A review of the HP Z2 Mini G4 Workstation-Performance Unit

I’ve really enjoyed writing posts about attending conferences, especially with the NYC SCBWI Winter Conference coming up. However, I’m not attending this winter because I spent all my conference money on a new computer.

HP often has some amazing sales, and this was no exception. I recently purchased the HP Z2 Mini G4 Workstation-Customizable Performance Unit. This workstation is amazing, and I was able to really beef it up for a very awesome price thanks to their previous fall sale where prices were like 60% off.

I’m linking you to the product because they are having a similar flash sale, and if you are in the same boat I was in, it’s good to know.  You can customize this workstation to 8 cores, which is 16 threads which means, you can multitask wonderfully on this machine. I can have ALL THE LAYERS open in Clip Studio, while streaming music and chatting on Twitter and it doesn’t hiccup. What I really love about it is that it’s quiet, small, and fast.

It’s nice to be able to work and not take a coffee break each time I move my stylus. I’m using my Cintiq as a monitor and it’s working really well. This is the first computer that works seamlessly with the Cintiq.

Some Potential downsides: The power brick is pretty big, but not as big as some of them out there, and I find it hides behind the main computer pretty well.  Honestly, there’s really not much to dislike about this machine.


HP isn’t paying me for this review by the way. But IF THEY WANTED TO… LOL.

I ended up paying about 2300 for this machine. Which is a really good deal given all the upgrades I requested for it.  But it also means that I’ll be missing out on this year’s conference fer sure now because I spent the money I usually save for conferences on this. It was a good investment. I’ll be drawing up a storm and following along the Twitter feeds for conference updates in February 😀



Challenges, Tools

Inktober: It’s up to you!

Inktober is here! Are you going to join in this year? I like working with ink, and there’s something fun in the challenge of not having an “undo” button or erasing mistakes. I’ve seen some beautiful inked pieces from other artists who made a mistake and then took some time to problem solve, and finish the work. It’s very inspiring to witness that process. But sometimes it can be really frustrating when you are so close to finishing something and then BLOP! A big ink blot over the face of your awesome character. Where’s my eraser? AAAHHH!

My favorite tools for inking are a stick pen, speedball super black ink, and J nibs (Thanks to Matt Cordell for recommending these!). The J nib is super nice, it has a nice flow and a nice tip size for making your mark. Also, how neat is the BOX it comes in? I found these on eBay! When I need to be really precise, I’ll use Micron Pens, or Prismacolor Premier pens. Can you have too many pens? Nah. You’ll also see in my tools photo a cool spoon rest I picked up at an art festival. It is the best thing ever for resting my pens and brushes on. I wish I had thought to use something like this years ago.

These are a few of my favorite things

It’s okay not to participate in Inktober, and it’s okay to participate a couple days a week or just a couple times that month. You get to determine what is best for yourself. You don’t get paid to participate in Inktober, it’s just a fun challenge, and you can choose the level of your involvement! Self-care and boundary setting are important! I’m not planning to participate this year; I may draw something for it here and there, but mostly I plan to enjoy the artwork everyone else creates this month. Share your links below if you are participating this year!

This is me NOT participating in Inktober. Um…done in ink

Switching from Photoshop to Clip Studio Pro

Clip Studio Pro recently came out with a full-program app available in the Apple Store, and yes, it IS a subscription. There are two tiers and you can choose monthly or annual subscription. I chose the $24 dollar annual subscription. Yeah. $24 dollars. I love that price.

What initially drew me to Clip Studio was when Adobe started their subscription services for Creative Cloud. I wanted a one-time purchase product, and at the time, they were having an amazing sale so I got Clip Studio Pro EX for $109 dollars. I think you can buy it today for about $220, which is still an amazing price. The app syncs beautifully with the computer program, and I find the interface intuitive and for the bits that aren’t, there’s a wonderful link for tutorials, how-tos and a forum to ask questions.

But what about my photoshop files? Well, those will import nicely into Clip Studio, with all the layers intact. And if you love the Procreate App on the iPad, you can export those files into the Clip Studio App and save it to the cloud so you can access it on your desktop and tablet. Which is SO NICE, especially when one’s wireless printer is not apple compatible. Its’ also nice just to check out my art on a Windows machine and an Apple Machine so I have a better idea how it may show up on different screens.

Basically it’s an easier program for me to use, and it checks off all the boxes I have for illustration. There’s no need for me to keep photoshop anymore, especially now they are playing around with their subscription prices.


An Excellent Resource

Recently, I signed up for BluPrint, which offers online classes on all sorts of creative topics. If you are familiar with Craftsy, you might have already heard of BluPrint. I originally signed up for the class because Mike Curato was presenting a class on Picture Books. Mike was my mentor during my stay at Highlights Foundation this summer (which is another experience I highly recommend. Highlights is a wonderful retreat for the creative mind) Mike is an amazing author/ illustrator who has created the Little Elliot Books and illustrated some other amazing stories. He’s also just a super nice person and I think the world is better with him in it.

Now Mike’s class is not quite available yet, I was too hasty in signing up! But I’ll be sure to let you know exactly when it does. 🙂

In the meantime, Shadra Strickland also has an amazing class about creating picture books, and this class was a wonderful experience. She takes her time and clearly explains how picture books work, and the steps to create a book for submitting to a publisher or just for your family to enjoy. Here is the link to her class. 

There have been some basic concepts to picture book illustration I kept getting hung up on. It’s probably my training in traditional animation, as Shadra uses an example from her student’s work who also trained in animation. I felt like this class was made just for me, but of course, it wasn’t- and it’s available to everyone. 🙂

Below is one of Shadra’s books she illustrated “A Place Where Hurricanes Happen”

You can get a free week trial with BluPrint, and during their Black Friday sales, you can get a cheaper subscription rate.

I’m not getting paid for my recommendations, by the way. I’m just excited and want to share 🙂

Tools, Uncategorized

Jarvis Bamboo Standing Desk Review

It’s very snowy and cold here-perfect weather for fluffy unicorn slippers and hot tea.

But enough about the weather- let’s talk standing desks. Recently I purchased a Jarvis Bamboo Standing Desk   from Fully.

I LOVE this desk. It’s a solid desk for a mid-level price range. It has an awesome control panel that you can program heights into, which is great for multiple users, or for someone like me who wants a different height for sitting and standing for drawing and writing. I did read a review that said the table wobbles at its highest setting, so I opted for the extended range frame, and it doesn’t wobble a bit.

Assembly requires two people. There’s a video of someone doing it by himself, but my dad helped me put it together, and I was really glad for the help. For the most part, assembly is easy, and between the instructional video and booklet, there was little confusion in putting the pieces together. My only complaint is that I got a desk drawer and cable wranglers and there was NO pre-drilled holes for that and you can’t use a power tool on the bamboo table top. My dad is strong and we made it work, but it would be really handy if there were small pinholes like there are for the height controls.

The cable wranglers are a nice way to get power strips off the floor, but the double sided taped zipties were much more functional. I still have a lot of wires showing, due to the Cintiq wiring to the computer, but it’s still a lot better than before with my folding table. Another tidy plus is that in standing position, my desk chair tucks nicely under the table, keeping the narrow walking space behind me open.

The table isn’t too noisy when it’s shifting positions either.  I have a large printer, a 22 HD Cintiq and my laptop on it. It’s noisier the more you put on it, but I didn’t have a need to put more stuff on it.

What’s it like working with a standing desk? Comfortable. I love how adjustable it is, so I never need to slouch over my work again. I have a lot less pain using a standing desk (get the standing mat, it’s worth it)  and it’s easier to walk away and give my eyes a break from staring at the computer screen, which effectively increases the amount of time I can work in a day.

TL, DR- The standing desk is comfortable, easy to assemble and affordable. I like it.

Let me know in the comments if you have additional questions or comments about standing desks!





laptop specs for artists

I’ve been talking about buying a new computer for almost a year now. My old 2011 HP Pavillion was worn out, and I knew I wanted to buy a new one before it died completely. But there were all sorts of new specs available and I realized I had to learn what it all was so I could make an informed decision.

First,  I had to wait for the new intel processing chips to be installed in the next line of computers. In 2016 and early 2017, most computers used Skylake processors, but I knew that by May, a lot of new lines would be introduced with the updated Kaby Lake processors. How can you tell if you have a Kaby Lake processor? It’s the seventh generation processor, so you want to look for a number that starts with 7 after “intel i7”. It may not seem like a big deal, but the Kaby Lake processor is FAST, and when you are painting with lots of photoshop layers, fast is good.

I had a wishlist of items for my new laptop:

  • touchscreen capabilities (preferably with pressure sensitivity)
  • an HDMI port
  • at least two USB ports
  • NVIDIA Graphics Card
  • A Solid State (SSD) drive
  • Intel Kaby Lake Processor

I needed to wait for the Kaby Lake processors to become available in more computers. Since the new processor chips weren’t out until late 2016, I knew that I’d have to wait until Spring 2017 releases to really have some good options.  I heard rumors that Microsoft would be releasing a new surface product in spring of 2017, and had my fingers crossed for a new surface book with the latest processors.  What they released what a Surface Laptop, and while it looked like a nice machine, it didn’t suit my needs. A friend of mine had recommended Lenovo’s Ideapad Y700 series, so I went on the Lenovo site and instead found the Lenovo Flex 5 15″ laptop. It met all my main wishlist items, and though the touch screen isn’t pressure sensitive, I could purchase an active pen that did have pressure sensitivity. As an added bonus, it is smaller and lighter than my old laptop.

Things I like about the Lenovo Flex 5 (besides my wishlist items)

  • The PCle SSD drive. This means a more storage that can be accessed quickly, but taking up a smaller amount of physical space in the laptop, keeping it lighter, and making more room for additional storage or potentially more battery cells.
  • Wireless and Bluetooth connectivity: I can finally take the USB wire off my printer and put it somewhere else! This means more desk space to spread out and do some traditional drawing.
  • 360 degree hinge. I can choose to work on my laptop in a traditional position, put it up like a tent for drawing and watching videos or flip it flat the other way for drawing in my lap. This means I can work at my desk with my Cintiq, then unplug and walk over to the couch and continue working while watching Master Chef.
  • The keyboard is so quiet! There’s no distracting tappity tap tap while I type, so I don’t feel like I’m disturbing anyone else around me if I want to work at the library.
  • The Screen resolution is amazing. I went with the UHD screen and it’s so crisp to read and easier on my eyes. It’s like getting a new pair of glasses.
  • The price tag. With the faster processors and top amounts of storage, this lap top only cost $1650. That’s still expensive compared to some computers, yes, but it’s a lot less expensive than Microsoft’s surface series, or some of the Macintosh options.
  • It runs pretty cool compared to other laptops I’ve tried. While the fan vents are on the bottom of the laptop, they run almost the whole length, keeping it nice and cool. The fans are pretty quiet too. I can put the laptop in my lap without being too uncomfortable, but I would still use a lap desk just to avoid unnecessary pajama lint getting up into the vents.

Some things that I don’t like as much:

  • The keyboard feels like its back really far. I think this would be good for actually typing in my lap, but on a table top surface, I feel like I’m reaching over the computer to type. Then again, this might be to my poor typing posture 🙂
  • Higher resolution screen means some of my programs look TINY. I’m definitely going to need to tinker with the settings.

3 months later, I still really enjoy this laptop. It runs all my programs so smoothly! I have not cursed at this computer once while I’ve been working. Photoshop runs so well on it, and I can run three different programs at once and it doesn’t even hiccup. The action pen is pressure sensitive, and while it’s not Wacom sensitive, it still surprises me how well it works. I love the easiness of it.

Have a wonderful day!


Resources for Dummies


If you are interested in creating a picture book dummy, or you just want to know more about them, there are some wonderful online resources available. I’ve listed them below.

Resources for Picture Book Dummy Making:


#Kidlitart: Color Chat: List of Links

Every Thursday night at 9:00pm EST, there’s a Twitter chat using the hashtag #kidlitart. All you need is to write the hashtag with your tweet to join the conversation 🙂

Last night’s #kidlitart discussion was about color. We talked about color schemes, theory, color palettes we liked working in and shared a ton of references.

Two of my favorites were Adobe Kuler and Color Scheme Designer. You can click the images for links to the sites. All links were mentioned in the chat last night.

Adobe Kuler
Adobe Kuler

Color Scheme Site
Color Scheme Designer








Kidlitart Blog
Kidlitart Blog

Colour Lovers

Color Script Google Search
Color Script Google Search

Big Huge Labs
Big Huge Labs

The Road is Home
The Road is Home






Books Resources:

Inspiring Artists:


Here is a list of all the website resources mentioned in last night’s chat: