Every now and then something reconnects in my brain and I remember being eighteen and sticking a pirated copy of Shufflepuck Cafe into my Amiga and hearing its weird, wonderful opening music fill my bedroom.
The game itself was a decent conversion of a Mac game from the year before, simulating a tournament of air hocky with an assortment of goofy aliens. But what was really memorable about it was that opening music. Go on. Hit play if you haven’t already.
It’s exemplary of a lot of music found on the Amiga around this time. A little bit off-key and atonal (and a lot harder to listen to because of that now that I’m an adult), but chock full of weirdness for its own sake, and reveling in being on the first home computer to have a sound chip that was based entirely on playing back wavetables instead of producing simple bleeps. This one especially stands out because it was really trying to sell the idea that you were standing outside a bar on some alien planet; are the weird blurbles that come and go part of the music, or part of the ambient noise? What does alien music even sound like? It also sticks out because it tries to cram so much into so little space; it lurches drunkenly from one riff to another over the course of its four minutes, refusing to ever commit to a groove for more than a few measures. It’s a raw, jagged artifact of technology people were just beginning to get a handle on. Unpolished, chaotic, and anarchic.
Today I got a new iPad Mini to replace the old one, which had suffered a few drops and had a lot of tape holding it together. The new one arrived a few minutes ago; the poor bastard delivering it had to submit a couple of photos via an app on his phone… which couldn’t get any reception on my front porch. He tried running out on the sidewalk and waving the phone at the sky, to no avail. Ultimately I had him hand me the phone so I could type in the password for my own internet. Which I had to do twice because I botched it the first time.
Then I got to experience the current iThing data transfer process. It’s pretty crazy now; the new device setup routine starts pinging all the other iThings nearby via Bluetooth, and then it starts displaying this crazy moving dot pattern that you have to scan with the camera of the device you’re transferring from. The new one downloaded an operating system update, and went from “preparing for transfer” with a little pinwheel for a few minutes, to a new screen showing up on both Minis with a half-filled progress bar promising to be done in about nine minutes.
So there I was minding my own business when suddenly my magicsona kinda poked her head into reality and was all, hey, remember me? we were kinda doing a thing and then we lost contact? wanna try again?
Seriously it was weird, there is this thing Illustrator does where I hit the Appearance palette’s button to bring up a tiny version of the Swatch palette and it decides to flip over to another desktop to bring it up; the preview window stays on the desktop I just left so I get an eyefull of whatever’s on the new desktop. Which is often an endless cycle of the furry porn I’ve favorited on Furaffinity. Last Tuesday this happened repeatedly and had me looking at an extreme up-shot of a horny jackal lady; when I paused to think about this I got a brief sense of incense, and it started to feel Signifying. So I sketched this out and spend the last few days painting it.
Maybe it’s time for me to start doing that daily ritual again.
Also if you are wondering why Stella’s Guide stopped abruptly this is basically why. It felt like it was kinda coming from somewhere else and then suddenly the drive to work on it just… stopped. Magic is weird.
I did some experimentation with baking a lot of the basic shading into some Graphic Styles; I can draw one quick shape and it’ll have a vague shadow applied to it, and
have a nice misty, volumetric shadow trailing off of it thanks to Astute’s Block Shadow effect. The shadow even changes direction based on where I draw/move the shape, since it’s calculated based on a vanishing point lurking somewhere above Stella’s head.
Also I am very happy with the cloudscape I drew. I really feel like I’ve been drawing much more realistic and interesting clouds ever since I moved to New Orleans, where we have spectacular sunsets on a regular basis.
You can get the Illustrator source on Patreon
, if you want to look at how this all works. You’ll need the Astute suite for a few things – the aforementioned shadows, as well as some of the stuff going on in the “upstairs” half of the image.
And if you want this on your wall or your clothes or something, you can make that happen over here
Today I learnt that the new term for “the tail end of the disputed territory between Generation X and Millennials” is “geriatric millennials”. At first I thought it was maybe just a new term for GenX? Nope. Just for the latter half of the transitional zone that’s mostly known as “the Oregon Trail generation”.
“Geriatric Millennials” are at least nine years younger than I am. And of course searching for info on this new term leads to discussions of generations that mention every living generation except X. If the tail end of my generation is “geriatric” then what the hell does that make me?
Nothing. Emptiness. Dust.
I am of the void. I am the mystery. I am generation meh, who gives a shit about them?
I am free of attempts to define me by marketers and pundits. The moment my cohort stopped being young adults with disposable income and not enough sense to try to ignore advertising, we stopped existing.
I am the X-factor, I am the mutant lost and forgotten. I am a mystery. I am nobody.
I am nothing, and I am free.
I have revised my infographic of generation dates accordingly.
So someone I follow posted the results of asking an AI to do some Superman costume redesigns
and I saw some pretty good shapes in there and decided to play around with them.
Now I kinda want an excuse to draw an 8-pager with this version of him.
I think it would be neat to get as many S/lightning bolt visual themes into this as possible, I was already feeling that some with the design of the S on his chest. Like say a follow-up drawing to this one with the same angle but now the red swoop is a big S because he’s turned and is coming down to the camera.
I did not have any real intention with the skin color beyond “is there really any particular reason a Space God should manifest as a white dude” and “this brown looks good against the rest of the colors” but there is probably a lot of delicate ground for a white lady to tread in drawing a story about a Black Superman. The American Way hasn’t been about Truth and Justice for anyone who doesn’t qualify as “white” for its entire existence, and ignoring that’s risky. If I can figure out how to navigate that then maybe I’ll do something short, this guy’s shapes are a ton of fun to draw!
Client: “Peggy can I give you some money to draw the heck out of ‘the Utena intro except they are hors’.”
Me: “very the yes, I love my fuckin’ job so much”
I was really glad Illustrator finally added canvas rotation the year before I did this. It’s really kind of embarrassing how ling it took them to add it. It’s still a minimum viable hack, there’s a bunch of stuff that’s annoyingly aligned to the canvas instead of the screen, like shift-constraining things, or dragging out a friggin’ selection marquee. But it works a lot better than “drawing stuff right side up, flipping it upside down to see how it works, then either trying to work on it further upside down, or flipping it around again to edit it”.
Here’s a closeup of our heroines. I giggled like a maniac when I decided to use the Sword of Dios for Anthy’s horn. Presumably this implies that she pulls it off and hands it to Utena when it’s time for a duel. Which is fucked up but feels less fucked up than pulling it out of her heart like she does in the show.
Also here’s the cloud layers by themselves. I made heavy use of a few variants of the cloud appearance stack I wrote about a few years ago. It’s pretty neat to swoop in a vague blob and have Illustrator turn it into a bumpy, fiddly cloud complete with its own rimlighting (gradient fills across strokes are super useful for that), then switch to the highlight or shadow cloud appearance and whip in some shading. I can knock out cloudscapes like this absurdly fast now.
you can click on this for a closeup if you can’t read all the little lists of effects
This week, Nick described cryptobro sadness as “the champagne of tears”. We decided this needed to be on a shirt. A few days later, Bitcoin had dropped from around $30k to below $20k, and I’d finished this drawing.
It is, of course, available on a shirt.
Astute’s Stipplism plugin was incredibly useful in making all these little bubbles with cryptocurrency symbols in them. It took some fiddling but once that was done I had a pressure-sensitive brush that scattered randomized crypto bubbles wherever I pleased. It’s a nice replacement for Illustrator’s native scatter brushes that I’m gonna have to play with some more in the future; AI’s scatter brushes can only do one shape, and changing the distance the shapes are randomly placed around your path based on stylus pressure really doesn’t work well at all.
I found out there is an NFT convention happening in New York next weekend and if printing times were faster I would love to reimburse someone for getting a bunch of stickers of this and putting them up around that area. But I don’t think that’s manageable. And buying space on the billboards in Times Square is probably three or four orders of magnitude more expensive than my entire net worth.
Anyway. If you want this on a shirt, or a mug, or a sticker, or whatever else is convenient to have around that one dude in your life who wouldn’t shut up about NFTs and cryptocurrency, you can get one over here.