testing the toots

Nothing to see here, I’m just testing a plugin that will automatically toot a link to my posts on Mastodon. For the second time – it didn’t work before, and now it does. Hooray!

If you’re on Mastodon and not following me there then maybe you want to fix that? I’m @[email protected].

If you don’t know what Mastodon is, it’s basically Twitter with less nazis and a post size that limits you to paragraphs rather than very short sentences. And with development and hosting funded by user donations rather than selling your attention to advertisers. You can find out more of its unique selling points and pick a server to start tooting from here.

I’m really finding myself tweeting less and less lately. The only real problem right now is that the client I use for Mastodon tends to have problems with posting images. I’m not sure if this is an issue with this client or with the API, as I’ve also had problems getting the Silicon Dawn daily draw bot to post images on Mastodon.

Katrina Talks About Bitcoin

Today, I drew in one of the Rita omnibusses that needs that done, then got stoned and went to Trader Joe’s, where one guy working there who I’d had a conversation with about cryptocurrencies a couple weeks ago asked me a few Cryptocurrency 101 kinds of questions.

And that got me thinking about cryptocurrencies, and about maybe setting up Nick’s old PC as a host for a few graphics cards that’re busy mining some of them, and about the fact that really most of the people who made a lot of money in the Gold Rush were not the people who actually went out and did the mining, but the people who sold things to them, and then I ended up thinking that “a cute cartoon character who talks about this stuff”  is the kind of thing that might end up in people being interested in paying me a mix of cash and cryptocurrency to talk about their cryptocurrency. And something that might help make the cryptocurrency I own have a better chance of being worth obscene amounts of value somewhere in the future. Cryptocurrency cryptocurrency cryptocurrency? Cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency.

Katrina is of course based on an actual toy dragon who lives on my desk on top of some petty cash, and who has a very-forgotten twitter at @bandylegstrina.

I also spent a fair amount of time as I was drawing this on encapsulating a lot of settings into Graphic Styles, so it should be pretty simple to draw her quickly if I actually want to do more of this.

One of those things that doesn’t quite come together.

I thought, “What if I made a skin for my Mac that looked like a leather-bound Magical Grimoire? That could be cool.” So I fiddled with this in the background of my D&D session today. Finally fucked around with Astute Graphics’ “Texturino” plugin while doing it.

I don’t think it really worked out, and I don’t think I want to keep playing with it to see if adding more crap will make it work. I’ll just keep the single white sigil sticker on top of the Apple logo polished into its aluminum body.

Anyway. I should go take a walk in the drizzle.

testing the tootelage

Nothing to see here, I’m just testing a plugin that will automatically toot a link to my posts on Mastodon.

If you’re on Mastodon and not following me there then maybe you want to fix that? I’m @[email protected].

If you don’t know what Mastodon is, it’s basically Twitter with less nazis and a post size that limits you to paragraphs rather than very short sentences. And with development and hosting funded by user donations rather than selling your attention to advertisers. You can find out more of its unique selling points and pick a server to start tooting from here.

dhadradessi

Dream me will comment on a school's font choice (one of those circussy ones with heavy serifs and a few flourishes; “well I guess it was the seventies”) but not on the fact that its letter listing every new student for this year alphabetizes “Dhadradessi” after names starting with X,Y, and Z. Then again after I blinked the last few names were listed in awkward attempts at constructing non-English characters out of a monospace typewriter font.

Also that is a hell of a name, which is still bouncing around my head. This post may serve as a reminder to ask Google if it's an actual name once I actually get up; I'm going back to sleep right now.

How To An Illustrator: shitty printing

Because sometimes you want things to look like a crappy, blown-out xerox. Or at least one person on /r/adobeillustrator did.

  1. click on the circle to the right of the layer with your b&w image to target the whole layer for effects
  2. open the appearance palette
  3. effect>sketch>reticulation
  4. effect>stylize>inner glow (set it to white, 100%, probably a pretty large blur)
  5. effect>sketch>photocopy
  6. click on the effect names in the appearance palette to edit them

If you don’t want texture in black areas you’ve drawn over white areas then do a bunch of Pathfinder to make it just white shapes.

Aleph-4

Every now and then I get asked about a few of the stranger cards in my Tarot deck. This morning I got asked about one that I would swear I have written a lengthy email about before, but couldn’t find in my archives. So I’m gonna write about it again here, and be able to point future inquiries to this.

Aleph-4 is the fifth end of this deck. The other four ends are the Fool (first card sketched, though that rough as abandoned), the Sun (first card finished), the High Priest (the last of the traditional 78), the 99 of Swords (the last of the cards I actually planned to add when doing the additional cards while getting it ready for publication). Aleph-4 is the last card I drew for the whole thing.

And yet it also predates the deck, in more ways than one.

So: March, 2005. I was living in a friend’s living room in Sunnyvale, after my dreams of the animation world had collapsed. One day we took a trip to one of the neighboring towns and I doodled out something that just came to me with no real conscious thought; I soon brought it through Illustrator to become this:

I really had no idea what the hell my subconscious brain was getting at with this image. It certainly felt fraught, like there was Meaning behind it, but it arrived pretty much all at once.

Two years later, I found myself revisiting it.

I was living in Boston with my boyfriends; things were going mostly better than they were in Sunnyvale.

I still didn’t know what the hell my subconscious was getting at with this. Six months later, I found myself working on the Tarot deck that would end up being called “The Silicon Dawn”.

My first sketch of Fortune quite consciously drew from this imagery, and felt good enough that it went into the finished deck.

By August of 2008, I was about halfway through with the deck. The 0 of (VOID) and the 99 of Cups appeared – the former in the same sort of “here’s a thing your subconscious wants you to draw, now draw it” process as the first two iterations of this image, the latter as a joke.

And my subconscious also presented me with the flip side of Fortune:

For what it’s worth, there were a few other titles I played with, preserved off the side of the artboard in the original file: The Story, Narrative, The Querent, Self-Awareness, Timebinding, and Definition.

I still didn’t understand what the hell this image was supposed to be about. Something about defining the universe by telling stories. Maybe.

 

Somewhere in the beginning of 2008, I took a break to draw this. It wasn’t intended to be part of the deck, but it was definitely intended to be part of this same series. I can’t pin the exact date down as the file creation date has been lost over migrating my data through three or five different computers since then. A post on the livejournal I kept for the deck says “The third, unfinished version was done after contemplating some writing around the Saphir-Whorf hypothesis that (in short) “language shapes thoughts”; any other details of what I was driving at then are gone. I was too lazy to render the ribbon from the mouth turning into wings, much less the archways crashing down around her.

I finished the core 78 cards, and had a gallery exhibition of the whole thing (plus the 0 of (Void), the 99 of Pentacles, and History), then put it away for a while. Until Lo Scarabo decided they were interested in printing it, and would I like to expand it with these extra cards I’d thought about, and maybe use this cool process they’d just gotten where they used spot gloss to accentuate the cards? Ultimately I decided ‘yes’ on both of those, and spent about half of 2011 on the book, enhancing the cards with gloss, and figuring out how the hell to make the dark counterparts to the goofy 99s.

A few extra images popped up during this process and demanded to be part of the deck. Some of them were secret significator cards for friends. And the card at hand? Well.

Because of the way the deck was going to be printed and cut, there were going to be some extra cards that would end up blank. I could put stuff on them if I wanted to. And when I was done with the whole thing, I decided to take this image and finish it up as a personal Secret Personal Significator. Its title was to be rendered only in spot gloss – seen here as a bright blue – and was a sigil I’d designed last year as the Majgickqghal Name of a somewhat insane sex goddess dragon I’d been playing on Tapestries for a while. Her name was “November-4”, which referred to the group of “Impersons” she started out as part of – anonymous perverts chad in full-body latex, all with names of the form [letter from the military phonetic alphabet]-[number]. The card wasn’t originally going to be a fourth-order Cantorian transfinite, but the fact that ‘aleph’ looks a lot like ‘N’ made the private joke irresistable.

Said sex goddess dragon may or may not be my Higher Self/Holy Guardian Angel. My own magical practice is pretty half-assed and jokey. So that’s what this card’s about: transcendence, trying to contact/become that theoretical hyperdimensional being outside of time of which you are just a fragment. Finishing a magical process and starting the next one, because there’s always another thing to do until you’re dead. Phoenix imagery and everything that symbolically represents,

So that’s the story behind this card, and its private dirty joke finally revealed. Mostly it’s just my signature. But it’s also part of this personal narrative of, I dunno, maybe transcending the bounds of reality and becoming a Real Majgicxghian, maybe just wishing I was willing to put in the long boring work to do just that instead of slouching in front of the projection screen playing video games. I mean, I do some of that – I spent four years drawing Decrypting Rita, and you can find the same sigil printed in spot gloss at its climax. And maybe a few other places as well.

(There’s another card in the deck that’s a self-portrait, and if I ever did a second edition of the deck, I’d probably replace it with something else. This one’s much better as a Personal Significator than the 9 of Cups.)

Also notable: there are four Fool cards in this deck, numbered 0-1 to 03, and maybe this one fits into that sequence too. I make absolutely no claims to be a Great Ascended Master Of Magic. I personally don’t consider it a Fool but then again of course I wouldn’t, would I?

Violet Vibrations: The Unconquered Egg

(click for full size)

This started as a group portrait of my D&D campaign. Which is made up entirely of characters with musical skills, so it only seemed natural to turn it into a fake album cover.

The band’s name comes from the campaign; the song and album names are all my fault, and mostly reference events in the story so far. The front cover and their logo is heavily inspired by early Ozric Tentacles releases because that just felt right, even though I doubt they sound very similar.

(Last session, the DM was insane enough to give us a Deck Of Many Things. I drew a card; the thieving kobold with the lowest wisdom in the party now has three wishes. I intend to do my best to make sure this Does Not End Well in the best way possible.)

Illustrator experiments: the chiseled look

So today BoingBoing posted some work by a Russian illustrator named Maxim Shkret.

I’m pretty sure his work is done in a 3D program. But I asked myself “how could I get something like this in Illustrator?” and fooled around a little bit.

After some fiddling with needlessly complex setups that didn’t work anyway, I realized I could do it pretty simply: tell Illustrator to draw two variable-width strokes, one for each side of the line, each in a different gradient.

The above screengrabs are for one of the six related styles I made while experimenting; I’ve got it at different stroke weights (3/6/9pt), and with one of the gradients reversed. The lips are also done with double-gradient strokes; the other shading is simple blurred shapes.

The fun part here is that the hair can be knocked out super quickly with the pencil tool. I could very quickly draw some chunky, super-stylized plastic-looking hair.

It still looks interesting with different colors, too. I may have to experiment with this further and try to do a piece using this. I’m not sure what kind of looks would go well with it.

Anyway. I thought I’d share this little experiment.

respeck yo’ elders: George Herriman

Today is George Herriman’s birthday.

Who’s he, you probably ask?

Well. He was one of the early stars of newspaper comics. He’s most famous for “Krazy Kat”, in which a mouse named Ignatz expresses his disdain for the titular Kat by repeatedly throwing bricks at her head. Or his head. Krazy’s choice of pronoun varied on a regular basis but never really made much of a difference to anyone in the shifting desert land of the strip.

He was born in 1880 and died in 1944. When I encountered his work in the 70s, as a kid reading through the Smithsonian Book of Newspaper Comics, I was blown away by his full-page compositions and surreal backgrounds.

A few years ago, I took a trip to Monument Valley. This was pretty much entirely due to falling in love with the American desert through Herriman’s sparse, shifting abstractions of the place. There’s something in those jutting alien rocks and the hot sands that calls to me in ways I really can’t put into words. But that call is spoken of at great length in the backgrounds of Krazy Kat.

“Mock Duck” in the bottom tier there is a reminder that old cartoons are full of really unsubtle ethic caricatures. This strip will be a hundred years old on my birthday; the past is a different country.

George’s history is as hard to pin down as the backgrounds of Kokoino Kounty or Krazy’s gender: he claimed to be a California kid, of Greek extraction, but in recent years some deep biographical research has revealed that he was actually born in my hometown of New Orleans, and grew up about five miles from where I did. And that he was born to a white father and a black mother. His family moved to California when he was ten, started presenting as white, and he would continue to do this for about a hundred and twenty years.

Speaking of broad ethnic caricatures of the past: This is one of the three episodes of Herriman’s early short-lived strip “Musical Mose”, about a black musician failing to pass for other ethnicities. It feels like a very different thing now that I know he was doing a bang-up job of just that.

Krazy Kat’s goofy, drifting obliqueness was never popular with most people, but it had a following among the intelligentsia of the day. That plus newspaper publisher Hearst giving him space and money to draw pretty much whatever for a long time let him accumulate a large body of work, that’s survived long enough to still have people like me deciding to put his birthday in their calendars a hundred years later.

Herriman’s scratchy, goofy pen lines bear little resemblance to my inhumanly-sharp Illustrator shapes. But the weird dimensionality I almost always give to moons comes straight from his work. And now you know part of the secret code that marks a fan of his. There are other ones; I’ll leave you to discover them yourself.

RIP, George. Thanks for the wonderful drawings.

If you would like to see more of his work:

  • I cannot recommend the Sunday Press collection enough. It’s got a hundred and fifty lovingly-restored Krazy Kay strips, both color and B&W, as well as a whole bunch of Herriman’s pre-Krazy work. It’s also a hundred bucks and half the size of a newspaper broadsheet. Great if you have the money to spend and the space to keep it, not so great otherwise.
  • Fantagraphics has somewhat less spendy collections, of various sizes and prices.
  • My first exposure was The Smithsonian Book Of Newspaper Comics, which has a decent sampling of Krazy and his other works as part of its wild ride through the entire history of the medium from the 1900s to the 1970s.
  • Check your local library, if you’re lucky they’ll have some of these books.