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.

Testing out Clip Studio Paint for the iPad

Gibbie and I go out for a run

A test comic of me and Gibbie going out for a run

Oooooh! What is this? Is it… a WEBCOMIC?!

Well, sort of. One of the biggest stumbling blocks last year to me getting the webcomic done was problems with software and hardware. I had purchased a new Microsoft Surface Pro with a larger screen, in hopes that the larger screen would make Manga Studio EX more readable, thus leading to more regular output of webcomics from me.

Alas, this was not the case. The Surface Pro really isn’t the ideal laptop for me, even with its touchscreen and high resolution. For starters, the stylus for the new Surface Pros last year was not a Wacom stylus. I have used Wacom styluses (styli?) for years, and I love them. They are dependable, easy to use, and work beautifully with a huge list of desktop software and iPad drawing apps. But for some reason, Microsoft decided to NOT use a Wacom stylus anymore and instead sold its own stylus with the Surface Pro.

What a lousy idea. First off, the Microsoft stylus runs on AAAA batteries! Do you know how hard it is to find AAAA batteries in local stores? We had to order the damn things just to get the stylus to work. That made no sense to me whatsoever. Wacom figured out a long time ago how to make styli (styluses?) that didn’t require batteries for power! My current iPad stylus, a Wacom Creative, is actually set up to charge off a USB port or Apple charger (just take out the attached cable and plug in Wacom’s charger attachment and power that sucker on up!).

The second problem I encountered was that Manga Studio DID NOT LIKE the Microsoft stylus. Rather than let me draw quickly and easily, it seemed to reject the stylus at every turn, as if the software instinctively KNEW that I was trying to pull a fast one by using a Microsoft stylus instead of a Wacom.

I struggled with it for a while, but eventually, the problem was so ridiculous that I gave up on Microsoft’s stylus and on the Surface Pro (what a waste of money). I tried searching for apps to draw webcomics on my iPad, but by that point, I’d been spoiled rotten by Manga Studio. It had layers! It had vector AND raster! It had materials and tones! It had so many effects and bells and whistles and I used all that stuff to make the webcomic!  Nothing else had this, except for a few apps that just did not play nice on my iPad. And then life started to fall apart in general and that sort of put paid to the idea of me drawing anything for a while.

Then earlier this year, I discovered that Clip Paint Studio, the original Manga Studio, was available as an app for the iPad. I decided to give it a try, but wasn’t very hopeful as I expected to encounter some of the same problems I’d had with the Surface Pro, that of having a full fledge software program on a small screen.

HOWEVER! Clip Studio Paint did look just fine on my iPad, so I plunked the money down for a subscription (yeah, it’s subscription based, which sucks, but….) and went to work on drawing new webcomics

Then I ran into the another problem that reminded me too much of the trouble I’d been having with Manga Studio on the Surface Pro. THE APP DID NOT LIKE MY WACOM STYLUS.

It liked the Apple Pencil just fine, but for some reason, it wouldn’t see the Wacom stylus as a pressure sensitive device, and so while it would let the Wacom draw, I lost all the ability to make lines thick and thin just by adding a bit of pressure (and if you draw comics, you know what a HUGE problem that can be).

Now, I have an Apple Pencil, but the damn thing is constantly running out of power. Honestly, I just can’t keep it charged. The power will last for a couple days and then FBBTZZ! Nothing. The Wacom can last for weeks on a single charge, so I never have to worry about not being able to use it, but if it wouldn’t work right in Clip Studio Paint… Well, let’s just say that contributed to another 8 or 9 months of hiatus from the webcomic.

Well, last week, I decided to open up Clip Studio Paint (I had paid for the damn thing, after all) and give it another try. I don’t know what they did, I don’t recall any update, but for whatever reason, the app now works just fine with my Wacom Creative stylus. So I decided to knock out a test drawing, see how long it took to make (still takes me longer than I’d like to draw even a single panel comic), and the result is the image you saw above waaaaaaaaaaaaay back at the beginning of this ramble.

Long story short, I may finally be able to get back to drawing webcomics the way I want to. Long story not quite as short, I may still have to suck it up from time to time and find some other way to draw the webcomic. So I’m going to research other apps that I see recommended, including Procreate and SketchClub and others, and I’ll show the results of my research here from time to time.

’Nuff said.

Speaking of engines…

First, I just noticed a couple of typos in my last post. To correct the worst typo… We did not have one child move from high school to middle school. It was the other way around, actually. Princess started high school last year, and she’s been having the time of her life. At the same time, Pixie started middle school. She’s doing well, but not having as much fun. A lot of that comes down to the fact that a number of her best friends no longer go to the same school. I’m hoping she’ll make new friends and start to enjoy school a bit more, but we’ll see.

Second, some days after I wrote that last post, we had some car trouble. The car had started shaking and shuddering a few times while we were driving it, but there was no obvious cause and the shop we take it to for maintenance couldn’t reproduce the problem. Since the shaking and shuddering stopped after we put new tires on the car, we thought the problem had been solved. Then last Friday, the car broke down.

While we were on the highway.

Driving into D.C.

For a weekend visit with family.

Joy.

The car didn’t just break down. The power cut out. Power steering, power breaks, everything. Yet the lights and blinkers still worked, as did the radio, so the problem obviously wasn’t the battery. Hubster managed to get us to the shoulder of the highway, and then we proceeded to call AAA, various family members, and finally Uber, all in order to get the car towed to a garage and get us to our final destination – my brother-in-law’s house.

We had a lovely weekend staying with my brother-in-law and his wife and two boys. Saw lots of sights, played games, ate a lot of good food. Meanwhile, our car sat at a garage that was closed all holiday weekend. Then on Monday, we headed to the airport. The girls and I hopped into a rental car and drove home, while Hubster stayed back in D.C. to wait for the garage to open up and diagnose what was wrong with the car.

Well, Hubster called me just a little while ago and the news ain’t great. The engine is flooded with oil. It would cost $6600 to repair. We only owe about $2000 on the car, and we just put brand new tires on it to the tune of $1000. We are currently reviewing our options, but I don’t think we’re going to bother with repairing the car.

Anyway, we had a lovely weekend otherwise, and I got to revisit the tomb of “The Queen of the Magazine,” who, as far as I can tell, still isn’t dead yet, so she’s obviously in much better shape than our car! I gotta say, I love this woman’s monument. She looks like she’s having a great life.

Tomb for the Queen of the Magazine

“The Queen of the Magazine!”

Headstone for Evelyn Davis

Evelyn Davis is still kicking, as far as I can tell from her headstone.

Restarting my engines

I have been away for far too long. There are a lot of reasons why – family emergencies, illness, having one child go from high school to middle school. I may go into all this more later on, but basically, life got overwhelming, and so I had to strip away everything that wasn’t essential to my day-to-day survival for a while.

I am now trying to figure out how to come back, how to restart the web and restart a lot of those other things that I had to ditch while I coped with various crises and emergencies. It’s hard. I’m not sure what to blog about anymore, or what to cartoon about, but I’m hoping that slowly but surely, I’ll figure it out.

So for the time being, I’m going to blog about whatever comes up. It might be some random art project that I’ve stolen time to work on. It might be about how I’m dealing with my own health problems, or it might actually be about something funny, like how our dog and cats do not get along (I swear, it’s like 21st venture reboot of Garfield in this house).

Eventually, I’ll find topics that I want to write about on a regular basis, but for now, I’ll just be posting the random stuff of my life. Like this little gem:

My dog Gibno!

“Baroo?!”

Yep, that’s my dog Gibno. Not sure what he’s doing, but this picture is a pretty good example of what’s going on in my life right now. Enjoy!

Messy Monday – Painted Skulls and a Broken Nose

I had an epic fail on Friday.

Pixie and I were jogging on a local trail, anways behind Princess’ cross country team. The trail in question is steep, with lots of big tree roots crossing it, along with the occasional heavy wooden beam to shore up the steeper parts. Pixie was jogging with the coach’s dog, while I jogged along behind her with Gibbie. I was doing pretty good, jogging faster than I have in a while. I was feeling pretty good.

Then I caught my foot on a tree root and slammed face first into the ground.

The good news is that I did not plant my face into a wooden beam. I hit that with my ribs, instead. The bad news is that I hit the ground HARD, and I knew that as soon as I hit, I had broken my nose.

Apparently, my crash landing was so tremendous it scared the young lady running ahead of me. After checking to see if I was okay (I was laughing as I sat up, despite my smashed nose), she ran off to get Pixie and the team coach. I told the coach I was fine and sent her off to keep track of the girls still running. Pixie stayed with me. According to her, I walked over to a nearby bench, sat down, then tumbled over ass-over-tea-kettle as Inpassed out. I don’t remember doing that, but I do remember having a very brief, pleasant dream that ended with me waking up staring at the grass and Pixie asking me if I was okay.

“Uh, yeah. I’m fine. But why is the world sideways?”

I was able to pull myself together after a few more minutes, and Pixie and I walked a mile back to our car. My nose bled the entire way. As soon as the cross country team came in, I grabbed Princess and we drove home. It took me an hour to clean up. I was covered from head to toe in dirt and dead leaves, along with blood, bruises and scrapes. But I was still laughing, so I was okay.

Later that day, Princess and Pixie asked why I had laughed through all this. I was a real mess. In addition to breaking my nose, I also tore up both knees and one elbow and I broke the big toe on my right foot. Why would I laugh when I did all that? Good question. I’m not really sure of the answer, but I hope it’s because I chose to laugh instead of cry. Yes, it all hurt like hell, but I think crying or even just complaining would have made it much worse. Laughing as soon as I got up seemed to make it feel better. And I think I chose to laugh because I knew that, but I knocked myself so silly, I can’t be sure I actually made that choice.

In any event, I have a couple of photos of the skulls I’ve been painting. I’ve gotten farther along, adding dots of white paint to make patterns. Over the white, I’m adding a bit of metallic paint, and then I plan to add some jewel-tone paints on top of that. What do you think?

Blue skull

I tried making the dots with a paint brush, but found a stylus works better.

Pink skull

This one is my favorite so far!

Yellow skull

This one’s a bit messy, but I’ve gotten farther along with it.

 

And there you have it! This week’s mess. Yay!

Messy Monday – life is messy and so is my drawing but I love it!

I am doing my best to blog two to three times a week, but things are pretty crazy, as usual. Both girls are home all day, and we’re working all day long to train the puppy. On top of that, Princess has cross country practice Monday through Friday, at 7AM, at a different location every day. Our schedule is such a MESS!

But life is always messy, so I am doing my best to draw everyday and to get at least two blog posts out every week. And they may get posted a little late, but that’s better than not at all!

For this week’s Messy Monday, I thought I’d share a drawing I’m working on. 


It’s a mermaid! I’m drawing this one in Concepts on my iPad Pro. I decided to do this drawing in a deliberately messy style, using Concepts’ filled area tool to draw all the lines as well as other shapes, because I get the best results in Concepts when I draw that way rather than try to create very controlled lines and shapes. I started out using my Apple Pencil when I began working on this piece, but I wasn’t happy with how the Pencil was handling. The tip of the Pencil is so slick, it was just skidding across the screen of my iPad, causing me all sorts of problems, especially lots of stray marks. I mean, I wanted a sort of messy style, but not that messy! 

Desperate to get some sort of control over my stylus, I put my Pencil away and pulled out my old Wacom Creative stylus. Yes, it’s older. Yes, it has the fatter tip. But that tip is made of rubber, and it grips the screen so much better! So I decided to keep working with the Creative stylus.

Then, one evening, when I posted an earlier version of this drawing to Twitter, I happened to mention I was drawing it in Concepts and using my old Wacom stylus to do it. And you know what? The folks over at Concepts saw that tweet and asked me which old stylus I was using. After a bit of conversation about my old Creative stylus and the problems I was having with my Apple Pencil, they asked me if I might be interested in getting the newer Wacom Bamboo Sketch stylus. Uh, yeah I would! And that led to Concepts talking to Wacom, who just happened to be looking to give the new Sketch stylus to a few folks, and whaddya know?! Less than a week later (today, as a matter of fact), a brand new Wacom Bamboo Sketch stylus showed up in the mail!

I’ve been working with the Sketch this afternoon, and used it today on the mermaid drawing above. I like how it handles! The tip is definitely smaller than my old Creative stylus, but it still has a nice feel to it, gripping the screen of my iPad just enough to keep from skidding erratically all over my artwork.

I will post an actual review of the new Sketch stylus sometime in the next week. For now though, I just want to play with it for a while. I have a little free time tonight, which I’m going to take advantage of right now. Because with my messy schedule, you grab that free time whenever you get a chance!

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 🙂

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 🙂

Three quick sketches of me

Three quick sketches

ACW Episode 301 – What the heck happened?!

Webcomi!

Click on the image to see it full-sized!

Just in case you were wondering why I haven’t been posting here very much, this is why.

Every time I think I’ve got my schedule under control, something else rears its ugly head to completely mess up my day… week… month… year…

I am working to take some of that time back, but the recent snow storm in the area has delayed the start of our Girl Scout cookie sales, so now we have to spend more time going door to door. And that’s okay. We’ll work through this. Just keep in mind, if you see some Girl Scouts selling cookies, considering buying some. Or even consider just making a little donation. Every penny a troop makes during cookie sales counts!

Now, I’m going to write some scripts for upcoming episodes and just keep plugging along!