On the Care and Feeding of Teleoceras

On the Care and Feeding of Teleoceras

Digital artwork of two miniature teleoceras rhinocerouses, but with corgi coloring. One rhino perches on a fancy leather chair with a plushie and pillows and a blankie. The other rhino is eating kibble from a bowl labeled 'Petunia'. There are chew toys on the ground, and umbrellas with rhino-shaped handles in the background, and a portrait of the two rhinos hanging on the wall nearby. Clearly this person who owns these rhinos enjoys them a lot!

On the Care and Feeding of Teleoceras
Hello, new pet owner! Teleoceras is a miniature breed of rhinocerous with a big personality. If you’ve never owned one before, they can be a handful. Multiple handfuls. Many many handfuls. 

Diet
Alfalfa kibble and hay are mainstays in any little rhino’s diet. Be sure to keep a steady stock of this at all times. They graze for hours at a time. Cheap and easy treats are carrots, avocados (which they devour whole, seed and all), and the occasional ice cube. Enrichment may be provided by burying their favorite foods under a layer of play-sand or earth.

Grooming
Teleoceras love a good mud bath. For best protection on long walks in the sun, allow them to roll about in the mud and then allow it to form a dry ‘cake’ over their skin. When the walk is over, the mud can be cracked with gentle palm pressure and brushed away. The mud also keeps insects away.

Surprisingly, Teleoceras have fragile feet. To prevent cracking of footpads, refrain from walking Teleoceras on hot surfaces such as asphalt in summer. If their feet become cracked, obtain a medicinal mud mix from your local veterinarian and give your rhino a quick mani-pedicure. When properly acclimated to having their feet handled, their toenails can (and should) be filed as well.

Enrichment
Teleoceras do well on their own or with a partner teleoceras. Armed with a large, sturdy rubber ball, a teleoceras can have a wild day, provided they also have ample space to run around in the sunshine. A good pond for swimming always goes over well, especially if it is allowed to turn into mud during the summer. Indoor teleoceras can be trained to use treadmills and burn off some extra energy. Well-meant but terrible toys for a teleoceras include above-ground pools, beach balls, and trampolines.

A bored teleoceras is a teleoceras who is knocking over walls in your house. If your mortgage is on the line, consider a cat instead.

Training
Teleoceras have low eyesight and primarily rely on audio cues for training. Their senses of touch and taste can also be engaged with gentle touch-gestures and treats. Teleoceras do best in houses with static layouts and open doors. Woe to the owner who closes a previously-open door to one of these stubborn creatures…The door rarely wins.

Teleoceras can learn simple tricks. “Here” is a good starter command, useful for getting them to move to somewhere they are wanted, or away from elsewhere, where they are not wanted, as they are very heavy and therefore not good at cuddling, nor are they easy to drag around. Once trained to seek out a lowered hand (often with a treat hidden inside), a teleoceras rarely disobeys on purpose. “Slow” is also a good additional command for when a teleoceras is a bit too happy and charging with its full weight to meet a favorite human.

A Teleoceras often does not stop moving once started. Its momentum often spells the doom of anything in one’s way. Agility course training is not recommended.

It’s important to remember that modern Teleoceras are descended from much larger Ice Age megafauna. Teleoceras are very difficult to move when it is not their own idea. They must be acclimated to car rides over many exposure sessions. Carpeted ramps are recommended to help them safely climb into and out of vehicles, and to stay away from the gas and brake pedals. They are, perhaps fortunately, not too big on jumping.

Final Notes
To be a good neighbor, always keep your teleoceras firmly trained and either indoors or inside of a reinforced paddock. Leashes, harnesses, etc. are useless on these little creatures, although the bitey ones may be trained to be comfortable in a muzzle. Also, don’t forget to spay and neuter your pet. We don’t need any more feral rhinocerouses roaming through suburbia than we already have.

Good luck!

 

Comics Tip

Fast Flatting Saves Wrists
If you’re anything like me, you don’t want to spend any amount of time re-tracing lines you’ve already drawn for an art piece just to fill it with flat colors. After experimenting fruitlessly with what was taught to me as the ‘correct’ ways to draw and color in photoshop, I threw it all out and came up with something dirt simple. Criminal, even. If you’ve worked with digital media for any sort of time, what I’m about to describe will make you feel deeply uncomfortable.

But the thing is? For the look I want? This flatting technique works.

And it’s awful. But in a fun way!

Quick Notes about DPI
Before I show you my technique, here are some quick tips about DPI (Dots Per Inch) from a printing perspective. The rule of thumb is everything printable needs to be 300 DPI or higher, or else it will print with pixellated feathering (also known as anti-aliasing, and this is not the first time I’ll bring it up, so remember this term). However, this is mostly applicable to objects you hold in your hand and can look at up close. Billboards are often printed at 72 dpi because they’re viewed from so far away, for instance.

So! Extrapolating from that knowledge, I asked myself, does anti-aliasing matter on a print document that is 300 DPI or higher?

I knew the answer to this from my work lettering, curiously enough! I am sometimes able to look at comic pages and there, I learned, that the lines on comics aren’t anti-aliased. They’re sharp pixels. When they print, the small pixels look the same as lines that are anti-aliased.

Ditch Anti-Aliasing, and Embrace the Pencil
That’s right, everyone. I use Pencil tool now. When I draw a closed shape…

Pixelly drawing of a smiley face
Duplicate the layer to preserve the lines on their own…

The smiley face has a pink fill now!

I can use the fill tool like a child with MSPaint on the extra layer, and love it.

The smiley face has marching ants, indicating that I've selected the pink fill.
This even makes it easily selectable for extra shading and detail!

Digital artwork of the two rhinos featured at the beginning of the post. Instead of being fully colored, they are lineart ready for coloring.The above lineart has no anti-aliasing and is ready for fill tool!
The lineart is licensed under CC-BY-NA-3.0.

Care to read more?

Converting a Webcomic into a Graphic Novel Pitch

Converting a Webcomic into a Graphic Novel Pitch

Retrofitting Dinosaurs for the Future of HumankindRAWR! Dinosaur Friends started out as a webcomic concept, one that I wasn't initially intending to pitch as a proper graphic novel. The first iteration was a slapdash, punk homage to the natural history museums I loved...

Goblin Week 2022 Retrospective

Goblin Week 2022 Retrospective

Throwing Down on Social MediaI don't often participate in big group challenges in public, but this one caught my interest: Goblin Week! It was started by Evan Dahm in 2012 and every year, the goblins just get more goblin-y. I created seven different goblins with...

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UX Testing on Comics with a Target Audience

UX Testing on Comics with a Target Audience

My goal with RAWR! Dinosaur Friends is to create informational fiction that doesn’t feel like a lecture. I want my readers to feel curious about the world. Not only that, I want them to feel equipped to explore that curiosity. In generally I’d really love to make science feel less…enthroned(?) As a static collection of facts. I also find the usual hodgepodge of ‘safe’ dinosaur facts pretty dull. Most conclusive, immutable facts we have about dinosaurs are dates and locations where their remains were found because we can never go back in time to see a living dinosaur. While I understand that a book having dated or disproven evidence is problematic, I have to ask…Where is the wonder? Where is the exploration? Science isn’t lists. Science isn’t facts. Science is an active, interactive pursuit.

When I first created RAWR! Dinosaur Friends as an armchair natural history blog, this spread on convergent evolution became quite popular. It resonated with over 2000 people. Maybe I could update the art and expand it with some sort of interactive exploration activity? Something with open-ended questions, so kids feel like they’re being engaged in a conversation, and invited to come to their own conclusions?

I updated my blog post as a full-color history concept with jokes, followed by a page of diagrams. The readers aren’t expected to form a specific answer by looking at these diagrams. The diagrams are there for comparison and maybe a little drawing practice. If someone from my target audience decided to give that a try, I would consider it a success.

I then showed these pages to my amazing writing group, the Night Writers, and esteemed scicomm author/illustrator Ellie Peterson stepped up to help! Her class of middle-schoolers was more than eager to help by looking at these spreads and writing their (hilariously candid) thoughts all over them. Thank you so much, Ellie! While Ellie’s students weren’t required to draw anything, she did ask them whether they would draw a diagram or not. Many of the responses were really cool. These kids are perceptive!


This was a really exciting and validating response! That’s all I really want readers to do, is to compare images for themselves, because scientists deal with exploring observations all the time.

No UX test (or comics creation process) is complete without at least one existential crisis. Maybe this kid was having a bad day…But, they had great notes on the other page’s bone diagrams so at least they were interested in the subject matter. Either way, it’s best for me to stay humble.

Statistics
Comments on the ‘fuzz’ joke in the opening spread:
“funny” [sic]
“Lol. :)” [sic]
“I dont know what the point of this is” [sic]

Total of 6th graders who indicated they would draw the skeletons: 3
Total of 6th graders who indicated they would not draw the skeletons: 2
Maybes on drawing the skeletons: 2
No answer on whether they would draw a skeleton or not: 5
Conclusion: When guided to these pages in an educational environment and given two options, 6th graders sometimes consider drawing dinosaur bones. Even when the 6th grader in question decided they wouldn’t draw the bones, they still wrote their observations of the bones on the page. That means readers are observing the differences in bones, which is the big thing I want readers to do with this book concept. The drawing suggestion is an extra activity for kids who really like comparing pterosaur wings to bird wings.

Grammatical corrections to dino chatspeak by 6th graders: 5
Conclusion: Pterosaurs and birds might brush up on their grammar!

What changes would I make in response to this data?
At the moment, I don’t know how I would edit my comic, because a lot of the ‘confusing layout’ notes would be solved with book binding firmly separating the pages. The speech bubbles on page two in the first spread are under review as something I should edit. The data pool was small and the comic is only a four-page sample, so I’ll try not to overcorrect. I am also going to have to revamp my original idea of making all the organisms talk in chatspeak, per a meeting with an editor who indicated I may have to rethink it and instead give them a silly typeface.

I was glad that many kids trusted their teacher enough to admit that they wouldn’t draw the diagrams because that indicated an environment where they could be honest. In general I trusted the answers they wrote. I’d have loved to see at least one attempt at drawing the diagrams, but the pages didn’t have any room for that (It’s meant to be an activity that takes place on a reader’s own paper outside of the book, anyway). If I work with an educator again, I may ask for drawing paper to be provided to see if kids actually want to draw bones or not. Sometimes a kid says ‘sure, yeah let’s do this’ but when it comes down to actually drawing they might hesitate.

My big takeaway from the UX test was that kids would, at least, interact with science in a comic format when given the environment and the materials. I can use that knowledge to help sell the concept overall of ‘interactive science’.


Also, this was the best feedback.

Comics Tip

Understanding a comic’s target audience is key to pitching it to an agent or even a publisher. Maybe a comics creator has an idea of who their readers should be, but isn’t quite sure. It’s hard to say what middle schoolers think is cool without querying the source. All sorts of things could have changed between the time someone is twelve years old and creating publishable comics.

My career as a UX/UI professional was short and depressing, but here are some of the things I learned that are helpful for parsing critical feedback.

  1. Involve the target audience as soon as possible (if there is one).
  2. Even a poorly-designed experiment is better than no experiment, but adjusting interpretations and improving experiments is key.
  3. The best way to get the most honest feedback is to not be present, personally.
  4. ‘Like’ and ‘Dislike’ are often less important than what people are specifically reacting to in the work. However, an overwhelming amount of either should be regarded as significant and allowed to influence what the project becomes.
  5. Nothing survives the audience.
  6. Data may be mathematical and immutable, but my response and proposed solutions are human and therefore subjective.

Ellie was really helpful to me when she offered to bring my work to her class because she became a neutral presenter for my work. The kids didn’t have to worry about offending or impressing me when they interacted with the comics pages. I also imagine that as their cool biology teacher, the kids involved trusted her and that also allowed them to give lots of feedback freely. As a result I have some nice talking points for when I pitch RAWR! Dinosaur Friends as a middle-grade graphic novel for publishers to pick up. I wouldn’t have had this knowledge about my specific project without her help.

Digital artwork of a pterosaur, a bird, and a bat in front of a square. The lines are blank for coloring.

If you want to be part of my next UX study, print this out, color it, post it somewhere, and tag me to come look at it. It’s licensed under CC-BY-NC 3.0.

 

Care to read more?

Converting a Webcomic into a Graphic Novel Pitch

Converting a Webcomic into a Graphic Novel Pitch

Retrofitting Dinosaurs for the Future of HumankindRAWR! Dinosaur Friends started out as a webcomic concept, one that I wasn't initially intending to pitch as a proper graphic novel. The first iteration was a slapdash, punk homage to the natural history museums I loved...

Goblin Week 2022 Retrospective

Goblin Week 2022 Retrospective

Throwing Down on Social MediaI don't often participate in big group challenges in public, but this one caught my interest: Goblin Week! It was started by Evan Dahm in 2012 and every year, the goblins just get more goblin-y. I created seven different goblins with...

Want to chat about this?