Tag Archives: fish

Koi are just baby dragons

Screen Shot 2019-10-20 at 5.23.35 PM

Today I learned that embroidery hoop art is a thing. A good thing. 

This week is the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, aka the Festival of Booths, which involves building a small booth in your back yard and then having your friends over to eat snacks in your small booth. As with most Jewish practices, there are numerous rules about the booth. Also, this holiday involves shaking a bunch of leaves with a citron. It’s a whole thing. Today, my parents took us to a holiday party their friends were having down in Vail.

Typically, your booth—the sukkah—is decorated with various items of produce hung from the ceiling (Sukkot is a harvest festival), but my parent’s friends instead opted to decorate theirs with laminated photos of sukkah parties past and embroidery hoop art made by all the people who visit their sukkah.

Koi are not a traditional thematic element of the holiday, but my parents’ friends also have a nice 16,000 koi pond, home to some granddaddy fish, so they were pleased.

“Chag Sameach” is the all-purpose holiday greeting in Hebrew; you can use it for any happy holiday. 5780 is the current year in the Jewish calendar.

The design was executed with a combination of Sharpies and fabric markers.

I’m clearly a bit behind on blogging; I have 2 more paper designs to share this week.

Dreams of Sushi


It’s just a matter of motivation. It’s hard to made decisions on an empty stomach.

A fish dinner is a fish dinner, but if you start messing around with wishes, you might end up with nothing, which is less than a fish dinner. When I was a little kid I made wishes all the time: on the evening star, on dandelions, on birthday candles. Not on coins thrown in fountains, though. My mother did not condone the throwing of currency into pools, or anywhere else. But I noticed a trend, which is that my wishes pretty much never came true. I’ve had the same wish for decades and even with concerted effort, I can’t make it come true. Maybe in another 20 years I’ll make some progress.

Although I feel like I failed to complete any of the things I set out to accomplish today, I did draw a comic. And I guess I did some other, possibly meaningful things that were not on my list.

If I had wishes, I probably wouldn’t use them on personal things that I really want. In the long run, I think we’d all be better off wishing for peace, for people to be less greedy and more empathetic, for equality and liberty and justice and safety.

A Fish Is More Than Nothing


You clean your brushes your way and I’ll  clean my brushes mine.

By doing the bare minimum with my thumb for a couple days, I have taken it from ~5% to maybe 50%, which is an improvement, but still not optimal, so I’m sticking by my resolution to draw no comics this week. What we have here, instead, is a quick painting of a fish I did last after I had painted all those origami fish and didn’t want to waste all the unused paint I had squeezed out on to my palette.

What I’d like to do is more drawing/painting from live models. Seems like the only way to improve. Most artists have a better connection between their memory and their art; I’m still more a writer than an artist, and I can hear/see words in my head much more clearly than I can see pictures, although apparently it’s possible to train oneself to understand things like light and shadows across 3-dimensional objects, even though they’re harder to grasp when you lack depth perception.

Delirium Fish Headpiece


It’s the fully adjustable crown of fishies of my dreams, and yours too, I’m sure. 

The final piece for my Delirium cosplay: a cloud of fishes floating around my head. Turned out to be a good thing that I couldn’t find any prefabricated fish ornaments because these origami fish are banging and jamming and swimmingly wonderful, plus, you know, extra layer of surreality. Why is that person wearing a halo of origami fish on her head?

Learning to fold origami fish didn’t take all that long, surprisingly. They’re painted with acrylics to match the tutu. Start to finish making the fish only took a couple hours, and since I already had the paper from 1000 cranes and the paint from a few other projects, the fish cost nothing to make. The headband was 15 cents and the tiny barrettes were 10 cents each. The wire was the most expensive part.

Also made a set of cloisonné fish earrings from old charms, one of which was my mother’s, and the other of which was a gift from the Vampire Bat. Now, assuming that I can find my regular clothes required for the outfit–fishnet shirt, fishnet stockings, colored stockings, leather jacket–the cosplay is all ready to go. I’d search out the pieces now but The Man is sleeping.


Bottom Feeders

It's an online relationship? Come on! You know he's probably catfishing you.

It’s an online relationship? Come on! You know he’s probably catfishing you.

The main thing about catfish is that they’re one of the most sustainable sources of seafood, and they’re extra delicious due to their high fat content. They’re not kosher, so I never tried them until well into adulthood, but they’re definitely the favorite dinner fish in my family. The reason I possess 2 Beanie-baby style catfish dolls is that the catfish lobby produces them to spread the word about catfish being a responsible choice for your gustatory delight, and organizers kept giving them to us at a sustainable seafood event. People get grossed out by bottom feeders, but farmed catfish mostly eat vegetarian pellets, not whatever disgusting gunk falls to the bottom of the tank, which, apparently makes them even tastier than wild catfish.

I really wanted to do a 3D comics with these dolls but other than that I have no idea where this came from, except that I was trying to avoid using any of the puns in the old Dr. Demento classic “Wet Dream” by Kip Addotta, even though I probably haven’t even heard that song in well over a decade. Maybe it would have been funnier if the first fish told the second fish she was being shellfish, or she didn’t hook up with the dude because she had a haddock. This is possible more weird-funny than haha-funny, but that’s cool too.

In Which I Relearn the Love of Alliterative Language

If I seem a little prickly to you, maybe you shouldn't touch me.

If I seem a little prickly to you, maybe you shouldn’t touch me.

It eludes me why I never thought to post the mandalas on Mondays. Not only does #MandalaMonday make a more pleasing hashtag, it gives me an extra day to think about comics without being rushed when I’ve used the entire weekend up having fun and not thinking about the act of creation.

This one looks like a sea anemone to me, something that lives on a coral reef.

My trip to New Mexico was wonderful and cleansing, but the 7+ hour drive each way, mostly through the mountains, was pretty taxing on my body. I drank one of those dreadful 5-Hour Energies, which kept my mind so relentlessly focused on piloting a vehicle that 7 hours after we arrived my brain remained on alert to the sensation of hurtling through space. Driving that long wasn’t easy on the rest of me either, and I got very little sleep last night.

There should be a comic tomorrow, a silly one, and then maybe one of those brutal personal comics about the most painful things that have ever happened to me, which seem to be the ones that most interest readers.

Back to School Bulletin Board: (Another) Turtle!

Yep, summer vacation is over.

Yep, summer vacation is over.

I know I just did a turtle, but this is a different turtle. The green sea turtle is, of course, a saltwater creature, whereas this turtle is a freshwater type. Originally, it was supposed to be a red eared slider, a turtle that is a popular pet and, as a result, one of the most invasive species on the planet, but they are native to this region and not considered a nuisance here. However, I didn’t bring a reference photo of a slider, so what we have here is a sort of generic painted turtle. Painted turtles also live in this region. The concept of this bulletin board is from a nearby park called Agua Caliente, where, until recently, natural springs kept everything very lush. I believe the springs have recently dried up, and I haven’t been back in a while, but I’m sure you can still see palm trees, aquatic turtles, and fish there, even if some of the lagoons are drained.

A fresh canvas!

A fresh canvas!

Last summer’s design had help up pretty well; it’s always a particular shame to take the old one down when it still looks good, but they can’t really be repurposed, due to the fact that they’re completely full of open staples and therefore sort of dangerous to touch. Plus, there’s no way to rehang them unless you go and bend all the staple closed, and I use hundreds of staples in a typical bulletin board.

I get my paper from the source!

I get my paper from the source!

I think yellow is a cheerful, but unusual background color. I probably would have gone for blue, to better represent water, but they hadn’t ordered any more butcher paper and no blue was to be had.

Incidentally, I don’t think I’ve ever shared a photo of this giant rack of paper, from which I get most of my colors. (Some of them–the construction paper colors–also come from the supply closet in the office, but the butcher paper is just kept out in the hallway on this rolling rack. It’s never in precisely the same spot, but it’s easy to find. It took me a while before I could effectively use the (blunt) cutting edge against which you have the pull the paper to effectively create a straight rip. It’s very joyful. Sometimes the kids can get paper, if their teachers tell them to, but for me I still feel a little frisson of power knowing that I can have any color paper I want. Bwoo ha ha ha.

Any color except blue, apparently.

Measure a lot of times, paste once.

Measure a lot of times, paste once.

I drew the shell first, then traced its edge to get the letters to fit on its back. Then I traced the edge again to get the letters to fit on top.

Very, very welcome.

Very, very welcome.

From there, I glue everything to the board. It’s sort of a rote operation. I add a few staples for insurance, and then I go back over the design and add a bunch of staples for accent (and security). Here you can see how the staples add texture and dimensionality to the turtle’s head.

That is a face only another turtle could love.

That is a face only another turtle could love.

When the turtle and the text were finished, there was still a lot of blank space and the whole thing looked kind of threadbare. First I added some palm trees, then some fish and some river rocks, and then a few more fish. I go back and glue anything that isn’t lying flat again.

I did this!

I did this!

Truthfully, I meant to start this yesterday, but instead I spent the entire day obsessing about how filthy my office was and totally forgot what I had planned to do. Needless to say, I have not yet started cleaning my office. However, I have created and uploaded some new art, so my conditions from yesterday were still fulfilled. This isn’t my favorite design–it feels like it needs a lot more background–but I only had one day to do it if there was going to be a new bulletin board when the kids came back and it’s 104 degrees out (this bulletin board is outside) and there’s a fire on the mountain, so I feel like the 5 hours I put in today was all I had for this project. It’s cute and it looks OK. So, success.

The Living Reef

It's even better if you can imagine David Attenborough gleefully narrating the death throes of one sea creature as another organism devours it: "The speckled spitfish thrusts its meager stingers in all directions, but it is too late. The tentacled pseudoblob has already begun the digestion process."

It’s even better if you can imagine David Attenborough gleefully narrating the death throes of one sea creature as another organism devours it: “The speckled spitfish thrusts its meager stingers in all directions, but it is too late. The tentacled pseudoblob has already begun the digestion process.”

One of the first digital paintings I ever completed was Eilat, Coral Reef Nature Reserve, August 1999, which has its merits, all things considered, but looking back it’s almost funny. I was working off a photograph for that one, but I had not yet learned how to use layers, or basically any tool other than the brush and the color picker. I didn’t even know how to change brushes at that point, or opacity, or begun experimenting with brush modes. I never did feel 100% satisfied with that picture. I don’t mind things being deliberately rough, but in that case, I simply lacked the knowledge to take it where it needed to go.

That was 11 months ago.

This image does help me see how far I’ve come; it’s not even based on a photo. I didn’t use any reference images at all. The fish are all just bits of color that I played with until they took shape. The entire painting is basically bits of color smeared around. It’s one of my favorite things in Photoshop right now; the blur took can take the roughest image and make it look more real.

(Or, as in yesterday’s comic, it can take a more realistic image and make it look more fake.)

Some of it was probably also inspired by David Attenborough’s The Blue Planet, which is a really lovely thing to watch before bed as long as creatures eating other creatures doesn’t upset you.

The red fish is my absolute favorite. It looks perfect and I would look at it carefully before I drew another fish to see what made it work.

Another thing that’s happened since I got the Wacom tablet is that my brain has begun to dissect light everywhere. Understanding how light works when it falls on objects inspired a big leap for me in taking my work out of the purely flat realm and giving it greater dimensionality. I only tried to use realistic light and darkness in small doses here, but it really changes the character of the image.


I actually don't see what you did there.

I actually don’t see what you did there.

Another serving of strangeness out of my virtual sketchbook. A fish camouflaged as an eyeball with so many rippling little fins that it almost looks furry makes perfect sense. Also, it was fun to draw. The water effect for the background really did come out beautifully. Just yesterday I was watching the ripples of sunlight on the bottom of the swimming pool and thinking how difficult it would be to capture that effect in paint. But really it’s easy with basic Photoshop tools. The little tendrils look sweet, too.

Today was another non-starter for me, but my censorship article went up on Panels and got a great reception: retweets, comments, Facebook shares!. It’s called “I Expected Batman and Robin, Not Pornography” and it’s just a little rant about people who don’t get the concept of liberal arts education. Go on and click it you like comics, dislike censorship, or just enjoy stories about clueless people or straight up ranting.

Keep on Truckin’

Swimming upside down? Sideways? No? Good. You're OK. For now. Just keep going. What else can you do?

Swimming upside down? Sideways? No? Good. You’re OK. For now. Just keep going. What else can you do?

Back in high school, I used to write short stories for my friends’ special occasions: birthdays, mostly or if they were going on a long trip. They were irreverent, sometimes angry, but usually hilarious to the people receiving them, tall tales about us and the things we would never do, decorated with the things we longed to do, full of in-jokes and insults. Parents and bullies were cast as easily-disposed antagonists, or hapless casualties to the larger menace; we were always punk rock anti-heroes in a cruel world, destined to inherit the earth.

In the last 18 months, I’ve started about a half dozen serious short speculative stories, all inspired by really wonderful ideas, concepts full of potential, characters with meat. None of them went beyond a few pages, even the ones where I knew how things ended. The only substantial thing I’ve written in that time is the first 3 books of the 5 book graphic novel I’ve been wanting to draw, but the script still isn’t finished. I’ve been drawing every day, using the headspace I used to use to write, so focused on the tablet that even my touch typing has suffered.

A few weeks ago, the Vampire Bat asked me if I could do one of my old stories for her birthday. The Bat is a dear old friend; we have known each other almost 30 years. No kidding. She’s only appeared in about 3 comics so far, but we talk on a pretty regular basis. So I’m writing a story now, and kicking it to the “Creative Scraps” file in my documents folder (where I stick things that refuse to be finished) is not an option, because then, of course, I will fail the friendship test.

It didn’t seem like I knew what to write for her, but of course, I do. When you know someone that long, you know them. It’s all just waiting to come out. And it will come out.

So, it’s good, really. Finishing a story will help this whole experience come full circle. Because I am a good writer. I am a really, really good writer. Even though my writing career hasn’t gone anywhere near where it promised to take me, people have paid me lots of money to write things for them, and a sizable number of great (successful) writers have told me I’m a great writer. And that drawing of the goldfish that’s gonna keep on truckin’? Well, that’s just a little doodle. It didn’t take any time at all, and it’s a million times better than my first webcomic, which I drew a little less than a year ago. So here I am.

I always liked to draw, but I only embarked on this project because I wan’t to try my hand at graphic storytelling. Now I’m just about ready to start this new project. First, I just have to finish a few more things.