Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

Book review: The colored pencil by Bet Borgeson

I found this book on a blogger’s favorite books links, last week. I’m not too sure, but I think it’s Tracey. (Correct me if I’m wrong!)
I always love when bloggers shares their favorites books and/or ressources as it always leads me to some interesting discoveries. The colored pencil by Bet Borgeson is certainly one of them.

There is a lot of interesting explanations and text in this book. It shows that the author has a great knowledge of this medium and is willing to share all she knows about it. Even thought I have been using colored pencils since I was a kid, I found it very interesting to see this medium in a different way. I think I’ve been taking colored pencils for “granted” and should have really put more time into learning how to use them well.

Mmm... cholocates drawing made with colored pencil

This drawing had me almost drooling! Can you believe this was made -only- with colored pencils? No photoshop or whatsoever technology! Good ol’ pencils and a lot of patience.
Because that’s the thing with this medium, even thought it can give great results, it does require some time to get what you want. But they are up to it.  And when you think about it, doesn’t every medium requires some time before getting a result you like?

Bet Borgeson also shows some very interesting techniques and ways to use it while creating different effects. I love the part where she explains how the colored pencil is actually translucide, just like watercolors. For some reasons, it didn’t occured to me that I could work it in this way. To juxtapose different colors so I could get a new one. To actually think before taking that black pencil. Perhaps I could use different colors to do an even more interesting one. It opened a door  and made me think a lot about the medium.

It seems like Bet and I share a mutual love for black cats. 😉 It’s funny how all black cats looks the same! Big round and expressive eyes, this could almost be Morgane!

Now, here’s my take on it. I must say that this is a small about 3″ x 3″ drawing and that it is a first test.
This is a character I’ve made for a graphic novel story I’ve had this in mind for some time. I’m planning to finally start seriously and finish it, this year. I wish I had the time to make the entire comic in colored pencil, but I don’t think it will be possible with the time I have.
But I may just make some special prints. That, I could do. 🙂

Now that I wrote about this project, this will motivate me about actually doing it. Yep!  😉

Now, go grab that old colored pencil suitcase of yours you’ve had since high school and start exploring with it a little. And don’t forget to show us your work!

ArtRage: inexpensive and easy software drawing

One of my teacher in graphic design once showed us a very interesting drawing software: Artrage.

It has a very user-friendly interface (Kids can use it!) and it is very inexpensive compared to the other drawing softwares around. (20$US for Artrage 2, 40$US for Artrage 3 and 80$US for Artrage Studio Pro).

If you’d like to try it out, there’s a free demo right here, it will last you 30 days.

I yet have to figure out all the amazing things that can be done with it, but so far I really like it’s fun features.
I even did my inking with Artrage 2 for this poster:

Mama mia! Italian restaurant poster!

I’ve cropped the poster so you could focus on the drawing instead of the other part of the poster that’s been done with Photoshop.

I just got the new Artrage Studio Pro and can’t wait to try it more seriously as they have a new tool especially made for inking.

I found that Artrage 2 is great if you’re planning on doing more sketches or painted-style drawing, but I did have some trouble using it’s inking tools to get a clearer drawing. I was happy to find out that they improved this very important function.

Take note that this is a drawing software and it will be best used for this kind of work.
If you’d like to get a photo editing software (Such as photoshop) to make, say, blog banners. 😉 I recommend you use a software more like Gimp, Picasa or even Picnik.

Let me know if you try it out and what you think about it.
Happy drawing!

Magazine review: Crochet today

Since she has a column in it, I recently discovered Crochet Today via Jennifer from Craftsanity.

First off, I must say I really felt in love with the magazine’s overall design.
Most knit or crochet magazine’s design are usually a little bit too kitschy to my taste. But this one reminds me lot of Adorn’s look (Bless it’s crafty soul) and it’s got a web feeling to it.

The way they use their website as a complement to the magazine is very neat. Not only can you preview all the current projects, but there’s also a How to page where you can learn crochet and get you started. And, amazing enough, they have interesting posts on their blog!

For your viewing pleasure, here are some of my favorites projects in the current issue:

May I say it? ROBOTS! 😉 Not just one, but two, and it’s a couple! (For the Valentine’s day special, of course).

Seriously, what’s not to like about this? If I ever get married one day, I’ll seriously contemplate on making this ring box.

Theses mittens looks so comfortable and the design reminds me of some Europe winter wear look.

I dream of the day I’ll get good enough at crochet so I can make socks. I’d make a pair for him and I, of course. 😉

There is also many projects for babies and kids including this cool winter-themed amigurumi doll.


Since this is a difficult time for magazines, I think it’s important to subscribe to the ones we like best if we still want to have them on the market. And it’s even more important for magazines with a niche as they have a smaller audiences then, say, Oprah.

But it’s also important for them to understand how the web work and it’s importance in our daily crafty lives. They absolutely need to see the web as an allie rather than unfair competition.

Do you have a favorite magazine on a specific subject that you’d like to share with us? Feel free to do so in the comments. 🙂

Ebook review: Small Stitches

I wanted to talk about this cute little embroidery ebook from Carina I bought a couple of months ago, via her blog.

If you were thinking on getting into embroidery for 2010, this is a great ebook to get you started. (Or if you know someone who wants to!)

Here’s why I liked this ebook:

+ Great visual information/content. There are great pictures with each explanation of the stitche.
+ A simple, yet, colorful design of the ebook.
+ You can learn 11 pretty and useful stitches.
+ There are 9 patterns included in it which are all very pretty!
+ At 10.00$, it’s very affordable and worth the price if you want to start embroidery.

I already  knew the embroidery stitches and basics she showed, but I happily found some information I didn’t know of. And, I must say, I have a soft spot for crafty ebooks. 😉

Get Small Stitches at her Etsy shop!

And don’t forget to let me know if you have an ebook plan for 2010.
I would love to hear from your project! 🙂

Martha Stewart: Holiday Sweets review

I was looking for Matha Stewart’s special Holiday magazine with crafts, but I found this one about baking holiday treats, instead. I thought you would enjoy it as much as I did.

What I love about this issue is that they have a whole part of the magazine dedicated to Gingerbread houses making.

It’s very interesting for me because, in the Quebec culture, we don’t know much about Gingerbread houses other than this famous story and the general mainstream talk about it during the holidays.

What’s even more interesting, is that they show you different versions of the Gingerbread houses. This one is more cake-like and can be eaten.

If you’d like to know more about them, I strongly suggest you give a listen to Craftypod’s podcast about Gingerbread houses.

There’s also a big selection of different Yule log recipes. A great classic!
I’m planning on making the Gingerbread one on the far left. Yum!

Theses little cakes looks amazing! I love the pine effect it gives with the almonds. It must take some time, too. :-p

And, as usual, there is always some great recipes to please the little ones. The snowman’s hat was made with a rosted marshmallow!

I can’t wait for the kids to grow up, in my family, so they can start appreciating thoses things and build memories for the future. Come on, grow up, kids! 😉


I certainly won’t have time to make all theses recipes, but this is a great magazine to keep for future holiday baking. With all it’s new take on old christmas classics, it makes it a sure value.

If you’d like to get one, check out your local magazine retailer and Ebay‘s a great ressource to find recents or old issues.

Giveaway: Craft Leftovers montlhy

Take a look at what I just got in the mail, yesterday: The new Craftleftovers Montlhy!

Kristin have been publishing this smart zine for about 2 years, already.
Not only is it about using, you guessed it, your “craft leftovers”, but there are also a lot of general art and craft inspiration. Stories, recipes, craft tutorials and much more!

For this issue, I’m happy to announce that I’m one of her first collaborator, along with Leo Babauta.
I heard that Kristin was looking for someone to make a tutorial for a Spa Gift set and, since I already had experience in cosmetic-making, I jumped on the occasion! I also made a special illustration that could go with the tutorial. 🙂
(Bottom left illustration, #17)

There’s even a Crochet Loofa Sponge tutorial next to mine. It goes so well together!

I love how everything turned out! The printing is great and the new design is so neat.
There’s even an interview with Claire Chambers from Absolutely Small which is a neat addition the zine. She makes awesome Chickenpants plushies which are adorable!


So I didn’t put “Giveaway” in my post title for nothing, right? 😉
Kristin has generously donated some issues to me and I decided to give 3 of them to my blog readers.

All you have to do is answer this question in the comments:

“What would you like to see more on”

Is it webcomics? Freebies? Tutorials? Drawings? It can even be something you haven’t seen here yet. 🙂

I will draw 3 winners randomly this Monday, December 7th. Good luck!

**UPDATE: 3 people answered my question so I’m sending the zines to you: Hanna, Melanie & Meansoybean. Congrats!**

Magazine review: Holiday cookies from Cuisine at home

I wanted to share my favorite cookie-recipe magazine, Holiday Cookies from Cuisine at home. I got it last year for the holiday and, of course, didn’t had the time to make *all* it’s great recipes.

Being a visual learner, I really appreciate all it’s very detailed “step-by-step” techniques.
And since english is not my first language, it makes me appreciate it even more! There are so many cooking terms that are extremely different that you can’t even “guess” what it is.

I am so looking forward to make theses cookies with Oli. 🙂 I convinced him to have a little “christmas cookie” making time with me during december.
I’m not sure if we’ll put all that much sugar on them, I may try something different.

Theses are Hawaian style cakes/cookies with coconut. They just look soooo good! Perhaps I’ll make them for the family.

You could give theses tea cookies along with a handmade cup and some tea next to it.
I’d make a great gift for coworkers. 🙂

I don’t know if I’d make theses ones as I am not too fond of the candy-cane kind. Too hard for the teeths, maybe? :-p
Thought they do have an amazing look!

Again, I think thoses would make another great gift for coworkers or friends.
Or maybe just some small bites at a Christmas party.

At the end of the magazine, they show you different ways and ideas on how to wrap the cookies for gift.
I love this one with a simple glass j and some ribbons! Voilà!

If it’s not available at your local magazine/book store, you can get it online straight from the Cuisine at Home store for 9.95$ (and free shipping! Woot!).

Oh, and I found it on Ebay as well.

Let the Christmas baking begin!

Ebook review: Crafty Tree Trimmings

It’s that time of the year again! I usually wouldn’t talk about a Christmas themed Ebook until, say, a few days. 😉
But this one is special because, not only is it made by awesomes crafters: Sister Diane, Susan Beal, Linda Permann, Katey Terry, Betz White and Patricia Zapata.
But also because part of the profits made on the ebook will go to Project Linus, a non-profit organization that delivers handmade blankets to childrens in need of a little comfort.

Why I love this crafty ebook:

  • Lots of quality images with the tutorials.
    It’s very easy to follow each steps as there are beautiful images that comes with it.
  • Originals projects.
    I love how each one of them is an original idea from each crafter. I love to try out different projects for Christmas crafting since, you know, it does come back each year. 😉
  • Patterns are included. 
    And this means you can just print the pattern from your computer and start your project right away. How cool!
  • List of ressources and materials.
    At the end of the ebook, you have a good list of online stores where you can find the materials for your projects.

Not to mention I see a lot of potential with theses projects to organize a Christmas craft party with friends &  family.  🙂

Interested in getting this ebook? It’s in Craftypod‘s shop, right here!.

Zine review: Craft Leftovers “drawing daily”

While ordering Craftleftovers‘s october issue, I decided to order the August issue as well because of it’s main theme: drawing!

I love Kristin’s work on this little monthly zine. Not only does she writes the whole issue, she also illustrate it.
Sometimes, she’ll have a special guest. In this one, she had Michael Nobbs who’s best known for his drawing zines 75 ways to draw more and his latest Start to draw your life.

There are also some neat crafty tutorials, like this amazing pencil case.
It’s funny how I have many of theses for my brushes, but never thought about making one for my trusty pencils. :-p

And I wish I knew this tutorial  back in college, where I was spending way too much money on charcoal supplies.
Here, Kristin shows you how to make your very own DIY charcoals. It’s never too late, they say…


If you’re interested in getting this smart little drawing zine, it’s still in her Etsy shop. And I strongly suggest you visit her Craftleftovers blog as well. 🙂

Open source image editing softwares: Gimp & Picnik

Most illustrators & designers gets the whole Adobe suite for their work. But what if you currently don’t have the money for thoses expensives programs?
Open-sources softares comes to the rescue!

First off, they’re free! You have nothing to loose.

They are usually very effective for fast touch-ups of your images like cropping, resizing & simple lightning changes.

As with most open-source programs, there is usually a helpful online community around it. So if you have some problems with the softare, no worries, there will be nice people to help you.


I’ve recently used Picnik a lot for simple image lighting and resizing for this blog.
It’s fast, easy and the results are quite surprising!
See for yourself with that image change I did for my Matha Stewart Halloween 2009 review:

Original scan on the left & image changed with Picnik on the right.
Quite a difference, eh? (I’m Canadian. :-p)


Then you have Gimp which I know is used by many bloggers and artists out there.
I personnally haven’t tried it, yet. But I’ve heard many praises for it. 

And if you’re from the Montreal area,Studio XX offers a 12-hour Gimp class to get started with.


Do you know of more open-sources image retouching software? Feel free to share them in the comments!

Art vs is the blog where arts & crafts are no longer fighting!
It's about illustration, crafts & related events.

My name is Fanie and I’m a Montreal based illustrator & graphic designer. You may know me from drawing The Crafty Life comic in CLM. I ♥ comics, vegan food & ghost stories.

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