Mamma Caxaux’s Old-Fashioned Spiderade

This idea’s been kicking around for a while. When I was living in Boston I doodled a few things on some largish pieces of illustration board, and one of them was a pretty goth lady advertising “Spiderade”, a drink full of spiders. I was always intending to dig it out and finish it in a vaguely Mucha-influenced style.

This October, I remembered this idea and started on it from scratch. Finished it off today. It ended up being more of a 1950s magazine ad, with some process choices inspired by the look of hand-separated drybrush work. Maybe someday I’ll do another Spiderade ad in a deco style like I originally wanted to. Maybe not. Who knows?

Illustrator, five and a half hours, including the half an hour I spent tracing some wrought iron balcony elements from my photos of the French Quarter, and the half an hour I spent changing it all to not use overprinting because Illustrator no longer simulates them when rendering out a jpeg. Maybe someday I will trace a few more of those balcony elements and sell a package of them.

Prints/shirts/etc on Redbubble, if you want ’em. Illustrator source on Patreon.


One of the cats who lives under our house. Illustrator, 30min.

Mostly done because I saw a picture of a bear in this sort of style posted on the Illustrator subreddit that had everyone going “oh god this is SO LABOR INTENSE I’d do it in Photoshop” and I wanted to find out exactly how piss-easy it would be to do if you actually know anything abut Illustrator. My estimate for the image that inspired this was a couple hours of work at most, and after doing this I feel like it’d probably take me an hour to get an animal face to a similar level of finesse. Maybe a little less after really dialing in the scatter brushes to draw the fur.

AI2020 source:

More Symbiosis Than Parasitism

Last week, my SO and I were watching “What We Do In The Shadows”, and came to the episode where Colin Robinson, the Energy Vampire who feeds off of peoples’ boredom and stress, gets a promotion at work and becomes dangerously powerful.

This lead to the SO insisting that, no, really, that’s kind of them, and some discussion of the internal mythology that their several equine fursonas are all really just their changeling character playing different roles, so I decided to draw Schadi sitting on top of the serpent-dragon version of myself I’ve been drawing lately and having a nice glass of hearts. Which are pretty consensually given, I definitely get stuff out of this relationship. Like “help with bills” and “cuddles” and “writing scripts for our comics” and whatnot.

Illustrator, about an hour? Maybe two? I didn’t formally track this one and it’s part of the “horny doodles 2021” file so squinting at Time Sink’s tracking data is a matter of guessing when I was working on this and when I was drawing whatever weird stuff my loins wanted me to.

Illustrator source on Patreon, no prints today because I’m tired.

Perhaps We Should Invoke Fotamecus

“hey peggy would you be interested in drawing a scene from my RPG campaign where one of my characters is fighting a big nasty monster straight off an old pulp magazine while another one is winding up some serious Time Magic”

“sounds good”


Really this one didn’t change much from the initial sketch, aside from some experimentation at the very end with the palette for Howell (the four-armed wolf lady in the front). Originally she was bright red, which popped a lot more, but made her look a bit too much like a fox rather than a wolf in the commissioner’s eyes.

We tried a few palette variants before settling on the more representational grey.

It was fun to do something limited color like this, I’ve been kinda missing it with all the painterly stuff I’ve been doing lately. I should do it more.

Yellow Submarine

A couple of days ago, someone posted a little drawing of a yellow submarine to the Illustrator subreddit. It was cute and round and a perfectly decent little icon-scale submarine, but it wasn’t what I expected when I clicked on it. What I was expecting was the vehicle design from the Beatles animated movie. The one that I was obsessed with when I was a kid and could draw from memory. The one that’s from a movie I usually cite as one of the reasons that made me want to become an animator.

So I decided to draw it.

Two days later, it’s done.

Here’s a few closeups off the Beatles and couple of Blue Meanies:

Illustrator, 4.5h.

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


gator gator gator gator

How to quickly make a repeating pattern brush from a long image, without wasting your time swearing at the Pathfinder palette.

  1. Draw a funny little alligator. Or a pickle. Or a snake. Or an abstract pattern. Whatever.
  2. Make two duplicates of the whole gator, and the rectangles you want to crop it with.
  3. On the first gator, delete the left and right rectangles. Then select the whole gator and the center rectangle, and do object>clipping mask>make.
  4. Select the now-invisible clipping mask. Copy it. Deselect all. Edit>Paste in back.
  5. Select the clipping mask, its contents, and the invisible rectangle behind it. Make a pattern from it.
  6. On the second gator, do steps 2-3, except keep and duplicate the leftmost rectangle. Make another pattern.
  7. Third gator, third rectangle. Steps 2-3 again.
  8. Make an art brush using all gator part patterns.
  9. Enjoy your gator brush.

(Or make an art brush directly from the art in step 4 instead of making the pattern, set the Brush palette to List View, then alt-drag the front and back parts of the gator into the appropriate slots in the brush instead of making patterns.)

The secret sauce here is the invisible rectangle behind everything. If you have one of these, then Illustrator will use this as the boundary of an art/pattern brush. If you don’t then it’ll use the bounding box of everything, including the hidden clipped parts – make another three copies of the gator and skip step 3 to see this in action. Without the clipping mask it’ll still work but you’ll get the whole gator image drawn along the path, overlapping.

In general I recommend staying the fuck away from the Pathfinder palette, it rarely behaves like you expect it to and will make you swear for hours on end. Use clipping masks/Draw Inside, pattern fills, or opacity masks instead.

Here’s an Illustrator file demonstrating this:

The Terrible Secret Of Age

in ad 2001

meme was beginning

“cats” set us up the laughs

you have become old; treasure your time.

Earlier this month, there was a post on Hacker News where someone showed off their attempts to start writing some game engines in a language named “Zig”. My joke that they should consider using these engines to write an actual game – say, a port of “Zero Wing” – fell completely flat.

This past week I found myself looking at an animation of crude redraws of the characters from the intro to the 1991 Genesis port of that largely-forgettable 1989 arcade game singing their poorly-translated dialogue to the tune of Queen’s 1975 song “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

And I felt old. I felt indescribably old. Nobody got my joke because there are tons of people who are fully functional young adults who have no idea what this is because they were five when it was the talk of the Internet.

So I decided to draw Stella dressed up as “CATS”. Or, rather, dressed up as the horrible realization that if you recognize who she’s dressed as, you are also probably getting old.

Anyway. Illustrator source is on Patreon; prints/shirts/clocks are on Redbubble.

Total Peganthyrus Vortex

that moment when the drugs kick in and you realize that there is absolutely nothing in the universe except you and your infinite reflections

So one of the things I do to put off getting work done is to go to the Illustrator subreddit and answer people’s “how do I do this” questions. Yesterday there was someone asking how to do this:

 to which I replied

  1. draw a thing, select the thing
  2. object>distortion mesh>make with mesh, just make it 1×1
  3. mesh tool, click on the edge of the mesh around where you want to make stuff wavy, zoom in close and click slightly above this place so that there are now two mesh lines very close to each other
  4. select the top two points of the mesh and the upper of the two mesh lines you just created, drag upwards
  5. make a couple more mesh lines in this space you’ve opened up, move ’em around
  6. also play with the settings in object>envelope distort>envelope options, a low setting on the “fidelity” slider can make some really interesting glitches.

(You could also go old-school on this and find a photocopier; moving stuff around on the glass as the scan head is moving creates similar effects. Do a dozen or so tries until you find one you like, then scan it, and autotrace/work over it in AI.)

And today someone asked how to do this:
…where I suggested

Draw one vertical line of arches. Make it into a pattern brush. Draw a circle using this brush. Duplicate the circle and rotate it a little and change its color; play with opacity masks.

Making the varying blur/sharp parts is something I’d have to think about for a while in front of Illustrator, offhand I’d probably do it by drawing three arches with a green stroke at 0%, 100%, and 0% opacity, blending them, then duplicating the blends to make the line of arches to use in the pattern brush. Might have to expand the blends before making them into a brush.

I’d verified that the warp effect worked by doing it to a copy of the picture I drew yesterday, which is where the “play with the distortion effect settings” part came from – I liked how a low fidelity made a total mess of things.

So after spending about fifteen minutes fooling around with those circular patterns this morning to see if my idea worked…

…I realized that I could very quickly use this as a tool to make something akin to Escher’s “Circle Limit” images with a lot less work than he had to put into those. So I fooled around a while and this was the result.

Here’s the outline view, with the distortion mesh on and off – stuff you put inside a distortion mesh goes to a weird netherland, and vanishes from the main canvas unless you say “swap the dmesh for the stuff inside it so I can edit that”.

The two dragons at the corners are repeated by use of the Transform effect; getting the right settings was made a ton easier by using Astute’s “Stylism” tool, which provides nice interactive on-canvas controls for this effect and several others instead of Adobe’s modal dialogue boxes full of numeric fields.

If you wanna see the source, it’s up on Patreon. If you want a print of this, it’s on Redbubble.


A couple of days ago, my friend Dana posted a picture of her ponysona.

“This is cute and I should draw this,” I thought to myself. So the next day, I did. She liked it and made a closeup of it her Twitter icon, so I’m happy.

It is unlikely I will draw Pedantia again any time soon but as always, I’m ready to do so quickly since I followed my usual habit of making a bunch of Graphic Styles with sensible names. This slightly sped up doing this drawing, and if I need to draw her again then I can just grab those styles out of this file and very quickly start making shapes.

I am especially happy with the “freckle” style. It’s a starfield scatter brush I made ages ago, with the parameters drastically altered to stay close to the path I draw, then some effects applied to make the perfect little circles into slightly-blotchy shapes that mimic both the look of “dots created by Dana tapping her stylus on her drawing tablet” and of “small irregular spots of increased melanin”.

Overall this took about an hour’s work in Illustrator.

skellington repair

A few days ago, someone broke the goofy smiling skeleton-on-a-bike windcatcher we’ve had in the front lawn since around Halloween 2019 – we put him up and just never took him down, because this is the kind of town where you can just be the Spooky House On The Block.

Today I took a look at the damage; there was a plastic rod that went up inside to keep the flat, printed skeleton erect, and that was snapped off at the base. Someone definitely whacked it, and took the supporting rod out from inside.

I looked around the house a while, and ended up taking a leftover part from this skeleton’s installation; this is the second time this has happened, the last time everything vanished except for the lower part of the rod that goes into the ground. So I had a spare one of those, which I was able to slip inside the skeleton , and duct tape to the bicycle.

I felt so damn domestic, somehow, standing out there rigging this repair to a piece of absurd lawn decor.

Ride safe, Mr. Skellington. Perhaps we should add a skeletal flamingo, or another cyclist, or something.