Saturday, February 28, 2009

Anyone want to buy a mug?

This is purely a product pimping post. I decided to play in my DeviantArt account today and take advantage of their print service. (Link is to your right, people.) A few hi-res comics were tossed in, with various print options added. Let's see if it works! I also threw in my recent flower paintings, one of which was immediately favorited by someone. Sweet!

I'm testing this thing out myself and ordered a beefily-priced mug. Gentlemen, this might work!

(The comic was added as a reminder of what a mug looks like.)

Can't sleep. Clown'll eat me.

I am *so* close to finishing your painting, Dana. (Andrew must continue to feel the blues. Suck it!) All I need to do now is make a few passes with some greens and paint the border.

Despite the look being so very me, I am doing some things with this painting that show that I am crazy and unstable. In the biggest painting I've done yet, I have used ZERO black. I repeat: No strict black outlines! Granted, it's because I went with white instead, but it's still going against the grain! This artist is being willful! Which is weird, considering how my typical black outlines fit Dana's decorating style perfectly. Oh well. Now you will be FORCED to get light-colored curtains. (Suck it, Jason O'Darkness!)

The second step of Chrispative dissonance follows the first: I am not forcing my lines to be super-crisp. A lot the latest touches are in dry brush fashion, and it looks rather nice. (This is good, since getting exact lines in any colors other than black and white is damn near impossible.)

Lastly, I am leaving gobs of paint untouched on my palette. I am usually extremely conservative with paint, as I hate shopping for it. Plus, it's cripplingly expensive. Any potential money from unlikely Art at the Mill sales is still two months away, and I don't have any fine art shows planned. Paint has to last! And yet, here I am blogging in the lamest act of rebellion ever.

Ahh, but add it all up and that's *why* I'm here. The leftover colors, while precious, are no longer needed on the canvas. I made one effort to force in some, just to use my supply, and it was a mistake. I had to step away. Ahh well, the happiness-to-anxiety ratio is still all shiny and glowing.

Friday, February 27, 2009

In a row?

Yes, I am recycling a joke I made on Facebook. Yes, this reeks of an "It's Saturday; deal with it," post. But, well, it's *almost* Saturday. Deal with it.

Pictured here are 33 of the 37 Precocious strips making up the next arc. (There are two #72 strips, as I haven't decided which one to go with yet.) They have to be inked and colored, with the first one needing to be done for Monday's update. Oh, so much work. The plan is to ink until Saturday night, then start coloring what I have to get one done by midnight.

Really, I just wanted to get something up for today. The *actual* art post is probably coming after midnight. I intend to hammer out one painting tonight before/after/during inking. Painting as a break beats sitting around in a daze with an aching hand, right?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Roman Culture to others: OM NOM NOM

Oh, those Etruscan blues...

Am I so petty that I take a casual in-joke reference as a dare? Do I really need to ask these questions?

Only an art student could think "Etruscan Blues" would be an awesome song title, and only an art student could capture it. I am no longer an art student, so allow me some leeway. (I still intend to do grad school, so the spirit remains within!)

The concept is these Etruscan folk are doing their thing, civilization and all, when these young upstart Romans strut up, and on, and over, and by... It's like the Italian Borg Collective! As a student of the archaic arts (not as ominous or mystical as it sounds) I see these young, modern upstarts swipe what the need and digitize the rest. I'm a traditional ink and paper cartoonist, who uses the computer as a took to process the work and (usually) preserve the initial quality. This has, it seems, become a rarity.

First digital coloring happened, and I said nothing, for I thought it a fun exercise. The Waccom tablets came, and I said nothing, for that was actually kinda cool. Then someone posted on The Webcomics List forums looking for hand-drawn and hand-lettered comics, and only a few of us remained... with and embarrassed me halfway out the door and quietly shuffling around.

For me, original strips are important in cartoon. It's a real example of what you've done. You can hang them on gallery walls! They are special, because they show the craft and effort the artist put forth with his or her hands! They are outdated? If every strip is in color, it often means the original is just some pencil. (VG Cats is like this, I think.) Waccom-drawn, clip-art and sprite comics all exist purely in digital forms. Even people who letter in Photoshop don't have a complete original to offer. That's sad. It's also what I'm doing now. For the Precocious parents arc I'm digitally coloring *and* digitally adding text. Yes, it's a font of my own handwriting, but anyone looking at my originals can see the decline. Dialog is hashed in, often incomplete or missing completely. I just need to write enough to figure out where to put the dialog balloons. After that, it's all in Photoshop. That's sorta sad, because the completeness of the original is gone. Progress has come through, taken what it wanted and discarded the rest. Etruscan blues.

Of course, unlike the Etruscans, I am free to switch back to hand-crafted comics as soon as the arc is done. Will I? Am I going to be seduced by the convenience? Am I going to head out and buy a Waccom tablet? Who knows.

As for the actual painting here, it's been a fun flashback experience. The Etruscan blues idea is 10 years old, and this painting looks like something I would have made 10 years ago. The idea was to have people or faces being assimilated into architecture. That's what this, even if my MASSIVE STYLIZATION has taken over to send most of that to an, "Uh, I'll take your word for it," level. Also, after working on all the large canvasses, my old canvas size seems positively tiny! The color here is probably far off (now with three monitors which don't agree, I've lost all perspective) so know it's a bit darker, and was done with periwinkle, white and a dark gray. Let your imagination color correct!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Violets Unmatched

Oh yeah, I went there. That's the official title of the piece. If you don't like it, cram it.

Thanks to the magic powers of OBAMA, I managed to pull this violet painting out in the end. Just a few hours ago this seemed hopeless. Now, I am fully satisfied with the piece.

It's 2am now, and I have three paintings that are unfinished. All of them are CLOSE ENOUGH to pass for finished in portfolio form, but none of the three are signature-worthy. What do I do? Let me explain further: Tomorrow morning, someone with a larger trunk than mine will arrive and take my paintings away. Tonight is the last chance I have!

So, uh, Dana, FUCK YOU! I am *so* close to wrapping this baby up, but it looks like I'll fall *just* short. This is going to be a fun one to finish up at home, as it's so massive my easel may buckle under the pressure. At least take solace in how the painting is shaping up to be really damn good! (The picture doesn't do it justice.) One extra coat of sage green and several waves of touch ups still must be done, but it's at a confidence-instilling place. Yay.

If I do work on another painting, it will be the leafy arrangement, where I'll finally tackle the vase thingy. I may not even get to that, as it's 2am and I've hit the wall.

In conclusion: The Mill should love me, Dana should have mixed feelings and I am a corner-cutting asshole.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


"You know, all I have to do is paint enough so that the paintings LOOK finished. The Mill people will never notice!"

And so the downward spiral began.

There's a background on the painting now. FINISHED ENOUGH! "But, Chrispy, you never went back and finished the vase, doesn't that--" I SAID I'M FINISHED, DAMMIT!

One bonus of ceasing to give a fuck: I can paint on my own terms!

This gigantic canvas (48" x 30") is my Chrispmas gift to Dana. (Fuck that mirror, I WANT THE WALL SPACE!) This has actually been coming along nicely. Man, I hope this still fits the color scheme of the room. It may be too warm in tone. It also may be too large to fit in my Corolla for transport. It's the thought that counts?

Monday, February 23, 2009

My paintings bore the elderly, everyone else

This is the violet painting in its current state. I've reached one of those, "uh, what next?" moments, so painting has halted for now. I've made the plant look a bit more plant-ish, with the goal of letting the background be wild enough to balance it all out. Before you get too worried, the background will be muted fairly hard.

This morning, my grandfather wandered down to watch me paint. I, unfortunately, am not Bob Ross. I don't really talk much when painting. Heck, I usually have a show or something sports-related going on as background so someone ELSE can talk for me. (Honestly, it's the only way I ever stop talking - and my friends all know it doesn't work that well. I can fanfic pretty hard and chat with the characters if my brain drifts in such fashion.) Anyway, I was all silent and violet. (Shockingly, I haven't typoed with a "violent" yet, although I've certainly been thinking about it.) Grandpa eventually fell asleep. Go me! Sure, he's an Alzheimer's patient who was overdue for his before-lunch nap, but it's funnier to say my painting bored a man to sleep. Like Solomon's wisdom drilling through a rock of injustice, I'm boring... boring... boring... boring...

I may or may not keep painting today. I *also* have 31 Precocious strips that need inking, so today might turn into "how many speech bubbles can I ink before I snap" day! Should I do more painting, I may or may not just edit this post with more pics. Stay tuned! Fuller bulletins will be posted as needed.

(Boring... boring... boring...)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dear Plastic

My quest for five plastic plant paintings continues. Mill entries have to be done by Friday, so there's no time for dilly dallying! Rather than drive myself nuts trying to finish the fern painting, I chose to push forward with new attempts whenever I hit a mental road block.

As I remembered to bring a camera to DC this time, I can show process! This arrangement was located inside a larger ceramic vase. I had only ever seen the ivy stuff on top! Turns out, it's a perfect arrangement for painting. The above image is what was on the campus when I hit the first "what's next?" panic last night.

This is where the leafy painting currently stands. I sharpened things up and played with outlines, as is my way. The current mental block is due to indecision over what color to use for the background. Figuring out how to treat the vase is also a concern. Eh, fuck it.

On impulse I grabbed some plastic violets and arranged them. On further impulse, I barely paid attention to the placement of flower and leaf. On excessive impulse, I doodled with paint. WILL THIS CRAZED EXPERIMENT SUCCEED? Stay tuned!

One of these things just doesn't belong!

Let's take a closer look into the class roster posted today. Not only is this the first view of THE OTHERS, but it's in COLOR! What have I learned and what will change?

In the comic, we see 12 kids, with one obscured by Ms. Monster. That must suck for him! Who is it?

It's Xander, of course! He hates being seen as one of the smarties, and it's entirely possible he placed himself there JUST SO no one could see him. What a jerk! He deserves to not be shown!

Aside from it being in character for him to resist appearing with the rest, there was also a question of Xander's coloring. He was conceived of as a white cat, but the thought behind it was racist. The theme is supposed to be CLASSISM! Racism with dogs and cats just makes things confusing! Roddy got SOCKS'D (R.I.P. , former first kitty) *and* IRISH'D to sweep aside the "black cat" thing. Kaitlyn is a Siamese kitty with an Asian last name, putting my race-neutral stance in jeapardy. I'm not changing Kaitlyn, because she's awesome, so I have to be careful of the race card. Xander cannot be the rich white boy!

But he does have money! As a classism-themed strip, this is where I go for gusto! My rich kids are high-end creatures, with Dionne a cheetah-panther mix and Max the alpha wolf. Almost everyone else is a domestic cat, or basic-level dog. The exceptions are Kaitlyn* and Autumn, who are noticeably Siamese and fox, respectively. Both are fairly common in the world, just cooler. Kaitlyn is the leader of the others. Autumn's family is a series of oddball clones; plus she's the outsider in most of the early stories. In both cases, the specialty works.

(*Kaitlyn is actually a Siamese *mix* - meaning she's back to the basic level. Since the reader might not ever be shown this, I'm counting her as special anyway.)

So Xander cannot be white, but he CAN be a high-end cat. He can't be too high-end, however, since he's adopted. (Again, this may never be shown, but the WORD OF GOD says it's true.) The issue tackled is predestination. He was bred to be a rich kid, and he had to discard his birth parents to achieve the goal! So what cat is a known commodity, yet still classy and elite?

How about an Abyssinian?

As the sketch I shared is the same ol' Xander, you can rightly conclude that I haven't actually sat down to alter the character to LOOK Abyssinian yet. And that would be the REAL REASON I hid him behind the teacher!

And now... the rest of the class!

Overall, it drives me nuts how the image looks different on every monitor. I made it using the HDTV, and it looked great on it. On my desktop monitor, it looked darker and muddier. On my laptop, it's clear this screen leans to the blue. Max and Yvette went from gray to PERIWINKLE. Dionne, Bud and Vincent all had their colors annoying altered by the blue love. Kaitlyn also went more gray than maize, but she still looks good on this screen so I don't mind. On the other hand, Jacob was intentionally de-blued when I colored him, so the addition of blue here gives me the color I wanted... meaning he's too light on all other screens. Argh!

Tackling the visible class...

Yvette is jarring blue on this screen, which makes her look even worse. She already suffered from a strange expression ruining he facial balance, a simplified dress that screams "lack of effort" to the heavens and hair that may be too dark. I wanted her to be a real gray tabby, as opposed to Sky's "phoning it in" tabby, but I'm not sure I have it right.

Jacob's problem is that I sucked on his drawing. Hey, it's hard to draw 13/14 figures in one panel and make them all good! Since he looks good on my laptop's screen, he's almost certainly too light or warm-colored on every other screen.

Tiffany is a strange child in many ways. No matter what the screen, he coloring always looks right! Why is my most unreliable child the most reliably colored?

Dionne's color looks dirty on this screen, but nice everywhere else. I don't see enough wrong to merit changing anything.

Roddy is black and white. AWESOME!

You'd think I would have Bud's colors set, considering he's, like, the main figgin' character! Nope, I try new things every time. I want to make his browns a bit darker, but that would color him too close to Suzette. The Bud version shown here is probably the best of him so far.

Kaitlyn's coloring was WAY too monitor-dependent. While I love the drawing, I have to change colors in the future. Her lighter fur needs to be a step or two lighter and should be more yellow. Her hair and extremities color are NOT the same. Either the hair needs to be lightened, the dark needs to be darkened, or both.

Suzette has a good color balance, but I bet I could make her a bit darker if I wanted. Probably not worth changing.

There's a reason Max usually wears a red shit. I gave him blue for balance, and MAN did that screw things up! So blue! I do want his gray to be cooler, but not to such an extreme!

Autumn is notable for being the only BRIGHT character in coloring. Best part, it's not too far away from real foxes. Foxes are unnaturally adorable. Autumn's colors will stay.

Vincent was the big color change of the group. He was conceived as darker, but balance dictated that I needed a lighter character. I wasn't attached to the old look, so I waited to color Vincent last. At first, he was REALLY light, being white with Dionne's fur color for his darks. That failed hard (white backgrounds tend to screw that stuff up) so he fell back to what he is now. Not bad, but I'm not set on him either. Also, no pink shirt in the future. That was purely for color balance.

Quincy avoided the Kaitlyn curse and actually looks pretty good. The two are best friends, and they look like the same coloring with the species and gender switched. I wanted to dimish that gag a bit, since I have no intention of dealing with that concept, so the two got different colors. Quincy always gets the red lightning bolt shirt, although I did downgrade its intensity a bit. The green pants were an experiment, but they look tackily great!

Finally, I deliberately darkened Ms. Monster. She appears to be standing in shadow on my laptop, which I suppose is fine... but it's a mistake. Both her colors were simply darkened, but they NEED to have some intensity added back to them. I would have faired better if I used Dionne's fur color and pants color. Next time, I am trying that!

In the end, it was a time-consuming venture, but ultimately rewarding. I enjoyed paying homage to the Far Side (if you don't know the original strip, you fail at life) and it was fun to toss the other kids out there for once.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Painted Plastic Plants Provide Profit? Possibly.


Tonight painting begins again on part 4 of my plastic plan series. I'm excited, because this arrangement is dynamic without me having to meddle too much with it. Ask me about this again in two hours, though - *after* I've taken a stab at it.

Here are the three others and how they shape up for the Mill application:

This haphazard fern isn't done. I'm going to knock back the background and try to sharpen up some of the more egregiously bad spots - but tonight is all about the new and exciting. The fern is old and depressing. My attention span just couldn't last long enough to paint the damn fronds!

Here are the other two after PROPER photography and a bit of color correcting. The colors still aren't perfect, and the lighting remains uneven, but you get a decent sense of their nature.

In other news, the DC wi-fi connection is averaging two minutes of internet connection out of ever five. I'm not talking big scheme here. I mean in any given five-minute window, connection will be one and off, giving about two minutes of internet time. It'd be far less stressful if I had one solid 22-minute stretch each hour in which to work. Stuff like uploading an attachment to email or pictures to blogger is highly dangerous. So. Many. Tries. Are. Needed. Argh! Doing comic updates will be unpleasant.

It's time to post this blog, and you can guess how much success I'm having. At least I know it'll eventually go through if I keep trying. It's better than having nothing.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Spoiler alert!

Realizing that I have precious few color strips of many Precocious characters, I set about rectifying that. There's a massive color story coming (the ever-hyped parents' intro) which should cover some good stuff. But what about the supporting kids? They won't be appearing! Strip #7 is the only color version I have of them outside of supervillain get-ups. Well then... let's play some more!

This banner ad features a detail from next Sunday's strip. Those in the know might even be able to figure out the punchline. Oh well, it took a long time to make and it's "bonus" - that's fair game for blogging! Not sure I'm fully sold on the ad yet, but it's good enough for now.

Edit: Darn differently-calibrated monitors! Kaitlyn is the best-looking one on the HDTV, but she looks like a washed out Martian on the old school screen. I have no idea what you people are seeing. Please let it be the good version!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

And the meek shall languish in obscurity

I made the sketch. I scanned it. I remembered I had to actually post it at 11:40. Victory! Ok, so it's not like this was done *early* - it took forever for a decent sketch to appear - but I had a comfortable window, dammit!

If Kaitlyn doesn't drag these two along, what chance do they have? You know, this post can make a real deep statement about something. I've been fighting to get my strip noticed, and networking is not my strong suit. Kaitlyn is the only *normal* kid in the class, and so she can guide the meeker/crazier class members. Then again, even Kaitlyn can't break through the Gemstone delusion. What chance does erratic Vincent, who tends to stick his foot in his mouth by cluelessly rambling - or Yvette, who is near mute but *potentially* lives a complex inner life (we're not sure) - have if their leader can't succeed?

If I sound like I'm reeeeaaalllly stretching, DUH! The original idea was to draw the other half of the class like a posse. After starting on Vincent, this post's title popped into my head - so I stopped with the 9-year-olds. I'm just happy I got a decent sketch today. Don't read too much into it. ;-)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I'd better get my move on...

...or all the good ones will have gone.

Thank to Dana's generous Chrispmas gift, I was allowed to indulge a bit at The great conquest of last night was the downloading of CSS' latest album, Donkey. I am seriously hooked. The band has gone from art punks flirting with the B-52's to outright footstep following. (According Wikipedia, this is called "New Rave" - which is an awesome term.) I have no problems with this move whatsover. I had put off acquiring this album because critics weren't that enthusiastic over it. (The dreaded MUSIC B grade was bandied about.) Fools!

Of course, when I get attached to an album and listen to it over and over, it puts me in a trance. Strange things happen when I'm entranced, as anyone who got a novella from me in their email today can attest. Alas, the time of dreamy meandering is about to end. It's time to silence the other computer. (Problem: iTunes hates PCs and thus destroys everything when asked to share resources. Solution: Buy a HDTV and hook a laptop up to it, allowing the old desktop to devote itself solely to music providing.) I had to create something fun to share - hey, everyone, guess what CSS stands for! -and get it up before lost.

Now my attention turns away from this giant, loving monitor and focuses upon the comic. 24 intro arc strips sketched, 12 left to sketched, none inked so far. Ahh, progress!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Say hello to your new god!

In accordance with Chrispmas, I have until March 24th to provide a gift - and even then we have some leeway. Laziness cannot be contained! Last December I promised my mother I would get her a HDTV to go with the HD-ready box in her bedroom. I had the perfect TV picked out, the Sears' website had it listed as available, my brother and I confidently walked in to pick it up... and two of the most inbred-looking people I've ever seen told me it was sold out. Damn Appalachian runoff!

Well, it went back on sale. This time, it's MINE! My mother will be so happy.

But mother's on a trip. I can't possibly just let it sit around! Hey, look, I have enough spare cords and parts to turn my laptop into a magnificent HD desktop set-up.

Sorry mom, this TV is now a vital part of my life. Old computer has now been marginalized to a corner, only to be used when something goes wrong and Photoshop starts opening adjustment windows in the ether, thus making it impossible to do anything but curse and cry. LIKE NOW, FOR INSTANCE! Even my false idols hate me. :-(

Anyway, assuming a reboot fixes things, I might have to kill my family to ensure I can use this TV forever. It's the only solution.

Edit: The image appears HUGE on this TV (since the resolution is still my laptop's) and it looks seriously impressive at this size. All you people with pedestrian monitors are missing out.

Monday, February 16, 2009

This is the picture

The post title is a Peter Gabriel song, for those unhip to the awesome.

I've been churning away at the comic in between my online Precocious promotional flailing. The strip I just did was scripted to have Autumn showing her parents Polaroid shots of other characters. Well, I couldn't just make them static shots! I had waaaay too much fun with them, so I had to make more!

This one is a bit cheesy, down to the weaksauce caption, but it was lovely distraction. Also, a snapshot motif would totally make a good Precocious book cover.

Edit: I totally forgot to give Bud his freckles. D'oh.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Putting my best face forward

So I'm checking Google Analytics for today's hit count and I see my mini ad campaign has tripled my traffic. That's awesome! I just wish I wasn't an idiot.

See that sketch above? Why is it funny? If you're familiar with Precocious, you know Jacob is not likely to sit around in a funk and growl. (The pose was so odd that I really struggled to draw it.) If you're not familiar, the first impression makes you think, "I guess this is the strip's angry character."

So here I am, running ads and bringing in traffic. What is the punchline of the first strip?


Because first-time readers know about Roddy being a pest, and that the main cast ignores the outside world. Brilliant. While I appreciate the appropriateness of the visitor influx happening during a storyline about outsiders entering an insular world, have I sacrificed accessibility for metathinking? Man, I hope people stuck around to read the archives.

The weekend strip, the first thing most of the new visitors see, at least featured all eight main kids acting in character. The problem here is that it's more of a catharsis than a punchline. I'm too close to my own work to know if it's a good first impression or not. It better be good, since I don't have a Sunday strip to run. Maybe I should have done that. (Edit: As I found my Sunday templates while locating Bristol Board earlier, I did end up making a Sunday strip. It took until 6am and it's still not colored. Oy.)

What really is making me kick myself, though, is that the candy violence strips will start on Monday. I consider these strips my best work yet, as it's funny and catches the main kids at their best (worst?). Maybe I should have waited.

Maybe I'm just freaking out. The more I read on the Webcomics List forums, and the more I look around Project Wonderful, I realize I know absolutely nothing about being a web cartoonist. I guess that would lead to step three of getting my name out there. I've started promotion. I'm reading the forums more and I've even gotten some posts in. Have I written my cartoon heroes? That was supposed to be the first step, so I could have guidance for my nascent creation. Instead, I play Mr. Antisocial and do it all myself... which naturally leads to a nice pile of rookie mistakes. Everyone stumbles at first, and everyone stumbles HARD, but it's probably wise to have someone around to catch you.

Ahh, if only I wasn't so insane. Then again, it comes with the job, right?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

This is what I'm *supposed* to do as an artist

Story time!

Yesterday I had a shocking experience. Having ordered lots of strip templates fairly recently, I was confident in my abundance. Then I counted the remaining number of templates and the amount of strips scripted and ready to draw. Oh snap! See, the theory is that I will work on my scripted strips, but I will *also* draw any random idea I get. My strip needs more one-off strips with quirky humor, and I figure it'll come naturally as long as I'm receptive. If I don't have enough supplies to cover more than a few random strips, Mr. Conservation steps and in makes life sad.

This problem needed to be fixed. TO THE INTERNET! I normally go to Dick Blick for resupplies, as the 14-sheet pads are cheapest there, but I felt thrifty and tried to search the web. This is an absolute pain, as my templates are one item in an ever-variable list of Canson products. Frustration grew as I reached a site and looked at an improbably price. "What kind of sale is this? The price is MORE than the list price and - wait, did that say 50?" IT COMES IN PADS OF 50? Why was I not told of this sooner? I now have 200 templates coming my way at the cost of about 25 cents per sheet, shipping price included. There was an even better deal with the 100 pack (*drool*) but it appears to be theoretical as all sites have it as sold out. It'll be a while before I run out now!

(here is where the story splits into different timelines. As is my nature, I am putting the relevant story second. )

1) ...assuming the pads get here. Today I check my email to see the chaos Project Wonderful has wrought (it's rather amusing to see cheapo bids fluxuate wildly) and I see a note from Art Supply Warehouse titled "Backorder." Ruh roh. I open to see the expected, "we're sorry and we'll get it to you soon" stuff. Then it lists the missing item that is holding my order back. The catalog. They won't ship my pads until they can dump a catalog on me. I wrote them back, saying (and this is as direct a quote as I can remember), "See, there's this thing called the internet. I can review your catalog and, um, place orders there." I have yet to get a reply.

2) ...of course, Mr. Thrifty had to come out for a fight first. The site kept asking if I had a coupon code, and that make me thing, "you know, I DESERVE to have a coupon code!" So I searched for one. All I found had expired, but the journey was not without its reward. The blog that cataloged coupons *also* lists various art promotions. The main one on the page was sponsored by Prismacolor.

For those not in the know, I consider myself a drawer more than anything. I have kicked some serious ass in the past with my Prismacolor pencils and pastels. This contest is right up my alley! The only problem is that the art has to have been completed in the past six months. What have I done in the past six months? DAMMIT!

What you see here is me trying to rekindle my former glory with the pencil. For this contest, I'll have to do something more realistic, but and excercise in an excercise! Enjoy.

Friday, February 13, 2009

As the Webcomic Turns...

As I am hopelessly obsessive about things, I've done a *lot* of reading and analysis on webcomics. The goal was to expedite my improvement and skip over some of the common shortfalls. Good idea, in theory. In practice, I've learned there's no teacher like experience. I think back to my time at the garden center. By the end of my run I knew every plant there and how they should be kept. I could dispense advice to grateful customers. When I got home, I found I still couldn't garden to save my life. Basically, I'm an example of a fool I've been mocking since high school. Intelligence and maturity are not related since high school, yet I still set out thinking, "I could be the exception!" Yeah, look at my early strips. I might understand the concepts involved, but I had zero skill in using them. (Still don't really, but I am getting better.)

One thing I really wanted to do was sort out my character proportions. This was where I was the most inconsistent, and I wasn't even sure what I liked best. I went in trying to anticipate how my style would evolve. The lines would get cleaner and more precise. Characters would probably get more steamlined. Proportions would settle themselves. Oh then, so I tried to push myself in that direction. I actively shrunk my characters to Peanuts-level proportions. They were cute! Then I tried to draw them sitting in chairs - or worse, hugging. Uh oh. Have I shrunk my characters too much? Is it time for the yo-yo to go the other way? With many upcoming strips featuring the parents, the proportion contrast needs to be settled before it gets silly!

Well, one lesson is learned. I'm just going to run with it. I'm going to try and draw what's natural and not freak out too much. Look at the Dionnes above. One I just drew while sketching; the other I *tried* to draw. I think you can figure out which is which, and which looks better.

The Roddy and Bud also representing one I tried to draw and one I just drew. In this case, Bud was a random sketch. Roddy was drawn as a response the scrunched Dionne. He's supposed to be a comfortably-sized sketch, representing a gentle heightening so I could lengthen the arms again. (I really hate drawing arms that reach below the knees, and that is chimpily wrong!)

I do believe if I just let go, my pencil will be kind to me. (Famous last words?) Looking back through the blog archives, I see pics where I note that I am trying the big head thing. They look like... the Roddy sketch! Clearly, I am moving in the right direction, but I might be pushing too hard.

If I let it go, I think most will come out around the Bud proportion, which is good enough. He does tend to have a larger head, mostly due to the lack of hair or ears to enhance his height and cranial bulk. Something has to be done to balance out that big-eared, point-haired Autumn!

Also, I'm glad I didn't post this entry last night. Today was supposed to be a work day on the comic, but it instead turned into a comic work day. Instead of making strips, I was working on the website. Lots of stuff got done. The linking page was altered, the cast page was completely redone and I bit the bullet and signed up with Project Wonderful for advertising. I've given myself $10 to play with as I place buttons on lots of minor comics with hope in my heart. A few hours in... I have one hit. And I think it was me. Oh well, it's progress! In time I'll ad my own buttons and the cycle will continue.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Atrocious penmanship goes digital

While browsing the forums of The Webcomic List, I discovered the greatest thing ever: The Font Generator! Print out a template, write in your letters, scan it, upload it, download the font, install it and you have a font of your own handwriting!! I am amazed!

I had to test the Precocious1 font, of course. (The original Precocious font had a fucked up period . Worst . Period . Ever .) Below you see Precocious strip #20 (2009) with the font treatment. The top image is the original and the Precocious1 font version is on the bottom. You'll have to click on the pictures to see them at actual size. What do you think? Worth trying out? Oh yes, notice how the signature is different? The font page has a space where you can put in your signature, so it can be created with shift+6. Rock on!

By the way, if you want a copy of my font, you can download it here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Things that go bump in the night.

No, grills that work in a similar fashion to George Foreman's famous cooker do not go bump in the night - as far as I know. I have a potentially interesting story to tell and this was the only sketch done tonight. George Foreman probably goes bump in the night, though. Maybe he's mad that I didn't choose to use his grill as my source, but rather a grill with the caption reading something like, "George Foreman's grill can't compete!"

As foretold, I am back to work on sketching new strips. Tonight's haul ended up being six strips sketched and ready for inking. Not bad for getting back to the grind. As always, I needed media distraction to get my brain to focus. Neko Case on iTunes is far too bewitching, leading the mind to wander into fantasy. Had to put in some basketball to kill the wandering mind, then some Wire DVDs to get me motivated on strip-making.

I finished two DVDs, which puts on disc two of season 5. I'm too close to the end! I can't wait one more day for the next back to DVDs to come in! I'm not going to be up and running until after the mail comes tomorrow! There's only one solution: Take my Netflix packages to the mailbox at 4am!

I suppose the trek is a bit creepy late at night. The driveway is long, the lighting is non-existent and wild creatures have been known to stroll through the neighborhood. Also, I was just watching a bunch of people get stalked and shot for about six hours. Still, the weather was pleasant the spirits were high!

That's when the horror movie began.

Like a good future-axe-holster, my mind started to wander to my grandparents. Dying sucks in its own right, but it's brutal on spouses. I really do worry that the surviving grandparent might just give up, as is common with long-married elderly couples. So I asked myself, "once my obligations are over, will I just give up on living?" Habitually, I did a pocket check for balance. No cell phone or keys, of course. I was defenseless!

I get out to the mailbox and turn around to send my Netflix packages on their way.

*bhuh* *bhuh* *bhuh*

The FUCK was that!? I turn aroumd and look out, trying to see the source of the sound - or at least trying to see if any notable blob is scrambing across the neighbor's yard in my direction.

*bhuh* *bhuh* *bhuh*

It sounds like it's coming from the treeline in the distance. It's not a very recognizable sound...

*bhuh* *bhuh* *bhuh*

Wait, I have it! It sounds exactly like the "axe murderer closing in on a victim" sound effect you hear in movies. I am totally not making any of this up. Some douchebag is SCORING my death with cliches!

*bhuh* *bhuh* *bhuh*

I listen to it for a few more repititions. Doesn't sound like it's getting closer. My guess is a heat pump trying to figure out what the hell it's doing at the always temperature-fuckly 4am. So I turn my back to the sound and walk down the driveway.

*bhuh* *bhuh* *bhuh*

Did it just get louder?

*bhuh* *bhuh* *bhuh*

Maybe not. I keep walking.

*bhuh* *bhuh* *bhuh*

Maybe that's a sound an old dog who smoked three packs a day would sound like...

*bhuh* *bhuh* *bhuh*

Man, no one is going to believe horror sound effects started playing for me!


Oh, DAMMIT! There's the token "killer stepping on a twig so the victim turns around to die face-first" sound. I always hoped my life would end up making a good movie, but a Friday the 13th sequel? Man, even the film gods hate me.

*bhuh* *bhuh* *bhuh*

I am going to keep walking at a leisurely pace, partly due to pride and partly due to horror movie logical fallacy. Victims who pause, look around, get unnerved by sounds and finally start running like idiots ALWAYS get killed, therefore running away from suspicious sounds causes death!

*bhuh* *bhuh* *bhuh*

You know what, fuck dignity! I've reached the loving glow of the side light and, even if said killer was real, I had 'em in a sprint. I run through the gate, close it, run around to the back door, head inside, lock the door, turn on the lights and debate whether this is amusing enough to justify a post.

Well, who reads this but me and people brushing up on my recent history for their monthly visit with me? Only one person even remotely cares, so I'm doing it for me!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Background dude 2: Genetics-friendly edition

Today I started working on the new comics. Progress is slllloooooowwww. Doesn't help that the current stuff needs lots of planning and blocking to make all the elements fit in those tiny panels properly. There's also the weakest strips of the bunch - but I needed to do *something* to get the story started, so it works. I hope to have a handful sketched out by the time I pass out tonight. Current total: One. And a half. Woo!

Taking a break from the brain-teaser aspects of spatial relationships, I turned to my skechbook and began drawing randomly. When I hit up on lovely shocked expression, I decided to focus on it a bit more. The face was too old to be a kid, and Harvey Linkletter just doesn't play that game, so I went back to Vincent's ever-shifting daddy.

This roughly represents my first idea for daddy Iddenstein, which is fairly standard cartoon parental cloning thing. While I understand it's visual usefulness, I still don't like playing it up too much. At least eerily-similar parents and children happens. The previous version stressed the science behind walking, talking cartoon animals. (If we don't have strict rules on this, characters start singing, "Here is my hand, where is your paw?" That shit ain't right!) Still not sure what incarnation of background dude will end up in the comic, or even if his strips survive the cut, but there you go.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Space Invaders

So I'm back in Winchester, and already I've been charmed by its warm embrace.

As you might know, I have a real scumbag of a brother. He's stupid, talentless and a world-class leech. I won't go into listing everything wrong about him, as that would take many years, but I will point out that his current business plan is to form a company - since companies make money! What will this company do? Make money. Anything else? No.

See, he'll be my "manager" in regards to my art. I do the work. I prepare the material. I apply to galleries. I sell the art. He takes the money. HOW COULD THIS PLAN FAIL? How could I say no to that? My brother's current business plan is to steal from our mother as hard as he can and live the good life until she gets the credit card bill. His long-term goal is to steal from ME as hard as he can and live the good life until I get the credit card bill. Progress.

There is one clear rule while I am gone: DON'T YOU FUCKING DARE DO THAT! My room is my fortress of solitude. It is my studio. It is where I do everything, and violating this space is extremely prohibited. Oh, and it's not just a territorial thing. My brother simply cannot be trusted. He sucks at life.

If he was any other species, he'd have been kicked from the nest or killed by a predator a long time ago. As he his human, he gets second chances and coddling on a daily basis, which has only taught him that he will ALWAYS be bailed out no matter what sort of trouble he gets into. The result is that he never learned simple decency. He does not know how to close doors. He does not know how to properly store perishable food. He does not understand that taking things that are not his is wrong. (Nor does he understand that buying things with others people money does not make those things his.) He does not know how to properly clean anything, nor does he have a sense of what needs to be cleaned and when. He is covered in a layer a filth. He has no respect for other people. He believes the entire world belongs to him, so he fears nothing while taking everything.

So, yeah, I get home and he runs out to greet me like a dog. I give him a package containing toothpaste, tell him the package contains toothpaste and watch him beam like a child as he tears it open. "Hey, this is toothpaste!" He carries my clothes downstairs and runs of thinking he's done the world a favor. I assume he ran off because I was about to find out HE VIOLATED EVERYTHING. If I expressly forbid it, he did it. A lot. And with gusto. Don't sleep in my bed? Asshole not only slept in it, but he set up a buffet in it! His clothing was scattered around my bed. Food and drink was everywhere. Hell, just to ensure the violation cut deep, he left his spank magazine in play sight. Oh, and for those who know my brother well enough to know, you assumed correctly: He left the porn in the player as always. I broke it and stuck it upstairs, next to the phone charger I found sitting in peanut butter.

Alright, that's enough of my complaining. I'm home, I'm furious and I need to purge. I wish people as smart as livestock could be classified as livestock. It's to cruel to this family and the world to let that scumbag life. Alas, the law says it's a no-no, so we just to wait until he dies of his own stupidity. Ugh.

One positive thing is this is the perfect segue into the next batch of Precocious strips! As seen in the sketch, Roddy will be invading our kids' fortress of solitude and violating all kinds of space! Roddy is hardly the irritant that my brother is, nor are his violations egregious, inhuman and slimy. Still, a segue is a segue...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Do Nothing Week

I came to DC after working my butt off on Precocious. I was a month ahead, but I also had 8-9 weeks of strips scripted and ready to go. Yeah, well, fuck that.

This week was all about the family. That makes sense, since that *is* the primary reason I'm down here. Still, there is usually enough downtime for me to get some work done. Ahh, but that is with one set of ailing grandparents. Now I have TWO! While I didn't do much with mom's side - every time I called to come over, they seemed surprised to learn I existed - it did mean I was doing a lot of schedule juggling. It was a meager schedule, but ask anyone who's been through college if it's more grueling to have three classes back-to-back-to-back or have the same classes spread out over a day with hours between them. If it's 2pm when we get back from lunch and I have to do something at 4:30, I am not going to start an art project. If I spend all day with one set of grandparents and we break for the evening, I have all evening and into the night alone. THAT is when I can get some work done. It takes some time to get in the zone, and zone opportunities were slim this week.

Of course, would I have been productive this week even if the schedule worked better? Probably not. I had spent the last month almost entirely alone, locked in my basement and working on comics. That stuff can wear on you, and I needed a happy atmosphere for relaxing more than work. The lack of a consistent internet connection until yesterday meant I couldn't do anything online that took more than two minutes. If I was going to goof off, I thought I would spend the time establishing my name on some webcomic forums. Hard to do if you can't load the page. The internet was to be a way I could unwind. I have to be on duty for grandparent interaction and I need to be on duty to do art. If I don't get some downtime by browsing Fark or something, my brain overheats.

Well, I was fucked there. So I turned to DVDs! Only... I only brought two with me. It was the Wire, something that can't be constantly interrupted as it's complicated as fuck, so I could only watch it after everyone had gone to bed and I knew it was MY time! Those discs went fast, of course. Shoot, I'm out of media distractions. The only thing I had left was READING. Reading is great and vital and stuff, but reading means I can't do anything else BUT read. I breezed through Freakonomics, but that was all I did. In the end, I did not set myself up to succeed at art. Sitting around and doing nothing does feel kinda nice, though.

And then the weekend came! That means sports! I don't give a crap about college basketball, but that stuff was a blessing. Everyone took the day off yesterday, so we only ended up getting together for dinner and some chatting. Otherwise I had done the unthinkable... and done what I had intended to do in DC! I went back to painting.

Here is the "final" poppy painting. You'll note that it looks static, uninteresting and has fallen short of its true potential. I'll not that I don't care anymore. I spent far too long correcting old errors and trying to make the background even. Eh, maybe I can sell it to a couple with questionable taste.

Getting it done also meant I could start on another! Continuing the plastic plant theme, I decided to do a fern. This is chiefly because most of the remaining plastic plants in the house are ferns, two of which were sitting beside my computer.

Things got out of hand. I've noted before that my aunt had a randomly interesting supply of paint colors, which was a nice creative exercise right up until I ran low on white and realized I couldn't paint any more without it. Well, during her last Delaware trip she had brought the rest of her paint back. Problem solved! I could go back to my normal bold colors held in place by excessive use of white and black! Yeah, about that. Her white and black paint was old and... chunky. After destroying a LOT of charm in the poppy painting by trying to use the black, I gave up that idea.

The thing about ferns is that fronds are not one simple shape. It's a bajillion planty things stuck together, so "roughing" it out with the random colors I had was an adventure. I ended up sacrificing most of my remaining white stash to knock out a lot of background noise. What I really need is some black so I can give myself some boundaries. (It's not conforming if you color outside the lines, then add them in later to crisp up the piece!)

Maybe something will come from that piece. Maybe not. Next time I'm in DC I'll be better prepared. I will be armed with much TV on DVD, which is vital to me working. I will bring my own paint supplies, as the color balance is set to my needs. I might also not be so worn down by stress and isolation. (Ha! Not likely.)

Oh well, at least the family time was enriching. The main plotline of this trip was a success, too bad the sideplot was a bummer. On Monday I will be back in Winchester, with all the stimulation that offers. Yeehaw.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Here's to you, Mr. Background Character

As mentioned before, the upcoming bake sale storyline was initially slated to appear farther down the road. Inspiration striking when it did meant I suddenly introducing parents without first showing their kids. The result was a surprisingly early entry and starring role for Kaitlyn. Ahh, but Kaitlyn's good about these things. Once the storyline is over, she gracefully shows herself out and the comic is allowed to continue with the classroom turf war the same as always.

Kaitlyn's classy exit does open up the door for ANOTHER classmate from the other side to get a debut. To lighten the sudden new character onslaught, I could have had her talking to Roddy. To be accurate to Kaitlyn's relationships, I could have had her talking to Quincy. Instead, little Vincent will get his time to shine... and promptly disappear from the strip for a long time. I believe his debut shall end something like this:

Kaitlyn: Back to obscurity with you, Vincent!
Vincent: Aww, shucks!

So why Vincent? He's the most innocent on the other side; if hopes are to be crushed, he's the fitting victim. Also: Kaitlyn syndrome. It's just weird to use a parent without giving the kid, the far more important character, some face time.

You might notice there's some schlub in the sketch above. It's hard not to notice the guy, seeing as he's the subject of the post title. This dude is Vincent's dad, who doesn't even get a name. He is there to add some dude into scenes where no other dudes are willing to step up. He's a token. He's a background character.

Continuing my horrible blight of hetero-normative behavior, the PTA meeting is dominated by the mommies. Look, I am not Mr. Wonder Artist who is willing or capable to draw a full PTA meeting with a bunch of background characters. The only strip I've done so far WITH any background characters is the Black Friday bonus strip that isn't even on the main Precocious site. The parental speaking roles in the bake sale plot are all moms. In steps... some dude! See, some fathers do care about the PTA! Sky's talking to him! He looks totally out of place, but he is there because FATHERS ARE DEDICATED!

While he doesn't have a name, he does have some background information. Daddy Iddenstein is a single father who is trying his best to be a good parents. Life is hard, man! Not only is he the sole breadwinner, but he's also tasked with parenting a little genius who likely has undiagnosed ADD. (Vincent's more the scrambled-brain type than hyperactive troublemaker, so his crippling mental problem is charmingly benign!) Anyway, that's still not enough to buy him more than one or two panels without dialog. Back to obscurity with you! SOCIETY DOESN'T CARE ABOUT YOUR BROKEN HOME/CHILD!

I had fairly loose goals when designing this dude. He needed to be canine to sire Vincent, COMPATIBLE SPECIES and all, and he shouldn't look too much like Vincent. The first sketch featured the backwards baseball cap, but was too obviously Vincent's dad. I decided to try again. The next sketch turned into a fox by accident, which would explain Vincent's look - but I wanted to go for canine variety. Then I decided to see if I could draw a droopy-eared doggie and still make it look male. (There's a reason I have only one character with such ears, and she's the militant girl power chick.) The result was the above sketch, which I think is quite nifty for a background dude. Only problem, he now looks NOTHING like his son. This is not important if he's just a background character, but it does eliminate the chance for readers to make the connection. It would have been a neat touch. "There was this strange fluffy canine father in the background of one strip, and now there's a similar-looking fluffy canine child talking to Kaitlyn. I get it!" Now... Vincent's dead mommy bust have been one fluffy, stripy bitch. See, it's one thing for the Et family to be varied - such fur pattern variations are common with domestic shorthairs. After doing 15 minutes of Googling, I have decided Vincent is a Keeshond, yet his dad looks like an English Setter/less fluffy breed mix. CANINE GENETICS DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY! GOODNIGHT!

Oh, and those who have been reading this blog since post three or four (which is just me) is wondering if I'm going to follow up with my "rich lives of background characters" indicator that Dionne's mom was going to make an appearances. At the moment, she's been cut. Adding Kaitlyn in meant backgrounds will be omitted to accomodate dialog and the placement of small children. Heck, if I take a chainsaw to the arc and cut out a week - a strip with Sky pulling a "wall of text" to allow me to tie up logistical and conceptual loose ends is only interesting to me - there's a good chance my token dude's strip(s) get axed. I'm not looking into a play-by-play rundown of the story here. I want to get in, make funny jokes, gloss over the plot points and jump to the highly-amusing finish. I SEEM TO BE ENDING EVERY PARAGRAPH IN ALL CAPS!

The potentially-deleted strips also make jokes based on everyone understanding a character's personality. I've been dealing with these folks for years, so I know them. People who only read the comic (which is every reader but me) will only know these folks from the handful of strips in which they appeared. Good cartoonists know not to make these jokes until their strip is well-established. *I* made a joke based on Jacob's dad in the third friggin' strip. Jacob's dad makes his first appearance OVER A HUNDRED STRIPS LATER. Way to go, me! I mean, WAY TO GO, ME!

Friday, February 6, 2009

An alternative to awkward teenagers

No, this isn't the intro to a Modest Proposal-type essay. (It totally should be, but isn't.) It's the sketch I planned to share instead of my teenager sketches. It is decidedly less interesting.

The big story here is that I drew IRISES in my cartoon eyes! It was a half-thinking impulse which resulted in me drawing eyes... and not knowing what to do with them. At first, I was leaning in the direction of drawing Tiffany (she gets cut from BOTH versions of the Friday blog. Burn!) but that plan went out the window when I absentmindedly drew a canine nose. Due to the subtle differences in my characters facial structures (I'm sure you remember that post from over a month ago) the nose placement limited me to one of my two collie characters. I went with Ms. Monster over Deirdre Linkletter because the face looked younger and thinner. It should be noted that, upon completion of this sketch, my next drawing ended up being a cute Deirdre who looked 10 years younger and 20 pounds lighter. I am not sharing that sketch, as this was not intentional but rather a result of me fucking up.

Anyway, it's a wonder to all that I managed to salvage such an ill-conceived venture and turn it into a minor texture study. Whoopee.

Aaaand, while we're covering uninteresting posts and my lack of discretion.... MUSIC UPDATE! I'm still fascinated by my random iTunes experiment. We have a new top and bottom song!

The new leader, reaching 8 plays before any other reached 7 and currently the only song at 9, is PJ Harvey's "A Place Called Home." It's another of my favorites, so I am pleased. PJ Harvey is usually more rough and funky, making songs that totally rock as Sophie Muller videos, but this song is rather beautiful and harmonious. It's the type of song that deserves a Michel Gondry video. Unfortunately Sophie Muller went ahead and did this one too, so the video sucked. As the title of the song indicates, she's musing that after a period of loneliness and hardship, "One day I know we'll find a place of hope. Just hold onto me... One day there'll be a place for us."

The new loser song is Natalie Merchant's "King of May," which sat at the one play mark with the former champ, Wilco's "I am Trying to Break Your Heart," for a long time. Last night Wilco got the second play, leaving "King of May" at the bottom. What's "King of May" about? It's a song about giving a dying old man one last hurrah before he passes. Even though he's probably gone into dementia and is just a shell of his former self, you should all "raise your voices up; lift your loving cups to his long life."

A lot of meaning to those random results... what does it say that Alanis Morissette's "That I Would be Good" keeps starting just as I move to close iTunes?

That teenage feeling

You know those sketches withheld two days ago? The ones I thought had the potential to destroy ones faith in a just and loving universe? Well, I redrew them... and I'm still rather uncomfortable with the concept. BUT, this is one of those cliches. If you have a comic with kids, you have to draw them all grown up. So, I present to you... PROM-AGED GENIUSES!

This is all TOTALLY non-canon, of course...

So here we have our heroes... fairly unravaged by age. It's not like I could augment Autumn much, since the joke is that she'll grow up to look EXACTLY like her mother. Autumn's distinguishing characteristic in her family is her strong "bends like copper wire" hair. At 18, she likely wants to restrain that a bit - resulting in a bulky Tiffany-esque braid.

Bud's sketch here isn't as good as the first one I did. But that one wasn't as large, so I had to go with this. The premise here is that, although he's identified as the independent character formed by an absence of parental supervision, he cannot escape genetics. He's hit a growth spurt, making him the tallest of the six pictured here, and he might just end up closer to his daddy's size than anyone could expect. (At this point, my 5'11" self would like to give those doctors, who said I'd never top 5'7" because I was too tiny as a kid, a hearty IN YOUR FACE!) The earlier aged Bud sketch gave him a more teen-friendly hairstyle and it had more of the "maturing male cat" feel to it. (In a non-creepy fashion.) It was already obvious Bud's hair and ears come from his mommy, but the secret specter that haunts him now is her love of video games! Bud fought against it all his life, but that's her old DS he's playing! Mwa ha ha!

Now things get slightly odd. Roddy's no surprise, since he appears to have just grown in size and not matured in personal style at all. How, uh, creative of me. No, his distinguishing look here is his football uniform and clipboard in hand. Anyone who knows the game knows what that means: Backup quarterback! On a likely-weak high school team! Oh, destiny!

Jacob. Oh my. The poor child has finally snapped and gone... emo? There was a time when "I live in a spiritual vacuum" was a punchline and not a tedious and oft-repeated conversation filler/killer. His outfit is meant to look like a hybrid between militant religious garb... and a fast food restaurant uniform. Is there no better symbol for high school "philosophers"?

And here I am both amused and disturbed. I enjoy the neckline reversal on display here. Dionne now wears the bell collar and Suzette sports the heart on her... uh... suddenly ample chest. (You are allowed to shudder here.) Yes, the joke here is that Suzette grew up to be tall, shapely and sexy... SO FUCK FEMINISM! Everyone pays attention to her now! The joke is funny enough to me that I went ahead and drew cleavage on a character normally drawn as a 9-year-old. Oh yeah, she's only 17 here; so if you like the sketch for any reason other than humor, that's one more personal problem you can add to the list.

On the other side, Dionne hasn't taken up the militant mantle. I think she wears the bell just to point out the Suzettian Hypocrisy. Otherwise, I gotta admit the 18-year-old Dionne turned out to be extremely adorable. This is the sketch that made me toss aside a loss of youthful magic and go ahead with the sharing.

So where are Tiffany and Max? For Max, I ran out of sketchbook space. (Unfortunately, drawing older Suzette took multiple tries.) Also, Max isn't a character likely to change over time. He'd still be bigger than the rest, just with more adult proportions. Ooh! For Tiffany, I know her future fate in this decidedly non-canon world... and I'm not telling! It's something so funny that I won't let myself treat this post as a purge... instead there's a VERY SMALL PERCENTAGE this could just be a staging area. (If my strip has a long run, I've debated having "non-canon weeks" when I could toss out all my normal discretion and brutally drop the fourth wall on top of my unsuspecting cast.)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Accepting the inevitable

I'm not sure why, but my sketching of late has been along the lines of, "now that I have these characters, how many ensemble standards can I cover?" If your project has enough characters, how can you NOT force a Last Supper image upon a fully-suspecting populace?

I believe next on the list is.... Drawing your furry characters as humans! This is not much of a creative challenge for me, as the four main cast members WERE humans when 10-year-old me first drew them and the current versions are fairly faithful adaptations. Really, the only reason I haven't gone down this road yet is that I still hold out hope of somehow finding my sketchbooks from that time period. Farthest back I've found to this point was 8th grade, which was when I abandoned my children in favor of cartoons mocking my classmates and teachers. It's also somewhat painful to draw my characters at their most primitive of incarnations. Oh well, if I don't get any REAL ideas in the immediate future, I'll try that.

Pulling back a bit, my conclusions is that my current art mood is reflecting my internet situation. I can't keep a connection for more than a few minutes at a time, which means I can do my daily updates... and nothing else. You can't browse news or read comics with constant interruptions! Hell, even though blogging in theory just requires me to get to the posting screen and hit the "post" button when the connection returns, sometimes (ALL OF YESTERDAY) the connection gets so screwy the only solution is restarting the computer... and losing the unsaved blog post. The post you see for yesterday is the 4th or 5th attempt. Earlier drafts included the themes of THIS post. (Guess which common character treatment I decided wasn't worth sharing!)

I'm hoping for some stability soon. I *should* be painting. I *should* be working on the NINE WEEKS of Precocious comics I have scripted. Instead, I am bouncing around without focus. When then happens, uninspired rips on The Last Supper happen. No one wins.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Things I've learned from my laptop

No sketches in this post. Sorry. I had made sketches, but I decided they destroyed all that was good and pure in the universe. Don't worry too much, as the sketches themselves were fairly benign. I'm either holding onto the idea for later use, or burying it and rejoicing in artistic purity. Instead, let me share some revelations that caught me by surprise.

The subtle difference between how a monitor is calibrated can have dramatic results. For instance, BUD IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE PINK! He is buff-colored, which is not the same as flesh-colored! Pink implies lack of hair, which would be awkward as Bud's figure clearly includes the cheek fluff bumps. That one degree shift away from the yellow side of things hurts me deeply. He looked appropriate on my desktop monitor! Jacob has a similar fate on my laptop, in which he is more purple than the, uh, smoky cream I imagined for him. This doesn't offend me as much, but I'll still compensate for it when I go back to do coloring.

Another fun factor: The laptop's monitor is in HD! It's more sensitive! When I am getting a strip ready for production, I clean up the excess gray from the scan by selecting and deleting a color range. This leaves the white space in a strip in a strange transparent state, as the gray was deleted and pure white remained. The next step would be doing the same color range thing to delete all but the black. I rarely bothered with this step, as I like the transparency effect when I was lining up strips in my web template. Besides, on my desktop's old monitor, it all came out as white. In HD? Not so much. If viewed from a weird angle on the laptop, I can see all the artifacts that come from when a scanner ignores no-copy blue. This is HORRIFYING! It's good that I see this now, but it means almost all of my online archive isn't CLEAN. Argh.

On the lighter side, being on the laptop has allowed me to start an iTunes experiment. To keep myself in sound, I brought a pile of CDs to DC a while back, which eventually ended up in iTunes. As there's really not enough to make custom playlists, when it comes to music time I just set the library to play at random. The playlist is long enough that it never wraps around, so I've been tracking which songs the random play likes the best. Most popular: "Ride a White Horse" by Goldfrapp and "Joining You" by Alanis Morissette. Those are two of my favorite songs, so yay! Least popular: The unfortunately named, "I am Trying to Break Your Heart" by Wilco. It finally got played last night, and then only because I had left music playing for so long the playlist did eventually wrap around. I don't know why I get such amusement from that, but there you go. I'll also note that random LOVES R.E.M.'s best of CD. Hey, who doesn't?

Finally, updating a website from a different IP has confused Google Analytics. My Falls Church hits have gone from one to five, and the avergage visit lasts 15 minutes! Man, whoever is there must LOVE my strip! Most people only stay for the 10 seconds it takes to read the current strip, but this dude is PERSISTENT.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Life is but a dream

Ahh, but there are several types of dreams! One, always a favorite, is the stress dream in which YOU CAN'T WIN! No matter what you do, your brain changes the rules to screw you over. One of my most common involves me driving in a highway and taking the wrong exit, only to be stuck in an series of increasingly difficult roads that always lead me further and further away from the path I desire. The common ending for these has me carrying my car on my back as I gingerly walk across a shaky rope bridge over a chasm. One I had recently involved a Batman-obsessed gremlin thing that was a pushover. I beat it up and outsmarted it time and again, but it was always right around the corner to attack again. The dream ended when I thought I had it trapped in my grandparents' house (Mom's side) only to realize too late that they had installed a pet door. With a, "well, that's the end of me," sigh, I woke up. Another fun version ends with thousands of airplanes falling from the sky until one finally hits me.

The above sketch is a fairly good indicator of the past 24 hours. On one side, we have the quiet and reserved Yvette Nutley. On the other, a tempting and shiny meat cleaver. A truer emotional self-portrait has never been done!

Let's recap the fun!

-After sleeping through my alarm and moving like a drunk snail all morning, I arrive at my grandparents' house (mom's side) a few hours late. This is not a problem for me, since they didn't believe I was coming. Such faith they have in me! I try to explain webcomics to them, then explain over and over why the one painting they like of mine wasn't on my website. It's my poinsettia painting that has been sitting at my grandparents' house (dad's side) for the past month.

- Grandma (mom's side), with whom I am supposed to be spending quality as she has terminal cancer and all, says she is tired and goes back to read and watch TV. She feels perfectly healthy, so she's in no rush to do that creepy family time stuff. Most of my interaction with her was checking her math while she balanced her checkbook (she got it right) and turning down the beer she offered. Most of my time was spent chatting with my aunt (mom's side) as we "watched" a basketball game.

- Then I got a call. My grandmother (dad's side) wanted to know where I was. Now, I had told my aunt (dad's side) that I wouldn't arrive until after 9pm. I was told by my mother that grandma (dad's side) said it was perfectly fine if I showed up late at night. When I showed up at my grandparents' house (dad's side) at 9:30, I found out neither relative had told HER when to expect me. I was in trouble.

- The reason I didn't spend the night at my grandparents' house (mom's side) is because I have daily internet obligations! I need five minutes of internet time to upload the day's Precocious strip, and the only wifi I can steal is around my grandparents' house (dad's side).

- When I arrived at the grandparents' (dad's side) house I was greeting with the strange image of my grandmother (you know by now) eating cold Chef Boy-Ar-Dee from a can. Things also smelled funny, but at the time I chalked it up to the can (chef's side). After taking great care to keep their pipes from freezing during the recent cold weather, the pipes chose to rust themselves into oblivion instead. The kitchen was out of commission, the heat was out and the plumbers had a bit of trial and error before finding the problem.

- Thinking the leaky pipe was in one place (the wrong side) they knocked some holes in the downstairs ceiling. Though that hole came the distinct smell of dead mouse. Oh great. That explains it. (It's mostly dissipated by now, but that was not fun coming into the fresh kill zone.)

- I was tired from a day in which nothing had gone right. Grandma (still dad's side) was the same. We talked ourselves into a stupor and then adjourned for the night. It was time to do my update.

- THE INTERNET IS DEAD! I tried every fix I could, even though Windows (Satan's side) told me again and again that the problem wasn't on my end. The person from which I was stealing wifi was currently without internet - and I was up shit's creek until that person realized there was a problem.

- As midnight grew closer, I became increasingly distressed. I had it all planned out! I abandoned my grandparents (mom's side) just so I could be covered for the update! I couldn't do any other work because I was checking the connection every 10 minutes until 3am or so. I missed my update time and I hated myself for it.

- Feeling helpless, I decided to try sketching. Guess what I had forgotten to bring! If you guessed MY DAMN PENCIL, you know me too well. Fortunately, I had brought lead refills, so my no-copy red pencil was sacrificed to the alter of "I can't scan red!" That is one problem solved, everything else in the world still wrong.

- I could not sleep. Not only was my mind still panicking and waking me over and over to check the connection, but it was FREAKIN' COLD! I had just escaped a house where I was forced to run the space heater all day to keep feeling in my hands, and now busted heat put me in the same position.

- I end up sleeping through TWO alarms and oversleeping an hour. I am not remotely rested and I feel sick because of it. Oh well, at least this place has the best shower in the world! See, at home something has gone wrong. At the 10 minute mark, the hot water is gone. This had not been a problem before. Showers (home side) had been reduced to trying to ration hot water long enough to clean AND relax me. (If unrationed, it would never reach 10 minutes.) This means showers had become stressful and ALWAYS ended in cold frustration and disappointment. GUESS WHAT! Two minutes into this shower (grandparents dad's side) I had shut off the cold completely and was taking all hot I could. I finally had to bail, cold and miserable.

By now I am starting to wonder if I have died and ended up in Purgatory. No matter where I go, the same problems follow me. I can't get warm. When I do momentarily reach warmth, overheating immediately follows and I have to freeze again. No matter how long I sleep, I cannot get any rest. This has been going on for days. No matter what I do, I cannot get on the internet. I can't properly taste food. Feelings in general have become confusing. Seriously, since when have I been so succeptible to cold? It's getting worse every day and I don't know why! It's a minor disaster wherever I turn, and I am starting to suspect nothing will ever go right again. Around the 10th time I managed to connect to a wireless network from the nauseating IHOP only to have it fail to connect to the internet, I was certain I was a ghost. It's not just recent events, you see, but the past two months have been unrelenting in thrusting negativity on me. Is this like the Sixth Sense scene where I am lamenting how I am ignored by people I thought were friends, only to realize they moved on because I was, yanno, dead? Is this why I can not sleep for a day, sleep an entire day, quit eating for a while, eat like a pig another time, work hard, do nothing and generally turn my life into one crazy variable experience.... and yet the result is always the same. I feel the same no matter what I do. I weight the same no matter what I eat. This is not something mortals do. I am dead. I've been dead for a while. I'm dead and the afterlife SERIOUSLY SUCKS! Fuck me.

And then we rush home from the IHOP (after two hours of awkward and horrible-tasting misery) because we have doctors appointments. We don't stop by the library (which offers free wifi) because of this. Aha! Once again the solution is twisted away from me! This is a dream or death! I am certain!

Once home, I find the wifi person finally remembered to plug his modem back in. I do my comic update 14 hours late. I have no email, no comments, probably no chance in readership... and when I call my grandparents (mom's side) with an offer to come visit, they tell me not to bother since they didn't expect me to come over anyway. Even though we had all discussed it the day before.

No matter what happens, it all stays the same. WHY DOES THE SAME HAVE TO SUCK SO MUCH!?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Hus on first

Not only did I not plan on the bake sale story going next, but I certainly didn't plan on it becoming Kaitlyn's debut. It was planned to show up next fall, after Kaitlyn's introduction. Hey, when inspiration strikes, I'm going with it. I'm two strips shy of having a nice, unexpected, three-week arc. It's like a sudden visit to the mythical Copper Road comic strips.

Kaitlyn's mommy is Shii Ann Hu... who is decidedly NOT a genius. Shii is the unwitting mother who manages to screw up the PTA bake sale mightily. I couldn't have a regular's mommy mess things up, so I needed someone else from the class. Of course, to use Shii Ann, I have to bring Kaitlyn into the fold! To bring Kaitlyn into the fold, I have to give her something to do. The result... surprising evil. (Who knew I was capable of that?) Somehow Kaitlyn ends up as quasi-spokeswoman for the kids alliance.

No worries! It'll all go back to normal come the next Monday's comic!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Unlucky number... 12?

Production has begun on the parents prequel arc! I have four weeks to get this stuff produced and uploaded to the archives before my buffer runs out! This is my dedication! I could have five weeks of strips to add to the buffer, but I'm sacrificing it all for the good of my INCREDIBLY SHRINKING fan base. By the time March arrives, I doubt I'll have anyone reading at all. THEIR LOSS! I shall remain quietly awesome and all of you can regret life when you realize what you missed.

There has already been one casualty with this arc. No, it's not my sanity. That's long gone. This time it was the unlucky strip #1312. For your viewing pleasure, I present you a sketch of the doomed strip. It's full of deleted scene goodness!

Why was it cut? For one thing, the punchline depends on knowing the coloring of my characters. While color would certainly help connect dots for this arc, that's a boatload of effort for a mere archive booster. If I went with color, I would have to regain my sanity just so I could LOSE IT AGAIN! Color aside, the strip just isn't strong enough to justify its addition. It doesn't add any new plot elements and its deletion has zero impact on the story. In a group of strips more expository than humorous, we don't need any extra clunkers gumming up the works.

Anyway, I now have the first 18 strips scripted - and the last 9 strips scripted. The strips in between? I dunno. I've never been good at the brief connective tissue stuff. I prefer to leisurely play in tangents and let the plot slowly creep back into frame. I hope the missing strips number less than 10, but I have a lot of not-that-interesting stuff to cover in that space.

Update: The full arc has now been scripted! It will run a total of 35 strips, and those strips should manage to offend just about everyone! I have a bad habit of showing my characters at their very worst, don't I? All my early strips make Autumn look like a petty she-demon. Bud has done some pretty petty taunting (as in the first two strips next week). Sky is either shown stressed to her limit or never far from a bottle of wine. (She also threatens violence in future strips!) As for Bud's mom, Sydney... holy cow! There needs to be a note at the top of her strips that reads, "WARNING! This is a DEEPLY sarcastic woman." This is the stuff that *I* find funny, but I fear losing the few readers I have! My soul is DARK. Now no self-respecting syndicate would have me!

I've also started scripting what looks to be the next in-continuity story, which ties in nicely with the parents arc. It starts with a PTA meeting about a bake sale, before quickly devolving into a situation where Bud puts a curse on everyone and the aforementioned Sky violence is threatened. It also introduces a new classmate in Kaitlyn! Awesome! She wasn't supposed to appear for another month or so, but this brief cameo doesn't spoil anything for the future.

Sleeping all day and staying up all night turned out to be a good idea! Not only have I been writing well, but this Federer/Nadal tennis Australian Open final has been unbelievably awesome to watch. I think Federer is an unearthly demon. No human being could be that skilled. Nadal is like a human miraculously putting in constant superhuman effort, but Federer's skill can only come from dark forces. He's like that Lugia in Pokemon Battle Revolution that has infinite PP. He doesn't play with human limitations or rules! I don't trust him!