Tag Archives: art

sketchbook sundays

toy robot - Copy

This wind-up toy dutifully marches through a sky filled with Kirby Krackle in tribute to the 1978 toy created by Tomy. For a photo reference, we used a picture taken for our eBay listing which sold this robot a few months ago. This black and white drawing was created with Micron 05 fine point pen, various Sharpie markers, white gel pen, and black pastel. 5×7 aspect ratio, from a high-resolution (300 dpi) scan of original art.

sketchbook sundays

painted dancer 2 - Copy

This week, we recreated an ink drawing from last year. The paper size on the original was slightly irregular, so we wanted to make one that would perfectly fit a 6×8 mat in an 8×10 frame. The dimensions on the image above are 5×7, a convenient size for printing cards, but the original is 6×8.

Then we wrapped up this portrait of Sandra Rose from last week. Sandra loves metal and metal heads and dreams of uniting the people of the world in one giant mosh pit. Starting with her photo reference, we gave her a black rose tattoo based on some anarchist symbolism, the pirate’s jolly roger, and some bottles of booze, cards, and coins in the background.

sandra rose - Copy

Clicking the images above will bring up the pages where you can buy them as prints. This summer, we anticipate framing 10-15 of these 6×8 pieces and listing them on eBay.

Revisiting an earlier drawing gave us a moment to reflect on the role these weekly postings have played in our development, that luxury of the blogging world which our friends at Longbox Graveyard jokingly call self-indulgent navel gazing. But recently, someone mentioned they “didn’t get” blogging. Having kept a number of journals, dream journals, sketchbooks, musical recordings, and blogs over the years, we can say there is a definite benefit to making journal entries regularly, especially if you are artistically-inclined or working on a project.

When we started doing 4×6 ink drawings last year, they were coming out pretty rough. We were merely exploring possibilities with our new pens. But recently, and with the addition of mats and frames, the 6x8s and 9x12s are starting to look pretty good on the wall. Visitors say nice things about them, a few of them sold, and even our landlord says we’re starting to get good lol. Having a weekly check-in for ‘sketchbook sundays’ has helped us keep improving. More than once, we have caught ourselves on a Saturday with nothing drawing-related to show for the week, and it gives us a push to get into creative mode. It isn’t like anyone who drops by our anarchic little blog is going to send us hate mail if we miss a week, but little checkpoints each week have helped us stick with it and pursue our illustrative fantasies.

sketchbook sundays

This week was the last week of our semester, so not much sketching happened. But, we got started on a portrait of Sandra, by special request. Here’s a close up of a section of the 6×8 in progress.


A new frame and mat arrived for our 9×12 drawing of Meteor Mags playing piano. So, we put some finishing touches on it by adding a signature and, with a white gel pen, a multitude of stars in her sky.


The frame is 11×14 brown wood with a figured black interior edge.


sketchbook sundays

diving frog 2 - Copy

This little frog revisits a 4×6 drawing we did with our very first set of fine point pens in March, 2013. This one is bigger at 6×8, though the image above is cropped to 5×7. It uses more solid black in the background, but the frog is pretty much the same. The original 4×6, below, sold on eBay in a basic black frame. The new one is better, so we don’t miss it anymore.

frog card - Copy

We didn’t post it last week so here is a new illustration for one of the Meteor Mags stories. It was fun to produce. It began with posing for the shot, so yeah it’s sort of a self portrait. But with more awesome hair.

This was the first time we used a white gel pen to put some stars in the sky. For a guide, we studied the stars on the cover of Iron Man #215, shown below. That’s a book we bought at the drug store in the mid 1980s, and we’ll feature it here at MWSNM sometime.


sketchbook sundays

when the metamorphosis is done - take 3 - Copy

Every so often we do a study of this old comic panel from Weird War Tales. As our inking improves over the years, so do the studies. One of these days we won’t screw up hand-lettering this piece so badly that we have to paint out all the words and re-do them digitally. Here we used the Brian Bolland font purchased from Richard Starking’s Comicraft, a company you may be familiar with if you ever read Elephantmen.

sketchbook sundays

magpie inked 8x10 - Copy

Magpie in Flight

Light and shadow create complex shapes on the bold feathers of a magpie in flight in this black and white drawing created with Micron 05 fine point pen, calligraphy pen, and Sharpie marker.

8×10 aspect ratio, from a high-resolution (300 dpi) scan.

sketchbook sundays

In today’s Sketchbook Sunday, we go digital. Yes, put your pens and paper away for a few minutes and take a peek inside the virtual world I use to model the character Meteor Mags.

meteor mags dancing girl series (49)

Designing a character model in virtual reality gives you several benefits as an artist, but honestly I do it to compensate for inabilities in figure drawing and lighting and perspective. Despite formal art lessons, informal figure drawing sessions, a copy of How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, and years of drawing, I still suck at depicting the human body under specific lighting conditions in specific poses.

meteor mags dancing girl series (45)

So, I designed a figure to my ideal specifications. Yes, I do have a notion of an ideal female form even if it is not shared by the general public or mass media. Next, I picked out some clothing for her, some hairstyles and tattoos, and set about posing her in a variety of lighting conditions. By taking screen captures with the viewer’s built-in camera, I create unique photo references.

meteor mags dancing girl series (43)

The virtual reality I use is called Secondlife, a platform which most often gets media coverage when people using it as an online dating service meet up “in real life” with disastrous results. Although that happens, it never makes headlines when people meet there and end up happily married – which also happens. But Secondlife has a million other things to do besides trying to hook up with random lonely internet geeks. Some people call it a game, but unlike Call of Duty or World of Warcraft, it doesn’t have any missions, objectives, scores, or really any f***ing point to it at all. It’s a blank slate, and it is nothing more or less than what you make it.

meteor mags dancing girl series (19)

So I made a model. The project began as a joke in 2012, where in a virtual game of truth or dare I was dared to take my old Howard Plutonian avatar and make it female. This is what happens when you play online party games with a six pack. In Secondlife, you can alter your avatar’s form any way you like, and people sell pre-made body configurations called shapes. You can also design your own, for free, but for the sake of this game I bought a pre-made shape. Many LOLs were had that day, but I soon posed this female avatar for virtual photos to accompany some poetry. And thus an idea was born.

silver eels - Copy

In 2014, I began designing my own female shape from scratch, since the one I bought had limited permissions. This revealed how little I comprehended human anatomy! “She” was terribly ugly. But we pressed on. After several months of adjusting her physical specs, studying anatomy, posing, and adjusting again, I settled on a definite set of specs. I did, however, make her arms a little longer this year.

pole gasmask1

When I started this project, I did not foresee how much time I would spend picking out things like hair and clothes and female poses and props. As a nominally straight male with no predispositions for cross-dressing (besides my socks obsession) I have spent an inordinate amount of time on “girl stuff”. Shopping. Adjusting hair. Color coordinating outfits. Customizing shoes. Picking out blouses. Picking out blouses. Lolololol. I never thought obsessing over a woman’s outfit for hours was something I would spend my time doing, but it turns out to be a pretty fun part of the process. I used to play with action figures for hours as a kid, or plastic dinosaurs, and now I play with a digital doll. Whatever.


Of course, when you spend time in Secondlife, you interact with other avatars. Unless you want to be a hermit, which is completely achievable, you have a social chat room environment where people interact through text. Many avatars use voice, though they are usually playing card games or chatting or reading out loud or singing, as opposed to how people use voice on “missions” in team-based role playing games.


What’s weird about that? Well, my avatar is obviously female – and let’s be honest, she dances around mostly naked on my second monitor for long periods of time. So other avatars in the game assume they are dealing with a female. Most of the time that is fine, since nothing about my interactions with anyone “in world” depends on gender. But I do end up playing a bit of a character for my digital Meteor Mags model, which helps me get a feel for her dialogue in the stories, develop her fictional persona, and find off-beat story ideas.

patches and mags at black rose_001

I am not the only Secondlife user treating gender identity as just another element you configure for your avatar – just like age, ethnicity, size, species, and name. Many users have both male and female forms, and they use them for all kinds of art projects. Yes, they do all of the kinky sexual fantasies you might imagine and which get so much press. But they also use them for machinima, which is making movies in-world. Avatars model clothes and other virtual products. Shopping and making virtual reality goods is a huge part of Secondlife economics. People use different avatars for role playing characters in games based on television shows or vampires or pirates or whatever you can imagine.

mags in headphones at voodoo

Again, Secondlife is whatever you make it, and not like some Facebook platform where you have to BE YOU. You can make your avatar a peacock or a horse or a dragon, gay, bi, straight, flying around with angel wings, a kid, an old wizard, a superhero, a cube of plywood, or WHATEVER YOU CAN IMAGINE. So, some people get hung up on the gender identity thing, and it certainly comes up when people realize who is at the keyboard for my avatar, but most people don’t really give a damn. It only bugs me when other avatars make sexual advances at me in chat. You have no idea how annoying that is, but it happened with a male avatar, too. It is not a uniquely female experience. Just to make it absolutely clear: No, Mags’ author does NOT want to role play your leather mistress or virtual girlfriend or emotional crutch or whatever. F***ing freaks! Anyway…

mags gasmask

Originally, I simply used my Howard Plutonian account and assumed the female avatar whenever I wanted to pose her. Yes, a female Howard did confuse and even anger many people, but we pressed on in the name of art. She was my ongoing art project, and I did not want to have multiple accounts for multiple avatars.

mags in tux with cyber mantas

She actually had a body and style before she had a name. When I started taking virtual photos of her, she was just “Dancing Girl.” Then, for a week I toyed with the idea of naming her “Anne Arkey,” but the internet says that has been done to death already. In the end, I knew I wanted to name her Mags or Maggie in honor of an avatar who inspired her and who taught me almost everything I know about building, modeling, selling, and customizing environments in Secondlife.

mags takes aim

But how to make her unique? Well, I wanted to do science fiction stories with this character, so it had to be something about space… And thus, Meteor Mags was born on July 4th, 2014. Of course, in the stories her birthday is something else entirely, but that’s when I settled on her name, purchased the meteormags.com domain, and set about building an online identity for her as a fictional character. In the stories, I plan to use that as the birth date of her sidekick/nephew.

mags pbn poster

So, the images in today’s post come from virtual photo sessions. After picking a static pose or moving animation for the avatar, I customize the lights and colors in the environment. You can move the sun and moon around, put stars out, add haze, make the ambient lighting into different colors, choose the time of day, the direction and thickness of clouds – so many options.

mags with lights and flag

I also like to add, mostly for my own amusement, what they call “particles” in Secondlife. These are customizable light displays. They have a script you edit to determine the color of light particles emitted from an object, and their direction, shape, burst rate, lifespan, and size. If you have read this blog for any time at all, you know I am a huge fan of Kirby Krackle and other comic book “energy” effects, so particles are something I spent a little time learning about.

meteor mags dancing girl series (30)

In the photo below, Ceakay Ballyhoo poses in the foreground of the dancing duo. CK to her friends, she has been a source of inspiration and collaboration on Mags projects and other art adventures. She has graciously allowed the use of her private photo studio for Mags photo sessions. One of my drawings was based on a noirish photo she took. That image appears both in the Smuggler’s Edition and on the custom playing cards. Here is CK posing in her studio with an image of the cards based on her original image. It’s the cycle of art! The character Celina in the stories was inspired by CK, blended with some rowdy Australians we know and a healthy dose of anarchy :)

meteor mags dancing girl series (50)

I should also give a shout out to avatars Brindi and Sorrowen who support the Meteor Mags cause by always being on the lookout for fun and interesting socks for her to wear. Good looking out!

maggie and her bettas in new socks - lettered

I should warn anyone thinking of making a model like this that Secondlife is a bit clunky. I can’t think of a single better word for it. Clunky. Feet are always messed up. Hands often look misshapen. Some poses are designed for anatomies within specific parameters, and a chunky girl like Mags has all kinds of visual problems with clothes making jagged lines, tattoos stretching way too much, arms being buried in her ample belly, body curves that get rendered in straight lines and angles, smeared lipstick – the list is endless.

meteor mags dancing girl series (35)

When you create a photo reference using this method, expect to redraw significant elements. I often discard much of the backgrounds and switch them out for planets or simpler graphic elements. Sometimes I have to break out the John Buscema anatomy tutorial or study photos in books or even comic panels to sort out how the figure SHOULD have rendered, and I still don’t get it right every time.

pirate maggie and her sharks

Despite the challenges, this method has helped me create the visual aspects of the Meteor Mags character, and inspired more than a few story ideas. My other options would have been 1) spend a few more years learning to draw 2) hire a model for photo shoots and buy costumes 3) pay someone thousands of dollars for character designs and illustrations. Maybe those illustration challenges sound familiar to you, so we are posting about our little experiment in hopes it might inspire you to brainstorm unconventional solutions to your sketching challenges. Good luck!

pirate maggie and her sharks 2


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