‘Sup. It’s been awhile…Since June 18, according to my last blog post. Life has been, well, nuts. I’ve made art over the last 3 months, but not as much as I’d like. If you follow the Toby’s Brain FB page, you’re pretty aware of all the “real life” things that have been getting in my way. My last blog post here was about an illustration I drew for my oldest son’s high school graduation. Since then, he was scrambling to get his Eagle Project and paperwork done and submitted before he turned 18 (which he did. Mostly. Thankfully he was granted an extension for the hardships he faced because of Covid and our family staying locked down for so long), trying to finally finish getting his license (which he just did yesterday), and he started college. The other two kids started high school, so I’ve spent 4-7 hours a day every weekday for the last month driving kids all over the place between high school, college, and appointments. It’s been exhausting. On top of that, I finally got to start the barn residing project over the summer. It was supposed to happen last summer, when I knew I’d have less going on because of staying in lockdown. Unfortunately, the sawmill I ordered the lumber from was having their own Covid related challenges and I didn’t get the wood until late October…and it was still green. The barn has needed new siding since we moved in 20 years ago, so I knew I was going to find a lot of rot. I found a lot more than I expected, though. Between all that extra challenge and labor (having to strategically jack up sections of the barn to remove parts of or whole timbers and replace them) and all the flippin’ rain we got, the actual siding is going extremely slowly. I’m seriously concerned I won’t have things done before it starts snowing.

Anywhat, you aren’t here to read my griping about all the things in life that interfere with art, you’re here for the art. I think, anyway. It’s September again (no idea where this year has gone, and yet last week feels like 6 months ago), which means it’s time to wish my lovely, talented, patient, supportive, brilliant wife a very happy birthday, in the tradition I started several years ago.

I stuck with black and white again this year, since my wife has expressed she prefers my black and white work. With the previously mentioned (whined about?) obstacles to studio time, it took me a while to come up with an idea. I had a few, but I gravitated towards the Cat Dragon.
This is the first time using Clip Studio for one of these. I usually use Procreate because of the time lapse feature, but that’s the only time I use that app at this point, which means I have to relearn how to use it, figure out what it’s capable of and not based on the updates, etc. CSP added a time lapse feature, and I’m much more comfortable in that app, so I gave it a whirl.
You may have noticed the semi insane grass texture. No, I didn’t draw all of that by hand. I used CSP’s very versatile brush creation engine. I drew several different clumps of grass based off a photo I found, then turned my drawings into brush tips. By varying which tip displays when (or by choosing which one I use manually) and playing with the randomification (I’m making that a word) parameters (like rotation, scale, scatter, etc), I was able to make this non-repeating texture. I’m pretty happy with it. I don’t think I’ll ever have a need for it again, but you never know. Plus, I did get some ideas for other, more useful foliage brushes during this process.
The format is different this year, too, since my wife got a new, wider monitor in the last year. It made composing this image challenging, and I’m not sure how it will display on other monitors, but it is what it is. It’s for her to enjoy first, y’all can deal.
I could have spent a lot more time on this, noodling away at details, like drawing every single scale. But, I realized I had hit a nice balance between the busy-ness of the grass and the dragon, and I think if I allowed myself to go nuts on details, that would have been lost and the whole thing would look muddy.

The time lapse appears to have worked. I managed to get it off the iPad and into Photoshop so I can do some editing and voiceover work. I don’t know what the final video quality will be like, though. When it plays in PS, the resolution is on the poor side, but when I pause it, it’s nice and sharp. I don’t know if that will change once I render it out, but I’m hoping it will. I’ll post a link to it here once it’s done and up on YouTube…once I have time to record the voiceover and do all the edits…

It wouldn’t be a post about an illustration I did without some close ups. Maybe not as detail laden as I’ve done for some others (I think last year’s Arctic Dragon was pretty detail heavy), but I think it works overall.

I did draw scales on the face, because he looked weird without them.

I kind of almost started drawing scales, but stopped myself.

Cat dragon abs. I used a few of my custom stippling and splatter brushes to add some texture. His wings are also one of my custom paper textures.

There it is, another year, another dragon. As I’ve mentioned before and elsewhere, I’m kind of populating an earth-like world where every animal shares a common dragon ancestor. I don’t know if there’s a story or some kind of “field guide” kind of illustrated book down the road in here somewhere, but I kind of think there is. Add it to the hydra-esque (because if I finish one project, I find ideas for 7 more in it’s place) list of projects I want to get to.

Speaking of projects, and by extension, my annual goals and such, I’m not doing too well on the latter. I’ve only released one shirt this year, with the goal being 6 a year. I have some ideas, but no time, and they don’t sell because I don’t promote them (see also: no time) and I have some concerns about the ink quality lately (a lot of my shirts suffer from the ink peeling and flaking off pretty soon after I get them. I haven’t had that complaint from the handful of others that have bought my shirts, so I don’t know what the issue is, and I haven’t had time to look into it). I, once again, fell out of my IPMDT routine. I intend to get back to it before the end of the year, and I have some plans to turn the strip into a comic format. I really want to work on the Totally Reasonable Uses for a Plunger book, but I haven’t had the time (I’m sensing a theme, here) to research format concerns I have related to where I will publish it. I still haven’t started working on Revery, the first stages of which at this point will be to do a whole lot of concept art and character sheets, as well as go through the fully thumbnailed comic to make some edits. I am actually nearing the end of Inside Toby’s Brain, finally. It will be weird not having that to pick up and mess around with. I know (I think) what I’m going to do with it, but it will be a while before it sees the light of day. I learned some things about my work flow and how to improve them, which was the point of starting that project in the first place. I have a lot of ideas for brushes I want to make in Clip Studio to make some of my other projects happen faster and more efficiently, but I haven’t had time to experiment (there’s that pesky “time” nonsense again…).

None of that even gets into the fact that Inktober starts in about a week, or that I have another half a dozen sewing projects burning holes in my brain (another EDC bag idea-a utility belt-, an expandable duffel bag, a bedroll bag, a bucket pack, an upgrade to my wool Viking hood, a new wool coat/cape, new wool leg wraps…), or the stickers, or the video game ideas…

But first, I have to get the barn done before it falls off the house and takes half the house with it.