A Superman


Illustrator, 30min.

So someone I follow posted the results of asking an AI to do some Superman costume redesigns

and I saw some pretty good shapes in there and decided to play around with them.

Now I kinda want an excuse to draw an 8-pager with this version of him.

I think it would be neat to get as many S/lightning bolt visual themes into this as possible, I was already feeling that some with the design of the S on his chest. Like say a follow-up drawing to this one with the same angle but now the red swoop is a big S because he’s turned and is coming down to the camera.

I did not have any real intention with the skin color beyond “is there really any particular reason a Space God should manifest as a white dude” and “this brown looks good against the rest of the colors” but there is probably a lot of delicate ground for a white lady to tread in drawing a story about a Black Superman. The American Way hasn’t been about Truth and Justice for anyone who doesn’t qualify as “white” for its entire existence, and ignoring that’s risky. If I can figure out how to navigate that then maybe I’ll do something short, this guy’s shapes are a ton of fun to draw!

utena but hors

Client: “Peggy can I give you some money to draw the heck out of ‘the Utena intro except they are hors’.”

Me: “very the yes, I love my fuckin’ job so much”

I was really glad Illustrator finally added canvas rotation the year before I did this. It’s really kind of embarrassing how ling it took them to add it. It’s still a minimum viable hack, there’s a bunch of stuff that’s annoyingly aligned to the canvas instead of the screen, like shift-constraining things, or dragging out a friggin’ selection marquee. But it works a lot better than “drawing stuff right side up, flipping it upside down to see how it works, then either trying to work on it further upside down, or flipping it around again to edit it”.

Here’s a closeup of our heroines. I giggled like a maniac when I decided to use the Sword of Dios for Anthy’s horn. Presumably this implies that she pulls it off and hands it to Utena when it’s time for a duel. Which is fucked up but feels less fucked up than pulling it out of her heart like she does in the show.

Also here’s the cloud layers by themselves. I made heavy use of a few variants of the cloud appearance stack I wrote about a few years ago. It’s pretty neat to swoop in a vague blob and have Illustrator turn it into a bumpy, fiddly cloud complete with its own rimlighting (gradient fills across strokes are super useful for that), then switch to the highlight or shadow cloud appearance and whip in some shading. I can knock out cloudscapes like this absurdly fast now.

you can click on this for a closeup if you can’t read all the little lists of effects

Sacred Geometry For Higher Engineering

Every so often I find myself playing with ways to create the look of an airbrush that’s spitting out a lot of too-big paint drops because it’s running at a low pressure. Today was one of those days. Halfway through it started looking like an old textbook cover so I turned it into one.
Illustrator, 2h.
This one’s done by applying Astute’s Stipplism effect to a bunch of gradients. If you’ve got their plugins then you might be interested in seeing how I did it by looking at the source file – mostly it’s lots of transparent gradient fills and strokes with the stipple effect applied. If you don’t have their plugins it’ll be a giant uneditable mess. :)
Someday I will find a way to do this that looks neat and lets me work with the same speed I have in other methods. This is not the day; I can see this getting a little faster but it’s still pretty fiddly.
Shirts/prints/stickers/notebooks/mousepads/etc are available here.
Source file and a high-res image are on Patreon.

The Champagne of Tears

This week, Nick described cryptobro sadness as “the champagne of tears”. We decided this needed to be on a shirt. A few days later, Bitcoin had dropped from around $30k to below $20k, and I’d finished this drawing.

It is, of course, available on a shirt.

Astute’s Stipplism plugin was incredibly useful in making all these little bubbles with cryptocurrency symbols in them. It took some fiddling but once that was done I had a pressure-sensitive brush that scattered randomized crypto bubbles wherever I pleased. It’s a nice replacement for Illustrator’s native scatter brushes that I’m gonna have to play with some more in the future; AI’s scatter brushes can only do one shape, and changing the distance the shapes are randomly placed around your path based on stylus pressure really doesn’t work well at all.

I found out there is an NFT convention happening in New York next weekend and if printing times were faster I would love to reimburse someone for getting a bunch of stickers of this and putting them up around that area. But I don’t think that’s manageable. And buying space on the billboards in Times Square is probably three or four orders of magnitude more expensive than my entire net worth.

Anyway. If you want this on a shirt, or a mug, or a sticker, or whatever else is convenient to have around that one dude in your life who wouldn’t shut up about NFTs and cryptocurrency, you can get one over here.

pointing at a video game genre and waving vaguely

today I am stoned and thinking about the time-honored video game genre of “you are a blue-collar worker trying to perform your job despite whatever weird cartoon bullshit the world is throwing your way”


bristles (first star software, atari/c64/apple/arcade?: you are a house painter, you must pass through every room in a house, leaving a trail of painted walls, while avoiding various things that hurt you and/or fuck up your paint – sort of a faster q*bert without the goofy perspective)

poster paster (taskset, c64/spectrum: you are going around town putting up posters, you must climb up your ladder and put multi-part images together correctly while avoiding weird little gremlins that you are presumably hallucinating)

bozo’s night out (taskset, c64: you are walking home from the pub, not falling into open manholes or bumping into easy-to-avoid pedestrians; every night your character is more prone to moving in random directions on their own because they are increasingly drunk)

tapper (bally, arcade: you are the sole bartender at a series of increasingly-woefully-understaffed bars who must beat back the happy horde with the one tool at your disposal: serving them a tall frosty glass of beer)

timber (bally, arcade: you are a lumberjack and chop down trees by yanking the right joystick around while avoiding beehives thrown by bees)

Not examples:

donkey kong (nintendo, arcade: you are certainly at a workplace and you are certainly a blue collar worker, but your goal is what the fuck is going on where did that giant monkey come from and why has it climbed up this building I’m working on with a woman in its hand holy shit I gotta save her rather than I do not care about the fact that my workplace is swarming with mischevious monkeys, I am going to get this drywall hung and finish my shift)

mario bros (nintendo, arcade: you certainly a blue collar worker at work, but your goal is kill all these critters running around the sewers rather than I do not care about these sewers being full of aquatic life, I’m just here to get the pipes reconnected and if that means we get turtles coming out of the city’s toilets then someone else can deal with that)

More modern examples exist but this genre has become almost entirely part of a corner of the market I don’t engage with and I wonder why this is? Maybe because the kind of challenge they represent just isn’t one I want to put the work in to experience any more; my sudden urge to play Bristles yesterday morning didn’t survive past me failing to work out the controls of a jittery web emulation, then failing to find a Mac version of MAME that runs on my machine.

I finally got an Atari 800 emulator up and running and the answer is: wow, these games get real annoying real fast, and I have better things to do with my life than stare at a bunch of brightly colored pixels with happy music playing. Dang. Okay back to doing slightly more adult things with my life.

Pricing my work: subtle considerations.

There is a nuance I find myself thinking about lately when I quote prices for commissions.

The obvious thing to ask is “how long will this take me”. This many characters will take about X hours, a background at a certain level will take Y, complicated characters will add Z hours, multiply that by the hourly rate I like to get and I get a number. I’ve been doing that for ages, pretty much every artist figures this part out early on in their career, as well as things like “changes ain’t free and you should make that clear to your clients”.

But lately I’ve also been asking myself how long do I want to spend on this piece?. And more and more that’s an important question. It’s time I’m not spending drawing stuff that has to please nobody but myself and the people who support me on Patreon, it’s time I’m not spending doing things I enjoy that are not drawing like video games or broadsword class or whatever. It’s time I’m not spending doing mundane stuff like making sure the dishes get washed and the trash goes out. It’s also time I’m not spending hating a thing I’m drawing because it has gone on entirely too long and it is just drudgery, which means I start doing a half-assed job just to get the damn thing out the door. I’ve done that a few times and I really dislike doing that.

This makes the question of edits and changes a lot more fraught. In general I am blessed with clients who have paid for art many times before, have model sheets for their characters, and are gonna be delighted with anything I draw, so change requests are likely to be super minimal, if there’s any at all. If all you have is a text description of what you want with no visual reference, I’m pretty likely to say “nope” unless you’re also saying you’re gonna be pretty delighted with anything I’d do, and are waving a nice chunk of money at me to boot.

I do not have any real conclusion here. I guess I’m mostly pretty delighted to be this high up the ladder of artistic success where I don’t have to be the poor bastard on the artist side of this tweet that was doing the rounds today:

(Apparently this is from a vtuber whose schtick is “bitchy demanding spoilt princess”, and I sure do hope they paid a regal price for all those complex revisions. And that the initial deal with the artist was one where the expectation was that it would have a lot of revisions. If it wasn’t, I honestly would have said “well I guess I can do some of those but this is a lot, and I’m gonna need more money to do all these tweaks” to the first revision, and “that’ll cost you a significant percentage of the original price, and this is the last round” to the second revision. And maybe quietly put this client on my mental Never Again list.)

paintbrush full of stars

what’re you up to peggy? oh nothing much, just getting stoned and making a pressure-sensitive star brush out of Astute’s Stipplism effect and their Dynamic Sketch tool

not shown: stroke is a circular gradient fill set to go along the path via the path-alignment controls in the gradient window, from (cyan at 100% opacity) to (cyan at 0% opacity).

if I turn off the stipple effect it looks like this:

so all these stars are coming from a few quick vector lines that I can easily push around in a bunch of ways

and I think that’s pretty cool


anyway back to being stoned and drawing <3

New tablet time.

This is a Xencelabs Small tablet sitting on top of the Wacom Intuos 4 that’s going to stop working once I get an M2 Air later this year. The tablet works fine but Wacom’s decided it’s time to drop support for it. And since they’ve also decided to stop making pens that work with my beloved Spring Nibs, I’ve decided to look elsewhere. Specifically, to a company started by ex-Wacom engineers.

This tablet turns out to be able to detect my Wacom styluses despite having a much smaller frame around the active area, and uses nibs exactly the same size as the Wacom Pro Pen 1. Which means my little collection of spring nibs continue to work. Except in a 3-button pen now. Same active area, much lighter and smaller what with the buttons and dial I never use anyway being a separate module.

Once I read an interview with Edward Gorey where he was asked what pen he used. “A discontinued Giliotte nib. I bought a bunch when they stopped making them; I think I have enough to last until I die”, and I feel like I really understand this now that Wacom has redesigned their styli to be thinner and no longer makes spring nibs for them. I had three precious extra spring nibs kicking around; now one of them is in one of the Xence pens. (The Xence tablets ship with two pens, a 2-button and a 3-button. Which is nice. I’m using the 3-button since it’s got the same flare I’m used to from Wacom’s Pro Pens.)

The driver also seems to coexist nicely with Wacom’s drivers. I’m gonna probably get a medium Xencelabs tablet for the desk when I get a new machine, but for now it’s different tablets at home and on the go. I’m still debating between the basic medium model and the bundle with the dial/button module, I never use the buttons but I do kinda need a dial for apps and web sites that hide the scroll bar, since I use the tablet and keyboard for pretty much all my interaction with my computer. And maybe I’ll actually use the buttons if I have the same ones on both the desk and in my bag; I have eight buttons on the desk Wacom and six on the laptop bag one and trying to think about configuring that feels super annoying. Plus buttons are for my left hand anyway, not the right. The right’s too busy drawing to push buttons.

In terms of price this one was mostly wash compared to a similar Wacom – $200 for either. But the medium Xencelabs is about $100 less than the equivalent in a new Wacom Intuos Pro, and I will be surprised if Wacom’s drivers keep supporting the Intuos 5 on my desk much longer.

chop wood, carry secret document

It was Sunday, and the sky above Rita opened onto a golden world of radiance and beauty. Nobody took any notice. Except for Rita. And she had places to be.

I was sitting around doodling and this picture of the titular lady from Decrypting Rita happened. Prints on Redbubble; source file on Patreon. Background halftones thanks to Astute’s Phantasm plugin.