So I Went Adventuring…

So I Went Adventuring…

Digital artwork of a chipper, perhaps even smarmy, kingfisher on a branch. The kingfisher is decked out in fantasy royal knight regalia. This includes a blue cape with ermine fur on the inside, a small buckler strapped to her shoulder, a sword strapped to her back, and a dagger attached to a belt wrapped under her distinctive red 'belt' of feathers which marks her as a Belted Kingfisher. The sky is big, bold, and blue behind her, ripe for adventure!

Lady Sigrid von Eisvogel
“Lady Sigrid von Eisvogel of Gürtelfischer Manor (she/her) is an adventuress who has gained some notoriety as a skilled and fearless swordfighter in recent years. Her origins are somewhat mysterious. While she is more than happy to talk about her home and family, neither she nor various other interested parties have been able to turn up a single other person who has seen or even heard of the realm she claims to come from. Those of a more sceptical disposition might say that it is rather convenient for her that nobody can verify her claims of being a warrior-princess. However, while she may or may not be a princess, the “warrior” part is evidently accurate, so it is wise not say such things within earshot of her.”

-R. Kraft, Avians & Aviaries

About This Piece
Lady Sigrid here would not exist without the chance sighting of a kingfisher by my photographer friend, GettoKnowNature. Kingfishers are notoriously elusive photography subjects and here was one just chilling on a branch one winter morning! The bird had so much character, I was equally smitten when Nature’s luck.

Digital photograph of a belted kingfisher perched on a branch full of lichens. The sky is super blue behind her. The kingfisher is female because it has a rusty brown 'belt' around her waist.Photograph byGettoKnowNature. Displayed with permission.

So, I did what I do best when I see a cheeky beak: I drew it! I also found out tangentially that kingfishers are related to kookaburras. This was related to noticing the beak and crest being kookaburra-like.

Where Have I Been?
I have been right here, busy as ever. Perhaps busier. I had to put the blog on the backburner when contracting picked up a little too much to maintain everything I wanted to accomplish. I return with thoughts on how to continue making the two-week schedule I’d originally envisioned here managable.

Simpler Posts
Step one, from here on out each post will simply be that. I won’t add tutorials to the end. These tutorials were taking a lot of my time. I couldn’t trust that they were accurately conveying the concepts I wanted to teach. Finally, each one kind of contained enough information to be its own blog post, which often felt at odds with the subjects I was actively blogging about. Therefore, whenever I make a tutorial post in the future, it will be its own fullblown post! I think this would be very fun and make the amount of work involved feel like it’s worth it.

Status/Update Journaling
Step two, there will be times when I don’t precisely have a finished product to show. I’m opening myself to status updates and observations that come with that. I’m already experimenting with it via my Amphiox project and it feels great.

Blog Redesign
I would also like my blog to feel less detached and all-over-the-place. I’m going to revisit the layout and make it easier to navigate through posts and find posts with similar tags and categories. I think it should feel like it’s part of my main website rather than a different area.

Up Next
I’m tabling at GeekGirlCon! This is one of my favorite, favorite conventions. I’ll be at table 915 so if you’re in the Seattle area on Saturday 5th November, I’d love to meet you. I will have a new zine and tons of new prints, plus some returning goodies from years past. It has been a long time since I tabled anywhere due to COVID but I’m looking forward to getting back into these. I love meeting people so much.

Care to read more?

Amphiox Monthly Challenge: Setting the Stage

Amphiox Monthly Challenge: Setting the Stage

How to Draw a Whole New WorldOn August 15th, I was halfway through a self-appointed monthly comics challenge to create rough art for a 48-page short fantasy story. I'd been lenient with my goals, imagining that most of my time would be spent designing the environment...

Amphiox Comic – August Challenge Prep

Amphiox Comic – August Challenge Prep

A Break from the Webcomic DoldrumsI’ve been working hard on Warlock’d, but not in any capacity ready for public release. There is a lot of editing to be done on it (and has been done on it) and it gets overwhelming on a day-to-day basis. One issue has been that I’m...

Writing is Like…

Writing is Like…

Just What Am I Doing With All These Phonetic Marks, Anyway?I've been deep in the documents lately (hence the break in blog update schedule two weeks ago). A few different projects are being juggled with not much, visually, to show for them. Each one feels endless and...

Want to chat about this?

Gastronomy Chart

Gastronomy Chart

Full-color digital artwork of 250+ creatures of the Carboniferous period. A graphic of the world in the upper left corner encourages viewers to 'spot 'em all!'. The Carboniferous lasted from 359.2-299 mya. There are too many creatures in the graphic to name, but there are sharks, nautiloids, ammonites, fish, amphibians, arachnids, insects, and even a couple of edaphosaurs (mammalian reptiles) present in this period. They're scattered all around the continents before they were even Pangea. Plenty of plants dot the landscape in between, including plants still extant today such as ginkgo.

An Illustration of Gastronomical Proportions
This one-shot editorial illustration represents mashups of foods that I personally enjoy and celestial bodies. I wanted to make a large print for sale in-person at conventions. Someday, I may open an online shop as well, but for now this exists as an exercise in creating a compelling illustration out of lots of fiddly bits. The meals involved as puns are all based on my own personal tastes and are in no way representative of all the great food out there. I should be ashamed of all these puns, but no, I’m going to include a chart so that you can track down each and every one of them. Many of the puns were contributed by regular viewers to my weekly livestream and no, I’m not sure whether I should thank or blame them.

Gastronomy labeled map - full details pending

Horoscopes
As a writing exercise, I wrote encouraging food-themed horoscopes for each zodiac sign.

Steak

Aries
“B-aries”

You are bold and swift. As you charge forth into your creative endeavors, remember that the things you are creating and offering to the world can also be things that you, yourself, enjoy.

Steak

Pisces
“Stargazy Pie”-sces

You’re looking at the stars all the time in search of inspiration. Don’t forget to glance in front of you every now and then. We wouldn’t want you to end up in someone else’s pie.

Steak

Aquarius
“Asparagus”

Today, you’re going to chop all the woody parts off your project. This will make it super soft, buttery, and crisp after it’s fried. Look to Taurus and pour a little red wine for a great pairing.

Steak

Saggitarius
Saggi-“Pear”-ius

Keep your eye on the prize, but — if you can load your arrow upfront, who would blame you? Maybe you have a secret resource that you’re not utilizing yet. No shame in using it.

Steak

Scorpio
Lobster Tail

You might be severely underrated. Even prisoners didn’t want to eat lobster in Victorian England. But look at this dish now — Golden, buttery, delicious…expensive. Boil your heart out.

Steak

Libra
Li-“Bread”

Your work is going to be a staple in someone’s life. Maybe not everyone likes raisins in their loaf, or rye, or sourdough, but trying different angles will show you the true grain eventually.

Steak

Virgo
Extra “Virgo” Olive Oil

Honey, you’re delicious, and you belong in every meal. Just remember to add yourself after the pan is heated so you don’t evaporate into smoke. Tonight: sit in a bowl with some oregano

Steak

Leo
Le-“Orange”

If your work isn’t quite complex enough to attract attention, utilize your sunny personality. Big, simple flavors are refreshing, especially if they’re offered by someone kind and friendly.

Steak

Cancer
Boiled Crab

You’ve got something really grand in the works, and you know it! The project may take awhile to get from one place to another, but once you have it, it’s yours to steam and butter.

Steak

Gemini
Ge-“Mint”-i

Have you shared your project with someone you trust? Not every pitch session has to be about critique. Sometimes, it’s refreshing to sit down with someone who only has praise for your work.

Steak

Taurus
T-bone Steak

Your stalwart nature will save the day. Flip your project and your finesse will result in a juicy, flavorful meal — and it’s also okay to use extra spices. A good sear is what locks the flavor in.

Comics Tip

Comparing Processes in Similar Projects
Lately I have been on what I could term an ‘Eye Spy’ kick, where I’m fascinated by broad, landscape compositions with lots to teeny, tiny intertwining scenes and characters. My previous work in this vein was this snapshot of the Carboniferous, featuring over 250 organisms from the time period.

Full-color digital artwork of 250+ creatures of the Carboniferous period. A graphic of the world in the upper left corner encourages viewers to 'spot 'em all!'. The Carboniferous lasted from 359.2-299 mya. There are too many creatures in the graphic to name, but there are sharks, nautiloids, ammonites, fish, amphibians, arachnids, insects, and even a couple of edaphosaurs (mammalian reptiles) present in this period. They're scattered all around the continents before they were even Pangea. Plenty of plants dot the landscape in between, including plants still extant today such as ginkgo.

For this complex Eye Spy page, I had each organism in its own named layer folder. The folder contained visual reference, a rough sketch, and lineart. I approached the composition by laying out all of the organisms as sketches first. Then I created their lineart. After that, I duplicated the lines and merged them so that they would be easier to color. I felt weird about having over a thousand layers in one document, but my computer was able to handle it.

For the Gastronomy concept, I wondered if simplifying the document might help complete it more quickly. Instead of compiling reference for everything, then sketching every character, and then drawing lineart for every character, I worked on the piece one constellation at a time. All the sketches are on one layer, and all the lineart is on one layer, and then all the stars are on one layer.

Which one works best for me?
The results were… drumroll please…Absolutely, 1000%, my process on the Carboniferous was better. Working on individual illustrations meant I was constantly switching between research, sketch, and lineart mode on Gastronomy. My Carboniferous creatures, as sketches, could be moved around more easily and tangents were solved. This was not the case with Gastronomy constellation characters and I fear the tangents in this piece.

For creating highly-detailed landscape compositions like this, I recommend:

  1. Organized, named layers, in folders per miniature that exists in the illustration. Don’t be afraid of a thousand layers in your document. Just save it as a .psb. It’s all good.

  2. Do visual research for ALL of the characters or mini-illustrations first.
  3. Sketch ALL of the characters across the whole composition before doing lineart.
  4. Give yourself a composition-editing phase between sketching and lineart. Easier to move, enlarge, shrink, and otherwise edit sketches than it is to edit lines, in my experience.
  5. Once the lineart is done, create two duplicate, flattened versions of all the lineart. One is to behave as lines, the other is to help with flatting. Keep at least one copy of the lineart with separate characters because they can be useful outside of the big composition as spot illustrations, or as easy selection areas for the magic wand tool.
  6. Chunk the whole composition into 9-12 squares for coloring flats, details, and doing small paintovers. Polishing a fraction of the larger illustration per day helps manage burnout and gives a series of smaller accomplishments to reach.
  7. Choose points of interest in the overall composition. Putting big highlights and shadows on everything can make it hard to focus (although sometimes that’s the point!). Selectively highlighting certain parts of a larger Eye Spy composition allows the other subjects to fall back and ‘hide’ a little, making it more fun to look through.

On a final note, there was also a small hiccup with Gastronomy where my reference star chart omitted around 40 additional southern constellations. The way I had constructed the illustration hampered my ability to add them in harmoniously.

This Gastronomy constellation food chart is available as a free coloring page under Creative Commons CC BY-NC 3.0.

Care to read more?

Amphiox Monthly Challenge: Setting the Stage

Amphiox Monthly Challenge: Setting the Stage

How to Draw a Whole New WorldOn August 15th, I was halfway through a self-appointed monthly comics challenge to create rough art for a 48-page short fantasy story. I'd been lenient with my goals, imagining that most of my time would be spent designing the environment...

Amphiox Comic – August Challenge Prep

Amphiox Comic – August Challenge Prep

A Break from the Webcomic DoldrumsI’ve been working hard on Warlock’d, but not in any capacity ready for public release. There is a lot of editing to be done on it (and has been done on it) and it gets overwhelming on a day-to-day basis. One issue has been that I’m...

Writing is Like…

Writing is Like…

Just What Am I Doing With All These Phonetic Marks, Anyway?I've been deep in the documents lately (hence the break in blog update schedule two weeks ago). A few different projects are being juggled with not much, visually, to show for them. Each one feels endless and...

Want to chat about this?

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?

Amphiox Monthly Challenge: Setting the Stage

Amphiox Monthly Challenge: Setting the Stage

How to Draw a Whole New WorldOn August 15th, I was halfway through a self-appointed monthly comics challenge to create rough art for a 48-page short fantasy story. I'd been lenient with my goals, imagining that most of my time would be spent designing the environment...

Amphiox Comic – August Challenge Prep

Amphiox Comic – August Challenge Prep

A Break from the Webcomic DoldrumsI’ve been working hard on Warlock’d, but not in any capacity ready for public release. There is a lot of editing to be done on it (and has been done on it) and it gets overwhelming on a day-to-day basis. One issue has been that I’m...

Writing is Like…

Writing is Like…

Just What Am I Doing With All These Phonetic Marks, Anyway?I've been deep in the documents lately (hence the break in blog update schedule two weeks ago). A few different projects are being juggled with not much, visually, to show for them. Each one feels endless and...

Want to chat about this?