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.


Earlier this week I woke up and felt like what I needed to be working on was a picture of Stella sitting in a library, reading. This may be a sign that I need to do some research before doing the next few pages of her grimoire; I’m feeling the kind of resistance to working on them that usually means “something needs to be nailed down more before I get into drawing”.

There’s a lot of stuff going on in these bookcases. Firstly, the books are just simple straight lines drawn in various colors with an assortment of art brushes I made:

They’re all drawn flat, then warped into goofy cartoon perspective with a distortion mesh. Which is the weird shape highlighted in red in the above screenshot.

You may also notice that a lot of the sets of books are just a couple of lines in the outline view above; that’s done with a blend between two lines. And a little randomness is added by putting the Transform effect on each of those two lines, with a small vertical transformation, and the Random box checked:

And finally, I use Astute’s Block Shadow effect (in the Stylism plugin) to give some depth to the books by extruding them:

Each shelf has different angles to create a vague sense of perspective. It’s kind of sloppy, but all the lighting effects hide that. If I wanted them to be clearer I’d spend some time thinking about a way to get the edge of a page block in there between the covers. Good enough for now, though. And it took a ton less time to give the books depth with the Block Shadow plugin than it would’ve taken to do it manually.

The whole thing took about five hours, spread out over three days. I shudder to imagine how long it would have taken if I’d had to individually draw every book by hand. I think it was like an hour and a half of work from “I have empty shelves placed where I want them in the composition” to “I have shelves full of books and a few knick-knacks”, thanks to thoughtful use of art brushes and the block shadow effect.

The AI2021 source file is available over on Patreon, if you wanna poke around. It may be weird if you don’t have the Astute plugins. And if you want this on a shirt or a laptop cover or a mug or something, you can get that over on Redbubble.

The Exterior View

“It’s all in your head; you just have no idea how big your head is.” – Lon Milo Duquette

In certain magical operations that I have been doing regularly, it is useful to visualize yourself as bigger than the entire universe. So I did a drawing of Soror Fututum Stella to help me solidify this feeling.

The Path of Beauty and Spendour

The Path of Beauty and Spendour

night sky star shine

evening slow and long

incense out, swirl and ponder

see what shapes become

So lately I’ve been doodling this jackal lady with stars in her hair and her fur, and snakes in her heart and soul. She might be me. She might not be me. I haven’t decided.

Tonight I idly looked at Deviantart and pondered their current contest/advertising campaign, where one is asked to draw an “Art-vatar”: “an artistic alter ego that uses unconventional tools for their masterpiece”. And for once, the whim took me to actually do this. Two hours of fiddling around in Illustrator later, this came out.

She is currently known as Soror Fututum Stella, and all the other drawings of her so far are pretty smutty.