First you take the frosting and you spread it….

LikeALionAs promised/threatened, a traditional March saying personified. Animal…ified? A LITERAL PICTORIAL REPRESENTATION OF A METAPHORICAL EXPRESSION. Or something. Anyhow, I might be able to draw a mane if you gave me enough time and a good eraser, but it’s late and it’s my birthday (observed), so you’re getting a grumpy lioness with bad breath.

But I know what you’re really wondering about, so here it is: Yes, my biscuit-and-chocolate mushrooms arrived in time for my birthday, to everyone’s great relief. Additionally, there were just enough in the package to use in lieu of candles, plus one to taste/admire and a broken one to nibble while I worked.

FairyRing

…Yes, they’re strawberry on top. Strawberry-and-chocolate is the superior flavor, I don’t care how they look. The cake itself is a cake-mix yellow cake with canned frosting and those sprinkles that sit under the lid like those horrible/awesome looking Dannon yogurts I always eyed with revulsion/longing as we meandered through the dairy aisle. But it’s a birthday cake, it’s not supposed to taste exquisite or require any effort on my part. It’s supposed to have bright colors and be cake-shaped and have frosting and be very very sweet. Mission undeniably accomplished on all fronts. Well, it was more cake-shaped than it looks in that immediately-post-frosting picture, and even more so pre-frosting. I don’t have time for perfect frosting, I have feasting to do.

Oh, but it DOES need to have at least two layers, frosting all down the sides, and a certain kitchen-sponge-like color and texture, so as to properly emulate the mythical perfection of Barney’s Birthday Cake right down to the moment when you shove the candles (or in my case, tiny mushrooms) into its springy center. Come on. You know which one I mean. While a perfectly cylindrical cake frosted by impossibly-well-coordinated musical preschoolers is unfortunately too much to ask for on most birthdays, this year was my closest yet despite the embellishments and laziness. I may have sung a small cake-decorating song while I made it. I may also have tried to use a giant rubber spatula until I realized there’s a reason I never use a giant rubber spatula to frost a cake.

Anyhow, the cake was fabulous, the sprinkles are EVERYWHERE, and I may not need to cook again for a week. See you next month!

Do the Noodle Dance…

OdderThis … is an otter dog.

Not an otter *hound*, mind you, as that would be a regular dog bred for hunting otters.

This is a much odder dog, if you’ll forgive the pun (or really, even if you can’t). It’s not really a dog at all, as some key features look decidedly wrong. As with the Slightly Irregular Bear from earlier, I was just drawing for the sake of drawing, and that tends to result in unnecessary details. Details like a weird otter/walrus/terrier mustache and big webbed feet. It COULD be a dog, I suppose, but it was never really supposed to be.

This one’s even more iffy than the bear because it was, in fact, drawn during Hulu commercial breaks while I was catching up on the most recent Flash episode. I was also working my way through the sequel to Seraphina (a bit of a rougher read so far — I like how she writes species better than how she writes cultures, and some of the word coinage seems a bit awkward — but it’s still interesting, and not half as linguistically uninspired as the Hunger Games series) … I can’t really handle being completely idle long enough to watch a whole episode of a TV show with commercials. I may also have been eating supper.

And finally, a confession: That tail is wagging because I drew it too big the first time and couldn’t fully erase away the “shadow” left by the larger version. Turning it into an afterimage (a “speed mirage,” if you will — okay yeah, maybe it wasn’t all drawn during commercials) seemed like the quickest solution. I’m pretty sure this is the secret reasoning behind about 70% of motion blur in art.

Half time….

SunlightSo many potential subjects on this day — Terry Pratchett, the Ides of March, Pi Day, St. Patrick’s Day, the rather nasty illness that’s kept me from working or drawing or writing or generally being useful for several days. But instead, I’m going to just skip all that and go straight to a day at the farm. And on this halfway day, I’m going to crosspost between Drawn @ Random and Shetland + Pony, with some of the content and style of each.

It’s warm weather, as I’ve mentioned, and that means a trip out to the horse barn to be mobbed by various small warm-blooded creatures. Depending on the day and the season, the assault may consist chiefly of cats, or it may also include dogs, chickens, and/or a slightly irritable turkey tom. And of course, the horses.

I’ve mentioned this place before (there wasn’t much time for drawing then either), but I haven’t been back in a long while. Little “Merrylegs” (I’m afraid I still can’t remember the poor thing’s real name) was in full-on Fluffy Pony mode, somehow looking both twice normal size (due to fluffy) and even smaller than before (possibly due to my brain over-correcting for the extra fluff). Some other new and old faces, obscured to various degrees by winterfluff, were there as well, but the notable exception was good old Cinnamon. She was old, and was basically a living model of How to Excel At Being a Horse for the time I knew her (even if she didn’t always love that old brown bridle), but of course that just leaves more reasons to miss her.

I should take some time to dwell on the various furry animals, though. Now, I don’t know what you think of when you hear the word “barn cat,” but I find it doesn’t generally connote cuddliness. And I’ve personally learned that it’s often wise to get out of the way when a farm dog (or any dog) you’ve never been introduced to comes barreling your way in a racket of mad barks and jumping-about. But no, this is some sort of legendary Doctor Dolittle-style land of interspecies truce. If there were lions in Iowa, and lambs at this farm, I would fully expect to see them frolicking in the spring mud together, with barn cats underfoot.

Now, I’m sure it’s not all peace and puppies 24/7. It’s a farm, out in the country, and nature will be nature. But if you park your car (or more likely, your muddy truck — or your VROOM!!! as the newest toddler in the family will gleefully refer to it as she attempts to scale the bumper) next to the flowerbed, hop out, and sit for a moment on the small bench, you will be covered almost instantly in 1-5 cats that materialize from under the skeleton shrubs and behind the big decorative rocks. You can pick one up and carry it around like a teddy bear for a while, or you can just let them climb all over you until they get distracted by another visitor or a dragonfly or the sun, the way cats do.

You may find that one of the cats is actually a Papillon (given their similarity in size and coloring, it will give itself away mostly by its manner of stepping indiscriminately on all other animals and objects that get in its path, instead of keeping clear and waiting for an opportunity to gather for a leap and suddenly place all its weight onto a single dainty paw pressed into your eyeball or navel). Neither the cats nor the Papillon seem to mark the distinction between them for the moment, lost in the excitement of Greeting A New Person. Later, there is a good chance you will also see this same Papillon “tree” a large, speckled hound dog on top of a picnic table. It will not appear to occur to either of these dogs at any time that you are potentially anything more sinister than a new belly-scratching machine. It will not occur to the old dog, whom you just realized was there, to do anything more than shift slightly in the sunny spot and lift one foreleg to ensure maximum scritchy-scratch surface area should you choose to wander a bit closer. This might remind you of another old dog, a previous monarch of horse barn and henhouse, that venerable Duchess of Dogs, who proved a favorite literary line to be more than a piece of pretty poetry.

There are many more denizens of this little place, human and animal, past and present and hopefully far into the future. But for one visitor, a somewhat nervous child who had been bitten and barked at and rudely chased about by all manner of territorial city beasts all her life (and to this day will cross the street rather than having to confront a neighbor’s unleashed dogs), they’ve always been first and foremost a welcome respite from the rough unreliability of the “real” world. A small girl who fairly burst into tears on a young horse’s back because he neighed and walked (or rather, was led) downhill at the same time, could in this place tumble out of the saddle — nearly under her mount’s hooves — and, sensibly or not, feel more worried about the pony (did I scare her?!) than herself. Years later, she could watch an even littler girl, not much more than a babe in arms, reach out to pet a proud bay stallion, whose only reaction was to furnish a helpful, nickering reply to the grown-ups’ query of “What does a horse say?” (It’s worth noting that there are some pretty stallions right here in town for anyone to visit, and that they all have helpful signs constantly warning in alarming black letters, CAUTION: STALLIONS MAY BITE OR KICK. The mares and their foals have no such signage that I can discern. I have never ventured to pet the pretty stallions here in town, though I’m sure they’re nice enough fellows if you catch them on a good day.)

Of course, the animals have been inspirational as well — after all, it’s because of Cinnamon’s slightly-wobbly forehead marking that Pony’s stripe is topped off with that crescent-shaped star instead of a “perfect” little round blob. The little bay stallion was the subject of one of the first “real” digital paintings I ever made.

In honor of all that, and in the style of Shetland and Pony, here are a couple of old friends in their fields of clover to close a long blog post:

Shetland&PonySEMarch

Early to bed, early to rise…

…rarely works out this time of year. Whose bright idea was Daylight Savings Time anyhow? OH, RIGHT.

That said, I don’t have too much to complain about. It looks like springtime will actually arrive in time for spring this year, or at the very least we’ll get a taste of it. Spring, of course, is a particularly fickle “season” — there’s a reason we still trust a groundhog about as well as the forecast for the transition — but it was almost 60 degrees and sunny out today, which is long-sleeves-no-jacket weather for sure. I’d almost forgotten what it’s like to breathe in and just smell damp air, rather than experiencing a sort of instant freeze-drying of the inner nostril and lungs.

This is go-out-and-take-pictures weather, and that is precisely what I’ll be doing on my next day off. Drawing by the glow of a lightbulb is for cold weather, hot weather, and storms; no doubt I’ll have plenty of each to go around, so this is an Outdoor Week. In honor of that, I’ve decided to post some actual photos for this week’s picture. Not photos of pictures, photos of art supplies, photos of paper dragons … just regular pictures of stuff outdoors. I know that may be TOO RADICAL for delicate constitutions — should that be the case, you should step outside and get some air. Maybe a lot of air. Maybe splash in some puddles while you’re at it. I’ll wait. Spring won’t.

LizardLake

These are from my recent jaunt to the not-quite-a-lake known as Lizard Lake. I won’t lie; I based my decision to go there solely on the fact that it’s called Lizard Lake. It wasn’t quite warm out here, but the ice had already broken up and re-frozen into a neat little stained glass/jello salad type pattern in the corner there.

LizardLake2

Yep, this here is rural Iowa in a neat little package. Some rocky bits, some grassy bits, some swampy bits, some generic tree-shaped trees, and nary a lump to mar the view. Just out of frame are some farm buildings and a wind turbine to really complete things.

BeckoningTree

And finally, this enchanted oak tree. It’s not just me, right — that’s totally a beckoning finger? I opted not to follow it into the woods, tempting as it was. Miles to go before I sleep and all that.

Hippity-hoppity….

WesterBunnySaturdays are crazy busy for me these days, so I fear this blog may not get sent out in a particularly timely fashion for a while. I do try (mostly for the sake of keeping it a habit, as things that aren’t habits don’t get done at all), and I almost managed it this past Saturday … but then halfway through painting this rabbit in PSE I looked at the clock and realized it just wasn’t happening.

So, the rabbit. It’s a Wester Bunny. Y’know, because they have jackrabbits out west? You know? Right?

Okay, did I mention how late it was when I decided to draw this?

Anyhow, he’s basically just your average Southwestern Easter bunny, with fancy rust-and-ochre eggs for all the good boys and girls. Or all the boys and girls. I don’t actually remember how Easter Bunnies are supposed to work. I feel like they’re a lot less straightforward than some of the other magical gift fairies. Do they care if you behave for the rest of the year? Do they deal strictly in eggs and egg-themed loot, or is there an option for real presents? If you ask for the real present, do you forfeit the candy? Can you actually ASK the Easter Bunny for anything, or is it a kind of Chef’s Special thing where you just take what you get? I mean, all I know is I got a Fighting Action Simba toy from The Lion King for the last Easter I remember. Which not only wasn’t candy, it WASN’T EVEN SCAR. Why bother getting a toy with Real Fighting Action (this includes biting AND clawing, if you wondered) if it’s going to be the chunky grub-eating redhead with no claws? Insane Rockstar Scar would’ve been so much cooler. Darth Mufasa would’ve been cooler. “Haha first black Disney princess, that’s cute” Sarabi would’ve been cooler. This guy, he might be tied with Pumbaa.

Of course I didn’t say any of this at the time, because of course one must humbly accept gifts even when they are as massive an affront to childhood good taste as this. He was purchased by a Grown-Up, and Grown-Ups assume that children are rooting for the Good Guy in every story, rather than for whichever character seems most likely to be able to beat up all the other characters in the most theatrical way. What can I say, for all their imaginative powers kids are pretty solid realists when it comes to these things. They know what they want and who can deliver it, and silly things like morals and feelings aren’t going to change that.

Anyhow, what I’m getting at here is that for my birthday this year (which is very close to Easter again), I decided I was finally going to get myself a proper Fighting Action Scar. He’s in a box (and his original packaging, no less) right now, and I don’t get to open him for weeks, but when the day comes I am tearing through all that cardboard and plastic without a moment’s hesitation. A mint-condition Scar you can’t play with is even worse than a Simba, I think.

Sheep’s clothing…

SheepdogWell, this is what happens when I decide to draw a sheepdog.

I mean, sure, a Bedlington Terrier would have worked just as well, but this was way more fun (and just slightly more unsettling). I think if there’s one thing we’ve learned from this blog so far, it’s that I can’t be trusted with compound words. In fact, fair warning here, there’s a good chance we’re due for another sheepy mixture sometime in March, what with the whole “out like a lamb” thing. What can I say, I was born in a Ram month and a Sheep year, and next month they’ll double up again. Might as well embrace it, eh? After all, I certainly have the hair for it.

Something Old, Something New…

CoatlC

This one is a “traditional” ink drawing that seemed a little boring in blue-and-white, so I decided to do a little digital coloring for once. I generally leave that to my plain line drawings, since otherwise there’s a lot of shading and detail that gets in the way, but I think this one turned out well enough considering. It’s actually been sitting around a while, but due to various Reasons it worked out better to give some other pictures priority. I got tired of waiting for this one, so here it is in the middle of the week as a sparkly little bonus.

It’s kind of your generic theropod/lizard thingie (no, I could not help adding the “raptor claw,” which is apparently not as subtle as I’d assumed), but with some of the colors and feather patterns making it a bit of a tribute to Quetzalcoatl and various mythical dragons/reptiles. Frankly, I gave it the least-detailed wing feathers I felt I could get away with, what I think of as “sparrow wings” though there’s a little more heft to them than that. The obscuring property of the color layer was actually a bonus for that part, since it helps downplay the wobbly edges on some of the less-defined feathers.

I don’t think this drawing really came from the recent Jurassic World hype, since it was actually finished before the Super Bowl trailer and all that came out, but it definitely gets me thinking about how all of us (I think you will pretty quickly recognize if you are an “us” ) are kind of excited and kind of horrified about this movie — it can’t possibly be as good as we want, but no way are we lowering our expectations to spare them the inevitable squashing. Even if it is truly awful and cringey overall (I’m potentially looking at you, Raptor Squad), parts of it are going to be awesome by nostalgic default and may very well redeem it against all objective movie logic. We know that’s exactly what they’re fishing for. WE DO NOT CARE. WE WILL GIVE THEM ALL OUR MONEY. It doesn’t work for every audience with every remake/sequel, but there’s usually that core group that will happily fall for the same thing again and again, no matter the track record (*cough*Godzilla reboots*cough*).

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a hankering to listen to my playlist of “iconic movie scores that can make any new trailer seem epic if you introduce a slowed-down version in the correct place.”