Mother’s Day crept up on me this year. I almost ran out of time to draw my wife, Jodie, a Mother’s Day Card, something I’ve been trying to do every year since I started dabbling in comics and illustrations six years ago. Jodie has been really ( and I mean really ) into Paddleball this last year, so this particular theme seemed appropriate. And no – I don’t dare go up her against her on the court less I have my ass handed to me. I’ll stick to drawing her instead.
Last year Jodie bought me a diffuser for my office. It did an amazing job of masking the funk of two dogs and, well, me, until it didn’t. Turns out, just like milk, essential oils can “turn” if left in a diffuser for too long. Jodie started buying me candles shortly after that revelation. Thing is? Candles don’t last that long. Now instead of a smell problem, I have a jar problem.
“Jodie! I’m accumulating jars from all of the burned out candles you have been bringing me.”, I announced from my office.
I looked back at my desk. My lamp stooped over the carcasses of empty jars cluttered around it, its light reftacting off of the colored glass.
“It looks …. kinda sad”, I thought to myself.
“Can you use them as planters?”, Jodie called back from downstairs, interrupting my thought.
“Good idea!”, I called back to her.
But first I have a better idea…”, I thought to myself.
Yes, rabbits can lay eggs, but only bedazzled pastel ones – and only once a year.
And, that obese man who wears a red velvet suit? The one who is ferried about in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer and squeezes down chimneys to give you free gifts? He’s real, too.
It’s no wonder our kids want to be so independent. After all the lies we tell them they just want to figure it out on their own.
This particular comic idea has been lurking in my head for years. It spawned from the Easter Egg Hunts that my cousins, Tony and Michelle, would invite my family and I to every year. The invitations ceased, like many things, during COVID. As luck would have it we received an invitation again for this year, inspiring me to finally put stylus to tablet and draw.
“If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”
My first hundred or so sketches of dragons looked either like anthropomorphic dinosaurs, or “Bowser” from Super Mario Brothers. The problem, as the quote so eloquently states above, is that I tend to draw what I know. Fortunately, as luck would have it my family and I visited “Book Off!”, a used book store in the Kearney Mesa area of San Diego a few months ago. While my daughters searched for Manga and Anime, I dove into the art books and discovered a used, tattered, and very cheap copy of “DragonArt” by J “NeonDragon” Peffer. For a couple of bucks Peffer’s illustrative step-by-step book showed me that there were other tools at my disposal than hammers. It still took a few sketches but I finally got a design that I liked for the Dragon King : Haggard, yet powerful. Intimidating, but intimidated.
Karakow was a little easier. She’s an aging sorceress that’s one of the main antagonists in the book. I couldn’t help but lean heavily on Disney’s villainess’ such as Cruella de Vil and the evil ( unnamed ) stepmother from Cinderella. What I came up with is the vain, unyielding woman below. She has sharp, angular features, a big crooked smile, and a wardrobe that is conservative yet loud at the same time.
As always, I like to include some of my rough sketches and design work. As a budding artist I always try to remind myself that behind every finished work is lots ( and lots ) of hard work and mediocre barely-coherent scribbles. Admittedly, the “scribbles” shown here are some of my more refined ones. Trust me, there’s a lot more in the trashcan on the floor next to me.
In other news, I broke down and bought an iPad Pro and have started working in Procreate. My old setup was a Surface Pro 7 running Clip Studio Paint. Why the change?
First, although compact, the Surface Pro 7 is far bulkier that the iPad. Although it’s a fully functional Windows machine, it makes for a mediocre tablet, a jack-of-all-trades / master-of-none, per say. Menus are tiny and finger gestures ( pinch-and-zoom, for example ) aren’t always responsive.
Second, the Surface Pro 7 only supports the original Surface Pen, a instrument that requires so much software-enabled “line correction” to function that I never really felt like I was working with a drawing instrument. The Apple Pencil, aside from a slippery glassy screen, is remarkably better in every way.
Third, Clip Studio Paint went subscription-based for it’s latest version. I blame Adobe for this trend and I refuse to subscribe to any of its software products because of it. Clip Studio Paint, like Procreate, was initially a one-time purchase. Now? No longer, so bye-bye. Subscriptions are for magazines that have new content each month. Software, by nature, is far more static; even if new features are introduced I seldom use them. And if they’re good enough? I have no problem buying a new version. Outright. Without a subscription.
I have been playing guitar with a group of dads in a garage band for a little over a year now. What started out as a breakout session in the bedroom of my friends’ sons’ bedroom has grown into a full-fledged 5-person band. Although we try to meet weekly, a plethora of other dad-related duties compete for our time, making our practices inconsistent at best, but we try. Our adoring fans include passers-by and neighbors, either too young to know good from bad, or just too curious to turn away from the train wreck/spectacle that is transpiring in the garage.
We call ourselves “The Rubber Band“.
Part pun. Park joke. The Rubber Band expands to accommodate – whether that be each others’ schedules, talents, or even new members wanting to “give it a try”. The truth is? We’re not all that good, but we sure have a great time not being that good.
Thank you Shawn Burgwald ( Drums ), Kenn Matthews ( Vocals ), Mike Jock ( Bass ), Todd Vandervort ( Guitar ) and to that 20-something couple walking their dog three months ago that decided to pick up the open mic and join us for a song.
It’s been well over a year since my last treatment for prostate cancer, and, as of my last quarterly blood draw, my PSA is still undetectable ( < 0.01 ng/mL ). If there are still prostate cancer cells floating around inside me, they’re in smaller amounts than the PSA test can detect. I am in remission, where I hope to be for a very, very long time.
Although my medical treatments have been mostly paused ( more on that in a bit ), I still find myself sticking to the same routines and diet that I kept while being treated. I still maintain a Whole Food Plant Based Diet ( WFPB ) and abstain from alcohol and processed sugars, but I’ve started allowing myself the occasional serving of fish. I’m still a big fan of intermittent fasting ( IC ), but I’ve found myself indulging in breakfast again from time-to-time.
I also continue to exercise, probably more so than while being treated. With the cessation of hormone therapy came a surge in testosterone, so I’ve bumped up my exercise and weight routines, probably a little too much. Back and muscle pain has been a problem made worse by working a desk job. I’ve started doing daily stretching/yoga, bought a standing desk, and even started seeing a chiropractor to help loosen things up. Admittedly, each time I pull my back out I can’t help but think that it’s cancer-related, but eventually I come to the same conclusion : I’m just getting older – and probably overdoing it. If there was one upside to the hormone therapy I was on, it was the steroids I had to take while on them. In retrospect, I feel that they likely masked a lot of the muscle pain I am now experiencing.
“Yeah, my latest bone density scan (DEXA) was a little lower, wasn’t it,” I admitted.
“I don’t get it! I exercise. I eat a high calcium diet. I even started running – well, for a while.”, I complained.
“I don’t want you to break your hip at 50.”, he said, flatly.
“Yeah, I know. I know…..”, I grumbled.
“So much for my so-called ‘Non-Treatment Plan'”. I thought to myself.
“Hey, are you still in a band?”, Dr. Stewart asked, turning away from the computer screen.
“Huh?”, I mumbled, distracted.
“A band? Are you still playing music with your friends?”, he asked again.
“Oh… yeah! Yeah, we get together every week. We’re not very good, but we have a great time not being very good!”, I exclaimed, “Why do you ask?”
“The other doctors and I started a band, too!”, he smiled from ear-to-ear.
“No kidding? That’s awesome!”, I said, matching his smile.
“Yeah! It’s me and some of the other oncologists.”, he continued.
At this point my imagination took over. I pictured a Gary Larson-esqe comic of doctors in lab coats rocking out in an exam room, stethoscopes swaying haphazardly from their necks.
“Check this out!”, he smiled.
He then showed me a video on his phone. It wasn’t exactly how I pictured it, but they sounded good, and, wait…
“Are you singing?”, I asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Yeah, I’m the lead singer!”, he said, with pride.
I laughed, encouragingly.
“You guys aren’t half bad. I love it!”, I added.
We talked a while longer, mostly about lingering side effects from surgery and radiation. You can’t rip out a prostate and bake the carnage with radiation without lasting damage, after all.
Fortunately, some of my concerns were mitigated by a routine and uneventful colonoscopy last year. Radiation might have baked my prostate, but my colon, aside from some scarring, survived unscathed. At this point I’ve gotten used to the frequent bathroom trips at night and the inevitable burning sensation from eating spicy foods. Incontinence following surgery hasn’t been a problem, but not for lack of effort – I still do daily Kegel exercises for twenty minutes, and I’ll probably be doing them for the rest of my life. There are other problems, but Dr. Stewart has a treatment plan for those too, and I’m slowly coming to terms with it.
“Well, that’s it, I guess.”, Dr. Stewart said as he got up to leave.
I got up to follow him.
“You can head out, too, but Danielle will be in shortly with your paperwork.”. He smiled.
“Yeah. I’ll stick around, I’d like to see her!”, I said.
Danielle, Dr. Stewart’s nurse, has been by my side for the entire ride. Admittedly, she’s spent a lot of that time behind me administering injections, but she always had the most awesome cheerful disposition – and never missed, either.
“You look a lot different without a hazmat suit on and a horse needle in your hand!”, I told her as she entered the room.
She laughed and we caught up for a few minutes before I headed out.
On the way home I stopped to pick up Poke Bowls at “Poke One N Half” in La Jolla. Jodie and I had started frequenting the restaurant three years ago following each of my appointments. I’m not a big fan of sushi, but visiting the place had been a way to unwind after what had been some pretty stressful discussions.
“Wow, your prices have gone up!”, I told the cashier while paying for the meal.
“Inflation”, she responded, flatly, spinning around the credit card machine to reveal a screen requesting a tip amount.
I entered a tip and pressed “Enter”, my eyes bugging out slightly at the total bill.
“Well, at least I only have to do this every 6-months now, ’cause that was expensive.”, I said under my breath.
Yet one more reason to be thankful to be in remission – as if I needed another one.
Yes, it’s been a while since my last post. Between the holidays, a busy work schedule, a particularly nasty bout with the flu ( and pneumonia ), and taking some artistic license with this particular comic, it took ….a while.
Normally, I draw using pencil and paper, or with a stylus on a tablet. This time I wanted to try something a little different – vector graphics. With vector graphics you use a mouse to drag, drop, and manipulate shapes and curves to create art. Honestly, it’s a little funky until you try it. The best analogy I can think of is “arts and crafts” in elementary school, where you are given sheets of colored construction paper to cut out and paste together a picture. It’s kind of’ like that – expect without the scissors and paste, at least physical ones. The weird thing is that vector graphics are all math. I converted the image above to a .PNG, but if you were to open the original .SVG file ( that’s short for “Scaleable Vector Graphics” ), you’d see a bunch of numbers. The numbers declare the points and line thicknesses of the shapes that make up the image.
Moving forward I plan on doing a lot more illustrations and comics using vector graphics. It takes longer, but I am getting faster with experience. My reasons are twofold : First, I like the clean crisp lines and colors and simplified designs that vector graphics lends itself to. Second, vector graphics are big in graphic design, illustration, and user interface design ( UXD ), all areas that I am interested in.
So, please be patient with me as I ramp up my skills to accommodate this new style. I have a bunch of ideas – they might just take a while to manifest here as I stumble along.
Lastly, if you are interested in learning how to draw using vector graphics, I use a free application called Inkscape. Adobe offers a competing product called Illustrator, but it is subscription-based and quite pricey for an amateur hobbyist such as myself. Fair warning – Inkscape is not intuitive. If you want to give it a shot I highly recommend taking a course. I have had a lot of luck with these courses on Udemy :
Dungeons and Dragons wasn’t always cool. Back in the 90’s, it was a game played by pimply, greasy, pubescent boys on shag brown carpet under dim incandescent lights with Led Zeppelin rocking in the background. I know because I was one of those boys. Back then I think my friends and I spent more time trying to make each others’ characters miserable, and by extension ourselves, by throwing sadistic, borderline hilarious plot devices at one another.
I had forgotten all about my own experiences until my daughter, Ashley, bought a Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set for her and her friends to play. At first I was astounded that she wanted to play. I mean, Dungeons and Dragons is ( was ) for nerds, right? I was comfortable with it when I was her age, but Ashley? However, after gauging her enthusiasm my attitude quickly morphed into encouragement and finally, well, rejection…
It’s been nine months since my last cancer treatment and in another couple of weeks I’ll be “celebrating” my cancer-versary, or three years since my initial diagnosis. According to recent bloodwork which I get done every three months, my cancer remains undetectable, too. For now the boogeyman is bound, gagged, and ( mostly ) silenced – well, at least until my next bloodwork and inevitable scanxiety.
Last weekend my friends, family, and I walked in the 2022 Prostate ZERO Walk in San Diego. This was our first time joining a physical event after COVID forced us to come up with our own last year. I felt a little guilty urging everyone to wake up early on a precious Saturday morning to attend, but they did. Later, I laughed as the DJ had everyone warm up with what I can only describe as Zumba-meets-line-dancing prior to setting foot on the course. We were the second biggest team and rose $2,382, putting us behind only Poseida Therapeutics. For everyone who participated, thank you!
For those of you men who are undergoing treatment I can assure you, that if you take care of yourselves you will be okay. Even though it may not seem like it, there is life at the end of the tunnel and, although it’s going to be different than the one you left, it can be a good one, and maybe even a little better, at least in some ways. The big things won’t seem so big anymore, the small things won’t bother you as much, and you’ll start to realize how important the things are that you always just took for granted.