I’m alive! You didn’t believe me when I said it before, several times, over on Face Book, did you? But I wasn’t lying. I am, indeed, still alive. And, I’ve made some significant changes to the site! Whadaya think? Aside from some cosmetic changes in a few spots, the two biggest alterations were made to the PMD Brainisms and everything that is IPMDT. The Brainism image is now interactable (I don’t care what you say, spellcheck, that’s a word)! You can swipe left and right with your mouse to view some of the previous Brainisms (though not the original ones, back when PMD had a word balloon rather than a sign. I’m going to update those at some point and add them in).

So what’s new with IPMDT? Well, the strip on the main page is now a carousel (like the Brainisms). It will display the current strip, but you can swipe left and right with your mouse to view every strip there is. The archives page is also completely new. There’s a carousel at the top with the current strip displayed that you can swipe through, or you can  scroll through the thumbnails to select a specific strip to view. When you do, it will open it up in what the website gobbledegook calls a “lightbox”. The strip displays larger on your screen, plus you can navigate through all the strips with your mouse wheel, clicking the navigation arrows, or selecting from the thumbnails on the right. Give it all a test spin and let me know what you think.

Anytacos, this is probably going to be an extra long post, since I’ve been away since October-ish and quite a lot has happened. So, let’s not belabor this any longer…

The Star Wars Klondike. That’s where the majority of my time went since mid to late October. Back in September, the District folks approached me and asked if the troop I had recently become scoutmaster of would be interested in hosting the 2018 District Klondike Derby. For some reason, with visions of Hoth in my head, I said “yes”. I have a good team of people to work with, so I figured we could handle it and make it something special. My plan was to take some standard scout skill tests that show up at every Klondike Derby and put a Star Wars twist on them. There was also a story that ran throughout the day, with the scout patrols and dens arriving on Hoth to lend support to the undermanned and besieged-by-Imperials Echo base.

What I wasn’t quite counting on was that hosting this event lead to a ton of opportunities to customize the experience and generate a lot of art…which basically meant my choosing to spend most of my personal time doing that. It got overwhelming. It got stressful. It got frustrating. But in the end, we pulled off a really great event that will hopefully be one that all the scouts remember.

Not long after saying “yes”, the idea for the official patch popped into my head. Unfortunately, the design didn’t pass through the patch company’s licensing department. Due to a miscommunication, I went ahead and redesigned a new patch, at which point I learned that the licensing folks went ahead and made tweaks to my original patch to make it kosher. I didn’t really want to spend that extra time doing anything else anyway, did I?

Right around the same time I was working on the patch, I began putting together the first of three promotional fliers to help spread the word to the units in our district about the fun stuff coming in February 2018.

Alright, I’m not going to post all the art chronologically to how I created it. Between the first flier and this one, I was working on the awards. My memory is a little foggy right now, but I think this is the first piece I worked on (at least the first that I finished) in Clip Studio Paint on my iPad. As frustrating as it became that I was spending all my art time working on scout related stuff, it was a fantastic way to get acquainted with that program. CSP is an amazing program for illustration and comic making, and I can’t wait to use it for more personal work, especially now that most of the painful learning curve is out of the way.

For the third and final flier, I channeled good ol’ Han Solo a little. I had originally planned more, but as the event drew nearer, I had to focus more on coordination and logistics and getting some props built.

My original thinking for the awards was to just buy some generic trophies or ribbons. But then another scoutmaster presented a cooler option: laser etched plaques! He works at a company that was willing to print custom images on some of the cast off wood from other projects (they’re a flooring company). This was too awesome of an opportunity to pass up, but it meant I had a ton more work on my plate: 1st-4th place finishers, plus a station winner award for each of the 6 stations. Oh, and I had to double them so there was one for the Boy Scouts and one for the Webelos. Fortunately, that only entailed changing a single word on each award, but it was still a bit tedious to prepare them all. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity, though.

Every station was a classic skill test but with a unique Star Wars twist. This meant some of the awards were more difficult to design than others, but overall I’m pleased with what I came up with. This one is kind of nice in it’s simple graphicness. For this station, The scouts had been told that there had been droid activity in the area, and they were to scout ahead and determine the source. They were given a compass coordinate, which lead them to a marker with their next coordinate as well as a letter. They continued from marker to marker until they found an Imperial Probe Droid (a large silhouette taped to a box, hidden in the woods). They had to throw snowballs at it, and once they made a direct hit, they could approach it to find the last letter. They then had to head to a visible location and use semaphore (flag signaling) to relay the secret message “imperial” to the other members of their team back at the start. There were some flubs at this station from my end, as I was setting it up in the dark via head lamp, I wound up with my compass turned around so all the coordinates were 180 degrees off. Fortunately, the capable volunteers working the station picked up on it right away and made the necessary adjustments.

The story for the cooking station was that there was a commander at a remote outpost whose supplies had run out and he hadn’t eaten a warm meal in a while. The scouts had to show up and cook him something unique to raise his morale (those were some brave volunteers at that station). I struggled with the design for this station award, as I couldn’t come up with anything blatantly Star Wars other than that glass of not-blue blue milk. I’m pleased enough with the design, though.

Now THIS image was fun to draw, and the station was equally as fun. The scouts arrived to be informed that the Rebels had set a trap for some nearby ATSTs, but the cables that triggered the trap were frozen. The scouts had to build a fire to burn a string, which released a log that crashed into the “ATSTs” (a stack of cardboard boxes with ATST silhouettes taped to them). I thought it was a fun twist on the standard challenge of building a fire to burn a string. Technically, this idea came from Return of the Jedi, and not Empire Strikes Back and Hoth, but it was cool, so I went with it.

Yet another fun image to create, especially as I got to experiment with Clip Studio Paint’s highly editable and customizable halftones a bit more. This was for the first aid station. Instead of the standard “lost and injured scout”, the scouts showed up to a missing rebel that had been attacked by a Wampa. We even had a standing cardboard “monitor” that the scouts looked through to watch “security camera footage” of the scout being attacked by a Wampa. The injuries they had to treat were actually similar to those from a bear attack, but more awesome. I was a little disappointed no one showed up with one of those Tauntaun sleeping bags to stuff the victim into, but oh well.

Managing the halftones on this image was a little tricky, as there was a lot of similar tones. This was for the knot tying station. The scouts arrived to be told that there were Imperial Walkers advancing on their location. The armor, as we all know, is too strong for blasters, so they needed to use a tow cable. Unfortunately, supplies were scarce, so there were only partial sections of “cable” (ropes). The scouts had to join the various sections of rope using the correct knots for the job, then secure one end around a scout sitting on the sled, and the other end to the leg of an “ATAT” (we made bodies out of boxes…they weren’t up to ILM standards, but they were still cool) and propped them up on staves. Once the knots were tied correctly and secured, the scouts pulled their sleds around the ATAT until they tripped it. There is no reason knot tying can’t be fun!

This was another boring award design, with no distinct Star Wars imagery to pull from. The scouts arrived at this station and were told that it was getting dark out and they were too far out to make it back to Echo base safely. They needed to construct a shelter to survive the night, then dismantle it without a trace so as not to alert any Imperials that might pass through later.

Sometime after I wrapped up the awards, I learned that my original patch design had had the issues with the licensing department. I scrambled to come up with a new design that wasn’t blatantly Star Wars, but still referenced the franchise. I came up with this image of some Klondike sleds in orbit around a planet (Hoth) after looking at a similar image with Star Destroyers from The Last Jedi. After I was done, I learned that the company had a 10 color limit for free colors, and then they would charge per color, per patch. I counted, and this design has around 20 or more distinct colors. Oops. I removed layers and detail until I got to ten (it’s not worth sharing), at which point I learned the patch company had edited my original ATAT design to make it through their licensing folks. The final patch isn’t what I wanted, but it’s still Star Wars looking, and at the end of the day, as an artist, I have to respect the legal concerns surrounding intellectual property.

I wasn’t kidding when I said I generated a lot of artwork for this event. The stations all required props, and I wasn’t doing that alone. Unfortunately, being the one with the creative vision and being the art guy, I needed to draw up plans that others could follow.

The actual ATATs we made looked a tad different than this, but this was just to convey the general idea of how to make them. We made two and spray painted them silver. Being that they were cardboard and they were going to be hitting the snow covered ground dozens of times over the course of the day, I didn’t expect them to last long. However, they stayed pretty much intact all day. I attribute that to over-engineering some of the structure, as well as copious amounts of duct tape.

I struggled with how to produce this and the probe droid props. I wanted them to be 3 dimensional at first, but finally gave up as there wasn’t enough time, money, or materials. Instead, I came up with the idea of printing silhouettes (actually, my wife suggested printing them, I was going to paint each one) onto a stack of boxes that would fly apart when hit by the trap. It worked quite well, actually.

This trap design didn’t get used at all. When we showed up for set up the night before, we didn’t have any poles to build the tripods, so we had to improvise. We got a downed tree suspended between two trees, then tied off the trigger lines to another log (still making use of that carabiner system) up on a hill to get the angles right. It functioned quite well, actually.

There were some modifications made to this plan, as well, but it was mostly as seen here.

Here’s the silhouette I made for the front and back of the ATST boxes.

And here’s the side silhouette. These were printed out at almost 3 feet tall.

I like the way this Probe Droid silhouette turned out with the white highlights. I used the silhouette I made for the compass station award, added the highlights, then enlarged it. This was also around 3 feet tall and mounted to a box.

This is one of two maps I made (I’m not bothering posting the other, as it’s just a slightly more zoomed out version of this to show people how to get to the field). I basically drew on top of a satellite photo of the area to get the dimensions right and save time. On the day of the event, we ended up moving the cooking station because that’s where folks ended up parking (we weren’t expecting people would be able to drive all the way up to the field).

Can you see why I have been MIA for the last 4 months? And this is just the art I generated, not any of the writing and coordinating and emailing and building and…it was a great event on a great day. We had had several warm days and some rain, but we got some snow a few days prior which really made things Hoth-like. The day went amazingly smoothly, the scouts looked like they were having a great time, both youth and adults showed up in costume…I got to buy and wear a nice Jedi robe along with parts of my karate gi and my Renaissance Faire garb to live the day as Tobywan Kenobi…

It was great fun. But I’m glad it’s over. I stressed out a lot, I lost a lot of sleep, and I didn’t make any progress on any of my career goals during all that. However, with the Klondike done, the website updated, and this post just about wrapped up, I’m now poised to make some significant progress on my dreams. I did finally set myself up with a PayPal account (I’ll add a button somewhere at some point so those who feel inclined can contribute to sending 3 boys to college in exchange for sporadic posts…that’s gotta be worth a buck here and there, right?), which sets me up very nicely to get the first t-shirt design available on Etsy (I’m targeting some time in the next two weeks. I know, I’ve said similar before. But this time I mean it!). I spent a day and scanned all of my Revery page thumbnails, loaded them into Clip Studio and set up a comic project. I did the same with the Inside Toby’s Brain pages. I’m ready to get cracking on both of those projects, I’m really excited to be using Clip Studio to do it. I’m also ready to dive back into IPMDT. Oh, and because I’m set up to work on the iPad, I can go work in a very cool zen spot we’ve established in the house. I’m really looking forward to that. I’ll probably give some more thought to publishing 10 Things, too.

So, there you have it. The down and dirty details of what consumed my life for the last several months. I learned a lot through the whole process about planning, organizing and other logistical things in addition to learning how to use CSP, so it was a beneficial experience overall. I can’t wait to get pencil to paper and stylus to tablet and getting back to chasing my dreams.