Green Inspiration In Illustration

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I’ve been obsessing about house plants for the last few months or so. It started with an article I read about how having plants in your work space can increase productivity. I read that a long time ago. Since I read that article, I had been trying to bring in plants. It didn’t work out to well, until recently.

I started my collection with just the elephant ears and bamboo in one water filled vase . They surprisingly thrived. And so did the mosquitoes that were nesting in my beautiful mini water garden. Gross. Allan wanted me to get rid of the plants. I compromised. I moved the bamboo into an old glass 7UP bottle. The narrow bottle neck took care of the mosquito problem while keeping the bamboo in water. I moved the elephant ears in to a Jack Daniel’s Coffee tin with dirt I snagged from a plant outside.

Since then, I’ve found more containers to fill with dirt and plants from our yard. I even bought a little plant from Home Depot. That was a disappointment though. It brought aphids with it. Thankfully I caught it before it turned into a furry white epidemic spreading to my precious boonie plants. Even after saving it from the aphids the poor little guy shriveled in to a sad pile. I probably should’ve changed out the soil and gave it some of the love filled local dirt.

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Elephant ears are definitely my favorite. I love the huge leaves. I also love these neni leaves that I can grow in itty bitty jars, like the one above. Most of the plants are in the living room of my apartment. I keep the bamboo and the small elephant ears in my art space though. The coffee tin elephant ears outgrew their spot in the studio – from 2 leaves to 4 going on 5.

I’m not sure if the indoor plant life has increased my productivity, but the plants have been an inspiration. They’ve been showing up in my art and doodles a lot.

Do you have any tips for keeping houseplants happy and healthy? What are your favorite house plants? I’d love to hear if about it.

A Dream Job: styling window displays

I’ve always appreciated a well put together retail window display. I don’t remember seeing too many really stand out displays here in Guam, from my childhood. I do remember seeing them in movies though. I always wanted to visit New York in December to experience the Christmas window displays.

Now Pleasure Island, our tourist strip, is lined with luxury retailers and a few boutique shopping centers with some flashy window styling. I’m guessing that DFS, now T Galeria, has the only windows that have a local design team. I might be wrong about that, but I doubt it. The rest probably receive props, brand collateral and plans sent in from their corporate offices. Bummer. We have a lot of creatives here.

For the last year I’ve been styling the window of a local flower shop, My Secret Garden. It’s definitely on my list of dream jobs.picsart_11-17-08.38.24.jpg

I’ve spent quite a few hours on the flower shop floor cutting props out of cardboard and folding paper flowers. I’ve spent many more hours with my back exposed to the sun and traffic in the shop window painting sunsets, bright mosaics, and trees on to the wall that acts as a background for the display. And I love it! Okay, I wish I had a cloak of invisibility for those high traffic days, but otherwise I really enjoy having a consistent seasonal project. The staff at the flower shop are so talented and great to be around also. They are extremely professional and knowledgeable at their craft. I love watching them create their beautiful floral displays.picsart_11-17-08.26.24.jpg

I’d love to hear what some of your dream jobs are. Let me know in the comments what they are or if you’re currently working your dream job.

 

Inktober 2016 // Week One Recap

I’m not a stranger to drawing deadlines. When I was cartooning I would do about two cartoons a week. When I was working on “Guaiyayon Na Trongkon Mansanita” I was on a pretty strict two to three drawings a day schedule. Deadlines are stressful, even when you’re doing something you’re passionate about. It’s a bit easier to stay motivated when you’re held accountable by an editor or a publisher. This month I’m doing a drawing challenge and I don’t have anyone to answer to except for myself. Self accountability can either hurt you or make you stronger. I’m hoping I can whip myself into illustration shape. Inktober is kind of the Cross Fit of art challenges.

inktober

Inktober is a 31 day drawing challenge that was created by the artist, Jake Parker. He started the challenge in 2009. I can’t remember when I first heard about it, but I think I learned about it from a You Tuber. I never committed to the challenge before. I would always do a day or two and then lose motivation.

This year, for some reason, I’m really trying to commit to the full marathon of it. And It might seem a bit silly, but I’m really proud to say that I completed a whole week of the challenge and fully intend to cross the finish line.

I’m using the prompt list that is posted on Jake Parker’s site. Prompts are an awesome tool for artists. Cartooning is basically drawing with prompts thrown out at you by society and politicians. Illustrating a book involves working with prompts from the author. So I like the challenge of prompts and the official list is single word prompts, which gives artists a lot of flexibility. There are lots of other Inktober prompt lists available on the internet too. I noticed a lot of witchy prompts and spooky themed prompts on Instagram. I think some artists also come up with their own personal lists. I might try that next year.

picsart_09-12-03.12.17.jpgI made a mini haul purchase from Jet Pens to prep for Inktober. I needed new pen nibs and I really wanted to try Prismacolor’s Col-erase pencils out. I’m loving them! Seriously, I think they’re great for sketching and they do erase pretty well. Look out for a review later this month. I’m also using Deleter ink, Copic markers – mostly in grey tones, and Sakura Microns. By the way, Jet Pens is a great place to order supplies online. If you spend over $25 they ship for free, even to Guam! I love them and I’m not getting anything to say that. I just really appreciate being able to buy supplies at a reasonable price and not having to pay double for shipping.

Art supplies are fun, but I have to say that a great part of this challenge is that you don’t need a ton of special supplies. All you need is ink and paper. A ball point pen would do. And there is a lot of great artwork out there done entirely in ball point pen.

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I’m documenting my Inktober experience on Instagram and Twitter. Both those feeds are embedded in this blog, but I’d love for you to follow me on either platform: @illusdreted. Are you doing the Inktober challenge? If you are, comment with your Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat username so I can follow you! And if you’re looking for some drawing motivation or inspiration check out the hastags: #inktober & #inktober2016 . There are artists all over the world participating. They use all kinds of different techniques and are of all skill levels. It’s kind of become a world wide online gallery allowing you to observe artists’ work as they challenge themselves and grow. Thank you, Jake Parker!

Quick & Tasty: Wraps

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I have a pretty awesome day job that has me home in time to make dinner. I rarely do though. Allan  is a great cook, so I usually leave that to him. Some days though even he’s to burned out to cook. On those days we want something quick that doesn’t sacrifice on flavor and nutrition. Wraps are great for this. Plus on a really busy week you can go through a bunch of combinations with out your taste buds getting bored. We ran out of tortillas before we got tired of the wraps.

What are some of your favorite wrap combos?

The gift of working your land, however small it is.

The CHamoru word for land is Tåno. We are taotao tåno, people of the land. Most families once had ranches. Some still do. When I was a kid my cousins and I would spend the weekends in Ipan with our grandparents and our mothers at our Granny’s house. We would help clean green onions from the garden and we’d run around snacking on the ranch’s bananas, iba, and even the sweet nectar from Granny’s ixora plants.

We rarely go to Ipan anymore. Granny and Grandma have gone and we’ve all grown up. Some of us have left the island and some of us are renters, taotao tåno, with out tåno. I’m pretty lucky though. We rent an apartment in an area that is very commercial, but we still have a bit space to grow. We are urban gardeners I guess. I spent one of my recent days off trimming the ixora and bougainvillea, pulling down dead pugua branches, and cleaning dead leaves from the bird of paradise.

It rained a few times, just lightly. Enough to remind me to take a break and cool down. My hands and arms ached from reaching, pulling, and clipping, but I didn’t want to stop. It had been a while since I’ve spent that much time working outside. I forgot how much I enjoyed it. I uprooted some bamboo and elephant ears to bring in and put in vases, bringing some tåno in to my home, for days when I can’t get out long enough. I also picked up some fallen mango.

After a refreshing shower and some time relaxing, I decided to peel and cut up the mango. I put the fruit in a couple freezer bags and after dinner I made myself a smoothie.

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I put the some of the mango in my smoothie maker along with some ice, a couple dates, and orange juice. I blended that up good and then I added some chia seeds. It was gof mangge, very tasty.

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Hopefully I’ll be posting more about my garden adventures and local fruits and veggies. maybe I’ll feature some other urban taotao tåno, apartment lancherus. I’ll even try to sneak some pics of my neighbor’s veggie garden that is growing in our parking lot. I’m not making that up. I’m jealous of her green onions. Say tuned.

 

Easy Inktense Nail Art for World Watercolor Month 

I like the way watercolor nail art looks. I’ve seen the tutorials online for a while, and have wanted to try it out but I can totally see myself making a huge mess of it. So I set out to find a way to get a similar result with out so many opportunities for me to make a mess of my hands and whatever work space I’m occupying.

Why not use actual art supplies? A paint brush has got to be a lot easier to work with than a piece of plastic. And nail polish is pretty thick, unlike watercolors. I guess you could use cheap nail polish, but what if you just used watercolors? Watercolors might drip right off of a glossy base. So you’ll need a matte base. And how do you get the watercolor to not react to your top coat? That’s where Derwent’s  Inktense pencils come in. These pencils are similar to watercolor pencils, except their workability stops when they dry. Hence the “ink” part of the name.

So here’s what you’ll need:

  • A light base nail polish – I used OPI’s I Cannoli
  • A clear matte polish – I used Revlon’s Transforming Effects Top Coat Matte 790
  • Small paint brush(es)
  • Small jar of water
  • Two or three Inktense Pencils – I used Sea Blue, Deep Indigo, & Ink Black
  •  A glossy top coat – I used a super cheapy top coat

Once you gather all of that:

  1. Paint a coat or two of your light base.
  2. After your base is completely dry, apply the matte polish.
  3. After your matte coat is completely dry you can start painting on the watercolor designs. I wet my paint brush and run it against the rim of the jar to make sure it isn’t over saturated. Then I get pigment from the tip of the pencil on to the brush. I painted in layers starting from the lightest color and ending with the darkest. Paint random blobs with the first color. Allow it to dry almost completely. Paint smaller blobs with the second and allow that to dry almost completely. Then paint sparse tiny blobs and wispy swirls with your darkest color.
  4. Once the paint has completely dried paint on your glossy top coat. This should bring out the colors and pattern contrast in your designs. I did two coats of top coat.

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If you do try it out and share it on instagram or twitter please tag me, @illusdreted, so I can admire your work.

Read, Write, Dream, Draw – The book I illustrated has been published!

I missed a pretty awesome opportunity a little while ago. A series of workshops for children’s book authors and illustrators was being offered. If you had an interest in creating children’s books and could commit to all the days of the workshops, the opportunity was available and it was funded through a grant, making it free for participants. I was definitely interested, but sadly could not commit to all the days of the workshops, because like many local artists, I have a day job. – Just a side note, I switched jobs twice last year. It was a year of … transitions.

That was a major bummer until I got a message from a friend, asking me to call her. Victoria Lola Leon Guerrero is the managing editor of University Press, which just created a branch, Taiguini Books, that focuses on publishing cultural books. As it turned out, Taiguini Books decided to choose a few of the stories that were worked on at the workshops to produce in time for FestPac. They picked four stories to publish. At the time of the selection the authors had already chosen illustrators. Lola called me because one of the illustrators had backed out and she needed an illustrator who could turn it out really quickly, like a month. Yeah. Despite the deadline anxiety I enthusiastically agreed. A lot of that enthusiasm was brought on by the story and the fact that I could relate too it.

Guaiyayon Na Trongkon Mansanita is about young siblings and the Mansanita tree that they grow up with. Delores Indalencio Camacho, the author, wrote the first draft of this story over a decade ago. She’s been holding on to it in her mind even longer, since it is in fact the story of her, her sisters, and their mansanita tree. My cousins and I grew up with a siniguelas tree at our grandparents house. It shared a similar life and fate as the Camacho’s mansanita tree. Children played in it’s shade, their laughter carried by the wind through it’s leaves. They climbed it’s branches and were treated to the fruit it lovingly produced. I think a lot of people who grew up in Guåhan, at least my generation and earlier, can relate to this story.

It ended up taking a little over a month to complete the illustrations. It was a fun filled journey. I spent most Mondays in Lola’s office with her and Ms. Camacho going over sketches, the line drawings, and finally the colored and completed illustrations. I’ll explain more of the behind the scenes details in a future post. It was a truly great experience. A lot of that had to do with the support that Taiguini Books provides through Lola’s hard work. I’m honored that Ms. Camacho agreed to have me illustrate a story that was so very special to her.

Guaiyayon Na Trongkon Mansanita was written by Delores Indalencion Camacho and Illustrated by myself, Andrea Nicole Grajek. It is written in CHamoru with english translations in the back of the book. If you’d like to purchase a copy they are available at MARC at UOG, as well as the UOG bookstore. You can also purchase them at Bestseller. They are $17 each. You should also check out the other three children’s books that Taiguini Books published. They would all make a great addition to your children’s book shelf.

In the coming weeks I’ll be posting about the illustration process, the importance of literature for Pacific children, as well as my experience working with the author and publisher. So look out for that.

My water color story + Supply Review of Watercolor Confections by Prima

July is World Watercolor Month! Learn more about how that came about and the great cause it supports over at Doodlewash. In celebration of World Watercolor Month and my return to blogging, I’m going to do a bunch of watercolor related reviews and posts throughout July.

For the longest time I was intimidated by watercolor paints. Watercolor painting did not come naturally to me and, unlike acrylics, if you mess up you can’t just paint over your oops. It only gets worse if you try. Because of that I mainly painted in acrylics and when I started focusing on illustration I gravitated to ink. When I decided I wanted more color options in my illustrations I added Copic Markers and then Derwent’s Inktense pencils. Both are amazing, but pricey. I needed something for washes that wouldn’t leave me feeling reluctant about wasting product. So I finally ended up buying a really inexpensive school grade set of watercolors. I tried tubes to start, but cheap tubes were just not working for me, so I moved on to pans.

My cheapy watercolors were great to mess around with – watercolor blobs – and I actually used them for the work I did for my solo exhibit a couple years ago. I even used those same watercolors, with ink and Copics, to illustrate a children’s book. I’ll tell you more about the book in a future post. They served me very well, especially considering the price.

 

A few months ago I saw an art supply review on You Tube for Prima’s Watercolor Confections. I’m not going to lie here, what really attracted me to them was the packaging. Many of the affordable watercolor pan sets I see come in white plastic packaging and they usually have a poorly designed sticker on them. The Watercolor Confections come in a plain black tin, no branding at all, and it manages to still offer mixing / palette space while maintaining that minimalist look. It’s a form and function win.

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There are three sets available: The Classics, Decadent Pies, and Tropicals. I was gifted The Classics shortly after watching that review. The 12 pans come individually wrapped and you just pop them back into their slots after unwrapping them. They do slide around a bit if you have them in your bag. It’s not a big deal, but it would be cool if Prima made the pans a bit more snug in the tin. Of course you could just put some double sided tape down and fix it yourself. Did I do that? Nope. Not yet.

On to the real meat of the review, are the actual paints any good? I like them. The color variety of The Classics works for me. They’re pigmented well, but maintain that sweet water color transparency. Some colors are definitely more intense than others. I haven’t had them long enough to tell you how they rank in permanence. I will use them for illustration projects that will mostly end up digitized, so that isn’t the biggest concern for me. Overall I’m a fan of the product and I’d love to get my hands on the Tropicals and Decadent Pies sets. The sets are around $18 – $27, depending on where you purchase them. I know you can find them on Amazon, that way you can compare prices.

Working on some #watercolorblobs. I really like this #primawatercolor set.

A post shared by Drea Nicole Grajek (@illusdreted) on

 

I haven’t tried any other Prima products, but I noticed that they also sell watercolor pencils, water brushes, and watercolor panels. Have you tried any of their products? I’d love to know if they might be worth looking in to.

 

“Oh well” & a comic strip on cartooning.

Since the first of this month, I’ve been looking forward to a kind of special day. But today I realized that my special day passed with out me realizing it. May 23 2014 is the day that my first editorial cartoon was published. May 23 2015 – I was super busy and completely forgot about my cartooniversary.  😦

Oh well. My next cartoon will be my 100th published cartoon. I guess I can celebrate that, hopefully on Friday.

I was planning to do a special blog post about cartooning for the last year. I’m kinda bummed about missing the day so I don’t really want to write much… So instead I’ll leave you with a comic strip glimpse of what comes with cartooning.

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Social Distractions - by Nezumi - Reconstructing Wonderland - comic strip

Plan of Attack – Printable Freebie

For 2013 and 2014 I was completely reliant on my super cute Toki Doki planners. I loved those things. I have not started a planner for 2015 though. Since the year started a little bumpy and I wasn’t really worrying too much about being productive, I didn’t bother. Although last year I was planning to get a 2015 planner. I was thinking about an upgrade. I had my heart set on the Kate Spade agenda for a while, but I was also hearing great things about the Erin Condren Life Planner and Whitney English’s Day Designer.

Things are starting to pick up again. So I’m realizing that Wunderlist and Google Calendar aren’t the extent of what I’ll be needing for the rest of the year. Since most planners start either in August or January, I decided to make some printable pages to use for the summer. And since I appreciate all you readers, I thought it’d be nice to share the first page I created with you.

Plan of Attack - reconstructing wonderland - printable

I used Canva to create it and if you have a Canva account you can actually edit it to your preferences. If you don’t have a Canva account you can still download it. Canva is a really awesome free service though. So you might want to consider signing up for it.

Plan of Attack

Plan of Attack – editable

What kind of planner do you use? How do you keep track of your to-do lists? If you decide to use the printable, let me know how you like it. If you decide to make changes, I’d love to hear about them. I’m always looking for ways to make my life more manageable.