Things ain’t as sweet as they used to be…

NutellaSince my last post, I’ve managed to catch two colds and write about 40,000 NaNoWriMo words. I imagine the second number would be higher if the first were lower, but such are the perils of an early winter and an inability to sleep for the proper amount of time. I’m enjoying the “chapter” I’m on right now, though — it’s narrated by Crow, one of my favorite beasties, and I’ve managed to incorporate the Crow and the Pitcher, Raven Steals the Light, and a few other corvid-related bits of mythology into the story so far. It’s looking like I’ll wind up with eight different species’ takes on the way of things at the Beginning of the World, though each has a different focus, interpretation and style. Two major natural events, a flood and an eclipse, are the only constants, though why and when they happened vary. There’s also one recurring quote and action, which occurs at different places in the stories and with different connotations, with no real explanation given for its persistence.

This, of course, has nothing to do with today’s drawing.

A few days ago, I was walking to the grocery store and I heard a strange, hollow scraping from somewhere above me. A couple octaves lower and I’d assume it was a squirrel gnawing on a walnut, which can be heard from a surprising distance on a still day when the trees are bare. But this sounded almost like metal or plastic. I ducked away from the nearest tree, because it was an icy day and there were a few cracked branches around. I didn’t fancy having one of them fall on me as I tried to pinpoint what sound it was making. But when I looked up, I realized it was none of these things.

A fat squirrel was carrying something brown in its mouth. It wasn’t a nut, and it wasn’t a pile of leaves for its nest. This left “garbage,” and upon closer inspection (and listening) it did in fact appear to be a piece of hard plastic of some kind. The little fellow was gnawing on it, which just seemed incredibly sad, so I ran up a bit closer to see if I could scold him into dropping it and finding a healthier alternative. The squirrel just flicked his tail and scurried into a higher branch — but not before I caught sight of the label and shape of the package. It was the container for one of those little Yan Yan-style snacks with the cookie sticks on one side and the dip on the other. They come in a few flavors these days. This one?


Bless his little squirrely heart, he was just after some hazelnuts. I don’t know whether he managed to get a tasty (if rather unhealthy, for a squirrel) meal out of it or not, but it reminded me of Shel Silverstein’s brief poem “Peckin’,” which begins “The saddest thing I ever did see/Was a woodpecker peckin’ at a plastic tree.” I really wished I’d had a camera for this one, but as it is I had to settle for a sketch (I probably should have just taken the time to grab a couple squirrel pics for reference, it’s not as if they’re hard to find; but that’s a lot more work than just drawing stuff and hoping for the best. I’m all about doing less work!).

These little things define us….

ScribsThis is sort of a token drawing at this point. I’ve been writing instead of drawing in my spare time for once, so this is a drawing from last month when I was supposed to be writing. It’s some things and a wren.

The writing itself is going … interestingly, I suppose. I’m doing fine wordcount-wise, as I’ve hit the 15k mark and am still going, but it’s already getting increasingly boring and ridiculous. I never actually do anything with my NaNo novels though (I have two others at this point, one of which I didn’t even really finish once I hit 50k), it’s more of a somewhat-healthy outlet for my competitive streak. It certainly works better than racing random pedestrians across large parking lots or trying to be the last to finish my Halloween candy (as you may have guessed, I have a much better chance of winning at the former).

I’ve finished the lions’ mythology and am moving on to the leopards — what I’ve learned so far is that I will never get used to how big hyenas are, and (from how the story is developing, at least) cats are just incredibly racist. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at that last one, really. I love cats and all, but if you’d expect any species to have an abnormally high percentage of jerks, most felines are right up there. Either they can’t help it, or they can but they know we’ll adore them no matter what. Cats are all about minimal effort.

Basically, I’m at the point right now where the lions have said the other big African cats are a bunch of inbred weirdos, and the leopards have countered that they’re just a bunch of sons-of-baboons. I’m curious to see what will happen with the cheetahs, since I don’t see them being quite so … well, catty. Time will tell!

The party never ends, the game begins again…


Well, it’s been a year since I drew my way through November with “NaNoRefMo” (making catchy abbreviations isn’t really my forte, okay?). This year I’m actually going to try to write words, which should be interesting. I’ve finished NaNos before, of course, but I didn’t actually have an idea for this year’s until like … ten hours ago.

I decided to just revisit an idea I had a while ago, and hope beyond hope that somehow it turns into 50k words’ worth of story instead of the “long picture book/graphic novel” level of material I envisioned back then. I love the idea of animal mythology (that is, animals’ mythology — think Watership Down’s trickster-god El-ahrairah), and wanted to write a story along those lines. In this case, I wanted a lion’s creation myth, and how that might be different from (and similar to) the various histories given by humans.

It’d take a lot of detail to make THAT into a whole book, so as a backup plan I thought maybe I could try for multiple animals’ takes on the same theme. How would the social, carnivorous lions’ interpretation compare to the solitary leopard’s, or the herbivorous antelope’s? What about creatures in the jungle or desert versus those on the savannah? Would they have some sort of genetic or clan memory of extinct and prehistoric creatures? How would that be addressed? The baboons would have an interesting bank of folklore built up over their generations, but would it be horribly sexist? That said, would it only be passed down by the females, who stick together in their home groups? Would the breadwinner lionesses have cautionary (or possibly humorous) mane-related hunting-blooper tales explaining why A Male’s Place is in the Home?

Anyhow, I don’t know how much of this will actually make it into written words and how much will just be channeled into energetic margin-doodling, but at least I’ve got a plan! Sort of! Wish me luck, and good hunting writing all!

Tale as old as time….


Sometimes I just draw. Usually this happens right around the time I’m NOT supposed to just be drawing — when I’m working on a new design or haven’t updated my web stores in a while, for example. That’s right about when I get a sudden hankering to draw a full-page mind-vacation cobbled from whatever elements are simplest or are currently stored in my mental clipboard.

They often turn out fairly well for doodles, since I intentionally avoid anything difficult while drawing them. If lion’s paws are simpler than an antelope’s hooves, then you can guess which one I’m going to end up with, whether the thing has horns or not. If it winds up looking like a cross between Disney’s Beast and those tiger-sheep folk I drew earlier, then so be it. After all, Beast was pretty cool-looking (before he turned into a delicate blond teen, of course).

The fox is just an innocent bystander.

At least I only have one more week of City training. All this free between-lectures time and blank paper is encouraging my bad habit of making elaborate doodles instead of the full-fledged designs that I unfortunately have to finish ONCE in a while, at least. Although the intelligent Librarian Conversation around our table during breaks (including viewing of the trailer for Tusk, discussion of the potential merits of a film called Big Ass Spider!, lamentations regarding the current Frozen-ation of Once Upon a Time, and a general pondering of Scenes Where Someone Trustingly Drinks Super-Suspicious Tea And Inevitably Passes Out In The Most Noisily Abrupt Manner Possible) will certainly be missed.

People say it if they oversleep….


PuzzlePieceIt’s a wonder I learn anything at all, really.

To be fair, much of this doodling was during breaks, or bits of lecture that weren’t relevant to me; it’s a heavy-duty amount of doodling though, considering this is less than half of it. They offered snacks; I drew on the plate. They offered pamphlets; I drew in the margins. They offered this weird little puzzle-piece to indicate we, the Valued Employees, were all integral parts of a larger whole (being mass-printed, the puzzle pieces were all the same shape and did not actually fit together in practice). I flipped it over and now I have a water buffalo. They offered an FMLA PowerPoint that took some time to cooperate with the projector; in the meantime, rather than dwelling overmuch on the first few letters of that initialism, I drew some savannah wildlife, the state bird and some morning glories.

Their key error, of course, was offering freshly-sharpened pencils in the first place. Nobody took notes, or at least not eight-pencils-per-six-person-table quantities of notes. We were actually walking around in a huge group and physically unable to take notes during most of the times one might have needed a memory aid; for the time we were sitting down, all the information offered was easily accessible from a home or work computer. EVEN THE PAMPHLETS. Now, I respect that some people don’t have home access to a computer, but for those of us who do it’d be nice to have a designated “that’s okay, I really don’t need to carry these 40 pieces of paper around for the next four hours” pile. For several people, of course, said pile was created in the nearest wastebasket. Since a fair amount of it was one-side-blank non-glossy paper, I decided to hang onto it for the day at least.

So basically what I’m saying is, I’m a ravening insatiable drawing-beast and will sink my claws into anything, ANYTHING I can to fuel my shameful habit.

The goofy cheetah actually turned out pretty well though, all things considered.

It’s really quite pleasant, except for the smell….


Well, uh … I don’t know. This is a goat? Not quite as lopsided as he looks (the paper was at an angle) but a little now that I look at it. Anyway. The first time I heard “Mama” by My Chemical Romance, I got about two words in and thought, “wait, why is he *bleating* in this one? Is he intentionally sounding like a goat here? Maybe it’s somehow relevant to the … nope, it’s about war.”

To be fair, it gets less bleaty after that initial “maa-maa,” but now I cannot for the life of me listen to it without picturing a kid goat singing the verses. Not in a bad way, just in a … y’know … kind of goaty way. He looks a bit panicky here, naturally, given the circumstances … honestly he should have been wearing a helmet, but I can’t draw people-clothes to save my own life, let alone a graphite goat’s. His ears have seen better days, to be sure; I can’t seem to bear drawing big delicate ears like that without tattering them a bit. With the exception of pampered housepets, they do tend to be a bit ragged in my experience. Plus, you can fashion them rather nicely out of mistakes you made in the borders…

Interesting note, Black Parade and the Fables comic book covers introduced me to the artwork of James Jean (though I didn’t get around to looking up the actual artist’s name till recently). There’s this sort of perverse thrill in looking at artwork that’s similar to your ideal style but just miles and miles better; it’s like those scenic overlooks where the view is amazing but you know if you lean over a few more inches you’ll plunge over a cliff to your gruesome death. Well, not exactly like that I guess, but what do I know about scenery.

I had to go and make a few mistakes….

…Actually no, I don’t really like that song.


Another retrospective here, and a day late again I’m afraid. This one takes me way back, though — we’re entering the land of eleven-year-old drawings. (I was going to clarify whether that was my age or the age of the drawings, but I realize it works either way give or take a few months. Convenient.)

I try not to bring these drawings into the light of day often, because I was eleven and relatively speaking they’re rather bad. They’re supposed to be; if they weren’t, then I’d be really sad that I hadn’t improved at all since I was eleven. But they’re on the same sketch pad I’m using now (I don’t go through the huge paper as quickly as the 8.5x11s I use like salt), so I was going to have to face them eventually.

I drew a lot of people’s pets. This was a Pyrenees Mountain Dog that made a lot of noise and shed a lot of hair. Speaking of bark, look at that crosshatching. Just look at that. That’s what bark looks like, right? And I definitely knew it needed to be on more than 1/3 of the trunk, but it was just so MUCH crosshatching…


This was a wolf, because preteens draw a lot of wolves. It’s emaciated because I was trying to figure out where the bones went, I guess. There’s a ladybug because I like ladybugs. Ladybugs are cool.


This was one of the fancy birds I always drew when I got some new Prismas — this one was probably for Henna or whatever that burnt-orange color on the upper mandible and around the eye is.


Of course, for every triumphantly-finished and fully-colored full-page extravaganza, there was one of these…


Or these…


…or eventually, in the depths of despair, these…


That lumpish raggedy-unibrow-Anne thing I have going on there is completely accurate for my look at the time. As you can see, I never actually got around to erasing all those “TO BE ERASED” drama-fests; partly because I secretly hoped I could redeem them later, but mostly because these are freakin’ huge sheets of paper and it seemed like a lot of work for no gain (after that much erasing, it wasn’t like I’d be able to draw on it again). So, the record-books of my drawing history are filled with these weird misshapen little orphans, testament to how unreasonably difficult it is to draw an eagle or put a horse’s legs in the right place. I mostly just shred these now if they’re drawn on cheap paper, or turn them into monsters (which I did back then as well, with the ink drawings I couldn’t pretend I’d be erasing later). Who knows, maybe I’m better at drawing monsters now because I had so many mistakes to practice on. Or maybe they just reminded me that real things are too much work to reproduce accurately.

I still can’t draw an eagle, by the way. It’s a weird phenomenon; with eagles and lions I seem to revert back to my formative levels of drawing skills. I think this is why I draw griffins — they just happen to swap out the most difficult features of both species for an easier one from the other. If anyone asks though, griffins are just cool.