The Dance Of The Fourth Veil

Around a month ago, I was lying in bed, just kind of zoning out. And I had this image float into my head, of a decadent ruler’s court, with a heap of half-naked people around their feet, a dancer swishing away in the foreground, and shafts of light passing through it.

I decided I wanted to draw it. So I got up and roughed something out. Added some quick flat color to distinguish the characters fro each other, and grabbed some cloud styles from a previous piece to let me quickly paint a nice tropical sunset sky. And some numbers on it so I could post it as what the furry scene refers to as a “group YCH” – that stands for Your Character Here, a kind of commission where the general pose is set, and the client gets to have it finished as their character, with varying amounts of input onto costuming and backgrounds.

I posted it on Furaffinity and it ended up having a few slots get bid up a lot. Including the “pet” slot in the front, which I’d kind of added as a joke – there was a new furry art site making the rounds at the time that was having a very loud debate on whether or not it was going to ban horny art of “feral” characters, which is to say “animals who talk but are still clearly animals, rather than animal-head people”.

I collected references, and spent about a month working on it. It probably would have taken half the time if I hadn’t been fighting a laptop whose battery life had dropped to a half hour, though September was a crazy month all around even without that…

Here’s a thread on Mastodon with a bunch of WIP shots, if you are curious how I go about something like this. It’s definitely an organizational challenge to orchestrate reference art for ten different characters, all the parts of the sketches, and the actual finished art.

also here is a naked version, click for embiggenation.

test post, please ignore

just trying the LJ-XP plugin to see if it’ll work with Dreamwidth again (nope: “Could not connect to www.dreamwidth.org. This post has not been crossposted. (-32300 : transport error – HTTP status code was not 200)”

and resetting JournalPress (the one that used to work) results in me not even being able to enter my account here (“Could not connect to user egypturnash at www.dreamwidth.org!”)

very helpful guys, it’d be nice to know what the http error actually WAS

 

anyway I have made a reply to the last Dreamwidth news post, which is about them dealing with a Livejournal password breach, and fits quite nicely into the gap between the last post that showed up over there and the next one I made…

coruscation

I just put together a little Automatic Kirby Krackle style that I’m pretty happy with. It could be better and maybe it will be by the time I’m done with the drawing I’m doing it for, but it’s more than good enough right now.

The top is the lines I drew, the bottom is what Illustrator turns it into when I use the following Appearance stack:

The magic here is in setting the “coruscation” scatter brush stroke to 0% opacity, and turning on Knockout Group for the whole path. This makes the brush’s clearness punch through everything applied to the path, instead of overlaying it on top of whatever other strokes and fills are applied below it.

And to give you a start on this, here’s the current brush settings. If I really wanted a serious Kirby Krackle I’d probably have two or three copies of the brush, one for big balls closer to the edge of the shape, one for smaller balls that go further in, and maybe one somewhere in between.

 

(Why has this been sitting in my drafts for a month and a half, this looks perfectly postable…)

repair

October. The month of Halloween. The month when artists argue about whether or not #inktober is a valid lists of prompts to use if you’re not doing work in real, actual ink. Or now the month when artists do a zillion other hashtag-something-tober set of daily drawings from a zillion prompt lists because it turns out that the guy behind Inktober is a butt who put together a book on ink drawing under the Inktober brand and straight-up swiped some exercises from another artist. I could perhaps defend some of this, most art manuals are full of stuff swiped from the manuals that influenced the people who wrote them, but honestly I am just fucking sick of Inktober and the way it seems to have stopped being a fun thing artists do and turned into a thing you have to do to help Promote Your Brand On The Internet; seeing various friends doing prompt lists spawned by smaller communities feels a lot better.

But for me it’s been #waitformycomputertoberepairtober. The battery on my Macbook Pro has been failing. Again. About a year and a half after I got it, it started constantly saying “Service Battery” and giving me about a half hour of life; I took it in to the Seattle Apple Store and got them to take it in for repair on the second trip (“yes, I reset the fucking SMC and tried the battery recondition process, it is still fucked, okay?”).

They replaced a significant chunk of the computer along with the battery because unwinding it from the keyboard, trackpad, and whatnot is a major hassle. It was under warranty so it was free and that was nice.

And then a year and a half later it started doing the same shit. There is a design flaw with this particular model (2017 13″ laptop, no touchbar) where it just fucks its batteries up. And annoyingly this coincided with the beginning of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (aka COVID-19, aka The ‘Rona) hitting the USA. Apple closed down their New Orleans store, and so did the one Authorized Repair Shop in the city, so getting it repaired became much more of a hassle. I got an external battery and made do for a while. It was a bit better when the computer actually figured out that 3/4 of its battery capacity was gone, and started performing emergency hibernations again instead of just shutting down and losing work. But it was still a giant hassle.

My extended warranty expired. It was gonna cost money now. So I kept on putting it off until one day near the end of September it decided not to charge from one of its two USBC ports. Yeah. Time to deal with this despite being afraid that Turmp’s attempts to fuck with the forthcoming election by ruining the USPS would mean I’d be without a computer wayyyy too long. Luckily it ended up being shipped FedEx, and went well around the hurricane hitting the coast between New Orleans and Houston in the week I ended up shipping the damn thing. Apple sent me a box with some very clever foam inserts to keep it cushioned, and a list of stuff to do that included “BACK YO SHIT UP, WE DON’T WANT TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR LIFE’S WORK FFS” and “also we do not want to know a goddamn thing about what you keep on your computer so turn on full disk encryption and save everyone a lot of potential trouble”.

So now here I am with a new keyboard that displays none of the history of which keys I hit the most (slightly off from the usual ETAOIN SHRLDU frequency due to Illustrator hotkey choice, and of course cmd-z to undo), new ports, new trackpad, and most importantly a new battery. And the expectation that I will be doing this again around the spring of 2022. Which is also close to when the third generation of Airs running on the new ARM architecture will be out, and perhaps I will just switch back to those – I miss the all-day battery life that Airs tend to have! I need a lot of CPU for Illustrator to do its thing but I suspect by then the Airs will be leaving this Pro in the dust. But at least for now I’ve been sitting here doing web browsing for about two hours since getting it back, and it still has about 20% of the battery left. Freedom!


Also we now have a box full of one mother cat and two kittens in Nick’s room.

Sugarfoot does not officially live here. She lives under this house and the neighboring house with her mother Shadow, her younger (half?)brother Shemp, and her even younger (half?)siblings Arthur, Peebles, and CJ/potato. She and her mama and three siblings who have since left were here when we got here, thanks in no small part to the lady who lived in the other half of this shotgun double providing a place for Shadow to have litters. But now she has moved elsewhere and we have been giving serious thought to getting all these cats fixed, because we really do not want to help raise a couple of litters every year. Thankfully Sugarfoot has provided us with a smaller litter than her mom. Who we really hope is not currently also pregnant.

standardization was nice until it interfered with profits

Twitter decided a ton of people were bots today, including me. Turns out that when Twitter decides you’re a bot, it completely flushes your following list. I’m now following absolutely nobody. There’s still people following me and they seem to be seeing my tweets, so I guess that is vaguely good.

And I guess I could try and rebuild the list of who I’m following from scratch – go back through my replies and look at who I was actually talking to, stuff like that – but honestly, that’s more effort than I want to put into Fucking Twitter.

So rather than try to rebuild that on Twitter I decided to see if I could go oldschool and get an RSS reader going. Poke all the people I want to follow and ask if they have accounts elsewhere, plug those into the reader and be free of any one particular site to maintain contact with anyone. And, wow, I sure do miss the days when every social networky site generated an RSS feed (or its descendants) for every account, because nothing does that any more, because why would they ever want to let you see the stuff you’re actually visiting the site to see without interleaving it with as much Highly-Engaging Content and advertisements as possible? Gotta sell those targeted market sectors to anyone with some ad dollars to spare.

There are sites out there that will scrape these advertising spigot hellsites and create feeds, and I guess I’m gonna have to get some of that going – maybe there’s an RSS reader that knows how to do this natively for some sites, who knows, maybe there’s one that talks to a scraping service transparently whenever you paste in a CorporateHellsite.com/interesting_person URL, I gotta do some research – but ugh, fuck this whole industry that’s sprung up around letting people share news of what they’re doing without having to set up a website from scratch.

Anyway, if I was following you on Twitter and you feel like your life will be made sadder without me occasionally commenting on the snippets you shared online, then drop a comment here with a bunch of accounts. Or a link to one place where all your accounts are listed – that place for me is is the front of my website.

I Am Not Milton Glaser

But I think if I wanted to, I could ape this definitively-seventies style of his pretty well; this is about twenty minutes of idle doodling and playing with Live Paint. It’s a very different workflow from my normal one.

parental politics

I am sitting here on a cloudy day and I am listening to Enya and I am contemplating how lucky I was to have two parents who were liberal urbanites. So many of my friends were fleeing conservative, rural upbringings, and here I was with a mother who completely supported my transition.

I can’t be sure that my parents would 100% agree with all of my current political views, the Silent Generation just has a different reflexive reaction to the word “socialism” than a GenXer who’s spent her whole life with everything that remotely smacks of “what if society gave something to everyone instead there being seven middlemen taking a cut in every aspect of everyone’s lives” as “socialism”. But they were left-leaning for the entire length of their lives that overlapped with mine, with careers and passions that kept them a good way out of the Fox News spiral. It’s really hard to imagine a world where they are both still alive and voting Republican, it feels much more likely to imagine my mom dragging herself to the local DSA meetings if she hadn’t died a few years back, to be honest.

And it is kind of depressing to realize that this is so not the norm across all of America. I wish all of my friends could have hippie lefty parents like I did.

The Empress’ Walkies

This past week there was a bunch of drama in the furry scene over the new site “Furrylife.Online” and their public vote as to whether or not allow “feral” characters – which is to say, animals that go around on all four legs but can talk. It got really complicated and it’s kind of hilarious to see the admin post where they try to find a logical justification for the final vote results of “ferals getting busy isn’t okay, but feral dragons/gryphons/other mythical critters are okay, also so are Pokemon and Digimon and My Little Ponies because the furry fandom sure did end up with a lot of MLP fan-insertion characters holy shit”.

I happened to be working up a multi-character YCH commission during this. For laughs, I decided to put in a slot where the winner would be turned into a feral pet who is getting fed tasty treats.

And this slot took off almost immediately in a bidding war. So I found myself thinking about that subject, and wondering if maybe I wanted to delve into it a bit more. And then when I sat down with Illustrator to explore this, I thought of how Erté did like six hundred variations on the them of “tall fashionable lady taking a big cat for a walk” and decided to riff on it.

And when I was done with that rough, I said, hey, fuck it, I’m just gonna finish this for myself and my SO. So here is Peganthyrus taking Rezeya for a walk on a hot summer day.

 

Also there is a mostly-nude version. NSFW.

hat++

I just spent about an hour stuffing a wire into the brim of the floppy red straw hat I got when I was first down in NOLA searching for an apartment and now it is SO much better.

Maybe I’ll spend another hour to redo the yellow hat this way, right now it’s got a wire that was meticulously sewn under the brim and it has slowly slid around and become looser, plus the wires keep trying to catch my hair.

edit: I sure did spend way too much time (about 2h? my hands are tired now) cramming a new wire into the yellow hat, then cramming the old wire into the brim beside the new wire. But I experimented with some ideas and maybe the next time I do this it’ll go faster.

I really need to keep my eyes open for more straw hats of various colors; I had another red one that seems to have gotten left somewhere recently, and there used to be a black one, too, and I feel like I am at the stage of my life where a purple one could work… they’ll show up when I need them, I’m sure.

Twenty years of no lines.

This is the oldest image in the gallery section of my website. It is not the first thing I drew with Illustrator. But it is the first thing I drew with Illustrator where I went from a scan of a pencil rough to flat shapes, instead of putting color under a scan of an inked drawing.

The date on the gallery is August 29th, 2000. Twenty years ago. The date on the copy of the Illustrator file on my hard drive is 2005, but that’s a lie; somewhere along the journey from a bulky second-hand PowerPC Mac clone running MacOS to a Powerbook running OSX 10.14, all the creation dates on my files got lost.

I’ve been doing this no-lines thing for twenty years. I pretty much stopped doing outlines entirely once I did this piece. It was hard at first, but as I learnt various tricks, I got to a point where using lines feels too easy. Feels like cheating.

And twenty years later I’m finally doing something with this character, too. She was originally the sidekick of “Ensign K”, now Baron K is her sidekick in Parallax. They’ve both got pretty much the same shapes, though the costumes and worlds are different.

That’s from late July of 2001. There’s only a couple finished images between these two, I was mostly busy riding the bus to Spumco, working on Flash animation for a horrible man. And my process was a lot slower back then: I was still learning to draw, to a certain extent. I was figuring out Illustrator from scratch. Illustrator was a smaller toolbox, too – it had just gotten transparency in 2000. I hadn’t found out that the Pencil tool has settings, with terrible defaults; I just thought it was kind of shitty, and painstakingly made all my shapes with the Pen.

The first image is also a skin for Audion, an MP3 player for the Mac that had a very flexible skinning setup. You could arrange your buttons any way you liked, and have whatever weird shape you wanted for your play-control window. Nowadays all my music is in iTunes, which spends its time hidden and being controlled by the media keys on the keyboard; back then those media keys didn’t exist, so we ended up with little desk toys like this.

Or like this. Which was a self-portrait from November 2001, according to the dates in my site’s gallery. It’s a self-portrait of me at the time: a skinny, not-very-masculine guy, who was trying to figure out just what “gender transition” would really entail, and if it was something he wanted to do. I’d been signing most of my art that I posted online as “Peganthyrus” since about 1997 so this was clearly a thing I was playing with; I wouldn’t actually start on hormones until about 2002 or 2003. It’s been a while, I’m not exactly sure beyond “somewhere after Weekend Pussy Hunt collapsed and before Katrina”, which means somewhere between 2000-5.

But I digress.

Here’s one of my earlier experiments in Illustrator. Still clinging to lines but very close to letting go. This is also just about the only piece of mine that involves a gradient mesh, a tool I find to be far more fiddly than its results justify. I think a lot of this might have been experimenting with the pencil tool? Zig-zag effects on simple curves for the ferns – one of my first halting explorations into territory I would end up returning to much later when I started trying to pull on everything I’d learnt over two decades to do full-color comics by myself.

This is pretty typical of my Illustrator-with-lines work. Scanned ink work – this looks like it’s probably some kind of brush pen – with Illustrator shapes below.

Or this. With a badly-drawn version of my then-roomie Gabe Swarr. Who has been spending the last couple of years working on the remake of Tiny Toons. Complete with occasional meetings with Steven Friggin’ Spielberg. I couldn’t hack it in the animation industry but he sure could, geez.

There was experimentation with other tools now and then, too. I’m pretty sure this is Painter. Does that default to saving as a .RIFF file? Because I have this on my drive as both a PSD and a RIFF.

And this. This was done with Creature House’s Expression, a vector package built from the ground up for faking natural media. Sadly by the time I had enough money to buy a legit copy of it they’d been eaten by Microsoft, who made it Windows-only and much less natural-media focused. If they’d stuck around I might be putting out very different work nowadays. But I went with Illustrator because that was the least awkward tool for doing the color workflow I was used to from my formative years in Deluxe Paint I-V on my Amiga, where I could twiddle a palette swatch and see everything drawn in it change. I still rely on that to this day.

Also man I sure did draw stretched-out torsos and necks back then. The arm’s deliberately stretched out to stylize motion; the body and neck, I think, are stretched out because I just… did that a lot.

And finally in this tour of Early Art From Me:

I learnt so damn much about working in sharply limited palettes drawing this. I remember feeling like the whole thing was a complex puzzle: this part has to be this color, but this part that also has to be the same color has to pass behind it – can I make it work solely as silhouettes? or do I find an excuse to use one of the other two colors as a highlight or shadow to create a contrast? Mostly I pushed myself to make it work entirely as silhouettes in this one. I also learnt something important about zooming in; I think it was after finding myself zoomed in and drawing reflections on an iris in this drawing, which were not even a pixel at final size, that I made myself learn the habit of hitting command-1 (view>actual size) on a regular basis to keep myself from getting lost in minutae nobody would ever see.

And for contrast, here’s a piece I did last week:

(click this one for the full size image)

I’ve felt like I’ve been getting too painterly in my recent work so I took this one back towards a limited palette, though I had to expand that out a bit to include the colors of the bisexual and trans flags. Other than that the palette’s only slightly less limited than the “four tints of two colors” that I used in Absinthe. This only took three hours; I don’t have any time tracking on these old files but I am pretty damn sure most of them took a lot more than that, despite their general lack of any kind of background!

(this one links to the full size too)

(yet another link to a full size image)

And some recent painterly stuff: a page of Parallax I’m happy with, and a stream commission that’s actually clean (I’ve been streaming now and then lately, and it has mostly been very horny stuff.). I like the airbrush feeling I have in these; 1990s me really loved the look of airbrush art but found actually dealing with the noisy compressor and trying to organize endless layers of physical masks to be a lot more hassle than it was worth. 2020s me just does a bunch of gradients and blurred shapes and slaps a noise texture on top and figures it’s close enough to airbrushed Dr. Martin’s on cold press illustration board for something that took a fraction of the time. But I’ve been chasing that look pretty hard for the past year and I think it’s time for some fucking around with flat stuff when I’m not working on the comic.

 

Anyway. If you wanna look at more old art by me, the last page of my site’s gallery is here. Perhaps someday I should make it work better on mobile phones and whatnot, it’s full of neat visual effects that happen when you hover your mouse cursor over stuff.