sigils: towards a modern aesthetic

It occurs to me that not a single person who has worked on popularizing Austin Osman Spare’s methods of “sigil magic” has been, like, actually an artist.

So everyone draws these little things that chase the aesthetics of Goetic demon seals. Occasionally people will look at a Vodun veve for inspiration. But whatever they do, they always make little line-drawn symbols that positively reek of Witchiness. Or of the glyphs in Seuss’ On Beyond Zebra. Sometimes you will see people paraphrasing Grant Morrison about how you can see corporate logos as powerful sigils of corporate egregores… but I never see anyone writing about Sigil Majgickqgh who actually tries to use that aesthetic. They just make the usual witchy scribbles. Because none of them seem to, like, actually draw as their vocation.

But I’m an artist. Spare was an artist. Sigils are fucking art majgickqgh.

I mean, I’ve been guilty of making Obviously Witchy Sigils too. It’s what everyone does in their examples, so it’s what I copied. And sometimes that is exactly the aesthetic something needs.

But. Lately I’ve been getting out of my armchair and making some sigils again. I’ve been starting with the usual modern chaos magic workflow of “throw out vowels and duplicate letters, start combining letters into a pleasing pattern”… but instead of keeping it a linear thing I could draw with pen and paper as I start finessing it, I’m just letting my hands do what they do naturally when I’ve got Illustrator open, and using a lot of solid shapes. Treating it as a rough sketch that vanishes, instead of lines to preserve.

I haven’t quite gotten anything down to the graphic power of, say, one of Paul Rand’s logos yet. Or maybe one of Jim Flora’s lively cubist album covers. But I’m getting somewhere that feels right. Somewhere that feels like art as well as magic.

I should probably actually find a copy of Spare’s books and plow through them sometime soon instead of reading yet another person rehashing Peter Carroll’s simplification of Spare.

above: some WIP sigils, none of them are entirely There yet, never mind charged, and in fact one of them saw some major revisions after I asked myself “what would Jim Flora do with this image to make it suck less” in the course of writing this post.


(and yes, I know that there is also a tradition of making sigils by just hooking up points on a grid of letters, and, y’know, that works but it is so utilitarian and boring…)

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.)

hallowme

This morning, I wandered through the local instance of the pop-up Halloween store. It was a lot bigger than I expected, possibly due to using space that the former tenant (a third-party Apple retailer) was using for their repair offices. This may have been related to my decision to spend an hour doodling my fursona as a Sexy Witch tonight. With an angry green cat in her lap because that has basically been Nick’s fursona around the house lately. Mostly. Furries are weird, okay?

I also finished two pages of Parallax that had been in the works for a while, and posted them to Patreon today. Which is always a nice feeling: yay, I get paid a couple hundred bucks more at the end of the month! Onea these days I might even start paying most of my rent from comics again.

Tomorrow: haul stuff to the convention center, set up for Geek Girl Con, which is this weekend. And next weekend is gonna be PatreCon, thanks to them impulsively running a contest to choose a few creators to give a free ticket and hotel stay, and picking my half-assed, sassy entry as one of the winners. (“Maybe I’ll learn something that’ll let me triple my patronage; maybe I’ll hit it off with someone who’s better at promotion than I’ll ever be. Maybe I’ll just end up sharing a drink with some of my LA animation friends and get a gig that’ll pay well enough to let me extend my financial runway a couple more years.”) I still feel really weird about this and wonder if there were next to no entries (it only ran for a half a week, and they asked applicants to do Something Creative to say why they should be chosen to attend but didn’t mark uploading a video/image/etc as mandatory; I nearly abandoned the application when I got to that, but just rambled for a couple paragraphs of text instead), or if my crazy obsessive drawings actually stood out from the pack. Who knows. Either way I was able to persuade them to comp a conference ticket for Nick as well (what with him saying he’d like to try and take over some of the stuff that’s not drawing; we’re going to attend talks scheduled against each other and take notes), and paid for a couple of airplane rides with the Business Account. I’ve also contacted said Animation Friends about sharing lunch/a drink/etc.

Anyway. It’s getting to be about bedtime, I think.

the pink hoodie

Now and then, some artist finds a really hilariously impractical piece of clothing, and draws one of their characters wearing nothing but it. And sometimes the combination of clothing and drawing is strong enough to become A Thing that circulates around the Internet for a few days.

Every now and then I end up drawing one of my characters in one of them.

The item in question is a short pink hoodie, with a huge half-circle cut out of the front. Kind of a bolero hoodie. It could probably look pretty good if it was accessorizing the right outfit, really; I feel that matching the claw polish to the hoodie went a long way to making it look less terrible. As did being a tease who’s deliberately not using it as an excuse for full frontal nudity.

The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To Cartoon Adaptations

This morning I got stoned and decided that a galaxy-pattern catsuit under the bathrobe I still hadn’t bothered changing out of was a really good fashion choice for the morning. Then Nick said I looked like a far-future Arthur Dent who has truly become a hoopy frood who knows where his towel is. Because really, what is a bathrobe but a towel you can wear? He had it with him all along.

When he’s not travelling, that spacesuit is always with him. It probably converts into a useful backpack or something. Because after what he’s survived, there is no way Arthur would want to let that thing out of his possession. Ever.

 

In the shower I thought about this drawing as a pitch for a H2G2 cartoon adaptation.

 

* The spacesuit has invisibility capabilities; when Arthur’s not using it for that he has it just display whatever random imagery/video we feel like genlocking in there.

* The spacesuit can recycle his fluids into a substance almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

* Perhaps it is the latest model of the Guide? Compacts into an easy-to-carry box of roughly Gameboy size when not in use. It does NOT have a Genuine People Personality. Nobody wants that when they’re floating alone in the void of space.

* Every episode starts cold with Arthur in some tranquil setting (possibly wherever he finished last episode), when suddenly, disaster strikes and he is, once again, floating in the cold void of space. He sighs, dons the spacesuit, and begins reciting something similar to the Litany Against Fear centered around the words “Don’t Panic”. Cue “Journey of the Sorcerer” or some imitation thereof, opening titles are a montage of bits introducing Arthur and the main characters of this episode with Arthur still floating in space waiting for the Thumb to say something’s in range. As the opening titles come to a close, there’s something detected; Arthur turns on the Thumb capability of his suit via a closeup on his hand making a hitch-hiking gesture. Music climaxes, smash cut to episode title as the music fades, then we rudely drop Arthur into the middle of whatever mess we’ve thought up for him to muddle his way out of this time.

 

“You’ve essentially just reinvented Doctor Who”, said Nick when I pitched these ideas to him. Arguably yes, though I feel there’s a big difference: the Doctor is good at solving huge problems like “an entire universe has been converted into Daleks, who are now invading this universe with the aim of turning it into even more Daleks” while Arthur is good at averting problems well before they get to that point, or just not being where they are when they happen. His primary skills are being that super chill surfer dude who is really, really good at staying calm in the face of crisis and helping other people de-escalate. He does not necessarily solve the problem he’s dropped into in every episode; sometimes he just ends up running.

Also another way this is different from Doctor Who is that the Doctor is not costumed so as to look like she’s naked under her bathrobe. Arthur is. Because nobody really takes you seriously as a threat when you look like you’re naked under your bathrobe.

preparing for eye pain

I just spent two hours making this happen in Illustrator.

It’s the safe version of this. If you click on this image, or on any of the other ones in this post, you’ll see a higher-res copy. I am not sure I recommend doing this.

I can now use these flat-color Graphic Styles to draw a whole bunch of assorted shapes in something akin to three-point perspective. Which would involve following this grid that I built in Illustrator before building the previous two images.

And hell, let me try a quick test drawing. Just some basic shapes following these perspective guidelines.

Alt-drag twelve swatches around and…

Yep. This is gonna work. I’ve got a lot of drawing to do, and this won’t work for every single part of the image – but I should be able to lay down a lot of it pretty quickly like this. I’ll end up with tons of hatching that precisely lines up with the perspective I’ve drawn the shapes in. I had to do some funky stuff to set all of this up and part of me thinks I should write it up, but I also spent two hours in front of the computer and think I need to run around some.

Illustrator has a three-point perspective ruler mode. I’m really not sure I’m going to bother with it; I feel like the time I’d spend figuring out how it works is going to be really close to the amount of time I’d spend just doing it the “hard” way. I learnt how to do hardcore perspective years ago, and I’ve forgotten most of it, but I think I remember enough to fake this. Should be fun!

Shared Wish

Today I wandered around with no real goal in mind. I had a book and I had my computer and I didn’t feel like working on the comics. Instead I drew some weird smut based on a fantasy that’s been kicking around my head.

NSFW art: explicit cartoon nudity, weird cartoon perversions, self-love.

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