Your wish is my command….

Sometimes I have all sorts of drawing ideas, and there’s not enough time in the day to get them all down on paper.

Other times, I have an entire day off and the library’s closed and the errands are as done as they’re going to get, and I don’t feel like drawing or finishing up a single thing. What’s a girl to do?

Well, in days past she might have had to figure something out all by herself, which of course is sorely taxing to the fragile artistic mind. (Being an artist has exactly one perk, and that is the fact that you can blame nearly any personal flaw on your mercurial Artistic Temperament.)

But as I’m a modern sort of person, with a VCR and everything, I took the modern approach and enlisted the help of social media! In my case, this meant asking my friends to please suggest something, anything (well, anything at least vaguely animalian in my case) for me to draw. My rules for myself were that I couldn’t erase (due to the terrible paper more than any wish to make things interesting), that I couldn’t start over once I’d begun, and that I should try to keep it at ten minutes or less. I wound up with some of the usual requests — puppies, kitties, bunnies, and a sort of unicorn thingy — but a few definitely required me to push right up against (or exceed by a couple minutes) my self-imposed time limit.

PangolinHere we have one of my personal favorite Semi-Obscure Mammals, the pangolin (which, as you can see, I had to tie to the world of Pokemon since it is basically a Sandslash)

SphinxFor simplicity’s sake, suffice to say that this is a guardian Sphinx and she is none too happy with intruders.

DragonOkay, the dragon lighting a torch wasn’t that hard because I draw a lot of dragons, but I really like dragons so there.

Oh, and finally I cheated on the requests for cats, bunnies and penguins and just threw them all together:

Penguinsetc.So, what started out as a superbly nonproductive day without so much as a sketch for my blog turned into a DRAWING EXTRAVAGANZA that also brought me considerably closer to my goal of using up this new pencil. I normally wish for my pencils to be immortal, of course, but these were a gift and I can plant them when I’m done with them. It’s a whole herb garden’s worth, but I decided to start with the Rosemary one because rosemary is amazing and can do no wrong unless you put it in pot roast.

What’s new, pussycat…

While I’ve pretty much unofficially switched to Sundays for this blog, I feel I had an extra-special good reason for not posting it yesterday. See, normally I just work until 6ish, but yesterday was a Grand Event beginning with a visit to some out-of-town friends and ending with my getting locked out of my apartment for rather longer than I strictly needed to.

Aaaand I suppose this is the part where I explain.

The locking out of the house was partly accidental and partly voluntary. I realized someone else had the other key, and that I could just call the landlord and probably get myself back in faster, but then it was a really nice night and there was that grocery store I wanted to go to….

I exhausted my repertoire of “things to do downtown on a Saturday (when you only have ten dollars on you)” right as it was time to be let back in, so things actually worked out way better than I would have expected had I known ahead of time I’d be locked out of my apartment for two hours. It didn’t even rain on me, which would have happened virtually any other night that past week. Heck, if the library had been opened I probably would have forgotten I was stuck out there. However, one thing I was not able to do was write any portion of a blog post before nightfall. Valid excuse! Huzzah!

The visit to friends is fairly self-explanatory, though I do feel the need to take a detour in which I ponder the Nature of Cats. You see, two … three? Two and a half? Nine-year-olds make addition difficult — anyhow, a quantity of these friends are in possession of two tortoiseshell cats who are not identical, though they do look dangerously similar at first. “Dangerously” because one is by all appearances a Standard Cat who is intensely interested in shoes, feet, the floor, and anything that isn’t you until you look demurely away from her for an appropriate amount of time (preferably whilst offering to scratch her neck, if your coordination allows for such a feat).

The other is still well within the range of normal feline personalities, but she skews more toward the “spontaneous violence” axis than the “coy aloofness” one. While I instinctively wish to be charitable to all cats, with them being superbeings and all, the “maybe she’s achy/nervous/in high spirits/half-blind” line of reasoning I bring out with all “hey, how you doing, YOU DIE NOW!!!” cats didn’t work so well in practice. This is clearly just one of those felines who is not willing to put on a veneer of politeness with guests and pretend we are not bumbling disgusting lesser beings. I accidentally stood in a place where she wanted to be standing, and got hissed at and batted for my insolence. But she doesn’t just hate being touched or approached in general — her favorite people, such as the one who feeds her and can hook her up with some catnip when necessary, are allowed to carry her around like a pharaoh (though these, too, may be cuffed and sworn at for setting her down too close to aforementioned filthy human strangers).

Artist’s rendition of the being in question (unwitting Standard Cat about to be glomped by enthusiastic mini-person in background)

FriendsCat

But you know what the thing about cats is? Even though they are tiny psychopathic murderbeasts who by design are utterly lacking in much of the devotion and empathy that apparently draws people to dogs, and even though the most average cat could seriously MESS YOU UP if it really set its mind to attacking your face, somehow cat-grumpiness seems to have the exact opposite effect of dog-grumpiness. To cat people, at the very least. Like, if a dog growls at me, even a little cute dog, I get uncomfortable. Suddenly you wonder if you can trust this fellow, and how well he was brought up. But a cat? They’re far better at making you feel like it’s *your* fault your hand is now covered in bloody flesh-ribbons, and that maybe if you really devote yourself to it you can one day earn *their* approval.

It helps that the Angry Face of a cat involves squooshing the ears, mouth and eyes into a fangy and terrifying but also adorably rounded and kittenish look that leaves the enemy paralyzed with indecision — should I hug it or try to exorcise it?! Look at that nose! It’s so scrunchy and grumpy! Can I boop it without losing a hand? If not, is it maybe almost still worth it…? AAAAAAAHH WAIT WHAT AM I DOING.

It’s really no wonder that cats are associated with sorcery.

Girls, girls, girls….

I’m still getting over this season’s persistent little cough-and-cold combo, so not much writing is going to happen tonight. But here’s a sneak peek at the current progress of a design that’s been occupying most of my time this past week. Basically, there aren’t enough girly dinosaur things that aren’t pink, glittery and/or wearing lipstick (that’s right, lipstick). I like pink fine, okay, but let’s face it: there aren’t a ton of intimidating sparkly pink things. It’s just how things are. When I need a shirt with a giant Velociraptor on it, I’m not going to be looking in the girls’ section, is all I’m saying.

Now, seeing as how all the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park, not to mention that one kind of embarrassing Godzilla that nobody talks about anymore, were female, you’d think we would have gotten SOMETHING besides “clever girl” out of all this. But alas, we have to work with what we have … or expand upon it, as the case may be.

girls

And yes, despite eventually separating Bold and Strong, I do still wind up with “I Will Wait” in my head every time I start working on this. Hazard of the job.

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.