I’m working on something big again! No, not lizard porn. This is just a little distraction from the big project. I took a photograph of some lizards copulating in a bush and it was blurry and unusable but the arrangement of their limbs was so cunning I had to make this little sketch to memorialize it. Anyway, the thing I’m working on is much, much worse than lizard porn.
I made this as a birthday card for an old friend of mine but I realize it is too amazing not to share with the general world. As anyone can see, I have drawn myself as a Gorn and my friend as Captain James T. Kirk from the original Star Trek series episode “Arena,” in which an advanced race forces Kirk and this lizard guy to fight to the the death in order to—get this—prove that violence is wrong. Something like that. I haven’t seen it in a while. To me, the OG Star Trek is the real Star Trek. I’ve seen some good portions of some of the other series and even enjoyed some of them, but there’s no substitute for the earnest camp and optimism of the original. Its understanding of sexism and racism were primitive, but its heart was in the right place.
Although I spent Tuesday night at the Fox’s house writing 3 weeks’ worth of comic scripts, most of the this week has been dedicated to the big project, which is now maybe sort of close to halfway. It’s hard to tell. Hopefully halfway, because it needs to be done in a couple months, and I have sort of verbally agreed to another paying project for the end of summer.
As mentioned, in this comic, “Close Encounters of the ∞ Kind,” different layers of reality will be illustrated in different media. The protagonist’s ever-changing imaginary friends are these whimsical crayon drawings, reproduced at 50% opacity. The main friends are an elephant, an octopus, a bird, and a walking tree, although by the end of the comic, there are many more imaginary friends. And for some reason I decided each friend would look totally different in each frame. So I have to draw like 37 different imaginary elephants. It’s all good.
Last night I drew a super-cool elephant, which originally I thought I’d post here, but this ent is even cooler. This ent is like Fonzie cool. Now I just have to draw about 27 more elephants and 22 octopodes, and 19 birds, &c. &c. And then I can start on the 5th dimension special effects. The Fox and I are going on retreat in 2 weeks, and with any luck (more like determination and forcing myself) all the imaginary friends will be drawn by then, and I can start integrating them into the reality layers. While I’m also finishing editing a novel. And a few other projects.
Anyway, I will publish more Dragon Comics. Next week. We decided we can’t work all the time, so we’ve also been preparing the house for the party we’re having Friday night.
When we were kids, my brother was considered something of a math prodigy. He skipped the 9th grade to attend the Illinois Math and Science Academy and taught at the University of Illinois before he even finished his BA. While he was in college, he told me, laughingly, Paul Erdős’s statement about mathematicians being machines that turn coffee into theorems.
My brother went on to earn advanced degrees from some of the most prestigious schools in the world. On a recent visit, I mentioned that quote to him and he laughed, this time a little bitterly. He said that most mathematicians do their best work before they’re 25, and that if you haven’t had any brilliant and original thoughts in the field before 30, you’re not likely to, ever. It’s like your brain has lost same particular aspect of plasticity that allows it to uncover new truths about numbers.
That’s never been so of writers. It’s the rare author who has both a mastery of craft as well as an interesting story to tell before 30. Maybe authors don’t hit their stride until 40. It’s not at all unusual to come across an extremely talented person who didn’t even start writing until they had retired in their 60s. So age is actually an asset in this field. And I keep telling myself that. It’s not only the facility with words and the understanding of how to structure sentences, chapters, paragraphs, and stories. It’s also the vast increase in life experience: fodder to create stories. And this increases exponentially. I don’t only gain the experience of my own life. I also get the experiences of all the people I talk to, and all the characters in books I read and videos I watch.
There’s absolutely no reason for a person to feel as if they haven’t achieved enough. In the creative arts, your masterwork can still be in the future.
This is something I’ve been looking forward to doing for weeks and weeks, almost since I started drawing Dragon Comics. Are you not amused?
More or less, I was basically able to recreate what appeared in my mind when the idea came to me, which is progress. Still not perfect, but the main idea is communicated by the illustration, I think. I’m fairly pleased with the shattered glass effect in panel 4. It could use some more work, but, once again, the witching hour is at hand and the terms of my agreement with myself say that the comic goes up, perfection be damned.
This kind of playing with meta perspective pleases me greatly, and it’s so well-suited to comics and cartoons. Probably the most extreme and well-known example of 4th wall breaking in animation would be the 1953 Chuck Jones Looney Tunes classic, “Duck Amuck,” in which the animator spends 7 minutes torturing Daffy Duck with inappropriate scenery changes, repeatedly erases him with a giant pencil wielded by an unseen hand, and, since this cartoon relies heavily on the viewer’s knowledge of trope, replaces an (open, functioning) parachute with an anvil. There’s always got to be an anvil. For an added bonus, the sketch ends by doubling the self-referential nature of the narrative while pushing it firmly back into place by revealing that the sadistic cartoonist is actually Bugs Bunny, screwing with his old nemesis Daffy. After establishing a refreshing commentary that reflects the separate world (reality) influencing the cartoon, the end sequence encloses the entire story back in the cartoon world.
I could never be so cruel to my characters who, as you may realize, represent my actual loved ones, none of whom have even tried to convince a hunter that it was Dragon season. I just like to play. In fact, as I get older, that kind of classic cartoon violence-for-the-sake-of-violence makes me more and more uncomfortable. Apparently, some of us become gentler with age. That kid of cartoon violence is funny. It’s just not fair. I would rather wait 3 seasons to watch Aang spend 8 minutes fighting Firelord Ozai before defeating him with compassionate nonviolence than see any number of falling anvils. Don’t get me wrong; falling anvils are still hilarious. Epic storytelling is just more fun.
Please note that even after the fourth wall has been completely shattered, The Man goes right on breaking it. He’s funny like that.
Not that I precisely understand Facebook’s algorithms, but it seems pretty likely to me that Facebook doesn’t like it when you link to the same blog every single day. When I first started blogging, it seems like I actually got a lot more traffic, and a lot more Facebook likes. Now it’s leveled off, so my assumption is that Facebook isn’t showing my updates to as many people, which means fewer people are liking them, which means fewer people are seeing them. A vicious circle.
Lacking a publicity budget and not being overly active on any other forums, it’s hard to see how to increase my reach. Unless my work is so great that everyone who reads it just naturally and organically shares it. OK: generate better work so that people just naturally like and share it.
For most of my life, I was the type of person who either took immediately to a new skill, or gave up immediately on a new skill. It’s fortunate (or, possibly, the cause of this behavior) that I found myself naturally good at enough things that it was not immediately apparent that I was a quitter, or that I wasn’t learning certain important skills. (Seriously, I don’t think I knew my 12 times tables until college.) Not until my 30s did it ever seem imperative to me that subpar skills should be honed, that time should be spent doing things I wasn’t good at. So the Dragon “I can get better with practice” comic still amuses me, and guides me. It can guide you too, if you carry it around with you at all times and refer to it for guidance in times of need.
Getting better still isn’t a guarantee of success, which is another life lesson for me. Take Princess Sealestia of Aquastria. Although she’s a simple drawing, she took me about a month to complete, primarily because I had no idea what I was doing and had to learn the skills as I went. She still cracks me up. She still seems like a great idea to me. She gets more page views than any other design in my RedBubble shop. She gets compliments, too. But no one seems to want to take her home. Why not? She’s adorable. She’s available as a sticker for $2.32. That makes her versatile. She could be a smartphone case, or a notebook cover, or a window decal.
And finally, being worse isn’t an indicator of failure. It is certain that my writing is objectively better than that of Stephanie Meyers, but it isn’t more successful. I don’t think “Kitty Sees 3 Fishes” is a masterpiece; it’s the oldest drawing in the shop, and it’s actually something I dashed out in a few minutes. In fact, I think I spent more time converting it to a digital format than I did painting it. But it’s one of my most successful designs. How? Why? Should I be doing more in this vein? The idea of the picture still amuses me. But as an older, more accomplished artist, I look at this image and think, “Where are kitty’s feet?”
Anyway, this is a blog post, and these are 3 items in my shop. Do with them as you will. (I hope what you will do is like and share them with your social networks and expose more people to the magic of QWERTYvsDvorak.)
When I showed him the illustrations, before I added the text, he said, “I’m so glad you got outside.” Figuring out how to draw the Milky Way was the fun part of this drawing. Getting the silhouettes right was also something of a challenge, but not as much as it would have been 29 comics ago.
In case you’re wondering where Dragon’s tail is, it is flat and limp without the cave’s magic, and therefore spilling down the hill with no curl whatsoever.
In reality, I spend far too much time outside the cave. Why, just yesterday I went to 2 parties and 3 stores, and later found out that I missed an old friend passing through town due to my own busy-ness. And today I attended a Girl Scouts Brownies meeting for the first time since 1981. Fascinating. Getting the comic written is getting harder as the frantic part of the year encroaches, but I’m committed to at least 100 of them before I reevaluate.
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Never enough hours in the day.
The silly season has begun, the time of year when it’s not unusual to be invited to 6 different events in 4 days. Everything is mellow and pleasant in the autumn desert. Everyone is suddenly active and planning things and trying to squeeze the last drops of sunshine out of the year and if you blink you’ll miss it and there is never enough time. This isn’t a problem for Dragon, of course, because Dragon never goes outside and always has enough time to draw comics. Lucky Dragon.
We could all use a little extra magic, that fine spun stuff found in the theater of the imagination. You just have to find a ticket, or be in the cast, or else sneak in through the side door when someone goes out for a smoke.
Synergistically magical. Exponentially magical.
We drove with the kids to the north rim of the Grand Canyon and back, stopping at every culturally significant landmark along the way, and my brain is sort of a humming white noise wrapped in a fine network of red pain. We ate up the state of Arizona, and it was delicious, but a meal that big is bound to give a dragon indigestion. Anyway, the idea of drawing or writing anything more complicated than what you’re seeing here is simply laughable.
Look how committed I am! Updating the blog even though I may actually be asleep who even knows what is going on. This is for you, my beloved Internet. Love me! I love you! Please don’t reject me even though my drawing skills are questionable and ability to budget my time compromised.
We did see bison at the north rim, a hundred of them, up close, maybe a couple of feet away from our open car windows (attempt at your own risk). We could hear them grunting and snuffling. We did not attempt to pet them. Although we were tempted.
I overheard Fox telling Otter, “Dragon draws these T-shirt designs but they’re all for girls so we can’t get any.” Gah! Gendered much? OK, fine. I drew this freaking raven, based on a photograph I took at the Grand Canyon. There is nothing girly about this raven with his weird punk rock mohawk head feathers, all right?
He’s all dark and brooding and mysterious and whatnot, sitting high above you, looking imperiously down like a king on his throne or something equally majestic. Ravens are bigger than crows, and somehow more dignified, and they’re so dark that they seem to almost swallow the light into them.
Of all the designs I’ve done so far, this is the first one that really seems to look good on a cell phone case.
Mythologically speaking, Raven is the bringer of knowledge (in the form of light) to mankind; he literally steals what belongs to the gods in order to make it public domain. Raven is a friend to people, and a force to be reckoned with. If you’ve never gotten close up to one of these birds, you’ll be surprised at how large and sturdy they are, almost like raptors in their muscularity. They’re also, when they feel like it, extremely vocal. I believe they can be taught to mimic human speech, but even in their own tongue, you can get a conversation going. I’ve had long back and forth exchanges with chatty ravens, some of them rather far away. If you hear a raven, call back and pretty often it will answer you, even if you can’t see it.