placemat drawings and universal questions

With all due respect to the classics, this answer is “29”, which is also a pretty nice number.

(Assuming I am counting right.  You’ll tell me if I’m not.)

(Placemat drawing, Steak and Shake, 2/12/19. “Q: How many spirit rocks can you draw before your lunch comes? A: This many”.   Pilot Better Retractable ballpoint pen, Fine black, on slick paper placemat.  First version, color scan direct from original. Second version, processed to remove color for emphasis, no corrections).


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kekionga characters from a new story

Last week, during the Polar Vortex,  finished my first real story in a while.  The final version will appear in the OH Comics! anthology later this year.  The subject matter will remain a surprise, but it’s a Kekionga story and that means some familiar people will be doing some stuff …

a coelacanth is leaping,

Edison is playing the ukulele, under the supervision of his owl, Fil,

Jack is standing under the old oak tree, looking pensive and romantic,

And Josef is eating stolen ice cream.

Business as usual, really.  Many, many more finished comics pages to come this year if all (or even most) goes according to plan.

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polar vortex special, part 2

They used to call it a “cold snap”, or tell us, in the voice of sage old sayings that “as the days begin to lengthen, the cold begins to strengthen”.  As February nears and the sap starts to rise in the maples, it sometimes gets cold in the US Midwest.  Usually briefly, for a day or two a week at most, but it’s serious cold.

Nowadays they call it a “polar vortex”, which is more dramatic than “cold snap” and mixes up nicely with the rhetorical style of the 24 hour news cycle.   And this year’s polar vortex was a pip.  It was below zero Fahrenheit for three solid days, with a low of -18 and dangerous winds– colder here in Indiana than in Alaska or Siberia.  Even now, as the Vortex loses its energy, it’s a balmy six degrees.  Of course, forecasts for Monday predict highs in the 50s, but that’s the Midwest for you.  The king of all local weather sayings is “if you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute”.   That’s paraphrased from Mark Twain, by the way.

I actually had a pretty pleasant Polar Vortex.  The new furnace kept on chugging, we’d stocked up appropriately on food, and the cable and the internet never went out.  I did a bunch of drawing and even took a few photographs.  Above, a Polar Vortex cardinal, on a -14 morning, through a window.  Below, two macro shots of frost on the inside of the storm door.  These were taken at night, in the very center of the vortex: the only photographs I think I’ve ever taken at 18 below.

Even so, I think we can be confident that spring is coming, eventually.  And if we get another cold snap, please be careful out there.

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hulk winter poem

Our resident poet, the Incredible Hulk, branches out from his usual haiku (Hulk-ku) form in this poem he wrote on Wednesday, in the depths of the Polar Vortex.  The temperature at the time was -18 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • When super cold,
  • weather lady say “polar vortex”.
  • Hulk no go outside.
  • No long johns fit Hulk.
  • Hulk nose hair freeze solid.
  • Hulk watch TV,
  • read magazines.
  • Bake sugar cookies:
  • brown sugar,
  • old Christmas candy chop up.
  • Hulk eat cookies.
  • Take nap.
  • Sleep now,
  • in center polar vortex.
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a cast in search of a western: drawing of the day

One of the things that sometimes emerges in a “lucky” drawing of the day is a cast of characters for a very strange comic.  (A lucky drawing is one that is not only automatic/unplanned, but also lacks pencil underdrawing; it’s strictly “straight to ink”.  When it works, you have a lucky drawing.)  When I don’t know what to draw I usually start blocking in a figure somewhere near the center of the page and then add to it in some way.  You may get two or more people interacting, or a figure in a setting, or a crowd scene, or most often a portrait of a person with an animal or pet.  And occasionally I just keep adding more small figures that seem to go with the first one, and I get a cast drawing.

In this case the first figure was the skeletal/undead/mummy in a cowboy hat. I made him a Marshal, put his Marshal’s star in his eye sockets, and surrounded him with the cast of a Weird Western.  The characters are a combination of stock or semi-stock characters  (the trusty mount, the Indian ghost, the Medicine Person,the Eastern Dude, the Dark Eyed Senorita) and various weird or ordinary animal characters.  But there are some extra strange things going on, particularly that anachronistic camera the Eastern Dude is carrying.  That looks like a Leica or similar rangefinder (in a leather half case), dating to the 1940s or 50s.  That may indicate some short distance time travel.  Or perhaps a reluctance on the part of the cartoonist to draw a Photographer character carrying around a view camera, a long legged wooden tripod,and a crate of glass plates, and then ducking under a curtain and setting off troughs of flash powder.  That actually sounds sorta fun.  Why didn’t I want to do that?

Regardless, the best things about this are the wistfulness of the Marshal, who is absolutely a tragic character, and the idea of a coyote Cerberus in a Western setting.

(Coming next week, a week dedicated to the celebration of the wild, weird and wonderful “lucky drawing”.)

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revisit vocabulary words with anpu!

“Psychopomp” is a technical term in religion and folklore studies– a psychopomp is a religious (or mythological or folkloric or supernatural) figure who guides a spirit or soul to the afterlife.  I once knew this word fairly well, but as my formal education has faded further into the past, I am sure I haven’t thought about it, much less used it, in thirty years or more.  This week as I was doing other research, I found Anubis on a list of psychopomp figures across history and world cultures.

And that got me thinking.  We know Anpu as a “retired god”, but what if like many retirees, he got a bit bored (and maybe a little short of whatever it is that gods use for currency) and decided to go back to work part time?  This is a drawing of Anpu as a modern psychopomp, including a pair of little black wings that reference the angelic figures that take that role in current legend/folklore.

Longtime readers will notice that I have made yet another change in Anpu’s character design.  (Anpu is one of my favorite characters to draw and I fiddle with his design more than anything else in Kekionga except Foursquare’s dozens of costumes.)  I have gone back to the gold lining for his ears, but started breaking it up with a sunburst/radial design that I found in some Ancient Egyptian source material.  I really like the results and I might even say his design is finally finalized if I didn’t know myself too well.

For more about psychopomps across the world, click here, or consult any dictionary of mythology or folklore if you have plenty of spare time.

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news from the far side, plus not-a-haiku

Rovers/ planetokhody are our science jam around here, and we can only blame the holidays (and their aftermath) for the delay in mentioning that China’s second Jade Rabbit (Yutu) rover is rocking around the Far Side of the Moon and has been since the third day of 2019.  It trucked down the ramp of its Chang’e lander (named after the ancient Chinese Moon goddess) and started taking pictures and samples, setting up panoramas and generally roving around the empty but oddly compelling landscape.  The lander itself houses several science experiments that are probably not dangerous, at least compared to what the US space program left on the other side as noted in this BBC report on all the latest from the Far Side.

This page from collects more of the best Yutu/Chang’e media and stories in one place, including first images, cool rover vids, and the famous panorama.

The far side of the Moon is not known for its thrilling scenery, but getting there and showing it to the rest of us on Earth is an epic project worthy of a read.  And maybe a write.  Here’s another of those little poems I call “not a haiku”.

  • Chinese rover on the Far Side
  • Taking photographs and leaving tracks.
  • Aboard its lander, cotton seeds are sprouting.


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a rover from mars

There are rovers on Mars (and on the dark side of the Moon), but we have a rover from Mars active in our backyard.  At least we call him the Martian … he’s officially all grown up now, and very, very floofy. 

For dog geeks, The Cardigan Welsh corgi, long coat, brindle pointed tricolor mismark.


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happy new year on the eighth

First of all, Happy New Year from Kekionga, home of the Famous Drawing of the Day, now entering its eleventh year (I think) or maybe its 12th. On New Year’s Eve last year (!) I drew you this peaceful late night scene in the Noakes Library at Sauk Trail.  Ever since the Y2K bug crisis that-never-was, the Library Powers That Be want staff on deck for the transition, and this year it was was the Archives’ turn on duty.  Looks like everything is under control.  (Like most shapeshifters with animal forms, Professor Lykander likes to sleep in his fur when he thinks he can get away with it.)

While I was making this little library drawing, turned inward toward the center of the page, in artificial light, and drawn with a small pen, I had the idea for a companion piece set in the junkyard, turned outward and upward, in natural light, and drawn with a big pen.  Peace to say goodbye to to the old year, inspiration and hope to greet the new.

Of course, I didn’t actually get around to drawing it until the fourth, and here it is the eighth as I post it.  Oh well.  We may have skipped that coffee and the resolutions are taking a while to kick in, but I don’t think 2019 is going to be any worse for a thoughtful start.  So have courage and an open heart, and don’t be in a rush.  Pace yourself.  We’ll get there.

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new drawing tools for the new year

My resistance to the TWSBI Eco fountain pen is very low.  This is a well known fact to anyone who reads this blog.  Luckily for me, and for anyone who likes my drawings, an Eco habit isn’t a bad one to have.  These pens have smooth, sturdy steel nibs, hold gallons of ink, are tough as nails and are surprisingly cheap. Which is good because they come in two body shapes (regular and T, which is vaguely triangular) five nib sizes (EF, F, M, B and 1.1 stub) and a bewildering variety of colors,  many of which are limited editions.  The result is a sensible, reasonably priced drawing tool that is highly collectible and about as easy to resist as potato chips.

This Christmas season saw the debut of the transparent green and transparent red colorways and the arrival in the US of the remains of the China-only pastel pink and pastel blue edition.  Hey, I manage to resist one of them.

My transparent green and red pair are a B and an EF respectively.  Those are the two nibs that make up a bare essentials complete set for me– I often use this pair in drawings and could make an entire comic with just these two if necessary.   See the nibs compared side by side below. 

The pastel pink and blue, being originally limited to an Asian market where small nibs are popular, come only in F and EF.  I thought I’d give an F nib another try, and since I like the pale violet blue color much better …

Either the F nib on this pen is different than the one I bought years ago on one of my original Ecos or my tastes have changed, because I actually like this little blue guy very much.  Note how much thicker the line is than the one from the transparent red EF  above.  I remembered the nib on my original to be much less distinctive.

So that should be the end of my pen purchases for the year.  My New Year’s resolution for TWSBI would be to introduce two new nibs– a BB for lettering and a larger 1.5 stub.  They want to sell me even more new pens next year, don’t they?  Maybe an orange one, or a transparent purple …

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