thank you for the ice cream, mr. tuffy

This morning, I woke up. Went to the farmer’s market, then started to plan my day. It’s a gorgeous, sunny one, normally that’d be my cue to take the computer and go out and work somewhere around town, then come home and go to bed. But I felt like sometimes that’s all I do any more. I wanted to go Have Some Fun.

Having Some Fun turned out to be going to the bike shop to get new tubes for my perpetually-flat tires, and some Mr. Tuffy to put between the tubes and the tire. Seriously I think half the reason I so rarely use my bike is that it keeps on having two flat tires every time I forget about it for a week, and the impulse to go for a ride fades fast when I think about dealing with that. I was surprised how easily the rear tire came off the wheel; I finally figured out the right technique for wedging one little tube lever in there, getting it parallel to the hub’s axis, and just gliding it along. So that was nice, given that it always used to take forever with my old techniques of using two that were largely parallel to the surface of the wheel and fidgeting them along; I expected to break half my nails and broke none instead. That was a happy surprise.

And then I confidently went to deal with the rear wheel. Got it off the deraileur. And then I put it down with the gear cassette facing down, and, well, gravity did its thing on something that’s been sitting around disused and unmaintained, and soon I had the cassette’s retaining hub and the first couple gears sitting loose on the ground. Oops. I couldn’t get them back on, so back to the bike shop I went. They were able to put it back together for me without much hassle, so pretty soon I was able to get the bike back together.

And then I was off, with no real destination in mind. I wandered up to Ravenna Park, though about maybe riding to Northgate, there’s some nice views along the way. But nah. This was the first time I’d been on a bike in a while; I really haven’t been using it since I moved to the University District, and worrying about the inevitable flats that came from not having any Mr. Tuffy in my tires since the last time I was in the bike shop they had no clue whatsoever when I asked for some of that. But here I was with fresh tubes and a +7 boost to their armor level from the Mr. Tuffy, fuck it, I’m gonna go suck down some fumes like I did when I was cycling through the gridlocked French Quarter to my college job in downtown New Orleans, or when I was commuting to animation school and various third-rate animation studios in Los Angeles.

It was pretty much downhill all the way from there and it was glorious. Down from the park through the University, with a few bits going back up along the way, then hanging my bike on a hook in the train and reading on the way down. Then I came out of the tunnel in the middle of downtown and just plopped myself right in the middle of the street, taking my place in traffic that wasn’t generally running any faster than I could have lazily cycled. Downhill all the way to Pike Place, where I sat in a secret garden on the roof eating a tasty barbecue chicken sandwich I bought down there. Read some more. And then it was a short hop over to the station under Benaroya Hall, which took me back to the University station.

And then I contemplated hopping on a bus and coming back home. But I’d been spending some time on the stationary bikes at the YMCA recently, and I felt like I’d maybe built up some basic strength and stamina in my legs? So I threaded an irregular route back through the University, instead of taking the straightest path possible along steeper roads. Until I came to the edge of campus and had to power up slopes I was definitely feeling for maybe five blocks. I had no shame in going slower than a walking pace here and there when I downshifted more than someone more enthusiastic about Cycling might; I just wanted to see if I could do it without getting off and walking the bike.

By the time I made it home, I was sweaty, thirsty, and low on glucose. Which gave me an excuse to go right back out and get some tasty ice cream from the ice cream shop a half a block away that I pass, and don’t go to, pretty much every time I leave the apartment.

So yeah. Thanks to a fresh install of Mr. Tuffy in my bike’s tires, I had the confidence to go out on a pleasant little cycling adventure today, which burnt more than enough calories that I could justify eating some really good ice cream.

It was also really, really nice to be able to take a bike ride. That’s always been one of the things I’ve took physical pleasure in ever since I started cycling around New Orleans to college – whizzing along, exerting my body, feeling the wind, and occasionally asserting my presence in the middle of a row of multi-ton death machines. It’s probably the closest I’ll ever come to flying under my own power, and it feels good.

(does this sound like ad for Mr. Tuffy, it’s not one I swear)

(also I really miss living somewhere with a great climate for cycling pretty much all year round)

Copying complex objects between Illustrator documents

Illustrator Tip #856t292: Copying complicated stuff between documents.

A lot of the time, when you try to copy from one document and paste into another, Illustrator will decide to expand complex appearance stacks and bitmap effects into something completely uneditable. You can get around this by opening each document in a separate window and dragging the objects from one document to the other.

Thankfully, this will respect Paste Remembers Layers if you’re copying really complicated stuff spread out over multiple layers.

It will not copy over any Graphic Styles you may have used. I’m not sure if that is preferable to AI’s tendency to create duplicates of Graphic Styles when cutting and pasting stuff around

Parallax: starting to go public.

Today I finished page VX-8 of Parallax. Posted it to Patreon, felt good about making some money with my art. And then I posted the previous page to the comic site, and let the social media plugins do their stuff. They didn’t all seem to actually work but I will fiddle with that later. I also posted the first three pages to Furaffinity. In their entirety, not as teaser crops – since I make all my money from Patreon these days, there’s no need to drive people to my own page for those ad impression pennies. I plan to keep doing that; that’s where a lot of my fanbase hangs out, and this will keep them aware of the fact that I’m doing this thing. And maybe pick up a few more supporters as the pages bounce through people’s favorites and whatnot.

Part of me wanted to hold off on going semi-public until I had a few finished Mixolyne pages as well. But those are just beginning, and are going to be pretty dense  to draw. I doubt they’ll be done until next month. And now that I’ve had a first month of actually getting money from the comic I feel like it’s time to get serious about getting it in front of people’s eyeballs. I should probably buy some ads or something, too.

It’s starting to feel like a real project now. There’s a lot of pages to pile up before it’s done. How many, I’m not sure; the first story alone looks to be about fifty to seventy pages. Enough to be a small book, really. About a year’s worth of work if I keep up a pace of one page a week; I’m hoping that it’ll get faster once we start hitting scenes where I can reuse background elements instead of having to design a ton of scenery for every page. I wonder what things will be like for me, Nick, and the world when we finish that chapter? Here’s hoping the answer is “generally better”.

a modest OSX feature request

Good morning, world. Good morning, computer! I’m ready to get to work.

ugh is this just a stupid itunes update or an actual Critical Operating System Update, fuck I don’t care, I have shit to do. Bug me tomorrow. (Repeat every morning for at least a week.)

It sure would be nice if this notification would offer to tell me more about this update. Take me to the App Store’s update tab in one click. Convince me it’s worth the hassle of making sure I have things backed up, and of taking the machine down for anywhere from five to forty minutes when I’m ready to get to work.

getting back in (something like) the groove

It feels so good to be posting stuff to Patreon again. Four pages went up this month, and a couple new pledges showed up as well. I should be making around $300-350 or so for drawing comics about cartoon animals in space this month. It ain’t paying anywhere near my rent, and probably won’t be any time soon – Parallax is a lot slower to draw than Rita was, what with being full color, having a lot more stuff to design (especially this early in the story), and regularly having two to three times as many panels per page (not counting that one climactic chapter of Rita with 3x-25x as many panels per page as the rest of the book) – but fuck yes I’m back on the path to making a modest living doing nothing but drawing the kind of comics I want to see in the world, on a schedule that’s not the wrist-ruining pace of cranking out part of an entire issue every month. I get to do all the art in my own idiosyncratic way instead of having to do just pencils, inks, colors, or lettering as part of the assembly line evolved back in the 1930s, and I don’t need to worry about some straight white boy from deepest darkest Trumpistania screaming that my queer ass is Ruining Comics Forever and trying to get me fired.

Hopefully drawing pages will get a bit faster, as I design more and more of the stuff Parallax needs, and start being able to just load up a set of styles to quickly turn a rough into final art, and maybe snag a background here and there to re-use. And hopefully I’ll also continue to see a slow growth of the Patreon like I was seeing when I was regularly doing Rita. I might start posting pages to the art sites I have a presence on as well as my own site; might even drop a few bucks on advertising here and there. Draw a bit faster, get more folks reading my stuff with some modest subset of them willing to drop a tiny amount in the tip jar, eventually it’s something like a career. (And as always, I’m pretty damn thankful to the people willing to support my stuff on Patreon.)

The Internet has brought us many things, good and bad. But it sure has made doing independent comics a hell of a lot more possible.

lucky findings

Well. That was a nice surprise.

Me and Nick have been talking about how we wanted to get a new bookshelf to give the overflow books a place to live, once this kitchen work is done. (The whole thing’s been ripped open to check for leaks. Which were not there. And we’re about to go into the third weekend with dust everywhere and no kitchen.) This morning we were discussing a few other things we need – a hand-held vacuum to help deal with sucking up all the dust from the kitchen not-remodelling, maybe an air purifier to deal with that as well. So there I was walking from my apartment to one of my regular breakfast haunts, contemplating how much all of this shit was gonna cost, and feeling grumpy about that…

…and then I came out of the alley and walked past the YMCA, and found some furniture by the curb with a sign reading FREE. And one of these pieces was a black Ikea BILLY shelf unit. Exactly what I still had a tab open in the browser for from looking last night.

I went home and grabbed Nick. He raised some possible objections about Bedbug Fear but some quick browsing of the net suggests that it’s really not likely to be a problem. We picked it up and hauled it the half-block home through the alley – my place is on the opposite side of the same block as the YMCA – and put it up. Lost one of the pegs along the way; it turned out to have fallen out when we picked the whole unit up, and I found that too.

So hey, that’s about a hundred bucks I don’t have to spend on buying shelves and having them shipped here, plus an hour or two of assembly saved. Thank you, universe! Maybe I’ll be getting that air purifier that looks like a space dragon’s egg after all.

Later, after breakfast: I spent about an hour putting books on the shelves, with no real order – just getting them off the floor was my main priority, though I did try to keep some series together. Especially the ones that were mostly in one clump already. The shelves are almost entirely full, and probably will be full once I get the last couple stacks of books from around the coffee table. This is, to be honest, about what I expected would happened. I’d measured the height of all the stacks last week when we started talking seriously about getting a new bookshelf, and calculated that we had around thirty shelf-feet of books without a shelf to go on…

click for an image just barely big enough to zoom in on and judge me and Nick for our book choices.

Thank you.

Hey. This is just a quick note to say something that I don’t say often enough – that most people don’t say often enough.

Thanks for listening to me out here on the Internet. Thanks for spreading the reach of my work with your links, if you’ve done that; thanks for supporting my work via Patreon, Kickstarter, or buying it in a comic shop, if you’ve done that. (And please don’t feel any new obligation to do these things if you haven’t.)

Thanks for all your favorites of my art on gallery sites; thanks for spending the past month or two putting me in a place where I get to have the privilege of grumbling about how much work doing a second edition of my Tarot deck is going to be.

And even if all you’ve done is to silently consume my work, without doing any of these other things – thank you for listening to my ramblings and looking at my drawings. I hope that their effect on your life has been generally for the better.

Anyway. It is a sunny day, and I am sitting outside of Peet’s flipping off a Google Maps car as it drives around Green Lake, and I should get to work on drawing my queer sci-fi comics. Thanks for giving me an audience. ❤🧡💛💚💙💜

The Reverse Marvel Method

Shower thought: Nick and I are currently doing Parallax in the Reverse Marvel Method.

The Marvel Method works like this: SUE and JANE get together and come up with an idea for a plot. JANE goes off and draws it, doing her best to tell the story entirely in pictures. Then SUE writes captions and dialogue that expand on JANE’s drawings. Optionally, SUE will go on to take all the credit and financial reward for creating this stable of beloved characters.

The Marvel Method is in contrast to the script-first method, wherein SUE writes a script that lays out all of the dialogue and all of the panel transitions, hands it off to JANE, who pretty much follows all of SUE’s directions.

The Reverse Marvel Method, on the other hand? SUE and JANE get together and come up with an idea for a plot; SUE goes off and writes a script that’s got loose descriptions of the scenery and actions but leaves all the page and panel decisions out. JANE takes the script and draws it, making all the decisions about how to best break it up into pages and panels. Whether she will also go on to take all the credit and financial rewards is an open question; I’m hoping to avoid it.

There is a lot of trust involved in the Marvel Method and the Reverse Marvel Method that isn’t in the script-first method. SUE trusts JANE to tell the story in a series of pictures; JANE knows her stuff. But she can’t always be sure JANE’s going to be the one drawing her stuff in script-first; maybe JANE’s getting behind and JESSIE, the editor on the book, brings in STELLA to fill in for an issue, maybe JESSIE is juggling budget for ten books and decides to let FRANCESCA have her first try at graduating from being an intern on this one. SUE arguably has to lay everything out panel by panel to give the book a chance to not become a mess if FRANCESCA still has a lot to learn about telling a story in pictures.

This may have been more interesting in the shower; I dunno.

workin’ workin’

I’ve been spending most of my time lately working on that funny-animal space epic I’ve been kicking around for the past couple of years. Here’s a few screenshots I’ve posted on lately.

I’ve fixed the typo in the last sentence since taking this screenshot.

Kirt is a very very pretty boy.

Sometimes it feels like I have to sit around for a while designing something for every single page. This one’s nowhere near done.

Lighting is very important sometimes.

Color’s important too. I dreaded drawing this giant space station for weeks, then just kinda made it happen without much thought at all – I had a pretty solid basic concept in my head, lifted from a moderately obscure Big Dumb Object novel teenage me liked.

I’ve got four pages of this done, with a few more in varying degrees of progress, and about ten or so that only exist as Nick’s script. Nick’s been working on the script for the other first chapter of this story; I’m hoping to be able to start drawing that in the near future too. I really need to spend some time turning the Parallax page of my site from a placeholder into something I can start throwing finished pages into; right now nobody but folks supporting me on Patreon have seen the full pages.

an unexpected megadose of Nostalgia

Oh, damn.

So most of my listening lately has been out of an iTunes Smart Playlist called “not recently overplayed”; it contains all the music in my collection that hasn’t been played or skipped in the last three weeks, and that hasn’t been played more than fifteen times. It’s been part of an attempt to make me go find some new music. Which has sort of worked, sort of not.

I just made its counterpart: a playlist that automatically shows stuff that hasn’t been played or skipped in the last three weeks, but *has* been played more than fifteen times. And holy shit is it full of music I know by heart. All the albums I can halfway play in my head. And a few tracks that have a much higher play-count than the rest of the album because I clearly really like them – or have put them on a manually-curated playlist for some reason.

I should still go Look For New Music now and then. Finding a source for recommendations still kinda feels like work; figuring out how to convince an algorithm to give me music I might enjoy without it just feeding me the same stuff that’s already on my “recently not played but clearly beloved” playlist sounds even more like work.