dailysnek: coffee smirk


So lately when I’ve been feeling unmotivated to work on the huge, complex backgrounds of Parallax, I’ve been trying to at least make myself open up Illustrator and do some drawings of my cobra character Kalinda. (Who is also sometimes an archaeopteryx, it’s complicated.) I have been referring to these drawings as “#dailysnek” even though they are not a thing I do every day.

Today, I went out to the Meowtropolitan (a coffee shop with a room full of very very jaded cats) with Nick. On the way I decided that it would be nice to work on a bit of design I need to do for Parallax but it was by no means necessary; if all I did was to do a color version of a Daily Snek, that would be perfectly fine. I’ve generally been sluggish and unproductive lately, and I figured actually finishing something would be a nice change from “slowly picking away at complex two-page spread backgrounds”.

Worth noting: the smoke coming off of her cup is one path, with a moderately complex Appearance stack on it.

The bottommost stroke has an asterisk next to its weight because it’s got a variable width profile applied to it.

And here are all of the #dailysnek doodles thus far. Will I keep doing these? I dunno. It’s been fun so far, and people seem to like them. Click them to embiggenate.

the is is the only one that involved looking at an actual photo of a real snake, I should do that more often to figure out how to properly pile up her coils.

And then, having done this, I used the last half-hour of my Mac’s battery life to rough out a spaceship design for Parallax. Yay!

Still needs some work to turn it into something I can drop into Silo and use as reference to model. But there’s a good start there at the bottom, with some shapes that evoke assorted 70’s spaceships (mostly the Liberator from Blake’s 7, which always looked like it was going backwards, and maybe a little of the Vipers from Battlestar Galactica. Though I think I’ll try to downplay that as I work on them, as this is an eight-person shuttle with its own stardrive rather than a two-seat fighter that lives on a carrier.)

the dream of the classic comics shortcut

This morning, I woke from a dream about tracing complicated layouts from a superhero comic, which was a little infamous for itself being lifted from another one. I suspect this was in response to me going to bed sad because progress on Parallax is slow, due to the massive amounts of complex background stuff the story needs.

Nice try, brain. I wish this solution would work. But the problem is that I’ve got to invent the remnants of a whole culture, not that the layouts are hard.


Tool-Assisted Sigil.

Process: write statement of intent, cast out vowels/duplicate letters, draw cool sci-fi versions of letters, rotate/join/overlap until happy. Make pattern fill, crash Illustrator a lot while doing so (because I accidentally did my source imagery at a very large size, I think).

Abandoned version, part of the results of an hour or two of fooling around with a very stylized font I recently acquired.


Fuzzy shading.


A quick (~15min) doodle of Baron K from Parallax, mostly done to test out a shading method someone asked about on Reddit. The uniform is probably off-model, I didn’t bother pulling up the pitch bible.

I’m not sure about the Baron’s eyes here. I need to do some exploration of how to show expressions and keep his eyes looking like cute little beady mouse eyes. Does he look like he’s looking in a particular direction to you?


This is what I ended up with for the shading effect. Choose color, opacity amount, and blur/mezzotint settings to taste; if you make a Graphic Style and draw all your shading using that, you can tweak the appearance then do ‘redefine graphic style’ to apply it to the whole drawing.


And this is what it looks like if I turn off the blur and mezzotints. Just a bunch of shapes drawn with the pencil tool and occasional use of ‘draw inside’.

Parallax v2

In late 2015, I exhibited at SPX. Nickelodeon was looking for pitches there, and I threw together one for a sci-fi series in the week before the show. It was lacking a few important things like “stories”; it’s not surprising they didn’t bite.

My ex-with-benefits and I spent a little more than a year playing with it, outlining a season’s worth of episodes, and deepening the world and characters. We think it’s done now.


(PDF link; click on the logo for the whole pitch.)

We are currently looking for a studio to interest in making this show happen. At some point we may also try crowdfunding it if studios don’t happen. Maybe. Gathering a crew myself sure sounds like work.


Parallax: Crew art, v2

federacracy-splash galactic-union-splash

(click for larger)

So. Nick and I have been working on the second version of the Parallax pitch bible for a while. I’m pretty happy with these versions of the cast, and will probably be using this as the art for each of them.

One thing constantly in the back of my mind is that I’d like to make it more representative of modern audiences than the straight white people most TV shows are aimed at. Gender and queerness is easy to do. One of these characters is trans. One of them is pansexual. Two of them are in a homosexual relationship. None of this is presented as a big deal in the show; it just is.

But ethnicity? The fact that they’re all cartoon animals makes that a little more oblique.

So I ask you, o Internet: Do any of these characters look like they should be voiced by someone of a particular ethnicity?

And then, a further question: would it be neat if the various characters were voiced by people whose ethnicities deliberately do not match the ones the characters look like they “should” have? With a distinct attempt to have a broad mix of voices, the US has more than enough cartoons with an entirely white voice cast.

I think that shuffling ethnic codes like this sounds like a good idea, but I also recognize that I am a middle-class white lady from a former Confederate state. If this idea is the hottest garbage fire you’ve heard of this week, then let me know so I can change it before I persuade someone to make a season’s worth of Garbage Fire: The Series.

(Also, if you are wondering, due to their Weird Names: Vaxenchalowroth is a lady; the Baron and Atber are guys.)

Parallax: towards version 2

Or, “how the sausage is made”.

So remember that show pitch I made to show to Nickelodeon at SPX? They didn’t take it, but I’ve been continuing to work on it, with a lot of help from Nick – to the point where the front page of the pitch now has both our names.

We’ve been hanging out and figuring out things about the characters and the world. It’s starting to become fairly strange and very much its own thing; hopefully soon it’ll be in shape to toss a new version of the pitch by my friend who works in Nickelodeon’s development department and has offered to pass it around there.

Recently I decided we had enough textual revision for me to start fooling with a theoretical intro for the show. Or rather for a pair of intros, since there’s one for each side. I spent a morning watching cartoon intros on YouTube, and ultimately decided to start by borrowing the shot sequence from the “Real Ghostbusters” cartoon from the 80s. It’s a pretty efficient minute-long sequence that nicely introduces the team, gives you a tiny hint about their personality, tells you what they battle against, and that they are pretty confident in their job.

I rendered this down to its bones – just a quick list of shots described in the most generic terms possible – and started drawing versions of each shot that fit Parallax. And as I did this, I had to make some visual decisions I’d been putting off. Namely, what everyone’s spaceships looked like. And what each side’s logo looked like, since I wanted to swipe the way the Ghostbusters intro filled the screen with the logo like three times. That’s a nice piece of sigil work right there.

But mostly the spaceships. I’d been putting off the spaceships. I do not love drawing spaceships and didn’t really know where to start. It needed doing, though, so I finally sat down and came up with a good way for the two sides’ battle craft to combine: the Federacracy’s fighters would just happen to be the right size and shape to be carried around by the Union’s mechs. Which are faster-moving and more maneuverable, but lightly-armed.

This choice cascaded into other things: I wanted the Federacracy’s ships to be better-armored than the bigger Union mechs, but I also wanted them to be light enough to be carried around, so I ended up deciding that their Lucky Ancient Technology Find was great force-field technology. Which then gave me some inspiration for their logo.

I also figured out things like explicitly codifying the Union’s spooky take on VR – every ship/planet/etc they own seems to be much larger on the inside than the outside, because a large percentage of the people there are actually simulations being run by the local AI, in a sprawling virtual world. Conveniently these people are referred to as “ghosts” who live in the “ghost halls” of the ship, and can’t be seen by non-Union folks without the standard augmented reality implants they all have, so they come off as Creepy People Who Talk To Ghosts We Can’t See. And that gave rise to a plot idea about a Union “ghost ship”, drifting between stars in power-conservation mode with the whole crew living as ghosts. Who then become fitful holo projections, then half-finished “zombies” crawling out of the respawn tanks when the Federacracy crew finds them and digs through what they think is a dead hulk looking for intelligence/a mcguffin/Ancient artifacts/whatever.

We’ve got a nice little list of A- and B-plots that we’re in the process of winnowing and shuffling into about a dozen episodes. Turn those into a couple paragraphs apiece outlining each episode, and I think I’ve got a pitch. There’s still some art to do – I’m redrawing all the character portraits now that I’ve redesigned the uniforms, and taking a second design pass on at least the Union crew – but I feel like that’s not a ton of work. I could be wrong on that. We’ll see.


Anyway. The rest of this post is a bunch of the sketchbook pages I filled up while thinking up all this nonsense. Enjoy this glimpse into the process of designing a whole world.


Next: design Union mechs (which is coming along), do a round of work on the Federacracy characters who are not already Just Perfect (Olivia and the Baron were designed back around 2003, and I really just can’t improve on them, I’ve tried), do nice drawings of the revised cast in their revised uniforms, (possibly in ZBrush, which I am attempting to learn this week) make at least one decent picture of each capital ship and a drawing of the fighting craft, and of course hammer on that list of a dozen episodes and that list of plot ideas until it feels like there is some flow between them all and a decent balance of standalone/arc-y stories, and turn those into nice tasty little paragraph summaries. Then it’s ready to start pitching to the various Sausage Factories as a tasty new kind of sausage they could hire me to make.

I hate costume design

Tonight I went by Iris and Nero’s place and watched the Speed Racer movie. Which is fucking amazing, it’s one long eyegasm, and think I need to see it again on a bigger screen than their TV. Before the movie, I spent some time pondering uniforms for Parallax.


I started with intent of redesigning the Federacracy outfits. Tried some asymmetrical stuff because I feel like a good Space Pilot outfit is often dramatically asymmetrical. I really like the swirly accent on the hip pocket in the upper right on this first page and might play with that some more…image

But I ended up going with the same blue jacket with two light stripes down the front center that I had in the pitch. Just couldn’t think of anything that worked better. I may try another round later. (Looking at where I ended up with the Union flight jackets, I think I might want to either stay with straight stripes, or maybe try curves/circles as a design motif so as to contrast with the Union triangles.)


And then I shifted over to the other side, who the asymmetrical uniforms worked a lot better on – they’re the Creepy Post-Human Space Goths.imageimage

There are a lot of ways to make a coat interestingly asymmetrical. I did some image searching for inspiration and think I finally got something good, as marked with arrows at the bottom of that page up there.  (Note to self: maybe tweak it so that the three buttons are in a line.)image

Tried a profile and back view, think it works. Needs a little more red on the back but I can’t decide how yet. Will see how it goes when I do a second round on the pitch bible art.

In summation, I hate costume design.

I still need to redesign the spaceships, too. I’m not happy with the existing drawings of the Whalesong and the Spinward, or with the Tactical Pants or the Combat Armatures – I’m probably gonna completely drop that link to its roots in my guest strip for Gabe’s comic in favor of something that better fits the themes of the show. There’s something better waiting for me to find it before I can do presentation boards for the pilot.

It’s coming together, though. Nick and I have been tossing it back and forth, and we now have enough A and B plot ideas that we can shuffle them together into about a season’s worth of single-paragraph synopses of episodes.

If the pitch becomes A Thing then I will probably be asking a few friends if they are interested in taking some money to iterate on costume and ship designs for a bit. Because I feel like I want to do this the way George Lucas made Star Wars: by getting a bunch of awesome people to contribute to a big ol’ cauldron of stone soup.