Sunday, November 30, 2008

I hope you people are reading this!

I was going to put this at the end of my last post, but figured you'd be skimming and would likely miss it.

I'll be in DC for an extra week, returning next Sunday or Monday. I'll be needing some peer group bonding by then, so don't forget about me!

The reason I'm staying here is the same reason I was certain to be at home: The kitchen remodeling is entering its endgame and the epic finishing of floor is happening this week. This means no one can use the house for a week. Initially I was going to keep the cats with me downstairs while mom stopped by in the mornings to let the dogs out, but she was warned the fumes from the finished might cause further brain damage to our already dim pets. So, new plan! Mom will be living downstairs for the week with all the animals.

I had already committed to spending the next weekend in DC to allow my aunt to finally return home and spend some time in HER life, with her partner. For those not in the know, my aunt had come to visit my ill grandfather almost four months ago, thinking she was going to stay just a few days. Seeing that my grandmother was working herself to death to take care of my grandmother, my aunt knew she had to stay and help care for the caretaker. (I am one of three extra helpers who come periodically to help care for the one caring for the caretaker.) This is a well-earned visit home for my aunt and I am happy to fill in - even if I'm wholly useless in the house upkeep stuff.

Tomorrow I drive back to Winchester for a dentist appointment. Then it's gathering clothes, grabbing my precious lightbox to help me with comic creation, trying to fix my mother's laptop, grabbing an early dinner (anyone free?) and heading back to DC.

Thank you for suffering under my more-words-less-art recent blog trend.

Artistic Victory!

Tonight, my lovely grandmother and I were chatting and joking around as we sorted through the many thousands of pill bottles years of living has thrust upon the family. She excused herself to go give my grandfather his pills, but returned because he was sleeping peacefully. I, meanwhile, had gathered up my laptop (which was upstairs because we had entertained my grandfather with a live steam featuring puppies) and was about to head downstairs for the evening. Since she was back, I put down the laptop and sat down across from her on the couch to chat some more.

And my heart swelled with pride.

My grandmother had leaned back in her chair, crossed her legs and curled her one arm up to her shoulder. Directly behind her on the wall was my monoprint, "The Furnace," which was done with her as the inspiration. Her pose perfectly mirrored the composition, with the jacket behind her further adding to the impact with it's bold red. It was absolutely stunning to see everything I had put into the piece sitting live and vibrant in front of me. "The Furnace" is about a strong matriarch whose brilliant soul carries her amazing nature through generations. Anyone who knows my grandmother knows that she has a power in here that is magnetic and inspiring.

I had to get a photo - but I had no camera. Oh. WAIT! Webcam to the rescue! Did you know I can set a different resolution for my webcam? Suddenly I could take a decent photo with it! While the uneven lighting (and my inability to hold the laptop in the proper position without collapsing) wouldn't allow me to show her mirroring the pose, I still wanted to capture her with the art she inspired in the background.

Seeing what I saw tonight reaffirmed why I am an artist. Everything I wanted to say with the artwork successfully came forth. This piece was always a gem, though. When I first put it on display, my grandmother was immediately drawn to it. She knew she had to have it and commented to my aunt that she didn't exactly know why. My aunt, the artist, immediately saw the connection. I had not told them the piece was about my grandmother, but they knew it was meant for them!

I've succeeded. I'm a real artist!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The View From the Ivory Tower

This post was supposed to show up yesterday. (In fact, I can leave it with its original time stamp for the 29th if I so desire... which I ended up doing because I forgot to fix the time stamp before hitting the post button. Whoops.) Problem is, I'm stealing the internet! He who lives by pirated wi-fi, dies by pirated wi-fi. No connection meant no posting.

The other delay came from my grandmother and aunt playing against type and shopping lightning fast. These two are grand masters of social shopping. "Talking to the wonderful people in line is half the fun!" said my grandmother. (I'm paraphrasing, of course, but trying to be as accurate as memory will allow.) Thinking they would be gone for hours, I sat down to write an essay and have a long chat with my aunt's partner, a kindred spirit in the anti-shopping mindset. Thinking I had hours to meander around before getting to my point, I launched into a back story for context. Didn't even finish with that before the shoppers were back. How rude! Anyway, by the time I got back to the laptop, wi-fi was dead.


One criticism I am sure to face when I unleash Precocious on the populace will be the justified accusation that it's all just too negative. Another will be that the strip is unbearably elitist. This would be when I giggle.

An artist can't help but project themselves into their work, and Precocious is very much the dark and twisted workings of my head on display. I like my humor like I like my coffee - intensely dark, then corrected with cream and sugar!

My characters are mean, violent, snotty, inconsiderate and foolish. The nice and redeemable characters either have their good natures abused or are treated like an outright enemy! What is wrong with me? People, please! Conflict is funny.

Precocious was created when I was around 11, and the underlying theme remains the same: It's all about classism. Not only do we have clear divides among economic brackets in the elitist-sounding Gemstone Estates, but we have intellectual elitism on display with the children attending the incredibly elitist-sounding Poppinstock Academy. Who are the worst enablers of this? My main characters! They outright ignore those not like them, down to pretending the other side of their classroom doesn't exist!

That would be the intensely dark coffee mentioned before. The cream comes in the form of the treatment. I'm making fun of myself via proxy with this strip. As much as I like to let my pride prop me up, doing so means I miss so much in life. If you take me out to a bar, I'd likely embarrass myself because I've always dismissed bars as being a home for the base elements. No, in reality the bar is just another social gathering place for all types! I think Dana's amazing story of love and happiness can prove I'm a damned fool.

The reason my kids come off as negative is because their attitudes are foolish. Autumn keeps getting her comeuppance for her competitive streak. Bud is decidedly warped because of his tendency to isolate himself. Jacob's desire to be a part of some grand design often ends with him spending energy on pointless endeavors. Tiffany's space cadet nature can also be seen as a consequence of pure self-indulgence. If I had made my children sweeter, that would imply their intellectual isolation was a *good* thing. These kids satirize the faults intellectuals can have. Intelligence is a wonderful thing. Knowledge as a weapon (the tagline of my strip) cuts both ways.

The character of Max is vital to Precocious. He's a saint and, aside from some blind optimism that strays from realism, he has no personality flaws. My official character biography calls him "history's greatest villain." Max is the control character that needs to pop in every so often to confirm that it's *my* kids are whacked. Later on, the other side of the classroom will also contribute. Kaitlyn Hu is fully sane and perceptive; she's the good Bud. Vincent Iddenstein and Yvette Nutely have their quirks, but they're also good at heart - it's Tiffany and Jacob with creamy souls! Quincy Wozwax is overly competitive, like Autumn, but even he's remarkably social with his nerdy world.

Now for the sugar in this equation. While my characters are often seen as irredeemably evil, there's no way a strip like that can persist without suffocating under its own darkness. The main kids *are* redeemable and they do have souls. Their elitism is the tragic flaw that causes their downfall time and time again; not something that will doom them to a lifetime of evil. They talk big and talk bad, but it's more dark humor than pure evil. They are "haters" that bandy about insults and harsh words freely - but it's not so bad because they all understand the rules of the hater's game. As I've always put it, they hug by hitting! They're normal, but this version of normal is skewed into the darkness.

A Calvin and Hobbes strip once had Calvin remarking how a little bit of antagonism could make any boring conversation into something exciting. The final panel had Calvin beaten into the ground, claiming his point was proven. That's what I'm going for!

For this pilot episode, I've done my best to throw in subtle clues to this. Bud remarks that their conflict is the "current" war, implying they do this all the time. The kids spend more time arguing semantics (and writing official documents) than actually fighting, because the challenge in building a grand scheme is more important than the negative fighting. When it's all over, they walk off content, wondering what they should do for fun the next day. In the end, they just wanted a water balloon fight - but they had to set it up in their way. Just like me, they can't tackle a normal task without doing something foolish to turn it into an epic event.

Even so, the redeemable aspects of my main kids might be *too* subtle. This is where Dionne, Suzette and Roddy enter the fray. If I have Max and Kaitlyn on one end, showing the contrast between my kids and well-adjusted people, I need to have some negatives on the other end to prove my children have sweetness and innocence in them as well.

Dionne is wonderful for that. She is fully aware than my kids talk a good game, but could never fully devote themselves to the path of evil, and she is delightfully malicious in exposing it! Dionne plays the evil game better than anyone, and she'll always win.

Suzette is the big red "Do Not Touch" button personified, always a risk to fly off the handle. She may have *small* point in claiming she's a victim of circumstance, but when she gets worked up her fire burns bright and hot. Again, while my kids scream at each other all the time, none can match the fury of Suzette.

Roddy's role as the outsider helps put my kids' quirks into perspective. He is usually right in pointing out how their attitudes and behavior are unhealthy and unkind, but his bitterness over the whole thing constantly makes him look worse. Roddy doesn't understand the "hater" mindset is another way to have fun, so he's eternally frustrated. Roddy is also my concession that this strip is far from normal. His frustration is fully justified, but he'll never be able to win until he understands of the insular bubble created by the Sapphire Lake kids.

I like my coffee as the intense dark roast, with double cream and one sugar. Get it?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Articulate Friday

Rant post has been put off again due to good things. Yay!

So, with my DVD player dying... I feared I might have had to brave the frightening outside world on this soul-destroying shopping day. Then I remembered! I found the DVD player I wanted on sale *and* it'll be shipped to my doorstep for no additional charge. Yay internet!

This bonus holiday strip is the result of my joy. The poor parents must brave the brutal shopping environment... except for Sydney, who is rewarded for her laziness!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

You've died of dysentery, Charlie Brown!

Ok, so I'm half-conscious and watching some Peanuts special about about the Mayflower... maybe I'm getting the wrong lesson here. I dunno. This thing is serious filler after the nostalgic bliss that is a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.

I had never seen that before, as far I remember, and it was fascinating. The show played out as if it was a series of four-panel strips converted by brute force into animation. It totally didn't work, especially with kids doing the voices, but I could really appreciate the writing. This special obviously came around after Franklin, Woodstock and Marcie were new additions, which means I'll reach that era in the Peanuts archives in the next volume that comes out in six months. By the way, Woodstock was freaking HILARIOUS when he was introduced! I have newfound appreciation for that bird. Just so you know. Also, Woodstock, with extreme excitement, consumed a plate of turkey in the special. Does that make him a bird version of a racist cannibal?

I'll try to make a (happily) cranky post later with a sketch to share, but for now it's the food coma "glory be to conspicuous consumption" thing that dominates.

This Thanksgiving we went the "let someone ELSE do it!" route. Not only did we have a local grocer cook/order our meal, but we brought in a beloved family friend. She and my aunt's partner did ALL the work - and one hell of a job! - while the Paulsens sat around and joked. Lazy Thanksgiving = awesome! Store-bought Thanksgiving turned out to be pretty damn good. The only dish I found lacking was the stuffing, which everyone else adored - so maybe I'm just being persnickety. The mashed potatoes were all consumed, but whatevs - I FINALLY GET MY DAMN LEFTOVERS!

It's been a great day. Even running out to the store was very enjoyable. Everyone there was just beaming and pleasant. I guess when you know you're going home to stuff yourself with as much food as possible - and the biggest problem is, as the guy on a cell phone said: "Honey, they don't have any Neapolitan left - should I just get a bunch for an assortment?" - it's hard *not* to be happy. Don't worry, folks, I WILL FIND THE RAIN CLOUD ON THIS SUNNY DAY! Just... later. I have to return to the coma now.

Overheard from the Peanuts pilgrim special just now: "EVERYONE DIED!?" "Oh, yes!" Awww. This show is better when I don't pay attention.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Finally, a holiday I can support!

Thanksgiving time! This may be my favorite of all holidays. If I was on schedule with my strip and doing regular updates, this would have turned into a strip. Since I'm over four months behind at this point, the idea is reduced to a graphic novel-ish sketch. Tiffany is living the fantasy, even I prefer light meat over dark. Hey, cartoonists are legally obligated to draw feasting characters holding a drumstick. It's in the Constitution. Go check! The James Bond-ish joke here was stolen from a Fark headline. I wish I could claim it as my own, but alas...

Ok, so the whole being thankful thing is lost one me (in all likeliness, there will be a sad and bitter post tomorrow on this subject) but Thanksgiving has so much for me to love! Football all day? Check. Large quantities of my favorite foods? Check. Being able to tune out annoying family conversations due to football and/or food-induced coma? YEEHAW! Not *needing* to avoid conversation? 'Ello, we have a new twist!

Thanksgiving for me has traditionally been spent with my mother's side of the family. They are normals, which just seems wrong. Smart, well-adjusted and successful people in my family? WHERE ARE THE CRIPPLING MENTAL PROBLEMS AND TRAGICALLY COMPELLING STORIES? Conversation can be difficult.

Them: "I just ran a marathon and went to a big party."
Me: "I spent the last week hiding in the dark while clawing at the bugs underneath my skin."

In addition to showing me how live can be lived if a talented genius was sane, that side of the family is great because they are as obsessed with sports as I am. It doesn't matter if we have no rooting interest - although we will all unite to root against the fucking Cowboys - it opens the door for sports blather in all its delicious glory. Seriously, it's hard to find an intellectual peer who is not above rooting for morons playing games that focus on, ugh, PHYSICAL prowess. I love a chance to be a sports geek. (Note for nerds who hate athletes but want to love the game: Since football uniforms are so padded, you can imagine the players as robots instead of asshole jocks.)

So normally Thanksgiving with mom's folks works because it is the one time I can blend in. The problem is the TRAVEL. Three hours and an overnight stay? That's lost of *extra* conversation without the ability to hide behind food and sport. C'mon, family, let's admit it: We'd all be terrified to learn too much about each other. My brain would scare you, as my brother's metro brain would scare me.

Dad's side of the family is my side. We're all crazy jerks, but in the same zesty way! Our dinner conversation can be frank analysis of each other's psychological defects in between meandering stories of how we've confused others in the normal world. Only problem: They're not much for Thanksgiving and NONE of them like sports. I wanted to spend time with them, but I didn't want to sacrifice what I love about this holiday... so I made a deal! Give me Thanksgiving and I will come.

Since cooking is out of the question due to everyone here dying rapidly, they ordered a full meal from one of those stores. Maybe if might not be as good as home cooking, but it's perfect when preparation could lead to funerals. Also, after years and years of being DEVASTATED by minimal leftovers - THE BEST PART OF THE MEAL, DAMMIT - I have requested sole control of all remaining turkey. It's been years since we went home with enough turkey to last past two sandwiches. Mmmmm..... turkey sandwiches. Om nom nom!

With food covered, the focus turns to football. Thankfully, my aunt's partner is on my side. As long as we both enable each other, we get our football time! Also, when the games turn out to suck - I hate the Cowboys and Titans, and it's clear they will destroy the Lions and my beloved Seahawks - I can go chat with the family AND ENJOY IT!

On paper, this looks to be awesome. In practice... well, that will determine how depressing my "FUCK THIS GIVING OF THANKS SHIT!" post tomorrow will be.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Progress Report

First, the good news! I'm still moving forward with the comic and there's a chance I will be taking 10 strips to DC for inking. Yay! This means I have to get scripting again, since I only have outlines for the remaining strips. This sketch shown is the last panel from Ivy's introduction strip and the best thing I've drawn today. The pose was not originally planned, but it brings out more of Ivy's character than the initial conception. I think this strip shows Ivy being tuned into what the kids are thinking... and how can she resist poking fun?

Now for the bad stuff! EVERYTHING AROUND ME IS FALLING APART! Both my downstairs refrigerators have gone wonky, so I can't trust them anymore. My DVD player - highly instrumental in my art making - is now completely dead. I watched The Mist. I watched Signs. When I put in The Village, I think that was just too freaky for the player to handle. Plugging in The Happening today got me the message, "THIS IS NOT A PLAYABLE DISC!" Everyone's a critic! Thank goodness for the PS2! Yeah, the DVD color balance is way off due to my video game settings, but it's something! As for the review: Someone got *dangerously* meta. If your movie requires an artist's statement to be enjoyed, your admirable pretension might be too much.

Among the walking wounded: My light table has started flickering, my printer only accepts a command half the time, the speakers on the computer are starting to crackly, my computer itself is really showing its age and my scanner has lived a long, full life... AND WE ALL KNOW WHAT COMES AFTER LONG FULL LIVES!

Sad segue, I will be in DC from Wednesday until Sunday. My grandfather has been given a better prognosis, but my grandmother's has gotten far worse. Life is brutally unfair. Oh yeah, my mother had told my grandmother that I was showing up on Monday, when I had planned for Wednesday. I didn't show, and I broke my grandmother's heart. THANKS, MOM!

I had delayed my trip to DC because I can't seem to be productive there and I didn't want to lose my Precocious mojo. Now I feel incredibly guilty and selfish.

There's a bad short story that can come from this. Some guy thinks the universe is against him, as it slowly sabotages everything in his life. The twist: It's the character that is falling apart most of all, and so he dwells on every subtle thing that does not go right whether it's something major or not. Most of the problems are the results of the guy's failure to save himself.

So here I am, going insane because I need to do something to earn my place in this world - and ignoring everything else around me. I look at all the loved ones and possessions that need attention, and I worry... How can I help them when I clearly can't help myself? LET'S FIND OUT!

Once again... Charles Schulz turned his anxiety and lifetime horrors into an amazing cartoon. When things look their worst, maybe I can find my best.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Accidental Epiphanies

These Sky strips have been enlightening. Because I had to change direction, I went a bit more experimental. While I scripted a draft of the comic, I chose to let the art and tone decide the dialog. A control freak letting go a bit? Woah.

What was supposed to be a straightforward Sky sarcasm strip ended up with a lot more character. Bud and Jacob got pushed off panel as the focus of the strip shifted to Sky chasing around the many Et children. The punchline was a lot more Sky than before. This time she happily lets the boys go off to destroy her daughter because it means she has one less kid to supervise! THAT'S the Sky I know! Her words always have an adorable darkness to them.

It also separates the characters of Ivy and Sky a bit. The two are quite similar in how they deal with the kids, so showing off Sky's dark side works. (In the panel preceeding the ones shown here, we see Sky has tossed her children in a room and locked the door.) Ivy is the standard "knowing and sarcastic parent" in the strip. She understands the minds of the kids better than anyone - allowing her to get right to the point - while Sky has to ask questions. By throwing in some subtle indicators, it helps characterize the parents until they get a story of their own.

Another symptom of experimenting: More complex drawings! Do you see that background? Is it not awesome? It's not, but it's there! Sometimes the complexity doesn't come from the drawing, but rather in the little things that happen when ideas are put on paper. In the first panel show here, Jacob wasn't supposed to be in it. I added him because he got cropped from the previous strip and I needed to show him as being there. The result: Bud's eyes (which were supposed to show a generic eye roll) and gesture seem to implicate Jacob as a foolish child. Ouch. That's harsh. It's also hilariously appropriate! The casual condemnation of Jacob continues!

Finally, I have suffered the consequences of casual math. I've been using pre-printed templates for the comic, which told me where to draw the lines. Then I shifted to a superior, cheaper and easier to procure template! Instead of giving me a direct template, it presented a ruler with a few notations. Since I'm doing four panel work, I threw in my seperators around the quarter markings. Last night I decided to line a few templates for the future. About halfway through I, for the first time, looked at the ruler markings for the first time. Because I was lazy and never did the math in my head, I've been drawing my lines an eighth of an inch off!

The strips are 13 inches long. The breaks are a quarter inch. There are three breaks in a four panel strip. That leaves a quarter inch to burn. I had noticed in my first templates of the first and third panels were slightly larger than the others, and I always wondered why. Obviously, it's so one can stack the four panels and have it appear correct. As I have been drawing them, the extra eighth of an inch was in the middle panels, which would screw up any stacking attempt. Worse, my being off in my lining put another eight of an inch in the already larger panels. This won't be noticable unless the strip is stacked - and I don't plan to do that - but the perfectionist in me cringes for that screw up. I'm not bothered enough to change the already-drawn templates, but I shall correct it in the future! Strips #27-38 will just have to be tainted forever.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Take to the Sky

The much heralded Sky post is here! I had a full sketchbook page of her, but chose to share only this. Why? Because the page sucked like a Scootypuff Jr. While my Ivy sketches make her look too young, the Sky drawings made her look too old. Ok, fine. Whatever.

With any luck, the Sky strip will be drawn today. I still have to finish scripting it, though. The old punchline no longer works, as I stole it for strip #30. Now I''m going for an overwhelmed parent angle - which means the other Et children will appear unexpectedly. This makes drawing harder!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

My genes did WHAT!?

I know I said a Sky post was coming, but I was watching Iron Man.

Let me explain: I started watching the movie yesterday and devoted the time to sketching Ivy. I then stopped watching to the movie to do social things. (As social as I can be, at least.) Sitting down to finish the movie, I decided to continue with the Ivy drawing.

It's not good enough to just draw an adult. One has to also figure out how adults and children look relative to each other. If my relative height experiment happened to involve Ivy discovering some Autumn and Bud made mischief.... Bonus!

Friday, November 21, 2008


I am at the point in the first storyline where the other moms appear. (Well, not Bud's mom.... she'll be here for the holidays, though!)

As any Precocious scholar can see, I have been deliberately trying to make my kids shorter and cuter. This small change is positive for the strip - the kid's arms can't reach the top of their heads, but the shortness allows for more adorable dialog - but it also means rethinking the look of the parents. For Sky, the change is beneficial because I get more face space for her cranial quirks. For Ivy... the bigger head makes he look really young. One think I'm trying to get around this is giving the adult women the almond eyes. It works when I do it right...but I rarely do it right. The other is to make the eyes proportionally smaller on the adults. This means I must counter all the muscle memory I build up - but correcting it is far easier when drawing the strip than with even-erasing-shows-up-when-scanned sketches. Finally, I could just alter the character design to suit the latest style.

Is it time to rethink Ivy's hair draping over her face? Maybe try shorter bangs? Maybe shrink the ears to a more natural size? Maybe stop worrying over a character who is obviously Autumn's mother? (In fact, Autumn looking like Ivy's mini-me is a key point in many stories and somewhat of a go-to gag.) In conclusion, I need to stop worrying and enjoy the cute.

(I may do a Sky-centric update tomorrow. Ivy got the nod today because I could just scan the sketchbook page I filled with her. Today, laziness won.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Obsession is a scary thing

Today I sketched out one more comic before hitting a road block. In the next comic, Autumn diagrams the layout of the Sapphire Lake neighborhood. I know where the kids all live, but when it comes to the *exact* layout... hmm. TO THE SKETCHBOOK!

This is my first draft of the Sapphire Lake map. Will everything stay in the same place in the end? Probably not. Is it enough to create a simple map in comic #32? Indeed! Is stopping at a rough outline enough for me? HELL NO! I go all out for this stuff. A good first sketch gives me more to work with down the road. If you're wondering, the thick black lines are the roads (duh) and the tan lines are walkways.

Here's what I know about the locations:
- Bud's house is along the creek, not the lake. This map cuts it close, but for the current storyline, the bridge is where it should be. The final showdown takes place by the bushes between the bridge and the fence around Bud's yard.
- Jacob's house is almost in the exact center of the neighborhood, with the open picnic area across the street. This is where the girls set up their recruitment booth.
- Tiffany's house is set a bit back from the road, nestled in trees. It may be further back than the map shows, but you can see I ran into the paper's edge. They have lived here the longest and it means their yard and house are bigger - not to mention their property is nicely placed.
- Autumn's house is along the Copper Road edge. She actually lives closer to Suzette (whose house is just off the map) than she does to the others.
- Autumn's house is only one level. Jacob has a ground floor and upstairs level. Bud and Tiffany's houses have three, including basements.
- The kids' main play spots are 1) the clubhouse in Bud's backyard, 2) Tiffany's basement, 3) Autumn's back porch and 4) The field/woods around the creek in Diamond Bluffs territory, 5) Jacob's living room.
- Diamond Bluffs is one big loop of road, with the extra stuff around the hills in between the houses and Sapphire Lake. Dionne is located just off the map. Max lives around the back of the loop. This is why the boys stop off at Dionne's house while traveling to see Max.
- Note the features of each neighborhood that one can see from Copper Road. Diamond Bluffs shows off their tennis courts, Sapphire Lake shows off a pond and Emerald Woods has, uh, trees.
- Even though she won't appear in the strip until this summer, Kaitlyn gets a mention because she's not *that* far off the map. She lives about a mile away, down Copper Road. (Or not - see edit below.)
- Even though the map says the Diamond field is the size of a soccer field, it's actually about half that. Things on this map are not exactly in scale. There is a full soccer field by the baseball diamond.
- Sapphire Lake's area is mostly flat, while the other two Gemstone neighborhoods have hills. Naturally, Diamond Bluffs has far more impressive inclines.
- Yes, the docks to Sapphire Lake are on the Diamond Bluffs side. How cruel is that? (There are more docks up by the soccer field, but that is also not officially in Sapphire Lake's boundary.)

Edit: I either have Kaitlyn on the wrong side of Copper Road or I have her living a mile too close. (For now, I'll leave her on that side, but push her a mile further away from Gemstone Estates.) This confusion is because I somehow always pictured the Poppinstock Academy as existing a mile down Copper Road in the Emerald direction. Now that I think about it, it should be over on the Diamond side. If it's not, then a line of dialog in the second "official" strip that will almost certainly be cut would cause a continuity error!

The school being on the Emerald side would also contradict some of the established classism themes, since it would give the Diamond kids a *longer* bus ride to school than the oft-victimized Suzette. Another problem would be that this places Kaitlyn on their bus route, which violates the theme of my kids keeping to themselves. (That, or they ignore her every time they ride the bus, which seems a bit too cruel in the end.)

So, yes, here is my obsessive nature in all it's glory. I want to know everything about my comic world, so I do my best to maintain continuity. I am not a Charles Schulz, who never let established canon get in the way of a good strip. If only I had his desire to just be entertaining. I have to go for gusto, crushing my strip under the brutal weight of semantics. Maybe one day I'll learn to stop being a control freak.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Half a Victory!

Precocious is now up to strip #30 - the halfway point. I actually got everything done according to the OPTIMISTIC schedule, which means I'm starting to get the process down. The more I practice, the better I get. Go me!

To honor this, here are some Dionne sketches, as she's taken a feature role in the latest batch. All this minimal success is going to my head - I'm already planning next summer's epic storyline. (This was supposed to be last summer's epic storyline. La la la.) I had to write in a few more strips for that with Dionne at the center. I have to be careful, though - as much as she takes over when in the strip, she takes over in the writing as well. She's such a fun foil for my harmlessly mischievous main cast.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

In medias res

Yes, I'm aware I'm using the term improperly. BUT DOESN'T IT SOUND DELIGHTFULLY POMPOUS AS A POST TITLE? Point is, I have no time for sketching when I'm doing real work; so I have to share real work! I'm about halfway through inking my strips, meaning they should be online by the end of the week! All that's left to do is complete the inking, employ white-out for corrections, scan and 'shop the buggers, toil away on the website and upload the whole thing. I'm tired just thinking about all that, but I press on!

Once more unto the breach...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Adventures in Caffeination

So it's letting day for the new scripts. Historically, my best inking/lettering has been done after a glass of wine. It cuts out a bit of the manic stressing. Yeah, so guess the path I went down today! (It's in the title of the post, so if you got it wrong, you should be ashamed.) While reviewing the latest remodeling splendor, my brother, Monkey See, saw an empty cup of coffee. "Maybe I want coffee!"

I am a person who is too hip to be a coffee shop idiot, yet not hip enough to actually be a coffee shop douchebag. This means coffee is rare in my life. I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity. My preference: Intense dark roast! That won't get me wired at all!

Managed to letter three full strips before my shaking hand became unusable. What does one do when productivity becomes impossible? I'm useless? BLOGGING TIME!

I'm not a big fan of this Sky sketch, but it marks my latest sketchbook venture. My cartoon mommies are coming into the strip soon, so I'd best practice drawing them. It's hard to get the eyes to be the appropriate size. Too small is weaksauce drawing. Too large is too childlike. It's an issue! Other notable things about this version of Sky: It's probably the most modest outfit I've put her in so far. She's a bit of a free spirit (see: beads in the hair) and her outfits reflect that. Also, this is another experiment on how to treat her tail. I want the tip to be colored, but the stripes are iffy. She's a simplified tabby, but *how* simplified is the issue.

I'm hoping my hand will calm down soon. To keep myself productive, I may just have to consume some alcohol!


Sunday, November 16, 2008

My cartooning efforts until now summed up in two panels:

Doing time lines in my head, I am a solid four months (and counting) behind in production of Precocious. I am one panel away from having the strips up to the current arc's mid-point ready for inking. With any luck, there will be completed in the next two days. The whole thing was supposed to be up late July/early August. Sigh.

In spite of my spectacular failure up to this point, my heart is still in this and my eyes remain starry with visions of future success. Yes, many of my early strips are time-sensitive and it will make no sense to launch into a "back to school" storyline in DECEMBER - but I am going forward with it anyway! I'll just number them for now - as opposed to dating them - so those reading the archives will never know! Mwa ha ha!

Some sacrifices must be made, as the parents and class elections arcs will be cut for now. Elections can be moved post-holiday and the arc introducing the parents will have to be done as a "bonus" and inserted into the archives directly after the pilot episode.

Oh well. It's time to take the blow, suck it up, adapt and press onward towards success! (Maybe.)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Who is this handsome devil?

Would you believe it's me? The "handsome" part probably threw you off. I forgive you. Sarcasm on the internet requires italics.

Granted, it also doesn't look that much like me yet. It's step one, so you take what you can get. Click on the "painting" label for this post to see how other paintings evolved from odd sketches. I might look like me yet! Stranger things have happened!

Then again, this canvass is cursed. So far it's been the place of an aborted Marilee painting and a failed Millie painting. (My eyes are, appropriately, resting on Millie's breasts.) Maybe third time's a charm? Eh, at this point I'll take what I can get. Besides, the only person I offend with failure this time is myself.

This is going to be a challenge. Not only will failure offend me, but I'm trying to paint a dude in a series that features only chicks. (Yeah, I'm putting myself on the "On Beauty" category. Fuck you for rolling your eyes!) There's a reason I only paint chicks. Not only are their infinitely hotter than dudes, but their delicate features are far easier to handle in my style. Think about the sexy standards for men: Words like "rugged" and "stubble" pop up. How the fuck can I do that in my deliberately flat and simplified style? Fortunately, my long, luxurious hippie hair gives me something fun with which to work. I CAN BE BISHONEN! I'm not sure it's a good thing, but it fits the series, I guess.

More nightmare fuel: The sketch layered over the original photo, to show I'm not *that* far off in the details department. ENJOY YOUR SLEEP TONIGHT!

Edit: This picture makes me look like a total butterface. That is so not cool!

Dun Dun Duuuuuuuuunnnnnnnnnn!

As I am decidedly a novice, I must do some sketchwork for visually complex comics. This next one is the much-hyped seven character bonanza. The lesser-hyped double panel features these three giving Bud a "we'll fuck you up!" look, Autumn and Bud, sitting at the ends of the table, were omitted because I ran out of space in my sketchbook. This does not bode well for cramming the scene into a teeny tiny comic panel, even if it's a doublewide!

On a self-esteem-destroying note, I am currently watching episode 1 of The Wire. It is entirely engrossing, even though the cast is nothing but a muddled blur of attitude and that dude from Lost to me at this point. See, that's how you do it! Write a good episode that features all the characters, but let the context do the introductions! While my "pilot" plot is fantastic in involving all the main characters, I still choked and did the monologue intro thing that makes pilot episodes all clunky. How clunky is it? In the next few strips, I will have a panel featuring a map of the Sapphire Lake neighborhood, just so readers know where all my kids live relative to each other. At least it's AMBITIOUS clunkiness!

Friday, November 14, 2008

He's on to me.

Today's Pearls Before Swine:

Pearls Before Swine

But it's even WORSE: I'm blogging to promote my venture into cartooning! What sort of fool would adopt *that* business model? My desire for a cardboard box will only ever be for shelter.

Anyway, today's focus has been on scripting the next batch of comic scripts. I have enough scripted now to take the comic to a GOOD stopping point on the website, as opposed to the poorly-drawn strip where Bud admits the majority of my cast is irredeemably evil. Of course, my first strip ended with the line, "all about the violence," and the stopping point strip ends with "war is awesome!" Man, I am going to be SO popular one day! Anywho, three more strips to draw out, six to ink and then it's scanning and updating time!

After those, I have zero intention to stop there. The following strip is easily the most complex one yet, so it scares me to death - but getting by it means THE ACTION IS IMMINENT! (The kids have to argue semantics first, dammit!) The "war is awesome" strip marks the approximate halfway point of the arc, so I'm happy with keeping it up as the current strip for a while. It allows me to build up a chunk of strips to upload at once, rather than having a few trickle in pathetically here and there.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A chilling view of things to come

Look! I am sharing about the creative process! *Adds appropriate post label*

I have two strips drawn out and ready for inking. I hope to have another done by the end of the day - it's a monologue, which is easy on the drawing! Inking is going to wait until I sketch out a few more, but I may be able to update the Precocious website soon. I MAKE NO PROMISES!

As I'm still fumbling over myself to compose these things, my approach is somewhat backwards. Step one should always be to block out where the text goes. Yeah. No. I still sketch the figures first for most strips to make sure everyone fits! If I run out of room for text, lines will be cut! Autumn's panel 2 line used to be twice the size... and make more sense. Heck, Dionne's line was streamlined and cut down too. Oh well, I wanted to draw Suzette walking away in the background and I stand by my decision!

When I grow up, I'm sure I'll figure out how to balance elements on a comic page. Putting aside my atrocious penmanship, I seem to be drawing my characters too large. Any panel with three or more involved is killer! You see in this example how I cropped Dionne out of panel 2. In the other one I sketched out (the one that has haunted me for weeks) I had to alter panel size in one and crop all but Autumn's hand out of the other. Basically, I'm taking the easy way out. How do real cartoonists draw that small? Yeah, make the panels bigger is the obvious solution - but I am using industry standard templates! THIS MAKES ME FEEL INADEQUATE!

Edit: Monologue strip was easy as advertised and is now ready for inking. Yay! The next strip will likely feature a first for me: ONLY THREE PANELS! I make no definitive statement as I discovered tonight I never finished scripting it. Instead of riding momentum, sitting down, scripting it and getting another done tonight I chose to lose myself in pro football. So many of my benched/recently dropped fantasy players are rocking the house tonight. :-( Anyway, this next strip will feature ALL SEVEN INTRODUCED KIDS! It shall be epic! (I'm scared!)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Did you get my best side?

So I've actually started working on my comic again. Shocker, I know. What thwarted me this time was trying to draw Dionne (and, to a lesser extent, Tiffany) in profile facing left. For some reason I just couldn't get her to look right!

Flipping through my sketchbook, the vast majority of my left-looking drawings all feature a three-quarter pose at most. True profiles are few and far between. And all but one were doggy characters. (It's not surprising Bud is the exception, as he is the most drawn character and thus gets to try more poses.) Weird.

Edit: My own blog defies me, as the sketchbook page I posed a while back contains a left-looking Tiffany I missed - drawn only because she was looking left in the comic I was working out, which is the same comic I mentioned struggling with today. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy or something! Um. SO TWO KITTIES! That's it!

I guess it has to do being left handed. I naturally draw my characters looking right since the flow of drawing fits the hand position. I know back when I did the very first Precocious promo pic I drew a great Bud looking right, but Autumn was a disaster. I finally had to draw her looking right and reverse the image in Photoshop.

Reversing characters doesn't always work, either. What looks so natural can become bizarre when flipped. How irritatingly quirky.

With sketching, my tendency to draw characters facing one direction is all well and good - but the actual comic features characters, y'know, talking to each other. That means lots of folk looking left. Uh oh. Some of them are even kitties! THAT'S BAD NEWS! (My guess is that kitties have more subtle features with the curves of their heads while doggie muzzles and fluffy cheeks tend to point strait out.)

So I went through my sketchbook counting figures facing left. Most were Jacob and Suzette. Jacob, being who he is, tends to be the character reacting to the more aggressive characters, so he appears more on the right side of panels. Suzette is easy to draw. The sketchbook is littered with aborted Autumn sketches, all given up when it came to drawing her hair.

What's pictured in this post is the one left-looking Bud in the book along with the better of the two fully-drawn Autumns. To show the crazy mirror effect works both ways, I flipped the image. Autumn especially looks distorted when facing right.

Oh well. It's just another hidden obstacle that keeps me from being a real cartoonist. Now that I recognize the problem, I've got to spend time trying to correct it in my sketchbook. This will not be fun.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Schoolgirl Chic

After tossing Autumn into so many various Fall/Winter/Inspirational/Anachronistic outfits, I must keep reminding myself that SINCE I SUCK AT LIVING my comic is still taking place in July. Skirts are in! (The boys still wear pants because I CAN GET AWAY WITH IT! To hell with you if you criticize!) Down the road I seriously need to do some collar/shoulder clinics, but for now it's all about capturing that classic Autumn style! Am I so incompetent that I keep forgetting to draw the second set of lines to make her dress plaid-ish now? *looks at picture* Oh fuck me...

Monday, November 10, 2008


In reply to my decision to go cute wizard in the previous post:


(I'll maim him again soon. Don't worry.)

I'm a Wizard Wizard a Wizard Wizard a Wizard MAN!

This is example of a sketch done just so I could use a silly post title. (Which I have likely misquoted.) Due to time constraints, I went with a nice wizard instead of the "electricity shoots from my finger - NAILS!" and Jacob-melting type of wizard. In hindsight, this entire concept wasn't as interesting as I'd hoped.

Edit: Fixed the headline with help of YouTube. One wizard was out of place. I hate when that happens!


Sunday, November 9, 2008

'Tis the holy day

That's right... football day!

Turns out it's a fairly pleasurable experience when your favorite teams are on bye, have already sucked and died this week and are so mutilated by injuries that their losses bring sympathy instead of frustration. I got to watch games where my soul wasn't riding on the outcome, which was nice. It was fun to watch the Ravens curb-stomp the Texans! Rookie QBs and coaches succeeding beyond anyone's wildest expectations? It's more likely than you think. When I tired of the ass-whooping, I switched over to watch the nonsense bowl, as the Packers and Vikings decided traditional scoring was too boring and went for scoreboard variety.

Anywho, a football sketch was spawned. I was tempted to draw Suzette mowing down everyone, but notebook pages can only fit so much. Jacob going flying in a strange pose is Peanuts-inspired and *not* just me avoiding the pressure of drawing weird angles. Just so you know.

Edit: You know, it looks like I forgot to draw pants on Bud. The image takes on a whole new meaning now! (He really *is* my cartoon avatar!)

Saturday, November 8, 2008


So today I finally had time to sit back and do some work. How did I utilize that time? BY SLEEPING THE DAY AWAY! Those who are not morning people should never only set one alarm. Argh.

Another opening came this afternoon. I had a few tasks to do and then some time to sit around a sketch... and play around on the computer... which crashed... and got all wonky afterwards. The crash disabled my bluetooth capabilities, which meant my mouse was useless and Photoshopping was suddenly quite difficult. As I am using Windows, the "help" section did nothing by tell me what a functioning mouse would do. I then encountered the lovely: "If it's not working, you should already know how to fix it." Clearly, the people who write these help guides are libertarians.

After lots of fruitless Googling - most results advertisements or mac forums - I finally got my way into the device manager. To paraphrase the diagnosis: "This isn't working (error 43)." To paraphrase error 43: "It isn't working." So helpful!

So my bluetooth had been disabled due to the crash freaking out my computer. I click the "fix this" button... which appeared to be a placebo as all it did was trigger a status bar that filled up and disappeared even though nothing else was done. So then I did the radical thing: I disabled the supposedly-disabled program and enabled it again. Victory! To summarize: The crash freaked out my bluetooth, which STOPPED the program but didn't DISABLE it. Such semantics meant all help and connection programs only saw it as enabled and therefore said unkind things about my mother instead of actually helping. Day = wasted. Attitude = grumpy.

So, yeah, here's a sketch of Bud composing at a laptop, since the most I've done today is outline some more Maquette stuff. Yeehaw.

PS: My stolen wi-fi signal is fickle. I can browse around the net if I want, but the *second* I try to do something productive it leaves me with internet blue balls. Grr.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Kick off your boots, come sit a spell...

"...Listen to me worry, come and listen well."

So I haven't been able to get much done for myself here so far. See, I am here to help out my grandparents and *not* myself. Usually, there is lots of nap taking and down time, meaning I can get some stuff done for me in addition to doing my duty. This time...

Since my grandfather got sick, he has not once come down to see me when I visited. My interaction with him has always been taking him his food and checking in occasionally. (He usually only had enough strength for a minute or two of conversation anyway.) For *this* visit, dude has been up and about! He's come downstairs for every single meal! That's awesome!

It's also quite sobering. All his life, he's been very good at making it seem like everything's fine with him, whether he knew what was going on or not. He'd pretend to know about topics when he didn't. When his hearing began to fade, he'd say just enough to make you think he knew what was going on. Now that he has Alzheimer's, his old habits can still fool you. So maybe he was able to throw me off previously when I was just visiting for a minute or two. Now that he's up and about (relatively) I can see him when the guard comes down. He plays along, but gets tripped up. Seeing what was supposed to be an invincible man show weakness really can get to you.

Side story: When I got here, I met his hospice nurse as she left. She was very sweet and everyone loves her. Her name starts with an A. When I visited granddad later, I complimented him on how healthy he looked. He explained he was squeaky clean from his bath. I remarked that I'd briefly met his caretaker and that she seemed sweet. Then I turned to him and said something along the lines of, "Oh shoot, I've already forgotten her name. I hate when that happens!" Classy, Chrispy.

On the other end of the spectrum is my grandmother, who is wickedly smart and one of the most interesting people anyone could ever know. We've been talking quite a lot - politics, social issues and ye olde family tales - with the conversations going for hours. It's very enriching...but time consuming! She's *also* feeling better, so extra rest time is no longer required. In true elderly bliss, she tripped yesterday - and managed to do the old "break into a job while regaining one's balance" thing. This is a HUGE DEAL when one is 83 and has a bad knee. Everyone's energized!

Is it just a precious moment when things are bright - or is it the presence of hospice? They only come twice a week, but they take care of the difficult tasks. Without the strain, both grandparents are doing better. It's lovely and wonderful that I still have time to connect with her and just be there for him - BUT HOW AM I TO GET ANY DAMN ART DONE!?

Eh, I'll trade my productivity for their vitality any day.

(opening lines cribbed from Natalie Merchant)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

My webcam is sad

My scanner is now hooked up to my laptop! I may still get nothing accomplished in DC, but at least I'll do it with the same technology at home! Yes, I know the DC trip is not to be seen as an artist's getaway, but I am hoping to become an expert multitasker!

On another note, I love Photoshop. Not only can I clean up my scanned sketches, but I can also fix proportion errors made in the drawing! Both these figures were drawn far too tall, but would you have known if I hadn't pointed it out? Yay, technology!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes We Can !!!

(click the image to see the full-sized version)

If I was good with celebratory sketches, this would have gone up last night, but I was, um, *cough* celebrating into the wee hours of the morning. Like a true party nerd, I was furiously typing messages over IM and Facebook while knocking back croranges in my frorc house! (If you don't understand, you never will.) It was the most social activity I've had in years.

So now I've crawled out of bed (feeling great, btw) just in time to crawl back in it again. Not a bad way to spend a day!

Tomorrow I'm traveling to DC again. As long as I can hijack an internet connection down there, I will keep on posting here from my laptop. If not, well, now you know why. I'll be back home on Tuesday.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Things are looking up!

I think what I like best about this sketch is how SLOPPY this horrible pun is! Does it even make sense? I mean, if Suzette perceives that she may be labeled as a "thing" then there will be blood! Best of all: The copyright information placed *just so* to muddle the idea even more. SPECTACULAR FAIL!

Also...check out the arrogance in posting this before any election returns are in! Look, barring MASSIVE election fraud, Obama has this thing. But with the last two elections...

You know what? Fuck it! I have been a cynic through this entire election cycle and I'm going to let myself get carried away for now. Heck, as I typed that last sentence I just sent my brother out to buy me celebratory booze. (My first liquor purchase in about... two years... wow.)

I may eat my words later, but at least I'll be drunk. Alcohol always gives me the munchies and all I have here are rice cakes. My words are scrumptious!

Today's the big day!


Monday, November 3, 2008

Cranial Concrete

What a way to start November, huh? My mind has been so blank these past few days I couldn't even put up FILLER in good conscience. This has been highly frustrating.

Me and productivity rarely coincide as is, thanks to my brain being wired in an amazingly specific way to negate all my best qualities. Oh, and I'm also hardwired to struggle mightily with any alternate (er, normal, that is) life paths. Basically, I'm wired to fail. Pure force of will alone is how I made it as far as I have. (Have I made it anywhere?) Problem is, I have to actively fight to keep myself even mildly useful - which leaves me vulnerable when life gets fuckly bad. Recent events have worn me down to nothing, which is quite frustrating.

My house is a construction site, which is detrimental in several ways. The constant banging has brutalized my sleep pattern, which is never good for anyone. The lack of a kitchen means I am living out of a microwave now, which sucks. Having the only working appliances as well as the utility stuff nearby means constant invasion of my personal space. (Let's face it, I'm borderline agoraphobic, so this stuff is a big deal.) I cannot get peace here and the constant invasion of people and sounds is starting to severely affect me.

This blog is very useful because the post-a-day goal forces me to have visual proof that I did something positive. Recently, I've been focusing on my writing. I want to create a thorough outline of Maquette so that, if I die unexpectedly, there will be enough there for someone else to take my story and complete it for me. (Note: I am not planning on dying anytime in the next millennium, but I need *something* to force me to put stories that exist entirely in my brain down in real form.) By working on painting in addition to the writing, I had something to show off!

Well, the environment and creative block finally set in with painting. Without something to show, I am just this delusional wistful artist wasting his life on a project no one will ever care about. To make matters worse: My crappy painting skills extend to drawing. For years I would sketch for hours a day. As of late, sitting down to draw feels absolutely foreign. I'm going to chalk it up to the environment finally getting to me, because if my brain was imploding for good that would be far too depressing.

Anyway, the goal of this post was to apologize. I'm not apologizing for my lack of posting her as much as I am apologizing for being a crappy person in this past month. While I've struggled to create, I've increasingly isolated myself. To all my friends I've ignored in that time, I'm really sorry. I've been a wretch and you are so awesome that I'd hate to bring you down with me. Here's to hoping this whiny dirge has been enough blather to get the frustrations out of my brain.