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.

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.


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.

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.

Plush City

Earlier this year, I got commissioned to help with a redesign of the front page of Plush City, a Mastodon instance with a plush toy theme. Mawr was looking for a children’s book vibe; they sent me some excerpts from a few of their favorites, and I figured out ways to adapt my usual no-lines Illustrator process into something that felt a bit more like colored pencil and watercolor than impossibly perfect cyber-colors.

There is also a night-time version, that shows up depending on what time it is.

The orange/maroon elephant is a cameo of Mr. Elmer, who was my mother’s childhood toy. He sits atop my shelf now, keeping an eye on me for her.

Illustrator, 12h total, including the alternate version and a repeating background pattern and a couple other little bits that I didn’t show here.

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: artie.ai

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.