spider time: post 1

spider1-crop-brushstrokesSpider Time

epigraph and fragments of an introduction

“Au milieu de l’hiver, j’apprenais enfin qu’il y avait en moi un été invincible.”

Albert Camus “Rétour à Tipasa” 1952

The working title of this story has as much to do with the circumstances under which it was written as it does with the subject matter. It will soon become clear that this is simply a Kekionga story, the “origin story” of an already familiar member of the cast.  It isn’t really about spiders.  At least it’s not planned to be about spiders at this point.

But it’s definitely a story about summer itself, and about how summer adventures shimmer when recalled in the sober, golden, spidery harvest light of September. Summer may be an inspiration, but then he you have to sit down and write.

And don’t worry—this is the last you’ll hear from any great French existentialist writers of the mid Twentieth Century. But why not start a September story with a reminder that no summer is more invincible than a summer in Kekionga?

Its September is pretty good too.

“In the middle of winter, I learned at last that I have within me an invincible summer.”

Albert Camus  “Return to Tipasa” 1952

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september story time is coming

september japanese lantern-blogIt’s September at last: time to start the story project I’ve been planning.  I’m going to write a prose story here on the blog, with the goal of finishing it by the end of September. It’s a Kekionga story featuring many, if not all, of the usual suspects. I know the basic outline of what is going to happen, but a lot of the details, structure, and narrative techniques are up in the air.  I’m going to try to write it in real time, in the installments you see, and let the events in each bit influence what happens next.  So your comments may affect the course of the story.  You never know.  There will probably be illustrations, too.

The September story won’t update every day, although I think there will probably have to be at least two or three installments a week to get the project finished in time.  All the usual blogginess will continue on the other days so there will, as always, be something for everybody.  This is an experiment so if anybody has any ideas about the best way to present fiction on a blog, from length of installments to scheduling, please share the wealth.

To follow the story away from the rest of the blog, click on the FICTION! tag in the tag cloud, or input the title into the search box.  That will work fine.  Once I think of a title. If I don’t, it will appear under its working title, which is fitting for a work in progress.

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banana tree frog

Or, a tree frog on a banana tree.

frog1-hicolorfrog1-bw-blog Yes, there are banana trees that can live in cold climates.  Assuming you cut them back and cover them with a deep layer of mulch for the winter, they will survive and grow back in the spring.  This particular banana tree grows in a yard a few blocks away, and last week it was visited by a small green tree frog.

frog2-colorfrog2-bw(Like Nanny Ogg in Terry Prachett’s wonderful books, I can spell “banana” but I am not always sure where to stop.)

Taken with Nexus 5 phone camera and edited using the editing suite in Google Photos.  I raised color and contrast slightly and added some filter effects.  I particularly like the black and white results, especially the scuff marks on the leaves in the fourth image.

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phone camera butterflies: the king


The king of all American butterflies: the monarch.  Of the phone camera butterflies, even more so.

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sunday threes– botanical edition

The fourth in an ongoing series exploring the odd historical fascination of the world’s matchbox label design community with the number three. Today: botanical subjects, arbitrarily arranged from the obvious to the obscure.


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farmers’ market find– ebony green 2

A continuation of yesterday’s post about the fountain pen I bought earlier this month at the farmers’ market … and about the free sample ink cartridge that came with it.  Regular readers know that I am not a big fan of cartridge ink, preferring to fit my pens with converters and use the stuff in the bottles.  This is much more economical and allows some control of pressure and ink flow as well.  But when I do have a cartridge in, it’s fun to guess just how long it will last.

At this point in the story, the Ebony Green cartridge had inked the sample page we saw in the original post, plus the three drawings of the day we saw in yesterday’s post. (The second image is a detail from one of those drawings– the rest of it was extremely stupid.)  By this time, I was starting to be surprised by the capacity of this little cartridge.  These were four fully inked pages, with large areas of solid color.  The next morning I made this drawing of the day, with lots of intricate, ink consuming shading.

farmersmarket-ebonyblack4-blog I really like this drawing– the chubby hexapod has become a favorite sketchbook character.  If it looks a little less murky than some of the others in the series, that’s because it was drawn freehand in ink, with no pencil underdrawing to erase out.  If you click on it to see the large version, you will see there are a few corrections and even a quick line or two in black marker over them.

So, five finished drawings, and there was still ink in the cartridge.  Not much, but some.  I was now determined to empty that little thing out!  I was really liking the pen by this time and eager to try it out with some good black ink.  So I started another test page, designed to finish the cartridge off even if I had to shade the entire thing solid Ebony Green.farmersmarket-ebonyblack5-blog I started with the little figure at the lower left center, then added the owl on his should and the title in different kinds of lettering.  Then I started on the dragon, which was going to be big and complicated  with a lot of fancy shading that was going to use up that ink … and you can see where he turns black.  The answer to the big question was “not much longer”.  Of course, I couldn’t find the converter I was given free with the pen (since I put it “somewhere safe” instead of in the pen drawer in the studio) but an ordinary Rotring converter as used in their Art Pen series fits well and works perfectly.  You get a little bit more ink into the nib with this converter and the pen is better for it.

In conclusion:  While the Ebony Green experiment was just lighthearted fun (I’m never going to give up bottled ink for cartridges, and while I love playing with colored ink, it’s no substitute for a good solid black for everyday use), the farmers’ market pen is the real thing.  It’s as least as good as any other pen I’ve found in that price range, I love the way it handles and balances, and the nib shows signs of getting better with use.  If it does, I will consider moving it over to the studio for use on finished work once it is broken in.

And I think I am going to email its maker* and open a discussion on getting it a stablemate: a pen with the same body design in a different color of resin and a rather tasty fast flowing B nib I tried out at the market that day.  The pair should be dynamite together.

*David Tipton at adpenworx.com

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farmers’ market find– ebony green 1

Some finished sketchbook drawings from the new farmers’ market pen.  farmersmarket-ebonblack1-blogYou may recall that this interesting pen (introduced here, with photographs in the following post) came with a sample cartridge of Private Reserve brand Ebony Green ink.  Now, I don’t usually use colored ink.  It’s not because I don’t like it– I actually do, rather, and this green is dark enough to be satisfyingly subtle.  It’s a lot of fun to draw with. I know there’s a purple as well and let me tell you that if there is an Ebony Crimson I would probably be all over it.

farmersmarket-ebonyblack3But as you see here, colored inks present a problem when it comes to reproduction.  Compare these scans to any of my usual scanned drawings and you’ll see that they’re murky and a bit of a mess.  That’s because they’re in full color and all the little tricks I normally use to clean up my scans by making them pure monochrome won’t work. farmersmarket-ebonyblack2-blogYou can see the other major problem with colored inks in this third drawing– the little circles are the dreaded sneeze marks. Colored fountain pen inks are usually intensely water soluble and the slightest drop of moisture makes them spot or smear.  If the ink was black, it would be a moment’s work to hit each of these spots with a bit of correction fluid and run some bits of line though the resulting void with a small marker, but matching a colored ink with a marker ink is almost impossible to do.  And I’m so clumsy that I can’t go further than a sketch without a way to fix the errors and mishaps that follow me everywhere I go.

But I’m not going to waste a cartridge of interesting ink.  What happened next will be revealed  in tomorrow’s post.

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a found photo can illuminate an entire project.

(Symbolic) Bud in the junkyard.  I especially love the green phone.


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crazy morning glories

Just took some moderately boring photographs of some spectacular morning glories, open late in the day in deep overcast. The shape of their white centers made them look like living lens flare.  As subjects they were irresistible, but the light was difficult and the only camera I had was the one in my pocket.


But a deep crop, some pretty serious supersaturation on the color, a boost on the contrast and a touch of vignetting, and the result is well, not boring.


The filters may be a bit much, though.



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another minicomic to read on my story site!

Happy Tuesday!  There’s a new story up on my story site, freshly posted and awaiting your minicomic reading pleasure.  It’s called Fleek!, and it’s a little nonsense story about the nature of names and language– and it will surprise no one that is was co-written by my writing partner Jeff Lilly.

So, what’s in that mysterious cardboard box?  Join Jack and his junkyard pals as they try to find out in the pages of Fleek! starting here.

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