Coming soon… The wand shop!

I’ll finally be firing up the Etsy shop soon as I start cranking out magic wands that aren’t show props! Here’s a look at the first ten!

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On Watercolors and Giraffes on the Beach

I’ve developed a bit of a preoccupation with watercolors.  I was a prolific painter as a child, then grew out of it as I got into cartooning.  Then I discovered that Randy Milholland of Something Positive also makes these gloriously whimsical watercolors that are a perfect mash-up of both mediums and I just had to try it out.

My first attempts last year were… not the greatest.  I started on the wrong kind of paper, then the colors were dull, and the black permanent ink I was using for the line art didn’t stand up to the watercolors, which would either cover the lines or run right over them.  For someone like Randy, who draws and paints in a much looser style and has better control over his brushes, this isn’t necessarily a problem.  I, on the other hand, am enough of a control freak that I can’t stand coloring outside the lines, but I have very little experience using brushes for fine details, so I did a little experimenting to find more suitable materials.

I started with this cute line drawing of a giraffe with a parasol:


I actually initially created this as digital drawing practice.

It’s still a work in progress.

In the mean time, I really wanted to pull out the watercolors and play this weekend, so I re-drew the giraffe on watercolor paper, and got out my Speedball pens for a little fancy inking.  Unfortunately, on my first pass at the supply cabinet, I couldn’t find my bottle of India ink, and instead used Black Magic which, it turns out, bleeds a lot before drying on the page.  So I had the lines down, but they were really fuzzy.

I unearthed the India ink, and was very happy to find through some controlled experimentation that it did not bleed, and that after a little practice, I could make pretty nice lines with a size 0 brush that would mostly cover the fuzzy sins of the Black Magic ink.  What followed was a very long evening of painstakingly slow drawing with an overabundance of careful muscle control.

The finished line drawing had only a few hints of the messy first layer.

I took even more time coloring.  I started with the easiest bits – first the yellow ochre and burnt umber sand, then the base cobalt blue layer for the water and the lemon yellow of the sunset.  I still have a good bit to learn about color theory, but I was pretty happy with the layering effects of vermilion for the darker red/orange shades, and Prussian blue in the sky and reflected colors in the water.  The main lesson of the background work was to leave more white space.  Watercolor is not a reductive process, and white paint doesn’t very effectively dilute or cover color that’s already down on the page.

The India ink solved several of the problems that had plagued me before.  It did function as an effective barrier for the more watery paint (to a reasonable extent).  It also resisted some of the paint that ended up on top of it.  The dryer mixes were more prone to showing up over the black lines, but even then, the black is bold enough to show through.

I finished the parasol and put down the base yellow on the giraffe then left everything to get really good and dry before I tackled the spots.

I was actually pretty terrified of the spots.  Giraffe spots are distinctly indistinct – they’re irregularly shaped yet relatively regularly spaced.  I am fairly awful at randomization, but I intentionally didn’t include the spots in the line art because I wanted to challenge myself to be a little messy.  It was a very pleasant change of pace to just let the brush wander where it wanted.  I wound up having a grand old time making all the little mismatched spots, and only lost focus and drifted out of the lines once.

I am really pleased with the final results:

I call her “an American giraffe in Peru” – inspired by a very funny friend who has spent the last few months adventuring in South America and sending back amazing stories and pictures along the way.

The Takeaway:

My usual method of cartooning is pencil drawing, relatively quick-and-dirty inking with permanent marker in the sketch book, then scanning and inking a second time digitally before coloring.  I waste time with the extra inking step because I generally don’t have the patience or trust in my own fine motor control to get the lines right on the first try, and digital inking allows me to use the “undo” function to maddening excess.

I learned a few things by depriving myself  of that “undo” option:

  • Once you put India ink on paper, it doesn’t move.
  • Brushes don’t go where you want if you rush.
  • Brush lines will be uneven if you do not carefully mind the pressure exerted by your hand.
  • Thicker lines cover more sins and add character.
  • Water will dilute many sins, but won’t remove them completely.  Watercolor is not a reductive process.
  • Evaporation makes your paint darker.  Once you have the color you want, don’t hesitate.
  • If you have to go back and mix a close match that isn’t quite right, that’s ok too.
  • When you step back a little, all those tiny mistakes are barely noticeable.

I will almost certainly be doing more of these.  I feel like I’ve learned a lot in the last week, and now I want to practice.  A lot of what I’m learning on paper will help my digital drawing as well.

NaNoWriMo Halftime Report

So this is the part where I geek out about how well this experiment of mine is going.

I jumped on the NaNoWriMo bandwagon so I could use the public shaming aspect as a motivator.  Several of my improviser friends are writing actual novels, and did the customary public announcement:

“I’m writing for NaNoWriMo.  Ask me about it constantly so I feel obligated to keep writing.”

So I did the same.

I’m ahead on blog posts, and I have several more that only need a few touch-ups before they’re ready to post.  The scripts were being neglected, as I’d finished the easier of my two planned arcs, and wasn’t feeling up to the task of the second.  I need to add more characters, and I was really struggling to come up with characters with any sort of depth.

The Hideout runs a show called The Free Fringe where groups submit really ridiculous format ideas, then get a thirty minute time slot to try them out in front of an audience.  Sometimes it’s amazing and turns into a new troupe.  Sometimes it crashes and burns.  This is why the show is free.

Last night’s Fringe was a NaNoWriMo special where a group of writers came in, talked about their work a little, read a scene, then a group of improvisers from the Austin Secrets cast would pick up the story and play a few scenes to help work out what comes next.  I tossed my scripts into the mix, just to see what would happen.  Given that I couldn’t really read a scene, and it would be very hard to explain the comic quickly, I didn’t expect much.

I should really stop underestimating my improviser friends.

I gave them a very open scenario, and they jumped in enthusiastically.  Two happened to perfectly fill the roles of two characters I’d partially written, and two more gave me really excellent new characters to build on.

I walked out of the show with four pretty solid characters in my head, then I stayed up late brainstorming with the Boy, filling out those characters, building their world, and plotting their arcs.  I feel like I have a few years worth of material here, if I stick to my one-a-week schedule.

I’m actually itching to start drawing, so I’ll probably hit the 30-script mark early and get a jump start on my buffer.

My comic is coming back!  Yay!

Four-Yard Scarf

As happens far too frequently, this quest started with a perfectly innocent question from my friend Mike:

Why, Mike?  What do you need?

“Knit a scarf that is at least 12 feet long and is being worn by 3 people at one time.”

For a scavenger hunt.  A really big, ridiculous, awesome scavenger hunt.

12 feet with no gauge or width requirements?  Easy peasy.

Two skeins of Red Heart (Cherry Red and Royal blue), one skein of Impeccable “Folklore” variegated, size 13 needles, a few feet of Premier Starbella “Fly a Kite” just for added whimsy, and a few hours later…

Bam

12+ feet of scarf

Obligatory NaNoWriMo Post

I will not be writing a novel this month.

November is National Novel-Writing Month.  I briefly had thoughts of trying to write that thing that’s been knocking around my head for the last three years, but then I remembered that I’m very, very busy and have a to-do list that will take me a decade to complete.

So instead of writing 50,000 words in the spare time I don’t have, I’m going to knock a few things off my to-do list.  I’ve been intending to resurrect the comic all year, and I’ve let the blog fall tragically behind.  My knitting/comic friend Rachael – half of the creative team behind the brilliant Worsted for Wear – strongly recommended having a large buffer before publishing again, so I’ll be putting most of my efforts toward that.  I also have at least five blog posts from the last year that are mostly written, but haven’t been edited and posted.

So this is my stated goal for NaNoWriMo:

30 days, 30 comic scripts
5 Fridays, 5 blog posts (back-dated to the time they were originally written)

If I’m very good and get all my homework done, I’ll try to get some preliminary sketching done as well, but let’s be reasonable.

I put this out into the world for my followers to keep me honest.  There will be a new blog post tomorrow night.  You are officially deputized to bother me if there is not.

Epilogue: You Need a Console? I Make You A Console

Firefly: The Musical ran its inevitable course – it got shut down prematurely by Fox.

So the theater finished out the second month with the Joss Whedon Pajama Party, a variety show with sketch, musical, and improv acts inspired by the work of Mr. Whedon, as well as a collection of videos that were written and shot usually in a week or less.

One video series featured Firefly’s Wash playing with his toy dinosaurs at the bridge console when he should have been flying the ship. Simple enough, right? We had the actor from the musical, toy dinosaurs aren’t hard to come by, we just need a stationary camera and… oh yeah, the console.

Mind you, this is the week that I was getting minor surgery done on my face. I should have volunteered for lying in bed and being useless. But no.

“Yeah, I can make a console.”

Surgeries were Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, the shoot was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. Monday evening was my only available work time.

Step 1: Raid the Craft Cabinet
Available materials:
poster board (assorted sizes and colors)
faded black construction paper
chalk pastels
oil pastels
air-drying clay
assorted wooden doo-dads
ribbons
felt
yarn
fabric
acrylic paints
fabric paints
water colors
one tiny can of metallic spray paint
foam sheets
pipe cleaners
assorted scraps
odds
ends
hot glue
wood glue
tacky glue
Modge Podge
white glue
spray fixative
three rolls of packing tape

Wait. That is a ridiculous collection of materials. Pare that down.

Useful Available materials:
poster board (assorted sizes and colors)
faded black construction paper
chalk pastels
oil pastels
air-drying clay
assorted wooden doo-dads
ribbons
felt
yarn
fabric
acrylic paints
fabric paints
water colors
one tiny can of metallic spray paint
foam sheets
pipe cleaners
assorted scraps
odds
ends
hot glue
wood glue
tacky glue
Modge Podge
white glue
spray fixative
three rolls of packing tape

In the interest of time, I opted for drawn-on buttons, knobs and screens, rather than some complicated collection of bits and pieces that would take too long to construct, and would be very likely to fall off in transit.

Step 2: Find Reference Photos
Folks, I challenge you to find photos with a clear view of Serenity’s bridge from the tv series. No really – Google it. More than half of the images returned are from the film, which used a much more complicated and rounded set – not ideal for a reproduction that is clearly going to be made from poster board base.

How about a shot from the show itself? Every time you see the console, there is someone between it and the camera.

Finally, finally, I collected a few decent images.

Step 3: Get Over Any Expectations of Making an Accurate Replica
Seriously. The set designers had a budget, better materials and probably a couple of weeks. A high-quality replica is not going to come out of a pile of paper products and some spray paint in 6 hours or less.

Step 4: Construct the Base
The console is basically broken into three parts, each at a different angle. Using the poster board and a truly stupid quantity of packing tape, I built fairly close approximations, then painted them with a combination of spray and acrylic paints, in shades of metallic bronze and brown.

Step 5: Make the Doo-Dads
I made the lights, switches, buttons, and screens using chalk pastels on black construction paper, then liberally applied fixatif to keep it all from rubbing off on Wash’s hands while he played with his toy dinosaurs.

The final product was not at all glamorous, and bore only a passing resemblance to the real thing, but given that the video showed only a small portion, and that wasn’t the focus anyway, it served its purpose.

Sketch – Wash has too much time on his hands, Part 1 from Peter Rogers on Vimeo.

Sketch – Wash has too much time on his hands, Part 2 from Peter Rogers on Vimeo.

Sketch – Wash has too much time on his hands, Part 3 from Peter Rogers on Vimeo.

As an added bonus, I was able to just slice through the tape along the edges and store it flat, just in case the need arises again.

—————————————–

Oh, and that “seamstress for the band” bit?

After the first Firefly show, the cast and crew hung out and sang karaoke for a few hours, and toward the end of the evening, they sang Tiny Dancer to me.

Blue jean baby
L.A. lady
…seamstress for the band

🙂

Quick and Dirty Saffron Shawl, or How I Became Seamstress for the Band (part 3)

One final costume project from Firefly: The Musical

Saffron, one of the lead characters, was supposed to have a lovely red shawl, something that looked like it was hand-knit either by herself or one of her “sisteren” in the backwater maiden house from which she came.

Our Saffron had a really lovely, not-at-all-handcrafted crimson wrap.

It didn’t kill the backwater farm peasant costume, but it didn’t really help. The shawl is also one of those memorable costume pieces that a lot of fans would just expect to see. So in my last act as impromptu costume mistress, I took on the task of making a proper shawl.

Now, the shawl from the original show is pretty clearly knit, and it’s a fairly intricate lace pattern, making an accurate replica well out of my reach because (a) I never learned to knit lace, and (b) I didn’t have the time to learn just then. So I took the most obvious course of action: I faked it.

Using Caron’s Simply Soft in Garnet, and a size N hook, I crocheted a pretty slick shawl.

The pattern is pretty simple:
Ch 3
DC 4 in first ch
Then repeat this pattern for as long as you can stand:
Three rows of spaced Treble Crochet:
Ch 4, TC 1 in last st of previous row, skip 1 ch 1 to the middle stitch of the previous row, TC 1 ch 1 TC 1 ch 1 TC 1 in middle stitch, skip 1 ch 1 to the last stitch of previous row, TC 2
One row of solid Double Crochet:
Ch 3, DC 1 in last st of previous row, DC 1 in each st to the middle stitch of the previous row, DC 5 in the middle stitch, DC 1 in each st to the last stitch of the previous row, DC 2
End with a spaced Treble row.
Add fringe to your heart’s content.

I completed the shawl in time for the third show, and our Saffron gleefully tied it over her shoulders, and fiddled with the long fringe when she got nervous on stage, and enjoyed having her arms free for the action scenes.

(For more adventurous knitters, this is far and away the best-looking pattern I was able to find before giving up my search.)