Monday, August 12, 2013


Hey ya'll!

Sometimes I get creative with my clothes. Sometimes it's with clothes I already have, that I just want to vamp up a little (and make them feel brand new). And on a few occasions, I bought a couple shirts, and knew instantly what I wanted to do to them to make them prettier :) And what's prettier than GLITTER!!!! OOh Sparklies!!! Seriously tho..Glitter really can vamp things up quite a bit.

Example. I was shopping at Ross Clothing store about a year ago or more, and spotted this beautiful Butterfly drapey shirt. Immediately I thought, awww that would be even prettier with some glitter on it! Seriously it was kinda dull. And being that I love vibrant colors...and well....vibrancy or POW all together...I thought....Hey! I can buy it and ADD some glitter. So I did. I also had recently purchased a huge 24 pack of Martha Stewart glitter glue at Dick Blick Art supplies, and hadn't had a chance to use them yet so...VoilĂ !

In the picture below, you can see the right half of the shirt is shiny, and the left is not. The whole butterfly was like the left side....just... dull...Blah...Meh. So I had just Finished the Right side in this pic. And although the gems in the center are nice, (they were already there) it kinda made me feel like... did they get tired or bored putting these gems on? Because if you look closely, the right sides gems go farther out, and almost completely around the first two butterfly shapes on the wing. Weird. I'll probably add some of those later, but it needed some shine immediately.

Below is a picture of the glitter glue I used. I just used what I thought best matched the color tones of the aqua and the gold. I wrapped the shirt tight around a piece of cardboard I had in my studio. The colors I used here are:  Turquoise for the darkest aqua, and Aquamarine for the lighter areas of the hue (where it fades). For the golden colors I used Yellow Barite for the bright Golden area, and Florentine Gold for the faded gold. I squirted out a bit onto a watercolor tray, and used a paint brush to brush on the glitter the way I liked, and blended the two colors where they met. You have to be careful NOT to allow the glitter to dry in your brush though. Rinse it in water after each application of the glitter glue to the shirt. Or you'll ruin your brush. Once you're finished, make sure you wash your brush thoroughly with  dish soap and warm water.  
As you can see in the picture below, it came out really nice! Very shiny! The day I wore it, I matched my eye makeup to the colors.
And here's the very unfortunate yet funny part. I was doing laundry weeks after doing this...I forgot about the glitter on it (Shame on me) and washed it. :( And....the glitter was completely gone. :( So now I have to do it all over again. lol. Waste of glitter, but it'll be fun to do again. And this time I am going to try ironing it...see if that makes it stay? If you have any suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment.
Hope you enjoyed! Peace, Love, Coffee, and Paintbrushes!!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

     Wooooo! It has been a long time yet again, since I have blogged. Obviously, since I had no idea my pictures weren't showing up.. hmmm.... Could be because my computer crashed, and doesn't know where to locate my photo's I've used. It may take me some time to go through it all and figure out what the deal is, so your patience is appreciated.
     Update: I'm still working as a Caricature Artist/Manager at Cartoon Vegas, which is located on level 108 of the Stratosphere Tower, in Las Vegas NV. I am still obsessed with color and coffee. Also, still working out the kinks of my website Hopefully, pretty soon I'll have some prints available as I have kept promising. Life just seems to be getting in the way, every time I make plans. : ) But isn't that the story with all of us? You set aside moolah for something and BAM! The car air conditioning needs fixed, or your dogs teeth need to be pulled. Oh the joys of being an adult. And we soo couldn't wait to grow up, right? :)
     So basically, just been trying to multi-task and balance every day stuff and mostly just concentrating on making art.  I've been challenging myself to change my style of live caricature to more cartoony and witty and FAST! It's a day to day struggle, cuz it's always hard to break out of a familiar routine. But I know the outcome will be more rewarding :) I started painting again in Acrylics. Funny, I used to hate acrylics. so much :) Thing is...I have so many ideas all the time, that my studio is littered with post-it notes. Seriously. They are everywhere. I even have a sticky-note app on my phone, to jot down ideas. Got back into my poetry. I've been a closet poet since I was a little kid. Only those closest to me have seen, and/or heard my poetry. Lot's of other stuff in the works, but may be a while before you see. I have 3 or 4 book ideas in the works. Still working on getting my Greeting Cards up and going, and came up with some other product idea's I'm looking forward to presenting.
For now, that's my update. Here are a few pics of some recent art making endeavors.

This is a piece that will be available as a print. Not sure when, as it's in colored pencil (with some maker here and there), and I don't really have a set "color scheme" and it's taking some time to blend all the colors. I'm allowing the colors to just flow... which is kind of how this piece started. :) Will let you know when I'll have prints. Original is 11½" by 16".


 My latest self caricature. And yes I exaggerated a lot. It's super fun. Why not? This was my morning warm up a few weeks ago.

Todays society makes skinny seem like the only sexy. When I get ladies that have a little more to them, and ask me to make them pretty and sexy, It angers me that Society, the media, TV shows, etc. make it seem like skinny is the only pretty!!!  Ladies: CURVES ARE PRETTY! CURVES ARE SEXY!   Don't conform to what the world wants or portrays as "acceptable beauty". Remember, YOU are the only You there is. And YOU are beautiful.  So...I drew a sexy curvy lady. oooh laa la. Eat your heart out Media and paparazzi. RAWR!

I love drawing from life. And I have loved it since I started going to life drawing classes at the Arts Factory several years ago. There is a sandwich shop right next to the Cartoon Vegas stand, and I like to draw people while they're sitting, standing, and sometimes I get good ideas when they walk by. Stephen Silvers books have a lot of influence on my life doodles. I try to focus more on the motion and action. It helps me to loosen up, especially if my work is feeling stiff.

That's all for now! TaTa!
Peace, Love, Paintbrushes...and Coffee of course!

Friday, May 4, 2012

"Don't - draw - this" customers PART I

Been a long time since I updated....again. Sorry about that... :)

I've actually been thinking about this topic quite a bit over the past few weeks.

So.... a few artists at the Cartoon Vegas caricature stand have had some "Don't-draw-this" customers lately.  Here's a few tips that I've given to all the artists I've trained, to handle situations like this. These are situations that I myself  have experienced many times over the years. Trust me, they get easier to handle as time goes by.

*Important Note: These are just a few tips on what's worked for me and the other Cartoon Vegas Artists. There's really only one  rule that EVERYONE should go by, no matter what:

 Always be professional, positive , and calm
when handling EVERY situation with EVERY customer.

 CUSTOMER:   "Hi, I'd like a caricature, but can you give me more eyelashes, straighter teeth with NO braces, and a slimmer waist? Oh wait, I should probably come back when my hair is down...."

Now, there are many ways you can answer this person. In this case its obvious it may be a young woman (or even a guy who wants more eyelashes, and hair down...ya never know in Vegas, and we don't judge :) , who may or may not have some self conscious issues, which, let's face it: WE ALL DO.
We all want to look great for pictures, right? So it's not a photo, it's a caricature you say? Well, the truth is, it's still an "image captured" of the person, and they want to look their best.  It's normal human behavior and you do it too, so let it go.

OPTION 1: (This is something along the lines of what I would say)

"Hi! Of course! You're already gorgeous, what are you worried about?!  I'll make you even more diva-fide! Us girls can never have too much eyelash volume!!! However, I recommend that I draw the braces, because it will be more recognizable as you. Besides, it's a great memory you can look back on, of you with your braces!

C: Are you sure the braces will be OK? And what about my hair?

"Of course! Braces are cute! You should be proud of who you are! YOU are the only YOU there is!!!! And yes,  I can draw your hair down. Is is kind of layered or wavy, or do you have a photo? I think your hair looks cute up in that messy ponytail though. "

OK, you're probably gagging yourself now...but if you knew me at all, you'd know that I don't just say this stuff. I honestly mean everything I say to people. Ask my boss, my co-workers, people who work at the Strat. This is me. All the time. I am probably the most bubbly, happy person on the planet, and I really want every customer to have a great caricature experience. Conversation wise, as well as the the drawing.  Every experience means something to me, and I don't want to just " draw a caricature, get a paycheck". I care. Period. I love and care about people, and I love to make people laugh. I read a quote on my phone one day that said the "You are the only you there is" and it stuck with me. It's something I remind myself everyday. When I'm pushing my self too hard to draw JUST like one of my idols....instead of being proud of the style I have, and grateful that I can draw. Or thinking back when I used to wish I didn't have a gap between my teeth. And now, I love jacking my own face up in a cartoon. It's good to be proud of who you are. And it's even greater to help others see it in themselves, and have a little fun with their face for 5 minutes. So now I say that to everyone and anyone that sound like they don't like themselves.

So what's the moral?  What you say, and how you react  to people can really have an effect on their entire day. So.... compliment them, get to know them, relate to them, and definitely appreciate them as people, not just as customers.

Peace love and paintbrushes,
Amanda Nikki

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cross-eyed Drawing Techniques...Just kidding

So here's another post on how I practice. I motivate myself to do this everyday at work .Unless I get a non stop crowd, and then I don't get to :(

Mark Simon's facial Expression books, are a fabulous way to practice, in all types of medium. I started out using his book (of adults) "Facial Expressions: A Visual Reference for Artists, in 2010. The photo's in this book are in black and white. (He also has one called "Facial Expressions: Babies to Teens :  A Visual Reference for Artists, which is printed in color.

Anyhow this is what I do:

*When I get to work, once I get situated, I grab my paper, orange col-erase pencil, and AD Chartpak marker. Then I randomly open the book to a page and the first photo my eyes lay on (be honest with yourself!) I make myself draw that. No matter how challenging it seems!!

*I set my stopwatch on my phone (or you can use your watch or another method, as long as you're timing yourself.) I start with a reallllllly fast gesture sketch of the shapes that make up the face. THE SHAPES ARE IMPORTANT!!! Everything has a shape, or many. And I do mean everything! Cups, flowers, your phone, your BBQ, food, your car, etc. Sometimes, when a persons face is frustrating me, and I can't "grasp" the overall shape. I "blur" my eyes. It's the same way you'd cross your eyes, lol, only it's not "all the way crossing". You just "out-focus" your eyes, if that makes sense. You know how sometimes you squint to read a sign or something far away? Do that, until what you're looking at becomes a little blurry. Once you've blurred your eyes, you can see more of the overall shapes, and the details aren't clouding your judgement/vision. Just don't go TOO crosseyed when doing this. Either you'll make a kid cry (or even better, they'll laugh) , or make people think you're wierd. lol...And besides, my mom always told me if I kept my eyes like that too long, they'd stay that way. Hardy har


*Gesture sketch is REALLLY fast - basic shapes and direction of features (i.e. drooping eyes)
Gestering faces for caricature should only take a few seconds, but no more than 30 seconds, otherwise you're cutting into your detail time with the marker, and your coloring time.

*Do all your detail with the marker. You won't get better at anything you do, if you don't take that first step and challenge yourself. It can be kinda scary at first, you'll think "I can't do that ", but eventually you'll get it as long as you step out , and stick with it!!!!

And remember, you don't trace your lines on your gesture. They are only there as a guide. So if you realize the nose needs to be wider and the eyes droopier, then do it. The more you do practices like this , the easier and faster your gesture sketches will become, and the more detail and freeform exaggeration you'll be able to do with the marker, just on a whim :)

*Quickly right your time in the corner for your gesture sketch with the pencil, then once you're finished with the whole drawing, stop your watch/phone watch , and write down the time, date, your signature, and the page/picture/row number.

KEEP THESE PRACTICE DRAWINGS!! You should keep these drawings for a while. Eventually the stack will start to build. Go through your old drawings. It will help you down the road on those days when you're uninspired, or lacking motivation. Also, it will inspire you to draw them again! "Oh wow, I drew that 4 months ago? Man, I see what I did wrong. I can do that much faster and better now! " There is ALWAYS room for growth.

A while back I went through my "growing-pile-of-caricatures-over-the-last-4 years" and organized everything into portfolios, so they are easier to look back at. And I have a couple specifically for my Facial Expressions Practice.

Here are a few close ups. Enjoy!

As you can see in the two above, there are big differences in the drawings.
All of these are drawn on different dates in 2010 and 2011.
The one on the left is the first one I did, and the lines are pretty rough.
The one on the right is the second, and is OBVIOUSLY better. Better lines and quality,
and actually took less time than

Hope this post will help you in your daily drawing practice!

And dont forget: ALWAYS HAVE FUN WITH IT!
NEVER take it too seriously!!!!!

*Peace Love and Paintbrushes <3

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Practice techniques

So... Been swamped with commissions since October. Which is wonderful in many ways. For one, I LOVE being busy doing the work I love, plus there are so many different styles and mediums on these commissions, that it's a refreshing process.. Switching from art stix caricatures, to a watercolor caricature, to oil, etc is a big help in refreshing my eyes and my art brain/imagination. This is alot like my daily practice routine.

I'll let you in on a few of my "warm up" secrets that I use daily, to inspire me and get me going :)

When I get to the Caricature stand in the morning, (not complete without my Starbucks of course), I start by doing just random lines, squiggles, circles and all kinds of shapes on the paper. I always try to start out super fast, but sometimes I can be in a funk and not really want to go fast. This is where I "force" myself to think about drawing fast. Many times in the past, when getting to the stand, I'll have people already wanting a drawing before I can barely set my art bags down, or turn the lights on. In this case, I don't get to warm up like I like to, but lately that's been working out OK :) haha.. Forcing yourself and staying determined to stick with a certain "practice" or style of practice, can create a wonderful habit that you can get used to.

Another way I've been practicing lately, and encouraging the girls at the stand to do, is Memory  drawings. I've seen some of my favorite artists, such as Brian Oakes,  post things like this on facebook, and thought it was a great way to stimulate one's artist imagination. ( I used to draw "Casino" people all the time on my breaks, but Strat management has a new break area for employee's now, so I don't take the time to sit and draw in the casino. )

This guy was sitting at the roulette table about a week ago, when I was coming back from Starbucks. The top part of his head was straight across, completely flat! And you could tell he didn't have any teeth in. I knew immediately that I wanted draw him.  I don't take pictures of the memory drawing subjects, as that would defeat the purpose of it being a "memory drawing". lol. It's really fun to try to focus on the image in your brain, and do exactly what you vision on the paper, without any reference other than your brain :)

I saw this lady in the elevator a few months ago, when I was training the new girl Tami. I was trying hard to be subtle about staring at her. Elevators are small areas, and people know when you're staring at them. lol.. This lady was Japanese, and ALSO had no teeth in. Not purposely seeking out old people with no teeth. Just a happy coincidence.

This guy I saw in passing from Starbucks again, the other day. He was a total pear shape.

 So draw from memory. It's fun, and good practice both for the hand, as well as the imagination. Try to draw people that you saw just at a glance. :)

Peace Love and Paintbrushes xoxox
Amanda Nikki

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

An Artists Progression...proof in pictures

Hello people. Yeah I see you shaking your fingers at me. I haven't been on my blog in forever. (hmmm, I think I said that in the last couple of posts too...argh) No excuses....ok maybe one. LIFE. Everyday just gets in the way sometimes....

Anyhoo, today's letter is P, for Progress : ) Yes, we all face progress no matter our occupation. The truth is, we all face progress on a daily basis as humanoids. Yes, I said it. Humanoids. But this blog post is not about progression as human creatures.

This post is about/for/in thought of/ those of us artists who either; as new artists fear making mistakes, cry out in frustration because of the "I-want-to-draw/paint-better-now!!", just plain fear the process, get depressed/down on yourself BECAUSE you're not progressing as fast as YOU would like, and thus stop drawing for a short while because you want to throw yourself a pity party...even have a slight breakdown (hopefully in the comfort and privacy of your own home) and have a one-sided screaming match at your hand for not cooperating with you well as many other reasons I could list. To be compleeeetely and totally honest with you....I've done ALL of the above mentioned.

This blog post is to show proof that given time, practice, hard hard work at that practice, determination, and yet more practice....the lines start to fall into place a little easier...the sketching doesn't seem so enjoy the process more and tend to zone out (then "wake up" and think "wow, I did that just now?") start to have fun with it, and stop thinking of it as so much "work".... Ahh...Progress. Seems like such a nicer term for "It's gonna take some time" huh?

When I moved back to Las Vegas in January 2008, I was just looking for any job to get by. I faxed resume's, called places, filled out applications everywhere. Then three months after I had moved here, I hopped on where I knew that sometimes there were mural or portrait jobs in the art section. I thought maybe I could find a quick job I could do to get by with until I found something more permanent. Thus I found the ad seeking "Caricature Artist". Ad said will train, must love to draw, and must not be afraid of heights. I thought "What the heck?". While I was going through my files of art on my laptop, I was constantly judging it ALL. None of it seemed "good enough" to send... afterall, what if I didn't get the job?......So I almost chickened out. But in the end...I ended up sending in some of my "flimsy" cartoons....and lucky me...I got an interview.

<---- This is my very first ever Caricature from that interview 3 and a half years ago, in March 2008. I came in for my interview and the guy that is now my boss, had me draw him with a marker.

I could NOT understand THIS concept! MARKER?? No pencil first? WHHATT? I was sooo nervous, I wanted to do a good job, and I DESPERATELY needed an ART JOB. He smiled when he saw it, and said "Wow, you really like to sketch!" And as you look at can really see how sketchy I am. I never thought I was particularly good at cartoons. I was always better at realistic portraits.

So, he gave me "homework", which was 4 cartoon people he had drawn, that I had to copy many times over and over, plus a few sheets of formulas. The formulas were just basic step by steps for eyes, noses, mouths, hair, etc. He had me come in every couple of days to show my homework, then gave me more etc.

<---- This one was my second attempt at the boss a few weeks later after I had practiced the formula's.

Once he felt I had practiced enough from magazine photo's and practiced the formula's, he had me come up to the stand and had me start drawing live people for free, plus tips!!! I was scared to death....He explained that drawing from magazines is way different that drawing from life.

As you can see in this caricature, my lines are much cleaner, not as sketchy...but it still needs work.

After several weeks of drawing like this, he finally started me for real. It was official. I was a caricature artist. But in those first few days/weeks/months I was constantly second-guessing myself, feeling worthless as an artist, and really feeling like I would NEVER get better.

I've always had a really intense determination for learning, especially with art, and when I want to learn a new style of art, I will buy books, practice, buy more books, look up videos, go watch other artists, etc. ANYTHING to fill up my knowledge tank in that specific area. So on my days off from the caricature stand ( I was only working a few days a week to start with ), I would go there just to watch my boss draw. Sometimes I would watch him for hours....It was inspiring, amazing, educational, and yet....sooooooo completley INTIMIDATING!!!!! ARGH! I remember there was a guy that started right after me, Alex, and we'd both be watching my boss draw...then look at each other in disbelief....He made it look so EASY!!!

I'm here to tell you that it's not easy at first. Nothing ever is. Walking for babies isn't easy at first. They fall quite a few times before they finally find their balance. Learning to cook can result in quite a few burnt meals ( I'm experienced in this as well... I used to burn macaroni n cheese) What I'm trying to say my fellow artists... DON'T GIVE UP!!!!!!!! Keep that determination! And DO NOT... I repeat DO NOT throw your beginning drawings away...Looking at them years from now will reeeeeeeallly help you in the future. Don't sell yourself short. Don't try to forsee what the results will be. You don't know unless you stick with it. Draw. And draw some more. Artists get better by practicing ALL THE TIME. Musicians, cooks, fashion designers, etc. etc. allllll have to practice constantly and consistently. See where I'm going?......

<---On the left is my second attempt at a self caricature, a couple days after my interview. I drew several of these, but they all look like this. lol.

The one on the right was drawn quite a few months later. The lines and shapes have more of a purpose, but you can still see that I don't have much confidence in my lines because I'm still trying to get confident with my marker. This takes alot of practice in getting to know your marker.

<--Both of these self caricatures were completed in 2010.

Two years after a rocky beginning, you can really see how my lines have becomes so much more cleaner, purposeful, and I've started playing around with exaggeration.Over those two years I learned alot about the shapes in people's faces, and really started studying what to minimize and maximize. I think at this point is when I ACTUALLY started having real true fun with caricatures :)

Check back tomorrow for more progression 2 most recent self caricatures and 'll show some celebrity caricatures. Thanks for reading my caricature progression novel-Part 1.. Night Ya'll. I'm feeling the urge to paint.....


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Practice + Determination + Time = Progress

The sketchbook I started in November 2010 during my first ISCA was officially filled up on Jan 6, 2011! YAY!! I can't completley describe how it feels to fill up a sketchbook and NEEDING to buy a new one because of such immense inspiration. = )
Lets just say, I'm a happy girl =)

Not to mention, I filled it up just in time to get a new one a couple of days before I left for Cripple Con 4 in Texas ( Will touch more on that in another post)

This is my new favorite type of sketchbook (besides my pocket watercolor sketchbook). I can do all kinds of sketches on this paper, including watercolor, which is one of my top favorite mediums.

Most of the pages have been filled up with mostly casino gesture sketches, and pen sketches from Mark Simons Facial Expressions photo reference book.

My first gesture drawing in the sketchbook was done with a uniball pen, (which is an old one I had lying around, and now I can't seem to find it anywhere, and it's become one of my favorite sketching pens.)
During the ISCA that was here in Vegas in November 2010, I wasn't able to attend every day or compete. My boss bought 2 guest passes, that myself and the other girls at the stand traded on days we were sheduled off etc.

I remember I did this drawing on wednesday Nov 10th, because it was the day Stephen Silver had a seminar talking about his character designs. His seminar REALLY motivated me, as he always does =)

And as you can see, I wrote some notes to myself in the margins as I was drawing, and I've done it ever since. Amazing to think how little notes to yourself while your drawing, can REALLY influence you later on.

I'm not going to share every single gesture drawing I did, so I've selected just a few; ones that I think show progress in learning how to capture gesture/shape/form and even personality in just a few quick strokes.

I'm not always good at these, and they aren't really meant to be perfect. One thing I feel I've really learned from doing gesture drawings, is that I observe better. Which has helped so much in retail caricature. Observing better and quicker can really make or break a fast AND great caricature. Cuz lets face it: we love it when it's both fast and great. I know I continually try to strive for that.

There are so many lovely shaped people in the world, and I don't think I ever really took the time to notice that....until I started gesture drawing.....wierd but true....

Heres another casino sketch

(done with just a regular blue ballpoint pen)

Another great way to practice, is using Mark Simon's Facial Expressions book. This book is packed with many different angles of peoples faces, with numerous expressions that are soooo much fun and challenging to draw. =)

This is what really got me hooked on these pen sketches (like you see at the left).

Currently, I'm sorta teaching myself how to do cross-hatch shading in caricature. I can't seem to find any good book or you tube videos(that AREN'T sped up) that give good lessons on pen cross-hatch shading. So I'm just learning as I go, really.

Buy Mark Simon's "Facial Expressions: A Visual Reference For Artists
This one has 20 year olds to a really wrinkly 80 something lady.

You can also purchase a book by Mark that has reference of Babies & Toddlers to Teens, which I def plan on getting!

Buy Mark Simon's "Facial Expressions Babies to Teens: A Visual Reference For Artists

I conclude this post with one final sketchbook piece

( And I should clarify, that when I do the pen sketches from Marks book(s), I don't do any pre-sketches with pencil or anything that can be erased. I do a light pre sketch of overal shapes with the pen, and get darker and make changes as I go - I believe this also helps me in the observing process. Plus it's a challenge, and I LOVE a challenge = )

= ) Peace Love and Paintbrushes

I love the way pen looks and feels on this paper, and as you can see I've been doing a lot of drawing : )