Review: Kuretake Ai

 Of all the art trends I see on Youtube, the art subscription boxes remain my favorite, purely because I love experimenting and trying new mediums that I haven’t before. These subscription boxes also have the added benefit, ideally, in that the contents contained within have been curated and tested to work together. This isn’t full-proof, however.
Full disclaimer: I was not provided any free boxes by any art subscription companies; everything was paid for by me, out of my own pocket. My opinions are my own.

Someday I hope to go over the big subscription boxes in detail, but for now I wanted to review and recount what product made me fed up with Art Snacks, in particular. Art Snacks, already, is my least favorite of all the subscription boxes, in no small part due to the fact their included contents often don’t go together, and even worse, they love to provide oversized paint markers that barely work in a sketchbook setting.
That being said, the Kuretake Ai seemed promising – when I received it in the box, I was fairly familiar with other Kuretake/Zig products, and according to Art Snacks, this was a new release at the time. It being straight from Japan, the pen has almost no English on it, so I am at the mercy of Art Snack’s description. According to them, this pen was made to mimic eyeliner and other makeup brushes, thus its claim to fame was its extremely fine brush and compact size, much smaller than any other standard liner or brush pen. I can only suspect the ‘Ai’ comes from the word ‘Eye’ due to its makeup origins, but this is pure speculation on my part.

This pen was a huge disappointment for me.

A photo of some of the swatches I've taken testing various pens, brushes, and fineliners.
A sampling of my pens and swatches. The name of the pen is followed by a colored circle and a colored square. The circle is tested with watercolor, the square with alcohol marker.

I‘m no expert with brush pens, my control over them is clunky at best, but in going over all my collection to double check this review, I swatched 30+ pens across companies, brush and fineliner alike, and this pen is by far the worst of them. Its fine line might be its selling point, but for as fine a line as it produces, its ink takes much, much longer to dry. Even a single stroke seemed to take over a minute to dry, and it by far was the slowest drying pen of mine. This is a huge setback, as being left-handed, a quick drying pen, especially a liner, is indispensable. Already weakened by this, I gave it all the time in the world to dry so I could move on to my tests with Alcohol markers and Watercolor.

Normally when I test pens, I use very light colors. I find if any alcohol marker is going to make a pen bleed, it’s going to be yellow (about the only thing that color is good for), but in this test I used one of my innumerable browns. Only a handful of my other liners failed the alcohol marker test, wherein I repeatedly colored over a small square of ink that had been left to dry. The Kuretake Ai failed, however, giving it a second strike.

It also failed with watercolor, which is far more common amongst the pens I have, as many are actually used for calligraphy where ink is not water resistant. If it were not for the alcohol marker failing and the slow drying ink, I could accept this pen amongst my other none-watercolor safe pens. And besides, there was a failsafe medium that I could

Kuretake Ai Swatch Vs. Other Pen Swatches showing it is not water and alcohol proof
Kuretake Ai Swatch compared to the not waterproof Kuretake ZIG Cocoiro swatch.

always turn to when a pen didn’t play well with alcohol or water: Colored Pencil.

That’s right, this is my first and only pen that seems to hate water, alcohol, and colored pencil, even after it has been allowed to dry – which already, it takes a long time to do. And because of that, there’s simply no use for this pen for me, no redeeming qualities at all, and seeing Kuretake say it’s water and alcohol proof on their site feels like an insult.


Final Kuretake AI Swatch
Final Kuretake AI Swatch, showing smudging with all three mediums.

If you like my review or want to read another artist’s take on this pen, check out Kiriska’s review.

Process: Reinhard

Artwork of Reinhard from the game Rune Factory 5. He is a blond knight with orange highlights, orange-red eyes, and his armor is mostly white and gold, with a red cape and accents.
Reinhard from Rune Factory 5.

With the release of Rune Factory 5 I was sent down a rabbit hole I haven’t been in a long while. I’ve easily put about 200 hours in since its US release in late April, and still continue to play it almost daily. As it is a fantasy farm simulator in the same vein as Story of Seasons, a large portion of the game has you romancing the townsfolk of your choice and eventually marrying them. Rune Factory 5 is special in that it is the first in the series to allow same sex marriage on release, so, of course, off I went romancing the bachelors of Rigbarth. My favorites are Lucas and Reinhard, and as my friend is romancing Lucas, I decided to focus my efforts on Reinhard. The knight shall be my husband, in time, on my main save.

In looking for scraps amongst the fanart and fanfiction for this rather obscure series, and my even more obscure favorite bachelor, I discovered Reinhard shares the same English voice actor as Dimitri from Fire Emblem: Three Houses. As Reinhard is, fittingly, a knight, I decided to make my rejected fire emblem boyfriend some art, in as close to the style of Fire Emblem that I could manage (knowing very little of the actual games, considering I am not a fan of tactical RPGs).

I began by assembling a list of characters that represent the Fire Emblem series, specifically the player character. In an act of serendipity, Byleth, the player character from Three Houses, does a pretty good job at looking like Reinhard out of the box, making my search very short, manageable, and giving me plenty of poses to work with. I settled on these two:

Byleth from Fire Emblem: Three Houses. In this image he is a knight facing forward, walking toward the viewer.
Byleth from FE: Three Houses
Byleth from Fire Emblen Three houses, brandishing a large golden sword.
Byleth from Fire Emblem: Three Houses.

The first image was my original go-to, and I began to practice the ever challenging Anime Artstyle. With many, many attempts under my belt, I just wasn’t satisfied. I kept the drawing very rough, but while I liked parts, such as his eyes, I simply couldn’t get the subtle curves of the face to look right, even when using the symmetry tool. This has often eluded me, even with practice and watching or reading every tutorial out there. Thus, I moved on to the second image, one that was more dynamic overall, but had the added challenge of drawing the sword – a feat I also struggle with.

My first attempt at Reinhard in the Fire Emblem style
My first attempt at Reinhard in the Fire Emblem style

After attempting this pose multiple times, I gave up and took a break. After a few days, I returned to it, and this time decided to draw the post traditionally. Somehow, some poses are just easier for me to start with in traditional media, either because I have more control, or because I can be closer to the canvas, keeping my sense of perspective and scale a little more in check. With this attempt done, penciled, and lined, I took a picture of it to adapt it into a digital piece. This required lining it yet again in Clip Studio Paint, making many adjustments as I went, as the traditional piece was very sloppy, and more or less a placeholder. Although neither piece is perfect – both are missing the other hand because I couldn’t get the spacing with the sword to work, for instance, I eventually got the lineart the way I wanted. From there, I got a little crazy.

Completed Reinhard lineart, digital
Completed Reinhard lineart, digital

Something I loved about the source artwork is the subtle textures, upon zooming in. If my image hosted on my site is too low quality, check it out here, instead. While at a glance, the image is clearly digital, zooming in shows you the lineart is done with a very pencil-like brush, many of the details of his armor are loose and painterly, and his shading is nothing but texture. I wanted to emulate that. My first pass was a little basic, but had some strong points, so I counted it as ‘finished’ and rendered it out.

First picture of Reinhard, finished, in the sword holding pose.
First pass at Reinhard.

However, I wanted to challenge myself, and go a little deeper – so I opened my original image, before the filters, and painted over everything, giving him a more painterly, textured look that in theory, looks a little more like the source image. Overall, I’m happy with him! What do yinz think?

Second picture of Reinhard, finished, in the sword holding pose.
Second pass at Reinhard.



Artemus Pencil: Content ID:1758182
Krupuk Overmarker (Paid)

Person supervisor version of real wind pencil in-house animator only (アニメーター専用リアル風鉛筆 社内の人監修版)
アニメーター専用リアル風鉛筆 社内の人監修版 Content ID:1728670


Yesterday was my birthday, and for it I was gifted a studio – an old bedroom/storage room in the attic. Over the last year or so my household chipped away at getting it back into usable space. With that done, I now have the skeleton of a proper art studio, a place for me to pursue various traditional arts and space for me to store all the supplies and other knickknacks I’ve accumulated.

For now, I’ve moved all my traditional art supplies into boxes and put them in the room, followed by going through and organizing the last few storage containers to see what is worth keeping. A desk, chair, and a couple shelves are in place for me to start out with.

In the long term, I hope to move another couple bookshelves into the room for help with organization, as well as hanging many prints, photos, and posters to the wall. I also want to repurpose my old laptop into a Linux Facebook Machine, something that will run a browser and not much else, so I can draw and communicate as needed. I’m very excited, this has been years in the making and I finally have space dedicated to my hobbies. I hope to branch out into sewing and airbrushing – something I haven’t done in over ten years, now.

What’s to Come

I’ve let this site sit pretty idle the last couple years, each time wanting to launch the ‘blog’ part when I hit certain milestones. I wanted to start it when my Studio was set up, when I had my online store gain some traffic, or when I was selling my art in a brick-and-mortar business. Sadly, all three of these didn’t come through, and so I figured it’s time to stop hesitating.

This blog will be used to show art I’m working on and discuss projects, opinions, reviews – anything, really, that I feel like talking about. Art will be posted here that isn’t posted on my Discord or my Twitter, so please add me to your RSS feed and get ready for regular postings from me!