Flashback Friday! Zombie

Zombie! by Helen E. H. Madden, drawn with ArtRage in the iPad

Unlike other Flashback Friday drawings, this one is from not-so-long ago. In fact, it's the first drawing I ever did on an iPad. It was Christmas, almost 3 years ago, and the iPad was brand-new, right out of the box. I'd been dying to try drawing on an iPad, so I spent most of Christmas Day sketching this.

Three years later, I think it's safe to say getting an iPad changed a lot of things for me. It got me more interested in digital art, let me improve my drawing skills, and helped me realize that more than anything, I wanted to throw myself into my art. These days, I draw on the iPad, sketch cartoons in pen and ink, and create odd little characters out of felt, thread, yarn, and whatever else I can get my hands on. It's a happy way of love, I have to admit. And it all started with this drawing.

Flashback Friday! Galactic Chicken

Flashback Friday artwork

Click on the thumbnail above to view the full-sized image!

Back when I used to have a grown-up day job, I would stave off mind-numbing boredom by doodling in a sketch book. Almost all the doodles were done in ball-point pen, because it was what I had on hand at the time. Turns out these days that ball-point pen is quite the artistic medium, which some artists turning out these amazing works of art. I may have to dig through my desk drawer and see what pens I have still. If they haven’t all leaked.

Anyway, these are a few characters I drew during some boring meeting. The cat is Lydia, one of my cats who passed away a few years ago. Lydia was a very loving, quiet cat who was also somewhat crazy.  I adopted her when I was in graduate school. She lived to be 18 years old, and I was very sad to see her go.

The other characters are Elvis the Alien, who I used to draw all the time, and Galactic Chicken, who I only drew the once. I have no idea why I drew Galactic Chicken, but I did, and for some reason, I apparently decided he needed lips. I guess chickens from outer space have lips. I don’t really know.

Flashback Friday! Cyndi Lauper

Flashback Friday artwork

“Cyndi Lauper” by Helen E. H. Madden, colored pencil, date unknown

While I was not a die-hard fan of Cyndi Lauper, I did enjoy her music and her videos. Looking at this image (which I think was drawn from a magazine picture in “Tiger Beat” or some similar publication), I am reminded of how much I miss the old days of MTV, when they actually played music videos for 24 hours a day. Ah, the good ol’ days of my youth. They’re long gone now, I tell ya!

Flashback Friday – I used to have this job…

Click on the thumbnail to view the full-sized image!

Click on the thumbnail to view the full-sized image!

About a year after I graduated from Virginia Tech, I decided to go to grad school. Honestly, it was because I had no idea what else to do with myself. I was in the Army Reserves and had my BA in communications, but no idea what sort of job I wanted or how to go about finding one. I don’t know how I got through 4 years of college with no preparation to find a job, but there you go!

So I applied to the graduate program of Radford University’s communication department and I got it. And I got a graduate teaching assistant job. My work mostly consisted of me creating graphics for videos that the communication program was putting together on effective oral communication. I did all the graphics work on an Amiga computer, using a program that was very popular at the time but who’s name I cannot remember now. I must have turned out over one hundred graphics for this job. I think I have them all somewhere on floppy disk. I have no floppy disk drive though, so I’ve got no way of getting them off the disk.

But I do still have a couple sketches, like this one. It’s kind of scary to realize that I used to do this job, a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Things have changed a lot since then, and yet changed very little.

Flashback Friday! Colorful Cat

"Colorful Cat" by Helen E. H. Madden

“Colorful Cat” by Helen E. H. Madden, colored pencil on paper

I almost didn’t get this post done. I try to do all my posts by Sunday before the week starts; otherwise they likely won’t get done. I’m writing this at 11:20PM on Sunday evening, you’re reading it sometime on Friday. I’m dead tired after a lousy week. I can only hope by the time you read this, things have turned around a bit.

Anyway, enough whining. This page of doodles was a drawing exercise I attempted many years ago. The exercise was listed in a colored pencil drawing book I have, and the point was to draw freehand, with as many colors as I liked, to see how the colors might work together in creating a sense of depth, warmth or coolness, texture, etc.

I love working in colored pencil. I haven’t done it in years, but maybe I’ll be able to change that this year. I have a complete collection of Prismacolor pencils, and I’d love to drag them out, sit down and start coloring. It’s very soothing to just lay down layer after layer of color, and slowly produce a richly colored work of art.

By the way, the cat in that picture is one of my old kitties that passed away a couple years ago. From the pose and the length of fur, I think it may be Lydia. Or it could be Fritti. The color was supposed to give the image life, but I failed to use it to accurately record which cat I was drawing at the time.

Flashback Friday! My backyard


“Backyard” by Helen E. H, Madden, date unknown, probably late 70s or early 80s

I don’t know why I drew this picture. This is my backyard, or rather, why was behind my backyard, when I was growing up. We lived very near the Chesapeake Bay and we had a canal that ran behind all the houses on our side of the street. Every house on the canal had a small boat dock, and we actually had a sailboat for many years. I think we may have gotten rid of it when it capsized on my dad one time. I can’t recall. I do recall Dad let my sister and I name the boat and we called it “Butterfly.”

I remember when my mom saw this drawing, she said it was our backyard at low tide. The water did get pretty low then, but that’s not what I was trying to draw. The lines in the water that run under the cock in the mid-ground were actually meant to depict the area of water that reflected the sun late in the afternoon.

My sister and I used to swim in this canal. It was salt water, very muddy on the bottom, and could fill up with huge jellyfish at a moment’s notice. We always had to wear shoes when we swam in the canal, because the bottom was littered with mollusk shells that could cut our feet open. But the mud was very sticky and I lost a lot of shoes in that canal.

Some nights, when I dream, I dream about going out on our dock and getting into the little dinghy we used to own. Then I row out into the bay and I can’t figure out how to get back. I don’t dream this often, but it’s both scary and kind of cool when I do. I miss being able to just row away in a little boat.

Anyway, this is a drawing of my old backyard.

Flashback Friday! Stereotypes are NOT super!


“Cynical Woman” by Helen E. H. Madden, 2002

Ten years ago, long before I started drawing the Cynical Woman webcomic, I had this idea to do a short animation film about a superhero and her name was Cynical Woman.  This Cynical Woman was supposed to be cranky, snarky, and very curvy, which I knew many people would interpret as “fat.” I’d been collecting comic books for years, and I knew what the standard was for female heroes.  I did have a super-slim superhero in my story –  Glory Gal, sister of Cynical Woman and leader of the Model Citizens.  She was supposed to represent everything I despised about the stereotypical depiction of female characters in comic books.

However, I came up with this project the year before I gave birth to my first child, and due to the complexity of making an animated film and the fact that I was pregnant and then had a very colicky baby, nothing ever came of the project.  I’ve got a few odd bits and pieces of stuff floating around –  character turn-arounds, some sample animation, a few story outlines – but that’s as far as I ever got.

I’m showing you this version of Cynical Woman now because of this contest I read about on deviantArt. As a 43–year-old geek/artist, I’ve hit my limit with regards to stereotypical images of women in sci-fi, fantasty, and comic book art. Just about every time I see a woman depicted in these genres, she’s usually wearing some stupid, ridiculous costume that barely covers her watermelon-sized, gravity-defying breasts.  This attitude that sci-fi/fantasy art equals mostly naked babe running around in 8–inch heels and carrying giant sword is so pervasive, it’s mind-boggling. And just when I think it might be getting better, that artists might realize that women should be portrayed as women and not just as plastic-fantastic sex toys, I run across another image of “babe with killer-boobs” and I want to beat my brains out on my desk.

Case in point.  Recently, I found out my once-favorite magazine, Digital Artist, decided to switch formats. When I first subscribed to Digital Artist, it was a magazine that focused on a wide variety of digital art methods and subjects.  There were articles on digital painting and collage, inking manga, creating t-shirt and sticker designs, etc.  The artwork showcased within the magazine ran the range from fantasy and sci-fi to natural landscapes and animal portraits to abstract art and everything in between.  I loved Digital Artist magazine! When I first found Digital Artist magazine in my local bookstore, I turned cartwheels in the aisles. “This!” I thought.  “This is the answer to Imagine FX!  This is a magazine that doesn’t portray women like they’re nothing more than brainless sex toys!  This is a magazine that realizes not all digital artists are just stereotypically sex-starved, testosterone-poisoned guys looking for wank material. This is a magazine that realizes there are female (and male) artists out there who know digital art isn’t just about soft-core pin-up girls.  This is a magazine that realizes women artists have money and they’re willing to spend on a quality magazine about digital art!!”

Sadly, that magazine is now dead.  As of the current issue, Digital Artist is now Fantasy Artist, and it looks like the editors and publishers have very successfully managed to turn their wonderful magazine into a clone of Imagine FX. And I’m so ticked off with what they’ve done that I’m about to cancel my subscription. I’ve been advised to wait at least one more issue to be sure whether or not I want to do this, but after seeing the cover for premiere issue of Fantasy Artist and reading through some of the articles, I think it’s pretty clear that I (a 43–year-old woman with a brain) am no longer the target audience for them.

So I’m angry and more than a little frustrate, and I want to say that if you are as tired as I am of the stereotypical images of sexy pin-up babes that pervade sci-fi, fantasy, and comic book art, take a moment to think about how you could make a difference in those genres.  Enter the “Create a Fat Female Superhero” contest. Write an email of complaint to Fantasy Artist magazine. Create your own drawings of women in sci-fi and fantasy. Draw what you want to see, don’t simply accept the garbage that’s out there. Because honestly, women are a lot more than stick figures with gravity-defying boobs, no matter how much magazine and comic book editors and publishers try to tell you otherwise. In fact, it’s high time we told them what women look like. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll listen.

Flashback Friday! Magneto!


“Magneto” by Helen E. H. Madden, ink sketch, 21 July 1993

I don’t know what possessed me to draw this particular image of Magneto. I know I copied it out of a comic book, but I don’t know why exactly. Or rather, I do know that I was trying to improve my art skills at the time by studying other people’s work and copying, and I do know that at the time I was seriously addicted to comic books. But I cannot tell you why I chose to draw Magneto. I don’t recall him being my favorite X-Men villain/anti-hero/hero (depending on which storyline was going on at the time, he could have been all three at once).  Why didn’t I draw Storm or the Sensational She-Hulk, two characters I absolutely love? Why didn’t I draw Wolverine?  Or why not draw Dream or Death from The Sandman?

No idea. But as far as copies of drawings of Magneto go, I don’t think this one is half bad.

Flashback Friday – Someday, I will look back

Today’s Flashback Friday artwork is not my artwork, and it’s not old artwork either. It’s a pair of drawings my oldest daughter, the Princess, did a few weeks ago.


“Self-Portrait” by Princess, age 9


“Purple-Haired Mama with Orange Flower” by Princess, age 9

One day, I am going to look back at these drawings and remember what it was like to be 43 years old and the mother of two very rambunctious little girls. I’m going to remember that I went crazy when my hair started going white and that I dyed it various unnatural colors as a result. I’m going to remember that my daughters were as talented as they were silly/goofy/hyper-active/crazy. And then I’m going to realize that not much has changed. Except perhaps that my hair has only gotten wilder and the girls have gotten bigger, and we’ve all gotten a bit older but none of us are any more mature.

Yes, someday I will look back. But right now, this is what the Princess and I look like today.