Sunday, October 10, 2021

Original Art Sundays No. 286: Inktober 2021, Part 1

HI all;

Next page is nearly done. Rather than post late or skip a week, here are my current efforts for Inktober. 

Day one:

 We start with a swipe from the cover of a swing album I discovered on Apple Music, Naomi and Her Handsome Devils.

More stylized than my work usually is, but such fun! 

I played with BIG brushes filling in the background.

I always love the geometric elements associated with this era, as anyone who recalls my Speedy Recovery and His All-Girl Orchestra comic will attest.

Day Two: 

A pretty straightforward swipe of a panel from Dean Motter's Mr. X.

I'm re-reading this and finding new stuff in it. The design paradoxically feels like both 80s-90s and 1920s.

I adore his facial expressions!

So vibrant with just a few well-placed lines.

Day Three:

Charles Mingus, in Walnut ink. From photo reference.

I didn't quite capture his majesty or exreme coolness, but I like this one anyway.

I was privileged to see Mingus live once. In the middle of the set, some guy in the back yelled out, "Do it, Charlie!"

He peered over his sunglasses and replied, "Ah, do what, man?"

Day Four:

One of my favorite panels from the Don Rosa classic Life and Times of $crooge McDuck.

Honestly, this whole sequence is just so powerful, but this panel, with him chained by his evil rival, as he is ridiculed and informed that his mother is dead, is just so perfect.

I've tried to explain the virtues of funny animal stories to the uninitiated, to no avail. I fear it's one of those things where either you get it or you don't.

Day Five:

A mocking Big Cat from Craig Russell's adaptation of The Jungle Book

Russell is another one of those artists whose work leaves me breathless. There's a classic elegance to his work, but when you look at it closely, his lines are almost breathy. I wish I could afford to get some of his video tutorials! I learn so much from such things.

Day Six:

Very loose pen and ink rendering of the sadly demised jazz great Emily Remler. We lost her to heroin some years ago. Her style was her own, but based in the work of Wes Montgomery.

This is deliberately sketchy. I wanted some quiet energy on this one.

Mixture of ink and marker.

Day Seven:

Now this was fun!

There's a little concrete warthog on a stair post in front of a house near MCAD. We all know it and love it. It became a character in my only Surrealist Cowgirls cartoon, now lost to the ages. But it elicits such warm feelings as you walk by!

This is brush work. The background is crow quill, and the background is loosely inspired by Jim Woodring's work.

I have a couple more, but I'll save them for the next posting. The next page will be posted in a couple days, and I'll just sneak in more Inktober throughout the month. I've been crossposting my Inktober work on Facebook and Twitter, if you just can't wait.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Original Art Sundays No. 285: Sharp Invitations: Curt, p. 20

 Now that the chapter on surgery is complete, we're going back to the Curt narrative already in progress. 

We had 19 pages of our heroine (me) meeting Curt, developing a relationship and having, ahem, intimate moments with others. There was more of that, but rather than make the waters any muddier, it's time to move on, in every sense.

I left out a couple details, and a few events are not quite in the order in which they occurred, but that doesn't disrupt the veracity of the story.

The temp job was much less sophisticated than I made it look here. Nice people and fairly easy work, but pretty mindless, doing document recording and retrieval at an insurance company.

Several things about this page are quite deliberate. The only face the reader sees straight on is Curt's. This is a story about abuse, and like most such narratives, it builds slowly and becomes largely about the abuser.

 Time is very condensed here. This page represents three months. The art is serviceable, but no more. There are some obvious and deliberate exaggerations, like the hyper-extended U-Haul.

I had hoped to add a wood texture to the door, but Photoshop was missing some patterns. Rather than dink around with it, I went with a solid gray for the door.

Design consideration: to give the page a bit more weight, I used the old Terry Moore trick of adding a solid black behind the panels. In a moment of inspiration, I used his How to Draw book as a template for the shape! Just lay the book on the page and make a black outline, fill it in, and you're golden.

The tools for this week are very straightforward. Entirely Micron pens! But I haven't forsworn my beloved inks.


  • Canson Bristol
  • T-squares and straightedges
  • Lead holder, #3Bl leads, and erasers
  • Micron .005, .2, .3, .5, .8, 1.0 and brush
  • Photoshop

I'm also doing Inktober this year. Last time I did that, I didn't make it through the whole month, but I have high hopes this year. I have been posting my inks daily on Facebook and Twitter and will post them here weekly.

That said, next week we continue the Curt story. Current plan is to resolve this part of the narrative quick and clean, four or five more pages. Then two or three more short chapters, some hard editing decisions, and we're done with this project. I have two more comic and illustration based projects in the wings, and two text projects in the works.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Original Art Sundays No. 284: The Third Sharp Invitation, last page

 Concluding this short but important chapter.

This is the aftermath and the prelude to the next chapter. If you were reading along in the actual book, this page would be a teaser. But if you've been following for a while, you've already read 19 pages of the next chapter, making the teaser somewhat anticlimactic.

Anyway, here we go.

When we left our heroine (me), she was contemplating the aftermath of her surgery. The naming of that procedure is constantly shifting. It used to be called sex change. Then it was gender reassignment. Then it was gender confirmation. I haven't kept up, but I think we're still using that term, so we'll go with that for now. It's also a term that makes sense, which I think overrides squabbles about nomenclature.

In any event, she was eager to set the world afire now that she wasn't constrained by body/mind incongruity.

And of course, it didn't go that way.


I had done this page about a year ago, just before the move to my first owned home (hooray!). It had different text and was intended as the end of the next chapter. That page is still somewhere in the storage bin. I opted to redo it, rather than dig through everything looking for the older one. I like this version better than that one. It's very simple. 

It's far from mechanically accurate, but that wasn't what I wanted. Technical drawing is not right for this page. This was one of those times when the world goes out of focus and you feel somewhat lost. I wanted to convey sparseness and a slight sense of disorientation.

The sky textures and the bus texture are Photoshop. Simple filters and the Fade command. I rather like the way the sky turned out. I had intended that what are perceived as stars be snowflakes, but rather than dink around with minutiae, I just went with it. Terry Moore draws such great snowflakes! Context from the surrounding pages will also clarify that it's winter. The ground texture is the joy of hand work. I do love the meditative quality of rendering random patterns.

Equipment and tools:

  • Canson Bristol Board
  • Lead Holder with 3B lead
  • Various erasers
  • Sumi-E ink
  • Windsor & Newton 680 1/4", Dick Blick #6 round synthetic, Princeyon #10 Round, Royal #8 flat angled brushes
  • Tight Spot correction brush
  • FW Acrylic white
  • Micron #.1, .2, .3, .5, .8, 1.0
  • Trusty Ames lettering guide
  • Photoshop

Next: a recap of the next chapter to date, then some concluding pages to that one. Four or five chapters of varying length to go before this book is done.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Original Art Sundays No. 283: The Third Sharp Invitation, p. 5

 Here is the penultimate page of this crucial but comparatively short chapter!


My body never looks better than when I draw it! I don't know if that's false advertising or wishful thinking.

Text is crucial on this page. Economy of words is vital here. As I tell my writing students, communicate more with less and trust your audience to fill in the blanks.

I don't have to worry about not having enough black on this page! The background is sparse by choice. Originally, I thought of doing a grayed back collage of previous moments from the story, but the more I played with the idea, the more it seemed both contrived and visually confusing. Dramatic collage in comics is very difficult to pull off. Jack Kirby's collages were ambitious but clumsy, at least to my eyes.

On the figure, I could have done more internal inks, shadows of body contours and such. I usually do such on draped figures more than on nudes. Now that circumstance are conducive to it, it might be time to get back to a figure drawing co-op. You learn so much from drawing the human figure!

Reversed lettering is a challenge. There are three basic approaches, and I've done all three. You either ink around the individual characters, use white ink after filling in your blacks, or just use the lettering tool in Photoshop. I opted for the third, using the Comic Craft typeface The Sculptor from the Scott McCloud book I so revere.

Not sure if there are one or two more pages to this chapter. It's set up for one, which will serve as prelude to the Curt chapter (already 19 pages posted on that one).

Overall, I'm pretty satisfied with this page!


  • Canson Bristol Board
  • Lead holder with no. 3B leads
  • Various erasers
  • Tech markers: Micron numbers .01, .03, .05, .08 and 1.0
  • Sumi-E black ink
  • FW Acrylic White
  • Crow quill nib and holder
  • Brushes: Royal synthetic angle flat no. 8, Blick round synthetic no. 6, Sceptre Gold sable/synthetic no. 0, Tight Spot for corrections

Next: the conclusion and lead-in to the big chapter, already in progress!


Sunday, August 29, 2021

Original Art Sundays No. 282: The Third Sharp Invitation, p.4

 Here we go with another new page. 

To recap, the book's title, Sharp Invitations, refers to the things that you want that cause you pain. You're pulled towards them and afraid of them, even though you want them.

In case you've lost track, here's what's gone before, documented in previous chapters. My first sharp invitation was my impulse to touch the blade of a push lawn mower when I was five. My second was my attempt to hang myself when I was eleven over being trans, though I didn't yet have the language for it.

My third sharp invitation was gender confirming surgery. That's where we are now, in the aftermath of the surgery, still in the hospital, with me drifting in and out of awareness.

Tried to keep this one simple. I finally got back into real ink! My walnut ink is lighter than I recall from my last bottle, even with darkening medium added. So I fell back on my monster sized bottle of Sumi-E ink.

The textures in the last panel are simple Photoshop fills. A couple minor fixes are necessary before going to press, but this one is pretty much there.

I just made up the skyline in the window. It's very much like the skyline I used as a background/environment on the cover of my first self-published work, Ink Tantrums, about a hundred years ago.

The middle tier feels a little light, which is common in my work. In this case, I'm okay with it, because it's balanced by the weight of the images around it, and because coming out of anesthetic is a very soft experience. 

The face in the last panel really got away from me! Grr! I compensated by re-drawing it, but still wasn't happy with it. My ultimate solution was to just take the face from the top tier, copy into a new Photoshop layer and goose it a bit. It works now.

Materials for this page:

  • T-Square, Ames lettering guide, Canson Bristol board
  • Lead holder, #3B leads, eraser
  • Black Walnut ink and darkening medium, Sumi-E ink
  • Crow quill pen and nib
  • Brushes: No. 2 Kolinsky, No. 4 Richeson synthetic, Tight Spot for corrections
  • Chartpak black marker
  • Tech markers: .01, .05, .08, 1.0 
  • And of course, Photoshop 2019

There are two pages left to this chapter. It segues into the chapter on Curt. I've already published 19 + pages of that chapter, so I will do some editing before concluding it. The chapter, in many ways the core of the book, has evolved considerably from its original 5 pages of crude sketches in the draft version!

Next: the penultimate page of this chapter.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Original Art Sundays no. 281: The Third Sharp Invitation, p. 3

 Back in the saddle again!

The story is reasonably predictable, but necessary, at this point. I'm in hospital, as the British say, and surgery is imminent. I freely stole this visual idea from myself. This is a theme that I used in a Tranny Towers strip about surgery: the idea of talking heads drifting in and out of the patient's mind as anesthetic takes hold. I also reincorporated the concept of one person's line leading to the next person, using words as "connecting footage". 

Thoughts on style:

The flowing smoky bits behind the spectral images can be read as many different things: positive shapes, negative shapes, abstract landscape, even cowhide! As long as they convey the overall sense of non-place, I'm content. I'm so tickled by leaving out the borders here and there.

Getting the overhead lights in the operating theater to "read" the way I wanted them to was a bit of a challenge. But once I decided on a neutral value instead of a cluster of smaller lights, I just needed my trusty graphite stick and I was in business.

For some reason, drawing the mask was an irritant! Possibly a psychosomatic reaction to the world of the last 18 months.

Still not quite back to real inks! My studio space is just about the way I want it, but I want a precise, pristine space before I jump into ink again. Amazing how owning your home instead of renting changes your perspective on some things...

I am feeling renewed conviction and confidence in the work. As I noted with joy the evolution of trans communities in recent years, I spent considerable time (probably too much time) pondering whether my story retained any relevance. I finally concluded that this wasn't my decision. I am committing (or trying to) to the mantra of just putting it out there and trusting my readers to see its merits for themselves.


Canson Bristol
Lead Holder
No. 3 graphite stick
Various erasers
Micron tech pens, .01, .03, .05, .08, 1.0
Old school Chartpak black marker (for large areas)
Faber Castell brush markers, small and large
Tight Spot correction brush
FW Acrylic White for corrections
Photoshop for a bit of clean up

Next: Surgery, awakening

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Original Art Sundays (Saturday) No. 280: Troia

 Well, hello.

It's been a while. About 10 months!

Hope you've been well.  Not easy to do in '20-'21.

Life got in the way of art. I bought a new place, worked two jobs (academia and healthcare) throughout the continuing but abating pandemic, and slowly... slowly... set up a new drawing space. Trying to be pragmatic about balancing needs and desires, as is our way (at least on a good day). But I love my place, and I love my art space. It's much smaller than my previous space, but much more efficient for the type of work I do.

I've opened up to doing The Work again. A few pages in, I'm not satisfied enough with the results to officially post them. Also been teasing new (and new old) ideas, but I'm keen to finish the graphic memoir as a first priority.

While my plan to focus more energy and effort on the project(s) takes shape, I thought you'd like an older piece. This has been posted elsewhere, but not as a stand alone artwork here.

I did this for my old friend Joel Thingvall, to contribute to one of his Wonder Woman galleries. This is the era of Donna Troy/Troia I like best- 80s Perez Teen Titans. She still had connection to Princess Diana, but was coming into her own.

In retrospect, the torso twists in a slightly odd way, the face is a bit flatter than I might like, and that left hand is not doing exactly what I would like it to. But overall, it works and I'm happy with it. The matte is part of the piece because of the text. I always equate anything related to Wonder Woman to the concept of wonder as joy, more than wonder as spectacle.

And I really like that little symbol on the tip of her right index finger. I've drawn that thousands of times- the slightly asymmetrical extended cross, whose cross beams are defined by curves. It will show up as an important symbol in a future project. 

I know, promises, promises.

For now, just enjoy this.

The materials are very simple: bright ink paper, pencil, eraser, brushes, a touch of Photoshop.

Next: no promises, but I am working.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Original Art Sundays No. 279: Third Sharp Invitation, p.2

Hi, all.
This is another one of those pages that took forever. When I find it, I'll come back and post the original version of this. It sat on my board 3/4 complete for more than a month, until I realized what I was doing wrong and moved to this version.
This turned out rather well, I think. A meditative page, a nice balance between text and image, between realism and symbolism, even if the symbolism is a bit on the nose (or closer to home than that, if you like).
Like this whole chapter, this is deeply intimate. As discussed in the past, some members of our community wrongly use surgical status as bragging rights. My intent here is just to tell it as it happened, as best I remember.
The narrative challenge is that some of the chapters overlap. When the book is done, a chapter will end, and the next chapter will begin at an earlier time, covering a different aspect of the story.
From a design standpoint, there were some challenges here, but they worked themselves out fairly easily, once I realized what the approach had to be. The big challenge was getting some weight into each panel. Each panel is a bit more sparse than its predecessor, as the extraneous is stripped away and she is (I am) left with the central question of her life - or so I thought at the time.
The lyric quoted is from a Monkees song, Sometime in the Morning. Not what Goffin and King had in mind, I suspect, yet somehow apropos.
The last panel is a reiteration of the original cover art, which may be the final cover art. I'm happy with it, but other ideas tease my mind....
The supply list.
Canson Recycled Bristol
Solid #4 lead
Lead holder with #4 fill
Magic Rub eraser
Yasutomo Sumi-E ink
Crowquill pen
Synthetic brushes, No. 0, 2 and 4
Tight Spot correction brush
Tech markers, Nos. 3, 5, 6, 7
Copic multi-liner brush, small and medium
And just a hint of Photoshop for cleanup.
Next: the surgery page.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Original Art Sundays (Tuesday) No. 278: Third Sharp Invitation, p.1

Finding both time and focus to draw. As it is less than 10 pages, this story seems less emotionally daunting than the Curt story.
This is the title page. My influence on this one is the work of David Mack, especially his later covers for Kabuki and his work with Bendis on COVER. The way he frames things seems so effortless, until you try to do it!
But it does play into my fascination with silhouette as a visual and narrative device.
To refresh everyone's memory, since the story has been, ahem, prolonged a bit:
The Sharp Invitations are things in my life that both compelled me and caused me pain. The first sharp invitation was my cutting my thumb on the rotary mower when I was five. The second was my grade school attempt to hang myself. The third, this story, is my gender confirmation surgery.
Sex change. Gender change. Gender reassignment. Gender confirmation.
It's been called so many things over the years. Hey, it's girl surgery, at least for me.
I've been pondering the value of this work in these times. After all, we haven't been able to be social animals for a third of a year. The whole world is sick, And lately in Minneapolis, we're just happy that the city isn't on fire.
It makes comics seem, well, trivial.
But I finally accepted that, for good or for bad, this is what I have to say. To stop saying it would an act of dishonesty, especially now that I am finding my visual "voice" as a comic artist. To silence that voice would be a wrong. I won't be so grandiose as to say it would be a crime, but... it would be, or at least feel, wrong.
Technical issues: I took MANY liberties with the design of Hennepin County Medical Center. I just grabbed a reference photo and moved things around until the building was plausible and worked with my idea. And I do adore the classic black with stars motif!
Canson 2 ply Bristol
Lead holder, No. 4 lead
Magic Rub eraser
Yasutomo Sumi Ink
No. 2 and No. 4 synthetic brushes
Various straightedges, triangles and T-squares
tight Spot correction brush
FW Acrylic White
Next: The Third Invitation, Page 2.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Original Art Sundays (Saturday) No. 277: Sharp Invitation Third, preview page

Hi all!
I've actually had this little ditty done for a couple weeks. Now that the semester's over (but grading isn't *cough*), I have time and focus to post.
Focus has been challenging due to COVID as well. My work in health care has taken on added challenges, compounded by welcome yet daunting promotion.
I decided to take a break from the Curt story and start the story that comes right before it, the story of my actual surgery. It's very short and quiet, planned as 4 or 5 pages, and serves as a prelude to the Curt stuff.
sidebar: I have rewritten the ending of the book entirely. It's a new 14 page story. So much before we get there.
In doing this book, I'm trying to avoid cliches whenever possible, but some are real events in my life, so I can't - won't - leave them out. One of the cliches is surgery.
It's considered gauche in some trans circles now to even talk about surgery, as it implies some kind of hierarchy. I have been guilty of this in the past, but I hope I don't do that any more, and that's not my intent here. I just want to relate how it happened,  how little, and how big, it was.
This preview page is one of those one-off light gag strips - four panels, just printer paper, soft lead holder, ballpoint pen, eraser and a bit of Photoshop. Simple, fast, bordering on crude.
When this conversation happened in the so-called real world, we both busted out laughing. My dry reaction here? It seemed right when I did the page, so I'm sticking with it.
Next: More of this story, bit more serious and introspective.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Original Art Sundays (Saturday) No. 276: Theda Bara

My, it's been a while, hasn't it?
Two semesters and a quarter of an epidemic later, I have finally have art to post.
Oh, I've been drawing and making music. Just...not post-worthy.
A couple weeks ago, I remembered a photo I saw somewhere. I think it was Theda Bara. Ballerina balancing a bright globe in a black space. It fascinated me.
I can't find the photo for reference.
Maybe it's just as well. The photo realism thing works for me sometimes. I usually end up correcting proportions to compensate for some strange distance between the image and my perception of it.
I think it's a bit like cooking in that respect. The first time a cook makes something, they adhere to the recipe. The second time, they look at the recipe. The third time, they make it, allowing their personal flourishes to come through in the interpretation of the dish.
That's my approach to photo reference.
So I gave it a go.
Working from memory, getting the proportions reasonably accurate, and bringing my Art Deco chops into the figure's hair were my biggest challenges!

I'm fairly happy with it. I thought about adding some stippling to the window edges, and decided that sometimes, less truly is more. The position and proportions of the left hand were a real challenge!
I wanted to get away from the story a bit and just draw.
2 Ply Bristol Board
Sumi Ink (My Walnut ink is used up! What's left is too gummy to be practical! Very sad.)
FW Acrylic White
Tight Spot correction brush
Lead holder and #4 leads
Magic Rub Eraser
Brushes: No. 0 Connoisseur Sable,  No. 4 flat synthetic, No. 4 round, No. 10 Princeton round.
That's it for now. Enjoy!
More sooner rather than later.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Original Art Sundays (Monday) No 275: Tranny Towers: Athena Paper Dolls

Hello my lovelies!
Back after some delay. I did this page a while ago, but am just now finding time to post.
Now that I am fully healed (I think) from my car crash of two years ago, and both jobs have a measure of equilibrium, I am bringing several projects back to the proverbial front burner.
Don't worry, I am still plugging away at Sharp Invitations. Hell or high water, I will get that done.
One of these neglected projects is a collected edition of Tranny Towers, Another of those projects I've nibbled at for a while. Well, here's another little taste.
I have an enduring love of paper dolls, especially in comics. I've waxed enthusiastic about this before, and did some for the Surrealist Cowgirls. To complete the Tranny Towers collection (which a couple folks asked about at May's Queers and Comics conference, I need several things, including paper dolls of all the principal characters.
Here's the first, of my favorite character Athena.
The wardrobe is a bit lighter than many such pages. Usually, there are three or four outfits. If there's time later, I'll do a second page of just outfits for her! The lingerie is nowhere near as sexy in my drawing as it is in the George Petty painting from which it's taken. But the other outfits are self-explanatory, I think.I love using wonderful clothes from popular culture as paper doll outfits!
Also, there's the inevitable political aspect of celebrating the bodies of trans people, even if they are cartoon characters and skunks. I've drawn her a bit more zaftig than in past work, as she's aged a bit (haven't we all?). That's the way she'll appear, more or less, in the concluding story that resolves all the principal characters' lives.
Equipment used is the same as on the last page, but a bit more brush work than usual on this one.
Next: more story

Friday, April 12, 2019

Original Art Sundays (Friday) No. 263: Sharp Invitations: Curt, p.19

New page has been done for a week or so. Finally have a minute to post.
 Our heroine (me) has been seeing both Delia and Sara, while seeing Curt. One night:
Yeah, I was busted, as we used to say. I really did feel that small! Not my shining hour. It's to my credit that both these women still talk to me and consider me a friend.
The Curt story is coming to a crucial point in a page or two.
The original draft of this story was 11 pages. We are near the halfway point of this part of the narrative, but the action picks up substantially very soon.
Technical notes: the top tier needs a caption to establish place and time, which I just now realized. The design device of the arc used to give weight to the second and third tiers works, but I would rather vary it a bit. I like the spinning head in the next to last panel a lot!
Materials are the usual:
Canson Bristol
Tech Markers No, 1, 3, 6 and 7
Lead holders with hard and soft leads
Magie Rub eraser
Dr. Martin's Walnut Black Ink
FW Acrylic White
No. 2 Elita Sable Brush
Synthetic brushes No. 4, 8 and 10
Tight Spot angled brush for corrections.
Next: either the next narrative page or a little treat.