any guesses as to who these are?)

I thought this turned out pretty good. We’ve got a few issues with the eyes/skintones but it’s pretty decent. Closeups:

I think they’re pretty good.

Beofre we get to the last, best one, here’s a scrap:

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Hey, his hair is slightly different. Whaddaya know. (This is supposed to be Robin from Ettiquette and my other nano. :D)

Now.

I always save the best for last, as you know, and so I present to you another Nano charrie drawing that came kind of out of nowhere. It’s not even in the big sketchbook. But here we go:

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Is this….a human face that doesn’t look creepy, sleepy or just….off? DOES IT SERIOUSLY LOOK DECENT? wow.

The future for my drawing? I have to master human faces. This doesn’t mean that I won’t be drawing anything else, but that’s what’ll get the practice right now.

Tell me which one was your favorite!

Any comments? Advice? Freaking out over Lolina? I welcome suggestions and questions.

Maybe next time I sump some art, I’ll have some better faces! Haha.

Sayonara,
{Tess}

Full Moon

Story time: Tess is sitting in online class, waiting for things to start, doodling on the back of her homework.

Tess draws a nice wolfo head.

Tess adds a body to that wolfo head.

After consulting with friends, Tess decides to put in a background.

Tess looks up source material.

Tess works.

And works.

And works.

The orange plastic clicker pencil in her hands almost breaks.

A dozen tissues (for blending) and a fatigued right hand later, Tess has one of the best drawings she’s ever made.

howl

Argh, my cray printer uploaded this in LQ! :@ But still, this has a beautiful background (them hills!), a highlighted and shadowed wolf and a great night sky.

What do you think? I know I’m a believer in spontaneous art!

Sayanora,

Tess

(PS: The last day to sign up for the WordPress Authoresses is October 31st! Don’t miss out!)

Zielle’s Questions & ‘Stuf’

This is that post that comes in between all of everyone’s exciting posts that no one will probably read because everyone else is making much more awesome posts. Oh well, here goes.

Zielle gave me some questions as part of her “Guest Interviews” thang, and so that’s the first order of business. Who doesn’t love to answer questions about oneself?

Zielle: What brought you to name your blog ‘Steeplechase’?

Tess: Oh wow, these questions are personalized! Epic. I had always loved the word, and I thought it reflected the random nature of my blog without being “Tessie’s Random Crazy Stuff Blog!!”

Zielle: How was your blog born? Who/what inspired you to start one?

Tess: Well, I had already made an AG doll blog (still running, btdubs), but I found a bunch of posts that weren’t AG related were falling through the cracks, so I bucked up and made a PB. And now I love it.

Zielle: What quote do you live by if any?

Tess: Literally anything that Winston Churchill said. In particular:

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”


“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”


“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”


“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
(used in the literal sense of the word, btw)

Okay, that wasn’t one quote. That was five. Bad Tess. *spanks hand*

Zielle: Who are some bloggers you look up to or who inspire you?

Tess: I look up to anyone who’s been blogging longer than I have – Madi and Hayley in particular. As for inspiration, my inspiration comes from all of my followers, all of the people I follow, any random visitors that stop by – in short, every blogger is an inspiration to me.

Zielle: What are some of your blogging goals for the year 2018?

Tess: Finish what I start XD. I have five random drafts in my folder right now and I need to get better at that. Make a two-minute animation for you guys to enjoy. I also want to get to one hundred followers. But that’s just a selfish wish. I don’t even have 50 :P.

Zielle: Are you just naturally good at drawing, or did you have to learn?

Tess: *thinks*
Big Important Drawing Rule One: There is no such thing as natural talent. There is such thing as extensive practice. I’ve been actively drawing since I could scribble. My mom always nurtured me by providing clean paper to draw on and good tools to draw with.

Big Important Drawing Rule Two: Copy. Hold it! There’s a difference between copying and plagiarism. Go to Google, search what you want to draw, and pull up an image. Now draw it as best you can. Think about what it would look like as a coloring page. Also, try to draw from life as much as possible. If you can’t draw from life, then watch someone else draw what you want to draw. Steer clear of ‘drawing tutorials’, though, because those will teach you how to draw that thing in the creator’s style. Not good. You want your own style.

Big Important Drawing Rule Three: Be unique. Do things your way, not someone else’s. That’s the only way your drawings will look like YOU.

Big Important Drawing Rule Four: Block. If you want to be able to draw something from every angle, learn to block. Go look it up. Art Ala Carte is a great Youtube channel for learning how to block.

Big Important Drawing Rule Five: Don’t buy expensive stuff until you’re sure you’re serious.

(This was an essay. Sorry. :P)

Zielle: How many times have you flown in a plane? (#random)

Tess: Only once. I didn’t get a window seat though. So that kind of stunk.

Zielle: Do you stall reading until you’re in bed, or do you read whenever you can?

Tess: It all depends on what I’m reading. If a book is meh or average or not really that interesting, I wait till bed. But if it’s so enthralling that I can’t wait to see what happens next and can’t put it down, then I read it whenever I can (including while getting dressed).

Zielle: How old were you when you wrote your first story? (if you’re okay sharing)

Tess: I was nine. I wrote out a story about bunnies that now, remembering it, sounds mysteriously like Alice in Wonderland…even though I hadn’t read it at the time. I sadly don’t have it anymore. 😦

Zielle: Do you have a book in progress that I can beta read and devour???!! ;P

Tess: Almost. Once I make my Julynowrimo Brother Robin cohesive (not perfect, mind you), you’ll be the first on the list of beta readers!

In speaking of which, I am hiring beta readers! I need some useful crit on the aforementioned story.

Beta Reader Information

– The story is fifty thousand words long and falls under the heading of sci-fi histfict.
– The content is appropriate for ages 8+. There is mention of death, some people in love, and an injury, which is not described in great detail. (EDIT: There is also mention of alchoholic beverages. Not a horrible lot but they are present. This is 1876, guys.)
– The story is a DRAFT. It is not my best work. It is not even close to my best work. It’s complete rubbish, drivel and garbage. But I don’t want to waste a bunch of time editing and fixing a story that will need more fixing later.
– I’ll be sending out the story in December of this year, after I’ve made it cohesive (going back and fixing things that don’t make sense.
– I really don’t want grammar criticism. I’ll fix that m’self, thanks. If something’s not clear, then tell me, but if I use the wrong form of ‘there’, don’t correct me, please.

I’m looking for at least five readers, so jump on it!

And now…the ‘stuf’…the reason why I haven’t been blogging…there’s so much interesting stuff to do and so little time! I’ve gotten some new things that I can’t wait to show you guys.

Books!

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One trip to Barnes and Noble later…I got some books! The money was worth it.

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Wreck This Journal. Guys. This is so so so so so awesome! I’m not going to show any pages until I’m done. Then I’ll do a #rekt tour!

And F nish Th s B  k. I am not going to say anything about this one. You have to go get it yourself. Not being lazy, it’s just that you have to see it to believe it.

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The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle is a crazy book that takes itself really seriously. Like it’s completely normal to shave yourself with a broken bottle, Doctor! But it’s a ton of fun and really lighthearted in comparison to a lot of fiction.

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The best part, though, is that my collection of aesthetically pleasing Sterling edition classics is growing!

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Ahhhhh….the spectrum….it’s so……

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SATISFYING.

*wipes brow*

Art Stufs

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Alright, I broke down and bought a sketchbook. I haven’t drawn anything in it yet, but that will change as soon as I finish this post. 🙂 I also got some new pencils, as I wore my others down to nubs…

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And they are also fun to photograph. This is the 6B (not like anyone cares).

And now….

…the grand finale…

…the thing you’ve been waiting for…

…please welcome…

…the newest member of my entourage…

…the one who will help me realize my dreams…

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This is Cedric! He is a Monoprice 10″ x 6.25″ Drawing Tablet and is a real amazing guy (though he can be tempermental). Don’t tell him I said that, though. I got some old Flash MX2004 and am making some babystep animations. But that topic’s for another post.

What’s your favorite thing to do (besides blogging)? Did you sign up to beta read?

Sayanora,

Tess