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Budsies Review: How I made my own creation come to life in just a few weeks time.

Drawing and writing have been a hobby of mine for quite some time. Some doodles and ramblings may have gone nowhere, but some have escaped (or rather unleashed) from my head in the past few years. One such doodle was Maddie Mckenzsie, a goofy looking 5-year old girl that came out of such a doodle back in late 2010. 5 years later, I made her the star in two picture books I released myself…with more on the way in the future, time willing. You could say Maddie is pretty much the poster child of my drawing renaissance that I started a few year ago. I’m always drawing her when not working on my other projects. Plus, when I’m showing off my books at events, I have an excuse to have her silly and goofy smiling face to display for all the world to see.

This is where Budsies comes to play; a company that’s able to create a huggable plush out of your very own drawing. The service is targeted to young kids who send in their own drawings, but anyone regardless of age or drawing ability can have one done. 6-7 weeks later in the mail (Creation times can vary. It can be as little a 3 weeks or as much as 7 weeks during the holiday season.), a plush resembling the likeness of your own drawing is created after a lot of hard work and magic. Budsies can create a plush out of your own drawing, your own pet and even yourself! The company has been featured on shows such as TODAY and Shark Tank. (the founder walked away from his offers, by the way.) The plush toys are designed and manufactured in the U.S.A. in South Florida.

I ordered a plush of my very own Maddie in the largest size possible. Budsies offers two sizes, 16 inches and 30 inches. Budsies start at $89 in 16 inches and “Selfises” start at $79. “Petsies” at the time of this writing are not yet available to the general public, but you can sign up for an “early access” raffle that costs $149. Looking at their social media, most kids or adults leave them with a single drawing to work with. I gave them a bit more detail with a character sheet. Front, back, side and 3/4 profiles and pantone colors. The whole 9 yards. Because the process is not automated, it took me approximately 7 weeks to get my plush created. They need to look at your design to make sure it works in a 3-D plush environment. They offered me feedback on the design when necessary. I requested them to make her sit, but they told me they would need to redesign the plush in a sitting form without floppy legs. I opted for the stand option because I wanted the plush to match my vision as much as possible.

 I gave them as much detail as I could before giving them money.
I gave them as much detail as I could before giving them money.

I initially had my plush shipped in January. Unfortunately, the design of the plush did not meet my standards. Fortunately, I was able to get a remake of the plush. Unfortunately, they do charge for this, but the cost of the re-do is $59.99 for 30-inch plush and $39.99 for 16-inch.

So, how did Maddie turn out?

 The final result. How cute she turned out!
The final result. How cute she turned out!

Compared to the first design, her face is a lot more closer to her likeness. I wasn’t expecting a 1:1 replica, so if you’re very picky about that, you may want to look into a private commission with a skilled plush maker. Perhaps they may have emphasized her tummy a…bit too much, but I can live with it. I’m still able to have her sit despite the fact that the plush is designed in a standing pose. If you have kids and are looking to create a human-like plush, this may not be a such a big deal.

 On the left, the first design. The re-do on the right.
On the left, the first design. The re-do on the right.

Closing remarks.

I have worked on a private commission before and the back and forth of communication went very well. Budsies on the other hand, may need to be a bit more personalized with their updates. Apart from the standard updates they sent me by e-mail and the responses to my specific requests from the re-do, it wouldn’t hurt to get an update with a picture or two to see how my plush is coming along. Perhaps I’m asking too much for the price that I’m paying for. The cost of Budsies is in most cases far cheaper than getting a customized plush commission from say DeviantArt, but once again don’t expect a 100% perfectly crafted plush made to your exact specifications. Its an interpretation. I’m not knocking them off or anything, but please be prepared if you (or your child) are very picky about what your plush should look like. That said, the very existence of Budsies in this time and age is just an incredible experience for kids. I wish I had the ability to make a plush out of my drawings when I was a kid. What a time to be alive.

Now that you read my review, maybe you (or your child) want to take a shot at creating your own Budsie. You can save 10% towards the purchase of a new Budsie plush right now!

Disclaimer: I purchased the following item on my own. I was not offered a sample from the company for promotional purposes. There is a referral link where I receive a small portion of any purchased item.

UPDATE: Alex Furmansky, founder of Budsies personally e-mailed me about my review. He says Advanced Budsies are coming!

iPad Pro and Apple Pencil review – From the Perspective of an Artist.

 

For many years, people have asked the question. “Is the iPad good enough for real work?” Some people have given such qualms *cough* Cory Doctorow *cough*, stating it’s a “consumption only device”. Some people have resorted to buying so-called tablet hybrids with so-so hardware to do their artwork on it. I’m not afraid to be biased here, but what I really want is a tablet made by Apple and only by Apple. I was tempted for years with Wacom’s Cintiq (which I eventually bought the Cintiq 13HD) and was a click away from buying a Cintiq Companion; It was horrible experiences from others scared me away. I really would like to own a drawing tablet that doesn’t have the reliability of an Xbox 360.

The Dark Days of Drawing on iPad. 

For several years, I’ve been drawing a lot more as a grown up. I’m not the one to say I’ve been drawing since I was in diapers. I took a nearly 20 year break. My hidden talent laid dormant thanks to school work and a lack of self confidence. Once I was able to squeeze some free time to dedicate to learning to draw, I started out with some original characters of mine to warm up my creative juices a bit in 2010 and eventually started drawing some fanart every now and then. I soon moved on major book projects, self publishing 2 picture books and a full length novel I wrote and illustrated (and two more are on the way). My art needs have significantly changed over the years, going from a simple pencil and paper sketchbook, branching off to digital art with a Wacom Intuous in Photoshop on my Mac. Ever since the original iPad was released in April of 2010, I yearned to do digital art wherever and wherever I dare chose to. Because the iPad at the time didn’t support things such as palm rejection or tilt sensitivity, that experience was pretty…rough to put it lightly. I bought a cheap stylus a few months after the iPad came out and the experience of drawing with what was really a skinny felt tip felt unnatural and was very difficult to get used to. Also the early apps designed for drawing made me yearn for Photoshop in the worst way possible.

In 2011, Australian-based developer Savage Interactive released a program called Procreate exclusively for the iPad. For the first time, I saw true potential in drawing digitally on the iPad. Compared to a “real” art program, I couldn’t do much such as create a ton of layers unless I took a lot of shortcuts and the resolution size for the most part was limited to the resolution on the iPad itself. For the 6 bucks I paid for it, I could say it was worth every penny. As Procreate released version after version, it got better and better, even adding features that put Photoshop to shame (I’m in absolute LOVE with Color Drop!). The interface is natively designed for iPad and only iPad. When I was away from home, Procreate would be my go to app for digital drawing.

Some of my older iPad art before the Apple Pencil came into my life. Featuring Maddie.

Several companies, most noticeably from Adonit, Pogo, 53 and even Wacom have tried to capitalize with digital drawing on the iPad with varying results. Adonit, a company born from the world of Kickstarter released a revolutionary stylus that was completely accurate with a clear plastic tip. It worked great for awhile…but you needed to replace the discs and spring mechanism every now and then. Failure to do could scratch up your precious iPad, necessitating the use of a screen protector. Eventually, these companies would come up with a solution to the lack of pressure sensitivity with Bluetooth powered styli. I stayed loyal to Adonit, tolerating their shortcomings, but it’s hard to stay loyal when you promise pressure sensitivity when it doesn’t work at all as with their first bluetooth stylus back in 2012. The Jot Touch 4 released the following year was better, eventually working with Procreate for pressure sensitivity finally (sort of), but the Jot with PixelPoint while nice and comfy couldn’t even draw a straight line. And don’t get me started on the Wacom styli. Straight up garbage.

When I first heard rumors that Apple was working on a large screen iPad, I knew immediately drawing would be in the cards. They had patents set for what is now known as the Apple Pencil for many years, so could this finally be the one? Fast forward to Fall 2015 and Apple not only delivered, but threw the package through the window with no regard for human life. The iPad Pro is indeed a reality and its optional Pencil is probably one of the best digital drawing devices I have ever laid my hands on. 

The iPad Pro – OMG SO HUGE.

 Yeah. It's pretty huge.
Yeah. It’s pretty huge.

When you first look at the device, especially if you’re used to the regular iPad or mini, your eyes will pop open for how ridiculously huge it is. It’s the kind of impression I get when I see a prepared meal with incredibly large portions. To give you an ideal of how big the device is, it’s roughly the size of a 13-inch MacBook Pro. At approximately 1 pound, it even weighs less than my 11-inch Mac Book Air! Holding the device doesn’t feel that much like a burden as I thought. It’s comfortable enough to hold in your hand when you’re on the couch. My hands are almost big enough to grab a regular-sized iPad with 1 hand and it felt much less heavier. If you were a 7-footer in the NBA, this would probably feel more comfortable. Compared to a Cintiq Companion, it’s definitely a featherweight and cool to the touch when you get down and dirty with drawing stuff. The iPad Pro comes with 4 speakers, not two. It certainly sounds great, but I mostly listen to music on my phone so this sort of thing is not a big deal for me.

 Didn't I say this thing is HUGE?
Didn’t I say this thing is HUGE?

The resolution is 2732 by 2048 pixels; pretty big and detailed for some serious artwork, but certainly not 4k. Once again, this is not a big issue for me. Besides, Procreate supports a canvas of up to 8k and supported 4k resolution before the iPad Pro was even out. No biggie. As long I’m able to do my art in at least A4, I’m perfectly fine. The iPad Pro comes in 3 major configurations; starting with 32 GB of capacity at $799 USD, 128 GB for $949 USD and 128 GB and a cellular data option at $1079 USD. It comes in 3 colors; Space Grey (Black), Silver and Gold. I chose the 128 GB Gold option. I don’t see myself burning LTE data with this device since the majority of what I’ll be doing is just drawing. Wifi is good enough for me.

Apple Pencil – If you see a pencil, they owned it.

 All white everything.
All white everything.

Let’s get this over with. Steve Jobs wasn’t a big fan of styli. We know this. For those pathetic humans who congregate on the Mac Rumors message boards, Steve didn’t mean that styluses are evil, what he really meant if a competitor came out with a phone with a stylus (back in 2007), they aren’t getting the point. This is why Blackberry is irrelevant today. The Apple Pencil certainly isn’t a stylus; its a drawing instrument. Unlike certain competitors, Apple doesn’t expect you to use the pencil for basic functions. Obviously for those that like to take notes, use apps that appreciate a pencil-like function and for me to make art, the Apple Pencil is a no brainer. Its the best damn writing device for iPad…EVER.

When I first tried out the Pencil in a Apple Store, for a few seconds, it felt weird. It wasn’t that grippy but eventually got quickly accustomed to it. The pencil is very featherlight, making drawing very similar to an actual pencil that I use with paper. Perhaps its the closest to drawing with a real pencil and paper…I emphasize closest. Drawing on the screen still feels a bit slick at times. I blame the smudges all over the screen. The Palm rejection actually works! Very much like what what you would experience with a Cintiq. The tip works pretty well, though tilting it will give you the ability to shade. Keep in mind, your drawing app of choice needs to be updated for Apple Pencil. It won’t work very well even though the operation system is made for it. Luckily, a lot of major drawing apps such as Procreate, Adobe Photoshop Sketch and Draw, Concepts, Paper, Tayasui Sketches, Autodesk SketchBook, AstroPad and ArtRage have added or currently in the process of adding support for Apple Pencil. The only thing I don’t like about it is the color – plain jane white. Its certainly customary with Apple accessories to be like that with the exception of cases and covers, but c’mon Apple, brighten it up a little!

 When I waited to get my hands on an Apple Pencil, I took it for a spin in store. I fell in love almost immediately.
When I waited to get my hands on an Apple Pencil, I took it for a spin in store. I fell in love almost immediately.

A lot of folks are pretty mad at Apple for including a male lightning port where a eraser should be. I wouldn’t say I missed it since I’m so used to erasing in Procreate. Sticking your pencil in the iPad looks awkward but trust me, I dealt with USB dongles from Adonit style that I lost, preventing me from using my jot touch entirely. This way of charging is much, much more convenient. If you want to avoid looking embarrassed with your Pencil dangling out, it comes with an adapter that allows you to use your regular lightning cable (and save your precious sanity). If you just need a small boost from a dead pencil, it gives you a half hour charge in just 15 seconds. If you think its a lazy design, carrying a USB dongle to just charge a stylus is even more lazier. People who complain about this little thing don’t know what they’re talking about.

 With a split screen, I can look up references...or waste time on Twitter.
With a split screen, I can look up references…or waste time on Twitter.

If you draw, is using an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil useful for professional work? I’ll admit, I don’t consider myself a “professional”, even though I create artwork for books that I sell myself as a “hobby”. If you’re looking to claw out of the Adobe Ghetto, working with the apps that are available you may at least use it for sketching or preliminary work. I plan on using my iPad Pro for illustration in my novels in the near future, so I consider it useful for me. If you’re hopelessly addicted to Photoshop, Manga Studio or Painter, I just can’t see some people dropping their Cintiqs for an iPad Pro. Using both Procreate and Photoshop on my Mac, I see faults in both apps. Photoshop is definitely more versatile, but Procreate is more agile and nimble in some tasks. I don’t also have to drag a keyboard with me if I had a Cintiq Companion. Not to mention the battery life is pretty well. Imagine getting 10 hours out of a Companion. Not gonna happen. I think the software will be the defining reason people will decide to pick up a iPad Pro for art. Apple has finally given us artists a truly mobile digital canvas. Once developers fully embrace this new platform, maybe something with the likes of a real Photoshop (and not a lame starter app like Photoshop Sketch) can finally be realized. Until then, most serious developers may have trouble creating these types of apps since they expect serious money in return. If iOS drawing is to be truly mainstream and well supported, these developers need to believe in what Apple is providing them. 

A Delayed Awakening.

In the past few months, I’ve been preparing to get my second novel and 4th overall project, “Merry Chrissy and the After Christmas Awakenings” for release this holiday season. While a lot of the work has been finished, the important parts of the book — namely editing and proofreading will take longer than expected. The edit and prooreading processing costs money and time, both which I don’t have much of (especially when you’re saving it for the future). It is with great sadness that I must delay the release of “Merry Chrissy and the After Christmas Awakenings” to 2016. While this is being delayed, it not only gives me time to focus on those two major steps with tender loving care, it also gives me the opportunity to make adjustments to the first release and start work on the upcoming 3rd installment that will close out the “Merry Chrissy” saga. Who knows, if I play my cards right, I can release BOTH Merry Chrissy 2 AND 3 in the same year!

I can’t give you any promises that will happen, but I’m aiming for it. It’s going to be a lot of writing and drawing between now and the end of next year, but I hope doing so will ensure that the Merry Chrissy saga is given the attention it deserves.

I started with picture books of Maddie Mckenszie back in 2012 and moved on with Merry Chrissy as a simple NaNoWriMo project in 2013. I’m staying in this game and I will never, ever give up on my dreams. If I have to wait a little longer for this project to be perfected, so be it.

What on earth is #projectvirignia?

For months on Twitter, you might have noticed me use the “#projectvirginia” hashtag. I’m like this with all of my projects. #projectsprinkles was the first Maddie Mckenszie Picture Book back in 2012, #projectwafflecone was the 2nd Maddie Picture Book in 2013. “#naughtyornice” eventually became “Merry Chrissy and the Naughty or Nice Truth”. So, for those curious out there, what the heck is #projectvirginia? Is it some major building development in the Cavalier State? A government secret involving the Pentagon? Something involving an 8-year old girl’s faith in believing Santa? (HINT HINT: You’re getting warmer now.)

If you haven’t put two and two together, I’ll tell you exactly what #projectvirginia is really supposed to be. 

#projectvirgina is the sequel to Merry Chrissy!

In other words, the name of this book is entitled…

“Merry Chrissy and the After Christmas Awakenings”

Right now, I’m going to keep a lot of things under “wraps and bows”, but there is one thing I can tell you right now: Christmas may be over, but Chrissy’s story is just beginning.

I released my first novel back in December of 2014. I have alway intended it to be a series, not a standalone product. Since January 2015, I’ve been hard at work, writing (and re-writing), drawing (and re-drawing) day and night before and after work. This time, the approach to work was much easier than last time as I set up realistic expectations before hand and stuck to a very tight schedule. Right now, most of the illustrations in the book are done. The story is still being refined and will eventually go through an editor and proofreading, but expect to read the continuation of Chrissy’s adventures later this year. A release date has yet to be finalized, but expect it to be released possibly by Thanksgiving if everything goes according to plan.

In the upcoming weeks, read more about the book, including new characters I’m introducing to the Merry Chrissy universe in my blog. You can also follow me through social media as well. Thanks for reading and as Chrissy always says, “Have a very merry day!”

A change in plans…

 Ellie's words from Up have never felt more true.
Ellie’s words from Up have never felt more true.

Every single summer, I’m doing the same or similar; Travelling to a convention in Baltimore. I attended every Otakon from 2005-2013 and attended every single BronyCon in existence; from the early days in New York City to it’s arrival in Baltimore in 2013 and 2014. I have so many fond memories meeting fellow friends and like minded individuals and so many spontaneously fun moments. I even wrote a little survival guide that managed to get the attention of the convention staff. I thought long and hard about this decision for days on end, but I felt it was time to have a change of scenery this year. 

For the year of 2015, I decided that I will NOT be attending BronyCon in Baltimore, MD. Instead, I will travel to California. Why California? Well, first, I hear it’s really nice out there, plus I’ve been longing forever to return to Disneyland. It’s their 60th anniversary this year AND D23 Expo is taking place nearby. Plus, I always wanted to go to San Francisco (Yes, I know I should wait until BABSCon) Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge and other attractions are something I wanted to do forever.

So, does this mean I HATE BronyCon?

ABSOLUTELY NOT.

No grudges unlike Otakon. I wish the organizers the best in hosting this year’s event. The Baltimore Convention Center is a good fit for them and they certainly have the room to grow. Plus, Baltimore will bend over backwards to keep them since Otakon is leaving after next year. If you’re on the fence and have NEVER gone, consider going even if its just for one year. I’m sure the con will be fine without me.

My love runs deep for pastel colored horses of the 4th generation, however my love for Disney runs deeper. Disney is my “first fandom”, and it has been that way for nearly 2 decades. As a former Walt Disney World Cast Member, I have an enormous level of respect for the company. I just can’t “Let it Go” (There I go with the “Frozen” puns again.) It’s just a small break from Baltimore. I’ll return in 2016. Save some “Ice Cold Water” for me.

2015

2014 was quite a crazy, yet normal year for me. Sure, I spent much of my free time working on my first novel, “Merry Chrissy and the Naughty or Nice Truth” and attended 4 cons (My 14th straight year of attending at least 1 convention), but largely it was drama and controversy free. Maybe being busy with work and projects is good, but I still look to improve other aspects of my life. I’m not a big fan of New Years Resolutions and I’m certainly not a fan of avoiding what needs to be taken care of, but let’s put it in these simple words: there are other personal issues I need to address. As I’m a very private person, I wish not to discuss them at this time.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to take a huge time off from my interests. This era of creativity has profoundly changed me. I look to aiming higher and higher than ever before. My art has and will always be a work of progression. I’m my worst critic. I’m never satisfied sometimes. There are many sketches and even fully colored artwork that may never see the light of day because I feel it’s simply too awful or rough. I’ll just keep at it. Drawing is now a habit for me, but still managing to learn as much as I can. I don’t want to be mediocre. I don’t want to be just good. I want to be legendary. When will that day arrive when I become pro at this, I may never know. Who knows, I might fold up shop like I did with photography a few years back, but this time is different. I’m more patient and tolerant of failure as I’m older now. Greatness and success does not come overnight.

In order to get me finances in order for the future, I will not be making any appearances art wise at any conventions. I really wanted to get into MoCCA Fest for example, but I missed the registration deadline (again!) So, it’s best for me to take the year “off”.

Anyways, with the first Merry Chrissy title in the books, it’s time to focus on book number two. Yes, a sequel to “Merry Chrissy and the Naughty or Nice Truth” is currently in the early stages of production. Right now, I can’t say when it’s going to come out, but “soon” is the the most concrete release date I can say right now. The outlining is done and the first few chapters were already written. Come follow me on Twitter or Tumblr to find out future developments. Don’t forget, there is always my mailing list!

 

Holiday Art in Song #3 “Give Love on Christmas Day”

Every year, I do some Christmas art with my originals. Usually, it’s 1 major work I introduce before Christmas, but this year, I decided to do *THREE* This is the final of 3. The theme this year is song related. I chose these song titles that best fit my characters personalities.

Check out “All of Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth” featuring Maddie Mckenszie and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” featuring Princess.

Today features Chrissy Deigh, the star of my new book “Merry Chrissy and the Naughty or Nice Truth” representing the song “Give Love on Christmas Day”, originally performed by the Jackson 5 in 1970 for “The Jackson 5 Christmas Album”. A young Michael Jackson sings the vocals. Have a listen.

chose this song for a reason. Not only it represents the heart and soul of Chrissy, who enjoys the magic of Christmas year round, but it’s also the name of the final chapter of the book. Of course, you’ll need to read it to find out WHY.

Other R&B and Soul artists such as SWV, New Edition and my personal favorite Ledisi have covered the song over the years. If Chrissy had a theme song, Ledisi’s version of “Give Love on Christmas Day” would be it.

Source: Wikipedia

Holiday Art in Song #2 “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”

Every year, I do some Christmas art with my originals. Usually, it’s 1 major work I introduce before Christmas, but this year, I decided to do *THREE* This is the second of 3. The theme this year is song related. I chose these song titles that best fit my characters personalities. If you missed “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth”, check that one out first.

Today, we feature Princess, a friend of Maddie’s big sister Margaret, who really doesn’t star in anything…yet. (She does have a cameo in both “Maddie Mckensize” books however) representing the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”.

The song was released in 1944 for the movie “Meet Me in St. Louis”, performed by Judy Garland. Considering the context of the movie, this song in it’s original form is kind of a downer. In 1956, Frank Sinatra performed this song for his album “A Jolly Christmas”. Some lyrics of the song were changed to be more positive and upbeat. For example, the original lyrics “Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow” was changed to “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.”

In 2007, the song was ranked as the 3rd most popular performed song by ASCAP in the last 5 years.

Here is the original version from the movie. What a meltdown at the end. 😦

And here is the version made famous by Frank Sinatra.

Sources: Wikipedia, Youtube and Spotify.

 

Holiday Art in Song #1 “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth”

Every year, I do some Christmas art with my originals. Usually, it’s 1 major work I introduce before Christmas, but this year, I decided to do *THREE* This is the first of 3. The theme this year is song related. I chose these song titles that best fit my characters personalities.

First up, little Maddie, the title character who appears in my picture books “Maddie Mckenszie: The Most ANNOYING Little Sister EVER.” and “Maddie Mckenszie an the BAD Birthday Party Manners”

The song she represents, titled “All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth” is a song written by Donald Yetter Gardner in 1944 in Smithtown, NY on Long Island. While teaching a second grade class asking what they wanted for Christmas, Donald noticed that everyone spoke in a lisp due to a missing tooth. Thus the song was born, written in only 30 minutes. This Christmas song is pretty unique, as it only can be sung convincingly by children…and hockey players.

Don’t take my word for it, have a listen.

Congratulations to the winners of the “Merry Chrissy and the Naughty or Nice Truth” giveaway!

I had a great turnout with 700 entries made in the 16 days of the contest. Here are your winners of the Goodreads “Merry Chrissy and the Naughty or Nice Truth” giveaway!

Callie D.
Ken G.
Karen L.
Tonya H.
Jennifer P. B.
Love A.
Reena N.
Sabine B.
Exavia B.
Phoenix V.

The books will be shipped to all winners starting next week. I aim to get them out as soon as possible so you can enjoy it for the holidays. After all, it’s a Christmas book. If you didn’t win the contest, don’t worry! You can still purchase the paperback at amazon.com. The eBook is also available for sale at 99c for a limited time.