I painted a stylized portrait of Merlin–and here’s how it went down

The months following May 2020 was a difficult time for me. Because not only was the country under community quarantine, but I was also unemployed and grieving the death of my beloved dog Kia. But one thing that helped me get through it all was spending time at home, binge-watching Netflix with my mom. And one of the TV shows that helped me get through this trying time was the 2008 BBC show Merlin

Thanks to the streaming platform, I was able to watch all five seasons of this awesome series.

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Now, there’s so much I can say to describe how obsessed I am with this fantasy show–but I’ll have to save all that for another blog post. This time around, I wanted to fangirl by creating a stylized portrait of the series’s titular character, Merlin (which was played by actor Colin Morgan). 

Here’s how I came about doing it:

On sketching 

First and foremost, I am by no means a professional artist; I just paint as a personal hobby. So given this, there are a few imperfections that I still have to improve on as a painter–many of which I hope to apply in future projects. 

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In this particular piece, I started off with a rough sketch of the character’s facial features on a sheet of A5 canvas paper. Then, I went on to mix different shades of acrylic paint to begin painting. 

I started with the character’s face as it would require the most attention to detail. Then, I proceeded to do the hair and apply highlights to both areas. 

The left image shows the rough sketch of my portrait, while the right photo shows my initial painting of the face.

I also decided not to follow my initial sketch and create a bigger set of eyes for a more “caricature”–like appearance. 

On mixing colors 

This was probably one of the hardest parts of painting because I had to try and get the closest possible colors to the one shown in the reference photo. 

This is a photo of the completed stylized portrait beside its reference picture. Color of the image might look different due to lighting.

I admit, this required a lot of trial and error, but I do believe that I was able to mix the right light and dark shades for the skin, hair, and the clothing. 

On shading  

Finding the right tones to use on the shadows of the character’s face was a bit difficult to do, as well. I had to experiment with varying degrees of black and gray shades to get the desired color. Then, I had to blend those in with some light dabbing strokes using my paintbrush. 

Here’s a close-up version of my stylized portrait.

The end result may not be totally perfect but I am definitely happy with the outcome of my painting. And hopefully, in the near future, I’ll get to paint other characters too like Arthur, Morgana, Guinevere, and Gaius. 

Until then, I hope you give Merlin a try–and who knows, you may even end up enjoying it as much as I did.

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This online shop makes the most beautiful paper flowers–and they’re perfect for Valentine’s Day

NOTE: This is a human interest story and not a paid, branded post. This means the author DOES NOT receive any money from the publication and clicks made on this article.

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, a lot of people are rushing to malls and online stores to purchase their loved ones a present. Whether they would buy something simple like chocolates or something lavish like diamond encrusted jewelry, gift-giving on the day of love is a tradition that has been present since time immemorial. And one gift that will always be available during this holiday season is flowers. 

From roses to orchids, many have chosen to show their love and appreciation for their friend, family member, or significant other by buying bouquets of these colorful floras. Although these gifts are beautiful in themselves, one downside to them is that they don’t last forever. After a week or so, these flowers will wilt and you will only be reminded of their beauty through pictures. 

But what if there was a way to give a flower that will never wilt? Would you be open to that? 

Well, now there is. Local online store Alaya Paper Blooms offers shoppers the chance to give their loved ones flowers that are not only beautiful, but will also last far longer than a week. 

Photo Credit: Kevyn Tapnio via Facebook.com/alayapaperblooms

Created with quality colored paper, these flowers are the ideal presents to give come Valentine’s Day. And to help you better understand more about the shop and its products, I got to chat with its owner and designer Kevyn Tapnio. Here’s what I learned during my interview with her: 

There is an ‘everlasting’ beauty in paper flowers 

Typically, when people think of flowers, they don’t relate it to paper. But there is a sweet and genuine kind of beauty to receiving paper flowers–a sentiment that Tapnio realized when she decided to make these floral creations.

“Some people think flowers are overrated, myself being one of them up until recently,” she explained. “As I started to learn more about them, flowers started to become dear to me. Paper flowers take the fleeting nature of flowers out of the equation, so you wouldn’t have to throw them away.” 

Photo Credit: Kevyn Tapnio via Facebook.com/alayapaperblooms

Tapnio first started making paper flowers in 2017 when she helped create a bouquet for her aunt’s wedding. Then fast forward to 2020, she decided to return to paper flower-making while waiting to start her new job. 

“My start date was moved back due to the community quarantine that was put in place. With nothing much to do at home, I ended up making paper flowers, learning more about the craft, and falling for a different flower every day,” she shared. “I didn’t intend to make a business out of it at first, but then I thought, why not?” 

Photo Credit: Kevyn Tapnio via Facebook.com/alayapaperblooms

Today, the shop has over 300 followers on its Facebook page and continues to produce intricate paper flowers. 

The flowers are each a tedious yet rewarding work of art 

Much like any masterpiece ever made, a lot of time and effort go into creating them. The same principle applies to each of Tapnio’s flower creations, which take multiple hours to make. 

According to her, a “single, long-stemmed Ecuadorian rose can take 2 to 3 hours to make” and a  “sunflower can take around 3 to 4 hours.” Boxed flowers and bouquets–on the other hand– take even longer to create because there are many elements that go into them.

“One full arrangement of our heart-shaped boxed blooms takes me a whole day of non-stop work. [And] Bouquets with stems take longer, since I have to add the leaves and several fillers as well.”

Photo Credit: Kevyn Tapnio via Facebook.com/alayapaperblooms

Also, crafting these floral arrangements isn’t always easy. Tapnio admits that there are times she has faced difficulty in making them. 

“It can be frustrating when you’re unable to get the look that you’re going for. Paper does have its limitations, and it could take hours and hours of experimenting to really achieve the likeness of certain flowers. Even the tiniest of details can affect the look of the whole flower–the curl of a petal, the length of the stamens, the ridges in the leaves.”

Despite the complications she has faced, she still finds the end result worth it and she is always elated when her customers find delight in her products.

“Made to last forever, our paper flowers are created with utmost love and care, and with only one goal in mind: To make you smile,” she added. 

Shoppers have variety of flowers to choose from  

The online shop offers a variety of products to choose from and the prices differ depending on the item ordered. 

Photo Credit: Kevyn Tapnio via Facebook.com/alayapaperblooms

Though for Valentine’s Day, Tapnio highly recommends their boxed creations. 

“Our heart-shaped boxed blooms are a crowd favorite, though all slots for those have already been reserved as of writing,” she said. “I do recommend our Mini Gift Boxes though. Many people go for roses and hydrangeas, but we also make them with different flowers by request.” 

Photo Credit: Kevyn Tapnio via Facebook.com/alayapaperblooms

If you’re interested in ordering any one of her paper flower sets, visit their Facebook page and send a message. You and your loved ones will definitely not regret purchasing any of these gorgeous paper flowers! 

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Did I get ‘way more than I paid for’ with the Papemelroti Surprise Box?

NOTE: This is a personal review of the product and not a paid, branded post. This means the author does not receive any money from the publication and clicks made on this article.

Ever since my college years, I have been a fan of Papemelroti‘s products. Whether it’d be their stationery pads made with recycled paper or their colorful wall art, I have always been enthralled by the creativity and farmhouse-like design of their products. And truth be told, I have a variety of their items stocked up in my room–particularly their stationery sets and cards which I use to write letters and notes to my family and friends.

So when I found out that they were selling surprise boxes online, I was eager to buy one of my own and see what goodies I can find inside them.

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According to the store’s Shopee page, these boxes are said to “contain a unique selection of products that are worth way more than its price” and that they range from 199 to 499 PHP (excluding shipping fee).

Since I was a bit tight on budget, I opted for the lowest priced box. And combining the 199 PHP cost of the item to the 40 PHP shipping fee, I spent a total of 239 PHP on the whole order.

Here’s what I discovered about the Papemelroti Surprise Box:

On packaging

Seeing as my last boxed purchase showed some external damage upon its arrival, I was a bit skeptical with this one. But to my surprise, the item was securely wrapped in corrugated paper before it was placed inside the courier’s plastic packaging.

This extra step ensured its protection while in transit and I am grateful for it since the box was not damaged upon receipt.

The box was light brown and featured the brand’s logo and a gift carricature in black ink. It also had a dedication note which allowed buyers to give the box as a gift to a loved one.

I personally liked this idea because now, the customer doesn’t need to find nice packaging if she or he would choose to give this item as a present.

Inside the box, I found the following items:

– One (1) black, faux leather bag tag with the word “Hope” on it
– One (1) square notebook with a Christian-themed cover
– One (1) Shakespeare-themed stationery pad
– One (1) inspirational designed notebook with a hot air balloon design
– One (1) free teacup card (this item was not inside the box but inserted in between the box cover and the corrugated paper covering)

Let me go through each of these items one by one…

On the black, faux leather bag tag

The bag tag looks to be made out of black, faux leather and has a copper plate with the word “Hope” engraved or stamped to it. The tag’s lock also seems to be very tight and sturdy–which makes it ideal for luggages you would choose to check in when traveling.

It basically satisfies everything that a bag tag should be. However, in terms of design, there’s nothing particularly special about it. And compared to the whimsical designs of their other products, I have to say that I am not totally impressed with this item.

And after much digging on their website and Shopee account, I can’t seem to find the price for this product. But I found a similar item online that retails for about 85 to 138 PHP (excluding shipping fee)–and I’ll be using this price range as the basis for my overall calculation.

On the Christian-themed square notebook

Everyone who is familiar with the brand knows that it showcases a lot of Christian-themed designs on its products. From bible quotes to religious images, many of their items immediately show customers that this is a store that is highly influenced by Christianity.

And in this particular case, I received a square notebook designed with a blue background, a dove image, and the Philippians 4:6-7 bible quote that says, “I am not anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, I present my requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guards my heart and mind in Christ Jesus.”

As someone who is diagnosed with severe anxiety and is also a practicing Roman Catholic, I do appreciate the message being shared in this item’s design cover. Plus, its overall appearance is also quite pleasing to the eyes and the pages are clean and made out of recycled paper.

This item also doesn’t seem to be listed on any of their selling platforms, but if I would guess its price, I believe the item would lie somewhere between 80 to 100 PHP (I based this amount on the store’s ring notelets, which look like a smaller version of this notebook).

On the Shakespeare-themed stationery pad and the inspirational notebook

Earlier in this article, I mentioned how the store has a lot of pretty, whimsical designs–and these two items are proof of it!

Even though the stationery pad has a relatively simple design, I liked how it was laid out on the page with Shakespeare’s quote seamlessly integrated on the lower left side of the pad.

Likewise, I liked Robert A. Alejandro‘s hot air balloon design on the notebook. It also featured clean, ruled pages–which is ideal for me since I like writing on notebooks with lines.

But I think the highlight of these two products (and possibly almost all their products in the store) is that they are both made locally and created with recycled paper.

On their website, a colored notepad like this would sell for 28 to 35 PHP and a large notebook like this would sell for 50 to 64 PHP.

On the free teacup dedication card

This free item was lodged in between the box and its corrugated paper covering. It featured a colorful floral and bird pattern created by Robert A. Alejandro and was shaped exactly like a teacup.

This was, for me, the prettiest and most aesthetically-pleasing from all of the items I’ve received. It’s also the cheapest in the bunch as it sells for 8 to 10 PHP on their website.

So, when added all up, did I really get “way more than I paid for?”

Upon calculating everything, at the very least, all of these items would amount to 251 PHP–only a few Pesos away from my total purchase of 239 PHP. So surprisingly, the brand did deliver on its claim of “getting way more than you paid for.”

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Despite this finding, I don’t totally recommend buying the surprise box for the sole reason that you can’t choose the items that go in it. Just like in this review, I received a bag tag that I don’t necessarily find pleasing or have a need for.

Moreover, if you are thinking about giving this as a present, I suggest giving it to a friend who likes stationery items and is okay with receiving religious-themed items. The brand has a very unique set of designs and products and that might not appeal to everyone.

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Lastly, I recommend choosing from the store’s gift sets instead of buying the surprise boxes. At least, in this way, you can be assured that you will like the items you have ordered from the brand.

Hopefully this review helps you make a decision on whether or not you should buy the Papemelroti Surprise Box. And until you make that choice, I wish you all the luck in shopping!

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Here’s what I learned about making miniatures

I first started making these miniature rooms when my friend Cath showed me the living room diorama she made as a gift to my mother. At that moment, I was so amazed by how detailed her miniature creation was–from its carefully-constructed furniture to its highly-detailed pieces. And I knew that I would like to try this project on myself. 

Fast forward to today, I have made a total of three miniature rooms and houses. 

My first project was a living room set, complete with a sofa, a cofee table, and some cupcakes.
The second one I made was a windmill house with a small shop on the side. You can watch a close-up video of this here.
My third and latest project was a pink bedroom designed with a floral dresser, a tea set, and a double deck bed. You can watch a close-up video of this here.

Now, I do admit I am still far from being a “miniature expert”. But I would like to share the things I learned from creating these projects, in case any of you would like to try this as a hobby. 

So, here are a few tips you might want to know about before working on your first DIY miniature kit:

Purchase DIY miniature kits from established online shops or websites 

This is quite possibly the most important tip I can give you and let me tell you why… So, when I decided that I wanted to make these miniature set-ups, I purchased a few kits from random sellers on Lazada and Shopee. Since it was cheaper there, I thought I was getting a good deal and saving money. But let me tell you, the kits I bought had a lot of missing parts–to the point that I had to improvise on some of the details. 

In hindsight, I realize that it might have been better to spend a little more money on DIY miniature kits that have complete materials rather than save a few bucks on kits with missing parts. 

And if I were to recommend some online sellers, I highly suggest you check out and purchase from either Lil Haven PH or Miniature MNL. They provide a complete set of materials and are even very eager to assist if you have questions about their items. 

Always have extra glue on hand 

Another experience I had from purchasing random DIY kits online was that the glue provided was dried up and not usable. Fortunately, I had extra glue on hand so that situation was easily remedied. 

However, this instance reminded me that it helps to have another tube of glue on hand, especially when the one provided to you by the seller is defective. 

Plus, the extra amount of glue may also be useful in further securing the wooden pieces of your project. 

Tweezers and electrical tape are also essential items for miniature-making

Most (if not all) of these DIY miniature kits contain electrical wires with small bulbs that you can attach to the walls and lamps of your projects. Given this, you will need some electrical tape on hand to connect the wires together and light up your room.

I created a GIF to show how the wires can light up your miniature house or room once it’s connected to the battery pack.

Another tool you may also need to have prepared is a pair of tweezers. This will allow you to easily grab those very small pieces and glue them together. And if your first DIY miniature project is as tiny and as intricate as the windmill house I made, then you are definitely going to need your tweezers beside you as you continue on crafting.

This is how small and intricate the pieces were. So, I definitely made use of tweezers to pick up, hold, and glue the items together.

Remember that it may not turn out perfect… and that’s okay 

If you were blessed by the arts and crafts gods with masterclass miniature-making abilities, then you might want to just skip this point. But if you’re like me, a regular crafter, then you might agree that there may be times when your projects don’t turn out as you expected.

Perhaps, there may be times when you still see visible remnants of glue on your diorama?  Or you may even find some pieces of fabric fraying from your furniture pieces? 

If you see these imperfections, don’t fret. Mistakes are always a part of the process. All you can do really is learn from them and adopt these lessons on your next project. Who knows, maybe with time, you will end up being an expert miniature craftsman!  

Don’t be pressured to finish it, just have fun crafting

One of my friends who also bought a DIY miniature kit shared with me that she felt a bit pressured seeing the overwhelming number of pieces she had to assemble. Understandably so, it can be a bit distressing having to think about all the things you have to cut and glue together to form the furniture. So if there’s one thing I can advise, it’s this–start with the easiest piece and work from there.   

Sure, the process can be tedious and time-consuming but that’s ultimately where the fun of crafting is! And I promise you, after finishing one of these projects, you’ll feel slightly more accomplished than you had before.

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Additionally, if you’re a beginner in making miniatures, I suggest trying the smaller rooms first. The first one I ever made was a 17 x 15 x 5.5cm living room that allowed me to get the feel of what it was like to make miniatures. 

This is how the 7 x 15 x 5.5cm living room looks like and it’s perfect for beginners!

Consider altering the design to fit your interests 

Now, this tip is something you might like to consider if you want it a bit more personalized. Instead of using the pictures provided in the kit, you can change it up by printing out your own and placing them in the diorama. Or maybe, you can even choose to change up the color of the walls by painting on them with acrylic paint. The possibilities you can make are endless when it comes down to it! 

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Hopefully these tips will help you in your next project. And remember, have fun crafting!