Cultist Simulator: not quite a review.

A while back I played this art game called “Sunset”. In Sunset, you took the role of a maid, wandering around a super awesome bachelor pad the developers had built based on a spread in a late sixties issue of Playboy. You found messes, you clicked on them, the screen faded out and back in, and then they were cleaned up again.

There was something about a romance between your character and the Brazilian dictator who owned the place, told through furtive notes left lying around as the game progressed. But I don’t remember anything about that. What I remember is that after a while playing it, I closed the game, got up, and did some cleaning around the apartment that I’d put off. I never returned to it afterwards and probably never will.

I bring this up because I am feeling the same sensation from Cultist Simulator.

I drag a few cards into slots, I watch a timer expire, and then I am told I have Made an Art, which resulted in some mix of money, fame, and the occasional emotion. Sometimes, at random, I am told I have made a Great Art. If I made it secretly about something majgickqghahl then I get a lot more famous a lot faster. Which is not without its own problems, but it sure makes it easier to make money making art that’s about nothing but my own passions.

I look at my Tarot deck and the obvious opportunity presented by reprinting it, and I feel the same sensation I felt playing Sunset: “get up”, my brain says, “get up, stop pretending to do this, do this for real”.

And maybe get up and break out the books on majgicqgh and try to spend a little time with that more days than not, too. Probably not to the extent that I become a notorious cult leader who sends her minions off to raid libraries and ruins for ever-more-esoteric texts and trinkets, that sure sounds like some work.

Cultist Simulator is a much more compelling system than Sunset. There’s a lot of things to play with. A lot of things to figure out. And I can feel it tickling the same parts of my brain that the beginning of an idle clicker game does, before it starts taking longer and longer to build up enough resources to do anything interesting. There’s a lot of neat little stories that assemble themselves out of the masterfully-crafted snippets of prose throughout the game, and those are fun to see when they happen.

But I can feel restlessness growing inside me. I can fee the urge to get up and resume the Great Work, whatever I determine it really is.

And if there is one thing this game has taught me, it is that Restlessness turns into Dread after a little while, and that if enough Dread piles up then you succumb to it. And die.

Five stars out of five. Would stop playing again.

keeb huffing

Some free writing around the prompt “what would be a cool way for elves to die”.


see nobody really knows how they die

because nobody’s ever seen one of them grow old and die

including other elves

they just kind of… wander away when you’re not looking, you hear their footsteps going out the door and they just never come back, or show up anywhere, ever again

rumors say that they just know they have to be somewhere else and will stop at nothing to get there without any interference; nobody has been successful at any attempts to keep a dying elf in one place, not even other elves, they don’t erupt into violence or magic or anything, people just find themselves loosening restraints without really thinking about it

(though some whisper tales of “turning to water like glass, from which twisting vines of flesh step out”)

generations of adventurers have perished looking for the Secret Graveyard of the Elves that some assume must exist somewhere; the only real profit anyone’s gotten from that is selling the maps (but, o brave voyager, I promise you this one is the real deal, I bought it off a little kobold who said she saw an elf gently come apart into a huge swarm of bees that she followed to a secluded valley full of a giant hive – she had some very good honey for sale too – no?)

and pay absolutely no mind to the scruffy folks selling jars of vapor that they claim is what an elf dissipates into, that’s just a really potent extraction of certain plants – they are right when they say that stuff will get you super high though


(i may have been huffing some keeb stoned off my ass while writing this, also the “twisting vines of flesh” is an attempt at “how would a medieval peasant describe the reverse of Dr. Manhattan building himself up from nothing through nervous system/muscles and skeleton/etc to a naked blue dude.)

how I work: file organization

It is the beginning of the year and it is time for everyone to post about how they organize their Important Stuff for the benefit of people who have made a new year’s resolution to Organize Their Shit. This is what works for me; I do not guarantee it will work for anyone else. It’s been working as a way to organize a mix of standalone drawings and big multi-image projects for most of twenty years now.

All of my artwork lives in one place on my hard drive: ~/Documents/gfx/working/. There’s a few other folders in /gfx/ but they haven’t been touched in years, as they’re the remnants of a former system I mostly abandoned.

This working folder mostly contains two things: a folder for each year I’ve been using this system, and a whole bunch of aliases to project folders. Each of those project folders lives inside the folder for the year I started it – Parallax is inside 2015, Rita’s inside 2012, the Tarot’s inside 2008, etc.

I do it this way instead of just making a folder for the project next to the yearly folders because this way I can rename those aliases without affecting anything inside them that has a file path in it. The projects I feel are currently in progress to some degree have a space at the front of their alias’ name, so they sort to the top of the list, above the yearly folders and below the ‘ . this year.’ alias, which gets pointed to a new folder around the beginning of every year. Deciding to take that space off the front of an alias feels momentous; it’s been sitting there for years, and now I’m declaring it either Done or Of The Table. It’s probably worth mentioning that everything below about 2006 is off the bottom of the normal size Finder windows will open at for me – I have to go looking for those things.

I also keep some of those aliases in the Finder’s favorites, so they’re quick to navigate to in a new Finder window or in a save dialogue.

Inside the project folders, I tend to have a whole pile of Illustrator files for the main body of the project, with Finder tags to mark the completion state of the file. In progress is purple, blue is finished, yellow is posted to Patreon. There’s a second blue tag for “double finished” which I only started using on Parallax, since I’m mostly working on that in double-page spreads. Rita’s just a long list of files with blue dots now, since it’s done.

And next to that pile of The Actual Pages is folders for other stuff. A folder of final web renders of pages (and a ‘ finals’ alias so I can get to it quickly, since that sorts above all the pages), and a few other folders for… stuff. Model sheets, web sites (which might contain aliases of folders deep in ~/Sites/, that get used when I fire up MAMP to run my local development copy of WordPress), fan-art I’ve gotten, book publishing stuff, ads… whatever. Make a folder, don’t just put it in the same pile as the raw pages.

There’s a few non-yearly folders in the main /working/ folder for stuff that I have to deal with now and then: resumes, files for the print book I take to conventions. They feel like they don’t belong to a year, it’s a judgement call I make now and then.

I feel like the big guiding principles here are that stuff never moves but aliases do and that everything for a project is in one place.

If I want to find a particular standalone drawing I usually go over to ~/Pictures/My Art/ where I stick pngs/jpgs of all my finished pictures, make the icons big, and look for it. That’ll tell me the year and then I can find its source file pretty quickly; the filename I make it under is usually never the final image title, and I never bother changing it. It could maybe be more efficient but I don’t have to do this often enough to really try to optimize it.

When I do a batch of commissions they’ll end up in a folder with a name like “april commissions” in the appropriate year that’ll get an alias at the top of the list. And maybe even an alias on the desktop – which I mostly try to keep clean, for what it’s worth. I don’t have any in progress so there’s none of them currently visible.

a midnight candle

dreaming on the canvas, summoning an old old friend

air + water + power = smoke; there is no ground to be found here

whisper words, tell a story once more time

the dream of too much light

I dreamt I was in a city, full of artificial sunlight. All day long, and all night long too. I was getting more and more tired and just couldn’t get any sleep because of this fake daylight.

Eventually the scene shifted and I stopped being tired. I think that’s a first, though. I’ve never been tired in my dreams before. I hope it doesn’t become a regular thing.

some brief thoughts on “style”

Style is like love. It sneaks up on you when you’re not looking.

It’s the bits you’re naturally good at. It’s the cheats and abstractions of reality you’ve internalized, whether you figured them out yourself or stole them from another artist. It’s the things you just can’t get a handle on, no matter how hard you try, and the ways you’ve evolved to make this look intentional.

You can appropriate someone else’s style, but your style is what you get when you pick apart the styles of all your influences and stick them in a blender along with observation of reality, analysis, and practice.

 

I originally wrote this more than a decade ago, as a reply on DeviantArt’s forums to the zillionth thread started by some beginner artist worrying about “finding their style”. Today I found myself digging for it once more, to post it as a reply to a thread from a beginner who’s barely begun to scratch the surface of Illustrator who was asking if their “new style” had been done before. I figured I would post it here so I can find it again if my account on DA, or the whole site, vanishes before my website does.

If you are a beginning artist, I strongly encourage you to spend some time drawing things from life and/or photo reference instead of worrying about “your new style”.

ten years

I am going through the giant prints left over from the gallery showing of the Tarot deck, so I can hang some of them at Morsel, and I am realizing they are from 2008.

That’s ten years ago. And it feels like a while. Some of these pieces I’d want to spend a bit more time on now. Some of them are still just fine by my current standards. My anatomy’s gotten better with subtle stuff but these are still perfectly fine drawings; I think the biggest change in the work if I was to do them from scratch now would be that I’d go from rough to final colors a LOT faster – I was still laboriously pulling paths out with the pen tool back then. I think it was near the end of the whole thing that I discovered that the pencil tool has settings, whose defaults render it useless, played with those settings, and switched to it for pretty much everything shortly afterwards.

I wonder if I should make a regular practice of drawing some kind of bright, happy flat piece once a month. As a vacation from the giant task of a fully-painted comic. I could do it as porny commissions with my alter-ego, like I did this December, or I could do them as my cleaner identity and regularly print them out and do galleries. Finding subjects feels like the hard part; I could start going down some prompt lists? Or I could occasionally just ask my followers/patrons for an assortment of words, then shuffle them together to give me some directions to draw in. (If I wanted to be topical it might be fun to do a series of Chaos Deities, since that sure feels like the theme of the past couple years. Eris, Kali, Tiamat, Kek (yes probably with a frog pin), Azathoth, etc, maybe even paired with Law Deities from the same pantheons because that would be a lot of chaos to evoke in my personal life without some balance…)

 

(more: hmm, really I could just mine “a selection of deities” for multiple shows. wisdom would be fun, I could use more of that in my life.)

Fuck Christmas.

Here we are at the end of another year, at the beginning of another long frozen winter. Hopefully the last one I’ll spend this far north in a long time, if not the rest of my life.
I feel aged and empty and alone. My family is gone. My memory of them fades. Did we have any particular Christmas traditions? I don’t think so. Just the usual ones practiced by people who live in a theoretically Christian society but make no pretense of believing in that. There were gifts, and a tree, and tinsel, and lip service to traditions from frozen lands that none of us ever lived in. I understand more of the whys and wherefores of the winter traditions deep in my bones, now that I’ve lived far enough north for the changing seasons to steal more and more of the Sun away until there’s only a few precious hours of it in any day, and I will never like them.
And more and more I come to loathe these ceremonies grown up around the raw need to huddle together, share warmth, share light. and share scarce resources with those who were unlucky this year and don’t have enough to survive the winter. The relabeling of them as “Christmas”, honoring the birth of a prophet I don’t follow, who was probably born in the summer anyway. The way it’s become a frenzy of buying things, with a thousand cheap gifts made by a thousand woefully-underpaid elves in Chinese factories given to a thousand people who don’t need them. The way it’s become a celebration of Family when I have always had very little of that, in a culture that pushes everyone out into their own little box, the better to sell everyone the bare needs of existence in individually-packaged servings.
It is Christmas Eve and I am alone and I am tired and cold and really I want nothing so much as to go to sleep, wake up three months from now, and leave the North forever. “And barring that”, a small part of my brain says, “suicide sounds good.” To which I roll my eyes and reply that it always sounds good when I’m sad and tired and empty and cold, and I will only give such ideas serious consideration when I am comfortable and warm.
And so, once again, as I have for most years of my life, I say fuck Christmas. Fuck Santa Claus, fuck gifts under the tree, fuck this propaganda about spending time with your family whether it be the one of blood or the one you’ve made, for I have always been an antisocial beast who does not love much or easily.
Burn it all, that I may be warm for one wonderful day.

How would you like your coffee?

Erewhon is a genie who runs a coffee shop. Rumor has it there’s a few other things available on the secret menu; I recommend the cinnamon klava with honeycomb, myself…

 

You can get prints/shirts/phone cases/notebooks/etc of this here.

the dream of the extended count choculaverse

I dreamt that it had been announced that there was going to be a comic based on the monster cereals – Count Chocula/Frankenberry/etc. People had started posting weird takes on what they thought it would be; deliberately-ugly short nonsensical strips. Some of these were “going viral” online. The people actually doing the comic posted a plea to stop doing this and wait for the rich worldbuilding they were doing.

I managed to find a link to where the comic was being posted, but not promoted. It was a single panel strip, presented in the form of a VR scene of a fire hydrant with a sticker of the single panel on it. It was neither funny nor good.