Messy Mondays – An experiment with skulls

So, I’ve decided to start adding some new topics to post about. One of these is something I’m calling “Messy Mondays.” This is a chance for me to show off stuff that I’m currently working on. The idea is that I make a big mess, get my hands dirty making art, and you get to see what I’m doing and maybe how I’m doing it, if I get my act together enough.

For this Monday, I’ve got a trio of skulls that I’m working on!

Messy Monday Skulls

Lovely skulls, yeah?

These are paper-mache skulls that I bought back in October. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with them at the time, but I figured it would be something fun. Naturally, the skulls ended up just sitting in a bag tucked away in my stash of art supplies.

But a couple weeks ago, I pulled these babies out and started playing with them! Remember, the idea is for me to make a mess, so I don’t really have a firm idea of what I’m doing, no plan at all. I just picked out some of my fluid acrylic paints and some gel medium and I started brushing on some color. So far, I like what I’ve got.

However, these are far from done. I also have some gel pens, some acrylic inks, and I bought some metallic paints as well, so I plan to keep messing with these skulls for a while longer. I’ll post more pictures as I go, so you’ll get to see how…if… I make any further progress ๐Ÿ™‚

Amazing Artists – Rachael Smith!

One thing I love to do is look at what other people make. I love seeing artists post their work on Twitter and Tumblr, and I love finding new artists via Cool Hunting, High Fructose, The Fox is Black, and other online journals.

Most recently, I saw some cover art for Titan Comics’ Doctor Who comic book (the Ongoing Adventures of the Ninth Doctor). I feel in love with the artwork instantly, and made sure to let the artist, Rachael Smith, know. Most of the Doctor’s adventures involve lots of running, being chased by aliens, escaping from certain death, etc. So I loved seeing Rachael’s cover, because it depicted something that was quite different and yet a little closer to home for me. Basically, Rachael drew the archetypical scenario of the family road trip.

This one hit home with me because I had recently dealt with a difficult road trip made even more difficult when my car broke down at the halfway point. Yes, this was the trip to get to my parents’ house when my dad had his heart attack. My sister flew, I drove, and we both ran into one problem after another as we scrambled to get to rural Arkansas, wondering all the way if our dad would still be alive by the time we got there.

When a car breaks down in the middle of a trip, there’s not a lot you can do. You call a tow truck. You get to the nearest service station. And then you wait. For hours and hours and hours. I lost an entire day of travel waiting in Nashville for my car to be repaired. The guys at the service shop were very nice, and worked as fast as they could, but there was already a long line of cars waiting to be serviced when I got there. I couldn’t call my dad – he was in surgery. I couldn’t call my sister – she was flying somewhere over the country. I didn’t want to worry my mom. So all I could do was sit there and wait and do my best to pass the time.

The “road trip” break-down that Rachael depicted is much happier than mine turned out to be.

Rachael Smith 9th Doctor Cover

Rose may be losing the game, but she’s having a much better time than I was!


When I look at it, I get a sense of calm, the kind that comes with the peaceful laziness that happens when you’ve got nowhere to be in a hurry. The colors in Rachael’s artwork are bright and soothing, and I can just feel the late afternoon sun on my face. I also love the fact that Jack has more than a few aces tucked away in his pocket, behind him on the sand, and who knows where else!

Rachael was kind enough to send me a couple of autographed copies of the comic, along with information about her Patreon and Etsy shop. I highly encourage you to stop by and take a look, and please consider supporting her! Artists are amazing people, and generous artists are even more so. Rachael’s gift of these comics to me was such a wonderful kindness, one that allows me to look back on a difficult event in my own life and feel a bit better about it.

If you want to find more of Rachael’s work, or catch up with her on Twitter, Tumblr, or Etsy, here are the links you need ๐Ÿ™‚

Web: www.rachaelsmith.org

Twitter: @rachael_

Ask Flimsy: askflimsy.tumblr.com

Shop: etsy.com/shop/FlimsyKitten

(Please note, the trademarks and copyrights for Doctor Who and Titan Comics belong to their respective owners, not to me! Please do not grab the photo of this cover for your own personal use. Again, the comic books were a gift from Rachael Smith to me, and yes, she is very, very wonderful!)

I’m not dead yet!

And no, I won’t soon will be.

I apologize for being quiet for so long. This year has been overwhelming, between volunteer work and taking care of my parents after my dad’s heart attack. However, I am working on getting back into the swing of things.

I’ve gotten back to work on the webcomic, writing scripts and pencilling comics. I’ll probably start inking the first new comic later today. I’ve also been doing a lot of other drawing, so you should be seeing that soon as well.

So I’m coming back! I’m dragging myself back out of the grave and into the light. I hope we’re all prepared for this ๐Ÿ™‚

Three quick sketches of me

Three quick sketches

Practice Drawing – Cats, Part Deux

When last we talked about drawing practice, our intrepid artist (i.e. Me) was struggling to doodle the purrfect cat! Ha ha! I’m so funny!

But seriously, I was not happy after my first attempt at doodling a cat. It was supposed to be a simple doodle exercise, and I couldn’t do it. My first thought was that the apps I was using to doodle were not adequate to the job, but these were apps designed for doodling! So I got to thinking, maybe the problem wasn’t the apps. Maybe the problem was that I was overthinking the doodle. I wanted something that looked like a cat, but maybe I was trying to hard too draw a cat, an actual cat as I would see it in my mind.  Maybe I just needed to really get back to the basics.

So that’s what I did. The Paper app actually has a tool that changes my squiggly lines into nice shapes. It’s cheating in a way, because I’m relying on the tool to make the shape rather than my own skill, but drawing precise shapes on an iPad can be tricky, so let’s just acknowledge that I took the best approach to the problem and move on. With the shape tool selected, I started drawing basic shapes – ovals, circles, triangles – and used those to make a few cats.  Here are the results.


I really like these cats! Even though they’re simple shapes, they have personality. And look at their expressions! They’re so cute and goofy! These are the cats that exemplify the simpilicy that I think was the point of the the doodle exercise in Craft-A-Doodle

So I got that exercise done and then I tried the next – making a flag with my doodled pet. Again, the exercise in Craft-A-Doodle suggested drawing a pug, but I love cats, so I drew a cat flag, again using the simple shapes tool in the Paper app on my iPad.


Yep, I even managed to make this kitty a Siamese!

However, I still wanted to see if I could draw cats free-form, without relying on the shape tool in Paper. So I took another stab at it and here’s what I came up with:


These cats are a little different, but they still rely on basic shapes. This time, though, the whole body is a basic shape – rectangle, triangle, oval. And finally, finally, I feel like I really got the point of the exercise. Stick to the basics. Don’t overthink things. Don’t try to hard. And that’s a lesson I think I really need to learn.

Alternate Mii-ality 02 – Ta-Daaah!

After my first attempt at making a Miifoto on Miitomo, I quickly realized there were ways to make it better. For example, tapping on a sticker, character, or other element while setting up a Miifoto, allowed me to layer things in the order I wanted them. That meant I could put effects stickers and word balloowns behind my Mii, instead of blotting her out. It’s a primitive layering system, but it works!

Of course, Miifotos aren’t about the stickers. They’re about the clothes! Yes, the virtual wardrobe you can collect for your virtual character. I quickly became obsessed with putting together the perfect outfits for my Mii. However, my options are limited to what I can pay for with participation coins, any freebies that Nintendo chose to give away, or by what I can win in the Mii-drop games.  This has led to some… Interesting outfits. Like this one.


The only part of this outfit I bought was the shoes. The hat was a freebie from Miitomo during the launch of the app, and rest of it was won in a food themed Mii-drop game. I honestly had no idea what the games were about initially. I just gave them a spin to see what would happen and all of a sudden I had a bunch of weird, food-themed clothing in my virtual closet. The sandwich shirt and skirt do go well together, but I’m not sure if I would wear this outfit in real life…

Oh, who the hell am I kidding?! You know I’d totally wear this! Somebody get me this outfit in real life, STAT!

Practice Drawing – Cats, cats, and more cats!

I am slowly working my way through the book Craft-a-Doodle, playing with the tutorials for drawing fun little doodles. I got stalled on the exercises in the second chapter though, which was about drawing pugs. The tutorial is very straightforward. The problem is, I didn’t want to draw pugs. To me, pugs seemed to be the signature motif of the artist who wrote the tutorials for that chapter – Gemma Correl. Her pugs are adorable, but they’re also her pugs, and I’m not doing this drawing practice so that I can perfectly imitate anotehr artists.

I opted therefor, to draw cats instead. I know nothing about pugs, but I’ve lived with cats all my life. We have three prime specimens in the house right now, in fact! So, after reading through Gemma Correl’s pug-drawing tutorial, I set baout drawing cats.

The basic idea behind Correl’s pug drawings is that they’re very simple and very cute. Everything is composed of basic shapes, mainly circles and triangles. So I tried to stick to that idea when I drew my cats. However, things didn’t quite workout the way I wanted…

I drew my first cat in Paper on my iPad and immediately ran into problems. Paper doesn’t give me a lot of control over how the tools work. I can pick a tool and I can pick the color to draw or paint with, but I can’t make any adjustments beyond that.  And there’s a definite limit to how far I can zoom in. In some ways, that makes Paper the perfect app for doodling, but in others, I feel crippled by the app. I can’t draw as smoothly as I can in other, more sophisticated apps, nor do I have the tactile advantage of working with more traditional media, like markers and card stock. Anyway, I drew the first cat, and here’s how he turned out.


Okay, he’s not bad, but I wanted to draw him with a thicker line and I didn’t have the option to do that. The result was a scratchy little drawing that just disappeared on the page. Since the lines were so thin, I thought maybe coloring him would help him pop out more. I opted to give him Siamese coloring, and discovered that the watercolor brush in paper has some quirks when it comes to blending and layering colors. Frustrated, I decided to redraw my cat in another app.

Here’s cat number two, drawn in Tayasui Sketches. Again, I did a simple pen drawing with watercolor.


To me, this was even worse. The water color blended better, but I had such limited control over the size of the brush that colors were constantly bleeding into areas where I didn’t want them. Keep in mind, I wasn’t using the pro version, of Sketches, although I did pay to unlock all the features in the version I am using, so I’m not sure what the differences is between the two apps. I also don’t know if the pro version would allow me more control over the brush size. That’s something I’m going to ave to investigate. But the biggest problem I had with Sketches was that it worked sooooooooo slooooooowly on my iPad. There was a definite lag between when I drew a line and when it actually appeared. I don’t know what the problem was, but that’s something else I’ll have to look into.

Anyway, frustrated with both Paper and Sketches, I finally opened up my favorite drawing app, Sketchclub, and drew a cat in that. Sketchclub has a pen tool, excelelnt zooming, panning and rotating capabilities, layers, and shape drawing tools. It doesn’t have water color brushes, but it does have plenty of other tools that I think make up for that. And since at this point I was damned and determined to draw a cat the way I wanted to draw one, I ditched the whole idea of a simple doodle and pulled out all the stops to draw a Siamese cat. And here it is!


Again, not a doodle at all, and the complete opposite of the point I think Gemma Correll was trying to make, but this was the one cat drawing I was happy with, so there you go.

This is not the end of the cat saga, of course. I had not accomplished the goal of the tutorial, and I refused to be beaten by this, but I did set the tutorial aside for a while. I’ll show you the results of round two next week!

Practice Drawing – Landscapes in Manga Studio 5 EX

I’m still doodling away with Craft-a-Doodle, but I’ve also been playing with something else on the side that I thought I’d share this week. I have always loved to draw, but I struggle with drawing backgrounds and landscapes, especially when I need to create them from scratch. This can be a problem for someone who’s supposed to be a webcomic artist. While I can usually get away with nothing more than a colored gradient in the background, sometimes I need to actually set the scene. If we’re outside, where are we? At the pool? In the park? On the moon?

After years of avoiding the problem as much as I could, I finally decided I needed to learn how to make landscapes. I started simply at first, working with basic foreground, mid-ground, and background layers. For a lot of this, I used Pixite’s Assembly app on my iPad, because it gave me pre-made shapes (trees, mountains, clouds, etc.) that I could layer over and under each other to get what I wanted. Then I started to get a little more ambitious, creating my own vector shapes in Pixite, making more complex trees, fancier mountains, and so on. And once I felt confident enough working with a library of pre-made shapes, I moved on to drawing things from scratch in other vector-based apps like Concepts or Inkpad on my iPad.

Today, however, I decided it was time to move from my iPad to my Surface, to see if I could take things a bit further. I love having a library of pre-made objects to pull from when I’m working on a more complex landscape, but I also want to be able to easily create organic shapes on the fly. My iPad appsย let me do one or the other, but I haven’t found an app that lets me do both, so I pulled out my Surface Pro to see what I could do there.

It turns out that with a bit of fiddling, Manga Studio 5 EX is perfect for what I want. I was able to create a vector drawing tool that allows me to draw organic shapes, AND I can then save those shapes to Manga Studio’s “materials” library to use again later. The vector drawing tool I came up with is basically a dialogue pen balloon tool. I turned out off the outline, using only the background color to fill the shapes I draw. I set the correction for the pen stroke very low, since I want my shapes to be complex and not over-simplified. And then I just started drawing with it.

Because I’m using a tool meant for dialogue balloons, I can set the tool to either draw on a new layer or on a pre-selected layer. This way I can sort the pieces I draw in an organized fashion. And even if I do draw multiple shapes on the same layer, each shape retains ย its own vector path instead of merging into other vector objects on that layer. So I can still select each individual object to edit it as I need to.

I realize all this sounds very technical, but if you’ve ever worked with vector drawing programs, you probably have some idea of what I’m talking about here. And if you’ve ever worked with Manga Studio and are looking for a way to play with it, this is a pretty good option!

Anyway, here’s the current landscape that I’m working on. It’s inspired by a postcard I have of Sequoia National Park. The postcard was painted in the style of the old WPA posters, perfect for vector graphics. The original was painted by Doug Leen and Brian Maebius. They did an entire series of postcards for the national parks, and you can find out more at www.rangerdoug.com.

In the meantime, here’s my version of their postcard ๐Ÿ™‚

Vector landscape

Manga Stuio 5 EX vector landscape in progress

Like I said, this is a work in progress. You can see that so far I’ve done the trees in the background and in the foreground. I’ve only just started working on the mid-ground. But what’s nice is that I’ve been able to save pieces of this as objects in the Materials library, so now I can reuse them again if I need to. For example, those big trees in the background could come in handy later on! And they’re saved as vector objects so I can easily adjust their size, color, opacity, etc., as needed.

Anyway, that’s it for this week’s drawing practice. I’m working on doodles of cats this week, so that will show up in next week’s blog post!

Alternate Mii-ality 01 – Introduction

I may have mentioned a week or two ago that I had an idea for a sorta-kinda webcomic. I say “sorta-kinda” because it’s not a webcomic in the traditional sense. You see, I joined Nintendo’s Miitomo when it first came out and I immediately became addicted to it. Specifically, I became addicted to what Miitomo calls “Miifotos.” If you haven’t played Miitomo, here’s an explanation.  

Miitomo is a social media app that allows you to create a digital mini-version of yourself called a Mii. Miitomo asks your Mii questions – what’s your favorite bread; what are your hobbies; would you rather be invisible or have the power of flight. You answer the questions, and then you can see how other people answered them and comment on what they said. You can also visit other people’s Miis for a question and answer session. Your Mii earns virtual coins for answering questinos and for commenting on other folks answers. There are also mini-games to play, and a shop where you can spend your virtual coins on virtual outfits for your virtual Mii. And once you change into a new outfit, Miitomo asks if you want to take a Miifoto!

I don’t know why I’m addicted to the Miifotos, but I am. When you enter the Miifoto portion of the app, you can set the background, the pose and expression of your Mii, and add little extras like stickers and word balloons to turn your Miifoto into a CARTOON. Okay, so maybe that’s why I’m addicted to Miifotos.

I play Miitomo daily, so I very quickly accrued a bunch of Miifotos. I share each day’s Miifoto on Twitter, but I thought I could start running them here as well. You might get a kick out of them. Or you might decided I’ve finally gone round the bend. Either way, here’s the very first Miifoto I made!

Miifoto

My very first Miifoto!


Yeah, it’s not the most amazing thing in the world. The background, outfit, wings and sparkles all came from Miitomo, as did the Mii itself, plus its pose and that weird cat face ๐Ÿ™‚ But the moment I made this, I immediately knew, I wanted to make another one, and I wanted to make it BETTER. So over the next few months, you’ll see a slow evolution from half-assed snapshots to some images that I think are very cool!

Practicing Drawing – Flower Power

Yay! Another blog post! As promised, I have done more practice drawing and I’m ready to share some of the results with you all. Again, I’m working my way through Craft-a-Doodle by Jenny Doh. There is a list of 75 exercises and drawing prompts in this book, gathered from 18 artists. No two artists draw exactly alike, but everyone is focusing on the doodle style of drawing, which I enjoy. Why, you may ask? I’ve always loved to doodle. Doodles are fun little drawings of little or no consequence that I can do any time, on any handy scrap of paper. And because they’re of little or no consequence (i.e. I’m not making art to sell), I don’t feel a lot of pressure when I scribble away at them. I don’t need to carefully pencil my doodles, I can just go straight to ink (always my favorite part of drawing comics). I can use any colors without worrying about the overall color scheme of an entire comic strip. I don’t have to worry about scripting anything, and I don’t even have to think about whether what I’m drawing makes any sense. So doodling is a judgement-free zome for me!!!

Or at least it should be. The one thing I find my self struggling with as I go through these exercises is to not use the undo button. Again, I’m drawing these using Paper 53 on my iPad. Paper is a pretty basic drawing app with some decent natural media style tools, but they’re not the most precise tools, and I have no control over the size of the brush tips, the opacity of the color I lay down, or much of anything else. I can zoom in to work on something, but not as far as I’m used to doing in a drawing app. So, I’m using some pretty basic tools with very limited control, and I am making a lot of mistakes as I draw, which I hate. And what happens every time I make a mistake? I hit the undo button, which goes entirely against what I’m trying to accomplish with my practice drawing.

I don’t want to be perfect when I draw. I want to be good, and I want to get faster, which means learning to deal with mistakes and accept them as they happen, instead of bogging down the whole drawing process by constantly undoing my work in an attempt to make it perfect. I’m having to fight with myself not to hit the undo button, and even then, sometimes I can’t live with the line I’ve just drawn or the color I just put down, and instead of just making it work, or accepting it and moving on, I undo and undo and undo and undo…

Ugh. It’s infuriating. But one habit I need to break is hitting that undo button, so that’s why I’m doing this drawing practice.

Okay, enough yakking. Time for a couple of pics. The exercises I worked on this week had me making  sprays of flowers and drawing more elaborate stylized flowers. I love drawing flowers, so I enjoyed this week. Here are two of the drawings I produced.

Floral Spray

BeeYOUtiful Roses


Fancy Flower

Fancy Flower


I did take a little time with the second one to pick out the colors I wanted to use. I’m fussy about colors and I wanted colors for this that would contrast well but still work together. I like the final product. It reminds me of 1970s kitchen wall paper for some reason. That or Pennsylvania Dutch decor.

After playing around with flowers on the iPad, I decided to try drawing on ACTUAL PAPER with ACTUAL PENS AND MARKERS. Here’s how that turned out!

Floral Card

It”s a greeting card!


I have so much more control over actual paper and pen, and I had no problems not undoing anything I did on this card because THERE WASN’T ANY UNDO BUTTON!!!

Anyway, that’s this week’s drawing practice. I hope you like it. If you’re curious about the book Craft-a-Doodle, you can get it here.