Monthly Archives: July 2014

A Rainbow for the Dark

If this onesie looks small to you, don't worry. Rainbird is available in a wide variety of sizes and on many products.

If this onesie looks small to you, don’t worry. Rainbird is available in a wide variety of sizes and on many products.

Throw off the burden of darkness and feast your eyes upon this updated version of my original design. Rainbird still believes you can make your own magic, but it’s more of a tacit message.

The thought still holds true, but the shirt seems better balanced without the text. Live and learn.

As pictured, this onesie cost $18.04. You can buy it here. You can also find it in kid and adult sizes all the way up to 3XL and on tote bags, pillows, phone cases, stickers, of course, and also paper. See all products here.

Time to Learn and Grow

At least, it’s time to learn and grow if you’re a small child living in southern Arizona, where school gets out in May and starts up again as early as late July. I missed my beloved bulletin board, but we are reunited once again.

I feel like, if kids have to go back to public school, the lease I can do is instill in them a sense of magic and wonder to the process.

I feel like, if kids have to go back to public school, the least I can do is instill in them a sense of magic and wonder about the situation.

This one took 8 hours: 1.5 hours at school on Monday putting up the background and outlining the butterfly, 3 hours at home Tuesday night cutting out the letters, and 2.5 hours Tuesday creating the “spots” and putting all the pieces together. For whatever reason, the school was only stocking 3 colors of butcher paper, so my background choices were black, brown, and yellow. I typically save the black ones for Halloween (for added creepiness) and the winter holidays (to make the idea of lights pop out).


These letter are hand cut (obviously). I just Googled “magic font” and this was one of the first ones that came up.

The quote came later that night, after I had settled on the butterfly. Typically, I pick a keyword, or a few keywords, and look for quotes that suit the idea, although sometimes I start with the quote or message and choose the illustration based on that. In this case, the keyword was “beginning.”


I use a ruler to draw guidelines so the letters are all the same height, then sketch and cut freehand. However, when the same letter comes up more than once, I use the first as a rough template to ensure that they look more or less alike.

I had an apprentice for this piece, and she’s finally reaching the age where her help is, in fact, helpful. My stepdaughter wanted the bulletin board to feature school supplies, which I originally vetoed, since I had already settled on a butterfly, but then I realized that the butterfly could more easily have a school supply pattern on it. Originally I intended to just make a torn-paper mosaic, but this was much faster and more beautiful.


My apprentice gets hands on.

In the past, she’s always wanted to help, which usually resulted in things taking four times as long, but she’s finally big enough to understand and follow directions. She applied the rubber cement to the paper and passed it over, which allowed me to assemble the collage more quickly. She also colored the tips of the pencils, applied the ovals to the crayons, suggested color and placement choices, and helped rip the paper.


My apprentice feels a sense of accomplishment, and possibly wonder.

I also dropped and broke a stapler in this process, so now I owe the library a stapler. However, I did manage to unjam the one I broke last May, but we’re still down one stapler.

Update 7/31/14

I think I’m off the hook for the stapler.

Old School Dragons

This is a photocopy of the original, of course.

This is a photocopy of the original, of course.

Totally forgot about these: my first-ever art commission! I think I made $25 for these 2 drawings in 1993. The situation was similar to the one with the Javelina Happi Coat: I had randomly shown a woman some of my sketches and she offered to pay me money to draw something she wanted drawn. I forget where the originals came from, but she specifically wanted these particular dragons, and I specifically wanted $25, so it worked out well.

A little worse for wear...

A little worse for wear…

Wonder what became of them. Do they still exist? I recall they were to be given as gifts. Did the recipient treasure them?

There will be some newer stuff this week, although my dark cloud of “at least it will be over Monday” has been extended to “at least it will be over Wednesday.” In reality, it’s one of those things that will never be over. But this phase will. I hope.  Anyway, my stepdaughter and I went to the elementary school and started a back-to-school bulletin board (my district goes back July 31, if you can believe it!). So there’s that.



If You Knew the Things up with Which I Must Put

Gourd out of my mind

Gourd out of my mind

The intention in writing a daily blog was to inject a sense of accountability into my art, i.e. the blog would serve as a motivation for creating art every day, depending on the vast backlog of mandalas and dragons for days when life made other plans. It never occurred to me to consider the weeks that life made other plans.

It’s been some dark times at QWERTY vs. Dvorak, but the end (or at least a respite) should be resolving itself shortly.

In the meantime, the following crude and unlovely surreal comic from days of yore (late ’90s? early ’00s?) basically sums up my attitude toward life as a partial result of the utter nonsense through which my mind has been dragged this summer.

I am an angry flower.

I am an angry flower.

Technically, this flower could count as a really off-kilter mandala, which is about what you’d expect from a rage-aholic flower.

My First Mandala

The start of something, 1996

The start of something, 1996

This is the first mandala I ever drew as an intentional mandala, knowing something of what it meant to draw a mandala. I had recently finished the class on CG Jung where I began to develop some understanding of spirituality beyond what they taught in Hebrew school and what I’d come to understand in a few years of atheism. I had also recently broken up with my boyfriend of almost 3 years, the one with whom I used to do a lot of collaborative psychedelic art.

I’m pretty sure he had come around to try to get me to take him back, or at least to get me into bed, but it was pretty transparent and I was pretty much through with him. Instead, we ended up painting.  Not collaboratively, though. I don’t remember what he worked on, but it wasn’t my mandala. I told him a mutual friend had confided her attraction to him and he left happily, although our friendship was sort of rocky.

Looking at the huge lapses in symmetry, I wonder if my psyche was that deeply out of alignment, or if I just lacked any skill with a paintbrush.

Definitely Dragons

My late lamented mosaic dragon

My late lamented mosaic dragon, 1998.

In the late 90s, I was living in a 4th story walk-up in Chicago. Following an altercation with a previous friend/tenant, my roommates and I found ourselves without a coffee table. I came up this old door in an alley, dragged it up the stairs, and spent a couple weeks piecing this mosaic together and building a table under it. Although I did everything wrong, and the table itself wasn’t that wonderful, I was extremely proud of my work. I had this table until about 2003. In grad school, I had a close friend who was blind, and it got a little painful and tiresome to watch him walking into this coffee table every time he came over. I pushed it into the corner and tipped it on its side to accommodate him, and left it that way over the summer when I went to study abroad. In the sweltering humidity of an un-air conditioned Michigan summer, the wood swelled and shrunk with the changes in temperature, and the mosaic fell out. I tried to repair it but it proved impossible. This photo is all the remains of the excellent mosaic table.

Dragon Kite! 1991

Dragon Kite! 1991. Sort of banged up but still cool. Probably would still fly. 

My high school offered a gym class (not for freshman, who had to run the mile and lift weights and do all the horrible stuff the state of Illinois required) called Unique PE. We called it Gym for the Non-Competitive Student. This is where all the hippies, Goths, and burnouts ended up. No dodgeball here. We learned to walk on stilts, ride a unicycle, and juggle. One of the units was to decorate and fly a kite. Somehow, I was the only person who actually did it, using markers and colored pencils to draw this fantastic wyvern. The kite only flew for about 10 minutes, since our gym periods weren’t that long when you factored in changing clothes, and no one else had completely the assignment, but it did fly. Then, I put it away, to keep it safe from kite-eating trees.

Too Many Words

There’s a roster of webcomics I adore because they’re smart and funny, and Subnormality, by Winston Rowntree, is high on that list. He subtitles his comic, which mixes fantasy, science fiction, slice of life, and true storytelling, “comix with too many words.

The cursed eyeball plant

The cursed eyeball plant: late 90s

I think I write comics with too many words. I’ve been reading books about graphic storytelling and trying to understand how to create images that do the work of words.

The fiery glowworm; late 90s

The fiery glowworm; late 90s

I drew these comics for my little cousin while toying with the idea of creating an illustrated zoo of imaginary animals, but ultimately, I figured that what came out of the crayons was probably a bit too creepy and esoteric for a 3-year-old.

A clownfish. Why, why, why? This image is so wrong. It was wrong when I drew it in the late 90s, and it's just increasingly wrong every year.

A clownfish. Why, why, why? This image is so wrong. It was wrong when I drew it in the late 90s, and it’s just increasingly wrong every year.

Still working on it.

Just Lucky, I Guess

When I was in middle school, I basically came home every day and wrote for about 2 hours. In grad school, I used to write every night between 10 pm and 2 am. I didn’t really think about it; during the times in my life when I was into my work, I was into my work. When I do NaNoWriMo or go on a writing retreat, I write at least 2000 words a day, and often, many, many more. Some of us are lucky in that we don’t have to discipline ourselves too much: the thing we want most is the thing we want now.

It's a sign. It pretty much speaks for itself.

It’s a sign. It pretty much speaks for itself.

I just lettered this sign for my darling husband, at his request. Usually, something like this would take me a couple days, and each letter would be perfectly spaced and formed, sketched first in pencil and then inked with a fine-tipped pen (but I would still manage to smear the ink while erasing the guidelines, and also get some on my hand and smudge it in the gutter). When I lettered the Robert Graves poem, it took me about a week, and I’m pretty pleased with it, but it still isn’t perfect to my eye. Anyway, he said he didn’t care if it was perfect, he just wanted it done. So I just quickly blocked out approximately where the letters should go.

It’s an interesting sentiment, anyway. There are times when I don’t want to draw or write, and I have to force it. There are even times when I don’t force it and just watch Netflix and maybe cry about my failure as an artist. Usually, though, I’m fairly focused on my goals. When I decide to write 50,000 words in a month, or cut out carbs, or clean my office, usually I can just do it.

A quick Google search attributes this quote to a psychologist named Augusta F. Kantra.

Pleased to Meet You, Hope You Guess My Name

No, it's not Lucifer

No, it’s not Lucifer

Here’s the girl I was hinting at in my Thinking about Seahorses post: Princess Sealestia, Ruler of Aquastria. She didn’t make much of an impact in pencil, but maybe she’ll steal your heart in living color. This design is totally available for purchase in my store on a variety of fine products.

I wouldn’t call myself a brony or even a pegasister, but I do love My Little Pony. It’s earnest and honest, funny on multiple levels while espousing values that everyone regardless of age or gender should embrace. Not entirely sure where this idea came from; it just hit me one night, and when I told my stepkids, they thought it was hilarious, which was enough of a green light for me.

To create her, I had to learn how to select sections and use the gradient tool. It’s nice to be encounter challenges and then learn by doing. I also use layers and variation in transparency to create the bubbles. Her cutie mark came out of a few experiments. I tried a starfish, a big wave, various combination of little waves, and a gemstone before I decided to play with the sun featured on the rump of her pony progenitor. I just tweaked the colors and turned the rays a bit more tentacle-y to suggest an ocean-going effect.

Differently Dragonized

No matter how I try, I will never draw people like Frank Frazetta or Burne Hogarth (sob) (but I keep trying) and similarly, I’ll never draw dragons like Michael Whelan or Donato Giancola (seriously, love the hyperrealism). I may never even learn how to paint, because painting is a fairly expensive hobby, and this experiment is acquainting me with fairly impoverished circumstances.

This dragon is pretty metal, all right. You can see through the page; when I started this project, I was using recycled paper.

This dragon is pretty metal, all right. You can see through the page; when I started this project, I was using recycled paper.

At the same time I started drawing mandalas, I also started dragons that allowed me to let go of my preconceived notion of what dragons had to be. This series imagines a wide range of dragons, and most of them are very distant cousins to the dragons you know from modern fantasy art. They’re not quite cartoons; although some of them are funny, they’re pretty serious in their own right.

Ragtop was snorkeling Scotland’s lochs before you ever heard of them.

Unlike the dragons I labored over in adolescence, these dragons aren’t trying to make the covers of obscure trade paperbacks or adorn the walls of adolescent boys’ bedrooms. They’re just going about their dragony existences, unconcerned with how glamorous they appear in comparison to their more popular cousins.