ACW Episode 270 – My Sick Valentine


Click on the image to view it full-size!

I have spent FOREVER working on this one simple comic. And yet it isn’t so simple. I decided to try a different pen for inking this one, a brush style pen with a rougher edge. It seemed appropriate for an image of Hubster and I feeling a bit “rough around the edges.” And once I had the image inked and colored, I decided that a bit of rough shading would look nice too, as well as some touches of texture, etc., etc., etc. The hard part was figuring out how to make a brush style balloon pen for the text box in the back. I must have spent two hours today playing with settings and searching on the internet for information on how to make a custom brush tip and assign it to the balloon tool.

But, it’s all done now, and I’m very happy with the end result. I think it very accurately depicts how Hubster and I felt on Valentine’s Day this year, which is to say absolutely AWFUL.

What I managed to do while I was sick with the flu

Last week was lost to the flu. And by lost, I mean every single day was devoted to the flu and nothing else. It started very early on Sunday morning, when Pixie woke me up at 2AM to say she didn’t feel well. I ended up crawling into her bed to comfort her. A few hours later, the vomiting started.

So Pixie was sick with the flu on Sunday and Monday. On Tuesday, she went back to school, just in time for Princess to start vomiting. She was sick on Tuesday and Wednesday. And while she was sick, I got sick too. Tuesday evening, I was suddenly afflicted with joint pain and fever. Both Princess and I spent most of Wednesday in bed, sick as dogs. Princess went back to school on Thursday while I stayed in bed all that day and most of the next. I was starting to recover on Friday when Hubster came home with the same symptoms I had. So he spent most of Saturday sick in bed.

By Sunday, everybody was still hacking and wheezing, but we were all finally able to get up and do stuff. Like laundry. Lots and lots and LOTS of laundry.

But I was also able to finally sit upright and draw. And after a week of doing nothing, I was just dying to draw. So I did.

Except I didn’t draw the webcomic. I drew a bunch of other stuff instead, including spending time on some unfinished drawings I’ve been fiddling with for the last couple months.

So this week, all the blog posts are going to be the things I drew that weren’t the webcomic, in order to give me time to draw the thing I was supposed to draw last week. Here’s a little sneak peak of what I worked on.


“The Skull Tree” by Helen Madden, work in progress


Sick with the flu

Hello all. I was midway through the website update when I came down with the flu. Pixie had it first, then Princess, now me. I’m trying to do a little work at a time between bouts of passing out in bed, but there are still some things that aren’t quite right with the website. I’ll fix these things as soon as I recover from the flu. But even so, I think the site looks a bazillion times better,

Anyway, now you know what’s going on.

ACW Episode 269 – Sleeping Beauty


Click on the webcomic above to see it larger!

Kids are so much fun to draw comics about. And so easy. They offer so many real-life instances for inspiration.

Princess does not wake up easy. Even as a toddler, she would sleep hard for hours at nap time (ah, those were the days) and then wake up all bleary-eyed and groggy. Not much has changed now that she’s a pre-teen.

When I started work on this cartoon, it immediately reminded me of some of my favorite “Bloom County” comic strips. Nobody draws groggy, sleep-deprived people like Berke Breathed does. I even pulled out some of my “Bloom County” books for inspiration and spent all day reading comics. That was not a waste of time at all. Nope, no-siree-Bob.

Professional Education for Artists AKA Boondoggle Time!

I recently made the switch from Adobe graphics software to Corel. Or rather, the switch back. The first graphics software package I owned was an early version of Corel, and I kept using Corel for years. But after a number of years, I began to notice that there were fewer and fewer tutorials and how-to books for Corel Draw and Photopaint, but there was plenty of material out there for Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

So I decided to make the switch over to Adobe. It was more expensive (a LOT more expensive),  but Adobe was the industry standard, and there was plenty of learning material out there to help me make the switch.

That was maybe five years ago. And everything was going just fine… on the Photoshop side of things. I love Photoshop. The mask layers, the customizable brushes, blend modes. It was FANTASTIC.

Adobe Illustrator, though? Not so much.

I was using CS3, and I discovered that things that had been easy to do in Corel Draw, like setting up transparency and gradient fills, were not so easy in Illustrator. The fact that I had to create a layer mask to create a transparency for an object drove me crazy. And I never could seem to get the hang of selecting objects in layers. These were things that were much more intuitive in Corel, I thought.

Then to top things off, Adobe switched from selling software in actual boxes to a subscription only mode, and that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I simply cannot afford to pay for the subscription model. When I buy graphics software, I usually upgrade maybe every other version, sometimes less frequently than that. It’s what I can afford.

Corel still sells its software in physical boxes as well as in download format, for far less than what I paid for Adobe CS3. And on top of that, I was able to find the most recent version of the Corel Draw suite on sale! The switch back was a no-brainer.

There are plenty of new features in both Corel Draw and Photopaint, so I have some catching up to do, and while there still aren’t as many tutorials for Corel as there are for Adobe, now that I’ve been on both sides of the fence, I’m better at translating Adobe tutorials into Corel. In fact, that’s what I spent most of the day yesterday doing.

I found this tutorial over at TutsPlusDesign. There were a few steps I decided to handle differently. I prefer to weld and trim shapes rather than use a clipping mask (called Power Clip in Corel). But the end result was the same!

Cool sword!

Drawn in Corel Draw 7!!

I’m pretty happy with how this turned out, and I look forward to spending more time working through tutorials for Corel. Yesterday was a very nice, relaxing day, spent focused only on artwork, with no time whatsoever spent on Girl Scouts (thus my reason for calling this a “boondoggle” day). Still, even for a boondoggle, I think it was time very well spent.

So what do you think? If you know of any resources for Corel Draw or Photopaint tutorials, let me know. I’m thinking of taking one day a week and devoting it to working through tutorials, just to improve my professional skills… and maybe enjoy a little boondoggle in the process.

Move It Mama Monday – More Love for the MisFit Shine

Well, I’ve had my MisFit Shine for over a month now, and I’m still very happy with it. While I do miss some of the features of the Up Band, the fact that I now have an activity monitor that tells me both how much I’m moving and what time it is more than makes up for that. Seriously, I hated trying to wear a watch and the Up Band on the same wrist. The Up Band needs to be worn on the side of your non-dominant hand, which is the same side I wear a watch on. I cannot stand to wear a watch on my right wrist because I feel like it interferes with my ability to draw and type, two things I try to do lots of throughout the day.

In fact, the problem with needing a watch and an activity monitor had led me to depending a lot on my Wii Fit U monitor (yes, I am one of those weirdos who wears multiple fitness monitors; sue me). The Wii Fit U monitor shows both step count, calories burned, and the time of day! Pretty handy, but it doesn’t come with a wrist band. Instead, it comes with a clip. I prefer to wear the Wii Fit U monitor clipped to my shoe laces, because I think it takes more accurate readings of my step count that way. But wearing it on my shoe meant that every time I wanted to see what time it was, I had to bend over to check my shoe. And that looked a little too much like an invitation to be kicked in the rear-end for my tastes.

So, I finally have my combined wrist watch and activity monitor and I’m happy. Plus, as I mentioned last time, the MisFit Shine just looks gorgeous! Very sleek, very polished. It has also proved to be water-proof, at least during my water aerobics class, though it doesn’t track an hour of water aerobics the same way it tracks walking or dancing. And I’m finding that no fitness band can really seem to track the amount of effort I put into karate classes. I accrue more steps in a 20-minute walk than I will in 2 hours of karate. Granted, I cover more distance in the walk, but 2 hours of karate class leaves, with all the kicking and punching and push-ups and deep squats, leaves me exhausted. But it’s done in a very limited space, so I guess that’s what’s throwing off all the fitness monitors I’ve ever used.

The solution to that may be to set the MisFit Shine to specifically track that activity while I do it. There’s an option to track particular activities by triple-tapping on the Shine before starting that activity. It can be set up in the app for the Shine. But the app doesn’t list karate. It does list yoga, though, which is the activity I think is closest to karate, so I may try setting it up for that. Or maybe I’ll set it up for basketball. Basket ball is somewhat similar to karate, although I don’t think kicking and punching an opponent is allowed in either yoga or basketball.

But overall, I’m still loving the MisFit Shine!

Evil Artwork – “Background Orc #6” and getting stuff done a little bit every day

Handsome Orc!

Background Orc #6

Feast your eyes on this beauty! Isn’t he adorable?! He’s an orc, but not one of those big, bulky hero orcs that look all intimidating and muscle-bound. Sadly, this cutie is one of those guys that gets stuffed into the background in fantasy movies because he’d totally steal the scene from those insecure alpha-male type orcs. That’s why I decided to draw him. He deserves to get a spotlight all to himself!

And all of this is my way of saying that I’m still working on drawing every day, though this past month I dropped the ball for a while. Drawing is something I need to work into my schedule every day, and that can be tough. I work on the webcomics first thing in the morning (unless I’m overwhelmed by some other project, like I was last week). I spend my afternoons handling email and office admin stuff (and there are plenty of both right now, thanks to Girl Scout cookie season). And I spend my evenings just trying to keep up with the house and the kids.

But I think there may be a time when I can do a little drawing. The trick is to figure out how to remind myself every day.

I came across an article on Lifehacker this week entitled “Encourage New Habits by Stacking Them On Top of Preexisting Habits.” The basic idea here is that you create a new habit by building it on top of something you already do, and then you reward yourself for doing it. This is something that I have been playing with for a while. For example, I like to grab a cup of coffee in the afternoon before I sit down at my desk to work. Between grabbing that cup of coffee and heading to my desk, I walk right past my purse/giant-man-eating-bag-of-DOOOOOOOM, where I stuff all my receipts. As I walk past it, I have begun prompting myself to grab the bag and take it upstairs with me, so that I have all my receipts right by my desk. And doing that now triggers me to scan in the receipts as soon as I sit down to work, so that I now have all my expenses recorded and I no longer wonder what the hell I spent all my money on.

It’s a simple idea – set up one habit to trigger another I want to encourage. And since it’s worked so well for receipts, I’ve decided to use the same technique to get me to draw more as well.

First, I need to figure out what habit could trigger me to do the drawing. Since I do so much of my drawing on the iPad, I’m thinking that the trigger should be something I do every day on the iPad. I’ve gotten into the habit of scheduling the next day every night before I go to bed. So I’m thinking that once I’ve finished doing that, I can simply switch over to one of my drawing apps and do a short bit of sketching.

It’ll take a little while to set up the new drawing habit, but I’m hopeful. And to reinforce building this – and other – new habits, I make sure to reward myself using Habit RPG . Habit RPG lets me set up a check list of habits and daily tasks and assign a certain amount of virtual gold coins as a reward for completing them. When I collect enough coins, I then spend my REAL money on a REAL reward for myself, like a new book, yarn, lunch out, a day off to do nothing but watch TV and crochet, etc. I keep the rewards small/inexpensive to keep from breaking the bank, but still, I make sure I reward myself.

But the real reward is in setting up these new habits. Because more drawing means more finished artwork, and more artwork means more fun/weird products on Zazzle and that could mean more money! Yay!

But for now, I’ll settle just for getting more drawing done. Especially if I get to draw cuties like the Background Orc #6.


Original sketch done in Sketchclub on the iPad

Sketch imported into Adobe Illustrator Draw for the iPad.

Sketch imported into Adobe Illustrator Draw for the iPad.

Pretty colors!

What pretty eyes he has!.

ACW Episode 259 – Relaaaaaaaaaax…


Click on the pic to see it bigger.

I don’t know exactly why, but right now, I’m not that stressed. Cookie season started on January 10th, and so far, I’m feeling… okay.

It may be the meds. Of course, I’ve been taking the same subscription for the last three years. It’d be kind of strange if they started to kick in a little extra after so long.

Maybe it’s the fact that I’m scheduling everything and that makes me feel more in control of my time.

Or maybe, I just decided not to get wound up about things this year. Whatever it is, I’m feeling pretty chill so far. We’ll see how I feel in another couple weeks when cookie booth sales start.

Evil Time Management – Scheduling EVERYTHING!


I’ve become very protective of my time…

Did you make New Year’s resolutions? I did and did not make resolutions. I don’t like making year-long commitments to anything other than to the Hubster, my kids, and the cats, and the only reason I make such lengthy commitments to them is because they’re living, breathing creatures capable of making my life miserable if I don’t do what I should do for them. Seriously, if I fail to feed someone, they might poop in my shoes. And no, I refuse to specify whether it’s the cats, the kids, or the Hubster who does the pooping.

So I won’t make any promises regarding anything else for a year. I know better. A year is too long to plan for. But I am willing to make a resolution for say, the next three months. Three months I can do. I can comprehend that amount of time. I can tell you what’s going to be going on in three months. In this case, it’ll be the end of Girl Scout cookie season, the start of spring, planning for the troop camping trip, Easter, warmer weather, etc. I can get my head around that. I’m pretty sure where I’ll be at that point in the year, and that lets me plan out how to handle a resolution for three months.

Plus I’ve read all these articles that say to only make resolutions for three months, because that’s about the amount of time most people can handle for the reasons I mentioned above. (I like being validated by popular science.)

One of my resolutions for January, February and March is to schedule each day the night before. I actually have this in a checklist app on my iPad, so I can track how well I keep up with this resolution for the next 3 months. The idea here is to look at my calendar each night, and assign blocks of times to the things I know I need or want to do. And I decided to get into the details on this. I’ve been scheduling time for things like exercise and work, but I’ve also scheduled time each day for chores and eating and bathing. Yes, I am scheduling when I take a bath. Because with two kids in school, I have come to learn the hard way that if I don’t schedule things, they won’t happen.

Plus, I’ve also learned that if I don’t fill up my calendar in advance, someone else will be more than happy to fill it up for me.

It’s nice for me to be able to look at my calendar when someone asks me to do something and be able to say, “Sorry, I don’t have time for that this week. My schedule is full. I have appointments all day, every day this week.” The trick, of course, is to actually have those blocks of time schedules, but also to list them on a schedule in such a way that it looks like each of those blocks of time is an appointment with someone very important. And really, they are appointments with someone very important. They are appointments with ME.

So yeah, I will schedule my time at the YMCA… with my personal trainer… who just happens to be me. No one will ask me to skip an appointment with my personal trainer. I just don’t tell them that my personal trainer happens to be me. Because it’s none of their damn business.

And yeah, I will schedule an appointment at a local spa… which just happens to be my own bath tub. Spa appointments are an investment in my health, and no one will ask me to give up a spa appointment, because hey, it’s an APPOINTMENT. So what if the spa is my own bath tub, and the appointment is only with me? It’s important that I get to my spa appointment on time!

On my calendar, helping the kids with homework becomes an appointment with their tutor – me. Drawing webcomics and writing blog posts become appointments with a client – me. Doing laundry and washing dishes become appointments with my cleaning service – me. Watching cartoons on TV (hell yes, I’m going to schedule time for that!) becomes an appointment to do research for my most important client – ME!

ME! ME! ME! My schedule, I have decided, needs to be all about ME! My priorities, my needs, my family, my down time, my hobbies, MEEEEEEEEEEEE!!

For the next three months, every night before I go to bed I will schedule the next day. And while it may be a pain in the butt to put down every single little thing I need/want to do for myself and my family, it’s much better than leaving a lot of free time on the calendar for someone else to try and steal.

So, did you make any resolutions? Let me know!

ACW Episode 258 – Peace on Earth?

So, Hubster got us a new toy over the holidays, and it’s been… interesting. The Amazon Echo looks exactly like a dark grey tube, and if you call it by name – the default name is Alexa – it will respond. Though it doesn’t always respond the way you would expect. She’s a lot like Siri in that respect, I think.

Of course, it can be hard for “Alexa” to respond when everybody is shouting at her at the same time. But what’s really weird is when no one is speaking to “Alexa” and she starts talking to us anyway. And that’s a little creepy. But… whatever.

But that was the big family gift for the holidays, and it is pretty nice. Especially now that the kids have gone back to school.