Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wig Is Fashion (WIF): LF772 Wig Review

Happy Wednesday to all!

Today, I will be reviewing the "26 Inch, Straight Light Blonde Lace Front Synthetic Hair Wig LF772" from WIG IS FASHION (WIF).

Style Code: LF772
Color: Light Blonde
Cap Size: Head Circumference about 22" - 22.5"
Length Available: 26"
Wig Type: Lace Front
Lace Type: Swiss Lace in Nude Color (1.5 inches)
Parting: Any Direction
Material: Synthetic Fiber
Heat Resistant: 150C Heat Resistant




















Becoming increasingly more interested in costumed portraiture, I was looking to start putting together a solid assortment of higher quality looking clothing, accessories and hair pieces. The goal was to have a wardrobe that would look more believable on film, both in still and motion footage.

The biggest hurdle for this was the wig quality for the times when a look with long hair was preferred. So, I began researching into getting a front lace type of wig which would be to have the versatility for parting the hair in any direction, creating a larger range of hair styles, and have a more natural overall look.


In March, I decided to try one of WIF's wigs - "26 Inch, Straight Light Blonde Lace Front Synthetic Hair Wig LF772". And after reading and watching some tutorials on how to apply lace wigs, I decided to take it out for its first quick shoot on my birthday.
For the first look, it was styled into a simple half-updo. I used a stocking style wig cap that was a beige colour, and did not use any wig tape of glue.

On first glance, the results were pretty good, but as I wore the wig more and more, some areas of concern started to reveal themselves.

The overall rating I would give this wig would be: 3.25/5 stars.
Please find a detailed breakdown below:

1. Product likeness: Upon first looking at it and trying it on, there weren't any obvious differences with what was represented on the website and what arrived. The hair was approximately the same shade and length as on the website.

2. Quality and Comfort: Putting the wig on was not too difficult and I immediately enjoyed that the strands were more silky and natural looking than those from the more inexpensive wigs I've previously purchased. It felt fairly comfortable and it didn't get too hot for me to wear it for long periods of time. I do have pixie-cut short hair though, so maybe that helped. :) I think the hair looks pretty nice in photos, not too obviously synthetic or wig like, especially with the addition of accessories such as wreaths, hats, and hoods. Some Photoshop retouching is required at times, but not too much.

However, it was definitely more difficult to style this wig than some others because of issues in product quality. 

-For one, after putting it on for the first time, a track of hair fell out immediately, which was quite a surprise. I decided to have it sewn back in rather than trying to exchange for a new wig, since the other wig hair seemed to be still securely attached. 
-Another reason I found it difficult to style was because the wig was sparse in places, and even doing a simple half updo, or by parting the hair a certain way, would reveal the stripy wig structure underneath. (Click pictures to view larger)

So, that made the styling options much more limited. Not impossible, but we had to be very careful and strategic about styling, so that none of the sparse sections could be seen. (I had to get help from my mom, because she's far better at braiding hair than I am)
Strategic braiding to conceal any spareness
-The next factor which made this wig a bit more difficult to work with than I expected was its weight. Though not particularly surprising, because the hair is long, the wig was heavier and because of the weight, it kept sliding back where the forehead is, which led to revealing the wig cap/my real hair underneath. I will definitely be experimenting with wig tapes and glues to resolve this issue. 

3. Versatility: As I already touched upon in the previous point, this wig so far has not been as versatile as I hoped, because of the sparseness which limits the styling options. 

Regarding the styling possibilities using heat tools - since I do not own a curling iron which shows the degree temperature of iron, I was a little hesitant to give my wig rigorous curling attempts at risk of damaging it if my iron was hotter than the recommended 150C maximum heat. Though, I once put my iron on a lower heat setting and tried to give one strand a few curls. The resulting curls were very weak and the most impact was seen only on the ends. 
Using my flat iron was successful in straightening the hair though, which was nice. 

Curling attempt
 Another thing I noticed was that after I had some of my wig strand braided, left them braided for a long time (weeks/months), and then un-braided them - there was a gentle wave present. I'll be experimenting more with this in the future. 



4. Durability: So far, my LF772 is holding up pretty well. I haven't worn it too many times, maybe just 5 times for a few hours each, and haven't put it though bad weather, or anything like that. I think some of the ends aren't as smooth and silky as they once were, but this might be due to how long the hair on this wig is, making it more prone to tangling. 

Summary: At this time, I'm quite reluctant to purchase one of these types of wigs from Wig Is Fashion again, but I do see them having sales and promotions fairly regularly on their website, so maybe if the savings were tempting, I'd try again. For now, I'll just keep experimenting with the piece I have.


Thanks for reading!

Also seen in the photos from this post:

-Periwinkle coloured outfit: created by my mom, inspired by one of Legolas' outfits.
-Silver elven headpiece: created by SweetElvenChestnut

Till next time!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

ArmStreet: The "Knight of the West" Archer's Bracer Review

Hello!

I'm quite excited to share some photos and thoughts on some of my newer cosplay additions. Today, in particular I will be providing feedback on the "Knight of the West" Archer's Bracer from ArmStreet.

Before we begin, a big 'thank you' goes out to my family and boyfriend, who support my costume collecting. Many of the pieces form my cosplay closet are their generous gifts.

And now, let's get the photos and review.
The bracer I received was with the brown leather and stainless steel accents options, sized to the measurements of my arm. In a way, because of its long and treacherous journey this was the most anticipated of my costume pieces. (*Feel free to skip to the paragraph directly below, if you're more keen on the review itself)



The order was placed on November 23, 2016 and the piece was dispatched from the creation studio in Ukraine on December 13. Understandably, due to the custom and + hand made nature of the order, the holiday season, and the distance it needed to travel, it wasn't an expectation for the parcel to arrive before Christmas or New Year. However, when January 25, 2017 rolled around and there was no sign of the parcel or a tracking updates, we started to get a little worried and contacted ArmStreet. The customer service staff were very nice and talked through what could be done next.
When my boyfriend went to a Canada Post office with the tracking information we've previously had no luck with on the Canada Post website, the lady working was able to find some updates through her computer system. It seemed the parcel arrived in Ontario on January 9th, then at the British Columbia, Richmond facility on the 13th. Then, for some reason, the parcel was back in Ontario on February 2nd. There was no record of attempted delivery, or further information. Calling the national Canada Post number didn't help, and the representative on the telephone was far less informed and helpful than the lady at the local office. 
But then, somehow the bracer arrived a few days later, and exactly why it had so much trouble being delivered is still unknown. All the address information on the parcel was legible and correct. Maybe some things just need to happen to keep us on our toes?

Next, of course, the question is whether after the anticipation the piece met my hopes and expectations. The short answer is - yes
The long answer - I was very happy with the piece, but there were a couple of small things I thought could have been even better. Please find a detailed breakdown below:

1. Product likeness: The photo representation on the website is definitely in line with the product I received. Just like in the official images, the material quality was high and everything looked like it had been carefully made; from the design on the metal to the lacing and stitching. The biggest difference was the visual definition in the etched design on my bracer versus the one in the website photos, but this was a result of the material selected. As is indicated in the product description section - if this item ordered with the stainless steel option - the stainless steel accents will be non-blackened, as blackening cannot be performed on stainless steel.
That is absolutely fair enough and something I was expecting. But in that case, I think it would be nice to see images of this steel variant on the website for utmost transparency and to help with the decision of which metal is better for the purchaser's vision.

At work, where there are the most enemies.
2. Size and Comfort: The bracer was of excellent size and comfortable fit, with the right layering underneath. It became a little loose fitting and less comfortable if worn on a bare arm, but technically that's not the right way to wear this bracer anyway, as it should be worn with a gambeson or other under-armour gear. Nonetheless, I have worn it on bare skin a few times, without any resulting chafing or bruising.



3. Authenticity: Though, I'm certainly not an expert on what makes historically accurate weapons or armour, I'll say that for me this bracer had a solid medieval/fantasy inspired aesthetic, and I think it is great for various re-enactments, LARP events, costume contests, and cosplay. The piece also feels very durable - both in the sense that it could protect from some real-life force and that it could serve for many years of modern-day enjoyment, without much deterioration.
My only small concern was that the thread on the inner side of the bracer (the one used for lacing the bracer tighter) had a bit too much of a satin finish. Thought not particularly notable in the photos, in person it takes away from the realism of the ensemble. However, for anyone with this concern, it's not terribly difficult to go to a fabric or craft store and get alternative thread or leather which is sturdy and replace that portion of the bracer.


Summary: Yes, there is a little room for improvement. Honestly, where is there not? But I definitely think the product is good and the value for the customized, handcrafted work is certainly worth it. I definitely wish to acquire for more creations from ArmStreet in the future.


Also seen in the photos from this post:

-Wig: by Wig Is Fashion (WIF). It's the "26 Inch, Straight Light Blonde Lace Front Synthetic Hair Wig LF772" style.
-Daggers: "Daggers of Tauriel" prop replicas by Weta Workshop. (with DIY customization by me).
-Green Ring: by Badali Jewelry called "Lady's Elven Earth Band" in silver.
-Top: "Alexa Brown Brocade Steampunk Overbust Corset" by Corset Deal.

Thanks for reading!
More costume pieces + props will be reviewed soon.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Memorial Portrait

Hello there,

It's been some time since my last post, and I hope that everyone's summer has been a nice one.

I've been very fortunate in that the circumstances in my life had finally worked out in such a way that I was finally able to visit Iceland, which was a dream of mine for about 10 years now. It was definitely a much needed getaway and a very uplifting trip. Though I did not do any plein air sketching or painting, I took a large number of photos and perhaps in the near future I'll use these for a fantasy illustration.

In more sad news, a month ago, my beloved childhood cat Toma (nicknamed Tomcat) has passed away at the age of 18. Although she passed peacefully, it was (and is) still very hard to come to terms with. Rationalizing that she had a healthy and comfortable life did little to ease ease feelings of loss, regret, and pain. So, I just tried to do something nice to honor her memory. I was very nervous about how it would turn out, but in small steps I worked towards painting her portrait. In the end, I'm pretty happy with the results.


Looking through all the photos we had of her, I picked a reference which I thought would work best for the composition I had in mind and would come closest for the expression and mood I was hoping to capture.
As usual, I started with a pencil sketch. Then did some ink with my micron pens to map out the main features and stripes in the fur.


Next, I tackled the background. I wanted it to have an impressionistic feel; suggestive of some of whimsical, forested area, but keeping the focus on Tomcat's face. I wanted to believe her spirit lives on somewhere green, lush and happy.


Then, I worked at building up subtle layers of colour to illustrate the softness of her fur, finishing off with touches of white gouache for the whiskers, eyebrows, and eye glimmers.

close up
For the final touches, I added a little bit of gold paint to add some accents to the eyes, fur, and the background. It's by no means an addition that has a visible impact on the finished piece after digital reproduction, but I find it to be a pleasant, understated feature of in person viewing.

video

 (I apologies for the lesser quality images of my in-process work. Unfortunately, I did not have the scanner conveniently within my reach, so all the work in progress photos are made on my phone.)

1999-2017
Anyways, if you enjoy the piece, there are now art prints and post cards available for sale. Profits from the sales with will be donated to two local cat charities which I like to support - VOKRA and Katie's Place.

Please find prints available on:

-Society6
-RedBubble
-InPrint
-TeePublic
-DesignByHumans 

Media: Pigma Micron + Prismacolor fine line archival marker pens, Koh-I-Noor (waterproof) drawing inks, watercolour, Acryla gouache on Strathnore "Mixed Media" vellum surface paper.
Paper Size: 8.5 x 11 inches
Painting Size: 5.5 x 6 inches

Thanks for visiting! In farewell, I leave you with one of my favourite pictures of her.

"Outside seemed better from far away."

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Atomicon + New Art

Good morning!

The news this week is that on May 12th I'll be sharing a table at Atomicon and selling some art!
The event is free, so please make the journey if you can.

"Over 30+ artists will be showcasing their talents and selling prints, buttons, fan fare etc as well as their artwork.
Feel free to dress up in your cosplay outfit and win a $100 Prize!
Contest at 8:30pm sharp!


The venue is 18+

Come support local art!"

Atomicon takes place at the Anza Club Vancouver from 6:00-11:00pm.

I'll have some buttons, cards, prints, and maybe some tote bags available. Most exciting, at Atomicon I'll be showcasing pieces from my new art series which is based on some things my friends and I wish were socially acceptable to say to people. Directly below, please find two of the completed images. Three to four further images are in the works. 

I'm Sorry You Misunderstood
Thank You For Leaving






Cards, prints, notebooks, and posters are available on my RedBubble and Society6 shops.
 
Buttons with the elvish tree set will also be available. 



Well, that's it for today.
Hope to see you at Atomicon!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Pilgrimage to Spectrum Live - Constructive Reflections

Hello my fellow internet wanderers!
I hope you’ve all had a good weekend and are looking forward to the days ahead.


Through some twists of fate I ended up in Kansas City for the Spectrum Fantastic Art Live convention.

In short, Spectrum Live is mostly an event created to celebrate the works of artistic in the publishing, video game, film industries that have ties to science fiction and fantasy themes. Typically, there are artist exhibit tables with prints and originals for sale, lecture panels, book signings, and networking opportunities such as portfolio reviews with industry professionals. Though it does sound more industry targeted, art enthusiasts are more than welcome to attend. 



"Created in 2012, SFAL is the annual show where the artists and students are the stars.

SFAL promotes diversity in the arts and provides educational opportunities. The event puts students, attendees, art directors and studios together to help build connections and jobs. SFAL’s mission is to grow the appreciation of fantastic art across all media. It also highlights the increasing impact technology has on the arts and provides platforms for these creators and innovators"
(Blurb from Spectrum's official page

View from the 2nd floor
This was my first year attending this event and my main objectives were to support my friends, make new ones, get a feel for the industry, and learn more about the Spectrum Live scene to see if it would be a worthwhile opportunity for me to continuously attend or even exhibit in the near future.


Overall, I had a good weekend, but I was moderately underwhelmed for a number of reasons, which I’ll explain below. I’m glad that I attended, but in hind-sight I don’t believe I would have made the same choice to go.


Reason #1 Crowd Turnout + Event Layout/Activities  

Although I’m not a fan of crowds and having fewer people perusing the rows of tables makes it much easier to chat up other artists, (even some of the more famous creatives like Donato Giancola and Paul Bonner) this makes the time for the exhibitors, especially those tabling solo quite a bit lonesome throughout the 3-day program. Likewise, as an attendee, though its fantastic to see so much beautiful artwork concentrated in one space, its easy to run out of things to see even on day 1.
I also began to wonder why the number in attendance was so small (at most, it seems like about 1,500 - 2,000 attendees in total for the 3 days). The cost was only $5 per day to the public/non exhibitors, and that included access to all the exhibitors, panels, parties and the Spectrum awards ceremony.  After a quick trip to the internet and some conversations with people wondering the same thing, I made some observations.

Observation A: An unfortunate scheduling conflict was that the Silicon Valley Comic Con and the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) were also happening at this time and might have influenced some fellow artists into choosing to dedicate their time, money, and transit efforts there. 
Another event to note is Planet Comic Con Kansas City which is scheduled for the following week (April 28-30).

Observation B: The layout and the space size for this convention was not ideal.

-Right off the bat it was noticeable that on the main (bottom) floor, the more well-recognized artists were located at the “prime real estate” spots of the floor - right next to the entrance, and/or a little further in, meanwhile the less known exhibitors were put further away. Likewise, on the top floor (which was akin to 360 balcony walkway that overlooked the bottom floor), the convention official guests and publications were all on one side, and the less known creatives were on the other. So, what happened was that most of the foot traffic would be concentrated around the famous artists at the front, and then trickle away towards the end of the rows. The more naturally curious attendees probably looked at everything, but those with a potentially lower overall interest/enthusiasm had less incentive to explore the whole room. A simple solution to this would have been to disperse the exhibitors that are known to attracting more crowds around the entire space. Perhaps one at each corner and some in the middle.

-Although the exhibit space was a comfortable size, I think a slightly larger space that could accommodate more spaces for demos, workshops, and lectures would not be a bad idea. For instance, the one space for the artist demonstration was just a corner on the second floor, and without a microphone or projection screen it got to be pretty hard to see or hear anything unless you were in one of the front rows at an angle which didn’t have the featured artist blocking the canvas with their body.

Even without the increased space size, the event could have greatly benefited from more demonstrations and talks in general. Over the 3 days there were only 10 panels/artist talks, 6 (1 hour each) painting demos, and 3 after hours events (not including the awards ceremony). To tackle both the visibility and lack of variety issue, I would have loved to see some primarily digital media practicing artists joining in the scene with their process available for following on screen through a simple projection set up. These artists could have been sourced from the event floor, which would have given welcome exposure to some of the exhibitors.

Reason #2: Cost vs. Profit
Although Spectrum Live was full of kind creatives to connect with, it was far from a high sales event.
The community is incredibly welcoming, and if you feel like you are creating work in a vacuum in your home, this is an amazing opportunity to find like-minded people who go through the same struggles, worries and know what it means to be an artist.

However, as there was little walk-in traffic, one is mostly left selling their work to other artists. This limits your audience to a group that are often likewise concerned about their margins. I talked to several artists this year who expressed frustration at just how little money they made. Several said they didn’t even cover the costs of their taxi to and from the airport. And these weren’t even students, recent graduates, or artists very new to the industry. These were knowledgeable, published illustrators who have in some cases been nominated for awards in the Spectrum Annual.  

It is important to remember that for many attendees, it is not always the goal to break even, but rather to advertise and make connections.  It was, nonetheless, disheartening because there were not many people around for even for that.

For someone like myself - an artist who freelances but supports themselves through a different job, lives fairly far away from the event, and has no one in the city to stay with, it can be a pretty costly venture. Given that there appear to be bad odds of making at least a good chunk of expenses back through sales, there are some issues.

Let's look at some of the costs to put thing in perspective:

Table cost: As an exhibitor, there are 2 options - the full “booth” table on the main level is $350 USD, and an upstairs table is $250 USD. The main floor “booth” table comes with 4 badges and the upstairs table with 2. The good thing is, these tables can be shared and the costs split. Please note that the table can comfortably hold 2 exhibitors, but 3 would be a bit tight.

Travel cost: Approximately $500.00 USD from Vancouver, Canada even if booking far in advance. Kansas City is not a large hub, so flights in general are fairly expensive.

Transportation: From the airport, it is possible to take a shuttle bus for $36 one way (for up to 3 people in a group), which can be cheaper than a cab or ride-share service.

Lodgings: For a hotel nearby the convention center with the special event rate applied, the cost was about $185 USD per night. Given that the festivities start on Friday afternoon and end on Sunday night, traveling in a non red-eye frenzy will make it a 4 night stay with a $750 total price tag. (Again, if not being split with someone else.)

Food: I tend to hit the middle-ground for spending money on food and beverages while traveling and I spent about $150 for my trip.
*It should be noted however, that many of the after hours events where creatives schmooze are at bars, where it is expected to buy a drink or two, which can quickly add to the cost.

So, in TOTAL the cost for me to exhibit (as a solo exhibitor and traveler) would have been around $1800 USD; printing, shipping and additional transportation costs not included. Or about $1500 USD to just attend, again if the travel costs are not shared.

Now, to me that's not a cheap. That’s quite an undertaking, which could alternatively pay for a very relaxing all-inclusive vacation in the Caribbean, or a new Cintiq, etc.

That’s not to say this type of trip isn’t worth it. Making the right connection with an art director who hires you for a great gig can potentially earn back those spendings and make a positive and lasting impact on your career. But what are the odds of that? This question brings me to my next point.

Reason #3: Quantifiable Networking Potential
With the relatively high cost of exhibiting compared to attending, this opportunity needs to have quantifiable good odds. Sadly, that wasn't the case this year. This year, there were only about 4 art directors from 2 companies of varying influence and if they weren’t at their designated portfolio review spot, they weren’t seen walking the floor, interact with artists there.

Four people from book publishing and table-top RPG is only a small sub-section of the industry, and for a fair number of talented artists, doesn’t really represent the client base they would be selling to. There were no art directors from film, video games, children’s books, animation, editorial or advertising.

Additionally, this year, instead of having signup sheets for review, the directors had a lounge area, and people had to line up to talk to them - which I think was fine for attendees, but for those who had a table (with no table assistant), it was very hard to talk to one of them without a lengthy wait away from their table. Some people I talked to had to wait for up to 2 hours for their few minutes of portfolio review.
This is both bad for the sales of the exhibiting artist, and bad for the attendees who have paid to come and talk with the exhibitors - who may have vanished to wait in the art director line.

With the much higher price tag of exhibiting vs. attending ($250-$350 a table vs $5 per day) it would have been nice to see the exhibitors get a little more consideration and incentive for investing so much time and money. Even by simply allocating a part of a day, like a Saturday morning or afternoon with a sign-up system for only exhibitors, would have relieved some tension and shown appreciation for their effort. After all, they are a huge part of the event itself. And again, having more art directors or resourceful and influential persons from the various aspects of creative entertainment industry available for constructive feedback would likewise be very much appreciated and encourage artists to attend this event year after year.

Conclusion: Risk vs Reward

To those who are still reading - thanks for making it this far, and I hope this hasn’t come across too disheartening. I truly had a lovely time meeting some wonderful people, listening to great stories, and buying some gorgeous art prints I’ve been dying to get my hands on. (Middle-Earth themed apartment, here I come!) I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a space with so many smiles and welcoming individuals.

On the other hand, I can’t help but assess things in the chess-board risk and reward reality we live in.

If you’re a fantasy and sci-fi loving artist who lives in the hosting city, I would absolutely encourage you to learn more about the Spectrum Fantastic Art Annual, Spectrum Live event and definitely attend. And if it makes sense for your budget and career status - get an exhibitor's table.

If you’re someone living further away, are more budget conscious or are newer to the illustration and concept art scene - I would suggest to do your research of the programming the year you’re planning to attend, and do a little comparative research to other events like IlluxCon, CTN Expo, Illustration Master Class, Schoolism events, One Fantastic Week, and various (large) comic conventions. They also present the opportunity to speak with and learn from peers and industry leaders. Many of these events also have attending art directors.

If you’ve got the time and budget, then absolutely go to Spectrum Live and try all the above mentioned events too, if you’re brave enough. :). Events in general are an awesome addition to an artist’s arsenal of tools to achieve success! 

Anyhow, I'm off to paint
For more content, follow me on Instagram. 

Me, inside another room of the convention building, eternally cold because of air conditioning.