Populus tremuloides

Watercolour painting of an original character in a quaking aspen forest.

Cover Image

Populus tremuloides, or quaking aspen, or trembling poplar, or...many other names.

I don't think it really comes out in the comic (?) but Austin's last name is Poplar. He is a forestry grad and a tree nerd, so at some point I did a bunch of research about trees that were native to where the story takes place: fake Alberta! A lot of poplars are found in Alberta (like Populus balsamifera, but I've always been enamoured by the super bright yellow leaves of trembling poplars and the white trunks with black knots/markings! One of many things I appreciate about Alberta is how you get to experience all 4 seasons distinctly.

Recently, rurupoi, wai, and co. encouraged me to try out 100% cotton paper (Arches 300gsm hot press). I didn't really know what to do with my paper; I'm not much of an illustrator! Long time ago I put down a thumbnail of Austin doing field work in the forest in my notebook.

photo close-up of a rough thumbnail of a painting, focusing on pose and composition

So this thumbnail turned into the basis for a not particularly well planned (as usual) painting. Drawn directly onto the paper with red col-erase pencil.

photo of a sketch of poplar trees, with a small figure in the bottom left corner. There is green painter tape around the paper periphery.

I ended up changing the pose and scale a little bit. Maybe I regret changing the pose, but I don't regret changing the placement/scale.

photo of a sketch of poplar trees, with an even small figure in the bottom left corner. There is green painter tape around the paper periphery.

Originally it was meant to be a rainy picture, but I really wanted a super blue sky against yellow colour scheme. I also bought masking fluid and wasn't ready to use it yet, haha.

photo of a partially painted sketch of poplar trees, with a small figure in the bottom left corner. Colours used are primarily yellow and orange for the leaves, and blue for the sky/background. There is green painter tape around the paper periphery.

I have a tendency to overwork drawings/paintings, so I tried my hardest to not do that here!!

photo of a painted sketch of poplar trees, with a small figure in the bottom left corner. Colours used are primarily yellow and orange for the leaves, and blue for the sky/background. There is green painter tape around the paper periphery.

In natural light.

photo of a painted sketch of poplar trees, with a small figure in the bottom left corner. Colours used are primarily yellow and orange for the leaves, and blue for the sky/background.

I wasn't really sure what to expect with this paper, but I can tell it's better than the scrappy stuff I used before.

Today's music post: RAIN(비) - 나로 바꾸자 Switch to me (duet with JYP). What a good 80s/90s pop vibe!

Loose paper tasting

Trying out more papers to see if they're fountain pen-friendly

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Bea sent me some loose paper to do paper tasting, THANKS! Her pack included:

  • Borden and Riley #41 tracing paper
  • Crane Lettra 297gsm
  • Levenger dot grid (from Behance journals?)
  • Loomis and Toles (now Deserres) Superbond 15lb
  • Muji grid
  • Neenah paper, classic crest, stipple 118gsm

Separately I joined PowersWithin's paper order for some Cosmo Air Light 75gsm.


Borden and Riley #41 tracing paper

Image description

  • Bleed: none
  • Sheen: pretty good!
  • Shading: nice!
  • Feathering: none
  • Texture: can be slippery
  • Other: ink line gets a lot fatter; other side is unusable because it's tracing paper (super ghosty); ink colours seem lighter because of translucency

Crane Lettra 297gsm

Image description

  • Bleed: none (paper is thick)
  • Sheen: none
  • Shading: very subtle, if at all
  • Feathering: not much
  • Texture: has some grain; originally for letterpress
  • Other: nib feels dry when writing on this paper, everything becomes finer

Levenger dot grid (for Behance)

Image description

  • Bleed: none
  • Sheen: none
  • Shading: decent
  • Feathering: none
  • Texture: kinda smooth but has some resistance?
  • Other: I was surprised at how well this paper performed. I used to use this paper at work 5+ years ago...

Loomis & Toles Superbond 15lb

Image description

  • Bleed: none
  • Sheen: very subtle
  • Shading: decent
  • Feathering: none
  • Texture: has some tooth
  • Other: nib feels dry when writing on this paper, everything becomes finer. Not sure if it's the paper/pen/ink or something else that is causing the skipping for some pens/inks (like there is a more specific "sweet spot" for the nib/ink when using this paper). Kind of reminds me of Borden and Riley visual bond

Muji 5mm grid

Image description

  • Bleed: some, for the very wet inks
  • Sheen: none
  • Shading: very subtle, if any; inks get flattened out
  • Feathering: some, paper is pretty absorbent
  • Texture: pretty smooth
  • Other: if you use light colour inks or thin nibs, this is a very reasonable alternative

Neenah paper, classic crest, stipple 118gsm

Image description

  • Bleed: none
  • Sheen: barely
  • Shading: some
  • Feathering: none
  • Texture: stippled, your nib won't glide on this paper
  • Other: inks also feel dryer to me when I use this paper, but not as much as some of the others

Cosmo Air Light 75gsm

Image description

  • Bleed: none
  • Sheen: pretty good
  • Shading: seems high contrast
  • Feathering: none
  • Texture:
  • Other: ink lines get fatter; the paper is thicker than I thought, so went I went to make a notebook out of it, I didn't end up using as many pages as I thought I could for a single signature!

My top 3 from this batch

  • Cosmo Air Light 75gsm
  • Borden and Riley #41
  • Levenger

Today's music post: Thumbing Thru Foliage by YUNGMORPHEUS & ewonee

March media round-up

What I consumed in March 2021.

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Heaven's Design Team vol 1-2 with Hebi zou, Tsuta Suzuki, and Tarako

A comic about the design department for the animals that exist in the world. It's really funny/cute/informative. I like the idea of a how different personalities end up designing animals to their taste hahaha. I like how proud Pluto is of her "cute" designs even though everyone else thinks they're super messed up. I enjoyed seeing all the strange hybrid animals they came up with. I am pleased to gather more animal facts. Also all the quips about working as a designer with unreasonable clients hit me hard, too real.

Dorohedoro vol. 1 by Q. Hayashida

A world where sorcerers are make monsters out of humans, so some humans are now fighting sorcerers...This comic's setting is casually hyper-violent, but somehow not in a way that I find myself needing to turn away from the page. It seems like there's a good balance of cool and powerful characters of all genders too. They've set up enough intrigue in vol.1 to makes me want to see what's going to happen! The fantastical-nature of the world also means there's a lot of unexpected things happening.

Ran and the Gray World vol.1 by Aki Irie

A comic about a young girl, living with her family, who all seem to have magical powers of some sort. A lot of folks were talking up the artist/author's drawings so I tried out the book. I feel as though the story itself was somewhat too ambiguous and meandering. People appeared in a very random fashion. I feel "maybe" about continuing this; the mom's plot actually seems more interesting than the main character's plot. Something about the main character's naivety really triggers my stranger danger senses.

A Man and his Cat vol. 1-3 by Umi Sakurai

Extremely wholesome stories about a suit-wearing old man and his cat. Three of my greatest weaknesses. Just missing glasses. Mix of short stories and strips. As the volumes go on, you dig deeper into both the man and the cat's past.

My Brother's Husband vol. 1-2 omnibus [end] by Gengoroh Tagame

A solid story that makes you sad and hopeful at the same time about LGBTQA+ relationships in Japan.

Yakuza 6 (2021 PC release)

THE END OF THE KIRYU SAGA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AHHH!! I liked a lot of the in-between antagonists in this game like Someya and Han Joon-gi (not so much the end game ones). The letter killed me because I wasn't expecting the recipient. I feel like Akimiya's face wasn't as good as it was in previous games? Or entering weird uncanny valley not fully-lip-synched territory. The battles/game play on easy mode were exceptionally easy, so I blew through the main plot in ~20 hours. Kiryu smiles a lot more and it is moderately unsettling. Well now I can start plotting my Yakuza zine...

Blue Period vol. 1 by Tsubasa Yamaguchi

A story about changing life/career/hobby aspirations towards art. The main character is a student who mainly focuses on academics in high school, but stumbles upon some sense of authenticity when he paints a scene from within his memory. The author has this wiggly way of drawing certain characters. Somehow the artwork feels very intense at times! A glimpse into art school and academics in Japan.


Love Love Hill is having a free shipping promo for any orders over $20 for our self-published comics and zines! A bunch of us are moving, so any support to decrease our box weight is greatly appreciated~

Image description

Some life updates:

  • HWAnimation snow scene feels like i finished it 10 years ago.
  • HWA vol.1 was literallly finished a year ago (ish).
  • I did my taxes for 2020.
  • I'm back at work full time and it has taken up all my energy.
  • I got to try out Cosmo Air Light paper! Unexpected find at the University of Waterloo store...someone there must be a fountain pen nerd.
  • Got a handful of fountain pen ink samples from Wonder Pens and a new Pilot Kakuno in pink/white colourway (which is now my Pinkey pen and filled with pink ink)
  • Watching at least 2 friends descend deeper into fountain pen/ink fever, hahaha

Today's music post: Domestic Music For Skeptical Dogs by Gavsborg

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Done one journal/notebook insert, so time for new paper tasting! Still using the traveller style cover for 2 notebooks: planner and journal.

Thoughts on the system so far

I've been marking down key events on the calendar view. I also track when I publish a post and what media I engaged with too. After the month is over, I write a short reflection on the right hand side. In some ways the calendar view will serve as a table of contents for the journal entries...?

photo of a planner spread, showing the month of february

Good! I like having a dedicated book for the planner part, and another dedicated book for the journal part. I wasn't sure this habit tracker would be relevant but it has at least two benefits:

  • Tracking what I've done, and when, as a method of recall and reminder
  • Great excuse to get inks flowing in my pens

photo of a dot-based habit tracking system. The habits are in the top row, while the days are on the left column

My pen writing rotation is like 2 weeks long now. I can't help but want at least 1 pen per ROYGBIV colour, and then there are the pens that I only use for waterproof occasions (that I don't actually journal with). 2 separate slimmer notebooks/inserts also means that my hand doesn't ever get to the edge of a page/book and I have to do the slightly uncomfortable/brief "hover" (where there is a large "step" between your notebook height and the table/working surface). I thought that I could potentially be annoyed by the elastic system (sometimes it feels looser than it should be) but it's not a deal breaker.

Outgoing journal: NTU Press Bookstore A5 notebook

I filled this one with journal entries for January - February.

photo collage of several journal spreads, written in colourful ink

There are a few problematic inks, but those inks tend to be problematic on various higher quality papers that I have:

  • always Sailor Kobe kounan maroon
  • sometimes Noodler's Eel cactus fruit
  • sometimes FPR royal flush blue

Otherwise I like that the paper absorbs the ink quickly, though at the expense of sheen. I don't care as much about sheen as I do about shading! I'm swapping this insert out for the one below.

Incoming journal: Kleid 2mm grid notes A5, 2mm grid

I thought I'd use something with some ruling this time because of how crooked I wrote in the other one/ These ones use OK Fools paper, which according to the maker...

OK Fools was the first Fool's Cap paper produced in Japan by Ohtori Paper. In Japan, the term "Fools Paper" has long been used to refer to high-end writing paper. British Fool's Cap paper was first imported into Japan in the late 1800s. The popular Japanese version was produced at the Oji Ogura Factory, where the name OK comes from. While the current iteration is being made by Nippon Paper Industries' Yatsushiro Factory, they have kept the OK name for brand recognition.

I have the one with the blue cover. The cover itself also has the 2mm grid pattern printed in light blue ink, and there's some silver stamp foil in the bottom. There's also an informational belly band (is it still a belly band if it runs vertical?) that is removable.

Photo collage of the cover of the Kleid navy blue notebook with 2mm grid pattern printed on top.

  • 32 sheets / 64 pages
  • 2mm graph paper
  • white paper
  • side-sewn bound

The grid pattern itself is very small and I wouldn't say it looks visually obtrusive, but some it does seem to resist water-based fountain pen inks, so if you were writing really small, the grid might break up your writing. I'm personally not sure what I would use a 2mm grid for, that I can't achieve in a bigger grid, but I mainly just write or doodle freeform.

photo collage of the interior paper found in the Kleid notebook

When held up to the light, the paper also has some regular columnar watermark and another emblem (probably some manufacturer logo?) that appears in different spots, depending on where the page was cut.

Photo of the Kleid notebook's 2mm grid and paper, on top of a midori MD notebook 5mm grid cream paper

As anticipated, all the inks did good, aside from the usual suspects (already listed above). I think the shading is fine, but maybe sheen feels less obvious than some other papers I've used.

Photo of pen and ink tests on the final page of the Kleid notebook Annotated photo showing the backside of a page where pen and ink tests were done the final page of the Kleid notebook Photo collage of close-up shots of pen and ink tests Photo of close-ups of pen and ink tests

For an ink that's more expensive, I'm surprised that Sailor Kobe kounan maroon feathers and bleeds through on so many of my higher quality papers (using EF nib). I finally finished my sample and am quite please to be RID OF IT.

Photo of pen and ink tests

I found a new favourite pangram:

Two driven jocks help fax my big quiz.

I like to imagine Jake and Austin trying to use a fax machine on my behalf.

After using the 2mm grid for a bit, I have to say that I'm not a fan, primarily because when I'm writing fast, I can't "track" what line I'm currently on and how much line spacing to use when moving to a new line (line break). The paper is otherwise quite nice!

Today's music post: Unspoken by Moderator.

HWA snow scene final

Final HWAnimation snow scene

Cover Image

IT'S HERE!!!!!! A scrappy animated scene from the non-existent anime version of my webcomic, Here We Are! It's a scene from chapter 9 of the comic.

There are soooo many things that could be refined about this, but I have to turn my attention to my many other projects. I hope people enjoy it despite how rough around the edges it is. I really fumbled around at the beginning, but as I approached the final scene I figured out better ways of working.

Some learnings:

  • Vector layers: a good friend that makes getting rid of intersecting lines very fast. Also good for preserving line quality when constantly resizing and rotating things (which happens a lot in animation, it appears). I didn't leverage this until wayyyy to late, but straight up editing vector anchor points, simplifying lines, etc. were useful, especially if you can't draw strokes properly.
  • Mesh transform tool: Warp all the things to save you re-drawing time!
  • Listen closely: I accidentally listened to the voice/dialogue on high volume through earphones (maybe I should've been doing this to begin with HAHA) and discovered I didn't crop some audio cleanly between takes; I ended up fading out the edges of most of the audio in lieu
  • Gap between taste and skill: The gap is quite pronounced, relative to the other creative endeavours I take on. Regardless, it was all good practice. I give myself 5 gold stars for perseverance, and 2.5 stars for drawing.
  • Solid drawing: I don't have this skill! I don't like drawing graduation caps in rotation. Please!! No! MORE! I should've really nailed done my key frames first. I should've drawn 180 degree rotations/character sheets instead of going by intuition. Lacking a lot of consistency across scenes because of this.
  • Incremental efforts: I'm a "futz as you go" kind of person and that likely led to some un-made decisions that couldn't be undone without 40+ frames of rework later on.
  • Reference: I should've looked at reference earlier than I did. I should have relied more heavily on it, though I suppose it's also of merit to try to draw from your imagination too (though the results are likely subpar if aiming for realism). I mainly relied on intuition and whatever brain data bank I had. For the hat and mouth movements, I did record myself. It's amazing that technology (cameras on phones) is so readily available for artists to get reference that they need quickly.

As celebration, I got fries and fried chicken for dinner, and ordered myself stationery (ink samples! fountain pen!!) which I'm sure I'll talk about later.

Today's music post: Whiskey and Rhapsody from Yakuza 4 OST. Listened to this song a lot while working on the final scenes of this animation!