Show Room Dumbass

So there I was, trying to figure out an answer to a ‘how do I reproduce this text effect in Illustrator’ question, and I liked what I had and wanted to see how it looked when used on more organic shapes. I was listening to some Kraftwerk at the time so this just kinda happened. I turned it into a fake gig poster for a night of comedy Kraftwerk covers because it made me laugh a lot. I might have been stoned at the time.



I dunno, this just captures the mood I’m in today. I’ve been sick and the stove’s been broken and I’ve been exhausted and haven’t been eating very well at all and I just wanna go out and scream incoherently at the world. I have some thoughts rattling around my head about shit I’m grumpy about and they won’t cohere into anything. I’m just fuckin’ tired.

At least it’s Carnival time so I have some hope of going out and hollering and dancing, and it’s looking to be pretty nice and warm – I skipped all the parades in the last couple of weeks due to being sick, and before that, to it being miserably cold. Hopefully that should help fill this empty angry void inside me.

This feels like it should have taken a lot less than about forty minutes to draw.

Space Wizards

Yesterday there was a post on one of the sci-fi subreddits from someone going “every time I try to write Space Wizards they just turn into Jedi, how can I make them not just Jedi, halp”. And there were a lot of responses when I got there but I sat there over dinner tapping out a long list of things Jedi don’t do along with suggestions on how that could be interesting.


And these two bits I wrote just keep on sticking with me:


Jedi aren’t psychopomps. They don’t sit down their bodies and go wandering the low astral plane, looking for lost souls who need a guide with some knowledge of the after life. Make your space wizards have a ton of favors they end up being able to call in as a side effect of this.

Jedi don’t do exorcisms. Make your space wizards clear out psychic debris from people, places, and things. “Clearing out a spaceship full of ancient alien ghosts” sounds like a great way to spend a chapter. Hell, that’s a great way to dump a bunch of plot tokens, too – one ancient alien ghost gave them a message to pass on to something halfway across the galaxy, whoever hired the wizard to do this now owes them, etc.


I wanna read this book now. If I wasn’t just getting a project going with Nick I’d be tempted to try and write it. It probably needs a few more ideas beyond “a space psychopomp would be a super neat protagonist for a space opera” but I just like the feel of it. Maybe I should just try doodling a short story of “space wizard is hired to exorcise a haunted spaceship and ends up playing psychopomp for a few of its denizens” and see how it feels.

“does gear matter?”

this is not a yes-or-no question:

tools matter, the right tool in skilled hands can do amazing, unique things that can’t be done by another tool

tools don’t matter, if you don’t have the faintest clue what you’re doing then you’re not going to get great results

tools matter, if a beginner’s using really shitty tools it’ll make the whole experience even more frustrating

tools don’t matter, if an expert’s using those same shitty tools they can still make magic

tools matter, along the way to expertise you will find needs for a lot of very specific tools, which can do very specific things much faster than more general tools, sometimes you have to make these specific tools yourself

tools don’t matter, you can easily spend apocalyptic amounts of money on filling an entire workshop with tools only to find that you don’t need those very specialized tools anywhere near often enough to justify their cost when you use them

what do you need for the job at hand? what do you need for the jobs you want to be doing in the future? what do you find a voice in the back of your head whispering you need without any idea what you’ll do with it? what do you want simply because it’s something you use every damn day and you want a nice tool that feels good in your hand?

All of the above is a comment I decided not to make over at Hacker News regarding a post by the same title from someone chronicling his journey as a photographer. Which ultimately came to the same conclusion of “it matters, and it doesn’t matter”.

I’m having that little voice whisper that I need to be spending a thousand bucks a year on the priciest version of Toon Boom. I’ve been fooling with the demo and I keep on being impressed by all these little features that have a lot of thought and observation of the complex process of having a group of people come together to make drawings move, it’s got so many things I couldn’t even begin to wish for when I was using Flash around the turn of the century, it’s all so beautifully integrated in a way no workflow I cobbled together with Adobe’s suite could ever be. But I also think about how much of the process of Making A Cartoon feels like boring work I don’t want to do. Is this a case where if I start doing stuff, people will show up to help? Maybe. I dunno. I gotta spend some more time exploring the demo before the trial runs out and I have to either cough up a month’s rent on my home for a year of running Toon Boom, see if I can get a key from my acquaintances in the industry, or put on my pirate hat. There’s just a bunch of ways I feel like I’ve reached Illustrator’s limits lately and I’m looking for some very specific kinds of functionality that I think I might find in there. And annoyingly one of these very specific functions is one of the things that Toon Boom sharply limits in the cheaper version.


So fucking weird to feel myself pulled towards animation again.

Secret Doppleganger

Sometimes you look in the mirror and the wrong fursona looks back out.

Prints and stickers and suchlike on Redbubble.

Illustrator source and high-res on Patreon.

This one got started back in August of last year, and sat in my working directory for five months until I finally took it out today and did some finishing touches. Sometimes these things just have to lurk for a while until their time is right.

walkies (2)

So on the Illustrator subreddit, a challenge was issued: what can you do with just one circle?

Well, I can do this. Custom brushes were allowed for this particular challenge as long as they were a single color, and I abused that – there’s some tricksy things going on with 0% opaque shapes in the “tunnel line” brush to help it overlap less messily.

It’s a reimplementation of this piece I did back in 2021 at the behest of someone asking “how do I make a tunnel effect in Illustrator”; the original version was pretty minimal, and honestly I wouldn’t want to do it with any fewer paths than I actually used. But hey, sometimes you have to do things the hard way.

And just for laughs here’s what I get if I use the same appearance stack on a couple different shapes…

Not how I was planning on spending an hour and a half of my work day, but, well, sometimes when a challenge is issued you just have to take it.


what if I started animating again

Lately I’ve been flirting with animation programs again. It started when I picked up a copy of Moho 12 for $30 somewhere in June. Since then I have upgraded to Moho 14 for $200 around Black Friday. I haven’t gotten too deep into it, I’ve experimented with rigging characters but haven’t really done anything with it. Yesterday after a couple of my industry friends told me how much they love it, I fooled around with the demo of Toon Boom’s Storyboard Pro for about two hours ($590/y subscription) and made the stupidest thing I’ve ever made in my life.


I found myself really impressed by a lot of SBPro’s tools, I don’t love its drawing tools but it’s really laser-focused on turning a script into a storyboard in a studio environment in some really interesting ways.

Before doing that I also spent an hour or so fucking around with the current version of Flash Adobe Animate, relentlessly bouncing around the drawing tools, trying to see if I can convince it to have the same core workflow of ‘draw a shape, have it appear as a filled shape with no outline and various effects’ that I’ve honed in Illustrator. I couldn’t. It went back on the scrapheap. And while I was thinking about Adobe’s tools I knocked my subscription to their suite down to $30/month for “everything” by using the discount they offer when you go to cancel the $55/month subscription I’d let it slip into. And put a reminder into my calendar to do this next year. $360/y for Illustrator and the possibility of using the rest of their stuff when I need it is a lot nicer than $660/y.

I am both toying with and dreading the idea of playing with an Illustrator/After Effects workflow. But before I do that I am probably going to fuck around with Toon Boom Harmony ($230-1000/year, depending on which of three editions you get, I’d be getting the priciest one because the cheaper ones put a sharp limit on how many effects you can use, and my Illustrator practice is all about piling up effects).

I don’t know why I’m doing this. I kinda don’t actually want to get back into animation. But I feel this need to explore different tools. Part of it is that I feel like I’m simply hitting the limits of Illustrator’s Appearance palette and want an environment where I can quickly draw vector shapes and have the computer apply a bunch of effects to them automatically; being able to animate them is a bonus. I’ve been specializing in this one tool for the past twenty years and I guess it’s just time for a change. Maybe it’s also because I’ve decided to do my new comics project in a format that’s very much “accidentally an animatic” in an attempt to make it mobile-friendly and I’m just doing a lot of things that’d be a lot easier with a timeline. I dunno. I was hoping that writing this out in a blog post would help me see why I want to do this but I have no idea. I guess I just keep on experimenting on and off and see what happens.

This isn’t the first time I’ve done this since leaving the Hollywood animation scene. But pretty much every other time it’s ended in about a week, after I end up opening up Flash Animate, fucking around with it for a bit, remembering what I hate about it, and going back to Illustrator. This one’s been persisting and it’s weird.

Anyway. Epiphany was the other night, which means it’s not a sin against all the gods we call up during Mardi Gras to eat a king cake, and I think I’m gonna get dressed and leave this freezing house for the merely chilly outside world and get a king cake, and figure out what I’m doing with the rest of today.

experiments, 2023

I just spent a few minutes going back through the ‘experiments’ tag in my filesystem for this year, which is where I store the results of playing around with techniques, sometimes because I have an idea, sometimes because I saw a ‘how do I do this in Illustrator’ post that felt interesting enough to open up Illustrator. Here’s a few I’m especially happy with.

variable width line + zero-length dashes with curved endcaps * transform effect with multiple scaled/rotated copies

zig zags + rounded corners * blend * stick it in a pattern brush and vary the stroke width = this is so much less tedious than using a Spirograph

there are so many strokes rendered on each of these paths, omfg

I’m really pleased with this randomized rainbow mosaic, it is a gradient stroke with the dotted-line trick going on and a lot of roughening to produce a somewhat randomized rainbow, then a halftone effect on top of that to turn it into grids. I should use this as a background for something sometime.

That’s it without the halftone.


I’m not happy with this one yet, it’s an attempt to create some randomized fire. I’ve got perfectly fine effects stacks for fire and energy crackles but it’s worth playing around.

automatic vaporwave or something

So tonight I decided to fool around with some appearance stacks I developed while drawing insane furry porn on something a little more… shareable outside the horny furry zones, y’know?

This took me ten minutes to draw. No pre-planning. Just derping out some shapes on autopilot. A tiny bit of added highlighting, but mostly this is Illustrator doing all kinds of stuff automatically.

That’s all I drew. Eighty paths.

Twenty minutes more of fooling around and I had this. Pretty neat.

Another ten added this. Neat.

45 minutes in now. No plans at all, just drawing shapes and improvising.

Fifteen minutes more. One hour total. All this in one hour.


I drew the simplest, dumbest shapes, and Illustrator applied a few fairly simple transformations to them and airbrushed nice gradients on them for me. Here and there I used Astute’s Opacity Brush to smooth out transitions. But all this nifty abstracted detail happened with no intervention on my part.

I feel like I could get some interesting work by throwing together a few more pieces like this and shopping it around. Dunno if I want to.

If you wanna see how it works then source is over on Patreon.