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.)

Illustrator experiments: the chiseled look

So today BoingBoing posted some work by a Russian illustrator named Maxim Shkret.

I’m pretty sure his work is done in a 3D program. But I asked myself “how could I get something like this in Illustrator?” and fooled around a little bit.

After some fiddling with needlessly complex setups that didn’t work anyway, I realized I could do it pretty simply: tell Illustrator to draw two variable-width strokes, one for each side of the line, each in a different gradient.

The above screengrabs are for one of the six related styles I made while experimenting; I’ve got it at different stroke weights (3/6/9pt), and with one of the gradients reversed. The lips are also done with double-gradient strokes; the other shading is simple blurred shapes.

The fun part here is that the hair can be knocked out super quickly with the pencil tool. I could very quickly draw some chunky, super-stylized plastic-looking hair.

It still looks interesting with different colors, too. I may have to experiment with this further and try to do a piece using this. I’m not sure what kind of looks would go well with it.

Anyway. I thought I’d share this little experiment.

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: 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.

executive genie fashions

“I like the way you bring your identity of ‘witch’ into your daily life. I’ve been wanting to do that with ‘genie’.” “It’s been pretty powerful! Doing that with ‘genie’ while remaining street-legal feels like it’s gonna pose some major problems, though, hmm.” (because cartoon shorthand for ‘genie’ is always ‘sheer harem wear that doesn’t hide much plus a lot of bangles’)

And then my brain wouldn’t stop turning it over after I got out of bed and I doodled this out in like 10 minutes. Street-legal powerful businesswoman wear, with a genie theme.


Turned-up collar to create something like a veil effect. Smoky accents to suggest fading into vapor. And a canvas bag with a bit of gold-toned hardware and embroidery to carry everything one might need to grant the odd wish. Heavy coat? Opaque dress? Depends on the season.


New Years Eve Doodles

I spent most of New Year’s Eve at a party hosted by Nick’s friends. I spent some time talking, drinking, and eating, but mostly I sat around drawing silly things.


Suggestions from people who would quite happily be pitching for those higher tiers.

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I accidentally introduced Nick to “It’s My Beak” the other day, so I drew the rollerskating duck from the video to annoy him


“That top dude looks like if the Brothers Chaps did a SF cartoon.”

*draws more stuff that deliberately looks that way*
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Keith Hairy is my new graffiti handle.


I have a long-standing vow: if someone says “Draw me a yiffy vixen, Peggy!”, I will do so for free, and do my best to make them regret it with the drawing.

This one succeeded.

Then Nick and I got a ride back to my place and lounged in the living room cuddling. We spent most of the next day playing Assault Android Cactus on his computer; I unlocked a bunch of stuff in it because I have been playing that sort of game for decades. Looking forwards to the PS4 release of it.





a shading experiment


I was thinking about other people’s processes that involve shading on a separate layer that’s been constrained by a mask of the shapes it’s shading, and knocked this out in about an hour.

It looks nice, but I’m not sure how I feel about the fact that it resulted in about three times as many layers as I’d normally use.

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 12.44.26 PM

(All the ‘light’ and ‘shadow’ layers have an opacity mask of a duplicate of the layer they’re modifying; light layers are 100% screen, shadow layers are 100% multiply. Most paths in them are heavily gaussian blurred; all the shadow paths are a blue-purple gradient.)

And just to show how much some simple effects can add, here’s the same image with most of the blurs removed:


I may try experimenting with this on a few panels of Absinthe. Making myself separate “shading” from “drawing” is weird; I’m really used to considering them at the same time. I may also want to experiment with using this method for broader strokes of shading, and doing some of the subtler shading within the base layers the way I normally do. Dunno. My methods are a constant work in progress, and ultimately what matters most is a mix of working speed and how fast they feel – I’d rather do something that’s empirically a bit slower, but feels faster to my brain, because that’s more likely to keep me happily working for a longer stretch. Making sure everything works in silhouette and basic colors before going to shades probably won’t hurt, though.


50s style experiments

Further Confusion is coming up soon, and I’ll be holding down a corner of a friend’s booth doing the odd badge on my new Tiny Printer. This year’s theme is “Cafe FC: A Classic American Diner”, which honestly does nothing for me, Happy Days is not my nostalgia. But. What was going on in cartoons back then? Jim Flora! Mary Blair! UPA! And all that other crazy semi-Cubist stuff. I can totally dig that.

So I googled up some inspiration, and started doodling.

Evernote Camera Roll 20151216 000644 Evernote Camera Roll 20151216 000644 Evernote Camera Roll 20151216 000644

(These aren’t actually on purple paper, I just photographed these under the colored lights in my living room. Rollerball pen with highlighter.)

I’m not sure I’ll go full 50s abstract. I like looking at that stuff but it’s not in my blood like it is for some of my animation school buddies. But there are definitely stylistic tricks I can use to give a distinct “fifties graphics” feel to my normal shapes. Pull a palette off of some Flora album covers, pick a few different brushes based on things I see in collections like this along with some fonts, and I’ll be ready.

I may also consider having a secondary theme of “your Fallout fursona” because that sure is fifties-flavored, and it’s pretty topical. Maybe just slip one of those into my sample badges. I don’t want to be drawing Your Vault-Tec Guy Fursona though.

(My other alternative theme idea was “50s sci-fi” but honestly I already did that when I did promo art for FC2013 whose theme was “Furbidden Planet”. Somebody on the FC concom must really love fifties retro, I guess.)

Next step: draw up a badge for myself, and for a few friends, as samples. If I go with the rough up there maybe I’ll just describe my take on the theme as “Space Age Bachelor Pad”; it’s a grown-up party let’s all get drunk until someone puts a lampshade on their head.