Month: August 2023

Inspiration Trip: Japanese Armor Exhibit

My husband and I have been quite the hermits since COVID, so it was a big deal for us to actually leave the house this past Friday and venture forth into downtown Atlanta to the High Museum of Art, my old stomping ground where I attended SCAD-Atlanta for grad school!  The area has changed a lot, including the addition of the amazing SCAD Fashion museum and an expanded campus.

Our goal this trip was to visit the Samurai: Armor from the Collection of Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller being hosted by the High.  When you first enter the exhibition space, you’re enveloped by the sound of a heartbeat as you survey a wall collaged with famous movie posters and screenshots inspired by samurai epics, including everything from Kill Bill to Kurosawa’s best.  

Past this point, many armor sets are displayed in cases that allow you to fully circumvent them, a fact I appreciated as an artist who considers drawing armor a weak point.  I especially wanted to study how armor works during this trip, but I left the exhibit with so much more inspiration than that!

My Favorite Pieces

Beyond the more traditional armor, the collection housed many impressive pieces with unique imagery, specifically Buddhist dieties and symbols, seashells, and even ‘human head’ caps.  Here are a few of my favorite pieces from the collection:

This helm sports the wheel representing the Eightfold Path of Buddhism.

A most impressive display of fully armored group of horses and riders takes up a large stage in the exhibit.  I can only imagine how horrifying and awe-inspiring they would be riding atop small ‘dragons’!

This piece caught my eye because of its striking color and unique shape.  It’s described as being a cape made for a woman, as well as a fire fighter, the long treated cloth providing protection against flames.  Fire was a major danger in Japanese fuedal cities due to the fact a large part of their construction was made of wood.  I want to know more about these female fire fighters who protected the city from threats!

All in the Details

One thing this exhibit stressed was that Samurai armor emphasized not only function, but form and aesthetics.  Even as the construction of later armor was simplified for quick dressing, the craftsmen always made sure it was beautiful and impressive.  I had to feature some of the close-up shots of the details in the metalwork and lacquered leather.

(Notice this armor has butterfly-shaped hinges to match its butterfly mon (sigil), which was the symbol of the clan being represented by this armor.)

(I especially appreciated the naturalistic motifs and stylization here.  I can see how Art Nouveau borrowed from Japanese motifs looking at this!)

Yasuke, the Black Samurai

This exhibit also included a fascinating sub-exhibit dedicated to Yasuke, an African samurai who served Nobunaga, (for those who aren’t already familiar) that’s worth a look.  The museum hired local artist, Brandon Sadler, to tell the story of Yasuke’s life through four Japanese brush style wall scrolls and they are very inspiring!

History, Worldbuilding, & Inspiration

I hope as an artist that I’ll be able to absorb something of how and why this armor operates in our world for my own worldbuilding and storytelling efforts, as many of my own stories take place in a low tech era of warfare.  Some observations I made as I absorbed this exhibit:

  • The artistry of making these armor sets represented vigilance, grace, dedication, and skillfulness on behalf of both artisan and wearer, putting an emphasis on discipline and status.
  • Visual motifs from the observed world include bamboo leaves, religious iconography, local gods and spirits, sea shells, and even smoking pipes popularized by Europeans who brought tobacco into Japan.  I imagine these motifs were chosen based on each warrior’s local symbolism, which usually shows up in the mon (family crest) too.
  • Construction elements include metal (specifically iron), silk (layered into strands and used for ties), and lacquered leather.  Swords had manta-ray skin for the grips, materials all plentiful in Japan’s island climes.  
  • Evolution of construction evolved over time based on what the armor needed to defend against. The layers were silk and layered leather or metal at first to defend against swords and arrows and protect horseback riders (needed to be light to be quick and also longer blades to reach opponents), but as time progressed, larger strips were used in chest armor to defend against matchlock weapons.  Hinges were also added to make the armor easier to get in and out of. However, none of these pieces lost their attention to detail and pageantry during that evolution.
  • The world is interconnected.  Some of the armor was inspired by European soldiers featuring paneled construction like European helmets or big noses that mocked Europeans as “demons”. Other sets were made by Korean artisans who brought their own silhouettes and techniques into Japanese armor-making during political exchanges where the armor was brought as gifts during a time of diplomacy between the two countries who have had rough history (IE. Japanese occupiation of Korea).

Full Reference Album

There are too many beautiful things to include in one blog post, so definitely check out the full album on imgur to see the rest of the pics I took and the High’s page on the exhibition, which includes additional information and history about the exhibit’s signature pieces.  I photographed with texture, construction, etc in mind for my reference as an artist.

All the photos in the world can’t do this exhibit justice, however.  These pieces are a sight to behold with so much detail to take in and I encourage you to go visit them in-person, if you can!  This exhibit will be at the High Museum until September 17th.


There were also lots of wonderful Japanese reference books, comics, and souvenirs featured in the gift shop.  I left with a couple of small souvenirs for myself, including a magnet, which I always get for any exhibit we attend.  A butterfly-themed pin seemed appropriate after marveling at the buttefly-themed armor set I particularly enjoyed!  We also purchased the #4 print in the Yasuke set for our personal collection, as he is an inspiring figure for my husband, Kevin.

I hope to explore more exhibits like this as long as we’re in the vicinity of so many wonderful museums!  Seeing this beautiful artistry in an amazing collection filled me with such awe I hope to channel into aspects of my own work.  I hope you all are inspired as well!

♥ Ang

Art Fight 2023 Collection [Video + Art Feature]

I decided a long time ago that I really wanted to start making more videos to share with you guys.  Participating in Art Fight this past July was the perfect excuse to try my hand at videos once again!  

It was my first time participating in Art Fight and I’m so pleased to report that other artists there made it such a joyful, nostalgic experience for me.  I felt like I was back at college again where my Art Department buddies and I would hang out together and geek out about our characters, drawing them for one another without any of the stress of monetizing our art, only the pure joy of being massive nerds.  

Lately, I’ve been very bummed out about seeing my favorite art communities and social media sites I’ve put years into crumbling before my eyes, so participating in Art Fight was a healing salve for my soul that I needed more than I could have guessed.

What is Art Fight?

It’s an art trading event hosted on that welcomes artists of all levels to come together and trade art for the month of July.  Everyone is split up into two teams who ‘fight’ each other for dominance, with the trades you make earning each user more points.  The more polished your art trade “Attack” is, the more points you’ll earn for your team.  You can even “Attack” people on your own team (known as “Friendly Fire”).  

Each participant shares profiles of their original characters for other artists to draw. I’ve even seen some instances of “Draw A Character” character profiles where people challenge artists to work under inspiration prompts instead of uploading a specific character profile.  It’s very freeform.  You are also not required to return trades you recieve, if you don’t want.  The freedom to control what you draw made this super chill and appealing to me!

Art Fight allows not only 2D art, but 3D, animation, and crafts as well, so it’s a great opportunity to hop in and practice with your favorite medium.  I may try my hand at jewelry or maquettes inspired by characters next year!

Let the Battles Begin!

The video above goes through timelapses of each of the entries I drew while I talk about the characters, share Procreate tips, and finally share the art (and animation) I recieved of my own characters. I suggest giving it a watch for the full experience!  Otherwise, I’m also sharing the art here in the post so you can quickly view it.

This year, my goal for participating was to try and see if I could work faster, as I’m usually a very slow, meticulous artist, so I kept each entry under 2 hours.  I learned a ton about tightening up my workflow by simply limiting myself to rough underdrawing, skipping right to inking, and learning to trust in my instincts and ability to tweak later, rather than obsessively perfecting everything early on.  Done is better than perfect, or so I’m trying to teach myself!

During the event, I also experimented with new tools, including the wonderfully bristled, organic texture of the Inka Pen in Procreate.  It may just be my favorite new digital pen to draw with!  (You can see this brush at work particularly in Cyn and Cultivar of Bloodied Sunset’s portraits).


Evelyn for Viday

What a gorgeous character!  This vengeful demon has all the hallmarks of things I love. Horns, halos, tattoos. Check, check, and check!


Pretty Boy for DungeonDelves

How could anyone resist wanting to draw his fabulous parrot-themed hair?  Pretty Boy was a great chance for me to play with that silver shining in the shadows effect of his tattoo, which I was quite pleased with.


Rowyn for Lumaris

Lumaris gentle dragon prince was a great challenge for portraying a soft color palette and implying the detail of his neck scales rather than drawing each and every one.


Cyn for ArtoftheNerd

Probably my favorite portrait of the bunch for the dramatic lighting and restricted color palette!  Time restrictions led to creativity when the complicated weapon and fingers meant I had to quickly come up with colors before I exceeded the amount of time I set for myself.  The simplicity of this one helps the glowing eyes really stand out.  That shadow cutting across the eyes is something I’ve always wanted to do, so it was satisfying to bring it into this piece!


Cultivar of Bloodied Sunsets for kessinder

Vampire girls really won this event for me!  This gal has such a cutesy-dangerous vibe that I really enjoyed drawing.  Yet another great candidate for experimenting with dramatic horror lighting.


Kainda for Toasted_bAguette6

HOW have I never drawn a goblin before this piece?  What a fun opportunity this was!  Toasted_bAguette6 described Kainda as being a chaos goblin similar to Nimona and seeing as how that movie is now one of my all-time classic favorites, I was stoked to channel that vibe for this piece.  How did I do for drawing my first goblin?


Laelri for Creativeidiote

This one was the true test of ‘get it done fast, gurl’!  I didn’t start this piece till the morning of the final day of the event and also wanted to find a way to utilize what time I had wisely, so her line work had to carry the piece through no shading with only color flats.  The container shape around the portrait helped tie this all together so she didn’t have ‘floating head syndrome’.


Glittering Blade Meets Kalara for ShiftingPath

For the grand finale, I knew I wanted to do this piece for ShiftingPath, who is the ringleader organizing the Exalted Secret Santa every year (another art trading event that I enjoy participating in when I can).  I wanted to give back to ShiftingPath for being such trooper for organizing the Exalted artist community, so I was overjoyed to see they were participating in ArtFight this year too!

This one probably took more like 4-5 hours as I tried to structure it more than the others, while also keeping the background more implied with painterly strokes and shapes.  I’ve talked more about this one in the video, so definitely go watch that for more about the thumbnailing process and why I chose this particular scene.

(You can skip right to the segment on this piece here).

Glittering Blade (left) belongs to ShiftingPath.


Attacks Incoming!

But that’s not all!  Check out the lovely entries other artists did for me this year.  It’s always a lot of fun to see my brainchildren in different styles and interpretations!  Be sure to check out the video for a closer look at each entry and character discussion.  You can skip right to each one in the chapter breaks listed in the video’s description over on YouTube.


Character: Kalara Vadras by me
Lumaris – 


Character:  Kalara Vadras by me
DungeonDelves –


Character: The Crucified Dreamer by me
Art by kessinder – 


Character: The Crucified Dreamer by me
Art by ArtoftheNerd –


Character: Rabanne Aroré by me
Art by Toasted_bAguette6 – 


Character: Rabanne Aroré by me
Art by Viday –


Character: Anko Xelkova by me
Creativeidiote – 


I hope you all enjoyed this look at the festival of art trading that was Art Fight!  What was your favorite portrait from the set I did?  Was it the same favorite as mine?  Do you Art Fight too?  

Feel free to share your profiles with me in the comments so I can catch you next year!  You can find my Art Fight profile here.

Hopefully find you all next year for the event!  I plan to make it a part of my yearly rotation from now on because it was so positive for me and I enjoyed the carefree excuse for practice.  See you on the (art) battlefield!