Monthly Archives: May 2015

Dragon Comics 105

Sometimes a dragon just wants an aloe rub, a glass of ice water, and to get a little appreciation around here!

Sometimes a dragon just wants an aloe rub, a glass of ice water, and to get a little appreciation around here!

After reading Wednesday’s comic, The Man was immediately incredulous that a fire breathing dragon could possibly burn. Game of Thrones has taught us that much. I must attribute his newfound ability to anticipate me to my excellent tutelage in understanding story structure.

At least my real life sunburn has faded. The Man, of course, cannot say the same, because he is so very white.

Relationships, of course, require mutual caregiving. Even when one party doesn’t have an expressible need. Sometimes you just need someone to bring you a glass of water.

Further Thoughts on Color Correction in Photoshop

The more I play around with the “Enhance” feature in Adobe Photoshop, the more I question the nature of reality. If a photograph isn’t a perfect visual representation of a moment in time, how can we trust something as subjective as memory?

Sun sets over the cove at Long Gulch on the north side of Lake Roosevelt

Sun sets over the cove at Long Gulch on the north side of Lake Roosevelt

The Man and I watched this sunset, and I’m certain that every moment was dazzling, and that the stones on the lakeshore truly did glow in the golden light of the setting sun. And yet, the original photograph was flatter than memory. Then I messed with the levels in Photoshop; now the stones glow. Still, did they glow to that degree? The sky probably wasn’t quite so blue, and of course the sun was sharper.

Complicating matters, I have long since stopped trusting my own eyes. My vision gets worse every year; I wear prism lenses to correct some of the problem, further distorting my view of reality, even though my brain corrects back to true, most of the time. In addition, I don’t do anything in natural light without polarized lenses, which sharpen everything and amplify colors. The world looks much crisper, and more beautiful, in polarized lenses.

A verdant piece of desert

A verdant piece of desert

This one, obviously, can’t be right. It reminds me of a picture postcard from the ’50s, when, I guess color photography was a novelty and all the colors were boosted into glorious technicolor. The sky is even bluer than in the previous image. This was a fast fix; results would probably be better had I worked on different parts of the image separately: the sky, the saguaros, the rest of the plants, the rocks, the water. At heart, I see with the eyes of a child, and the brighter colors delight me. I’ll take paintbox primaries over reality any day, I guess.

The flower of the saguaro cactus

The flower of the saguaro cactus

This is the most confusing one. I still don’t have a zoom lens for the Canon EOS, and if you know anything about saguaros, you know that getting close to their flowers can be tricky. Most of the flower are on the top of the plant, and a mature saguaro can grow as high as 50 feet, while I myself stand only a touch over 5. We spent days looking for a cactus that was either growing below the ridge, or else had a frostbite damaged arm that hung in my line of sight. No such luck on this trip, and the saguaro only blooms for a short while. I had to resort to the Powershot, which has a great zoom feature, even though the picture quality is of course not as details as with the DSLR.

But here’s the thing: the zoom feature is much better than my eyesight, so good that I have often used it in place of binoculars. It allows me to see things in sharp focus that would otherwise appear as distant blurs. So I couldn’t even tell you what these flowers really looked like because I never really got a good look at them myself. I couldn’t even really see the display since the sun was shining directly on it AND I was wearing polarized lenses. This photo pretty much involved just waving the camera in the general direction of the thing I wanted to shoot and hoping for something to line up.

So, what does the world look like? It’s not exactly what I see with my eyes, even with corrective lenses, and it’s not precisely what the camera returns to me, and it’s definitely not what photos look like after hue and saturation and balance. Every image is filtered these days; everything is Photoshopped. We can’t trust the visual world.

Dragon Comics 104

And you forgot the ice water!

And you forgot the ice water!

This is the comic I would have posted last night, had I not been completely road burned from our epic drive through the Tonto Wilderness over the Mogollan Rim. I actually wrote the script last week; and it’s moderately ironic, because The Man and I were hiking in the desert on Sunday and even though we wore sunscreen, we both got burnt. I only burned a little, as my ancestry is Mediterranean and my whiteness comes with a decent amount of melanin all things considered. The Man, however, is of the Nordic persuasion and couldn’t be much whiter if he tried. His sunburn was especially hilarious because he wore a knee brace (on account of the 3 pins he got in his knee after driving a motorcycle into a guard rail) so he has a perfect red circle on his knee, inside a perfect white square. It’s a unique burn.

I helped him with the aloe.

Other than that and perhaps 1 or 2 tiny inconveniences associated with camping in a place with no services, if you catch my meaning (i.e. no plumbing), it was a stellar trip. We saw many wonderful creatures: jackrabbits, quails, egrets, herons, hawks, buzzards, and so on. Fish were literally jumping out of the lake. Flowers were blooming all over the desert. The weather couldn’t have been lovelier; ditto the scenery. We were on the north side of Lake Roosevelt, where no one goes unless they have a boat. We pretty much had to drive down a cow track to get there, and we had an entire cove to ourselves. So that makes up for the lack of plumbing.

My Memorial Day Post

You'll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You'll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go.

You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go.

If all goes according to plan, when this little drawing goes live, I will be way, way, WAY off the grid, far away from any sort of amenity that features running water. This is a shame, because, while I love nature, I am also fairly dependent on those running water features and am uncertain how I will do without them. At least without the most necessary one. However, we will be next to a lake, so there will be *some* options.

Camping is not a big one in my repertoire. I’ve gone a handful of times, but always to a campsite with bathrooms and fire pits and such. I don’t have any camping skills, except for the ability to cook gourmet meals over an open fire. That’s actually the reason I don’t have any camping skills: I would always be so busy cooking that other people were required to pitch my tent, &c. It’s another one of my super privileges. No one has ever even considered that I should learn to pitch a tent. It was always assumed that someone else would do it for me, because I was cooking a 3-course meal over an open flame in the dark. That’s just how I roll.

We’re not even going to pitch a tent: we’ve got a futon jammed into the back of a Honda Element. I have a decent expectation for us being more or less comfortable there. It should be dark; even the moon is just a bitty sliver this weekend. It should be quiet; there will most likely be very few people around, if any.

Well, if this site is never updated again, you’ll know why. I’m lost in the wilderness and have possibly been eaten by a bear.

The birds I’ve drawn are just fanciful birds. The balloon and the feather/leaf thing are me working with light. The balloon seems to have come out pretty well, for what it’s meant to be. For the feather, I was messing around trying to draw an iridescent effect. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than I could have done before I drew the blue morpho butterfly. The quote above is from Dr. Seuss’s Oh! The Places You’ll Go!, which I read every year to kindergarteners the penultimate week of school. It’s summer break already around here, which is a good time for adults to stop and take stock.

Oh! Also, I finally wrote a kids’ book review for Best Children’s Books, a site I haven’t posted on in more than a year: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. Read it! Then click on the Amazon link!

Anyway, I’ll be in the desert.

These Things Happen

What? It's not like we don't share the same kingdom.

What? It’s not like we don’t share the same kingdom.

Just a silly little comic. The teddy bear thing was a *bit* off color; it may come around a bit later. But here’s a small sketch of a blossoming friendship based on mutual interests.

We have a little date tree like this in the front yard and the dates are getting closer to harvest time. They’re really better if you go in early in the spring and cut half the dates off; it allows the other dates to get bigger. Otherwise you end up with a million tiny dates that are 90% pit. Maybe tomorrow I’ll cull some of them. They need to be dried for a bit after harvesting, but fortunately, the desert atmosphere is perfect for this. You can just lay the strands of dates down on the porch and eat new dates in a few days.

Sticks and Thorns Mandala


It’s a prickly situation

I had intended to post 2 comedic drawings of teddy bears tonight, but I was offered the opportunity of a free sitting with a sought-after photographer, one who usually charges a decent amount of money for people who don’t fit his perfect profile in terms of the models he wants to shoot, and nobody has ever mistaken me for a professional model, so in the interest of feeding my midlife crisis, I decided to do that instead of work, and now it’s after midnight and there’s no time or headspace to finish my weird teddy bears, so here, have a mandala.

This is a very desert-y one, all spiky with wild grasses and dry thorny twigs. It appears flammable. Some of the grasses are probably non-native invasives, whose presence tend to change the character of the desert, and make it more susceptible to uncontrollable wildfire. Usually, they’re pretty prevalent at this point in the season, but it’s been the wettest spring I can remember around here and there’s still plenty of green to choke out the brown.

Dragon Comics 103

Yellow and blue make green, red and yellow make orange...

Yellow and blue make green, red and yellow make orange…

We used to have a concept book about color when we were kids, one with transparent pages that stacked up to reveal different colored animals. There were a bunch of creatures, all in different colors; the ones you saw depended on which pages you looked at and also which direction you looked. That always fascinated me. So that’s a basic visual gag.

This comic is also about The Man’s remarkable ability to fall asleep at any time, anywhere. I have seen him fall asleep in the space of 45 seconds. I have seen him sleep with small children sitting on top of him. I have seen him sleep on the ground. I have seen him fall sleep even though he’s only been up a few hours and slept 8 hours the night before. His happy ability to nap inspires insane jealousy in me, the chronic insomniac.

Anyway, It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve drawn a comic but it was fun to get back.

Color Correction in Photoshop

I am not going to tell you how to color correct images in Photoshop, because my knowledge is insufficient for instruction purposes. Just starting out: I’m just feeling my way and going about it in a rather haphazard manner. A couple weeks back, my friend the Vampire Bat saw a picture I took of a hummingbird and color corrected it, and the difference is sort of amazing, so we talked for 30 seconds about it and I was inspired. I took a slightly less awesome hummingbird picture last week and decided to give it a shot. After I finished, I did a more subtle correction on a picture of an Arizona cardinal.

Brightening Birds in Adobe Photoshop

Brightening Birds in Adobe Photoshop; originals on left, color corrections on right.

To my eye, the hummingbird might be a bit too bright and the cardinal could be brighter, but they both definitely look better than the originals. I shifted everything blue-green in the first picture, but I only changed the color of the bird in the second.

I also enjoyed practicing that tiny bit of digital calligraphy, which I tried one time when I first got the tablet and then forgot all about as I struggled to figure out how Photoshop worked. Since most people use that program more for the color correction and less for drawing horrible webcomics, I was really feeling my way and probably not learning things in the same order as other people.

The Man also required some brightening.

The Man also required some brightening.

Here you can see some sort of over-the-top work I did for The Man, who wanted some professional head shots. I made a few mistakes, including causing the tree to look sort of unrealistic, but he liked it well enough to use it. It’s interesting to see what details pop out; I definitely have many sky photos that could use this treatment. Not sure what to do about his skin, though. For this image, I selected the sky first, played with that, then selected the inverse and worked with that section.

Anyway, like I said, I couldn’t exactly tell you what I did to achieve these results. It was sort of random button pushing, but I think I’m learning.

Summertime and the Cuttin’ is Easy Bulletin Board

Summer sunset bulletin board

Summer sunset bulletin board

It’s the last week of school for Arizona kids, at least the ones attending TUSD and Amphi, and I put together this dazzling summer sunset bulletin board to send them off (and for the summer staff and camp kids to enjoy). Up until about 90 seconds before I started making it, I had no idea what I was going to do.

This one took 2 days; the first day I just put up the background. There was nobody else around and I had a couple hours, so I thought I’d attempt a rainbow sunset. If I were to do this again, I think I might try to cut all the layers of paper at the same time. It felt a bit lopsided to me. For whatever reason, the school doesn’t stock purple butcher paper, so I had to tape a few pieces of construction paper together to do that layer, and it was harder to work with.

Day 1: just the sky, mountains, and sun

Day 1: just the sky, mountains, and sun

The next day I sketched out the cactus and the birds on black paper and cut it all out as a single piece, mostly using scissors, but getting the scalpel in there for some of the fiddly bits. I used my wedding invitations as a reference. A designer put the image together for me from a few pictures; this was before I knew Photoshop, or I probably would have done it myself and been even more impressed with the result, but we were pretty happy to get invitations that more or less looked the way we wanted.

Detail from our wedding invitations.

Detail from our wedding invitations.

The next day I sketched out the cactus and the birds on black paper and cut it all out as a single piece, mostly using scissors, but getting the scalpel in there for some of the fiddly bits.

I used my wedding invitations as a reference. A designer put the image together for me from a few pictures; this was before I knew Photoshop, or I probably would have done it myself and been even more impressed with the result, but we were pretty happy to get invitations that more or less looked the way we wanted.

Anyway, the silhouette was simple to draw; the hardest part was actually making out the pencil marks on black paper so I could accurately see what I was cutting. It all came out nicely and actually took a lot less time than many of the less complex bulletin boards take, about 4 hours max, although part of that is because there isn’t any text on this one. As per usual when the bulletin board is cactus themed, I used a lot of staples for spines, and also to keep the thing in place. It needs to be extra durable to last through the monsoon.

The silhouette.

The silhouette.

Last I did the stars, which would have been a lot easier had the principal not kicked me out of the library so she could hold an interview there, because it was super windy in the breezeway and I spend half my time chasing bits of paper around, but in the end it seems to have worked out pretty well.

Dragon Comics 102

In reality, no force in Equestria could have compelled Spike to return those birthday presents.

In reality, no force in Equestria could have compelled Spike to return those birthday presents.

This sequence amused me to no end. I’m hoping for another 3-strip inspiration over the weekend, but if it doesn’t come I might take some days off from blogging next week to get caught up on some writing projects, specifically a couple longform book reviews for the Best Children’s Books website and a couple of comic book articles for Panels. Plus, I’d like to start another big project I’ve been wanting to do for a couple years. I’ve set a deadline for myself on this one, so there’s a good chance that it will actually come together. Especially now that I’m learning Photoshop, ideas that seemed really complicated to execute feel much more manageable. Everything erases in Photoshop, and when you put things in the wrong place, you can just pick them up and move them. I wouldn’t even have to sketch out a separate rough draft.