Bear Berries: A COVID Comic

Bear Berries: A COVID Comic

Way back in March of 2020, we were just still getting used to wearing masks in public spaces. My partner Devin and I wore matching cat masks made by his mother to the local supermarket by the lake. The cashier offered us a silly conversation so I decided to immortalize it in comic form. Sometimes a person is very cute and funny for no other reason than to be human…or was he a bear, like, for real?!

I imagine most stories from the lost year of 2020 will not be very amusing. It was a year of quiet, sweeping change. My focus on levity here is to give the reader a quick respite before they must go about their day.

Art software: Photoshop
Lettering software: InDesign
Typeface: Cloudsplitter by Blambot; hand-lettering by me

Comics Tip

Have you ever had this situation? Lots of fussy objects in the same composition, each requiring its own specific color, but it doesn’t really matter which color? Manually picking different colors annoys me, so I messed with the brush settings in Adobe Photoshop.

Color Dynamics
There’s this Brush Setting in Adobe Photoshop called ‘Color Dynamics’ and if configured as seen above, the brush will choose different colors based on my current foreground color per every press of the stylus. For my own use, I keep the amount of brightness and saturation jitters pretty low, and turn hue jitter completely off. This means every time I lift the brush, and tap it back on the screen, I get a slightly different color — pretty much within the range of what I want, but I exercised zero brain power to get it. And if I don’t like the color, all I have to do is lift the stylus and press it back down for a different one. That’s how I blow through hundreds of not-very-important objects that still need their own color identities. Thanks, computer!

 

“What’s a Foreground Color?”
I’m glad you asked. It’s the color represented by the box in front, and the color that reliably comes out of your brush when Color Dynamics aren’t active. If you check ‘Foreground/Background’ jitter in the Color Dynamics menu, your brush will randomly select colors in between the two colors defined here.

 


If you’d like to try Color Dynamics for yourself on the same panel I did, or create your own strategies for dealing with situations like this, feel free to grab this Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) coloring panel and pop it into the coloring program of your choice. I’d love to see what you do!

 

Bonus chaos
Try ticking ‘Apply Per Tip’…I dare you…

Care to read more?

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 5/6

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Want to chat about this?

Vegetable Lamb of Tartary Illustration

Vegetable Lamb of Tartary Illustration

This is the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary, otherwise known as the Barometz plant. It is an outstanding example of how information warps when delivered in unreliable ways, resulting in a medieval-ish cryptid. This creature was inspired by two real plants, the first* of which was:

Cotton (Gossypium)

The plant was said to sprout lambs as though they were fruits. The lambs were connected to the plant by an umbilical-cord like stem, and could only eat the surrounding vegetation. After it ate everything it could reach, the lamb-fruit would die. I will also point out that medieval bestiary designers would often include cryptids in their books as religious metaphors, rather than strictly accurate scientific observations.

Even after Europeans became clearly aware of cotton, they still heard tales of a plant that sprouted from the body of a lamb. The second* plant to be mixed into this cryptid’s lore was the Woolly Fern. The rhizome that allows this fern to grow looks vaguely like a sheep, I suppose. I could imagine a situation where a European traveler in Central Asia would be taken aside by a friendly stranger and showed a funny little sheep doll, this Barometz, which would sprout into:

Wooly Fern (Cibotium barometz)
See the ‘wool’ between the stems?

Depending on who spoke of the legend, where, and when, the plant either fruited with sheep, or it grew out of a sheep-fruit. That inspired my composition to show a sheep fruiting itself from…itself! The legend fed into itself that way. Sometimes a creature is most real via hearsay, and that’s where it exists forever.

*’First’ and ‘second’ do not refer to anything chronological in terms of the legends surrounding this cryptic. I only used them within the context of presenting one plant at a time as a blog post.Comics Tip

Preserving Textures in Photoshop with Masking
Say you want to forego the tedious experience of manually applying gold leaf to a page, or painting it on. Digital art is great for this and using Masking in Photoshop lowers the stakes even more.

To get started, bring a gold leaf texture into Photoshop on its own layer. This texture’s from pixabay.com, a great Creative Commons resource for art assets. Make sure the layer is selected, then look at the bottom of your Layers menu.

 

 

The buttons at the bottom of your menu look like this.
Click this button while your texture layer is selected.

 

The button applies a ‘mask’ to the layer, represented by the white box. The corner reticules mean all drawing will be done on the mask, rather than the texture underneath the mask.

While your Masking layer is selected, the colors on your Brush palette will change to black and white.

Black acts like an ‘eraser’ on the Masking layer. But, it’s not exactly the same as the Eraser tool, because the texture underneath the Masking layer is preserved, just hidden.

White ‘restores’ whatever you masked with black!

If you select your texture, your color palette goes back to whatever it was prior to selecting the masking layer. You can then manipulate the texture under the mask.

Try it out!

You can apply a texture of your own and mask it onto this coloring page that I’m providing under Attribution Noncommercial 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC 3.0).

Care to read more?

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 5/6

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 5/6

Character Redesigns and Styleguide RevampsAs I've been thumbnailing the script of Warlock'd as my self-assigned work during Sequential Artist Workshop's Graphic Novel Intensive, I've also had to sit and revisit my comic's styleguide. There has been some character...

Marginalia Studies

Marginalia Studies

Skull BishopHours of Saint-Omer, France ca. 1320 BL, Add 36684, fol. 84v Illustration Style ShiftPrior to 2021, I used a more painterly style for my illustrations. I was frustrated by the amount of time it took to drag painterly illustrations out of the Uncanny...

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A Little Lettering over LunchRecently I had the very awesome and fun honor of guest speaking at a Kids Comics Unite Lunch n' Learn session on comics lettering. I was invited by Janna Morishima to do a presentation for those who don't know where to get started on this...

Want to chat about this?