Some of you who only know me through my horse drawings may not know that I am also a writer. I love to write fiction, but in the past few years I have also written several software books for the digital art software “Clip Studio Paint” (formerly known as Manga Studio 5).
Through the latter part of 2018, I worked on the 2nd Edition of “Learn Clip Studio Paint“, published by Packt Publishing. I’m very pleased to say that this book was released in late December and is now out! I got my advance copies a few days ago and am so pleased with how they turned out.
Clip Studio Paint is a world-class art software used by over four million creators worldwide to create comics, manga, illustrations, concept art, and more. Unlike most other art software, Clip Studio Paint is created with artists in mind- most specifically comic artists. It has a powerful and highly customizable brush engine, allowing the user to achieve a variety of real-world media looks like watercolor and oil paint in the digital realm. It also includes digital rulers, speech balloon tools, perspective tools to assist in drawing backgrounds, 3D models that can be posed and edited, materials like patterns, images, and screentones, and more.
Learn Clip Studio Paint 2nd Edition is the updated version of “Manga Studio 5 for Beginners”, written by Michael Rhodes. After Michael couldn’t complete the update because of personal reasons, I was asked to take over writing the book. It was an honor to work on and publish my third software book with Packt Publishing!
Through the course of this book, the reader learns how to select a computer to run CSP, as well as the differences between CSP Pro and CSP EX. They learn how to install the software and navigate the interface, as well as how to create new files. Customizing tools like brushes and other drawing tools are covered, as well as the basics of inking your work. This book is ideal for beginner’s and those switching from other graphic software programs.
I was officially diagnosed with it about two years ago and started taking medication, but looking back on my life, I’m pretty sure I’ve always been extremely anxious. As a child, I remember reading a science book and then being terrified that the sun was going to blow up and we were all going to burn up and die. I was scared during fireworks displays on the Fourth of July that bits of smoldering fireworks were going to drop on my head and burn me. School turned me into a wreck if we had to answer questions in class or read out loud because I was terrified I would mess up and make myself look like an idiot in front of my classmates.
Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’ve had anxiety my entire life and no one really noticed. I was a crybaby, and anti-social, and a scaredy-cat, and any other manner of mean name you could call a child who has anxiety and no one is willing to open their eyes to that fact.
As a child, I always wanted to have a horse and learn how to ride. That dream didn’t start coming true until I turned 30, and suddenly I had the opportunity to work with horses and learn how to ride. Learning to ride at 30 years old is not easy, let me tell you. First of all, most people at that age know very well that they can die at any moment, thank-you-very-much, and so I didn’t have the luxury of learning during that fearless time that young children have. Though sometimes I wonder if, because I have had anxiety since a very young age, I ever had that “fearless and immortal” period of my life at all.
“Even with medication, all these falls started making me anxious.”
One of the first times I ever got in a saddle without someone else checking the girth (the strap that holds the saddle to the horse) for me, the horse walked away from the mounting block while I was just starting to get on, the saddle slipped, and I fell under the horse. During a riding lesson at another barn, I went to get on a lesson horse who wouldn’t stand still at the mounting block at all and I ended up going right over the other side and falling. Before I had another couple of falls in the past year and a half of riding, ninety-percent of my horseback riding related falls were while I was trying to get in the saddle.
Even with medication, all these falls started making me anxious. Since they happened mostly when I was getting on the horse, I began to get seriously terrified of not having my girth tightened enough that my saddle wouldn’t slip when I got on. Getting in the saddle when there was no one there to hold my horse was also a nightmare, because what if I tried to get on and they walked off without me firmly sitting down in the saddle?! The horror!
It got to the point where I would double and triple check my girth before getting on the mounting block. Then I would play a game called “The mounting block isn’t the correct distance from the horse”, and I would go down and up the mounting block several times, adjusting its position until it was perfect. Then I would stand on the top of the mounting block, staring at my saddle as though it were a firing squad. Eventually, I might get in the saddle, or I might just call it quits and decide not to ride at all.
We got a VERY tall mounting block eventually at the barn I boarded at, and that made things a little bit easier. I could put my horse (a rather short Morgan mare) next to it and literally swing my leg over and sit down, no stirrups required. And since there were no stirrups required to get on, I could be reasonably sure that my saddle wouldn’t slide and deposit me on the ground underneath an animal with four hard hooves and that spooks easily.
But this didn’t really solve my anxiety. And things just became worse when the person who owned that mounting block left, taking my salvation with them.
I got a breastplate, figuring that even if it wasn’t actually designed to stop a saddle from rolling side-to-side, it would be enough of a placebo effect that I would be able to calm my anxiety and get on. But even with the extra piece of tack to give me peace of mind, the anxiety was still there.
“Yes, anxiety about being anxious! I truly am a mess!”
I soon realized that the anxiety was stemming not just from fear of the saddle slipping, but also from the fear of the horse walking away before I could get in the saddle, AND from my embarrassment about my anxiety. Yes, anxiety about being anxious! I truly am a mess! I knew that I was going to have to get over this and get on my horse like a normal human equestrian is supposed to, not climbing down onto the horse’s back like I was doing a squat in the gym. (Besides, the taller mounting block only allowed me to do that if the horse was as short as my personal horse, and not many of them are. If I rode a taller horse, I was out of luck and HAD to use the stirrup to get on!)
I was in a bind. Nothing I’d tried had worked yet, but I was determined that I was going to stop having so much anxiety about an activity that I truly love and I was going to teach myself to get over this and stop being stared at while I climbed into the saddle like it was my first day of riding. By now I had been riding for almost five years and this just seemed silly. But I was lost on how to make myself not anxious when even buying a piece of tack that was supposed to help me didn’t help at all.
In the Five Second Rule, you give yourself a task that you need to start. Let’s use getting out of bed since it’s her example in the video. So you say to yourself, “I am getting out of this bed now,” and then you count backward from five to one, and you start that task. It helps squash procrastination because you have a set time limit to start the task, and it kills anxiety because five seconds isn’t enough time to second guess your decision. A simple “5-4-3-2-1” seemed… TOO simple.
But it was worth a shot when everything else had failed me, right?
I was eager to try this technique and was going riding with some friends the next day. I told myself that I was going to make sure my girth was tight, then I was going to do my countdown and get in my saddle- and I was going to use my stirrup to do it like a normal equestrian!
“5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1!”
The next day came and I repeated my plan over and over again to myself as I tacked up. I made sure my girth was good and snug and that my helmet was on, and I went to the mounting block. I made sure to adjust the mounting block back a little further than normal so I would have room to use my stirrup. Then I got to the top step, adjusted my reins, put my foot in the stirrup, and said “Five, four, three, two, one!”
Boom! I was in my saddle! I was giddy over this little victory, could my stirrup worries be over with, finally? I had to get down at one point during that ride to adjust something in the arena, and I used my countdown to get on using my stirrups again. Two for two, I was on fire! Then my friend asked if I wanted to ride her horse for a few minutes because I had never been on him before. This horse is significantly taller than mine, and I knew I was going to have no choice but to use the stirrup for this one. Another countdown and BAM! I was on a horse that I’d never ridden before, and I’d used a stirrup to get there, and I hadn’t fallen off! I was over the moon!
I am happy to report that I now have very little anxiety while getting in the saddle. I can’t say that it’s completely gone, because I often ride a friend’s horse bareback and that horse walks away from the mounting block like she’s just been kicked in the butt the second you get on her back. But when I’m on my horse I use my stirrup and I don’t get anxious about it. I know now that even if my saddle slips a little, I’m good enough that I can still get on without falling. Those little baby steps and a five-second countdown gave me the confidence I needed to get through the anxiety and start enjoying the beginning of my rides.
I still have a long way to go with my anxiety, even when I’m riding, but I know that I can get there. And I know that because I conquered my fear of a silly little thing like putting my foot in a stirrup.
Have you ever had an anxious reaction to something that you knew was silly, and if so how did you deal with that anxiety? Have you ever used the five-second rule to deal with your anxiety? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments or on Facebook! Or you can email me to connect too.
Video of me working on the Marwari Horse drawing. In this video I use a lightpadto trace the sketch onto the map page with Copic Multiliner pens. Then the large areas of base color are added with Copic Markers. I use Fantasia Artist Premium Colored Pencils to add additional shading and highlights over the marker. The real-time on this drawing was about 90 minutes (not including the initial sketching of the horse, which I didn’t film).
I’ve gotten a good bit of attention locally for my Horses Of The World series. This series of art is very special to me and is one that I really enjoy working on. As I write this blog post there are 20 completed horse breeds.
In this series, I use mixed media to attempt to tell the story of horse breeds and where they come from. Each breed of horse is drawn on a vintage map page from a page of the Goode’s World Atlas by Rand McNally (11th Edition, 1960). I pick the map page to draw on based on the area of the world the horse breed originates from- so the Arabian horse, for example, is drawn on the map of Saudi Arabia. I use this as a way to tell a story about the horse breeds that we all love but may not know where they originated from in the world.
I create these pieces of art by first researching the horse breed I want to illustrate and then checking to make sure I have a corresponding map page. The first eighteen horses in the series were sketched directly onto the map pages, but recently I have started sketching on plain paper and then transferring the sketch to the map via a lightbox instead because sometimes it’s difficult to see the sketch overtop of the map lines, especially on particularly busy maps, and I have a difficult time with the inking process. Once the sketch is complete, the drawing is inked with waterproof and alcohol marker proof Copic Multiliner brush pens. The inked lines are allowed to dry for a while and then the coloring process begins!
Coloring occurs directly on the original map. I use a variety of materials to add the color to the horse drawings. White/gray horses get a light coat of white acrylic paint as a base, usually from a white paint pen. Darker colored horses get large areas filled in with alcohol markers (Copic or Spectrum Noir, I have both kinds). Then additional shading, highlighting, and details are added with colored pencils. Horses who had paint used on them have any lines that were painted over touched back up with the same inking pens as before since the paint tends to wash the ink lines out when it goes over them and I like for the inking lines to be bold and dark!
This series of drawings is very important to me. I have loved horses ever since I was very young, but I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland and there was nowhere around for a young girl from a middle-class family to do anything with horses. I remember pony rides at various events on occasion, probably especially at the Maryland Renaissance Fair, and one of my cousins had horses on their farm when we were younger so at Easter and Christmas we would sometimes get pony rides there as well. But I never had the opportunity to actually learn to ride, or to have a horse of my own. So instead of being around horses in physical space, I was with them mentally. I read every book on horses at my local library, and read every book with horses in it that I could find at thrift stores or flea markets. Horses were the first subject that I could draw fairly well. I remember having a How To Draw Horses book that I studied almost religiously. I would doodle horse heads on everything. I couldn’t be around horses in real life, so I was with them in my mind and in my art.
Eventually, as I grew older, I gave up on the dream of ever actually being around horses, or owning one, or riding them. But I still would stare at a field of horses as we drove past, or watch horses in movies, or make sure my character had a horse in a role-playing game. All of that changed when I turned 30. I had just quit my day job to make a go at being self-employed, and I was looking for some sort of volunteer opportunity. I had been collecting My Little Pony figures over the past few years and decided that I wanted to find something horse related. I stumbled across a local riding school looking for volunteers to help with their summer camp, and no experience was needed!
I volunteered and that was the beginning of horse madness. Through all of this, a friend I had who owned a horse realized that I liked horses. Two years later, her horse became my horse. Glory and I have been together for five years now and she is my constant muse and source of stress relief. I wouldn’t trade her for anything!
Often I’m asked what books people can look at to learn more about art and honing their skills. I decided to put together a list of books that have been helpful to me in the past and/or I currently own and refer to often. This is my own personal list of what books I find helpful. These titles may or may not help you in your art journey as well, as all artists are different and learn in different ways. So here are the books that I’ve found helpful in the past!
This list contains Amazon affiliate links. Purchasing items through links in this article gives me a small commission on Amazon (which I will then use to purchase more art books and supplies…)
This is THE book that I recommend to anyone who says to me “I want to learn how to draw but I have no idea how to get started! I can’t even draw a stick figure!”. I used this book a looooong time ago (like… 1998-long-time-ago) but I can’t imagine that it has changed that much over the years. Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain teaches you how to switch to “Right-Brain Mode” and see the world as an artist. With lots of easy to complete lessons that won’t take complicated or hard to obtain supplies, this book is accessible and a great start for training your brain how to discern basic shapes and start drawing what you actually see. Note that this is not a comic or cartooning drawing book, but a book on drawing from observation, which is absolutely essential no matter what sort of art you want to do!
I used this book back in high school, as I said. At the time I was a decent (for my age) artist with both drawing from life and cartooning. My skills after doing only half of this book saw a drastic improvement, which is why I absolutely recommend this book to anyone who wants to get start with art.
Learning perspective is essential for anyone wanting to draw, whether that be drawing comics and cartoons or otherwise. Even drawing the human figure at any angle other than straight-on requires some knowledge of perspective! I got this book for Christmas one year not long ago because I wanted to brush up on my perspective skills for my comic panel backgrounds. Not to sound dramatic, but this perspective book pretty much changed my life. The material is presented in a way that’s easy to understand even for perspective beginners. But there are also tips on advanced perspective drawing that will benefit those who have been drawing in perspective for a long time. I asked for this as a refresher course and got so much more than that, as it taught me tricks for how to make drawing in perspective easier that I had never seen before. The exercises in this book are easy to follow no matter what your level of skill is with perspective.
If you want to learn about human anatomy, Andrew Loomis is where it’s at. Not only does this book go over ideal proportions, muscle groups, and features, but it also talks about foreshortening, proportions in perspective, and how to draw the figure in different centers of balance and motion. Not only is Andrew Loomis’ work fantastic to look at, but reading the text is helpful as well since it’s full of tips and tricks.
Burne Hogarth was one of the first anatomy books I had when I decided I wanted to be an artist back in my high school days. I can remember going to the bookstore and looking at Dynamic Figure Drawing over and over again, coveting it for the longest time before I had the money to buy it. Sadly I either lost or had to sell my copy around the time I was in college or so. But I never forgot looking at the cool dynamic figures with several sets of arms, legs, or heads drawn on a single pose to show the versatility of the pose and to show the human body in motion. This is not just a book of anatomy drawings, but a guide to how to draw the human figure in motion and with foreshortening.
Okay, okay, look, I know that a lot of the How To Draw Manga series is generally regarded as being “garbage”. The thing is though that many of them DO make good reference books. And the other thing is that this book is one of the few out there that actually goes into the theory of drawing all those cool, dynamic fight scenes that we all love in comics and manga. This is another book that I bought back in high school and lost when I was in college. (Maybe I had a book thief sneaking into my dorm at night or something? Or maybe I just loaned my beloved reference books out to the wrong people, who knows.) This book always stuck with me though in my mind because it doesn’t just have nice pictures in it to reference from. The text also describes the theory of why to draw the figures the way they show to illustrate motion. This book covers many topics of drawing battles, from different kinds of unarmed strikes and throws to fighting with weapons and also drawing battle damage on characters. (Doing research for this blog post, I found this book used on Amazon for less than $2 and I confess that I love it so much I bought it immediately to replace my long, long lost copy. I can’t wait for it to get here!)
The above header should read “anything by Scott McCloud” but I wanted to give links to actual books. If you’ve ever wanted to understand how and why comics work or don’t work, and the tactics of visual storytelling, Scott McCloud is the guy to read. Plus his books are presented as comics, so they’re easy to read and there’s lots of pictures. It’s a win-win!
This is a short book that is a great introduction to color theory. It introduces the concepts and theories without getting too bogged down in things and making color theory even more confusing than it can be. I still struggle with color theory because it’s such a vast topic with so many variables. But this book is a fantastic primer on the concepts for the beginning artist and I highly recommend it.
Okay, so How To Make Webcomics is a little outdated now as far as some of the topics go. There have been so many changes to technology and the convention scene since it came out that the age of this book really shows in spots. That being said, it’s also still a good reference on getting started in the practice and business of making webcomics. You just have to remember to take the advice in it with a grain of salt, because so much of the comics landscape has changed a lot since this book came out. It’s also geared more toward “gag-a-day” strips and so, as the creator of a long-form story comic I found a lot of the marketing type advice didn’t apply to me. It does have sections on writing, creating characters, prepping your comic images for posting, web-site design, site hosting, and interacting with your audience though, and those sorts of topics can be applicable to almost all comic creators no matter what your you’re creating your comics in.
So those are my personal recommendations for books for beginning artists. Have you read any of these books? Which books have you found helpful on your own art journey?
Writing a blog about my artistic mission and philosophy feels a lot like a college art assignment, but I’ll do my best. It feels a bit like writing an artist’s statement, actually!
So what can I say about my mission and philosophy of creating art? I feel like I am, at my deepest heart of hearts, a storyteller. Whether I’m writing a novel, or a blog, or a comic, I like to tell a story. And when I’m drawing, whether it’s sketching or illustrating or doing sequential art, I still like to tell a story. Even a drawing of one character can tell a story. I keep this in mind most of the time when I’m drawing something. Some of my art (especially warm-up sketches) are just character studies. But they can be so much more. I love when I can create an illustration or a sketch that tells a story about the character or the creature on the page.
My Horses of the World series of drawings started off with this idea in mind. The vintage map pages that I use to draw on are beautiful, and nearly anything drawn on them would look wonderful. But the reason I choose the pages I do, and the reason I draw horses on them is first to tell a story. Each breed is drawn on the map page of the country where the breed originates from. An Arabian on Saudi Arabia, a Fjord horse on Norway, a Heihe on China. It can be easy here in the United States to see this different breeds and forget where they come from, both in the U.S. and in the world. We can see a Percheron or a Paso Fino and not really think about where that breed has come from, and what it means for a horse to be of that breed. So I hope these images make people think about the horses they love and the journeys they’ve made to come into our lives.
But even something like a quick character illustration or character design can tell a deeper story. For instance, one of my warmup sketches in early 2018, tells a story despite being fairly simple. The character in this sketch is from a novel series that I’ve been working on for a long time. I published the first back in 2009 and am currently working on the second book. The second book takes place two years after the first, so this character has aged a little bit but is still fairly young. In this sketch she is running late, as is obvious from her pose of running and her looking at her wrist to see the time on her watch.
But what else does the illustration tell us? I specifically put her in a school uniform so there is an idea of her age and that she attends a private high school. If I’d dressed her in her casual clothing it could have been more difficult to get a sense of her age, other than she’s obviously on the younger side. In different clothes and without the bow in her ponytail, she could be a young professional woman on her way to a meeting who’s just realized she’s about to miss her train. I gave her a messenger bag, but the bag is decorated with cute keychains and pins, another hint to her young age and to her cheerful personality.
These are the kinds of details that I think about when I try to tell a story with an illustration. Drawing images like this, that have a meaning and aren’t just a character standing around doing nothing, are my favorite types of images to draw!
One of the reasons I wanted to become an artist and writer and to tell stories in the first place is because of the stories I grew up with when I was a child. My parents read to us a lot when we were young. My brother and I were reading books at high reading levels from a young age. I’m the youngest of four children, and all three of my siblings are boys. I grew up as a bit of a tomboy (naturally, with three brothers!) in the 1980’s. My closest brother had bad asthma when we were young, and since he was my best friend we were inside much of the time. We played with toys, of course, but we also watched Saturday Morning Cartoons and such, especially after we got cable when I was a little bit older.
I remember watching shows like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and GI Joe and Transformers and thinking “Where are the girls?!” Sure, April O’Neil was capable and competent in TMNT, but let’s face it, she was pretty much a damsel in distress most of the time. I never saw myself, a girl who was strong and capable, in any of the stories I watched as a child. I remember seeing Beauty and the Beast when it came out and nearly crying, because not only was there finally a Disney Princess who looked like me (brown hair, brown eyes), but who also was smart and strong. I didn’t want to play as a damsel in distress when my brothers and I played. I wanted to save the world just the same as the boys did! So when I began to write stories, I tried to include women and girls who saved the world and were just as capable as their male counterparts at being completely badass and heroic.
These two things, telling stories and inspiring young women to be strong, are the two things that are the most important to me in my art.
I was recently accepted into The Foundry in Chambersburg, PA! Four of my original horse drawings are available and so are some of my notecard sets. I am super excited to be a part of this organization that supports local artists and helps educate new artists as well. I’m looking forward to teaching classes and doing all sorts of other fun things with this amazing group of artists.
It’s 11 days in to 2015 and I feel like I have done more planning for what I want to accomplish than actually trying to accomplish things! But I guess taking the time to make a good plan helps with actually accomplishing those goals, huh?
For 2015 I selected 6 areas of my life to make goals for, then made sure I didn’t set more than 4-5 goals for each category. Now I’m spending the first 3 months of the year concentrating on 5 goals and trying to hustle to achieve them. I’m hoping to use this blog to track my progress and inspire others to set and work toward their goals as well!
Here are the goals I’m trying to accomplish for this year, by category.
Increase my self-confidence and decrease my negative self-talk
Make my inner editor shut up.
Increase my Adrastus page views to at least 1000 each update day.
Successfully run a Kickstarter for books 3 & 4 of Adrastus.
Attend 3-4 conventions as a vendor and make a profit at each convention.
Eat more fruits and vegetables.
Cut down my sugar consumption.
Exercise 30 minutes a day for 6 days a week.
Lose 4 pants sizes.
Become more flexible, especially in my ankles/hamstrings.
Learn how to use MotionArtist (by SmithMicro)
Learn how to use AnimeStudio (by SmithMicro)
Meditate regularly at least 20 minutes per day.
Be more grateful for the good things that I have.
Learn more about Tarot.
Practice rituals on my faith’s special days.
Canter on a horse!
I’ve been using a book I picked up by S.J. Scott called S.M.A.R.T. Goals Made Simple to help set up my plans for my goals, and it’s helping a whole lot. The book is an easy read, only took a few hours. I actually wish that I had picked it up as a physical copy though so I could flip through it a bit easier! It’s been a really handy reference, and is the reason why I have a Goal Book and mind maps for each of the 5 goals I’m concentrating on until the end of March. The goals that I picked to focus on for the first quarter of the year were: Increase self confidence and decrease my negative self talk, Increase visitors to the Adrastus site, Meditate 20 minutes per day, Eat Healthy, and Learn how to use Motion Artist.
Look how cute my Goal Book is, too.
I still want to decorate the front with some letters. I need to find some cute letter stickers, I think. Inside the book I have some colorful write-on dividers, one for each goal and then a few extra. I made mind maps for each goal on drawing paper to start coming up with my plans for how to achieve each goal and stuck each one in the pocket on the divider. Then each section has some looseleaf paper in it. The first page of each section has my goal defined out as clearly as I could get it, including how I’m going to accomplish the goal and some ideas. So like my Career goal of increasing my page views has this on the first page:
I will increase the average daily page views for adrastuscomic.com from 100 to 250 on update days by March 31st 2015. I will do this by using a combination of free and paid advertising, posting weekly tutorial videos to YouTube, being a guest on relevant podcasts, and posting site updates to relevant communities.
Then on the second page I started brainstorming places to advertise. So far this is the most organized I’ve been with any sort of goals like this. It’s scary, because I feel a little overwhelmed from time to time, but I also feel like I have the best chance now of actually getting things done and achieving what I want to achieve!
This past week some on the Facebook “Webcomics Underdogs” group was asking about using Manga Studio 5 to do flat fills on their art. They got a lot of great advice, but no one had mentioned using reference layers and the bucket fill! So I made this video to show you how to quickly add flat colors to your drawings.
Subscribe to my YouTube channel for more videos every week!
This week I was asked to make a video about coloring in Manga Studio 5. This is just my method, and of course there’s a million ways to go about coloring. Hopefully some of the methods I use in this video will help you!