richardf8: (Default)
Character Meme

Ganked from [ profile] kevinjdog and others.

Choose twelve of your original characters in any particular order (NO PEEKING AT THE QUESTIONS AT THIS STAGE!). Then, answer the questions that follow.

1. Grendel
2. Willie
3. Cujo
4. Brian
5. Cleo
6. Sybil
7. Bartle
8. Scotus
9. Jack
10. Roger
11. Eartha
12. Monty

The questions. )
richardf8: (Default)
Updating is still a bit irregular, but the story moves forward. I played with a different inking technique in this strip, mostly out of an envy of the variations in line thickness I see in [ profile] kevinjdog's and [ profile] rain_luong's work. I'm kinda pleased with it.
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Heavens! It's been a long time between updates. I apologize for that, but my hands have been full to the extreme, and I have not really had the mental space to live in the Cat-Tharsis universe as much as I would like.

New Printer

Jan. 9th, 2005 08:29 pm
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[ profile] morgan1 and I replaced our dead and much maligned Inkjet today. We found a pretty cheap Laer Printer, A Konica/Minolta 3500W. My feelings about it are mixed - I totally shopped price on this one, because this was in many ways a needful purchase, and while I would have preferred the cheapest OKI PagePrinter, this was about 70 bucks cheaper.

It looks to be a good printer, with a small footprint, and setup was trivial, at least for WIN2K. It is, alas, a bit married to Windows, and although someone cared enough to develop a printer driver for it for Linux, it looks to be very raw, and I expect that getting CUPS printing working with it will be like pushing a dead elephant uphill with a teaspoon. Simplest solution might just be to save to PDF on the Linux box and then print on the Windows box from Acrobad Reader.

In the meantime, it's a relief to have a Laser again - the toner is both waterproof and Copic-proof, which is a very good thing for when I want to hand color scanned artwork. It also means that if I should be taken with a desire to do Gocco prints, I have something that will lay enough carbon down for that to work.

I tried printing some Cat-Tharsis strips from it, sized down to what they would be in a Plan9 book. The printer's 1200 X 1200 mode fared quite well with my line-art. Lines were crisp and all details present. I've heard that Grayscale presents challenges to this beastie, but I very rarely use grayscale, so that will mostly be a non-issue.

My strips, on the other hand, scaled down to Plan9 book size are very busy. I really need to learn to get control of my composition - I tend to include far too much non-essential stuff in my panels. Mostly I need to learn to crop more tightly.

Well, I suppose I should return to wresting some creativity from my muse. More Pencil to Paper combat.
richardf8: (Default)
Just fixed [ profile] morgan1's bathroom faucet which has had a costly leak for over a year. The washers needed replaced, and while I was at it, I gave the valve stems and seats some TLC with a Toothbrush and Lube.

The weekend was good, Potluck on Saturday at the Synagogue with after a fun Torah Study and a moving service. I will be making an aliyah (reading from the Torah) at the Feb 5th Service in honor of my Father's Yahrzeit (death Anniversary).

I think I've broken through the creative block that has been dogging me since Thanksgiving, and hopefully can get back on track with Cat-Tharsis, at least on a weekly basis. Twice a week is a bit much with everything else I've got going on right now, and I'd rather take the time to create a strip I'm happy with than to produce it all in a putsch the night it's due.

Well, dinner's cooking and can probably do with a cursory glance.
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Too many long nights catching up to me. Filler gets to stay another day.
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Last August, in this strip I introduced "Cleo." Cleo's basically a nasty bitch, sort of a cross between The Facts of Life's Blair Warner and GPF's Trudy. I haven't used her in a while, but she will be making an appearance in the next story line, and will have a larger role down the road. She was based on someone I actually knew as an undergrad. Her usual garb consists of a turtle-neck with a heart on it and a mini-skirt. As for her markings -- she is solid white. Her profile was inspired by little Dolly of Family Circus, and her front-view was influenced by the Hello Kitty franchise. In short, my goal was to make her as sickening as I could.

Recently, at the food co-op, I bought a girl's magazine called New Moon. I was perusing it when I encountered a strip called "Cat-Tails" by Emily Kawachi. My jaw hit the floor when I laid eyes on Isme, an unmarked white cat in a polo shirt with a heart on it and a mini-skirt. Her function in the strip is to make cutting, superior remarks to the "everygirl" figure, a tabby named Tsivy.

Now I first became aware of Isme last week, and it's a safe bet that Kawachi is not aware of Cat-Tharsis at all (though I can't be certain -- but given the size of my readership, the numbers are against it). What this means is that Kawachi and I have, to all intents and purposes, developed the exact same character, right down to the details of dress.

Does this mean that a white cat in a heart-emblazoned shirt with a miniskirt is some kind of instinctual code for "superior, snarky bitch?" Or is it a manga convention of which I am unaware, since I don't read manga? In which case the question remains of why I came up with it.

New Icon

Feb. 24th, 2004 04:23 pm
richardf8: (Eating)
Probably going to use this for cuisine type stuff. The image is of my character, Grendel Armstrong, eating a "peep in a blanket," baisically a bird in a crepe.

It started out life as a concept sketch for peeps in blankets, a comfort food in the Cat-Tharsis universe (where "bubble and squeak" really does squeak, and "mouse dippers" fill the role occupied by chicken tenders in our world).

Last week it became a filler strip because I didn't have time to draw something new, coupled with a recipe. I made the recipe for dinner sunday night, using Turkey Andouille sausage instead of birds. It was quite good.

So today, it being a slow day, I cropped it in photoeditor, colored it in mspaint, resized it in msword, and exported it from photoeditor. I pined for Paint Shop Pro, but I remained amused.
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Not only can they be used for creating guidelines for lettering, they can also come in handy any time large numbers of parallel lines are needed. I just used mine to shingle the exterior of Grendel's back porch, and it was quicker and less painful than either my rolling straightedge or my drafting table's straightedge alone.

That also means that here it is, Sunday morning, and Tuesday's Cat-Tharsis is all ready to scan and post. This is probably the most "together" I've been with regard to the strip since it's inception. Of course, it helps that I have a bunch of scripts in the bag, and I'm not doing my writing on the fly.
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I have set up a Forum on Nightstar Zoo for Cat-Tharsis. They have one of the best run PHPbb systems I have ever seen, with less downtime than Keen* or even the lightly used Open Source Judaism forums.

I've made this move because it seems that people on line seem more motivated to discuss things in a public space than to engage in direct contact with a creator, and I would like to see what people are thinking (the artist's most dangerous impulse, perhaps). My web log is showing considerable growth in hits per day since I first put the strip on line, and I even note that there are some returning visitors. But numbers don't disclose the way people are actually responding to the strip.

Well hopefully the strip is engaging enough that people will want to talk about it. I shall wait and see.
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Went through the Cat-Tharsis archives the other day just to see how things are hanging together. From a purely techinical standpoint, the plot is moving along, perhaps a little too quickly. The last time I really took the time to srop and smell the roses, as it were, was the "Sybil's Secret" storyline. Since then, I've been concerning myself a little too much with advancing certain plot points for the uberstory, and neglecting my characters' lives.

Of course, I recently took a detour from that to, well, vent about political polarization, and that also came out a little bit more shrill than it should have. It could have been worse though -- I designed the Cat-Tharsis universe to prevent me from getting too topical, and that is a good thing and has worked well.

Part of it, too, is I'm impatient to tell my uberstory and it happens painfully slowly at the rate of 1 strip/week. The solution to this is to either bide my time or go to a twice a week schedule. As tempting as it is to do the latter, I do not draw quickly enough to manage it while retaining balance in my life (as if my life were balanced!), so I will simply need to bide my time and have the faith that in so doing I will create a better body of work.

Well, next up for the comic, Cujo is going to get Grendel's car working again. There is lots of gag potential in that story that I should not neglect in favor of advancing the narrative. Just . . . slow . . . down . . . and smell the roses.

2003 Redux.

Jan. 1st, 2004 09:16 pm
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Today as I was leaving work I cleared my desk of the papers and vessels that accumulated over the past three days, so that I would have a clean desk to come into come Monday. A year ago today I performed a similar task, but for a different reason: It was the last day of my assignment to a food processing company, and it was my final clearing out of my stuff. On December 31 2002 I donned my coat, shut the lights, and stepped off the precipice into an uncertain future. 2003 brought me another six months of unemployment, with a brief stint at a construction design company for flavor. Finally, in July, I landed where I am now - a health insurance loss control company. It's not my ideal place, but cleaning a desk I would be coming back to in 2004 was certainly an improvement over last year's leap at the abyss. So I am grateful to have four days off in which I can relax rather than too many days off filled with anxiety.

2003 was a strange year for that. When [ profile] morgan1 and I tilled the ground and planted our tomato seedlings, zucchini seedling and leek sprouts in the spring, we had no idea if we would still be on this land in the fall to taste those home-grown tomatoes, Zucchini and full grown leeks. She had been laid off two days before Christmas, 2002. After passing seven anxiety ridden months coming up with all sorts of contingency plans, though, we each stumbled into our current jobs; the home grown tomatoes found their way into salads, appetizers, and Morgan and I. (Mostly Morgan; her love of tomatoes is immoderate, perhaps even a little intemperate). The leeks were roasted, braised and stewed for many a Shabbat dinner, and even put in a curtain call in the stuffing at Thanksgiving. The zucchini met a similar fate, spending much of the summer being grilled and served with vinagrette alongside tuna steaks and cod fillets. It too made an appearance, as zucchini bread, on the Thanksgiving table, having been sliced and frozen expressly for the purpose. That's important to us, having produce from the garden on our table at Thanksgiving. Especially so since this year was so difficult that planting the garden was a tremendous leap of faith. But it doesn't end there, for tonight we will be sipping sparkling cider made from the pitted fruit of our senescent Bartlett pear tree. Our land has been kind to us, and we have escaped being cloven from it.

Cat-Tharsis went from concept to reality this year too. Much of my time unemployed was spent developing the concept, developing my artwork (which still bites, but has been improving) and developing the software that runs the site. I thank [ profile] kevinjdog and [ profile] rain_luong for the inspiration, [ profile] morgan1 for all the help with world building and artistic guidance, and Unit423 of If Then Else for the advice and encouragement. And I further thank [ profile] kevinjdog for a variety of opportunities to exercise my creative faculties. They've really kept the juices flowing.

What really got Cat-Tharsis out of development and onto the web was the need to celebrate the life and mourn the passing of Morgan's cat Rodent Baby. When I drew this strip I knew I had to display it, so that was the impetus for going live. Rodent was a high strung little cat, bound to hiss, growl, and spit at every tomcat she's met, but very loving and even a bit needy. Morgan had Rodent longer than she's had any other creature currently living with her, myself included, so the loss was, indeed, profound. Rodent herself seemed content to go, and, we think, has even given her blessing to the kitten, Maeve, that came into our lives in October.

All in all this has been a year of want and of bounty, of death and of life, of turning corners, renegotiating old friendships and forging new ones. I can't really say I'm sorry to see it goes, but I'm curious what the new one will bring; I am greeting it with greater hope than I've had in a while.
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After an evening of kitten dreidel with [ profile] morgan1 and Maeve, followed by bedecking our house with the festoonery of the hap-happiest time of the year, I decided to give Cat-Tharsis' web site a facelift. I've done all the work on the staging server, and am planning to publish the changes to the production server no later than New Year's day (and possibly quite a bit sooner).

The major problems I wanted to address with the existing site had to do with usability. Specifically, visitors could not discover the links, news, feedback form, or other apparatus without scrolling down past the comic. In order to address this I made a fresh set of menu and navigation images that are significantly smaller than and way less clunky than what I had before, and arrayed them in 40 pixel tall bands above and below the comic; a style inspired by [ profile] kevinjdog's Newshounds layout. Another problem I want to solve is the way my links stay trapped in the frameset my domain name registrar uses to hide my site's internal structure. I think I just discovered how to do this, and I will experiment with it tomorrow.

I'm pretty happy with the new look and feel, most users will encounter the the entire apparatus without need for scrolling. My hope is that if visitors can actually find my feedback form, they might actually drop me a note. I have been wondering about providing a forum, but I don't want to do it if it's going to be moribund. Getting some feedback from users would help me determine whether there is enough interest to warrant it.

And now, the timer having turned off our holiday display, I shall away to bed, where great story ideas will come that I will not have the wherewithal to write down and which I will forget by morning.
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After spending my drawing time wrestling car parts into place, I found my self sorely tempted to do a cut and paste theatre Cat-Tharsis. The dialogue didn't demand much in the way of staging, and there weren't really any sight gags, except the dish of mouse-butts that are mouse-dippers.

But as I started to make the first selection, something in me just . . . rebelled. I knew if I did this, I would not respect myself in the morning, and that I would wince every time I looked at the strip. And since I use as the portal to my regular webcomic fare (that links page isn't just for visitors' convenience), that means every day for the next week, and every time I go through the archives to see how my story is holding together. And so I sat down to pencil and ink two additional panels (both of which were better than the first). It's not my best art, but I'm getting more comfortable with 3 quarter views. Now I just need to figure out how to draw people sitting comfortably on the sofa, instead of bolt upright like they've got poles up their . . . ah well.

But the upshot is, I'm alot prouder of this week's strip than I would have been had I given in to the dark side. I may have got only 5 hours sleep last night, but I still have my honor!
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Well, I finally got around to fixing the calendaring bug on Cat-Tharsis where the next month/previous month links pointed to nothing at all. I was able to recycle a code snippet from another function to do most of that work. Also fixed a problem with months that begin on Sunday having their final day not fit on the calendar. So, a pat on the back to myself for actually getting that done. Not only that, but I freshened the catboxes, took out the trash, and fixed dinner for [ profile] morgan1 and myself for tonight and tomorrow.

It makes me feel like a natural nerd-boy.
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I'm contemplating doing some rather fundamental character redesigns on Cat-Tharsis, probably with a significant change in style. There are a few reasons for this. The first and foremost is that the current designs were developed at a time when I knew very little about drawing, and have therefore become something of a hobble. I've been able to evolve them to the point where they aren't quite a misery to draw (early Cujo was the absolute worst, because I was throwing in a level of detail that was positively baroque), but I can't really use an evolutionary approach for much more than the head/neck interface (Cujo's sole saving grace but dreadful on everyone else).

Things I want to change:

1) Characters are currently 5 heads tall, I want to shorten them to 4 so that they're not too lanky to fit in a panel.

2) Heads are currently 5 eyes wide. I want bigger eyes so that I don't lose the ability to show expression in shots that show the characters at any kind of a distance.

3) Ears are currently too small for the heads. Part of this may be because one of my early models, my cat Grendel (as opposed to my character Grendel) has unusually small ears given the size of his head. That's what I get for basing my designs on a misshapen cat.

4) My characters got proper hands on labor day. The next challenge is to give them proper feet.

The other thing is that from the reader's point of view, the design changes are going to just one day appear, BAM! without much transition. I can't give the strip a hiatus, because with an update schedule of once per week, the pace is too slow anyway. I'm still just laying the ground work for the first major arc, and haven't even got all the principals on stage yet. I suppose patience is a virtue, but if the new designs are significantly easier to draw than the old ones, I might be able to move to a Tuesday-Thursday schedule from just Tuesdays. That would help move the narrative along considerably.
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And productive too!

Saturday, I built a notebook I had lying around into a new web development/staging server.

The gory details:

IBM Thinkpad 380z, 233Mhz, 64M Ram, 4G HDD.
Redhat 9.0 running Apache, MySQL, PHP, and various and sundry other goodies.
Since I want the processing power for the good stuff, it does not boot to X.

It is Waaay quicker than its predecessor, and getting it going was easier than I'd planned. The only snag I ran into was with the PHP parser. It's a later version than what had been on the RH 7.2 box, and had globals turned off by default, so it wasn't parsing my code. Turned globals on (which is also the way my ISP has their PHP Parser set up) and everything was hunky dory.

Sunday, I pencilled AND inked Tuesday's strip. So much nicer than the past two weeks when I ended up inking hastily Monday night. I was able to use the dip-pen rather than the fountain pen (though I lettered with the fountain pen). It was more relaxed and deliberate than inking with the fountain pen. Inking with a dip pen has some of the characteristics of meditation. And tonight was the first time I inked without music. It was very refreshing.
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Well I've pencilled, inked and uploaded Tuesday's strip, and just now realized what's been bugging me about the Perspective. No Horizon Line. How dorky of me. Oh well, I don't have time or gumption to rework it, so here's hoping the script can carry the art. OTOH, I do like the way the Chevette turned out.

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