In Depth Post 6 – Backgrounds in Digital Art

In-Depth is finally coming to an end. I can hardly believe that the project is nearly complete, but I have found it extremely rewarding. I learned so much from my amazing mentor, Sarina, and I got to apply everything I learned directly into my own art. I feel very accomplished and satisfied with my learning, and I think my art improved a lot during this time. I took advantage of all learning opportunities I was presented with, and I have become more knowledgeable because of that. 

What was a highlight for you and why? 

A highlight for me was seeing how my art progressed as I learned new techniques. One very useful way I absorbed this new information is from my mentor drawing her own art during meetings, as I was able to see these techniques in action. I also became closer with my mentor during this process. Below are Sarina’s drawings of the rare horse pig. 

What was particularly challenging for you and why? 

Though In-Depth has been enjoyable, I still found it challenging at times. I sometimes had trouble getting art done before each meeting, especially towards the end of the project when I became busy with other responsibilities. These past two weeks were some of those challenging ones. I did not go to my dad’s house for a while because I was sick, though I had intended to work on the colour pallets for my Wilbur PMV there. This meant I was not able to progress on that project. However, I managed to finish a different one. The project below is a part for a Multiple Animator Project (MAP) that I have been working on for a few weeks. I showed a frame of it in my previous In-Depth post. 

 This was my first experience using blend modes, which are effects used to blend a layer with layers below it. Like I mentioned in my fifth post, I found that this technique makes my shading appear more professional and beautiful. I have started using it in almost all my new drawings. For example, last week I was inspired to draw someone’s art in my own style using blend modes. Below is the image created by me, and then that of the original artist, cassandraa (on YouTube). I used blend modes to make the shading fit the colours under it and replicate the text in the original image. 

What will you prepare for In-Depth Night? 

This event will be my first time presenting a major TALONS project in person, and I want it to be a success. I believe I have come up with an effective method to showcase my project. I plan to print out a few of my best works from this project onto glossy paper and place them around my table. I have printed my art on such papers before, and it looks amazing, so I think that is a better choice than simply showing the drawings on my iPad. Below is an example of my printed art. 

I will place the drawings on small stands borrowed from Ms. Mulder. People can look at the printed drawings and ask me questions about the process, techniques used, and anything else. I will also be drawing live at the table. This way, people can see what it looks like to draw a background from scratch. I will be present to discuss my project with anyone who comes by. 

In Depth Post 5 – Backgrounds in Digital Art

What kinds of learning opportunities does the mentor provide to expose you to new learning?

Since the start of In-Depth, my mentor Sarina has been sending me extra resources to give me a deeper perspective of my learning. These have been videos and images about brushes, ambient occlusion, colour theory, composition, etc. and they have been a great refresher for our lessons. 

What kinds of learning opportunities exist to reinforce new learning?

These past few weeks have been quite busy, so I have not had much time to practice backgrounds for In-Depth. However, I have found myself using strategies I learned from my mentor in completely unrelated art. An example of this is when I created two pieces of art for my friend’s birthdays.  

I did not design these with In-Depth in mind, but I soon realized that I was subconsciously implementing what I learned. For example, I used the rule of thirds in the penguin drawing. The rule of thirds is when lines split the canvas up into thirds, and it is used to make art appear balanced. The object of focus is usually on one of the intersecting lines.

Another example is my use of foreground, midground, and background in the red panda drawing. The blurred leaves are the foreground, the red panda is in the midground, and the far-away trees are the background. I also used contrasting colours to make the red panda stand out from the green background. These concepts make my art more professional and pleasing to the eye. 

I have also found myself spotting and analyzing uses of colour theory all around me. I have come to realize that most products, whether they are food packaging, cleaning supplies, or advertisements, implement it to be appealing to customers. This has given me ideas for my own colour palettes. 

What kinds of opportunities exist that might accelerate learning?

Learning about art outside of In-Depth helps accelerate learning. I discovered that recently when I joined a new Multiple Animator Project (MAP) that had very strict shading guides. I had to use blending modes called overlay and multiply. I had never tried using them before and didn’t even know they existed in my art program, Procreate! However, they proved extremely useful and made my shading a thousand times more beautiful. Below is the first image that I tried these blending modes on. I also used them on my friend’s birthday drawings. 

When you get together what do you talk about?

My meetings with Sarina are usually structured like so: 

Say hi and catch up with each other. I show Sarina my newest art and explain what strategies I implemented in it. 

Sarina teaches me a lesson, using visual and verbal examples. I take notes.

I ask any remaining questions and we say goodbye. Sometimes I show her my cat, Amy. 

I am very happy with our lesson structure and I think it gives us the optimal opportunity for learning and teaching. Our meetings usually last about one or two hours. 

What is going particularly well in your mentoring relationship right now?

During our last meeting, I got the chance to ask Sarina a question about colour theory. I think this was the first time I came to my mentor with a big question. I have been struggling with the final two colour palettes for my PMV, and I asked Sarina if she had any pointers. We discussed what I wanted the first pallet to represent and how I could use colours to achieve this. Unfortunately, we did not come to a concrete conclusion, but I did get lots of ideas and I think I will be able to figure out the rest on my own. 

What are you learning about one another?

I have been learning an incredible amount about art, but I have also been getting to know my mentor even better. As I mentioned before, we were friends before the project, but this was the first time we had talked in years. This meant we have gotten many chances to reconnect. For example, Sarina once came to see my cat, Amy, and I learned that she loves cats. We decided to go to a cat café together because of this, and it was tons of fun. I cannot wait to continue connecting with my mentor and improving my artistic skills. 

In Depth Post 4 – Backgrounds in Digital Art

What has been your most difficult mentoring challenge so far?  Why?

I honestly have not encountered any challenges with my mentor, Sarina. We have been communicating very well and I have had a great time connecting with her. We speak regularly on discord and solve problems efficiently. An example of this is when I felt sick before our third meeting. I asked to postpone it ten minutes to see if I would feel better by then. Sarina also felt sick before our fourth meeting, so she let me know and we postponed that meeting for the following day.

What is working well? Why?

My In-Depth project has been going great. I have been having a lot of fun practicing my art skills and getting to know my mentor better. The lessons have been well structured, and I have learned a lot. Sarina has been making great notes for each class as she talks (I take my own notes too), and these have been quite helpful, especially since they feature pictures and colour. Here are Sarina’s notes from our last two meetings.  


I have also been creating art that I am quite proud of during this project. During these past two weeks, I worked on two main pieces of art: a drawing of a crown and a Picture Music Video (PMV). I will explain both in detail below. 

Ranboo Crown 

During our last In-Depth meetings, Sarina taught me about colour theory and composition. I implemented a ton of those techniques into this drawing. For starters, since the lighting in this drawing is warm, I lit the crown with warm colours (yellow) and shaded it with cooler colours (green). I also learned about atmospheric shading, which makes an object appear to belong in an environment by bouncing colours off it. I shaded the crown green near the grass and purple near the allium flowers to simulate the background’s colours bouncing off the crown. I used foreground, midground and background. The plants are the foreground, the crown (aka the focus of the drawing) is part of the midground, and there is an ocean in the background that has colours fading away into the distance. I also used purple and yellow objects as the focus of the piece, both of which contrast each other nicely. 

Wilbur PMV 

I started working on this PMV long before the beginning of In-Depth, but I decided that it would be a great opportunity to practice colour theory. I chose four colour pallets for different sections of the animation using what I’ve learned from my mentor. 

The first image shows my blue colour pallet. It is a monochromatic pallet, which means the colours are the same hue (aka type of colour, in this case blue), but have varying values (darkness and lightness). My reason for choosing blue for the pallet is the following: 

I wanted to make a beautifully contrasted explosion in this section of the animation. Since I wanted to make the explosion red, orange, and yellow, I chose to make everything else blue as that would bring special attention to the explosion. This is because blue is opposite to these colours on the colour wheel. 

This colour pallet was pre-made, but I chose to use it in my PMV because it consists mostly of dark blues and purples but has vibrant reddish-pink accents. I feel like this striking colour combination is great to symbolize that the character is going kind of crazy. 

I haven’t drawn much for the other colour pallets yet, so I will explain them in my next blog post.

What could be working better?  How can you make sure this happens?

I have not encountered any huge difficulties during my learning so far. However, I have found it challenging to implement everything I’ve learned into my backgrounds. The main reason is that I simply don’t have the time or motivation to draw any more than I already am. I do not want to force myself to draw when I am not motivated, as that may result in more burnout later. I do want to implement everything I learned into a drawing, though, to make sure I remember! I can improve on this by thinking of ways to implement smaller strategies into the drawings I’m already making. These drawings include my PMV and all drawings I do for fun. If I can find creative ways to implement such strategies into them, I can put every single strategy I learned to use! 

In Depth Post 3 – Backgrounds in Digital Art

What went particularly well during your mentoring sessions?

I was blown away by my first real mentor meeting. My mentor, Sarina, had a well planned out structure for the meeting, with clear points and great pacing. I had enough time to take notes, which I did in detail. Sarina shared a lot of information that made sense and used visual examples to tie it together. She asked me questions, such as what a drawing created with a certain texture of brush reminded me of. This helped make the meeting engaging.

Another great element of our last meeting is that I got to draw my own texture study, something I learned about during that meeting. It is a method used by artists to practice replicating certain textures. I replicated tree bark, and I did so while screen sharing so Sarina could watch and give me pointers.

Here is the image of my texture study:

What relationship challenges did you face?  Address some of the sub- questions below

Were you communicating effectively with one another?

Sarina and I have been communicating very well. We have a group chat on discord and often ask questions and send each other art, such as my background practices. We are also able to respond to each other rather quickly, which lets us resolve any problems or questions without much delay.

Were you candid and open in your communication?

During my last In-Depth meeting, my mentor and I were quite open in our communication. We spoke a lot about elements of art, such as solid and soft brushes, textures, blocking out colour, and much more. However, we also talked about our pets and a few other topics. This was really nice because though Sarina is my mentor, we were also really good friends when we were younger and it was great to talk to her again. Overall, we were open and sincere while communicating and it made for an enjoyable meeting.

Were you actually listening to each other?

I listened attentively during our last meeting and took detailed notes so I wouldn’t forget anything. My mentor also listened to me when I asked questions and made comments. If our audio cut out, we asked for the other person to repeat what they said.

What did you do to hold yourself accountable for your learning?

I learned a lot during my last meeting, and I put it to use by drawing my own background using some of the principles taught by my mentor. However, I would have liked to practice drawing more than one background, as I was not able to incorporate all the principles into my last one. Additionally, more practice would always be good. I was busy these past few weeks, so I did not get many chances to draw, but during the next few weeks I will make more time. I will hold myself accountable during the next few weeks by drawing at least two backgrounds and/or other art practices.

Here is my first background practice. To start, I blocked out the colour, then added some texture. I used both solid and soft brushes. I learned about all this in detail last meeting.

What logical challenges affected your communication?

Sarina is much more knowledgeable about art than I am, so she knew more terms than I do. Sometimes I had to ask her to clarify what a term meant. However, Sarina did an overall amazing job at making sure everything was understandable for me, while still diving deep into the content.

What factors affected your ability to interact effectively?

Sarina and I have been meeting online, but this comes with its own set of challenges. Though we didn’t have many issues with Wi-Fi or bad quality calls, I ran into a problem while trying to share my screen. It was my first time doing so, and I couldn’t figure it out because I had accidentally set the settings to not allow me to share my screen. I tried many strategies to fix this, and eventually succeeded, but it probably took me a good ten minutes. Luckily, Sarina was able to continue teaching while I fiddled with settings on my iPad. Technology affected my interaction abilities, but I was able to solve the problem and get back to interacting properly.

The other factor is me being nervous about the meeting. I was quiet at the start, but by the end I was much more comfortable and was able to communicate happily.

What three strategies could improve the quality of your mentoring interactions?

One is to have everything I need ready for my meeting so I don’t have to interrupt the meeting to get it. This applies to the screen sharing incident because if I had made sure I could do it beforehand, I could have saved a lot of time for my mentor. However, I didn’t know that I needed to screen share beforehand. It would be good to find a solution to this. I also need to get paper and a pencil ready so I can take notes.

Another is to find a way to be less nervous before a meeting. I wasn’t sure what strategies I could use to do so, but I found a great website about conference call anxiety that gave some great pointers.

The two pointers I want to use are about preparing for the meeting. This is similar to my first strategy, but it goes a bit deeper. I need to prepare my environment and myself. By preparing my environment I can eliminate distractions. By preparing myself, I can manage my nerves so I can start the meeting comfortable and ready to interact.

What is the action plan for implementing each of the three strategies?

Before the meeting, I will ask my mentor what extra supplies I might need. If any extra supplies are required, I will get them ready for the meeting. I will also put paper and a pencil on the desk where I have my meeting.

To prepare my environment, I will clean off my desk and shut the door to my room so it is quiet. I will also ask my family members to keep their voices down during the meeting.

To prepare myself, I will do some of the following:

  • Take a walk
  • Do some breathing
  • Eat something nice
  • Watch some motivational videos, such as that of a dog named Tofu Chan

In Depth Post 2 – Backgrounds in Digital Art

How did your mentor gain their experience/ expertise?

My mentor, Sarina, has been doing art for a very long time. I remember that even when I was a little kid, I was amazed by her art skills. According to Sarina, half of her experience in art was gained through local classes, and the rest was self-taught. I imagine this required a lot of practice and passion for art.

Here are a few examples of Sarina’s background art:

What wisdom have you gained from your mentor so far?

On February 5th, I had my first online meeting with my mentor. Though we didn’t start any art lessons, we created a very thorough plan for the rest of our project, using my goals as guidance. It became very obvious that my mentor knew a ton about art. I’ve never before heard of some the points she brought up, such as the Rule of Thirds and atmospheric shading. This makes me even more excited to learn from Sarina and I now appreciate her wisdom even more.

What have you learned so far, in terms of facilitation strategies, that might contribute to your own development as a mentor?

One of the most important skills my mentor has learned is communication skills. It is very important in a mentor/mentee relationship, or in any other relationship, to be able to check in and see what we can do to help each other. Good communication, from both ends, will lead to our project reaching its highest potential.

Report on any progress and sub-skills learned so far. 

To start off our meeting, I showed Sarina my goals for this project. I want to become fluent with at least three brushes and learn at least five points about what makes a good background by the end of In-Depth. I want to learn colour theory, perspective, and more, applying it to my own drawings. We discussed how we would accomplish this and based a rough outline around it for each lesson. The outline contains:

Lesson 1 (Feb 5th): Introduction and Outline

Lesson 2 (Feb 19th): Digital Brushes

Lesson 3 (Mar 5th): Colour Theory

Lesson 4 (Mar 19th): Composition

Lesson 5 (Apr 2nd): Perspective

Lesson 6 (Apr 16th): Backgrounds (Basics)

Lesson 7 (Apr 30th): Designing Backgrounds

Lesson 8 (May 14th): Final Project

To prepare for our next meeting, Sarina and I went over the brushes I currently use for drawing. We draw in different drawing apps, but this shouldn’t be a problem because we can find similar brushes and maybe even download the same ones. I currently only use three main brushes, one for lineart, one for backgrounds, and one for shading. Below is an image of each one.

Though I’m happy with the lineart and shading brushes, I want to expand my toolbelt of background brushes. As stated in my goals, I wish to become a near expert with three of them. This will take a lot of practice and lessons from my mentor.

Next, we decided exactly what we would be learning each day. Sarina’s notes are shown below, and I like them because they give a detailed outline and may help me prepare for each meeting and plan out my practicing times.

Finally, we took a quick look at a few different styles of backgrounds. The image below is the closest to what I want my art to look like by the end of this project.

This In-Depth project has been off to a great start. My mentor has been so helpful and the plans we created for the rest of my project give a great glimpse into the future. This project shows so much potential for fun and insight into the world of art. I have my next meeting tomorrow, and I honestly can’t wait.

Developing the Leaders Around You

The Law of Explosive Growth: 

“To add growth, lead followers. 

To multiply growth, lead leaders.”

As mentioned in John C. Maxwell’s book, this law is irrefutable. One can recruit a bunch of people to a cause, but if those people are simply followers, the cause will not grow as fast and well as if the recruits are leaders. This is because leaders are not content with following someone forever. Leaders usually want to recruit their own people to lead, and that is what multiplies growth rather than just adding to it. I feel like this quote is very important to my life and the lives of my fellow TALONS students because we are all striving to be leaders, not followers, and we want to be able to help our peers become leaders too. We also want our program and activities to be successful, but in order to reach our full potential we must be good leaders. This also ties into our leadership project and trip planning. The grade 10s help the grade 9s by leading them and teaching them to lead as well, so they can do the same for the next grade 9s. This may not multiply growth since TALONS has a limit on students, but it will multiply our success and enjoyment of the program. The multiplication of success is usually just as important, if not more important, than the multiplication of people. 

 Read more about the Law of Explosive Growth here.


“Leaders are hard to unite.” 

This quote caught my attention because it’s something I hadn’t thought about much before, but is very true. Leaders all have their own ideals and goals for the future, and it can sometimes be hard to unite them when working towards a common goal. If you gather a bunch of passionate leaders and tell them to agree on something, it can be very difficult because leaders are so passionate! However, when leaders work together, the results can be extraordinary, so it is important to try. I remember one day many years ago, when my class was learning consensus in elementary school. We all had to agree on one game to play in gym that day, but everyone had different goals and it was taking forever to decide. I don’t remember how this situation ended, but I like to think that we found a way to unite and had an amazing day at gym because of it. This shows how hard it can be for leaders to work together, and this can also be related to our TALONS trip and leadership project planning. In our program we are all very passionate people with unique ideas. In theory, it can be difficult for us to agree on something, but I am not able to think of any examples of this. I’m sure there are some, but they are likely not major. I think since our class has spent so much time together, we have learned how to collaborate and can work around the difficulty of uniting leaders! 

 As we just learned, it can be difficult for leaders to work together, but it is very important that they do. Learn about how to unite leaders here.


“Travel Agent Leaders send people to their destination. 

Tour Guide Leaders take people to their destination.” 

These two types of leaders are very interesting because they provide very useful insight into what are good and bad qualities in a leader. A travel agent leader simply provides advice to people but has never done what they are teaching! These types of people are not credible, because they don’t know firsthand what it’s like to use this advice. The tour guide leader is very different because they have experience with what they’re talking about and can take mentees with them on the journey. You can tell which leader is better to be, and this is important to me because I want to be that better, more helpful leader. I do not want to be hypocritical by giving advice that I don’t follow myself. Therefore, I try my best to be the tour guide. For example, when last year I was a mentor for digital art, I was able to give my mentee good advice because I had used it on my own art! Additionally, if I had just looked at an art tutorial and relayed the information to my mentee, there would be no reason for my mentee to get that information from me when they could have just gotten it from the source itself. This is very similar to our TALONS trip and leadership project planning because, for the grade 10s at least, we have to be mentors for the grade 9s. It is very important that we are tour guide leaders, so the grade 9s can have the most useful experience possible to prepare them for when they must be mentors.

Learn more about the differences between Travel Agent Leaders and Tour Guide Leaders here.


What have you learned from this blog post? Feel free to leave a comment!


Source: Maxwell, J. (2014). Developing the Leaders Around You. The John Maxwell Company.

Image Source: Mazzone, C. (2017). La Frase del Mes: John C. Maxwell. PressCoaching.

In-Depth Learning Center

Hello humans! This is my learning center about American Sign Language. Hope you like it!

What is In-Depth?

In-Depth is a project where you choose a topic to learn about in depth, with a mentor to help you along the way!

What did I choose for my topic and why?

I chose American Sign Language (or ASL) to learn about because it’s really interested me for a long time, and I want to be able to communicate with deaf and hard of hearing people in a more effective and respectful manner! If you want to read a more detailed explanation as to why I want to learn ASL, please look at my first In-Depth post!

Have a great day/night!