Category Archives: illustration

Building habits


Portrait of Callan, by SpAE - digital 2017
Digital, 2017

I recently discovered I miss blogging, or at least that doing things on the blog isn’t as scary as I remembered it to be.

One of the goals I’ve set for myself lately is to do more finished paintings, as opposed to the many – and extremely useful – rougher studies that I’ve mainly been posting on instagram. This painting isn’t exactly finished, but it’s as close as I’m going to get for now. So far I’ve been pretty successful all year with my goal to draw something once a day (posting those daily drawings – not so much). This portrait was completed in Clip Studio Paint, which is a change for me as I normally prefer painting pieces like this in Corel Painter. The Carp, a painting I did this year that I somehow managed to forget about, was painted mostly in Painter until my computer had a fit, the file corrupted, and I finished everything in Clip Studio Paint.

The Carp - by SpÆ 2017 -
The Carp
Digital, 2017

So. More regular painting, experimenting with new production methods and – in the background – I’m working on a few comics. It’s been a while since I wrote my own comics, without a theme or a concept ordered by someone else, so this feels a little like starting from scratch again. Now that I’m thinking of blogging again, it feels like I’ll have a legitimate excuse not to do so so often!

back with a bang

i’m back! in truth i was back two weeks ago, but wordpress ate my last post.

I’m going to be at Goulburn Comic Con next Saturday – hope to see you there!

In the meantime, I participated in the 100 People in One Week sketch challenge last week. I managed to smash them out in three days…and now I need some recovery time!


see you next time

Happy Lunar New Year: DIY Hongbao for download!

Happy New Year!

It’s the new Lunar New Year this Thursday (February 19), and happy new year to all who celebrate it. This year will be the year of the Sheep.

Growing up as a Chinese kid with a huge extended family, receiving 红包 (Red Packets, pronounced hongbao, or angpow) packed with money was an absolute favourite thing for all us kids every year, although perhaps less favoured by the adults who had to give the money away every year. I remember at least one of my cousins teaching me a not particularly polite New Years Greeting: 恭喜发财,红包拿来!(Happy New Year, now hand over the cash!)  I also distinctly remember being told off immediately for repeating it.

For those less familiar with the tradition, Hongbao are red packets that married people give to children and unmarried adults on the Lunar New Year, among other special occasions. Anecdotally, as someone from South East Asia, I’ve always seen the money given as notes in the envelope and it hasn’t bothered any of my family whether the money’s been in odd or even numbers. You might also give someone a hongbao when you’re attending their wedding, or when they’ve just been especially good to you.

Now I’m finally at the age and social status where I have to think about giving, rather than receiving. Living in Australia and not getting out much, I haven’t seen the sheer flurry and variety of hongbao that I used to see in Asia handed out around this time for adults to give eager friends and family. So I thought I might share some of this new experience with all my readers and friends with these hongbao designs for you to print out and use for your own.


Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Please feel free to download and use these templates – cut out the hongbao to fill them full of presents for others, or give the templates straight to your friends, family or students who might be interested in making their own! Or use these designs as the starting point to create your own!

I am more than happy for you to use these as you wish as long as it’s not for commercial purposes – and I’d love to see any hongbao you make from it.


Continue reading for previews of all the hongbao styles – or download straight from the text links here if you already know what you want:

All files are designed to be printed on A4. The template hongbao have been designed to fit all common Australian currency notes, although they should be able to fit most non-Australian notes too!

The traditional red packet

DIY Hongbao 2015 - Black inkwork on Red
DIY Hongbao 2015 – Black inkwork on Red

We’ll start with the traditional red red packet, in bold black in red. If you have gold ink available, feel free to trace over any of the lines or calligraphy to make your red packet that much more outstanding!

The text on this reads

吉星高照 (The lucky star shines high)

万事如意 (May all your hopes come to fruition)

Download here

Black on pink

DIY Hongbao 2015 - Black inkwork on Pink
DIY Hongbao 2015 – Black inkwork on Pink

The same artwork and message as the red red packet, but with a slightly pinker bent.

Download here

Black on peach

DIY Hongbao 2015 - Black inkwork on Peach
DIY Hongbao 2015 – Black inkwork on Peach

The same artwork and message as the red red packet, but with a slightly peachier twist.

Download here

Black on yellow

DIY Hongbao 2015 - Black inkwork on Yellow
DIY Hongbao 2015 – Black inkwork on Yellow

The closest thing we could get to gold – to let your hongbao recipient know that their packet is really full of bling, give them this.

Download here

Plain black – for coloured paper only

Big disclaimer on this one: Please only print this on coloured paper!

Please don’t print this on plain white paper to use as a hongbao.For one thing, this design looks great printed on brightly coloured paper, particularly if you’ve got some stunning red paper that isn’t quite the same shade of red as the design above. The other reason is, giving someone a white and black envelope stuffed full of money is, within Chinese culture at least, usually something only done at funerals. Although it might be something to consider if you want to give it to someone you especially hate at New Year, along with awkward silences and confused memories. (Though if it were me, I wouldn’t be giving money to people I dislike. Whatever, bonds of family. Take that, blood ties!)

DIY Hongbao 2015 - Black inkwork on printing onto coloured paper only!
DIY Hongbao 2015 – Black inkwork on printing onto coloured paper only!

Download here

Full colour design

DIY Hongbao 2015 - Full colour version
DIY Hongbao 2015 – Full colour version

And last but not least, the colourful hongbao for the year!

Download here

EVENT wrap up: Otakufest

A convention sketch of Sailor Jupiter, shortly before I erased all the pencil lines and found it a new home. Marker, 2014.
A convention sketch of Sailor Jupiter, shortly before I erased all the pencil lines and found it a new home.
Marker, 2014.

I went to Otakufest on the weekend, and it’s kind of fitting that my last market for the year was my busiest!

I met a lot of cosplayers and very friendly people who made the day more fun. My favourite new-people-to-meet that I met while trading include:

  • J, who came by and made a beeline for, of all things, Sweet NV issues 1 and 2. He wins favourite new person of the day just for that, but then he went on to tell me that he digs shojo manga and practiced some Japanese with me. (If you’re reading this, I hope you enjoyed the books!)
  • The excited young lady who made a beeline straight for the sweets deco stock I had out. I promptly showed her all of the extra stock I had (hidden away because there wasn’t enough space on the table!), and offered her the marker sketch I’d been working on that morning because her enthusiasm made my day.
  • The Eliza and Donny cosplayers from the Wild Thornberrys. I didn’t see the Nigel cosplayer (*sad* 🙁 ), but those two were so fantastically in character I can’t get over it.
  • The many friendly, talented and cool young women who came by to chat comics, sweets deco and art. You ladies made my day 🙂

I’m also not counting the most excellent friends whom I already knew who stopped by to say hello.

Overall the event seemed to go well. It was fun trading at a pop culture type convention in such a large open space. I did end up getting rained out and leaving early with most of the other comics sellers but the time I had at the show  was good. Outdoor markets are great, but can be dangerous for paper-goods sellers if the bureau of meteorology predicts a “high chance of rain”. More signage would have been good (as is my usual complaint with events), but the market was so spread out over Garema Place this wasn’t much of an issue. The good part about being spread out was there weren’t the usual pop culture market tiny walkways for human traffic jams and spontaneous, but poorly placed, cosplay photo shoots – the one photo shoot that led to a human traffic jam near my booth still left enough space for people to walk around.

The show was, for me, very different in ways I’m not used to. It’s also given me plenty to think about for next year and what I want to prioritise. Hm…watch this space!