Cartoonist, Artist, Geek, Evil Crafter, Girl Scout Troop Leader and Writer. Also, a zombie. I haven't slept in I don't know how long.

Daily doodles – weird gem thingies

I’m a huge fan of Steven Universe. I mean HUGE!!! One of the reasons I enjoy the show so much is because it reminds me of my childhood fascination with gems, minerals, and rocks. I can recall a few family camping trips when my dad took me hunting for rocks, and I still have some of the rocks we found.

I haven’t been rock hunting in decades, but I still love rocks and minerals and gems. So I decided to try drawing them on my iPad. Naturally, I did not make this easy on myself.

I don’t know why, but my brain insisted I draw these gems in Concepts. It’s probably because of my obsession with vector graphics. Concepts has a novel approach to vector drawing. There are no bezier tools or node adjustment handles to work with. If I want to draw a shape with straight edges, I have to use a guide tool in the app, or import a shape from another vector app or in-app library. Gems have lots of straight edges, so this can make things tricky. However, I believe I’ve been able to get some decent results so far.

Pink gems drawn in Concepts

Pink gems drawn in Concepts for the iPad

Bluish gem drawn in Concepts

Bluish gem drawn in Concepts

I’m wasn’t trying to recreate any particular kind of gem with these drawings. I just want to capture the image of something shiny and semi-transparent with straight, sharp edges. I made a couple of custom brushes to create the inclusions inside the gems. I ran the bluish gem through Snapseed to add some gradient effects and ramp up the color saturation.

Overall, I’m pretty please with the results. Concepts may not make it easy to draw straight-edged shapes, but being able to make and use custom texture brushes is a nice option. I’ll keep playing with it and see what else I can come up with.

Drawing Princess

I already mentioned that all three of the Madden women now have very short hair. Somehow, our hairdresser manages to make the same length of cut look different on each of us, and make us all look good in the bargain.

So here’s what that haircut looks like on Princess…

Character design for Princess

All hail the Princess!

Princess keeps getting taller. I need to do character turn-arounds on all the characters to show how tall we all are in relation to each other. Princess is now the tallest of us.  Even Hubster is an inch shorter than she is.

Princess is also old enough to drive now. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of fun comics to draw about that. I never really thought about what it would be like to teach a teenager to drive a stick-shift. Now it’s all I think about.

I’m obviously still not back to a regular blogging schedule, but I am getting better. The goal for February will be two blog posts a week. I may even make a schedule for them! That would be crazy, wouldn’t it?

Drawing Pixie

Last summer, both Princess and Pixie got their hair cut short, and I mean really short. As short as mine, in fact, although they both had their hair styled a bit differently. So I decided it was high time to update their characters in the webcomic. The first up was Pixie…

Character drawing of Pixie

Ta-da! It’s Pixie!

As you can see, Pixie has changed quite a bit. She’s wearing hip new glasses now, and yes, they really are bright orange. She’s also grown up considerably, although she’s still half a head shorter than me. She’s very savvy, and has a distinct sense of fashion, more like a tomboy, although she’s not much of one for sports. She does like racquetball, though, although when she and I play, we don’t play by any rules. Mostly, we just try not to get hit by the ball as we run around the court, laughing.

Pixie is almost a teenager now, with very strong opinions and the ability to express them in no uncertain terms. I’m sure you’ll be hearing from her soon in the webcomic 🙂

Drawing Myself

I had a really rough Thanksgiving last November. I ended up having the flu, and I looked a lot like this…

Self-portrait with the flu

I was sooooooo sick…

This was about the time I realized it had been a while since I’d posted any comics, and I really needed to get back to drawing on a dail basis. I had done great during Inktober, but then I’d stopped again, which made no sense to me. Because if I can turn out 20-30 drawings for Inktober, I can certainly get back to drawing webcomics!

I’ll post mor character drawings soon! I promise!

Daily Doodles and Practicing Art

One of the things I’m trying to do lately is re-establish a habit of drawing every day. I have several books on how to draw, how to doodle, how to jump-start your creativity, etc. So I’ve been pulling these books out and working through an exercise each day.

Here’s the result of today’s drawing practice…

Doodle of a very glamorous monster

Ms. Hoop d’Doo Approaches the Red Carpet to Accept Her Award…

I really can’t say where the title came from. It just sort of… appeared in my mind as I was drawing this. The original exercise came from “Drawing and Painting Imaginary Animals” by Carla Sonheim. I love her work, and I have a couple of her books. There are a lot of fun ideas in there. For this exercise, I was supposed to start with an eye and then allow the creature to develop from their. This one is pretty random, with the fluffy, furry, transparent body, but once she was drawn, I knew what she was doing. Weird how that works. Anyway, here is the link to “Drawing and Painting Imaginary Animals.” Yes, I’m using an Amazon Associates link! And yes, I really do like this book 🙂

This was drawn in the Concepts app on my iPad, using a first generation Apple Pencil. Concepts is a vector drawing app that recreates the feel of natural media pretty well.


Learning to Draw Webcomics Again

I’ve been off so long, I can’t remember when I last tried to write a blog post. I’ve been busy. Too busy. I have two teens in two different schools, doing different activities, and I still run a Girl Scout troop and handle cookie sales. I’ve also been sick, and dealing with aging parents. So I’ve fallen way out of practice in drawing webcomics.

But I’ve been looking at how I could get started again. I don’t have a laptop I like using to draw the webcomics, so I’ve been playing with various drawing apps on my iPad to see what I could do. During the year when I tore my ACL, I drew all the webcomics on the iPad. It was kind of clunky. I had to draw the panels in one app, then import each panel as a separate image into another app to arrange the panels and add text. And I didn’t have the option of doing anything in vector in a way I liked to draw in Manga Studio on my desktop. And I couldn’t get to the desktop because it was in the office above our garage, separate from the rest of the house, and while I was on crutches, I couldn’t really handle climbing a second set of stairs multiple times a day. Seriously, our first floor bathroom was out of commission that year, so if I needed the toilet, I had to climb down the stairs from the office and go up another flight of steps to get to the second floor bathroom. I was not up to doing that with a reconstructed ACL and crutches.

I thought I had things figured out when I got a new Surface Pro, and for a while, I drew the webcomic happily in Manga Studio again, taking full advantage of the Surface’s touch screen and a nifty Wacom stylus. Then I made the mistake of upgrading to a newer Surface that DIDN’T allow me to use a Wacom stylus, and I started running into all sorts of problems again.

And then, of course, other things cropped up. My Dad had a heart attack and I learned that my Mom had dementia. I spent a month living with them, trying to take care of them both, only to end up angry and depressed because no matter what I tried, my parents did not want my help. So I spent the year following that dealing with depression. I was functional – I could take care of the kids and do housework – but that was about it.

Then I started having problems with joint pain and exhaustion AGAIN. I’d already been sidelined before for several months with similar problems, but the illness combined with the depression left me with no energy for anything but the absolute necessities.

I finally decided about a year ago to try and turn things around. Getting a dog – which was not something I had ever planned to do – put a big demand on me, but it also helped. I had to get outside daily to walk Gibbie and take care of him, and he has turned out to be my constant companion throughout the day, always urging me to play and be active. I finally went to the doctor to see what could be done about the exhaustion problems I was having, and that is another blog post (or even several) all in its own! I will say, we did find out I do not have sleep apnea, but that’s about all the doctor was able to tell me.

But I have been doing better. I decided to tackle the sleep issues on my own, and have finally started getting around seven to eight hours of sleep every night. And since I have more energy, I’m able to do more things, like get into the Y more often to exercise. That wears me out, but it also improves my sleep at night, which means I’ve slowly gained even more energy, so I can do more things. Funny how that works.

Now I’m working on doing things beyond exercise and housework. I’m getting back to drawing more often, and I’m working on making it a daily habit. Once I’ve got that down, I’ll get back to work on drawing webcomics again. Until then, I’ll post whatever doodles, scribbles and sketches I do throughout the week. You’ll be able to find them here or on Instagram at @cynical_woman. So stay tuned, and I’ll get some artwork and comics up as soon as I can!

Inktober Results

Ugh. I know I said I’d blog more often, but I never seem to find the time to sit down and actually write the blog posts. Things move so fast around here. Honestly, I finished work on Inktober just in time to start volunteering with Princess’ drama club at school. Their first play this year opens tonight, and I’ve spent the last two weeks fitting costumes and helping to make props.

But enough complaining for now. I said I’d post some more pics from Inktober, so here we go. I managed to finish 23 out of 31 days this year, and by finish, I mean I honestly and truly finished! I drew the pencil art, colored it in with markers (I love markers), and then I did the inking and posted each piece to Instagram. If you want to see all of the drawings I did, my Instagram is @cynical_woman.

The theme I went with for this year’s Inktober was witches, so I drew a lot of weird little magical girls and anything else witch-related that I could think of.

Inktober 2018 Flame Witch

“The Flame Witch”

Inktober 2018 Magic Wand

“Magic Wand”

Inktober 2018 Sand Witch

“The Sand Witch”

Inktober 2018 Rose Witch

“The Rose Witch”

Inktober 2018 Thorn Witch

“The Thorn Witch”

Inktober 2018 Bone Witch

“The Bone Witch”

Inktober 2018 Pumpkin Witch

“The Pumpkin Witch”

These were my favorites from this year. I especially love the Flame Witch. Her pose and expression and outfit turned out perfect!

Anyway, that’s if for Inktober this year. Hopefully, by next week, I’ll have something new to post. I’m working on unfinished projects for November, and have already completed two, so I’ll see about posting them next.

Inktober- Days 1-3

There are not enough hours in the day. The last six weeks have been crazier than even our usual standard of crazy, by which I mean just about everything that could go wrong has gone wrong… with BOTH our cars. I’ll write a full post about that late on.

In the meantime, since I did promise myself I was going to get back to blogging a couple times a week (and still haven’t managed to do that yet), here’s a quick look at the first three #Inktober drawings that I’ve done. I’ve managed to keep up so far, and have a total of six drawings. I decided to go with a “witch” theme rather than use the prompts given for this year’s Inktober. Without further ado, here’s days 1-3.

Inktober 2018 - Witchie

Inktober 2018, day 1 – Witchie

The first day. I knew I wanted to draw witches, but I also wanted to draw cute little girls. I decided on my theme after going through my tee shirt collection and finding an old “Precious Miseries” shirt. I love those cute, gothic little girls!

Inktober 2018, Sugar Skull Witch

Inktober 2018, day 2 – Sugar Skull Witch

Once I decided I was going to do a bunch of kawaii witches, I started thinking about “Adventure Time,” and how the show had so many difference princesses. So this is sort of an homage to Princess Bubblegum.

Inktober 2018, day 3 - Baby Mandrake

Inktober 2018, day 3 – Baby Mandrake

By the third day, I realized I was going to end up putting a LOT of work into coloring each of these drawings. I love coloring with markers, but I have a very specific way of doing it, and it’s very time consuming. So even though I’m doing all my Inktober drawings this year on ATCs (2 1/2 inches by 3 1/2 inches), I’m still spending a couple of hours on each piece. I thought drawing some of the accoutrements of a witch would be simpler than drawing a witch, so I decided to draw a very cute baby mandrake. That’s when I learned two things. First, baby mandrakes are that much simpler than cute witches. Second, I really like the broken line style of inking that I did on this one, so I’ve kept doing that with all the other Inktober drawings I’ve done so far this week.

I’ll share a few more Inktober drawings later this week. But for now, I’ve got to exercise and then I’m spending the rest of the day making fake rocks and boulders for this year’s Girl Scout murder mystery party. I’ll give you a clue for this year’s mystery. Someone gets crushed by a rock slide!

Car is still broke, Hubster still not home, and I fried a colander

Just when you though things might not get worse…

Hubster is still in DC trying to get the car home. He’s contacted a dealer about shipping it (this is the same dealer we bought it from), and he’s hoping to have news on that tomorrow. Meanwhile, I’ve been handling all the ADULT chores around the house, which is probably my least favorite thing to do. So far this week, I’ve had to call the exterminator, catch two cats on my own and take them to the vet, and attend Princess’ back-to-school night by myself. If you are a single parent, or a parent with a spouse who must travel a lot or go on deployment, you have my deepest respect. I do not function well without the Hubster around.

In other news, I managed to do THIS today…

Fried colander

Recipe for “Deep Fried Colander” coming to a cook book near you sometime…. never.

Yep, that’s a colander. A plastic colander which happened to be sitting in a cast iron skillet which happened to be sitting on a burner that I just happened to accidentally turn on instead of the burner I wanted to turn on so I could make tea today. Hubster thinks I should use the part at the top of the picture in an art project. I’d LOVE to do that, but until he gets home, I don’t have the time.

I hate being the only adult in the house.

Work in Progress – both artwork and my health

Painting in progress

Playing with paints. It’s not all that easy!

I have taken very few (maybe 3?) art classes in my life. So I’ve never really learned to paint. I could always draw, and I started drawing cartoons very early on in life. I remember filling a lot of grade-school notebooks with doodles of sad, fat, droopy ponies. I don’t know why ponies, exactly, except that for a time, I was really, REALLY obsessed with horses. Also with Crazy Horse, who was not a horse, but who had the word “horse” in his name, so I read every book about him that I could get my hands on.

Anyhoo, I don’t have a formal art education, so I’ve been teaching myself over the years, learning whatever I can from books, online tutorials, and these days, YouTube videos. The above painting-in-progress is inspired by a video tutorial done by makoccino. She did the tutorial for watercolors, which is what I started with, but my paints and paper are so cheap that the paint kept flaking off and taking some paper with it. So I switched to acrylics pretty quickly to keep going. I think the cat eyes look terrible, but I’m not unhappy with the leaves. We’ll see how it looks when I’m done.

Speaking of things that I am working on, my health is also a work-in-progress. In addition to hardware and software problems, another reason I stopped doing webcomic (and pretty much everything else) for a while was because I’ve been ill. It’s not an illness we’ve been able to name beyond “arthritis,” “insomnia,” “constant fatigue,” and “all-over aches and pains.” I’ve been dealing with all the above problems for a while now, and they hit really hard about a year and a half ago, right after I spent a month with my parents after my dad had his heart attack (coincidence? Hmmmmm…).

These symptoms turned my days into never-ending battles to get something, anything, done. I would wake up at 6AM, completely exhausted. I’d struggle through breakfast and getting the girls to school (I drive them to and from school every day). Then I’d come home, do my damnedest to stay awake, and fail miserably, ending up asleep on the couch for three to four hours. That left me with just enough time to take care of Gibbie and get him out for a walk, then drive straight back to school to get Pixie, who got out at 3PM, come home and try to do some housework, and then head out again to pick up Princess, who was staying after school until 5PM or later for drama. Between the driving back and forth to schools, taking care of the dog, and being unconscious most of the day, I only had time left for the basics: laundry; cleaning the kitchen; Girl Scouts; and anything else the kids needed. I had no time or energy left for anything else.

Just so you know, I have been tested multiple times for Lyme’s Disease, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and even Sjogren’s Disease. All the tests keep coming back negative. I talked with my doctor about Fibromyalgia, but the symptoms don’t really fit. I don’t know about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome yet. We’re still looking at that, along with ideas of what else I could be dealing with.

So, after struggling to survive Princess’ first year of high school, I decided I needed to figure out for myself what I could do to get back my health. It’s been a process of trial and error, but I’ve seen some progress. I started by making changes in what I eat. I avoid processed food as much as I can now, and eat as many fresh fruits and vegetables as I can stomach. I’ve been teaching myself to cook (another skill I never had any formal training in) and I’ve been expanding the types of vegetables I will eat and how I prefer them to be cooked (roasted cauliflower? Yes. Steamed cauliflower? You go to hell!).

I’ve also been working on my sleep. I try to get into the bedroom by 8PM so I can take an hour to unwind, do some yoga, take a hot bath, yadda, yadda, yadda. I’ve weaned myself off Zzzyquil and most nights, if I get in bed by 9PM, I will probably get 7-8 hours of sleep. Some nights, though, insomnia will rear up its ugly head no matter what I do. So I’ve got an appointment with a sleep specialist to see what can be done about that.

And of course, I’ve been working on exercise. I spent a lot of time this summer looking at what activities I could do if I wasn’t feeling well. There are plenty of videos on YouTube and Amazon Prime for low intensity workouts like indoor walking, chair yoga, etc. I’ve made lists of what I can fall back on when I’m too exhausted for an hour in the pool or an hour walk with Gibbie. On the flip side, I’ve also made a list of what I can do when I do feel well, and have been careful not to push myself to exhaustion so that I end up feeling sick again.

I think all this has been working. I have been feeling better. I haven’t had any massive flair-ups of joint pain for a while now, but it’s still summer, so we’ll have to see what happens when winter hits. The insomnia has been a problem this week, but I’ve been working with it, switching to low intensity activity so I still keep moving and get something things done. Like that painting above. Even though I didn’t sleep well last night, I was still able to pull myself together in time today to spend an hour of that, and get this blog post done as well.

And, just like the painting, I got to say, I’m not unhappy about it. In fact, I think I’m pretty danged pleased.