Sunday Sketchbook #21 – Self-portrait

I got a new pen this week, so obviously I had to make a self-portrait like this. The pen is a Platinum Carbon Fountain Pen, recommended as “the perfect pen” in this blogpost by Sarah Glidden. In short, the selling point for me was the waterproof ink. It should work great for watercolor practice, and I’m looking forward to test it out properly.

As for the self portrait, at first I only intended for it to be B&W, but decided to add some colors really quickly. I’m not very happy about my skills at coloring digitally, but I guess I just need some more practice. Also, I never know what I should do with the background, so I just leave it white. Anyway, so much to learn, so little time! Leave a comment if you’ve got thoughts on art supplies, self-portraits or just want to say hi!

Thoughts on “My Neighbors the Yamadas”

First of all, these are my personal thoughts on the Japanese movie My Neighbors the Yamadas. I will have to point out that this is a great movie, and I hope to convince you to watch it if you haven’t already. My Neighbors the Yamadas is in short a movie about the daily life of a small family of five living in a peaceful town in Japan. It’s a surprisingly interesting movie, despite having such a mundane theme. The recipe is roughly as follows; a good dose of comedy, a nice sprinkle of drama, poetry and dilemmas, a cup of action and a pinch of sadness…

… and there’s also this dog, although he doesn’t show up much.

My Neighbors the Yamadas (with the Japanese title “Hôhokekyo tonari no Yamada-kun”), was released in 1999, and was Studio Ghibli’s first 100% digitally produced animation movie. But at first glance, you wouldn’t think it was made digitally.

It has been described as watching a watercolor painting coming to life, the light colors sometimes spilling outside of the sketchy outlines and with simplistic backgrounds and environments. The style is distinctly different from what Ghibli had made up to that point in time, some examples being Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Whisper of the Heart, Kiki’s Delivery Service and the highly popular movie with the similar title, My Neighbor Totoro.

However, My Neighbors the Yamadas’ style works incredibly well with the “slice of life” genre of the movie. It is is based on a four panel comic called Nono-chan by Hisaichi Ishii, and typical for the gag-type comic, there’s in fact no main storyline. Instead, there are a lot of segments varying in length, sometimes preceded by a title topic like “Marriage, Yamada style” and “Father and son bonding”.

Through these segments we get to know the strict, but loving father; the stubborn and sometimes lazy and forgetful mother; the teenaged son who’s studying hard, and the independent and energetic little sister. The 70-year old grandmother also plays an important role in the three generations household, being the eldest and supposedly the wisest. Some of the themes presented are household duties, the relationship between husband and wife, the responsibility of the head of the family and the troubles of a hard-working student.

Additionally, there are some treats for those who like japanese poetry as well. Some of the segments have haiku’s being read aloud at the end, giving them a nice level of philosophical depth.

The soundtrack is usually light and playful, but it will occasionally turn very gloomy to add the necessary melancholy to the scene. Nonetheless, this is first and foremost a feel good movie, and the cheery piano and vocal music reflects that very well.

Although the daily life of the family is highly caricatured, there are a few interesting things to learn about Japanese culture and society. Having studied said topics (and some Japanese) certainly helps when trying to decode some of the humor and understanding certain jokes, but I think it’s certainly possible for everyone to enjoy and even learn from the many different episodes.

Moreover, there are a multitude of delightful dialogues between the characters. Sadly, some of the nuances are not represented well enough in the translated english subtitles (in this case, the DVD version from Optimum Releasing). My conclusion is; watch this movie, especially if you’re a student of Japanese or even the slightest interested in Japan.

(All images used in this post are screenshots from my DVD of the movie My Neighbors the Yamadas, copyrighted to Studio Ghibli, distributed by Optimum Releasing)

Sunday Sketchbook #20 – Pose sketches

I’m a little bit late, but here’s my update for last week (I’m sorry it’s not as big of an update as I kind of promised to do). I repurposed a big sketchbook I hadn’t used in years by ripping out the few pages I had sketched on, leaving me with a “new” book with lots and lots of blank pages. My intention for making this sketchbook was to have a designated sketchbook for anatomy studies. I’ve started sketching full body poses using a few of my old photos as resources, which in this case were photos of a friend of mine learning to play with poi.

Totally unrelated to my artistic endeavors, I’m a bit sick at the moment, suffering the sore throat and clogged sinuses of a spring cold. As if that wasn’t enough, I also got one of my wisdom teeth extracted today, so I’m not feeling as productive as I could’ve been. However, I’m going to try something new and hopefully have another post up within this week, which is going to be sort of a review of a Ghibli movie.

Thoughts on juggling hobbies

I didn’t update the blog last Sunday, which is a bummer because I think I’ve been very consistent the last few weeks. I try to post something I’ve sketched or drawn every sunday, and instead of posting some mediocre sketches too late, I’m going to try to make this weekend’s update somewhat substantial. I say weekend, because I’m considering changing the regular update day from Sunday to Saturday.

Another thing I’ve come to think about is that I need to narrow down the type of content I post here. I’m aiming at the seldom used “Photography” category. Although I’ve got an interest in photography (and also making videos), I find juggling more than one hobby on a blog is kind of hard. It hinders the creative thought process (for me, at least), and I think it makes it a bit harder for others to categorize my blog in the blogverse. People looking for a blog about drawing, comics and illustration aren’t necessarily interested in occasional “artsy” photos unrelated to the topic of choice. If anything, I’ll eventually make a new blog for endeavors in photography when the time comes. Also, I’ve got an Instagram with the username invisiblepaperclip, should you be inclined to follow me there.

That’s it for now, I think. If you want to ask a question or just leave me a comment, feel free to utilize the comments section below! Or you could just tweet something at me on Twitter.

Sketchbook Sunday #19 – Coffee violin

I decided to experiment with coffee as a painting medium. It resulted in this little piece of a girl playing the violin. For those interested, there are a few tips about painting with coffee in this tutorial I stumbled upon on Deviantart. I didn’t have any instant coffee on hand so I used a small amount of water and a lot of coffee grounds which I let sit in a French press for a while. Nevertheless, I couldn’t get the color as dark as I wanted, so I had to boost the saturation and contrast quite a lot after scanning it. It’s actually kind of sad, because this version looks a lot better than the original, which appears faded and dull in comparison. I also fixed a few other mistakes in “post-production”. That being said, my critical eyes can spot a lot of things which could have been drawn better (her left elbow, for example… yikes!)

I had to use reference for the pose and violin, and I found a lot of useful images by searching for “violin” and “woman” on However, I changed the pose, hairstyle and clothing as I went along, so the reference was used just to get the basic idea for the kind of drawing I wanted. I used Sakura Micron pens for the black outline, and a smooth and almost glossy kind of paper called Fabriano Tecnico 240g/m². I’m sure I could’ve gotten better results If I had used watercolor paper…

Sketchbook Sunday #18 – Caffeinated pixels

Hey, I drew some pixels again! This is fan art of the webcomic Caffeinated Toothpaste, which I happen to read almost every day. Caffeinated Toothpaste is drawn by the skilled artist and cartoonist Josh Bauman, an american currently living in Berlin. He usually makes one comic strip every single day about his life and daily experiences. An impressive feat indeed! Just to be clear, it’s easy to get hooked on a webcomic which updates that consistently. And with me being me, it’s a given that I’ll like anything that is autobiographical and have coffee-themed strips.

The image above is actually a 200% resized version of the 320×320 pixels wider original. Other than this little fan art project, I haven’t been drawing much this week. There’s so many things I want to do, but I have to decide which ones I want to give priority. I’d like to do more pixel art, but at the same time I want to get better at using watercolors and color markers. I also want to draw more comics, and I’ve been getting better at jotting down ideas and short scripts.. In any case, there’ll be more stuff coming in the future!