Family Camping

Here’s the first finished art piece of 2021. This piece is dedicated to Wilder.

This is a gift for my new nephew who was just born a few weeks ago. This will hang in his nursery. His parents love the outdoors and camping. They also love penguins and bears so I combined these loves together into a unique gift just for their family.

Medium: Winsor & Newton Pan Watercolors, Holbein Gouache, Winsor & Newton Gouache

Paper: 300 Series Strathmore Watercolor paper

I thought I’d detail behind the scenes how this art piece was created so you can see what my process is like. I’ll eventually create a time lapse video of the final painting.

It all started with a thumbnail sketch. This is only a couple inches tall. I start most illustrations doing thumbnail sketches to try different compositions and ideas. For most illustrations I’ll do several thumbnail sketches until I land on something I like. For this illustration, I had the basic composition in my head already and one thumbnail was enough.

I then went on to create a more refined sketch in my sketchbook to better work out the composition in more detail. The composition roughly follows the rule of thirds with the forest and sky taking up the upper two thirds of the paper.

The elements in the illustration are personalized to the family that this gift is for. They love the outdoors and camping. They had decided to paint the nursery green and go with an outdoors theme. Wilder’s dad loves bears and Wilder’s mom loves penguins so it only made sense for them to be there. They also love listening to music. At every family gathering they’re supplying the music.

I included elements on the lower left and right to help frame the composition. I intentionally chose for the trees to have a diagonal line down toward the right which helps lead the eye into the tent and music which leads your eye into the main focal point of the piece, our little critters.

I chose a fox because of the bright colors and contrast it would have against the greens.

As you note in the final piece, the trees in the distance look almost like they’re in fog which creates a lot of beauty in the piece. This is achieved by using wet on wet techniques for the trees in the distance and using wet on dry technique for the foreground trees.

Part of the technique for making this look so beautiful is letting the colors bleed into one another and is my absolute favorite aspect of watercolors. I’m big into color and nothing gets my jimmies going like seeing all those pretty colors bleeding into one another.

Detail of the final illustration showing the trees bleeding
Work in progress image showing the trees in the distance painted in

I watched this tutorial on how to paint pine trees with watercolor and found it incredibly helpful. I’d never painted anything like this before so I needed to get some practice with it before starting the final illustration. I made several attempts, some of which were failures but I wanted to share these so you can see that it’s normal and part of the process to have failures like this. This is why many professional illustrators will do practice studies like this so you can work on the new techniques in isolation without worrying about ruining the final piece.

I realized after these attempts that the cheaper watercolor paper I used for the practice may have contributed to the lackluster results. These were done with Winsor & Newton watercolors on Soho sketch series paper (it’s not very good paper for final pieces but is ok for practice).

For many illustrations that I do, I do a series of “color comps” or “color studies” to try out different combinations of colors to see what will work best together. Sometimes, I have a clear idea in my head of what the colors should be. I went ahead and did a quick color study to test out the colors. I only did one color comp this time because I was satisfied with the first one.

The colors didn’t bleed as nice here because I ended up using the wrong side of the paper by mistake. Oops! But regardless, I was happy with the overall color structure.

I also did some practices with painting the moon. In order to get a smooth sky, I would not be able to simply avoid painting over the moon. Painting the sky required straight smooth strokes wet on wet. So I’d either have to mask it or paint white on top or lift the paint to get the moon.

I experimented with a few options:

  • Using masking fluid – wasn’t happy with the edges after using this. The edges were not smooth. And it’s also annoying to work with.
  • Lifting the paint – this was ok but resulted in weird edges from the paint drying. It would have been too hard to control and disrupt the smooth sky I wanted
  • Painting the white on top of the sky with gouache and/or white ink. – I liked this result the best so went with this for the final.
Moon studies. Top left : white ink. Top right: lifting paint. Bottom: masking fluid.

Something I didn’t include here is I also did several practices of the sky by itself attempting to get a smooth gradient using wet on wet techniques. The moon studies also served as additional practice for this technique.

I also did a study practicing some foliage. I wasn’t totally happy with the foliage I ended up with in the final piece. I think I could have used some more practice here but I had already invested what I felt was enough time in learning new techniques that I was ready to just move on to the final.

When I was ready to work on the final, I redrew my sketch onto the watercolor paper. I didn’t want to do the initial sketch on watercolor paper because a lot of erasing can disturb the surface of the paper and influence the way the paints sit and bleed. So I had to redraw (in pencil) onto the watercolor paper.

The vast majority of the piece was painted with watercolors. But outlines for the characters and the yellow grasses were painted with gouache. I used gouache for the outlines because it gives me a consistent dark line, something that’s hard to achieve with watercolor. I also used it for the yellow grasses because gouache is opaque which allows you to paint light colors onto dark colors. That’s something you can’t achieve with watercolor because of it’s translucency.

The stars were achieved by using white gouache and splattering them onto the page.

Here are a few things I thought could be better with the piece

  • The foliage. I wanted to articulate ferns and larger leaves but struggled to indicate them and ended up lifting paint from some of my foliage attempts. I need more practice with this.
  • The sky wasn’t as smooth as I wanted. I ended up smearing the trees a little but I suspect no one noticed.
  • Making the fireflies greenish blue instead of orange and making them more prominent.
  • The shapes of the trees could be better. I need more practice with this.

And there you have it. The finished piece. This was definitely my most ambitious watercolor painting. Overall I’m happy with the results and I’m glad I attempted it. It definitely gives me more confidence in working with watercolor.

I hope you enjoyed this write up and learned something from it. Happy painting.

Reflecting on 2020

This has undoubtedly been an extremely tough year for many. While I did have my fair share of struggles, I am fortunate enough to have many things to be grateful for.

Let’s start with the challenges…

The challenging things

  • The stress and unknown of Covid19, obviously. Hard not to start there. The fears and strain of responsibility to protect those around me from getting the virus.
  • The physical aspects of my Anxiety got much worse. I had a period of weeks where my body was on high alert and couldn’t snap out of it and ended up in the emergency room with a panic attack. I tried new medication but it has come with downsides. I sleep nearly 12 hours every day as a result of it.
  • The anxiety was too bad for me to even go to the store and I had to rely on my husband to do the grocery shopping. I suspect many people with anxiety felt this way, too, due to the nature of the pandemic.
  • I’ve fallen out of my meditation practice.
  • I isolated too much and didn’t spend enough time seeing friends (in a safe way of course).
  • I dropped the ball on Dragon Mall Quest. There were many reasons for this. Mostly it had become too time consuming and I had to scale back my schedule. But even my scaled back schedule of one episode a month I haven’t stuck to. I also have some fears and mental resistance with it that I need to overcome. I’ll try to restart my efforts on this in 2021.
  • My business got audited by the IRS.
  • Crap tons of bug reports on PaperDemon.com. For whatever reason these stress me out. Perhaps because I know I don’t have enough time to fix all of them and I feel like I’m letting my users down.
  • I gained back all the weight I had lost from dieting in 2018. At the start of the pandemic I reached for comfort food, especially frozen pizzas and it left a mark on my waistline. I attempted to restart my diet in the summer but without success.
  • I barely livestreamed this year. In part because it fell low in the priority list and also due to anxiety.

The things I’m grateful for

  • This was a fantastic year for PaperDemon. We made great progress in terms of community activity, product direction, development, and growth.
  • Dracostryx joining PaperDemon. This was a HUGE validating moment for PaperDemon and demonstrates we are on the right path and serving user needs. They’ve provided a lot of input to help us with product direction.
  • Meeting Shyftlock at ShrunkenHeadMan Con and having her join the PaperDemon staff. Learning from her about the Art RPG world was a huge benefit and helped inspire our product direction for PaperDemon.
  • I felt really productive this year with PaperDemon which was a big improvement over 2019. I was crippled by anxiety after some serious shit went down. But I found my groove in 2020.
  • I created lots of personal art. This was probably one of my most prolific years for my personal art since early college.
  • In addition to being prolific, I narrowed in on a personal art style. I might discuss this more in a future video.
  • Despite some initial financial fears triggered by the pandemic, we ended up being just fine financially. Mike’s job remained stable thank goodness.
  • I had support from a peer organized anxiety support group
  • No one in my family suffered seriously from Covid19. While a few got sick, no one ended up in the hospital. The spouse of one of my friends had a serious case and he landed in the hospital but he recovered, thankfully.
  • My sister-in-law gave birth to her first child. What a blessing!

I’m looking forward to 2021. While 2020 was a terrible year, perhaps the worst year ever for many, I wouldn’t say that was the case for me. It helped that I already had a year head start on working from home.

Happy 2021

I had some free time over the holiday break and decided to finally update my ancient personal website. This new site is built with WordPress using Bedrock which I’ve used on another project. I like it. I wanted to go with something quick and easy to setup where I can easily dump images and content in case I want to share behind the scenes of my art projects.

I’m going to try and figure out if there’s a way to import my old blog posts here at some point. But for now, you can still view my old blog posts on my PaperDemon account.

Welcome, newcomers. Nice to meet you!

Now that we’ve got a lot of new people at PaperDemon, I thought it might be helpful to tell you more about who this person is behind the scenes.

 

Hi, I’m BogusRed and I’m the founder and owner of PaperDemon.com. My real name is Susie Sahim and I live in San Jose, California with my husband, Mike Mitchell. I have a BFA in Animation and Illustration from San Jose State University.

 

I’m one of those weird nerds who’s an artist, a web designer, and a web developer. I have been fortunate enough to have worked professionally in all three capacities, gaining a wide range of skills.

 

While I was in college, I started the site, initially under the domain BogusRed.net, as a place to showcase the artwork of my friends and to gain experience with MySQL and PHP. It started as a somewhat static website, but over the years it grew into a community and user generated content website. By 2005, the site had taken on the name “PaperDemon” and moved to the PaperDemon.com domain.

 

Soon after starting PaperDemon, I fell in love with it. I love building things and talking to people who use the things I create. It’s a ton of fun to meet new people and provide a safe place where others can find fulfillment to pursue their passions.

 

In around 2006, I got hired as an intern at Google and ended up working there for nearly 13 years. I did everything from icons, to doodles, to illustrations, to designing websites, to coding, to being the tech lead for a front end engineering team!

 

During my time at Google, development on PaperDemon was sporadic for a variety of reasons but I always kept coming back to it.

 

In 2017, I started to refine the future vision of PaperDemon as a place where people could find acceptance, support and motivation to create more through gamification. As a person with ADHD, I knew how effective immediate rewards are to help motivate positive behavior. And those who struggle the most with motivation, were likely the ones to struggle most with needing acceptance and support. My belief is that mental health and motivation are closely related.

 

In 2019, I decided it was finally time for me to pursue my dream to work on PaperDemon full time, and say goodbye to Google. It was a challenging adjustment but I feel I’m fully adapted to the work-at-home lifestyle now. There’s still a lot of scary and unkown aspects of running your own business but it gets better each day.

 

This blog post has gotten long enough and I’ve never been the best at writing so maybe it’s just best to end it there?

 

It’s lovely to meet all of you new folks and I can’t wait to see what you create.

 

Much love,

~BogusRed

♥♥♥

 

 

A new adventure

Holy crap! Has it really been eight years since I posted a blog post?! As they say, better late than never.

 

This is a year of some big changes so I figure there’s no better time than now to give you all an update.

 

So much has happened since 2011. Too much to put in one blog post. So maybe I’ll just start with what’s still the same.

 

  • I’m still happily married to my husband Mike. No kids yet. But we’re hoping to start our family within the next couple years.
  • I still struggle with ADHD. But, I continue to invest time and energy to understanding and managing it. I have made huge strides especially in the last few years.
  • I still work for Google, though not for much longer. (I’m going to keep you in suspense!)
  • I still run the creative community, PaperDemon.com.

 

And that’s what leads me to make this updated blog post. This year I’ll be embarking on a journey; A journey to fulfill a dream of mine that I’ve had for over a decade.

 

PaperDemon.com has always been a passion project for me. I’ve been telling myself for years how awesome it would be to work on PaperDemon and PaperDemonMedia full-time. I get so much joy from building something for creative’s and helping them share their work with the world. As well as creating stupid funny videos. Every time a colleague of mine would leave Google to say they’re leaving to work on their own business, I would stare at them wide-eyed with so much joy and happiness for them as well as envy. I would say, “I wish I could do that!”

 

Many people have dreams, but few actually attempt to see them through or give them a real chance. About two years ago I started to get serious about it. I realized that if I wanted to make my PaperDemon dream happen, I had to actually work on it and dedicate myself to it.

 

I doubted myself a lot (I still do). I wasn’t sure if I had the discipline to do it. Up until two years ago, I could never stick to something consistently. I have a long history of unfinished projects telling me that I can’t stick to anything or finish anything (this blog being one of them).

 

Oddly enough one of the thoughts that motivated me to try anyway is that when I have an ADHD child (there’s a 50% chance) I want them to feel like they can take risks. I want them to go through the world believing that they can fulfill their dreams, in spite of their disability. If I gave up on my own dreams, what message would that send to my children?

 

The time has finally come for me to take the plunge and commit myself fully to seeing my dreams through. My last day at Google will be April 1. I’ll then take a few weeks break to recover. (The last year has been incredibly hard. More details coming.) And then it’ll be time to roll up my sleeves and see it all through.

 

I’ll be honest with you, I’m pretty scared. I’m going to need a lot of support in the coming years. It may be a while before I’m profitable. I will continue to have lots of self-doubt. I very much appreciate any positive encouraging words you can send my way. Your words are more powerful than you could possibly know.

 

I don’t just do this for myself, I do it for my family, and I do it for my community. Here’s to you, me, and our dreams.

 

Special thank you to my husband Mike for his love and support.

 

Hand made Zelda Hylian Shield

A new hand made Hylian shield for my Twilight Princess Link costume.

When I first made my Link costume 4 years ago, I thought that making a shield by myself would be impossible, so I ordered a replica online (pictured on the left below). 

However, as good as this shield looks, it has some problems. It weighs over 8 pounds and it gets tiring to carry around all day. The handle is made with really cheap materials and kept breaking. If it breaks during a day at a convention, I don’t have a drill around to redrill the holes to repair it. The shape is also inaccurate to the Twilight Princess shield design. In addition, every other part of my costume I made myself and when people ask, "Wow your costume is great. Did you make all of that yourself?" I proudly say "Yes I did!" and then they say "Wow the shield is the BEST PART." and then I have to embarrassingly reply with that’s the one thing I DIDN’T make.

Since I’ve been so successful with making craft foam props for my Zelda wedding, it didn’t seem impossible anymore to make my own shield. This shield (pictured right below) is made totally from craft foam, hot glue gun glue, and acrylic paints. It weighs almost nothing, looks more accurate, and I can finally say "I made my whole costume myself." It still needs a few minor details and refinement on the paint. But it was good enough to show off on Halloween day.

DSCN1391.JPG
From Link Costume, the making of

 

 

Here’s an inprogress shot of what it looked lilke before the paint:

DSCN1376.JPG
From Link Costume, the making of

 

Master Sword sleeps.

Just as the Master Sword in Zelda laid sleeping in the forest, I’ve been sleeping on the blog posts.

I haven’t posted for a while because I’ve been waiting for the professional photos to be ready. Just saw them yesterday and I’ll be getting the high res files soon and making more blog posts.

In the meantime, here’s a quick taste. I love this shot because it reminds me so much of Zelda and some of the official art that has been created. Amazing. And I didn’t even instruct them to do it either.

 

wedding-ceremony-sword.jpg

Photo by JLPhotografia

 

Wedding – Heart Piece in chest

It seemed fitting for our sweet heart table to have the Zelda Piece-of-heart as a centerpiece. To dress it up more, I created a foliage arrangement inside a treasure chest with rupees and jewels.

 

zelda heart piece in chest

 

The chest is a ready made chest found at a craft store. The foliage is made from preserved moss, plastic jewels, fake ferns and ivy, moss rocks, mini pine cone filler. The heart piece is made from plastic custom cut at Tap Plastics and craft foam for the red heart, painted with liquitex acrylic paints and glitter glue. The rupees are paper craft.

My new husband will always have a piece of my heart ^.^

Mike cheers at sweetheart table

 

Wedding – Spirit Flute Centerpiece

This centerpiece is the Spirit Flute from Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. Link looks so adorable playing it.

Believe it or not, it’s made from Playtex gentle glide tampon holders. No I’m not joking. I got the idea from TamponCrafts.com.

Other materials include craft foam for the front plate, beads, cross stitch floss, and liquitex paint.

zelda wedding pan flute centerpiece

 

Wedding – Banners and more Favors

So I learned that there’s a technique called bunting where you take triangles of fabric and sew them inbetween a thin strip of fabric to create banners. I thought this would be suitable for the wedding because its a quick and easy way to add color to various areas of the venue and it also has a medieval look to it.

I also painted a water pattern and a few triforces to make it more Zelda-ish.

I created three signs; table assignments, bathroom, and spirits (for the bar!). Pictured below are a couple of the signs as well as the favors as they were displayed on the favors table.

The favors doubled as table assignments and contained the guest’s name and a picture of the centerpiece of their table, so they would know visually what table they were to go to.

zelda wedding favors table flags bunting