Illustration

The Who's Who-nicorn - Your Guide to the Unicorns of the World

Ah, June! Summer has arrived. Here in Los Angeles, the month is marked by perpetually gloomy skies, which thankfully shield us from the horrible temp-- oh wait, there goes the cloud cover and I'm melting into my Cintiq again.

June is also a popular month for drawing challenges including KaiJune and JuneFae... but I didn't want to draw 30 of either of those things. Instead I decided on something I loved: June + Unicorns = Juneicorns. Why? Because making portmanteaus are one of my favorite hobbies; I love to calembour* people to death.

*(haha French joke, I'm a nerd #SORRYNOTSORRY)

30 days of drawing anything is quite a wild ride, and the fun, daily challenge of thinking up a new magical horse led to some really fun jokes and visual gags. So without further ado, I present to you The Who's Who-nicorn.

 Here we have your standard model Unicorn. No frills, no upgrades, basic horn package (moderately pointy), and only produces glitter on weekends. She comes with four (4) hooves, an exhaust vent, and undercoating (while supplies last). This model, inexplicably, is equipped with a 2 horsepower engine.   

Here we have your standard model Unicorn. No frills, no upgrades, basic horn package (moderately pointy), and only produces glitter on weekends. She comes with four (4) hooves, an exhaust vent, and undercoating (while supplies last). This model, inexplicably, is equipped with a 2 horsepower engine.   

 Prismacorn believes every hue of conspiracy theory. Once convinced that rain is actually the sky whizzing on the ground, she made it her personal mission to appear after storms to signal an end to the soiling. She is, unfortunately, very gullible. Her agent plastered her likeness on everything from nightlights to beach towels, and poor Prismacorn doesn't receive any royalties. It's probably for the best, as she'd spend her money on made up things, like Bitcoin.

Prismacorn believes every hue of conspiracy theory. Once convinced that rain is actually the sky whizzing on the ground, she made it her personal mission to appear after storms to signal an end to the soiling. She is, unfortunately, very gullible. Her agent plastered her likeness on everything from nightlights to beach towels, and poor Prismacorn doesn't receive any royalties. It's probably for the best, as she'd spend her money on made up things, like Bitcoin.

 Did you do that? It wasn't me, I'd go outside or at least blame it on the dog! I think someone's eating egg salad. No, you're just smelling the pungent Mephiticorn. This olfactory equine typically wafts about swamps, low-tide marks, and Port-a-Dooties. It is colloquially known as a "Shartland Pony."

Did you do that? It wasn't me, I'd go outside or at least blame it on the dog! I think someone's eating egg salad. No, you're just smelling the pungent Mephiticorn. This olfactory equine typically wafts about swamps, low-tide marks, and Port-a-Dooties. It is colloquially known as a "Shartland Pony."

 The Infernicorn's fiery passion is so intense, she burns with an inner flame. And an outer flame. The whole lot is on fire, actually. The energy she expends could power a small city, though that same small city would likely have trouble fueling the 100% refined-sugar diet that sustains her. Normally found in hot & dry areas, she must be kept away from the gassy Mephiticorn at all costs.

The Infernicorn's fiery passion is so intense, she burns with an inner flame. And an outer flame. The whole lot is on fire, actually. The energy she expends could power a small city, though that same small city would likely have trouble fueling the 100% refined-sugar diet that sustains her. Normally found in hot & dry areas, she must be kept away from the gassy Mephiticorn at all costs.

 Is that spring in the air? Or is it... yep, it's just the Bloomicorn! Smelling fresher than your tree-shaped air freshener from 2003, this magical creature spreads flora and fun wherever she frolics. She's easiest to spot while holding perfectly still for diligent honey bees. Seriously, she's allergic. Does anyone have an epi-pen?

Is that spring in the air? Or is it... yep, it's just the Bloomicorn! Smelling fresher than your tree-shaped air freshener from 2003, this magical creature spreads flora and fun wherever she frolics. She's easiest to spot while holding perfectly still for diligent honey bees. Seriously, she's allergic. Does anyone have an epi-pen?

 The Bufficorn is a real stallion at the gym, a workhorse that'll plow through the most difficult workout with barely a whinny. Having never been broken, he prefers to break records. 2,000+ lb bench reps, free-roam weights and a hundred inverted horn squats every day before grains. Sugar treat? Ha! Cubes are for colts.

The Bufficorn is a real stallion at the gym, a workhorse that'll plow through the most difficult workout with barely a whinny. Having never been broken, he prefers to break records. 2,000+ lb bench reps, free-roam weights and a hundred inverted horn squats every day before grains. Sugar treat? Ha! Cubes are for colts.

 With a silky mane and perfect teeth, the Galeicorn is the most Instagram-famous of the unicorn world. Her legendary beauty is most often on display in photo shoots across mountain ranges and off the rugged Pacific Coast. While she can tame the winds with her magic, her hair is a little less submissive. Nine times out of ten, the photos end up looking something like this.

With a silky mane and perfect teeth, the Galeicorn is the most Instagram-famous of the unicorn world. Her legendary beauty is most often on display in photo shoots across mountain ranges and off the rugged Pacific Coast. While she can tame the winds with her magic, her hair is a little less submissive. Nine times out of ten, the photos end up looking something like this.

 What the Corgicorn lacks in height, it makes up for in personality. This petite pony is found in ancient forests and glades. If you come across a gleaming sword set in a stone, odds are it'll be guarded by this furrocious guardian demanding treats for passage. It has been known to serve as a steed for the fairy kingdoms, giving rise to its colloquial name, Horse Bus.

What the Corgicorn lacks in height, it makes up for in personality. This petite pony is found in ancient forests and glades. If you come across a gleaming sword set in a stone, odds are it'll be guarded by this furrocious guardian demanding treats for passage. It has been known to serve as a steed for the fairy kingdoms, giving rise to its colloquial name, Horse Bus.

 Some people believe the Schrödicörn exists. Some don't. They're both right. And wrong.

Some people believe the Schrödicörn exists. Some don't. They're both right. And wrong.

 The first nocturnal unicorn on the list, Thrashicorn lives so deep in mosh pits that no light can reach her. Powered by face-melting rock that would make your deaf grandma go even deafer, she bucks societal norms and isn't afraid to let her inner mustang run free. Although her number one band is Equineox, she also attends every Powerhööf and Caine's Mane concert too. 

The first nocturnal unicorn on the list, Thrashicorn lives so deep in mosh pits that no light can reach her. Powered by face-melting rock that would make your deaf grandma go even deafer, she bucks societal norms and isn't afraid to let her inner mustang run free. Although her number one band is Equineox, she also attends every Powerhööf and Caine's Mane concert too. 

 While not existing in a traditional way, the quantum nature of the Rezzicorn has been the subject of intense debate amongst horse-loving nerds. The magic of manipulating qubits allows it to crunch datasets that are staggering to behold. Considered the most powerful “computer” in the world, it’s a pretty cushy superposition to be in.

While not existing in a traditional way, the quantum nature of the Rezzicorn has been the subject of intense debate amongst horse-loving nerds. The magic of manipulating qubits allows it to crunch datasets that are staggering to behold. Considered the most powerful “computer” in the world, it’s a pretty cushy superposition to be in.

 The Puddlecorn always gets his recommended eight glasses of water a day. While he can navigate oceans, rivers and bathtubs with ease, dry land is more difficult than a world-record breaking butterfly stroke... against the current... in quicksand. Since his last party invite ended with soaking pergo, he's developed a bit of a 'wet blanket' personality.

The Puddlecorn always gets his recommended eight glasses of water a day. While he can navigate oceans, rivers and bathtubs with ease, dry land is more difficult than a world-record breaking butterfly stroke... against the current... in quicksand. Since his last party invite ended with soaking pergo, he's developed a bit of a 'wet blanket' personality.

 Known to be meticulously orderly, the Cornicorn lives in perfect rows. Every autumn, in a most odd ritual, the herd is known to form a maze for the enjoyment of very young or very intoxicated humans. Their magic, as is self-evident, is omniscience. Unfortunately, due to the ridiculous nature of its face ornamentation, no one takes their foresight seriously and that's how we end up with things like Crystal Pepsi and the Zune.

Known to be meticulously orderly, the Cornicorn lives in perfect rows. Every autumn, in a most odd ritual, the herd is known to form a maze for the enjoyment of very young or very intoxicated humans. Their magic, as is self-evident, is omniscience. Unfortunately, due to the ridiculous nature of its face ornamentation, no one takes their foresight seriously and that's how we end up with things like Crystal Pepsi and the Zune.

 The Scribblecorn, much like DMV workers, live by a saying: "Existence is pain."

The Scribblecorn, much like DMV workers, live by a saying: "Existence is pain."

 The Goudacorn is a rare specimen made entirely of an extremely delicious, unidentifiable type of cheese. Often pursued by those who think plain crackers are an abomination, his distinct scent makes it impossible to hide (especially if he's been sitting in the sun). Because his magic is self-regenerative, these nibblers are more annoying than anything. He makes an appetizing pair with his best friends, the Vinocorns. You can quit with the cheesy jokes, he's heard them all.

The Goudacorn is a rare specimen made entirely of an extremely delicious, unidentifiable type of cheese. Often pursued by those who think plain crackers are an abomination, his distinct scent makes it impossible to hide (especially if he's been sitting in the sun). Because his magic is self-regenerative, these nibblers are more annoying than anything. He makes an appetizing pair with his best friends, the Vinocorns. You can quit with the cheesy jokes, he's heard them all.

 The Arcticorn often makes her intentions crystal clear but can sometimes feel dismissive, to the point of giving one the cold shoulder. She is a decorative staple at fancy winter dinner parties, although her attempts at fame and envy are a bit transparent. While very cool to her friends, they know that she can turn downright frigid if anyone dares touch the thermostat. Put on a sweater, she's not heating the neighborhood!

The Arcticorn often makes her intentions crystal clear but can sometimes feel dismissive, to the point of giving one the cold shoulder. She is a decorative staple at fancy winter dinner parties, although her attempts at fame and envy are a bit transparent. While very cool to her friends, they know that she can turn downright frigid if anyone dares touch the thermostat. Put on a sweater, she's not heating the neighborhood!

 Lasers, glow bands, and fast cars, oh my! The Synthicorn, existing within the throbbing electronic beats of 80's sci-fi and horror inspired synth tracks, always moves with rhythm. She is best viewed at night; using her nostalgia magic to envelop your ears in pulse pounding power!

Lasers, glow bands, and fast cars, oh my! The Synthicorn, existing within the throbbing electronic beats of 80's sci-fi and horror inspired synth tracks, always moves with rhythm. She is best viewed at night; using her nostalgia magic to envelop your ears in pulse pounding power!

 The Balloonicorn has few natural predators besides trees and the occasional power-line. Floating above it all, he has plenty of time to ponder the meaning of life: "How did it come to this? Why did that child release my string? Can horses fart? Hooboy, I hope I'm not close to an open flame when that happens.”

The Balloonicorn has few natural predators besides trees and the occasional power-line. Floating above it all, he has plenty of time to ponder the meaning of life: "How did it come to this? Why did that child release my string? Can horses fart? Hooboy, I hope I'm not close to an open flame when that happens.”

 A living fractal, the Metacorn is one of the most fascinating and difficult unicorns to define. Technically named z=z^K+c (where c = number of horns, K= lollipops, and z = general horsitude ), it's impossible to tell where it begins, where it ends, when the psychedelics kicked in, and what the color of my shirt smells like.

A living fractal, the Metacorn is one of the most fascinating and difficult unicorns to define. Technically named z=z^K+c (where c = number of horns, K= lollipops, and z = general horsitude ), it's impossible to tell where it begins, where it ends, when the psychedelics kicked in, and what the color of my shirt smells like.

 Coming in at a perfect 5/10, the Plainicorn’s hobbies include: counting his blinks, organizing his artisanal sock drawer, writing complaint letters about crunchy taco shells being too loud (but never sending them), and holding an unwavering belief that mayonnaise is just a tad too spicy. His powers are rarely used, as that would make people notice him.

Coming in at a perfect 5/10, the Plainicorn’s hobbies include: counting his blinks, organizing his artisanal sock drawer, writing complaint letters about crunchy taco shells being too loud (but never sending them), and holding an unwavering belief that mayonnaise is just a tad too spicy. His powers are rarely used, as that would make people notice him.

 With a long neck and top-notch health insurance, the Giraffeicorn is a chiropractor’s dream. Don't bother inviting her to your birthday party. Even if she could fit through the front door, she'd be terrible at limbo. Also, she can't read. You wasted an invitation.

With a long neck and top-notch health insurance, the Giraffeicorn is a chiropractor’s dream. Don't bother inviting her to your birthday party. Even if she could fit through the front door, she'd be terrible at limbo. Also, she can't read. You wasted an invitation.

 The Arabesquicorn seems to defy the laws of physics and gravity, executing some of the most beautiful and graceful dance steps known to horsedom. She is single-minded in her strides toward elegance and beauty-- which can be a bit distracting when she pirouettes into a display of oranges in the store. We're just tryinga buy our groceries, lady.

The Arabesquicorn seems to defy the laws of physics and gravity, executing some of the most beautiful and graceful dance steps known to horsedom. She is single-minded in her strides toward elegance and beauty-- which can be a bit distracting when she pirouettes into a display of oranges in the store. We're just tryinga buy our groceries, lady.

 Caberneigh and Chardonneigh are a power couple in the horse world. These celebrity Vinocorns are known for their outlandish parties, animated stories and confident dance moves. Though they've been known to be a headache at times, friends rarely stay mad at such an uncorked duo.

Caberneigh and Chardonneigh are a power couple in the horse world. These celebrity Vinocorns are known for their outlandish parties, animated stories and confident dance moves. Though they've been known to be a headache at times, friends rarely stay mad at such an uncorked duo.

 Too young to partake in her parents' bacchanalian fêtes , Roséneigh is training to be a world class host. She often throws elaborate tea parties with artisanal sugar-cube tasting (where her great aunt Vodkacorn will try to sell you ugly glass bracelets, but you're under no pressure to buy them... go AWAY Phyllis, you're embarrassing me in front of the other foals).

Too young to partake in her parents' bacchanalian fêtes , Roséneigh is training to be a world class host. She often throws elaborate tea parties with artisanal sugar-cube tasting (where her great aunt Vodkacorn will try to sell you ugly glass bracelets, but you're under no pressure to buy them... go AWAY Phyllis, you're embarrassing me in front of the other foals).

 Heliocorn and Lunacorn are arguably the most important unicorns in their entire friend group. Their top five magical powers include being beautiful, being fit, being super-low body fat, and being better (than you, mainly). They also can't count. These two are frequently spotted with their frenemy, Galeicorn (friend when she stands on their rugged, wind-swept side, enemy when she's on their 'never photograph me from this angle' side). Their workout routine is stringent: 8 Instagram posts, and at least 5 minutes of vlog. EVEN ON UGLY DAYS.   Subscribe to their YouTube channel and hit that notification bell because next week, they're bringing ombre fetlocks into year 2049! Seriously. They can't count.

Heliocorn and Lunacorn are arguably the most important unicorns in their entire friend group. Their top five magical powers include being beautiful, being fit, being super-low body fat, and being better (than you, mainly). They also can't count. These two are frequently spotted with their frenemy, Galeicorn (friend when she stands on their rugged, wind-swept side, enemy when she's on their 'never photograph me from this angle' side). Their workout routine is stringent: 8 Instagram posts, and at least 5 minutes of vlog. EVEN ON UGLY DAYS. 

Subscribe to their YouTube channel and hit that notification bell because next week, they're bringing ombre fetlocks into year 2049! Seriously. They can't count.

 Ah, ah, ah! 'Tis I, the Vampiricorn; terror of the night, nightmare of the villagers, adversary of the Red Cross blood drive. Be careful with those party invites, I am the guest who will never leave. Just one more episode of  Breaking Bad  and then I'll go, I promise... Oh. Oh no. You didn't tell me you invited Garlicorn. Stay back! We are NOT friends, Garl!

Ah, ah, ah! 'Tis I, the Vampiricorn; terror of the night, nightmare of the villagers, adversary of the Red Cross blood drive. Be careful with those party invites, I am the guest who will never leave. Just one more episode of Breaking Bad and then I'll go, I promise... Oh. Oh no. You didn't tell me you invited Garlicorn. Stay back! We are NOT friends, Garl!

 Rounding out this horned herd, these power ponies, the magnificent Monoceros, these e-fine equine, is the one and only Holocorn!   Resplendent in her glittering coat, holo-shimmer wings, and linear-holographic hair and hooves, this unicorn can cause severe eye damage if stared at while in direct sun. Technically an alicorn, she's all that and then some corn. Her feathers are coveted as the rare ingredient in indie nail polishes (and hunted by Lisa Frank nearly to extinction). Much like the Vampiricorn, once she's in your house, she'll never leave... but that's only because spilled glitter is permanent.

Rounding out this horned herd, these power ponies, the magnificent Monoceros, these e-fine equine, is the one and only Holocorn!


Resplendent in her glittering coat, holo-shimmer wings, and linear-holographic hair and hooves, this unicorn can cause severe eye damage if stared at while in direct sun. Technically an alicorn, she's all that and then some corn. Her feathers are coveted as the rare ingredient in indie nail polishes (and hunted by Lisa Frank nearly to extinction). Much like the Vampiricorn, once she's in your house, she'll never leave... but that's only because spilled glitter is permanent.

"My Shadow" - Illustrations for Learning A to Z

Last year, I joined the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) with a goal in mind: I wanted to branch out into drawing pictures for kids! I went to the LA Summer Conference and met some of the nicest, most supportive people in the world... and crammed my brain full of as much info as I could at the same time. I now had a mission: add stuff to my portfolio to attract children's publishing clients! Go go! Time's wastin', fam!

Almost a year later, I'm excited to reveal my very first project: illustrations for the Robert Louis Stevenson poem My Shadow, published by Learning A to Z.

LA2Z_MyShadow_p01_final.jpg

These illustrations were meant to match the poem's stanzas by showing kids playing with their shadows at specific times of day. There was a scene with candlelight, sunset, noon, and one at early morning dawn.

LA2Z_MyShadow_p02_final.jpg

As I was working on the sketches for these, the only thing I could think about was my "Drawing From Imagination" professor, Stephen Player, and the day in his class where we had to learn about drawing shadows in perspective. A notoriously difficult course, that day was so taxing I went home and went to sleep out of sheer mental exhaustion!

LA2Z_MyShadow_p03_final.jpg

As I was painting, I made sure to reference my copy of Color and Light by James Gurney often since there were so many times of day to work with! If you're an artist, you should probably own a copy of that book. It's highly recommended, insanely useful, and pretty much a requirement to own! Get thee to Amazon and get a copy if you don't have it yet. I'll wait.

 Detail shot of the skateboarding boy!

Detail shot of the skateboarding boy!

With this particular piece, when the sketch round's notes came back, the AD asked me to add a car (specifically an early 70s Ford Pinto in orange) in the background. GASP! HORROR! The bane of many an artist's existence: drawing CARS! Somehow I soldiered on.

 Detail shot of the car behind the skateboarding boy!

Detail shot of the car behind the skateboarding boy!

LA2Z_MyShadow_p04_final.jpg

This last one turned out to be my favorite from the series-- no, not because I enjoy painting 10,000 flowers-- but because of the color palette and mood. I've never painted a misty morning scene before, and I quiet enjoy the quiet moment it represents.

 Some close-up detail of the girl in the flowers!

Some close-up detail of the girl in the flowers!

All in all it was a terrifically fun project, and I hope to have more kidlit illustrations to share with you in the future! Which one of these is your favorite? Leave me a comment and tell me!

The Making of "Spotted!"

Please raise your hand if in your childhood you wished to discover and care for a secret magical creature of your own? *both of own hands in the air* Now keep your hand up if you wish for the same thing as an adult? No? Only me? C'mon there's gotta be at least some of you...

 Did enough iterations to just about animate the pegasus' wings flapping!

Did enough iterations to just about animate the pegasus' wings flapping!

I painted this about two months ago as an assignment Just For Myself (TM). Getting to work 100% for yourself is simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. You can paint whatever you want! Also, you can... paint whatever you want... and you could easily get trapped because that gives you zero parameters and you'll self destruct in a never ending cycle of indecision.

Finally ended up on this-- a cover image for a faux middle grade novel I invented: a girl finds an injured pegasus and has to nurse it back to health. Unfortunately for her, she lives in the modern world which has no magic, so she has to go to extreme efforts to keep the thing hidden. Fun right? Definitely a story I would've gobbled up as a kid. And also now.

 The colors, Duke! THE COLORS

The colors, Duke! THE COLORS

So since this was Just For Myself (TM) and I had no deadline, I spent lots of extra time in the planning stages. As you can see, I did 9 different thumbnails to figure out my composition, but that does not count the other 20 or so I did to figure out what scene from my fake story I even wanted to show!  If you're imaginative, you can almost follow along with my thought process:

Okay so they're in a barn together, and I want to show them getting spotted because WHOA that's drama! Ok so first let's see them in a horse stall and see a shadowy figure at the barn's opening. Hmm, ok should the pegasus' wings be unfurled or hidden under a blanket? Hidden under a blanket might make storytelling hard because people won't know it's a pegasus. Unfurled sort of cuts the whole picture in half, especially with those beams in the middle... hmm ok let's take 'em out, switch 'em around... trying adding in foreground elements. Nope ok, none of this is working, let's try a different angle. What if we're looking at them from close to where the shadow figure is standing? Ok we're back to the wing thing again...

After I'd nailed down what composition I wanted, I did 7 more thumbnails for values, half of which required a more refined drawing. I wanted to try out different dramatic lighting schemes to see what told the story the best way. I also tried a tilted angle (sometimes known as Dutch Angle), but decided it looked like a slasher movie. Scree! Scree! Scree!

 The final "rough"

The final "rough"

Then I went through 6 different color schemes before settling on my final "rough." I was ready to go! Well, except not really. I wanted to make sure the perspective on this piece was perfect. Yes, I COULD have done it by hand... but ain't nobody got time for that. So I busted out my ol' copy of SketchUp to model the interior of the barn. Once the model was done, I was able to finally do my pencil sketch on top of the entire thing to get it moving!

 Hay Girl Hay! Since they're in a barn! I don't apologize for my puns. Pencils stage.

Hay Girl Hay! Since they're in a barn! I don't apologize for my puns. Pencils stage.

It's at this point that I'd like to point out that I had a TON of help and feedback from what I call my Circle of Trust (thank you Oatley Academy for coining that phrase)! It's important to get outside feedback from trusted artist friends about how a piece is going... especially when there's no client. I showed every single step of my process to my Circle, because I wanted this piece to be the best it could be! Think of it as using sandpaper; outside opinions and fresh, well-trained eyes are necessary to smooth a piece out.

To my Circle: You know who you are since I was emailing you about 20x a week. Thank you! <3

 "Inks" is a weird term when the whole process is digital. Just think of it is as "smoother, nicer" pencils?

"Inks" is a weird term when the whole process is digital. Just think of it is as "smoother, nicer" pencils?

So once I'd gone through all that, I inked the piece. I ended up electing not to ink the hay, as I wanted to achieve the texture through painting. I kept the figures on a different layer than the background, as later I knew I intended to do what's called a "color hold" aka colorizing the lines. You seen any 90s Disney movies? Then you know what I mean.

 "Nighttime" flat colors

"Nighttime" flat colors

With this particular piece, I ended up using an approach that was a hybrid of how I do both comics and painting. I flatted the painting, which means I separated out all of the local colors of every object so I could render them later. When choosing my flat colors, I went with what everything would look like in the dark, and then paint in the light afterward!

 Rough lighting pass

Rough lighting pass

Which is what this shot is here. You can see that the flat nighttime colors inform the shadows, but the "lights" make those colors make sense. Here I'd started rendering, the hay is starting to take shape... and you'll note that all the lines are still black. Don't worry, you'll see the color held lines in the final piece!

 It's finished! Whoopie!

It's finished! Whoopie!

So about 10 hours of rendering, tweaking, and 20 zillion more rounds of feedback, I arrived at the finished piece! You can see that the lines are no longer black-- it's subtle, but the color held makes the drawing of the figures less harsh against the more painterly background.

Also a little birdie told me that people enjoy seeing animated GIFs of a painting's progress (I've only done it once before), so here you go! Hope you enjoy it. If you like it, I'll try to make them more often!

 The process with more in between steps added!

The process with more in between steps added!

Do you like it when I make "client-free" work? Do you like pegasuses? Pegasi? (Whatever the word is). Do you like process posts and animated GIFs? (Pronounced like GIF, not JIF, this isn't peanut butter thankyouverymuch). Feel free to leave a comment and tell me your opinion! It's the internet, sharing opinions is everyone's favorite thing. Don't be shy, I'll respond!

Vegan Ramen at Ramen Hood

  Vegan Ramen  - Markers, ink, gouache. 8.5" x 5.5"

Vegan Ramen - Markers, ink, gouache. 8.5" x 5.5"

Like I said in my last post about Grand Central Market-- it's amazing and you have GOT to go if you're in the Los Angeles area! Seriously, call a Lyft or hop the train and get there right now. It's jam-packed with market stalls and restaurants that will take you on an epic food journey. Today's subject is the amazing Ramen Hood-- selected by us at random (ramen-dom, hah) because we were feelin' noodle-y.

This place is a counter-based ramen joint, but it can be tough to get a seat at times. It's usually safest to order it "to go" so you can snag a seat elsewhere in the Market's open seating. Also if you're a beer-with-my-ramen type, you'll need to send one member of your party to fetch it from another stall while you order your food and then meet up somewhere in the middle.

21Aug2017_RamenHood_detail01.jpg

So I'm known for being pretty oblivious at times. I decided "Yes, ramen" and waltzed right up to the menu, scanning to try to find something with the least amount of FODMAP triggers* that they had. I somehow blatantly missed that this place was 100% vegan. Not only did I not realize it was vegan when I ordered, I somehow completely missed that what I was eating was vegan until I was halfway through it. 

"Our broth is made by simmering kelp and shiitake mushrooms to extract their maximum umami. Then we roast sunflower seeds with white miso and combine that mixture with the kelp/mushroom stock. Then it is all pressure cooked to release the natural oils and starches from the seeds. What's left is a rich, creamy, broth that rivals it's non-vegan counterparts flavor and texture." - RamenHoodLA.com

Yeah, I'd agree that it rivals its non-vegan counterpart. As a matter of fact, their broth is a lot lighter than most pork-based broths, so I didn't feel like a disgusting, blorpy greaseball afterward!

21Aug2017_RamenHood_detail02.jpg

The thing that surprised me the most was the egg. And just what, pray tell, is a Vegan Egg?? What's it made from?! Clouds and smiles and fairy dreams?

The "egg" is completely vegan, made in two parts. The "white" of the egg starts as locally made, GMO-free soy milk, seasoned with salt and pepper and gelled with agar (a seaweed extract). The "yolk" is a combination of nutritional yeast, back salt and sodium alginate. We spherify the yolk using a little magic and place it in the center of the white. The yolk pops just like the real thing!" - RamenHoodLA.com

Whoa, ok, well there's my answer. See, there IS magic in it, I knew it.

Honestly? I couldn't tell it wasn't an egg, especially when it was mixed in with all the other bright, umami flavors going on. There was something ever-so-slightly different about its yellow and white edges (Uncanny valley, anyone?), but obviously not really enough for me to notice at first.

21Aug2017_RamenHood_detail03.jpg

So the other stuff in the dish is nori (seaweed), scallions, bean sprouts, and chili threads. Threads of chili! What a concept! And delicious. When doing this illustration, it was super serendipitous because I actually had JUST purchased a new pen that was perfect for it! It was a size 0.3 Copic Multiliner in the color "wine." (affiliate link, if you buy this thing I may get a kickback! Yay!)

Actually my entire recent purchase at the local art store was perfect because I filled out the yellow/orange gamut in my marker collection. Turns out a lot of food is yellow/orange. And green. Who knew?

You know what colors you almost never use in food illustration? Purple and blue. Unless you're illustrating that Unicorn Monster from Starbucks.

21Aug2017_RamenHood_detail05.jpg

But I digress. Back to the food! What about those definitely-fried-meat-looking items in your illustration, you may ask? Being that the dish is vegan, one might assume that it's tofu... but one would be wrong. It's actually King Oyster Mushroom**, which has a surprisingly meat-like texture. It worked harmoniously with the dish, and was actually one of my favorite elements in it!

21Aug2017_RamenHood_detail04.jpg

So it took me forever to turn this illustration around, because life, stuff, and things.  At the time, we had a side of Avocado Toast... which may have been the best I've ever had. Sadly, it no longer appears to be available. I get that they probably update their menu with the seasons, but darn it how can we irresponsibly spend all of our disposable income on avocado toast instead of buying houses and diamonds if we can't find any?! ;) Regardless I'm sure their current offerings of side dishes are all great, too.

Anyway, in summary, whether you're vegan or not, if you like ramen, get thee to the Ramen Hood and eat everything you see there.


*Ok, what is this FODMAP thing you keep mentioning in your posts? I'll do a proper post about it sometime, but it's basically different types of carbohydrates found in foods that can cause digestive problems for certain individuals. It's been researched by the Monash University in Australia, and is becoming more widely accepted as a way to prevent and reduce digestive stress.

**But aren't mushrooms high FODMAP? How are you asking this question if you also asked the first question? Your Google Fu must be strong. But yes they are, and I am able to tolerate them. Different people have different trigger combinations, which is why it's important to do extensive testing with your GI doctor or a nutritionist.

FoxDeploy.com's 1 Millionth Hit!

So I'm a few weeks late on this, but congraulations to my client, Stephen Owen of FoxDeploy.com for hitting 1 million hits! Fox Deploy is a coding website that I've done branding for in the past-- because even tech blogs need cute foxen!

I've done work for FoxDeploy a few times before! Every time I work with Stephen it's a pleasure because his direction is always "GIVE ME MANY FOXES PLS" and my response is always, "OKAY!!"

I mean this time it was "GIVE ME FOXES CLIMBING A MOUNTAIN PLS," but, y'know, essentially the same thing.

I mean just look at how cute these guys are!

And because I always enjoy seeing how a client implements my artwork later, check out the neat graphic that Stephen made!

Ghost Coast

GhostCoastFinal

All my life I've enjoyed spooky things ("spoopy" as the internet calls it). As a kid I would gobble up any sort of ghost or alien-related media-- I had just about gutted my local library of anything it had on the subjects. The Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine was definitely a favorite of mine, as well as Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz. Whether it was fictional or real-life accounts, I wanted to read it! My aunt and uncle took me to London at the tender age of ten, and I was excited and desperate to visit the Ghost Tower in Warwick Castle. Finally, I'd see some ghosts and learn that IT WAS ALL REAL! (Think of Baby Joie as a preteen Agent Mulder, yeah?) Sadly, no ghosts made any appearances, but I kept on reading and hoping one day I'd see something.

Even though I'm more of an Agent Scully now in my adult years, I still can't get enough of horror/paranormal/spoopy entertainment. When I was thinking up ideas for new illustrations recently, I remembered that horror-for-kids is a thing. In fact, I recently read a middle grade horror novel called Took by Mary Downing Hahn. (I really enjoyed the book a lot, btw). So, why not try something like that? I decided to cook up a faux middle grade novel about a bunch of kids who investigate paranormal stuff. Turns out it's a sub-genre which already exists in droves, based on my recent trip to the book store... but whatever, I wanted to do it anyway!

I didn't want the cover for this faux book be just a regular ol' "kids exploring haunted house" thing, though. I wanted something interesting and new-- I wanted the setting to be unique. They say draw what you know, right? Or does that just apply to writers? Anyway, I decided that the coastline of Oregon was perfect since it was so beautiful and specific. And, what sort of ghosts might one find near a coastline? A ghost SHIP! Of course the rhyme of "Ghost Coast" was my husband's invention, and I couldn't not use it.

So looking at photos from Battle Rock Beach and the general surrounding coastline of Port Orford, Oregon got me started. I've spent a lot of time up there, considering it's where Joel is from... and we also literally got married there last year. Dramatic rocky cliffs slathered in evergreen forest jutted up against a beach? You got it. Let's add in some kids who have found a map that draws them to the area and are an appropriate mix of "this is terrifying," "this is cool," and "I will conveniently miss any paranormal activity because I am always looking in another direction" respectively. (Of course, gentle reader, the latter's name is clearly Dana).

And finally, we'll add the "ghost." And I mean just look at that sick ship. Sick as in "it's a sickly color" but also "the concept of a ghost ship is cool." I'd be totally into seeing something like that when I go to the beach at night soon.

I enjoyed creating this illustration so much that I am going to do more with these same kids. So keep an eye out for that if you like this sort of thing. If you don't, there's not much I can do about that. Have a spoopy day!

Draw This: Celebrate

 Three different quick thumbnail sketches to decide on my composition

Three different quick thumbnail sketches to decide on my composition

So the SCBWI does this monthly thing called “Draw This" for illustrators. They give out a monthly prompt word, and I thought "Well why not, this sounds like fun!" The prompt word was “celebrate” and since the 4th of July just happened (and annoying illegal fireworks going off until 2 AM in my neighborhood is STILL happening), I thought I’d do my piece of kid with a sparkler, enjoying the 4th with his dad. So let's see how it came together!

 Drawin' it in more proper-like, but they ended up creepy eyes...

Drawin' it in more proper-like, but they ended up creepy eyes...

 Fixed the eyes, and put in some sketchy shading to decide how I wanted to render it!

Fixed the eyes, and put in some sketchy shading to decide how I wanted to render it!

 Inked this bad boy up, so now we're ready to go to (digital) watercolor!

Inked this bad boy up, so now we're ready to go to (digital) watercolor!

 Done! Fun fact: I've never actually held a sparkler in my life.

Done! Fun fact: I've never actually held a sparkler in my life.

If you're an artist and you like both watercolor and digital paints, you should definitely buy Kyle T. Webster's brushes! They're magical.

UPDATE AUG 1: I was really surprised to get an email this morning telling me that I actually was one of the competition winners! I've never won anything, so this was a SUPER amazing day for me. Thank you, SCBWI!

New Illustration and Website!

Today is a day of new things: new illustration, new website, and fun new career goals! Wait, what?! I’m getting ahead of myself, let me explain!

First– my new illustration, Spotted! A girl who rescues an injured pegasus must keep it hidden from the world that won’t understand its existence? This is totally one of my 12 year old self’s fantasies. Straight from the heart, for sure! This piece is meant to be a cover for a mock middle grade novel of my own invention showing us a tense moment when the girl’s pegasus is spotted!

Second– new website? Why yes, you're on it right now! Awhile back, I had some technical issues with my old illustration website (you remember JoieArt.net, right?) and I had to take it down, redirecting the URL to my comics website. Now that my comic site’s hosting plan is up for renewal, I decided to move hosts, relaunch my illustration website and consolidate everything on here! Make sure to change your bookmarks!

Third– over my career thus far I’ve worked in a lot of industries simultaneously including table top games, theme park design, animation, and primarily comics. Diversification is the name of the game when you’re a freelancer!

I’ve been wanting to reinvigorate the illustration side of my business for awhile now, and children’s literature has always appealed to me. When I found out about Middle Grade* publishing, I got extremely excited and wondered if it was something I could do, too. In my research so far, I’ve found quite a few all ages comics artists that I admire cross over into the line of Middle Grade illustration, and I think that’s got a lot to do with both industries having similar topics and art styles. Plus, I’ve had no less than three art friends/colleagues practically hit me over the head telling me to try it– so now it’s a new goal of mine to work toward!

Since this goal takes me into uncharted waters (for me), I have a ton of research to do! I’m excited though, because doing illustrations like this hits a nostalgic nerve that is hard to describe. My time between the ages of 9 and 13 is precious to me, as it was when my imagination was free to roam and my creativity was at an all time high. I’d love to recapture some of those moments in illustrations, and perhaps inspire a “Me too!” moment in my audience as well.

joiefoster_pegasus_detail2.jpg

So that said, there’ll be more illustrations like this popping up soon! I’ve got another one that’s almost finished, and quite a few more in the planning stages. Additionally, I’m going to the SCBWI conference this weekend here in Los Angeles and it promises to be an amazing time. I’ll be sure to blog about my experience there later!

*Middle grade is a term for books that typically are targeted at kids ages 9-12, give or take

Last Minute Show: RoninCon

So a new show popped up this year down in Little Tokyo-- Ronin Expo! I hadn't heard of it before, but they had some last minute table openings for the one day show, and I jumped on it! It was my very first outdoors convention ever, so I'd never had to take wind into consideration with my display before. I didn't have too many problems, but some of my neighbors were just about blown away.

I was also positioned directly in front of the main stage, which had its pros and cons. It made it super loud so I could hardly hear customers when they spoke, but when traffic was slow, at least I had a show to watch-- and there was this really cool cosplay group called The Corps Dance Crew that performed all day! Cosplayers that dance! My college-age-cosplay self was just pleased as punch, since that's basically what I had wanted to once upon a time.

Overall it was a fun, short, and affordable show, and as an added bonus it was well-situated for lots of great food!

Starbucks UniFrappe: Liquid Unicorns or Liquid UniCant's?

By now I'm sure there's no one left in the US who hasn't heard of Starbucks' newest drink, the Unicorn Frappucino. There have been tons of Instagram photos of it, articles discussing how the baristas are all definitely about to mutiny, Katy Perry spitting it out after one sip, and some woman telling her husband about her pregnancy with it.

 Prepare your retinas AND your taste buds to be seared!

Prepare your retinas AND your taste buds to be seared!

In my tiny corner of the internet, I am known as a Unicorn Lover (some might say "Expert"). I have unicorn art on my walls, unicorn soap, unicorn clothing, unicorn makeup brushes, and even a giant, hand-painted carousel unicorn in my living room.

Of course I'd been tagged in posts about this upcoming drink approximately 8,437 times in the week leading up to the release. I had seen the ingredients list. I had extreme reservations at the idea of the "mango and sour" flavors it was going to have.

But I persevered because how could I not? I am a Unicorn Lover. I prepared my pancreas by giving it a blanket, a hot tea, and lots of soothing affirmations. I also set up an Instagram Live event, because by golly, if I was gonna do this, I needed an audience!

I wanted to order a Short. Really, I did. I did not WANT 33g of sugar floating in my bloodstream, or my pancreas turning to dust in a fit of frustration. But alas, Starbucks told me no. I was forced to get the Tall size, and, for the sake of the food illustration and full experience, I also got it with the dang whipped cream.

It was a rather pretty, saturated confection with swirls of retina-searing magenta and blue. The cloud of whipped cream looked lovely with the pink, glittery sugar topping all of its white crests. Alas, it was supposed to also have blue powder, but I think my Starbucks decided I didn't need it in my life. Maybe that was a blessing in disguise at the end. I had to add the blue in the illustration on my own, for accuracy.

So. I had an audience, an extremely, extremely brightly colored drink, and had prayed to the insulin gods.

It was time.

The first sip was an actual punch in the face. We're talking mouth puckering, eyes watering, absolute gag reflex. I had accidentally gotten a full mouth of just the blue sour syrup... and it had been several decades since the last time I'd had a Warhead candy. It caught me completely by surprise, and I had to take a moment to recover before I could continue. The pink part didn't really taste like mango-- it was more just... "fruit." Once I swirled some of the blue and pink together (and no, Hungry Readers, it did not color change), the sour and fruit worked together to make.... a new flavor.

A flavor that wasn't bad. But it also wasn't good. I didn't completely hate it, but I also definitely did not want to drink the rest. I ended up having about half, but by this point I'd hit about 17g of sugar and I tapped out.

I'm sort of offended, honestly. Here I am, a resident Unicorn Expert, and Starbucks didn't consult me on what unicorns taste like? I mean, they didn't consult Katy Perry either, but I digress. Unicorns do not taste like sour mangoes, or sour fruit of any sort. They taste like marshmallows. Maybe cotton candy (although I'm not a fan of that, personally). Perhaps they could even taste like white chocolate. But sour mangoes? No, sir, I don't like it.

Here's my main takeaway: it was a fun promotion, and I'm glad I gave it a try. I got to do a nice illustration of it, and I don't have many reasons to bust out  markers that are that bright, usually. As a matter of fact, I didn't have all the shades I needed in that level of brightness, so I did have to do a bit of digital work after I scanned the original.

Perhaps some may say that us mere mortals can't fully appreciate the taste of unicorns, but I for one think that's not the issue. I believe we mortals can't possibly imitate the magic that is unicorns. We shot for the moon and landed... I dunno, somewhere in west Jersey?

If you also want to have a sugar rush and then a headache afterward, make sure to get your drink by this Sunday when the promotion ends!