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During a recent visit to Target I found a few curious items, starting with this Star Wars spatula with a handle shaped like a lightsaber.

Star Wars Lightsaber Spatula

Here is a whole line of nutcrackers based on characters from Frozen and Star Wars, including even a Darth Vader nutcracker.

Frozen and Star Wars Nutcrackers

And, last but not least, here is a chance to do a special DIY project where you can customize your own ugly Christmas sweater.

Ugly Christmas Sweater Kit

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Dancing Skeleton

Yesterday I celebrated Halloween and it was mostly good. It fell on a Saturday this year and it was also the day when Daylight Savings Time formally ended so we had to set our clocks back one hour. Which means that everyone got an extra hour of sleep, which was perfect timing because people could attend Halloween parties on a Saturday night knowing that they can sleep one hour more than usual.

When I was growing up, Halloween decorations were limited mainly to window decals and paper decorations that one can post on the front door. It’s just so amazing to me the amount of stuff that one can buy nowadays in order to decorate. Right now I’m starting to think that Halloween will eventually rival Christmas for the most over-the-top decorations that one can purchase for the home. Here are some incredibly decorated Halloween homes that I saw.

The next few photos showed this house in Bethesda, Maryland that was really decorated with these really cool looking lawn decorations. I wasn’t able to get any night shots of this house but one can only imagine that it must look just as fabulous (if not more fabulous) as in the daytime when I took these photos.

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One night, shortly before Halloween, I was in the process of walking to a meeting at a local church in Greenbelt, Maryland when I came across this lit scene in someone’s yard that looks like there’s a graveyard.

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The headstones all contain amusing puns that reminded me of the ones at the Haunted Mansion ride in Walt Disney World.

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There was even a spotlight featuring Halloween images that were shown on a nearby building in the background.

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A few days later I revisited that house in the daytime and I found that there were even more details that were better viewed when the sun was up.

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There was another house in Greenbelt, Maryland that also had some interesting Halloween decorations on the front lawn.

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Then there was this house, also in Greenbelt, Maryland, that had a bunch of Halloween decorations on the front lawn.

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The next few photos show this home that belong to some friends of mine who throw a really awesome Halloween party every year and I make an effort to show up. They really go all out for the decorations, as you can see in the next few photos.

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I didn’t take too many interior shots inside their home mainly because I was busy drinking and socializing. My sole photo was one where I messed around with the Hatsune Miku app on my phone for the first time in many months. I took a photo of the virtual pop superstar in my friends’ living room at the party.

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As I left the party I noticed that one of my friends’ neighbors had these really cool looking carved pumpkins.

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Compared to other people, my home is relatively sparse in terms of Halloween decorations. I live alone these days so, for me, it doesn’t make sense to do a huge amount of decorating on my front lawn because it can get pretty expensive and some of them can also be big electricity suckers. I did some effects that were low-cost. For example I delayed cutting the dead bunch of black-eyed susans so I had the effect of dead weeds growing in my front yard on Halloween. I’ve seen decorations that resemble dead weeds on sale but I thought it was cheaper to just delay gardening for a while so I would have some real dead and dried plants.

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Last year I didn’t bother with carving jack o’lanterns because my oven broke and I didn’t have enough money to hire a repair person. On Black Friday of last year I purchased an Oster convection oven at Target for $40, which was a perfect stop-gap for me since I’m only cooking for myself these days. The sole snag is that the convection oven broke a week before Halloween. By that point I had purchased one pumpkin from Clark’s Elioak Farm and I really wanted some roasted pumpkin seeds this year. I ended up going to Best Buy where I purchased a Black and Decker convection oven for $75. (Note for self: Never purchase any major appliances with a super cheap sales price on Black Friday from a big box retailer ever again.)

In any case I managed to get my new oven put up and I even purchased a second pumpkin just in time for Halloween. Here are my two carved jack o’lanterns.

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Here is what they look like at night. In one of them I put in an electronic light that turns the pumpkins a variety of different colors, which creates a very cool effect.

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In the other pumpkin I put in a lit candle.

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Otherwise, there was very little difference between how I decorated my home this year and last year. Unlike last year I went back to my usual practice of waiting until the day before Halloween before I put the decorations outside. I still have memories of last year when I decided to put my decorations outside a few weeks before Halloween and someone stole this rubber bat that I’ve had for many years. (I’ll admit that it’s not like the bat was very valuable. It was something that I won at an office party when I was employed by one of my former jobs a number of years ago and I’ve used it as a Halloween decoration for years afterwards. It’s annoying that someone decided to steal it.)

I’ll leave the decorations up until Tuesday since today and tomorrow is the Day of the Dead holiday in Mexico and, like Halloween, this holiday deals with skeletons, ghosts, and the afterlife.

A temporary Halloween store had opened in the nearest mall in my area. There were a variety of costumes available for sale including sexualized female versions of Spider-Man, Captain America, the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz, the Care Bears, and even Alice in Wonderland. There were also all kinds of Halloween decorations that one could buy.

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I ended up purchasing this hat that resembled Grumpy Cat for only $10.

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I also went to Behnke’s Nurseries, which had a bunch of pumpkins, gourds, and other types of Halloween decorations on sale. It was the same store where I purchased my second pumpkin to join the other one I purchased from Clark’s Elioak Farm just a few weeks earlier.

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Talk about mixing the holidays up! The foreground had Halloween decorations while, if one looked in the background to the left of the Halloween display, you’ll see a Christmas angel that has just been erected on one of the store’s doors.

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This year I decided to go as Grumpy Cat as I wore my new Grumpy Cat hat. As for the rest of the costume, I paired it with this My Little Pony Rainbow Dash hoodie that I purchased a few years ago. I was inspired to do this after seeing my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds being flooded with images of Grumpy Cat being dressed in a variety of different costumes such as ship captain, jester, pirate, and two Star Wars characters—Yoda and Princess Leia. I printed up three signs based on slogans I’ve seen on various Grumpy Cat memes. I wore this outfit to a Halloween dance that was held in my church on October 30 and the Halloween party that my two friends threw on Halloween the following night. I had a lot of positive responses to this although there were a few less-Internet savvy friends who didn’t understand the joke.

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Other years I’ve seen Halloween Peeps shaped like ghosts, jack o’lanterns, and black cats. This year I saw something that I hadn’t seen before—Peeps shaped like cemetery headstones

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Since I had planned on attending two parties on two consecutive nights, I decided to bake some cookies using my recently purchased convection oven. I purchased the sugar cookies from Aldi (it was the store’s version of the Pillsbury cookies where you horizontally slice a long vertical piece of dough and you get special cookies with pictures on them). I purchased enough to make two batches, one for each party. The cookies were well received in both places. Here is what the cookies looked like.

photo74This year I gave out special mini packages of Snyder’s of Hanover pretzels which had a colorful cute monster design on the front package. The only downside that only a total of 10 trick or treaters showed up at my doorstep this year. I was glad that I only purchased one package of the special pretzels so I don’t have to deal with too many leftovers. I’m also glad that I didn’t buy candy because I would’ve had to deal with getting rid of it without eating so much of it.

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I received so few trick or treaters that I decided to quit giving out treats early and walk over to my friends’ home for the Halloween party. I really enjoyed myself even as I drank hard root beer for the first time in my life. (I never knew that there was such a thing as alcoholic root beer.) I then drank hard cider. At one point my head was feeling woozy so I walked past this couple and I started to wonder if they were that Backstabbing Couple From Hell (a.k.a. my ex-husband and the so-called “friend” he left me for and subsequently married soon after the divorce was final). I wasn’t 100% sure because everything was dark and there were a lot of people there. I decided to ignore my paranoia and stick around. I was glad I did because I was busy socializing with people.

At one point I was feeling tired and woozy from the alcohol so I decided to go to the bathroom then walk back home. (I was so glad that I decided not to drive this year.) I ran into a guy who recognized me from the support group meetings for people who were separated or divorced. (He’s also friends with the people who threw that party.) We met while I was leaving the bathroom and he was waiting in line to use the bathroom. He told me “I can imagine you feeling awkward with your ex-husband there.” I turned around and I found that there was my ex in the next room and I realized that I wasn’t in some kind of an alcohol-fused hallucination. Those people were actually there. On that note I decided to walk home.

The next day I overslept and missed church. I was feeling a bit hungover so I just went to a nearby coffeehouse and worked on this post. So that’s it for Halloween 2015.

I was on a trip to Target recently when I saw some interesting things for sale. When I went down the cereal aisle, I saw an entire row of cereal based on movies. Seriously!

Cereals Based on MoviesCereals Based on Movies

I saw a couple of robots on sale. One is the MiP robot, which has been out for over a year. The other is one I hadn’t seen before. It’s called a MiPosaur and it’s a robot dinosaur with a soccer ball!

RobotsLast, but not least, is this doll I’ve been hearing about on the Internet. She is known as a My Friend Cayla doll and she is the same size as an American Girl doll. Except she has something extra. She can connect to the Internet and she can carry on a conversation with a person. One can interact with her using a smartphone. She can speak either English or Spanish depending on which language app you download to your smartphone. This doll reminds me of the Japanese anime series Chobits. My Friend Cayla

Passover
Easter
Yesterday I checked out the second annual Awesome Con DC. There are definitely changes from when I attended that event last year. First of all tickets have doubled in price. (Last year I paid $15 for a Saturday-only pass while this year I paid $30 for the same type of pass.) Awesome Con DC has definitely doubled in size from last year and it was definitely more crowded this year. It took me twice as long to get a pass. Even though I purchased a ticket online I still had to stand in this long line just to get a wrist bracelet that said “SATURDAY ONLY” on it.

When I got out of the Metro station I was greeted by this sign, which was a foreshadowing of what I encountered next.
Awesome Con DC, April 19, 2014

Lines, lines, and more lines of people waiting to get in.
Awesome Con DC, April 19, 2014

Awesome Con DC, April 19, 2014

When we got inside there was yet two other lines—one for those who had pre-ordered their tickets online like did and the one for those who didn’t. I noticed that the latter line was way longer. But it made for a very crowded experience.
Awesome Con DC, April 19, 2014

The next photo shows the cover for the official program guide, which I thought looked pretty nice.

Awesome Con DC, April 19, 2014

The next photo shows inside the program guide, which has a price list for the major media guests, all of which was pretty pricey. I noticed that there were separate pricing for both photo-ops and autographs, which indicated that if you wanted to get both an autograph and a photo-op from Billie Piper (best known for playing Rose Tyler for a few seasons on Doctor Who) it’ll cost you a whopping $100.
Awesome Con DC, April 19, 2014

Billie Piper was giving a Q & A at 1:45 p.m. and I made every effort to get there in time only to get held up by both a Metro ride where the train remained in one station for a long time before it moved on and having to stand in that totally long line. By the time I arrived there was that really long line that stretched down the hallway (similar to the one in the photo below) where the Q & A took place and I gave up out of frustration.

Awesome Con DC, April 19, 2014

In fact it seems like Awesome Con DC this year is getting to be like Otakon was last year where, unless one stood in a line outside the room at least a half-an-hour before the event, there would be no seats left. This is what one room looked like when I made an ill-fated attempt to go to a Steampunk Show and Tell.

Awesome Con DC, April 19, 2014

As a result of the crowds I spent most of my time at Awesome Con DC perusing the Dealers Room and Artists Alley while taking photos of various cosplayers. (I saw a lot of women dressed as either Anna or Elsa from the hit Disney movie Frozen.)

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Like I wrote earlier, there were a lot of women who were dressed up as either Anna or Elsa from the hit Disney movie Frozen, such as these two who were among the four people trying out the Microsoft XBox Kinect version of the video game Just Dance.

Awesome Con DC, April 19, 2014

I even shot a short video of this.

There was a local DC organization, called R2DC Builders, that is dedicated to building their own replicas of R2-D2 from the Star Wars movies.

Awesome Con DC, April 19, 2014

Awesome Con DC, April 19, 2014

Awesome Con DC, April 19, 2014

Awesome Con DC, April 19, 2014

I even shot a short video showing R2-D2 in action.

There was this puppeteer in the Kids’ area who performed with a sock puppet.

Awesome Con DC, April 19, 2014

I even managed to shoot a short video of this performance.

There was a long line of people waiting to get inside a replica of the Tardis from Doctor Who, which was really a photo booth. The resulting photos were shown on the screen outside, which was just as well because I really didn’t want to wait in yet another very long line. I later learned online that this Tardis photo booth can be booked for parties and special events.

Awesome Con DC, April 19, 2014

Awesome Con DC, April 19, 2014

Awesome Con DC, April 19, 2014

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Awesome Con DC, April 19, 2014

Another area of the Dealers Room that also drew a large line was this opportunity to get an autograph and a photo taken with actor Ernie Hudson, best known for appearing in the Ghostbusters movie. It cost money to meet him so this photo was the closest I ever got to meeting him. (That’s him way in the back—near the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man—wearing a Ghostbusters t-shirt while shaking the hand of a lucky fan.)

Awesome Con DC, April 19, 2014

Awesome Con DC, April 19, 2014

Awesome Con DC, April 19, 2014

Awesome Con DC, April 19, 2014

One of the few events that wasn’t quite as crowded so I was able to find a seat was at a movie I had seen before a few years ago at the Utopia Film Festival called Every Other Day is Halloween, which is about the career of local legendary DC horror movie host Count Gore De Vol. Here he is signing a DVD that I bought from his booth.
Awesome Con DC, April 19, 2014

Before I left for the day I spent some time in the Video Game room but that one was also crowded so I just took photos then went on the Metro.

Awesome Con DC, April 19, 2014

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This last photo is of a lovely sunset I saw while I was riding the Metro back home.

Awesome Con DC, April 19, 2014

I’ve been attending a lot of local conventions lately and I found another one that seemed interesting to me. I originally considered going to it on Saturday because there would be special sceening of the animated movie Jay and Silent Bob’s Super Groovy Cartoon Movie which would include not only the movie but also a live appearance by Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes that will include a Q&A that would be part of a live podcast. The only reason why I didn’t go was because of the price. A one-day Saturday pass cost $25. That’s not so bad except the Jay and Silent Bob event cost extra. The Saturday pass did not automatically give you an admission to that event yet if you wanted to buy the pass for the separate event, you were required to buy the Saturday Comic-Con pass as well. The regular Jay and Silent Bob pass cost $40, which meant you had to pay a total $65.

But that’s not all. There was a "Super Groovy" ticket for the Jay and Silent Bob event that cost $75, which not only netted you an autographed print but it enabled you to enter the event first before those who purchased only the regular $40 pass. Since the "Super Groovy" ticket also required that you purchase a Saturday pass for the rest of the Baltimore Comic-Con, anyone who wanted it had to pay a whopping $100.

I not only wasn’t crazy about paying extra fees but I had an issue with the idea of people who paid more for the "Super Groovy" ticket had the right to cut in front of people who could only afford the $40 pass. I was personally more in favor of the usual first-come, first-served policy that usually accompany a movie screening where people who line up early had the right to get good seats over those who arrived later. With this two-tier pricing, one who arrived very early to get in line but paid only the lower $40 price would see later arrivals get into the theater before that patient person simpy because the later arrivals had deeper pockets and could afford the higher ticket price.

On top of it, I was still smarting from having to pay a very high $1,600 health insurance bill. (Here’s some background. As a spouse of a federal government employee, I had long enjoyed being covered under my husband’s generous health insurance benefits. When my husband succeeded in his quest to divorce me, I filled out a form with the federal government in order to continue being covered under my ex-husband’s health insurance since I’m currently seeing a therapist and I also want some kind of insurance in case something unexpected happened to me. The federal government takes up to 90 days to review my request. In the meantime I would remain covered, I assumed that they would continue to deduct some of my ex-husband’s pay to keep me covered while the govenment reviewed my case. Imagine my surprise when I got a notice saying that I would continue to be covered but I needed to cough up $1,600 for the 90 days I was covered while the government reviewed my case.) I really didn’t feel that I could afford to be extravagant so I decided to skip the whole Jay and Silent Bob event and attend Baltimore Comic-Con on Sunday, when ticket prices cost only $20. Besides, the one panel that I was interested in (besides the Jay and Silent Bob event) was held only on Sunday.

Normally when I attend an event at the Baltimore Convention Center, I usually drive my car to the North Linthicum light rail stop then take the train to the Convention Center stop because it’s the cheaper option. However the one panel I was interested in was being held in the morning and the light rail system tends to start later on Sundays and I was afraid of missing that panel. So I ended up driving the car into the city and parked at one of the many parking garages. I arrived early enough to park in this one garage that had a special rate: If you leave before 4 p.m., you only have to pay a $15 parking fee. (The full price is $20 per day.) On top of it, that garage was just a short walk from the convention center, which was great since it ended up being so hot and humid.

I knew I was at Baltimore Comic-Con when I arrived at the Baltimore Convention Center and I saw all kinds of cosplayers waiting outside in line on a bright sunny September day that ended up in the high 80’s along with very high humidity. (It felt more like summer than fall that day.)

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 8, 2013
Baltimore Comic-Con, September 8, 2013

In the lobby of the convention center was this really awesome life-sized balloon sculpture of Dr. Who and a Dalek that was done by Starkey’s Balloons.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 8, 2013
Baltimore Comic-Con, September 8, 2013

Everywhere at the Baltimore Comic-Con there were cosplayers and staffers wearing these interesting looking t-shirts.

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Baltimore Comic-Con, September 8, 2013

I managed to make it to the one panel I wanted to attend. Toy designer Paul Harding and comic artist Mark Buckingham gave a very interesting presentation on the topic "Toy Design: From Paper to Plastic." It was a demonstration on how an original 2-D illustration gets translated into a 3-D statue and action figure. It was a very interesting topic that I enjoyed while I ate the lunch and drank the sodas that I brought with me from home. (I brought my own lunch rather than buy any of the overpriced food and drinks sold in the Baltimore Convention Center.)

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 8, 2013
Baltimore Comic-Con, September 8, 2013

They had some real-life models based on the characters Snow White and Bigby Wolf from the comic book Fables.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 8, 2013
Baltimore Comic-Con, September 8, 2013

I spent the rest of my time in the Baltimore Comic-Con in the Artists Alley. The high point was seeing this framed The Amazing Spider-Man comic book that once belonged to actor Nicolas Cage on sale for $250 on one of the vendor tables.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 8, 2013

The rest of the area was a whirlwind of vintage comic books, dolls, costumes, t-shirts, vinyl figurines, DVD’s, and stuffed animals while various cosplayers were walking around the area and the various comic book artists and writers signed autographs for fans. There were some strange stuff on sale like a Jerry Garcia action figure (I’m old enough to remember when Jerry Garcia was alive and The Grateful Dead used to frequently go on tour) and Stan Lee Cologne (that’s right, you now have the opportunity to smell like the famous Marvel Comics comic book writer and editor <LOL!>). There was even a table that gave away free samples of PlowOn Energy Gum. (To be honest, I didn’t like the taste that much although it did a great job of keeping me awake since I chewed it at a time when I began to feel physically tired. I managed to keep on visiting every table in that room at least once. But I would rather drink Five-Hour Energy to stay awake than to chew PlowOn Energy Gum.) The next several photos should convey an idea of what the giant Artists Alley room was like.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 8, 2013
Baltimore Comic-Con, September 8, 2013
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Baltimore Comic-Con, September 8, 2013

I finished my day at Baltimore Comic-Con by sitting in on a cosplay costume contest for a few minutes. I didn’t stay long because, as you can see in the photo, the room was very crowded.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 8, 2013

Thanks to my decision not to skip the Jay and Silent Bob event the day before, I treated myself to a couple of items from the Artists Alley. Believe me, it took a lot of discipline to limit myself to just two items because there were a lot of stuff sold in that room that I felt tempted to buy but I didn’t because I didn’t want to go further into debt than I already am.

I found this really cute Funko vinyl figure that’s based on the character Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony.

Swag From Baltimore Comic-Con 2013

I also found this DVD collection of vintage early 1960’s black and white episodes of Astro Boy. It’s definitely a blast from my childhood. (Astro Boy was definitely one of the first Japanese anime series I ever watched on TV but I was too young to realize that was anime.) Now I can relive my early childhood whenever I want.

Swag From Baltimore Comic-Con 2013

September 8, 2013 turned out to be a momentous day for me and it’s not just because I attended the second and final day of Baltimore Comic-Con. When I came home I did the usually weekly Sunday cage cleaning of my pet hedgehog Spike. Little did I know at the time that this particular day would be the last day I ever saw Spike alive. When I finished with cleaning his cage, I saw that he went into the pink plastic igloo that he used as his bedroom. I never saw him alive again after that.

For the past year I’ve been going to the Dr. Sketchy events in Baltimore even though I live closer to Washington, DC because the DC Dr. Sketchy’s events were held at the Soundry in Vienna, Virginia and they seemed to be held on a very irregular basis. I kept on checking the Soundry website in the hopes of being able to check out the DC Dr. Sketchy’s event only to find that the last such session was held in April, 2011.

I recently learned via Facebook that the dormant Dr. Sketchy’s DC branch was not only being revived but it was also being moved from the Soundry to The Red Palace, which is located in Washington, DC. Since the new location is even closer to my home, I decided to check it out.

The venue itself was smaller than The Wind Up Space in Baltimore (where the Baltimore Dr. Sketchy’s sessions are held) but I had no difficulty finding a seat. What was cool was that, as part of the event, DC Crunkcakes set up a table selling booze-filled cupcakes. I tried one of them and they were totally delicious and decadent!

The model for this session was Eyrie Twylight from Black Tassel Boolesque. Since Halloween was coming soon, she posed in a variety of Halloween-themed outfits.

Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School, Washington, DC, October 18, 2012

One of the contests I entered was one where we had to somehow incorporate Yoda in the drawing. I did my best but I didn’t make it among the finalists.

Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School, Washington, DC, October 18, 2012
Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School, Washington, DC, October 18, 2012

The other contest I entered during that session was one where we had to somehow incorporate a zombie. During that session, Eyrie was clutching a stuffed Cthulhu with one foot on a giant skull that was near a bucket marked "TIPS" (for the model tips). I turned Eyrie into a zombie eating Cthulhu’s brain and I converted the tips bucket into one for brains. My drawing was selected to be among the finalists but I didn’t win anything. But it was cool to be among the finalists during my first time at the DC Dr. Sketchy’s branch.

Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School, Washington, DC, October 18, 2012
Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School, Washington, DC, October 18, 2012
Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School, Washington, DC, October 18, 2012

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