design projects

Custom Pet Portraits + I Love My Cat

I’d like to to share one of my latest projects, something I never thought I would do since I’ve never really drawn animals other than cats and birds before: custom portraits of my friend April’s Shiba Inus! When she first asked me I wasn’t sure if I could do it so I made this colored pencil sketch of her two Shibas sitting side by side. For practice.
custom pet portraits by cynthia bauzon arre
Obviously I got the proportions all wrong. ūüė≥ Anyway, working on the sketch allowed me to familiarize myself with their features and markings so I eventually felt more at ease drawing them. I think it also helped that Shiba dogs look somewhat “feline”1 with their upright ears and almond-shaped upward-slanting eyes.

And then I made individual portraits, taking into account each of their distinct attributes — for instance a slightly crooked ear for one of them which was from an operation, etc — for a more personal touch. I was confident enough to use watercolor this time. I don’t typically use blacks for coloring but the black and tan Shiba variety called for it and I was quite happy with how they turned out and thankfully, so was their mom. :)
custom pet portraits cynthia bauzon arre
These were so fun to do and once I get more dog-drawing practice under my belt, I’ll likely add animal portraits to my custom artwork repertoire. (I will have to draw the line at pet reptiles though… ūüėĮ )
***
Meanwhile.. it’s no secret that I love our cat. In fact he’s right there in my blog logo illustration which I haven’t changed for years. He’s also in my still-non-existent handmade store’s logo (see watermark) and in a lot of drawings I’ve done and even in some of Arnold‘s comics as an Easter egg to friends who know us well.

There was one day last week when my mind hit a blank¬†and I couldn’t start working. He was lying on his play mat¬†in front of me and, as if sensing¬†my anxiety, started rolling around playfully. I could never resist when he does that so I went over and gave him a chin and back rub. He looked so¬†content¬†and carefree that I felt like preserving that moment. Without thinking I started sketching him. He kept moving around while¬†I tried capturing all his poses¬†and that was the birth of the series of illustrations below (right) which I ended up turning into a pattern (left).
pet portraits

It’s still being proofed over at Spoonflower but if you like cats too, my orange tabbies pattern is now available on phone covers, iPad sleeves, and more at Zazzle and RedBubble.

  1. for me at least[ back]
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Shrink Plastic: Before and After

shrink plastic before and after

Thought I’d share this before and after image of the shrink plastic “Sampayan” (“Laundry Line”) necklace I made the other day. See how those drawings shrunk down to about 1/4th of their original size? They also grew about a millimeter in thickness and the colors got more saturated. Here’s a closer view:

I used Frosted “Ruff and Ready” Shrinky Dinks Shrinkable Plastic sheets to make these charms. My favorite thing about these sheets is that one side has already been machine-sanded so I can draw directly on them with colored pencils. The other side is glossy and when it shrinks, there’s no more need to coat the front with glaze. I don’t know if you can see it in the pic but I love how nice and glossy they¬†are. It’s almost like these charms were cast in resin.

***
Another reason for this blog update is to announce that one of my designs is featured on RedBubble’s front page¬†among¬†the curators’ picks for the day. #kilig

hipsters pattern

The Cool Kids” on FOUND by RB

If you’re interested, you can also purchase this design on iPhone covers on RedBubble, and on¬†wristlets, wallets, and even plates (yes) on Zazzle @ Funky Patterns. And for you crafty cats,¬†fabric printed with this pattern (on either a pink or¬†blue background) is also available starting today in my Spoonflower store. If you ever get to use it on your projects, please upload a photo of your finished project¬†on there¬†ok? :)

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Keeping Busy + Adventures in Shrinking Plastic

What¬†I’ve been¬†working on:

1.¬†New patterns for my Spoonflower store (these are still¬†being proofed¬†so this is a sneaky peek) —

surface pattern design by cynthia bauzon arre

2. A new wedding invitation set featuring stylish animals —

(You can see all the elements of the entire collection here)

3. More custom couple cartoons. (Nothing to show here yet¬†as they’re still in the drafts stage but I’ll update the other blog once the drawings have been finalized.)

And as you may have seen on my Instagram feed,

4. Shrink plastic jewelry

I’ve been wanting to make accessories for the longest time. In fact I have an unused box full of jewelry findings hoarded from the Kamuning Market when we were planning our wedding… yes, it’s been that long!¬†However, there’s so much competition and I didn’t know what I could do that would showcase what I can do best so i focused on other things. Until I discovered shrinky dinks — thanks to wedding blogging actually. Some of my brides would talk about shrinky-dinking stuff and I was all like “shrinky-WHAT-ing?”1

After much Googling and Youtube-ing I learned that specially made plastic can shrink into a harder & thicker version of itself if you stick it in a regular toaster oven. A little light bulb lit up in my head — what if I shrink my illustrations and make them into few-of-a-kind jewelry charms? Of course I still had no idea then that I was already late to the game and that there’s already a whole movement devoted to shrink plastic jewelry on Etsy. [insert embarrassed emoji here]

Still, I ordered a pack of Shrinky Dinks sheets from Amazon. That would take at least a week to arrive and I couldn’t wait¬†anymore so when I learned that I can also shrink #6 plastic (essentially, plastic used for¬†take-out containers) and yay, we had one on hand2, I did this experiment, again documented on Instagram.

My shrinky dink-brand sheets (as well as a few unbranded ones) arrived in late December but I couldn’t play with them until this week. I got several types — white, clear, rough and ready – so I tried different combinations. Frosted sheets with colored pencils, white with sharpies. Here’s what came out of that experiment.

In the photo below you can see how big the original artwork is compared to the miniature version. You’ll notice that this time I printed my vector illustrations directly on the plastic sheet.

shrinkydinks jewelry

Some pieces already look good but I have yet to perfect shrinking the plastic without forming dents in the miniatures. This is all still a work in progress and I will update you once I come up with designs that I am completely happy with.

  1. Not sure if art schools here are using it now but I’ve never encountered the stuff.[ back]
  2. it had cake on it which I quickly, um, got rid off [ back]
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On custom couple illustrations…

custom couple vector illustration

A custom couple illustration + wedding invite design for my friend Nyel and her hubby Val. (Photo by First Comes Rock.)

Last year I took the plunge and started accepting custom couple illustration¬†requests¬†for save the dates and wedding invitations over at my wedding blog. It was something I’ve been thinking of offering on the site for a few years now but I kept getting cold feet. Partly¬†because I hear horror stories¬†about custom work¬†from my¬†other¬†designer friends, and also because I know how it is to be a bride-sometimes-zilla myself. I decided to go for it anyway and now, 6 months¬†and more than a dozen couple portraits¬†later, I’m actually glad¬†that I did. Not only have I met such wonderful non-‘zilla-at-all clients (um,¬†#blessed), I’m also able to flex my vector-crafting muscles and of course make some Christmas money on the side. ūüėČ

I just updated the other blog so if you like you can now see some of the cartoon couples I’ve done. (GO)

Eventually¬†I¬†will¬†accept¬†hand-drawn couple portrait¬†commissions for weddings too but right now I’d like to focus on these cartoons. :)

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My art on RedBubble

cynthia arre illustrations on redbubble

Hey guys, just a quick update to let you know that some of my artworks can now be purchased on art prints, t-shirts, tote bags, some household items, etc via Redbubble.¬†They’ll also be available locally sometime within the month¬†—¬†I just need to get them to my printer.¬†:)

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How to Carve Rubber Stamps With Just an X-Acto Knife (A Tutorial)

When I posted¬†some of my eraser stamps¬†on Instagram, some¬†crafty friends were surprised to learn that the¬†X-Acto Knife¬†is all I’ve been using¬†for carving1.¬†It seems that most rubber stamp crafters¬†— and I’ve noticed this on a lot of¬†web tutorials I’ve read and watched¬† — prefer to use lino cutters, more specifically, the Speedball Linoleum Cutter set¬†which¬†I want myself. That set contains¬†a thin, V-shaped blade that looks¬†especially¬†useful for¬†gouging out narrow “canals” between outlines — a pain to attempt with the straight-edged X-acto blade.

X-Acto Knife vs. a V-Gouge

See what I mean? (via Lime Green News)

As mentioned previously, I’ve already ordered the¬†set but while waiting I had to train¬†myself to carve using¬†the humble, easily available,¬†and familiar2 pointy blade. Drama aside,¬†if you want to start carving¬†and like me, a craft knife is all you have, I will now share the process with you. I’ll even start from the very beginning¬†—¬†a very good place to start.¬†*cue Julie Andrews*

** I’m by no means an expert at this. I just want to share what works for me so far. :)

Materials:
– a 2B lead pencil
– tracing paper
– a rubber eraser
Рan X-Acto knife
–¬†an ink pad
– blu tack (optional)

rubber stamp carving tutorial

1. Plan out the image you want to carve. Shade-in the areas¬†to keep solid to guide you when you carve later.¬†These doodles are¬†“parols” or Filipino Christmas lanterns and I plan to use these¬†on homemade gift tags.
2. Trace your “master” illustration onto tracing paper with a 2B lead pencil.

how to carve eraser stamps with an x-acto knife

3. Place the tracing paper on top of your eraser or carving block, penciled side down. Rub on it with something firm like a pen’s bottom or¬†a bone folder to transfer a mirror image of your sketch.

how to carve a rubber eraser stamp

4. Totally optional but¬†if I’m not using a two-tone carving block, I like tinting my surface lightly with some color. This is so I can easily see which areas have¬†already been carved. Just dab a piece of tissue paper into your ink pad then pat it onto your eraser / carving block, just gently enough to tint it with color.

carve a rubber stamp with a craft knife

5. Start outlining your image with the X-Acto blade at a¬†30-45 degree angle¬†<< —¬†very important.¬†Remember to slice¬†lightly because if you insert the knife too deep, it will be difficult to maneuver the blade which will result in tugging and therefore risking¬†(a) ruining your stamp, and (b) piercing¬†the finger you’re holding the stamp with. (Unfortunately for me I encountered¬†all of the above on a couple of my initial carving attempts).

how to carve a rubber stamp with an X-acto knife

6. After you’ve outlined an area, lift the blade and turn the eraser around. Again with the blade inserted on a¬†30-45 degree angle, carve a curved line a short distance away from the outline¬†you made towards the opposite direction from where¬†you made the cut earlier. Try to “meet” the¬†already-sliced areas¬†with your blade’s tip, you’ll see that areas will begin peeling off. This is my favorite part.¬†:)¬†(Gosh I hope that made sense. Please see photo above for reference.)

how to carve an eraser stamp tutorial

7. Soon your stamp will look like this. See how all my cuts are angled?

how to carve an eraser with an x-acto knife

8. Completely optional again but if you have some Blu Tack¬†(mine’s about 15-years old¬†and it still works and lol it’s not blue)¬†lying around, you can use that to remove pencil marks as well as stubborn little bits of eraser stuck inside crevices.

how to carve a rubber stamp x-acto knife

9. Trim your stamp using a box cutter. Trimming it to size will help in stamp positioning later on.

rubber stamp carving x-acto knife

10. Make a test print. This will allow you to see which areas still need fixing. It doesn’t really need to be perfect though — part of a rubber stamp’s charm is its rough handmade quality. (Such a good excuse, ‘no? :) )

A photo posted by Cynthia Bauzon-Arre (@arncyn) on

11. And here are the finished stamps. :)

If my instructions — especially in #6 — weren’t clear to you, watch this demo by the amazing Tsukui Tomoko. She uses both a box cutter (!) and a V-gouge in the video but the box cutter method at the beginning of the video is what I’ve been doing with the X-Acto knife.

Did this help you somehow? If you have other carving tips or techniques, I’d love to hear all about them!

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  1. Our discussiions are here and here [ back]
  2. oh X-Acto, how many frisket films did I cut with you back in college? [ back]
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I'm Cynthia Bauzon-Arre, a Filipino illustrator, graphic designer, and craft hobbyist. I live in QC with my talented graphic novelist hubby Arnold and our friendly marmalade tabby Abbas. This blog has been chronicling my life, likes, and loves since 2001. [ more ]

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