Reviews

PBJ.LA - Peanut BETTER and Jelly

So by now if you've been following my "adventures in food" series, you'll know that I can't shut up about Grand Central Market. It's weird, fun, hip (maybe a touch hipster), but also brings all walks of the community together. AND! The food! The food is amazing!

It won't be any surprise then that this post is once again about something at GCM. Today's subject is the sleek, ultra fancy-looking PBJ.LA! I know what you're thinking, "Wait doesn't that look like (rhymes with fun-bust-ables)?"

Sure, it may LOOK like that unnamed item from the freezer section that you ate as a kid (or as an adult, I don't judge), but the roundness and crimped edges is where the similarities end.

 Enter, the Chocolate Haze.

Enter, the Chocolate Haze.

When I first spied PBJ.LA, I was impressed with their exceptionally slick branding. Fancy logo, purple lights, and white, glossy walls-- it's the works. As a freelance artist, I understand how important branding is, and these. guys. NAILED. IT.

So what do they have to eat? You guessed it-- peanut butter and jelly sammiches! But not just any regular ol' PBJs, these are made fresh from scratch with organic, non-GMO ingredients, and everything except for one item is plant-based. That one item is an optional add-on, and it's a buffalo smoked mozzarella (but there is a vegan cheese option!). Everything is pinched into a cheerful circle, and there's just something intensely satisfying about that to me.

I had already eaten dinner when I approached their stall, so I went straight to the dessert option they had: the Chocolate Haze. It's a house-made chocolate hazelnut spread paired with dark cherry chianti jam. The bread was fluffy, and insides delightfully gooey.

 Look at the hazelnut yums seeping through!

Look at the hazelnut yums seeping through!

Instead of the sugar explosion I was expecting (as a lover of Nutella), I was pleasantly surprised to find that their hazelnut spread didn't scream of sweetness. My taste-expedition was complicated, deep, and very flavorful. It included a slightly bitter note of cocoa, the hum of hazelnut, and a mild sweetness from the jam. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but this round sandwich knocked my socks off! I immediately wanted to try everything on the menu, but sadly didn't have enough room in my stomach.

And of course, when you eat PBJ, what do you also want? Milk! I can't have regular cow's milk anymore, so I was in luck... their other major offering is an Almond Milk bar. They have Vanilla Almond, Strawberry, Cafe au Lait, and of course the one I tried: Peruvian Cacao. The flavor of the milk was deep, rich, and chocolately-- but again without overwhelming sugar. It made me SO happy to drink.

My experience there was super nice. I met two of the founders, Payvand and Jimmy, and they were open, honest, and really enthusiastic about talking to customers. I love their friendly manner and willingness to answer questions. I was of course concerned about what they do with the discarded crusts-- and it turns out they're developing another great product that will come with your sandwich so nothing is wasted!

 Ooey gooey deliciousness...

Ooey gooey deliciousness...

Creating the accompanying illustration to this post was a challenge, as bread is such a delicate subject to render. I wanted to reflect the bright purples of their logo (I don't get to use that marker much in food illustration), but didn't want the shadows to be so cool that they looked moldy. I also wanted to reflect how light and fluffy this bread was without over rendering it-- cue me testing different yellow and brown markers for an hour before I even started!

Also, rendering their logo backward on the paper was a huge pain, but I feel like it added a great visual texture to the illustration.

Anyway, I can't wait to visit GCM again so I can try some of their other sandwiches and almond milks. PBJ.LA, watch out, I'll be back!

Review of Heavenly Kibble Guardian Corgi from The Grand Geek Gathering Podcast

Don't you love it-- I tell you to start watching my Instagram Stories and them promptly stop updating both them and my blog, too? Fear not, I'm not dead! I went on a scheduled vacation up in rural Oregon where I didn't have much in the way of cell service or internet. Actually, it ended up turning into a roller coaster of a work-cation, but that's a story for another day.

 I may have had to work, but at least this was my surrounding scenery!

I may have had to work, but at least this was my surrounding scenery!

But I'm back. Huzzah! Half a day was spent fighting through my extremely backed up inbox, but I'm now back at work, back at Instagram Stories, and of course, back to the blog.

 These guys are the best. Seriously, they've got a lil' something for everyone!

These guys are the best. Seriously, they've got a lil' something for everyone!

I'm really excited to share both a review and an interview about my comic series Heavenly Kibble Guardian Corgi from the one and only Grand Geek Gathering podcast!

"The Grand Geek Gathering is a multimedia network dedicated to celebrating the geeky things we love that make us who we are. Every Gatherer has different interests, passions, and traditions. We love that. As you get to know us on the Gathering podcast, we do not hesitate to share those passions and interests (or shove it down your throat)."

They also have do videos, livestreams, and a slew of other things. I was really pleased and humbled to be the subject of both episodes 66 and 67 of their show "IndiComix."

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Episode 66 features an interview I did with Tyler, where we chat about Guardian Corgi, its influences, my inspirations, and a closer look at my process behind creating my comics. He's such a blast to talk to, so there's not a boring moment! (Approx 30 min)

Interview with IndiComix about Guardian Corgi


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Episode 67 is a fantastic in-depth, round table review of all three issues of Guardian Corgi! Tyler and Jeff covered their thoughts on my writing, jokes (they lived through the puns, hah!), art style, character design, and the colors.

They had delightfully nice things to say, including that they felt the fun, bright colors, and simplicity of the series made it very accessible and a different voice in the current indie comics industry. I was extremely pleased to hear that, as I aim to make my stories a fun experience for anyone-- comics fans or not!

Roundtable Review of Heavenly Kibble Guardian Corgi

Thank you for all the kind words, GGG!

Wacom Companion 2: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

So for the holidays I received the best present an illustrator who frequently travels could ask for: the ability to put together a truly mobile studio! While my old, smaller Wacom Cintiq was technically portable, it was a real pain to tote around since it required so much other equipment. The stuff was heavy. My arms are made from noodles. Once set up, the stuff pretty much took up an ENTIRE table… which doesn’t really work at your local Starbucks. Or anywhere.

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Enter the Companion. Sleek computer + Cintiq all in one… I’ve been frothing at the mouth to own one since they were first announced. So how does it hold up as a portable studio? Did it pass my road test? Let’s take a look.

The Ugly

I like to go backward because I’d rather end on a positive note.

  • The Stand – (photo above) The Companion 2 comes with a stand to hold it up like an easel. This thing patently sucks. It has three “cutouts” that will hold up the Companion at different angles. Except it doesn’t work well. It’s flimsy, and it’s hard to snap the tabs into the holes on the Companion to keep it in place. If I have it at its flattest setting, the Companion won’t snap into the bottom tab, and the thing is constantly sliding forward. I have to keep doing the ChaCha with the darn thing. Draw draw PUSH. Draw draw PUSH.
  • The Battery – I have tested this Companion quite a bit, and the battery just doesn’t last very long. My latest test put it into Full Studio mode: WIFI on, Photoshop chugging along, chat programs running, and music streaming from Google Play. I got approximately (and I’m being generous) 2:30 hours out of the thing before it hit about 10% battery. I didn’t run it to power loss, but… I feel like anyone that works out in public hits a point with their battery where they are afraid to keep it running for fear of it shutting off suddenly… and losing your progress. We all know that those battery estimates are wrong, wrong, wrong. So if you’re on a flight or in a café that gives you A/C access? You’re golden. If not? Well, don’t plan on working very long.
  • The Price – Whoa mama this thing costs a lot. But then again so does anything by Wacom. If you like Wacom products, you already knew about this going in.

The Ba-- Actually let’s call this The Neutral, aka Mild Annoyances

  • Photoshop – Photoshop’s UI is fantastically too small for the Companion’s screen, and the version I have can’t enlarge. I hear the new Photoshop CC has this capability, but that it’s experimental. Sure I could up-res my screen but why would I want to do that? That messes up stuff in other programs. Most applications will adjust their UI a bit so that the buttons are at least not microscopic. Manga Studio does it perfectly, as does Chrome and most games I’ve tried playing on the thing. I get around this issue by just using my Cintiq pen– it gives me way more accuracy, but I still have issues with misclicks sometimes.
  • The Borders – I’ve had a teeny bit of trouble hitting menu items on the very edges of the screen, but it doesn’t mess up my workflow very much. I only notice it sometimes, and that’s mostly toward the top.
  • Touch Control – This issue might have a workaround that I just don’t know about. Basically, I wish there were a way that when the Companion sensed the Cintiq pen on its surface, it would turn OFF the touch function. Why? Because when I draw I rest my hand on the screen, and that can sometimes lead to hilarious results with simultaneous commands.

The Good

  • The Weight – This thing weighs about the same as my normal laptop, so it doesn’t break my back when I tote it around. Specifically, because I don’t have to tote a Cintiq AND a laptop (with 500 cords), it’s quite easy to carry through airports and across town to the coffee shop.
  • The Simplicity – Graduating from Cintiq plus laptop, three cords, two power cords, two power bricks, pen and external HDD to just Cintiq plus cord, pen, and external HDD has been a lifesaver. My footprint on a tabletop has been reduced by about half, and it’s way less time consuming to set up!
  • It’s Slick – The machine has great aesthetics!
  • It’s Fast – Mine is the i5, so while it’s not the most powerful that Wacom had to offer, it gets the job done. If I’m using a very large brush, sure I’ll get a bit of lag. Undoing a big Fill tool command takes a milisecond longer than it does on my desktop computer. It’s almost not noticeable though. In addition, it’s got a solid state HDD so this thing boots up and shuts down like it’s breathing. Poof! So fast, my head is still spinning.
  • Easy to Use – I love that the computer itself works well as a tablet. Windows 8 is made for tablets and is very easy to control with a finger tip. I needed to get a bluetooth keyboard to make typing easier though!

So what’s the verdict? Companion 2, while it has a few things that I’d like a workaround for, is an extremely excellent, easy to move studio. I can get any type of work done (writing, drawing, painting, comics, emailing, social media, spreadsheets) on the go without issue. I’d say my biggest complaint is the battery life, but that just means that I need to get creative about finding A/C outlets in cafés! I’m excited to use this fancy doodad for years to come!

How does it stack up against a Surface Pro or iPad? No idea as I haven’t tested those. I did significant research on those other options before I settled on the Companion 2, and my findings mostly were that all of these items are comparable. They’re all gonna have pros and cons, so it’s just down to your work style and what things annoy you the most!

Whichever you choose, you’ll probably be fine. Happy drawing!

PS. Wacom didn’t sponsor this or give me the Companion 2 for free. (Rats, that would’ve been nice.)