I Finally Made Some Characters

I have a few updates for you! I finished my triptych for my ART333 class. Take a look:

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All three of them together! 

So I completely scrapped the previous idea I had and decided to go for the above instead. I named it, “Dissolve.” I could talk about it all day but I’m going to save that for another blog post. Essentially, after having finished this, I was unhappy with the lack of personality the woman possessed. Sure, there’s some interesting things going on in the image, but that’s it. So, it spurred me onward into finally making up some character profiles for my comic.

I know it took a long while, but I just kept finding things that I had to go back and work on. I finally tried sketching some characters our and working out their basic details like my previous posts had suggested. Take a final look below:

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I know they’re just a bunch of preliminary sketches but I am so pleased that I finally got around to actually drawing some characters rather than doing warm ups endlessly. However, I think the work I did paid off. Character I had drawn previously were a little boxy and not very proportionate, but these characters I find to be more believable. I’m excited to continue working on my ability (or lack thereof) to draw diverse bodies, as this is something that I still need to improve on.

It has been a wonderful semester, and I’m glad that I set out on planning my world, because now it is in motion. I’m about to graduate, and so I’m going to have so much free time on my hands that I know I’ll finally be able to go into my art with full force and really improve my technical skills along the way.

Thanks for checking in on my progress, but don’t leave! I’ll be back and posting again soon!

My Favourite Show Used to be Code Lyoko

I’ve done the show a disservice.

I just tried to up my code game by frantically trying to code a mini scene in Scratch. It is a really cute website designed to get kids hooked on coding, but I must say; it is for all ages. I had a lot of fun doing the tutorial, trying out some games, and then trying to create on myself. It was honestly more difficult than I had imagined, and I learned that I knew nothing about coding. Here is the video evidence:

I had fun though; you can hear me giggling whenever something went wrong.

Serious thought though: Why do we not teach more coding to our students as a mandatory practice? The exercise it gives your brain is fantastic. You’re forced to think about cause and effect in a way that immediately takes effect as you’re doing it. It helps students become more familiar with thinking about their actions and their words. Also, it is a practical skill to have regardless. Our western culture is entirely dominated by technology yet we know so little about how it works or why it works. Teaching more students coding like this may help create young and innovative inventors. Teaching coding in such a way may help more women and young girls get into coding. The website does not market coding in any way to one particular gender; it is open to all!

This is a short post, but long story short: more teachers should teach their students coding, and the website Scratch is a great resource to implement such lessons into your classrooms.

Thanks for checking in!

Just Sort of a Reflection on Passions

Being in university is such an estranging experience to the rest of the world. It feels like we are constantly operating in our own little university-world. Everything revolves around university for me. What and when I eat, when I sleep, when I get coffee, when I work at my job; it all revolves around my schooling. Perhaps it is because I am in my final semester of my degree, but I am just so sick of my stress revolving around university, too.  Perhaps it is because I literally have not slept since 7:30am two days ago. Regardless, I’m done with dedicating every thought that passes through my mind to university. I want to take myself somewhere new so that I can see how creative I can be. I want to explore my place in the world before signing a contract to teach in some town I may never fit into. Not to mention, I have only ever known myself in a school setting. The thought of going straight out of school to begin my career in more schools without getting the chance to explore what its like to not be in school would suck the soul out of me. I know these thoughts sound depressing but to me, coming to the realization that I need a break is a huge relief in itself.

Lately, I’ve been day dreaming about what I’m going to do with my spare time when I am not constantly under pressure due to major projects coming up. I’ve been day dreaming about what it would be like to have my biggest cause of stress removed. What would I do with my time? After a really good chat with a classmate of mine, who has embarked on the exact same four year journey as I, I came to a conclusion. University is entirely hypocritical.

In my anti-oppressive education we constantly discuss how we can continue to dissect narratives that are overarching our society. We learn about classist, racist, and sexist narratives that dominate society and oppress those who fall outside of the so-called “norm.” However, as our professors collectively turn our eyes towards these narratives, they have been enforcing a narrative upon us, too. It is subtle, and behind the scenes, and taught as though it is a matter of fact. What exactly am I talking about?

The expectation that my generation will get a degree, and then work the same job until the day I die, or retire. The way professors talk about teaching is as if it is the only possible answer. The terms and phrases used imply this. Not a single professor throughout my entire degree has suggested that it is acceptable to pursue another career after completing an education degree. My parents assume that if I get a job teaching, I will be doing that for the rest of my life. My grandparents assume that if i start teaching, I will teach for the rest of my life. Everybody I’ve ever talked to about life after university has only always assumed that I will teach for the rest of my life. This makes me feel like a failure, because this does not coincide with what I want to do. I feel inferior because of my life decisions, when really, I should not feel this way at all. There is nothing wrong with what I want to do.

After my internship, I began to doubt that teaching was for me. Granted, a lot of things were happening during my internship that I will never have to deal with again, purely because of the way internships work. If I get hired, I am free to practice my pedagogy so long as I can relate it directly to the curriculum. I will not have to sacrifice my personal teaching philosophies in order to have the right to stand in a classroom. If I get hired, I will be able to be my own, independent educator. However, I find that the educational system itself requires a lot of work. The right people are not always in positions of power, and even if I receive a degree, get hired, and start working in schools, my power can much too easily be taken away from me. Also, in light of the recent budget cuts to education, so many doors have been closed on my face for my future career. The wrong people are always in power, and I am sad to say that teaching anti-oppressive education is no longer enough.

Let me say it again:

Teaching anti-oppressive education is no longer enough on its own. We have to do more.

But how? Everybody tells me that the first few years of teaching are the worst. During my internship, the most  common comment that I heard was, “You think internship is hard? Wait until your first year of teaching.” It was incredibly negative and disheartening and my colleagues offered no support of advice beyond that. I felt as though they were trying to alienate me further and further from the profession that I just spent the last four years of my life working towards. So many doors have been closing on me and my career and because of this, I had to step back and truly, honestly ask myself if teaching is for me.

When I took a step back, I asked myself, “Do I really have to do this?” But in asking myself that, I realized that I’ve only ever imagined “this” as “teaching for the rest of my life.” Nobody talks about taking a year off. Nobody talks about furthering their education before they move on to teaching.

In a talking circle in my class last night, a peer of mine said the following.

“I started my post-secondary education late in my life. I know a lot of you are in your early twenties, and you are feeling apprehensive about moving on to your teaching career. Let me just tell you, looking back to when I was 22, I never would have been able to do this, so all of you are already years ahead of where I was at your age. However, I just wanted to add that there is nothing wrong with waiting to teach until you truly feel ready.”

When my peer said this, I cried. I had been stressing and stressing about teaching because after my internship, I do not feel ready, I feel even further away from being ready than when I was in my first year. When he said this, it was the first time I had ever imagined doing something other than going straight into a lifetime-career. I knew I needed some time off, but now I’m considering taking a decade off from school.

My professors have pushed on me, subconsciously, that if I do not go straight into teaching, I would be missing out on certain experiences and important learning experiences by not teaching right away. This is not true. My professors made it sound as though the only experiences in life that will ever matter are ones that are directly related to my pedagogy and education. This is also not true. I began to see the world around me as locked away or unavailable to me, because my professors all told me over and over again, “You are a teacher for life now, so you better act like one.” This terrified me. I felt like I signed my soul to the devil and in a way, I did. There are so many things in life that I want to do that I can’t do as an educator purely because teachers are expected to be above-perfect role models for society. In our digital age, everything I do can easily be discovered, so I can’t go out and do anything that anyone could potentially take offense to (Which could literally be anything at this point) and so I feel as though I am chained to my degree. Except now, my degree is a 10 ton anvil that is popping my leg right out of it’s socket.

Over all of the years I’ve lived and been in school (which is nearly all the years I’ve lived), I’ve been taught that school is the most important thing. It will always be the most important thing I’ve ever attended, or facilitated. This is also not true. I digress.

Here is where I hope you’ll understand me:

If I’ve done nothing but go to school for my entire life and my entire future, I too will be pushing the subconscious narrative that school and post-secondary school is the only answer to how you can achieve success. My students will be just as diverse as Canada can get, and so to enter my classroom while operating in such a perspective, I am bound to push this onto my students. I need to get my head out of this post-secondary coma I’ve been slapped into.

Don’t get me wrong, I think education is the best thing that has ever happened to me, but I cannot allow myself to push my perspectives onto my students. I like being able to share my experiences with my students but how can I relate to students who do not want to move on to post-secondary? I need to live a little.

This is why I will be moving away from education for a few years. I’ve never lived a life outside of school. I’ve taken a summer class every summer, or attended a camp every other summer. I have, in every sense of the word, never not been in school. What I hope to achieve by taking a few years off is life experience. I want to travel and meet all kinds of people who do not necessarily fall into the post-secondary community and culture. It is not the only life that exists. There are many ways to live one’s life and I want to get out in the world and experience this for myself so that when I eventually decide to teach again, I can come into the classroom with a well-rounded, not-naive perspective that myself and my students will benefit from. If I decide to go back.

Developing my World

Baby steps! I thought I’d swing by and upload a few more pictures of the notes I’ve made, and talk about the research I’ve been doing. I will include some images that have served as inspiration for me as well.

Here is the progress I’ve made the past few days:

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I’ve been building on the religions of the world and trying to establish if it should be for sure a real thing, or if its all speculative. Do they have proof of their higher power, Fate? Does she actually exist, or is it something they’ve conjured up? Do people have visions? I decided that their higher power literally, actually exists, and visits the world in significant times and places. Nobody questions her existence. Therefore, how does each culture worship her? Do they worship her? These are questions I have yet to answer.

Here are some images from a folder that I’ve labelled as “inspiration” for my learning project:

It is hard to explain exactly why these images spur my imagination, but they inspire me to create fantastical worlds in which my characters may interact. Moving forward, I’d like to try and sketch out a few characters and try developing more informational profiles first, and then move on to actual art of the characters. That’s all for now.

Thanks for checking in!

What Am I Really Doing?

I want to make my own comic.

Which is why I chose anatomy and diversity in drawing as my learning project.

I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a little kid. My best friend and I would go to the lake together and spend hours upon hours just dreaming up characters in a fictitious world. We used to create maps and design clothes and houses and stories and we would be endlessly caught up in a world of fantastical creatures that we had made up on our own. Now that we’re both older, we’re trying to create our own separate worlds. In some ways they’re very similar, purely because we’ve grown up together for so long that its quite difficult because we too are quite similar.

If this is my end game, then before I can start actually creating characters, I need to have a world established. If I make my characters before I make my world, they may not suit the environment, nor will they make sense in the story. I can’t make a New York Times publisher walk into a world of vampires and dragons. It just wouldn’t make sense.

What this means is that I’m now working on two different strands of my project. I’m practicing my basic drawing skill and anatomy, but I’m also working on creating an environment/universe in which my characters will interact. I cannot have one without the other.

So far in practicing anatomy, I’ve just been occasionally practicing (all over my class notes, in my sketchbook, and sometimes even in my text books) basic foreshortening. A cylinder is a great shape to use for this practice because it generally makes up half of the body. The arms, legs, neck, and even somewhat the torso are cylinders when the body is broken down into basic shapes. Therefore, I’ve been drawing cylinders everywhere. I won’t bore you with twenty pictures of cylinders, so I included my most recent one below. It really isn’t anything special, but it is important to practice drawing these shapes in different perspectives so that when I try to piece them all together, I’ll be able to make a body out of it.

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In regards to building a world, I’ve been trying to figure out everything that even needs to be considered in order to create a world. I’ve purchased a few books, my favourite being the image below:

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The book is great but there are no visual cues or examples to really go off of, or no recommendations as to exactly how I should organize all of my planning. It recommends everything you need to think of, but makes no recommendations on how to put everything together, which is rather unfortunate I would think. Either way, I jumped face first into my planning.

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I had to take into consideration everything. What types of land masses exist, what times of biomes exist, what different kinds of islands are called, what type of faith(s) exist in the world, how the world came to be, and so on. Then, depending on the land mass, the environment, the weather and so on, it changed the kinds of resources available to the people. Did they have electricity? Do they have magic? How do they organize their communities? Is it a patriarchy? Is it a monarchy? Is it ruled by spirits? There are so many things to consider that I’m finding myself overwhelmed.

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My notes seem a little strange because I don’t really have names for anything yet, but initials and abbreviations will do for now. Obviously I’m just starting this so of course nothing is supposed to be finished and ready to go. This will be a really long process that could potentially take decades, but I’m in it for the long haul.

In this post I had talked abut how making a list of names can benefit the writer because you can establish cultural connections to the names.  See mine below:

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I tried colour-coding based on the different cultures around the world I’m trying to make so that I have a bit of a reference for myself when I start creating characters that are from various places around the world.

This is all I have for now. As usual, thanks for checking in!

 

Making Realistic Characters

In light of my previous post, I’ve done some research on how to make and draw characters that are more believable. The first link that I investigated immediately gave me a lot of insight:

Time to Collect Yo’self and Make Yo’self

For my art class we have a month to complete our final project. As always, I like to tie my art class into my learning project because I have to really push myself to be better and to try new things. Without naming any names, I’ve noticed a few people in my art experience fail as artists because they refuse to draw anything with character, and they refuse to draw anything new. They draw what they “think is cool,” but fail to realize that every decision the artist makes is fully up to them.

Every decision an artist makes must not be without purpose.

I thought I was working away from this; I was trying to make every decision count in every piece. It started with my keys drawing from this post. I was putting so much thought into every little object and colour choice, and although I was not happy with the end result, I feel as though I succeeded in taking control over my art work. I pushed myself until my brain hurt and I wanted to cry, and the result turned out better than I expected.

However, when I started my final project, I was stumped. This is what I first began with:

IMG_7336Done on Photoshop CS6 with a Wacom Bamboo Tablet!

I watched multiple YouTube tutorials but I’m posting my favourite below:

CRITIQUE TIME!

I find that watching a YouTube tutorial like the one above is the best method for me to learn how to draw. I am a visual and kinesthetic learner. I’ve noticed over the past few years that the best way to get me to learn something immediately is if the person in charge of teaching me thinks out loud. This way, I understand the process and the mindset and what to look for in order to do whatever it is that I am learning to do. I need mental checklists and guidelines, then I replicate what my tutor has done, do it a few more times, then I know I’ve learned it when I can do it on my own. However, this can be excruciatingly painful for some people to do.

When I was little, I quite piano lessons and asked my dad to teach me how to play songs by ear. I learned, but I had to have my dad sit and show me how to play each song note by individual note, and it would take hours. Granted, my father had the patience of a saint with me, so it was possible, but not everybody wants to set aside three hours to grind out a lesson with me until I get it wholly. The next best possible replacement is to watch a YouTube tutorial that essentially does the same thing.

The difference is this: I can pause, stop, and repeat as many times as I would like, and in doing so I do not feel guilty about asking somebody to dedicate so much time to me. What I’m trying to say is that YouTube tutorials and incredibly detailed books accounting for the thought process is the best way for me to learn. For the rest of my learning project I’m going to try to continue to use the book I bought at the beginning of the semester and watch YouTube tutorials so that I can learn on my own time.

However, that is not all that I have to say!

While working on my triptych I just had the image of the blonde woman (I’ve named her Fate, stay tuned to find out why), but there is hardly anything that sets her apart. There are a few interesting things to take note of, like her bare feet, the rosary, the pose itself, but other than that, her actual physical body is nothing out of the ordinary. She fits into the cookie cutter shape of every character I’ve ever drawn. When I came to realize this it saddened me because the whole point of my learning project was to learn how to draw more dynamic but also diverse characters. This means I have some more research to do. I don’t actually know how to create a diverse character, so I feel like some research into this matter would go a long way.

That’s all for now! Thanks for checking in!

Differentiating Instruction w/ Screencastify

Yes, that was a long title, but bare with me here.

I chose to review Screencastify, as it is a tool that I have invested myself in for the purpose of my learning project this semester. I’ve already mentioned it in this post in which I used the tool to record my work on a digital drawing of mine.

Overview: Some basic information

It is a chrome extension that allows users to record everything that is happening on their screens at the time. It connects to your mic as well, so you can provide spoken instruction in conjunction with the recording. It has a free version available, but there are obvious limitations. On the download page it says, “The free Lite version limits recording time to 10 minutes per video, has a watermark, 50 videos per month, and has certain features turned off like mp4 export and editing tools.” 

The paid-for version has no limitations. Personally, I think this tool is worth spending the $20-30 on, because I know it will be something that I plan on using extensively as both an educator and an artist.

Pros & Cons

Pros: This extension is really simple to use. It appears as an icon at the top-right of your browser and if you have the full version, it organizes and saves all of your videos and has them up for easy access through the chrome tab/extension. It is easy to edit the length of your video, crop it, save it, and share it, as the app provides all of these services at the click of a button. Another benefit is that the program allows you to annotate what is on your screen, giving you the benefit of underlining or highlighting specific items.

Story time! Here’s another example of how I used the app:

I had my friend record a presentation I did on my mom’s art, and the video was too big to email or send through Facebook messenger. I had her post it to her Facebook page with tight privacy settings so I was the only one who could view the post. Now, I wanted to save it so I could send it to my mom and for whatever reason I couldn’t get Facebook to let me download the video, so instead I just used screencastify to record the entire video. Now I have it saved to my google drive and I can send it to my mom, who can also download the video and actually view it. Neat!

Cons: If you don’t pay for the full app, its not really that great. Ten minutes recording time may be well enough for short little tutorials, but can really limit your opportunities in regards to what you want to share. Another con: The app claims to be “pixel perfect” but in my case I found that it really wasn’t as clear/focused as I was expecting it to be. There is a tiny chance that I am doing something wrong, but the app has such a simple interface that I’m fairly sure I’ve explored all possible solutions to my pixel problem. However, its not bad. Its just not excellent. There are definitely apps out there that could record a clearer picture, but there are not nearly as many screen-recording apps that make it so easy to use, crop, and share.

Why Teachers Need This Tool

You will be doing all of your students a huge favour by using this. If there is ever some kind of visual instruction that students miss due to illness, skipping, etc., you can record the same lesson without losing any of your presentation notes and the like, while making sure students who were not there that day still get all of the information.

Another benefit is that anyone can watch it. If you record yourself doing anything informative really, you never know who could benefit from your tutorial. It is worth it to upload your videos to YouTube, because chances are, another educator could use the video you’ve made.

Another benefit: Students can re-watch it as many times as they want. Some students can remember what the teacher said after the first time it was said, but most students need to hear it twice, or more. With screencastify, you can upload the video to YouTube, email it out, whatever works, and students can watch it repeatedly until they get the lesson at hand. This has many benefits for students of all levels and capabilities. This can be especially effective for students with auditory-learning disorders. Some students that you will encounter throughout your years will have real difficulties processing information that is heard. The information must be accompanied with notes or images for the student to look at later. With screencastify, they will get more than just notes or images. They get the best of both worlds combined, working together to create a solid learning tool that benefits nearly all students.

Another benefit: When differentiating your instruction in this way, it also does not single out any one student. Sometimes when differentiating our instruction, we struggle to find a way to do so in which the student is not singled out, embarrassed, or made to look like they are any “lesser” than students who may not necessarily depend on these extra resources. With this tool, teachers can make it mandatory to watch it once for homework (have you ever heard of a flipped classroom?) but it is up to the students if they need to watch it more than once. Another thing: their peers will have no idea who watched it multiple times to get it. It allows for privacy, in a way.

Another benefit: You can annotate your recordings in a way that highlights exactly what students or viewers should be focusing on. This allows for more precise tutorials, because it adds another layer/style of learning: text. If you annotate your videos, you are providing three different ways all at once for your students to process this information. They will be viewing, listening, and reading. And, hey! That’s three strands of the English curriculum! (See pages 28 and 32 of this ELA 9 Curriculum document to check out what I’m talking about.)

 Overall Rating:

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, which is equivalent to, I think, 8 out of 10. 

It’s pretty great, and I highly recommend that educators use this tool to benefit their students.

Thanks for reading!

Keys Keys Keys

For my latest art project, I chose to do a symbolic still life drawing as a form of a self portrait. For my objects, I chose 5 keys that come from varying stages in my life. Take a look at them below.

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The first key at the top is from my childhood home. When I see that key, I think of my amazingly large back yard that was filled with plants and bushes and fruit and adventure. I had a playhouse in the middle of what I called, “the woods,” which was an area in my back yard that was sort of “protected” by a wall of trees around all sides. When I ran around in those trees I always imagined myself as Link, the protagonist of the Legend of Zelda game series, battling monsters and always saving the princess. My parents made me a tire swing, a rope to climb, and a pile of stumps to climb around on. It was awesome for a little adventurer like me. The song beside the key is the “Song of Time” from the Ocarina of Time.

The second is from when I grew up in Saskatoon, from grades 5-12. It was the longest I had ever stayed in one place, so I had the opportunity to get very close to my family and friends there. It is home, to me.

The third key is from when I graduated high school and left all of my friends and family behind to move to Regina and start my journey through university. It was a really weird time in my life, because I had never felt so alone. This is when I met my ex-boyfriend.

The next key is from his dad’s house in Saskatoon. It was strange, because he was from Regina and helped me settle into the city. He lived with his mother, but his father and all of his siblings were based in Saskatoon. It reminded me of my home, too, and so I connected with it. The relationship wasn’t a healthy one, so the angry “STOON” scratched into it was included to capture the nature of the relationship.

The final key is most important to me. It was the key to my first place on my own. It was where I learned the most about me as an individual because I was learning to live on my own.

For my still life, I wanted to position and draw these keys in such a way that it would capture the emotion and meaning behind all of these keys and what they’ve meant to me and my life. I thought about this for literally weeks, unable to find a way to portray my keys in the perfect way. Finally, I happened to run into this painting:

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I just found it so serene and beautiful that it inspired me, and so I envisioned my keys as a crown on my head.

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I started asking my friends what keys meant to them for ideas… 

Posing my keys as a crown says to me that I’m owning everything I’ve experienced and wearing it with pride. To me, it meant moving forward. I started asking myself, “What else will I draw with the crown? Flora? Fauna? What about other objects? I can draw other things. Oh, but it has to have even symbolic weight, so it has to seriously imply something about my life.”

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I really wanted to draw flora of some kind, but I needed it to contrast in some way to myself, because I do not view myself as flourishing and I do not currently feel alive in any sort of symbolic way. Rather, I feel as though I’m running out of steam and about to undergo some sort of epic change in my life. So, I made the decision to draw myself as a statue, and my crown would be garnished with live succulents. I then thought, “Hmm, I want to draw antlers around the edge of the crown to protect the succulents, but I also want to keep my ‘alive’ theme up top.” So, I changed it to thorns on branches. The other objects I included were: a bottle of blue fire, a pink fairy, the fairy boomerang, and a daisy in the center.

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The thorns are bright red, presumably from scratching up any hands that come near the succulents in the crown.

I also found out through this experience that I have no idea how to effectively use pencil crayons. I feel like I completely ruined it by trying to colour it. I wanted to use watercolour initially, but when I opened my watercolours I found out that they were somehow rotten. They wouldn’t blend well, and there were solid chunks throughout the tubes. The only other medium I had was pencil crayon. I didn’t think of it when I started the drawing, but I worked on a textured surface, and with thin paper, which completely affected the quality of my finished product. The texture made my colouring look quite poor and grainy, when it would have turned out much smoother if I had worked on a perfectly flat surface. I also realized that even if I wanted to work on a perfectly solid, flat surface, I wouldn’t be able to because I don’t have one. All tables I have are marked up or wooden, thus have a grain to it. I really wish I would have had more time to work on this, because I was really proud of my line art before I started colouring it. Oh well.

However, I’ve never drawn any of these objects before, so I was really proud of myself for being able to draw something so new to me. My goal for this learning project is to really push myself, and granted, I certainly drifted away from what I was initially wanted to practice (drawing comic characters in dynamic positions) but at least I’m still doing something that I can officially say I couldn’t do before.

Go me!