Blog 6-30-17 – About Face

Well here I am, back a little more than a month after the last update to give another one, as is custom for this type of thing, and I’ve made a decision that has been a personally difficult one to make. When starting, and during, my hiatus I was very adamant about not only it being a temporary thing, but something that would eventually “disappear” as I would work to make up all the content I had missed postin when I was on it. It’s more than a year later now, and while I have been working to catch back up, I haven’t been seeing the returns I’ve hoped for. My original intent was to just power through this section, creating both my backlog material and moving forward into new stuff. But, as many people who try to finish large project know, something like this creates a mental block. The sheer amount of things you are telling your brain it “has” to do dissuades your brain from doing those things, and as it puts them off, they only get bigger.

While I have been making some headway in this “power through” area it hasn’t been as much as I had hoped, and my “re-warm-up” phase has been much slower than expected, All the while things I was “supposed” to do kept piling up, and it got to the point where my mental resistance to moving things forward was preventing me from getting back up to speed. Looking at things now, it could potentially take me years to catch back up on a reasonable schedule (especially for a person with a house, job, and schoolwork). If I wanted to catch up by the end of 2017, I would have to do more than triple-time on my work, and that just isn’t coming from a person who wasn’t able to keep “regular time” for the last year. And extending that deadline only increased the mental block. Devoting that much time to catching up makes the brain think it’s failing, and that just isn’t good for work.

So the decision I’ve made is to “give up” on the idea of catching up. And that has been a possibility from the start, but it was shunned by my more optimistic side. Now the idea’s still there, and maybe sometime in the far-off future when I’m being super productive I’ll be able to go back and catch up on everything or something close to it, but right now I’m going to focus on what I can do next. Nothing is going to stop getting made at this point. In fact, I intend to increase my output, but I won’t be re-instating the schedule and might even make up a new schedule sometime in the future. My current new goal is to get myself back to putting up at least one thing a day, but none of this will be trying to make up for lost time, and there will likely be many new projects introduced.

And even though this has been a difficult decision for me personally (doing this essentially makes my last year a creative failure), I know that both my few dedicated followers and those many on the internet just passing by really just want more things they can read/view to enjoy, and that me making nothing for months at a time isn’t what they came to see, nor is it satisfying “artistically” for me. This will hopefully end up with a better arrangement for all of us, and allow for my various sites to improve.

I always want to thank everyone who has viewed (liked, and commented on) my content, and I appreciate the patience of those of you who have stuck with me. I’ve got a lot of cool ideas and new projects in the works that soon we can hopefully enjoy together.

-Austin

Dragoncompany.org   Artsupplycritic.com   Dragonfunnies.com

Mini Review – Peruvian 2B Pencils

At this point, I’ve gotten through the reviews of most of the non-U.S. purchased products I’ve received. But down at the bottom of that list are these simple little nameless pencils that came from Peru in what I understand was a larger bundle. And I’d like to take a quick look at them before moving too far beyond.

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The body is your standard yellow, hexagonal fare, without a ferrule or eraser at the back, replaced with a white band and then a black “cap” of paint. The only other adornment is “2B” stamped in a gold color. They come pre-sharpened, and thus a little shorter than your average pencil, being around 7”.

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The lead is a 2B, so it’s a little softer than your #2 HB’s, but it’s far from too soft, and the difference is really hard to tell. That probably stems from it not being a very well refined graphite, making it more toothy and gritty than one would generally expect from this hardness of pencil.

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The build quality is work-able, with the wooden body being quite sturdy, and the absence of an eraser making things easy. There is some variance in how well the lead is centered, though, making sharpening sometimes difficult. In the end they’re what you’d expect from a cheap no-name pencil, but they get the job done.

Review – Crayola Crayons (120 Crayon Box Part 3 – Greens, Yellow, and Oranges)

And now it’s time for part 3 of this series (that is taking longer than expected) looking at all of the colors that come in the Crayola crayons 120 box set. This time it’s greens, yellows, and a few oranges; let’s take a look.

 

Jungle Green – Starting off, “jungle green” is what I can only describe as a “wet” green color. It’s not really blue-ish, but it just seems damp. The coverage is good, as most of the greens will turn out to be, but I’m just not sure how useful it would be for anything other than those weird sea-green shorts.

Pine Green – A theme with this first section of greens is going to be my wonder at why they were named that, and this continues the trend. While it is the color of some evergreens, I wouldn’t say this slightly-blue dark green represents pines. It covers kinda splotchy, but does make a good forest tree color, especially in the winter.

Jungle Green (Shamrock) – Now here’s going to be a little problem in this review; there is supposed to be another color called “shamrock” here, but instead I received a second “jungle green”. I do understand that this sort of thing is bound to happen, but I am a little disappointed and I hope it isn’t a common occurrence.

Asparagus – An unpleasant, yucky looking green that does indeed resemble some shades of asparagus (though not any I would be eating). It covers well enough and has much more shading ability than the majority of other colors in the set. Unfortunately its uses are quite limited and not on the nice side: like swamp yuck or vomit.

Tropical Rain Forest – Looking a little too blue for its namesake, Tropical Rain Forest is a deep aqua color. It covers fine and is a nice shading… well… shade. In tandem with other colors it works very well but little vegetation or really anything is around that will use it as a primary color.

Mountain Meadow – An oddly specific name for a rather plain looking green. Mountain Meadow is a slightly lighter and bluer color than regular “green”. It covers well in the normal range and has pretty standard green applications, though there aren’t any specific applications I can think of. It is a pleasant looking addition that adds some nice variation in shades (tints).

Forest Green – A color name that, along with “hunter green”, always confused me. This vaguely evergreen or dying-plant color covers poorly for a green and shades a little more than usual. While it isn’t a color that would be unused in the forest, it isn’t a usual main one and would be most at home coloring evergreens or parts of hunter’s vests.

Green – One of the standard 8 Crayola colors, Green is a very recognizable color with good properties. It’s nicely situated near the middle of the green spectrum and is suitable for all one’s foliage needs as well as for almost anything “green” made by humans. It covers quite well but has more pronounced darker spots than other colors in the area.

Fern – Vaguely fern-like, this pale green does a decent job of covering and highlights or lighter spots on plants. If I had been consulted I would’ve called it more of a “mint” myself, or “green army from Risk”.

Olive Green – Quite olive-colored (the green kind at least), and not really similar to military uniforms, I feel like Olive Green has a bit of a singular purpose. It isn’t the best at coverage and other than green-olives and pickles it looks a bit yucky.

Granny Smith Apple – Slightly darker in my experience than its namesake, Granny Smith Apple does resemble the famous apple skin and is a nice color to use in other plants or un-ripe fruits. It doesn’t provide the greatest coverage (being rather stipple-y) and will likely need a “support” color.

Screamin’ Green – And interesting name for a poor color, this neon lime green is an eyesore and not too great at coverage. Its uses would be limited to coloring neon signs, what one would write on black paper to make it “radical”, and perhaps radioactive waste. But I guess that’s more from a realistic perspective. Kids do like their neon.

Yellow Green – Much more green than yellow, Yellow Green is a light vomit-esque green color that covers decently but isn’t that pleasant to look at, though in the right light it could be the color of unripe fruit or changing leaves.

Electric Lime – The other neon green, Electric Lime is almost invisible on the paper and has very poor coverage. This is one where darker paper would be necessary and also the only use I could find for such a color.

Inchworm – Similar to Inchworms from children’s books, but not those from real life, this color covers well but has a bit of shading to go along with it. It could be used as a green highlight, for changing fruit or leaf colors, or, less pleasantly, for swamp muck in summer.

Spring Green – Another nearly invisible color that is much easier on the eyes. It is a vaguely green yellow that I could also call “autumn green” as it looks like grasses as they yellow in the fall or come back in the early spring. When colored in, it covers fine enough but has the consistency of grass and the green and yellow separate a bit.

Green yellow – An aptly named green-tinged yellow; Green Yellow is quite light and hard to see. It covers fairly well but with subtle shading that is hard to see at first. It is a good green highlight color, a likeness for grass turning yellow in the fall, and the color of some pears or apples.

Canary – A very muted yellow that is probably the hardest color to see in this section. I wouldn’t say it’s very good at imitating its namesake, but it does cover decently. I would still have a hard time trying to find a place to use it.

Almond – Not a dead ringer for either of the colors I associate with the nut, this Almond color much more resembles the off-white inside than the brown outside. In the end, though, I’d probably call it a very white yellow, perhaps an “eggshell”. The consistency (and thus the coverage) is very smooth and the uses are very interesting: cream, or eggshells, or sun-bleached something (paper?), but it’s subtle enough that it likely won’t be used to its full potential.

Yellow – Another one of the classics, plain yellow is a surprisingly deep and saturated yellow. The coverage is very good, and the shade is only slightly unnatural. It works well for many flowers (dandelions, sunflowers, etc.) and summer clothes, though on its own it is a little overpowering, and it needs to be augmented with other yellows.

Laser Lemon – High in my category of less-than-favorite is Laser Lemon, a particularly hard-to-see shade of slightly-neon yellow. It’s nearly transparent and the coverage is hard to discern but I’d say it’s patchy. It would make an interesting highlight or sign color, but that’s being generous.

Goldenrod – Goldenrod is a vaguely gold color that is more like a darker version of the following Dandelion. It’s the darkest/deepest of the yellows and as such is a tad on the messy side and its inconsistency doesn’t help. It’s a useful color for shading, darker flowers, and perhaps older plastics, but I don’t see it coming out often.

Dandelion – A bit darker than the flower it’s named after, Dandelion is a nice strong yellow that isn’t particularly pleasant, but also isn’t very yucky. It’s got great coverage but the layer has some inconsistencies and darker patches. It still looks fairly natural and is easier on the eyes than many yellows, making it good for large patches of the color, bees, flowers, and many human-made items like raincoats.

Banana Mania – This one sounds like a disease from a comic book, and is a much more orange/peachy color than one would expect from a “banana”. In fact it would work well for small fruits like apricots and peaches in their various forms as well as skin tones, though not as well, since, while it does cover well, it covers unevenly.

Unmellow Yellow – Like Laser Lemon but a bit more yellow and less neon, Unmellow Yellow has a terrible name that doesn’t really evoke a color in my mind. This one is hard to see, and hard to find uses for, looking both unnatural and unlike many man-made objects. The best I can come up with is yellow on TV/computer screens and the like. It does almost look like it’s glowing with its decent but incomplete coverage.

Sunglow – The name here is a semi-accurate description for this morning-ish orange color. It’s very light, almost fluorescent, and covers quite poorly, but it is a good rising/setting sun or hot coals kinda color.

Atomic Tangerine – These names aren’t getting any easier for me, but this one is apt. This color has minimal coverage and a “neon” quality, but it is actually dark enough to see on the paper and would be vaguely reminiscent of a tangerine that happened to get irradiated. Low sunset or safety vests is about all I can think of here.

Macaroni and Cheese – I’m gonna call this one flat wrong, and if you have macaroni and cheese that looks like this it might be tasting a bit funny. This slightly brownish orange covers quite well but I have a hard time placing it. Maybe those orangish brick buildings or left-out grapefruit peel.

Neon Carrot – Very similar to Atomic Tangerine and perhaps a little on the light side for its name, this color has passable coverage and is hard to see, being both very light and lacking that punch the other neon colors have. Its uses are very limited and it just seems to lack purpose.

Outrageous Orange – A real safety vest color, this one has quite poor coverage and high shading, making getting an even “coat” almost impossible. It is a neon-ish color and would do well as the tape used by surveyors or blended into a sunset, but it lacks a natural look.

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And that’s another 30 colors down, and in my opinion they were a bit disappointing, and without many uses. Next time we’ll be finishing up the set with the final 30 from orange to earth-tones (much more useful) and taking a look at the included crayon sharpener.

Review – Tech Gear Pencil Case

Finding the right case is a difficult thing, there’re so many options that come in all different sizes, and with features ranging from tons of little pockets and organizational tools to nothing at all. Even where a zipper is positioned can really affect how convenient a product is to use on a day-to-day basis. So today I’ll be looking at an inexpensive pencil case available in a wide range of areas (at least it was when I bought it at a grocery store, but it takes time to properly test a case and I don’t know what’s going on with them now).

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The Tech Gear pencil case is a simple thing, being made of mostly black nylon in a rectangular-ish shape that’s about 8” long and 4½” wide. There are two support pieces, one going around the bottom, and another on the “lid” and they keep everything roughly in the right place. Just underneath this support piece is the zipper, which runs along the top edge. When unzipped, the “lid” (which has a rubber logo patch, 5-stripe “design”, and possibly a different color upper half) hinges back along one of the long edges revealing the inside, which is just a “bucket” about 1” deep where you can dump things. This “hinge” is reinforced by another piece of nylon both inside and out.

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The inside is a smoother texture than the outside, with several of the seams covered up by a plastic-ish, almost electrical-tape feeling material. There’s a tag that tells you it was made in China, but otherwise it’s just an empty cavern into which you can dump whatever you want that’ll fit. And that is pretty much anything that is the same length or shorter than a standard, unsharpened pencil (about 7½”, you might be able to squeeze longer things in if you’re creative) and about 1¼” thick (even that might be stretching it). And that’s a fair amount of stuff. I’ve been using it to carry around my “to-review” items and never had a problem with space. I’ve only got around 15 items in it now, but it can hold 30 writing implements and a few other bits and bobs comfortably.

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But it is a cheap case, so how well does it hold up? Reasonably, I’ll say. It’s been a long time since I went to school (and I just used a Ziploc for my pencil case then) and I know I would’ve been much harder on a case then than I am now, but after carrying it around for a while now there is very minimal wear (a loose thread here and there and the rubber patch on the front is a little scuffed, but nothing significant). Still, I can see a lot of the cheapness in its build quality; most seams are unfinished and liable to tear or unfurl, and the material itself isn’t that strong a stuff in the first place. The zipper works but the material is cheap and soft (and paint already flecking), etc. For someone like me who won’t put it through much hard work it’s fine and’ll probably last for quite a while, but in school I’d say it’s about a 1-year bag.

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And that’s pretty much it. The bag has some organizational problems but it’s also fairly small so nothing should get too buried. And it’s got some craftsmanship problems but for the price you couldn’t really expect better. It’s good for what it is and if that’s what you need it’s easy enough to get. So if you just need something to dump your pencils in and won’t worry about having to replace it later because it’s cheap, this one’s a good thing to look at.

Review – Crayola Triangular Crayons

Are regular crayons too small for your hands or prone to rolling off your table and getting all over the floor? Don’t worry, Crayola has your back with triangular crayons that “promote proper writing grip” and are “anti-roll®” (that registered sign isn’t a joke by me, it’s actually on the box). They are available in your standard pack of 8, or, as in my case, 16 (and maybe larger packs, but I can’t find any), and I’ve been seeing them pop up in stores recently*. But are they the right fit for you?

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From what I can tell, the colors here are exactly the same as in all other Crayola crayons so I won’t be going over them here (ColorsReview). The pack comes in a standard cardboard box (a little rough around the edges) with a cardboard tray inside and two plastic dividers to hold the crayons in place. It’s a pretty sturdy system and none of my crayons were broken or significantly worn.

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The bodies of the crayons themselves are quite a bit larger than your average crayon, being triangular in shape (with rounded corners) with each face being just shy of a half an inch wide. They’re wrapped with a craft-paper-esque standard Crayola wrapper and have a step down about a half-inch from the front followed by a triangular point. From the box they are super comfortable, resting nicely in the hand with the paper being both warm-feeling and giving enough friction to prevent the hands from slipping. They work well both for children without fine motor skills and adults with larger hands (though the grip is actually surprisingly small). And they perform just as well as any other Crayola crayons (that is to say, very consistently and pretty good for a wax crayon, but not much use for blending or layering).

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I’d say the gimmick works, if you (or whoever you’re buying them for) were having problems with regular crayons being uncomfortable, held wrong, or in a constant state of rolling off the table. They are a fairly inexpensive solution, though that shows: imperfections in the wax mixture and paper application are readily apparent (with several noticeable chunks of crayon missing in some places). Maybe that’s just my pack, maybe Crayola’s manufacturing standards are going down, or maybe they were always like that and I didn’t notice. In any case, they are effective in design for both children and adults, and probably worth the little extra cost in crayon mass alone.

 

*Despite the fact that I peruse office/art supply aisle frequently I miss things just as frequently, so they might have been there before.

Mini Review – Museum Siam Pencil

I’ve looked at quite a few triangular-shaped pencils recently; they seem to be a trend attempting to make writing more comfortable. While they are obscure, I had heard about them and they make sense. Trending in the opposite direction I have here a pencil from the Museum Siam that is square (with rounded edges). One would think that would be uncomfortable, and maybe that’s why it’s a much less readily available design. Let’s take a look.

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The body of the pencil is super simple. It’s a rounded off 5mm rectangular prism with a nice matte black paint. On the side, stamped, in nice red letters are “Museum Siam” and a pictograph of a worker. The back of the pencil is capped with a red material but this is covered with a quite large eraser that is also in the shape of the logo/worker dude.

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This pencil is obviously a novelty or keepsake, and while it writes like a fairly normal #2, being a bit toothy and on the soft side, it probably wasn’t meant to be written with very much and most of the normal information you’d find on a pencil is absent. The body of the pencil is surprisingly easy to hold, and allows for a good grip without much cramping, though it will dig in a little more than more standard pencil shapes. The biggest problem is the eraser, which makes the pencil massively back-heavy and almost unusable when attached. I didn’t test its performance because I didn’t want to damage its aesthetics but I suspect, like most shaped erasers, it would perform poorly.

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It’s a pretty neat little gift shop item if you’re a fan of weirder pencils, and there isn’t much else to say about it really.