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.
“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.
I drew these pictures for Kevin and my ongoing endeavor, a children’s book, titled “Jalapena”. If the name sounds familiar, that’s good, because my last post was over eight months ago. If not, well, it’s a story about a young troll, Jalapena, and her human friend, Raven, as they journey to save their world by means of saving a unicorn. Kevin based it upon stories he told his daughter when she was younger.
As per my last post I’ve been putting a lot more effort into drawing “au natural”, with pencils, pens, and paper. The first two drawings were done entirely on my Surface Pro using Clip Studio and Gimp. The later three were done using a blue pencil, an HB pencil, Micron Pens, and a sheet of printer paper. It takes a little more work, but is a lot more rewarding for me. At some point, if there’s enough interest, I’ll do a quick post on my process.
An unintended but unavoidable result of our trip to Vegas a few months ago was our new pet, Mochi, the Axolotl. Axolotl’s are almost extinct in the wild and illegal to own and sell in California, but quite plentiful in the city known for loose slots, loose women, and ( as we found out ) loose pet restrictions. After experiencing Mochi firsthand, I’m honestly surprised that Axolotls still exist in the wild at all. They’re clumsy for starters. Mochi, of course, is also bright shade of pink, a color that does everything but scream “here I am, come eat me” to any predator with more than an ounce of intelligence.
Although Mochi is my oldest daughter, Ashley’s, pet, my wife, Jodie, is her primary caretaker. Honestly, I am more than a little jealous of the amount of attention she gets, too. Every morning Jodie and her sister Jayme, who adopted an Axolotl of her own while in Vegas with us, compare detailed notes of water conditions, bowel movements, and the number of worms their respective legged-fish ate the day prior. The nitrates, nitrites, and ammonia levels all have to be just right as well as the water temperature. Since we got Mochi Amazon has chartered entire truckloads worth of fans, filtration devices, sand, rocks, blood worms, and nightcrawlers, water testing kits, etc… to our house – oh, and Jayme’s, too, of course. Mochi only cost about thirty dollars, but we’ve easily spent ten times that keeping her alive.
I’ve often caught Jodie staring into Mochi’s aquarium, wondering, I assume, if the clumsy, pink, legged fish staring back through the glass has developed any sort of affection for her. I can only guess…..
On a side note, you might have noticed that my artwork has changed. Up until a month or so ago I drew the majority of my comics and illustrations digitally on my Microsoft Surface Pro 7 using Clip Studio Paint and Gimp. I’ve since gone back to basics and started using pencils, inks, and paper. My reasons are threefold. First, after spending an entire day at work in front of a computer screen, it was getting more and more difficult to motivate myself to spend even more time in front of the same screen to do my art. Second, although drawing digitally allowed me to make corrections easier, I found myself taking it to extremes. I found myself obsessing over every detail and, in the long run, I felt my artwork was loosing some spontaneity. Third, I found myself not improving as much as I would of liked. Drawing digitally was making me sloppy. Paper can only be erased so many times before you wear a hole through it. Computer pixels aren’t so limited. While using pencil and ink I find myself carefully planning each stroke.
Admittedly, I’m still working out the details. My lines aren’t as crisp, my colors are streaky, and the scanner I’ve been using somehow manages to wash everything out, but I’m enjoying the whole process a lot more. I haven’t completely ruled out digital arts, either. I just needed a little change.
Here are some character sketches for the book that my friend, Kevin, and I have been working on. Some characters turned out to be very different than Kevin had initially written in his earlier drafts. Tholoman, for example, was supposed to be a grizzled old human male. Now he’s a “young” elf. We thought by making him younger we could have fun with the chemistry between him and the young girl protagonists.
We’ve also been involving our daughters’, too. Kevin runs all his revisions by his daughter, Clara. As for me, when I was sketching the Bokziks, a group of sometimes-half-animal antagonists, I didn’t realize my oldest daughter, Ashley, was peering over my shoulder.
“Dad, you should make her a half-squirrel.”, she said matter-of-factly. “It’d be cool.”
“Yeah?”, I looked up, startled.
So, I erased the crude “were-dog” that I had been working on and in its its place quickly scribbled out a bushy tail, squat hips, and tiny legs and feet.
“Like that?”, I asked, unsure.
“Yeah!”, she smiled back.
So, yeah, collaboration is fun. Sometimes it might even take you somewhere you never expected to be.
I’ve always liked maps. They tell you where you’ve been – or better yet, where you might go.
Before there was MapQuest or Google Maps there was the Thomas Guide, a hefty, seemingly indecipherable, yet indispensable tome of colorful road maps. Mine was gifted to me by my parents on my 16th birthday along with my first car, a 1972 Volkswagen Bug. Weighing in at three pounds and measuring over an inch thick mine only covered San Diego County, but in an era before cell phones it saved my rear more times than I like to admit. My Thomas Guide rode under the driver’s seat of that Bug and several others before it met its ultimate demise. I kept it far longer than it was useful. MapQuest’s printable turn-by-turn instructions knocked the books’ usefulness to its knees, Google Maps and the Apple iPhone severed its head altogether.
Although the Thomas Guide was practical I always preferred those with, well, a little more imagination. As a kid that meant the park maps handed out at Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, or Wild Rivers. I enjoyed plotting my adventures along the colorful pathways and trying to figure out what attractions changed since my last “adventure”.
During our last meeting, Kevin, the author I have been collaborating with, and I decided that our book needed a map. After sketching out a ( very ) rough draft with him I returned home and pondered what such a map should look like. I decided it needed to be practical, like a Thomas Brother’s Guide, but also fun like the park maps handed to me at amusement parks. This is what I came up with. If it makes you smile, I succeeded. If not, well, at least I tried!
Oh! Any my daughter, Ashley, helped me with the design and color for this one. I’ll make an artist out of her yet!
I am in awe by how much work goes into the writing of a book. There’s the book itself – and then there’s all of the world building that takes place behind the scenes. World building is the history, characters backstories, creatures, cities – basically everything that goes into creating a believable world, or “atmosphere” in which the story takes place. It’s “frustratingly fun” to conjure up – frustrating in that much of the generated content may be omitted entirely in the actual book, but incredibly fun to dream up. My friend, Kevin, the author, and I are having a great time.
Here’s an excerpt from the book for which the above illustration was created. I hope you like it.
There was a loud crack of thunder and lightning beamed down from the sky brightening everything in the trees around them. Jalapeña and Raven looked at one another with wide eyes, realizing for the first time that they weren’t alone.
“Are those spiders,” asked Jalapeña?
“ Um yeah, Uh I think so? What should we do?”
“Just keep walking and hope we can see better when the lighting strikes again.” Jalapeña couldn’t believe what she had seen and Raven didn’t seem too sure about the spiders either. The sky suddenly lit up brightly and thunder shook through the treetops. They could both see clearly now, hundreds of bright red eyes glowed in the light. The spiders were getting closer and it was clear they were as big as the two girls, maybe bigger.
Jalapeña screamed, first a loud screech and the “RUUUUUNNNN!” Raven was already running ahead of her. Jalapeña started to run but was quickly pulled upward by something and swung forward through the trees.
At the next crack of lightning, she could see that she was swinging above where Raven was running and she continued moving forward as if on a pendulum. “Raven!” she screamed. She didn’t think Raven had heard her, the rain was now coming even harder and in large drops, the size of golf balls, splashing off of everything and causing small rivers and waterfalls to form all around them. The next lightning bolt Jalapeña saw Raven continuing to run along the muddy trail, not too far below her. What she saw ahead of her was even more terrifying than the spiders; a giant wall of water was rushing down the trail, pushing trees down ahead of it. It was headed right for Raven but there was nothing Jalapeña could do but yell futilely as the noise was now far too loud to hear or be heard…