A Good Day

Today I learnt that the Kinsey Institute – yes, the one dedicated to surveying and defining human sexuality, of Kinsey Scale fame and whatnot – has a library. And more importantly, I learnt that it has a copy of Decrypting Rita in it. To be precise it has recently been acquired for the “Haslam Polyamory & Non-monogamy Collection“, according to a comment by the archivist.

This is a life goal I did not know I had until I achieved it.

Also this morning the old lady across the street told me that my new hat makes me look like Glinda the Good Witch from the Oz movie. It’s almost as large as my bicycle wheel, and has wire in the brim to stiffen it thanks to me spending an hour or so the day after I bought it. Definitely an hour well-spent.

 

A Lengthy Adventure Awaits

Recently I played a couple video games that do some interesting things with flat shapes as the background. Solar Ash is a lovely little thing from the same people behind Hyper Light Drifter, which has a very flat-color aesthetic overall; Elden Ring is basically the new Dark Souls game except with different lore and an open world. It’s got a much more detailed look but it does some nice stuff with flattening things out as they recede into the distance.

I wanted to play with this sort of thing so I drew this. I decided to keep the foreground simple because the focus here is much more on the sense of depth.

Usually I do this sort of thing by alternating layers with parts of the background and layers with a translucent rectangle of the sky color; this time I tried something different and used Astute’s “Shift To Color” effect on the layers. This was a little unwieldy in some ways but it made it a lot easier to have a few untinted layers that really pop out against the darker shapes; almost everything is actually drawn in the same bright cyan as the foreground, with varying amounts of purple applied via Shift To Color.

I also used their Halftone effect for the grass – custom symbol halftones are very powerful, especially with a native Tweak effect applied after to mess it up a little. If you’re curious as to how that actually works then you can grab the source from Patreon.

on edits

It suddenly strikes me that one big difference between what I read as a kid and the huge amounts of stuff I read on the internet now is how edited stuff used to be.

A magazine article, a book, a newspaper piece? Someone who was not the original author probably looked over them and asked questions. What is this trying to say? What does it actually say? How well does it convey whatever information, story, or mood it’s trying to carry, can it be improved? And their thoughts about this went to the author for another draft. Even letters to a newspaper or magazine would be edited before publication. There were things that went out as a first draft but the rule was that stuff went through a few versions.

But so much of what we read online now is a first draft. Or less, in the case of the reply someone tosses off in a corporate-owned social media commons. So much is short fragments with little nuance, and little time spent trying to find the right words for precisely conveying your message. So much is just… good enough, I guess, but never really good, or great. And comments on anything at all controversial are so often a seething pit of terrible stuff that would have been edited to hell and back before showing up in a letter column, if ever.

I miss this. I’m tired of constantly dealing with a firehose of unedited, uncurated information.


These thoughts were somehow spawned by reading Crowley’s Postcards to Probationers, which set Laurie Anderson’s “Language is a Virus” song looping in my head for a little while as I read. I haven’t decided if this means something I should chase down, but it feels worth mentioning.

Narration

well it’s not got MUCH rape

So a while back I stopped reading the Fantasy subreddit because most of what I was seeing were lengthy paens to The Wheel of Time (a series I never had much interest in when it was new, and was not at all moved to try out by the huge amount of badly-written women that its boosters went to great lengths to apologize for) and Malazan (seven thousand volumes that are All Things To All Requests somewhere in there, oh but you’ve gotta start from book 1 for any of it). A couple of days ago I decided to give it a chance again.

This morning I picked up the tablet and saw this lovely post asking for recommendations for “fantasy epics that avoid misogyny and rape as major parts of the story”. And, well, it was locked by the moderators due to a ton of replies recommending books that have a ton of rape in them, and people arguing over how much rape is too much rape, and… god what the fuck is wrong with the genre of “epic fantasy” that it has so much fucking rape in it?

I have once more stopped reading that subreddit.

Dragon Heart

Illustrator, 2h.


This Wednesday, I saw a man in a t-shirt with a pseudo-x-ray-looking ribcage on it while I was cycling through the French Quarter. I decided I really wanted that, except with a luminous dragon coiling around a glowing heart. When I got to my destination, I took a few minutes to find a decent ribcage image and scribble this over it.

Then I got to work on Parallax and forgot about it. I doubly forgot about it over the next few days; when I came home the next day, one of the cats had found her way into the neighbor’s attic and was mewing loudly out of a broken window. She’s been up there before so I just laughed and said “yes, you are the Tallest Cat today Artie, well done” and went inside, but when she was still up there in the morning and didn’t show up for the usual feeding, the SO and I started to worry.

See those windows under the peak of the roof? See the black segment on the right? Imagine a small stripey cat poking her head out and mewing very loudly and very sadly, and here’s you with no way to get up there. That was my weekend.

We ended up spending Friday and Saturday consumed by attempts to get her down before she died from dehydration. The house next door is a double; one side is unoccupied, the other’s resident was nowhere to be seen. Ultimately we managed to get into the unoccupied side, which was beginning to be renovated but was left untouched for a good while. This meant that there was a small hole in the ceiling that Artie could look through, but wasn’t willing to jump through. Still, we could get some food and water up there, which was an immense relief, because it meant we’d just reduced the problem to “convincing her to come down”; this morning, we managed that, and celebrated with king cake and with grounding her stripey ass for a few days.

Artie was very good about climbing into the carrier without even putting a treat in it, once we got it up there.

I sat around a while just scrolling the internet, which was a really nice change from two solid days of being consumed by worry over this cat who we never even asked for – she’s one of six cats who kind of came with the apartment over the past few years; the lady on the other side of the shotgun double we live in let one local cat have a few litters in her apartment before kicking them mostly out, we couldn’t not feed and scritch them, and it got up to five kids from three different litters before we finally got all of them snipped.  We kinda love them all and mostly they are not a problem but… well, we first met Artie when she got outside and climbed all the way up the doorframe and sat there in the transom window crying for help. Which we provided. She wants to be the Highest Cat but is not as good at climbing down as she is climbing, and hopefully she has learnt some hungry, cold lessons about what parts of next door are safe to climb on.

Anyway. After a while petting Artie and reading the Internet got bored. And people started tweeting about “Appreciate A Dragon Day”, which mostly seems to be observed by posting pictures of your dragon fursona, if you have one, or by saying nice things about the people in your life with dragon fursonas. I posted something nice about the users of dragon.style, the dragon-themed node of the People’s Distributed Social Network that I run, and how much I appreciate that they are there to keep it from just being me talking to myself. And then I remembered this drawing, and decided to finish it.

And now here we are with me posting it.

T-shirts, prints, laptop skins, but mostly t-shirts, can be obtained over on Redbubble. I’m ordering one myself once I’m done posting this!

And there’s a high-res render and the AI source are over on Patreon.

Weaver

The valley spirit does not die.

She is called the Mysterious Female.

Her gate is called the Connection

between Heaven and Earth.

 

Like down, or cotton—soft, soft—

yet strong and lasting as silken floss

Spinning, spinning, thin and long,

she continues on and on.

 

Use her power, and your work

Will not be hard.

— Tao Te Ching, chapter 6

(translation: Benjamin Hoff)


Illustrator, 3h.

 

Late last year I found out that the author of The Tao of Pooh had a new translation of the Tao Te Ching coming out. The unique selling point of this one is that he is trying to shorten the game of Telephone that any ancient text is subject to, by going back to the oldest versions he could find and looking into how the language had shifted over time. I hadn’t ever read the Tao Te Ching and this seemed like a good one to try, so I pre-ordered it, and promptly forgot about it.

This week, it showed up on my doorstep. A present from past me! Wednesday evening, I hit the bong and sat down with the book, intending to quietly read the whole text through with minimal reference to Hoff’s copious endnotes notes explaining both his decisions as a translator and something of what the short, oblique sentences are aiming at. But then I came to this chapter and, well, I have read a lot of books on magic, and I can tell when an author is saying “here is a helpful spirit associated with this work, you should chat with her”, and I am pretty sure that is one of those times. I got a brief flash of this image, and spent a couple hours with Illustrator instead of reading the rest of the Tao Te Ching.

High res and AI source on Patreon. Prints/shirts/wallscrolls/etc on Redbubble.

career contemplation

This morning the SO was looking at the benefits offered by the European company they work for and something like the following conversation ensued:

🐯 Huh, I could get some career counseling.

🐉 Damn. I could use some of that.

🐯 I think it’s just for me… wait, no, it’s for spouses and domestic partners, too.

And now I am sort of sitting here quietly asking, what the fuck do I want to do with my career? I have been feeling like I need to do something on and off lately and I’ve just kept on quietly doing the same thing. I have been saying I should throw a portfolio at some of the local galleries and at the folks who make Mardi Gras floats; I had fun doing some book cover work and would maybe like to try and do more but I dunno where to go for that… I dunno, I just feel like I need something different to chase, despite having no energy to chase anything.

Right now it’s just “draw comics” and “draw furry porn” and “don’t work too hard” and, let’s be honest, I’m not likely to change that last no matter what.

Judgement Takes A Holiday

The other day I saw a photo of someone’s altar to Anubis, which contained, among other things, a little toy Millennium Falcon. “I don’t know why,” they said. “Anubis just made it very clear that he wanted this on his altar.”

And this image instantly leapt to mind. Apparently a printout of it is now helping to decorate that altar, so, success!

 

Illustrator, 30min.

The Luminous Fleet

Earlier this year, A.C. Sobrero asked me to do a cover for the third book in their series, “The Luminous Fleet”. We ended up tossing a lot of email back and forth discussing the themes of the story, what kind of book covers we liked, and playing with ideas. Ultimately I wound up illustrating a scene where the commander of the invading Earth fleet talks to the Sorceror-General of the local furryish natives; I chose to do this in a style inspired by Japanese woodblock prints, since some part of the culture of the locals is inspired by Meiji-era Japan. Which was really not in the same stylistic place as a lot of the eighties SF covers we were initially looking at, but works for the story – culture clash is a major theme, and attempting to make the cover be from the non-human point of view felt like it tied into that.

 

Also it let me ask myself “how would Hokusai depict a floating hologram window” and any day where I get paid to ask questions like that is a pretty good day. :)

And for what it’s worth, Gary Ruddell’s cover for Bujold’s “Mirror Dance” was the particular inspiration for this overall composition; I had to pull back somewhat to get space to show something of the cultural differences with the outfits, and account for the extreme height differences (the lady was raised in low-gee, so is Very Tall), but this was the image that popped into my head as something to really push the “there is a conflict” theme when I was doing initial thumbnails.

And here is a screenshot of the Illustrator file with some of the reference material sprawled around the artboard. Not included: the books of Japanese prints I have on the shelves of my library that I flipped through and pondered.

Illustrator, 11.5 hours.