the dream of the advertising larp

I dreamed I was taking part in some sort of LARP about murders in an advertising agency. It was high up atop a bridge, and was a lot of work to bicycle up to.

One of my co-workers from the Spumco/Nebulous days was there and dressing in borderline drag. Pringle looked astoundingly good in that green plaid lady’s coat. I’m not that surprised to have seen him; before falling asleep I distinctly recall pondering some old dreams about returning to the animation industry, where Gabe showed up.

I looked at a list of things that needed to be drawn to fill out the pretend agency’s gallery of previous work, and declined to spend time on any of them.

thoughts on transmitting one’s values to one’s kids

It is five in the morning and I am lying in bed thinking about cultural continuity. Specifically, I am thinking about the ways my parents communicated their culture and values to me without a single word: the books and magazines lying around the house. After I learnt to read, I started reading pretty much anything I could get my hands on – first the little shelf full of kid’s books they kept in the living room, but pretty soon there were visits to the library every week, and me picking up whatever was lying around. That stack of audio magazines my dad subscribed to? My mom’s subscription to New Yorker? Stuff off the lower reaches of their shelves in the back room? Anything I could reach was fair game. Sure, there was stuff that was specifically My Reading Material that they had no interest in, but and I sure wasn’t reading everything they did, but there was a lot of overlap. And a certain amount of my parents shaping me by what they chose to subscribe to for me, as well.

I consider my current reading habits: lots of stuff on the screen. If I had a kid, how much of my tastes would be transmitted to them? They wouldn’t have any magazines to read. Most of my books are in the Kindle app, except for the comics. They’d probably end up getting lost in the horrors of Deep Youtube, populated by people hollering racial slurs over video games, idiots narrating their lives, and corporate-owned characters getting kidnapped by evil dentists who bury them up to their necks in sand, or whatever the hell else The Algorithm has decided is Popular now.

It’s the same with music: no stack of records or tapes or CDs for a kid to browse and maybe fall in love with a few things. Especially not if I was one of the zillions of people who have apparently quit buying any music at all and stream it instead. No treasured DVDs of movies or games. Just… data.

I suppose there are Family Plans, ways to share a collection of licenses to media in the cloud with your spouse and kids. But those are never the first thing on anyone’s list of features to implement; things are solitary and siloed as a matter of course. And I’m not sure that’s really a good thing at all.

Raising a kid now must be pretty complicated and scary, given that there are literal Nazis out there hoping to recruit any lonely, bored people they can…

(and on the flip side I guess there’s all those queers out there happy to help validate a kid’s explorations and drag them down into that world, where gender is a construct and all those other horrible things? Kids get into weird shit, it’s part of growing up. I’m just wondering how much less of a grounding they have in their parents’ values now due to Ambient Media Lying Around The House.)

Thirty Thousand Pounds Of Memories

Holy crap that opened up an old wound.

Today I found myself humming bits from two Harry Chapin songs, both off of “Verities and Balderdash” – one of the tapes I inherited when my father died. I used to listen to it on and off when I was younger, and took it to California along with the rest of my tapes and CDs. And like almost everything else I owned then, it was in a shipping container in one of the parts of New Orleans that got inundated when I gave up the animation dream and moved back there.

It was never a favorite. But it was one of my few lingering connections to my father.

So when I found myself humming half remembered fragments of “Cat’s Cradle” and “30,000 Pounds Of Bananas” today, I pulled them up online and played them. And holy crap I was not ready for the upwelling of old loss and sadness that released. It didn’t help that “Cat’s Cradle” is the first song on that album, and it’s all about ruing the disconnection between a hard-working father who never quite has time for his son, until the son grows up to be just as hard-working and just as lacking in time for Dad.

And of course, for me, there’s no option of having time for Russell any more. There hasn’t been for about thirty-five years, now.

I’ve mostly dealt with it, over the years. Don’t think about him much any more.  Don’t have much cause to.

Mortality sucks.

Twisted Romance #3!


So today I came home to a box full of this on my doorstep. It’ll be in stores on the 21st. It looks pretty fabulous.

i are a real comixr now, thousands of copies of a thing I drew have been made and I did not have to lift a finger for that to happen once I was done drawing it. Woo!

Liquid Sky

So last night Nick and I went over to Scarecrow Video. We browsed around and got three things that sounded interesting. As I was standing there paying the rental fee, something popped up in the back of my mind: I’ve never seen Liquid Sky. I bet Scarecrow has it. I mentioned this on the way back home; we pulled up the trailer for it, shrugged, and went right back out to grab it. (Scarecrow is literally a block away; this is not much of a journey.)

I decided to let the random factors decide which one we were going to watch. So I handed all four discs to Nick and told him to shuffle them, while I invoked Eris’ aid in choosing one, and rolled a d4.

We ended up watching Liquid Sky. Which… damn that film is a hell of an artifact. Slow, full of borderline-unlistenable music, with a main character who is completely, scarily flat. It’s like she has absolutely nothing left inside her, burnt out by her life of clubbing, drugs, and… having every man in her life refuse to listen when she says she doesn’t want to have sex with them. Luckily(?) for her there is a tiny flying saucer on the roof of her apartment, which feeds on the chemicals released in people’s brains when they orgasm, and kills them.

Her name? Margaret. Which is.. my chosen name. I was very, very glad I was sober when she got date-raped by a character who has my birth name. Because that sure was complicated to watch even without that extra coincidence.

Anyway. It’s a freaky little piece of the eighties, from before “punk” and “new wave” had really split into two very different subcultures. Kind of fascinating to watch and imagine how alien it must have seemed to most people; all these aggressively androgynous people running around having Very Bad Sex and playing extremely difficult electronic music. I seem to remember it getting some play as a midnight movie, aiming for the same crowd that regularly did the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and I can certainly see some commonalities – RHPS was very much a fifties-themed package of Queerness that spread across the country, and this is a very eighties one. It never took hold as A Thing the way RHPS did. Probably the fact that the main character has like five very uncomfortable sex scenes in it didn’t help.


So the other day I was reading a book about astral projection when the back of my brain said “draw your dragon self in cool fantasy armor”. I was also very stoned at the time. I then worked on this on and off over the next few days.

Did you know that drawing cool fantasy armor is kind of a pain in the ass?

Technically, I’m happy with this one. There’s a lot of use of gradients in ways that come together quickly, that make it look a lot like a painstakingly masked out piece of airbrush art. Which ALWAYS makes ten year old me ecstatic to be able to knock out.

Elements That Cannot Be Used In A Brush

So there you are, working away in Illustrator, making something that you want it to repeat a whole bunch of times for you. You drag it to the Brushes panel and you get something like this.

Perhaps your first instinct is to start searching for what elements can’t be used in a brush, and then object>expand all of those parts into things that can be used in a brush. But, you know, that starts to feel like work or something, and if you’re at all familiar with the way I use Illustrator I’m all about skipping those parts.

So instead of doing all that work, how about making Illustrator do it for us? Ever since 17.0/CC, Illustrator lets us put bitmaps in brushes. And there’s nothing saying we can’t generate those bitmaps directly in AI.

So: select all the stuff you want to turn into a brush, then do object>group, then do effect>rasterize. And now you can drag this into the Brush palette.

Looking at it up close you can see a tiny bit of pixelization going on. If that bugs you, then select your original group and visit the Appearance palette to change the settings on that rasterize effect, then alt-drag it on top of the brush in the Brush palette.

You will want to save a copy of your original art somewhere in your drawing. I usually put it on a layer named something like “construction” that I keep hidden most of the time. If you try to access the original art by dragging the brush thumbnail onto the canvas, you’ll just get an uneditable image.


Tool-Assisted Sigil.

Process: write statement of intent, cast out vowels/duplicate letters, draw cool sci-fi versions of letters, rotate/join/overlap until happy. Make pattern fill, crash Illustrator a lot while doing so (because I accidentally did my source imagery at a very large size, I think).

Abandoned version, part of the results of an hour or two of fooling around with a very stylized font I recently acquired.



Another one of those “someone on /r/illustrator asked an interesting technique question” pieces. The question posed was “how can I get this fading-into-the-fog” effect, with this as the reference image.No idea who it’s by, or what the actual medium is – I could guess anything from “3d rendering” to “an actual fucking dead horse chopped up and suspended between pieces of foggy plexiglas” given that the image was on the Saatchi Gallery’s asset server;  image search just turns up the cover of the eponymously-titled first album by a band called “Nothing But Thieves”. [edit: it’s by one Miriam Sweeney]

Anyway. My initial technique suggestion was “make some alternating layers of fog and parts; the fog layers just hold a background-colored rectangle at like 10%, the part layers all have a blur effect applied to the whole layer, with succeeding layers more and more blurred”. They came back saying “this looks better than my initial attempt but still has some banding”, so I actually fired up Illustrator and fooled around. I refined it to “move some parts to the next-deeper parts layer, and draw some shapes at 20-50% on their original parts layer to add a bit more definition to the shape”. And of course I drew a dragon because I am a goddamn nerd who likes drawing dragons. :)

And here’s the source if you’re curious. fog

(worth noting: there’s an opacity mask on the frontmost layer of dragon parts, to blur the transition a little bit – I liked the way that looked.)

40min, could use some more love on the parts poking out of the fog bank if I was going to call this a truly finished piece.

fill doodles/cheap illustrator puppetry

Now and then I go through the Adobe Illustrator subreddit and answer some questions nobody else has had a good answer to. Usually this means I am procrastinating.

One person wanted to know how to draw a thing and kinda do puppetry with it.

I usually do stuff like this this way:

  1. Draw your limb.
  2. Select it and drag it into the brush panel. Make an art brush.
  3. Choose “scale proportionately” under the brush scale options.
  4. Draw some lines with this art brush. Maybe hit the “options” button in the brush pane and turn on “flip across” if needed.

If one part ends up way off-center as a brush, try this:

  1. drag the brush to an empty part of the artboard (do not drag it over a shape, if you do AI will try to apply it to that shape, even if it’s on a locked layer)
  2. view>outline
  3. notice the big invisible rectangle around your shape? Drag it out (using shift to constrain the drag) until its center is pretty much on the center of your shape.
  4. select all the stuff that makes up the copy of the brush you just dragged out, including the invisible rectangle, and alt-drag it over the brush in the brush palette. (Mostly I don’t draw limbs with this to be honest – I use this for a lot of repeated details in my comics like tattoos or logos on clothing.)

With everything selected, you can see that the arms and legs on those two dudes at the bottom are just simple lines, quickly drawn with the pencil tool. I grabbed the point at right elbow of the running dude and moved it around until the elbow roughly aligned; originally the big elbow bump was very definitely not on the joint.

(Also this way of drawing elbows is totally based off of the way Fred Hembeck draws knees. Because it made me laugh, and whenever I do images to explain or work out something asked on a forum, I always try to make them funny.)

You could easily do full-color art for your puppet parts; I didn’t feel like bothering. Also there is the new Puppet Warp to fool with; this way is a lot easier if you’re gonna do a lot of re-use. I don’t use it for puppet parts, but I do use it for repeated stuff in my comics – logos on clothing, tattoos, whatever.

And then here is some abuse of pattern fills.

“use pattern fills full of whatever” was one of two and a half ways I gave someone who wanted to duplicate an image that was made of two colors: white, and a big bunch of smeary painterly color swirls.

  1. Draw your thing in B&W
  2. On a new layer, make a bunch of multicolor stuff that more than covers it. Probably just draw some semi-transparent shapes with gaussian blurs applied. Or whatever.
  3. Select all that stuff from step 2 and drag it into the Swatches palette to make a pattern fill.
  4. Turn off that layer.
  5. Select all your black stuff (select>Same will help here). Apply your new pattern swatch.
  6. With everything still selected, hold down the `/~ key while using the Selection, Direct Selection, Scale, or Rotate tools. This will affect only the fill pattern’s location. (The Free Transform tool will not do this. Use the older, separate tools.)

(The half a way was to use a global swatch to draw your stuff, then alt-drag the pattern swatch OVER the original swatch. And the other way involved putting your B&W art in a layer’s transparency mask, then drawing a bunch of colorful stuff on the layer. I’m sure I go into that in more detail somewhere in the Illustrator posts on here.)

I didn’t save the source of the puppetry piece but here’s the fill pattern’s source.