Sunday, June 29, 2014

Random Thoughts on New Layouts in the Dad Zone

Random Thoughts

You live, you learn, and you learn to live with regret.

What? Not all of my random thoughts are going to be happy and/or funny.

Tales from the Dad Zone

Since my son was born I've learned a few new things, like how much I can really get done on less than six hours of sleep a night (hint, it's not as much as you would like to think). I've also learned that changing a boy's diaper has an entirely set of do's and don'ts, like don't lean to far over your son while changing him and do keep your mouth closed at all times. Most of all I've learned one seemingly strange, random piece of information. It's this: boys stink. Here I'm  not talking metaphorically like, "raising a boy is hard tiring work that should be done by...someone else." No, I mean the literal olfactory sense of the word, "stink," as in "smells bad." Let the boy go two or three days between baths and you can smell him coming. My son has this tangy acidic funk. The first time I noticed it was in the kitchen, and I thought I'd accidentally got some balsamic vinegar on him after fixing dinner. Turns out it wasn't vinegar. When  my son gets funky he smells like salad dressing.

New Layout

I'm experimenting with a new layout, and I'll probably be tweaking it as I go. I'm not wild about displaying the full text of every post, but this layout does give me some flexibility that Blogger's dynamic themes do not. Most importantly it lets me add custom items to the sidebar. Like the "Donate" button, which I'll explain a little more, below. Until I settle on a look and configuration I like there will probably several changes over the next few days, weeks. Bear with me. It's my hope that it's leading to bigger and better things.

That Money Thing

A notable new addition to the sidebar is a "Donate" button. I'm a thirty-something lefty so I believe in net neutrality, and I believe that content on the Internet should be free, and I will do my best to continue to provide free comics, commentary, doodles, and...don't-les (for lack of a better non-word). What I've found over the lat couple of years of doing this is there are soft-costs associated with providing "free" content (with what Internet Service Providers charge it's more like paying for a monthly pass). Some of those costs include art supplies, getting a better website for Geek Speak, upgrading my digital capabilities, buying and learning new software, getting a better and/or second monitor, and (yes) my time. Further down the road map is merchandise like shirts, mugs, books, and prints, but a donate button is a step I can take right now. If you've enjoyed Geek Speak, sketch dumps, and my commentary, please think about pitching in the price of your favorite coffee drink at Starbucks.

Sketch Dump

I'm not going to leave this post there like some kind of public broadcasting pledge drive (but seriously, I support public broadcasting). Here are more doodles from my notebooks at work. 

This handsome fellow is me taking a stab at drawing the character of "Gluttony" from Full Metal Alchemist. I don't watch a lot of anime, but I got hooked into this and Attack on Titan as a way to pass the time while feeding my son. In Full Metal Alchemist I really love the idea of equivalent exchange; the idea that you can't get something without giving something in return. The concept of this balancing force is a huge theme in the story of the Elric brothers. 

One of my projects required daily email notifications to go out to a list of users. To spice up the daily email to my co-worker on the communications team I started adding some of my drawings. After a while the text of the email messages started to reflect the theme of the drawing. 

Something that will probably become a recurring theme in my sketch dumps is "drawings I can't freely share around the office." This is one. It's not really "NSFW," but she is showing a lot of leg and some side-boob, which is...less than professional. In a way I couldn't help myself. I love the classic femme fatale in her elegant gown, perfect hair, holding a gun, and killing you slowly with a smoldering look. 

Nothing much to say about this other than the obvious; I took a stab at drawing Hobbes from Calvin and Hobbes. 

Started this out going for the titular character of the amazing Battle Angel Alita manga series. I didn't quite get there, but ended up liking the result nonetheless. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Massive Sketch Dumping on the New Job

Work-a-Doodle: Sketch Dumping on the New Job

Since my son was born and I changed jobs I'm not posting near as much as I used to, or as much as I would like. That does not mean that my pencil has been idle. I've had my favorite tool gripped firmly in my right hand and giving it a workout and a regular basis. I know what that sounds like, try to keep in mind I'm talking about a pencil here...which somehow does not make that other sentence sound better. Moving on. 

My new job doesn't give me much opportunity to sketch in my notebooks, and I've stopped sketching during meetings almost altogether. This is due in no small part to the fact that most meetings I'm in these days are ones I've scheduled, and dividing my attention between what's being said and a doodle of me trimming my nose hairs with a weed-whacker is no longer an option. What sketching I do manage is usually during lunch breaks, in the last fifteen to twenty minutes of the day, or when I can squeeze in a ten-minute breather. It doesn't sound like much, but drawing a line here and a line there really adds up over time. 

Earthworm Jim
I loved this game when it came out. At some point early into my new job I got the image of Earthworm Jim stuck in my head. It probably started when I doodled the space-faring, power-suit wearing, nightcrawling adventurer while waiting at the doctor's office for my name to be called. That started an Earthworm Jim drawing binge that lasted a couple of weeks. To be honest, I've always liked the look of this character, but until recently always struggled with drawing him. 


Classic Comic Strip Reference for the Win!

This was one of the first doodles in my notebook at my new job, and the first that I posted to the Art and Design group on the company's Yammer site. One of my remote co-workers got the Calvin and Hobbes reference in under ten seconds.

Super Heroes Doing Super Normal Things

It might just be me, but I find the idea of superheroes doing normal things kind of amusing. I just like to picture Captain America sitting in the commissary eating a sandwich. For some reason I think of him as a chicken salad sandwich kind of guy. 

There's Always Time for Dumb Office Jokes!

At work I can plan and track my projects in pretty much whichever way works best for me. All of the project managers on my team have the same flexibility. With that said, I think some project planning methods are more effective than others. 

Skin...Gone...Must have...Donut!

It's probably just me, but I look at this and I think, "now there is a skinless man in unspeakable agony. I bet he could really use a donut." 

My Unscheduled Manager Meeting Face

This is pretty much what I'm doing on the inside whenever my manager sends me a message in Lync that says "do you have a minute? Please come to my office." She's never given me a reason to be filled with dread at the idea of her summons, bit it's there every time, nonetheless.

Princess Anna

From that animated film about ice and princesses with that song that my daughter seems compelled to sing at all hours of the day and night (sigh). I drew this character because everybody is drawing Elsa, even when they're not being exactly complimentary. Drawing Anna seemed like a good way to stand out. 

You Can't be a Winner Every Day

You can't knock things out of the park every day, and not every day at a new job is going to be a good one. I think that's that kind of day I was having when I drew this. 

I Give Myself Very Good Advice...

...but I very seldom follow it. I'm still struggling with this. I was conditioned for years to hit "reply" or "reply all" as soon as I received an email; to give that immediate feedback. As it turns out that's a really, deeply terrible way to work. It sets an expectation with people that you're going to respond right away to whatever they send you, you might be answering a question that was really meant for someone else on the email, and most importantly, responding right away doesn't give you time to really think about the answer

More Dumb Office Humor

One of the managers went to an event called "Mobile Jam." This is what popped into my head when he said it. I'm not proud of it. 

The Albatross

Someone must have shot the IT equivalent of an albatross, because one of my projects really was not going anywhere for a long time. The name of the project used to be in the sign over "my" head in this picture. I removed it before posting this to avoid any awkwardness at work, but I think this might become my standard image for projects that are stuck, or fail to launch for reasons outside of my control. 

Amelia: Student Witch

A couple of my original characters. Neither of them is exactly what they appear at first glance.

There's a Sad Vader in All of Us

Based at least in part on that "Vader Kid" Super Bowl commercial from a few years ago. 

Emo Guy: Disaffected Superhero 

He's super morose and draws his power from a magic electronic cigarette.

Says it All

To avoid any possible confusion, that is a suit jacket that is flying open and that's a blouse underneath. She's not topless under the jacket. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Geek Speaking of Three Year Old Intuition

Geek Speak: Hell hath no fury!

Like a teenage witch hit with a spitball apparently. This started with a drawing of a little witch sitting in one of those awful desks that kids get wedged into from elementary through middle school. I got the idea after I'd already drawn Amelia at her desk in one of my smaller sketchbooks, so it was a challenge to try to draw her again. Not long after I started working on this comic strip these characters started to take on a life of their own. I don't want to say anything definite, yet, but look for there to be more of Amelia. 

This was originally going to be a final post on WonderCon, but after so much time everything that took place at the convention in April has kind of (or completely) lost its immediacy, if not its relevancy. That and the finishing work on this strip damn near killed me. I don't work with color too terribly often, so it's pretty rough, but I wanted her magic to be something...well...magical. 

Tales from the Dad Zone

It is not my intention to turn this into a daddy blog. There are other, better blogs out there in the world for that. Despite my best intentions, I don't think I'll be able to help it creeping in. Fatherhood is such a huge part of my life, and occupies so much of my thinking right now. Plus, were it not for one of my little ones, the strip above might not have happened.

I was feeling pretty bleak about the prospects of my being able to continue with any creative endeavor, let alone the strip. There are so many demands on my time between the job and the family that I just had started to feel like it would be best to put away the pencils, the pens, and the sketchbooks and focus on providing as much security for my family as is within my power. These thoughts and darker swirled around in the space between my ears that I charitably call my mind as I was doing dishes and I progressively felt more like shit. 

In the midst of my preparations for artistic seppuku I heard my daughter walk up behind me, which is not altogether unusual when I'm in the kitchen. 

"Daddy," she said, "Daddy this yours. This yours, daddy." 

I turned around my daughter was looking at me very seriously and holding sketchbook. The very thing I had just been thinking about putting away and never touching again. 

"This yours daddy." 

I took it from her and thanked her. She said, "you're welcome" and then flitted off somewhere to do the important work that all three year old children know is the stuff that binds the universe together. 

She left me standing in the kitchen, holding my sketchbook, stunned by what had just happened. That day I sat down and started drawing new strips. By the end of the weekend I had completed the pencils for six new strips. I don't know if my daughter is magic, or that was some kind of amazing cosmic coincidence, but in her small way, whether she meant to or not, my daughter reminded me that I can never give up. 

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Conning of Wonder a Story in Pictures II

Conning More Wonder from Photos

It's now officially more than a month since the end of WonderCon and I'm still posting about it. While not exactly timely I hope it is at least a little enjoyable. The second and third days of WonderCon yielded many more opportunities to catch photos of people in gorgeously elaborate costumes, or just gorgeous people in'll see what I mean. I was also able to attend a few interesting panels, and more than a couple that were a complete waste of time. Overall I had an amazing weekend and walked away with a few one of a kind mementos. Here are some more of my photos.

Anyone who follows Doctor Who has "their doctor" for me and Mildly Sensational it's the fourth doctor. He's the one we remember from being kids and our parents let us watch Doctor Who for the first time. In both cases the show scared the dickens out of us with all of its monsters and crazy over the top action. These guys clearly like the ninth Doctor played by Chris Eccleston. That or they like leather jackets and buzz cuts. The best part of their cosplay was the Dalek. It was built around a dolly so they could wheel it around with them. 

If not the best Star Wars themed costume I saw that weekend, it was certainly the most badass. I heard some of my fellow geeks call this guy "dark Mandalorian" and he was getting a lot of attention from fanboys with cameras, though probably not as much as...

...this lady's hammer. Seriously. Look at the size of that thing. How does she lift it with such tiny arms? I bet swinging that thing causes her some serious back pain. She attracted a lot of attention for...obvious reasons. I know she wanted to move freely around the con because shortly after this picture was taken she told the clot that had formed around her, "I would like to keep moving now." I didn't see her after this so I can only assume that she must have gone back to her car or hotel room at some point to change into something less...conspicuous. Ok. I have to get this out of my system, "BEHOLD! IT IS THE LADY OF THE STORM HERSELF! THE MIGHTY THORINA THUNDERBOOBS!" There I said it. Moving on. 

Easily one of my favorite costumes of the weekend, if not my absolute favorite. This young lady's Astrid from How to Train Your Dragon was absolutely spot on, and it was fun getting this picture of her holding the axe out toward the camera. The pose and the attitude were perfect. I don't know if she was there for the masquerade or not. If so I hope she did pretty well.

He claws outward, grasping at relevancy. Saturday really did have some great costumes. His is the only Spawn costume I've seen out of three conventions, and it was pretty much flawless. The only way I can think of to make it more accurate would have been for him to pull of the mask and reveal that he's actually Michael Jai White.  

I spotted these three getting their photos taken by a couple of guys with gear that looked they were at the con as professional photographers for another blog or news site. I managed to sneak in and get a couple of pictures. After asking Astrid to hold her axe out toward the camera I had a lot of fun getting similar "action poses" from other cosplayers. It's fun to get pictures of their costumes, sure, but I think the effect is better if you can get them doing something active. 

No convention would be complete without t least one Wolverine. It seems like he's in just about every other title from the M branch of the big two, so I'm honestly a little surprised there weren't more. As good as this costume was there was one other guy there who was built like Thor, but was sporting the claws and weird haircut of everyone's favorite human blender with rage issues. His was the best Wolverine costume of the day, but this guy was a close second.

Saturday was the day I set aside to do shopping for friends and family. When I knew that WonderCon was coming up I reached out to some dear friends living in Boulder and asked if there was anything they wanted. They gave me a few ideas and I headed to the Con looking for the perfect gifts for my Colorado brother-from-another-mother and his family. In my search I stumbled across a booth that was selling a number of comic books with blank cardstock covers. These are becoming more popular as collectibles because they allow you to take them to a favorite artist and get them personalized with one-of-a-kind cover art. I picked up four. Three to go back to Colorado and one for myself. For my friends in Colorado I picked up Uncanny X-Men, Avengers, and Superman Unchained. For myself I picked up The Shadow. Below are the finished covers and links to the artist's websites.

Uncanny X-Men by Josh Figueroa

Avengers cover by Brianna Garcia 

A breath taking cover for Superman Unchained by Ruben Martinez

And a little something for me: The Shadow, cover by the only artist I know outside of WonderCon, the terrific Anthony Diecidue