Category Archives: Journal

This is me rambling about me, mostly. Current stuff: home, family, my head’s on fire… that kind of thing. This also includes everything imported from LiveJournal.

The Illuminated Plasgun

I had an epiphany several weeks ago, a vision of sorts in which I could see very clearly what kind of lighting I needed on my drawing table. This led (hah!) to an investigation of LED strips, which in turn yielded better lighting in my office.

And then I turned my attention to the replica BH-209i plasgun that Doc made for me. The hardest part was threading two-conductor wire through it.

I may upgrade it with a warmer¹ set of LEDs, or perhaps some colored ones², but for now it’s just fine. Doc, thanks again for the gift that I didn’t know I needed until it arrived!

¹ I used a double-wide strip of 5000k LEDs, giving an almost blue-white color (described as “cool white.”) . Warmer would be 3000k, like this roll I just started playing with.

² Color-changing LEDs would require threading a 5-conductor wire through the plasgun, rather than the simple two-conductor speaker wire I used for this. Cycling between yellow and red-orange would be nifty, but I think I’d have to design my own strand for that.

ConFusion This Weekend

I’ll be attending ConFusion Through The Looking Glass in Detroit this weekend. I’m not on any panels (by choice) and I’m neither exhibiting (by choice) nor selling merchandise (you see the pattern here). I’m just hanging out.

If you’re there and would like something signed, and you happen to see me, it’s okay to ask. If I’m in the middle of something (like, say, a dinner with friends) then use good judgment.

I may bring work with me, so it’s possible you’ll see me sitting somewhere drawing comics. It’s just fine for you to talk to me while I’m drawing. Literally half my brain will be looking for something to do while the other half makes pictures, and since it’s the half with the language center, conversation fits the bill nicely.


Tools of my Trade

I illustrate everything by hand, using pencil and ink on paper. In the last three years my choice of tools for making comics has shifted a bit. Here’s the current suite¹:


Since about 2016 I’ve been penciling in blue or red (or sometimes both). I use mechanical pencils exclusively.

  • Kaweco AL Sport 0.7mm pencil
  • Paper Mate Clear Point 0.7mm pencil
  • Pilot 0.7mm Eno Soft Blue
  • Pilot 0.7mm Eno  Red

I sometimes use 2mm “clutch” pencils for construction lines, especially in backgrounds and on large pieces.

  • E+M Workman Lead Holder (2mm)
  • IC Comic Draft Blue 2mm leads

When I erase, I’m either doing broad cleanup, or removing specific clutter.

  • Prismacolor kneaded eraser
  • Tombow Mono Zero eraser

I also use some stencils and templates for construction lines. I have circle templates, ellipse templates, straight-edges, french curves, and flexible straight-edges. Those last three are critical for backgrounds involving any sort of perspective, or architecture.


I ink in three stages. In the first I’m taking care of the outlines, and committing to a few of the many possible lines apparent in my blue line work.

  • Staedtler Mars Pigment Liners, .01, .03, .05, and .07mm black

Those pigment liners have been my go-to since the very beginning of Schlock Mercenary in 2000. I’ve killed at least a thousand of them in the last 17 years. I’ve tried several other brands², but always came back to the Staedtlers.

The second stage is where the picture really comes together. I use brush pens to add weight to some of the lines, and to shade or fill. (I used to do this with the pigment liners, but  in 2015 I started brushing³. I still have a lot to learn!)

  • Tombow Fudonosuke hard
  • Tombow Fudonosuke soft
  • Pilot Futayaku double-sided brush
  • Pentel Pocket Brush

The third stage is backgrounds and cleanup. For this I’m using the pigment liners to put lines down, and white gel to make bad lines and smudges go away.

  • Uni-ball Signo Broad UM-153

If you ever want to peer behind the curtain and see how non-magical things are, hold one of my originals up to the light and look for the places where white gel is covering up my slop.  Every piece I do has at least some of this. EVERY LAST ONE.


At the outset I said that I work in pencil and ink on paper. When you see my work in color, that’s because somebody else colored it. For Schlock Mercenary, that’s Travis Walton. I scan my work at 600dpi, in black-and-white, with the threshold set low enough to ensure that even the scritchiest blue scores in the paper vanish. Travis colors in Photoshop, and passes the files back to me in glorious CMYK.


I might get around to reviewing some of the products above, but in terms of recommendation, I’ll lead with this: if you’re learning to make art, always have at least one tool lying around that you do not know how to use yet. Let that tool tempt you into picking it up and making a mess, because after the mess you may discover beauty, or exhilaration, or this-goes-faster, and that’s how we level up.

¹Everything I use is available from JetPens, with the exception of the Paper Mate mechanical pencils⁴, which I think I got at Wal-Mart. I do this because it means I don’t need to go shopping. I can just click some buttons and supplies will arrive at my house.
² Sakura Pigma Micron is a favorite for a lot of cartoonists. I used them for a while, but they flowed just a teency bit too fast for me, making some of my lines fuzzy.
³Lar DeSouza introduced me to the Tombow Fudonosuke pens in a classic “when the student is ready the master shall appear” moment. I still haven’t bought him enough drinks to pay him back.
⁴ I bought these because colored leads are messy, and tend to gum up even the very best pencils. My favorite three mechanical pencils failed on the same day, so I executed some warranties, and then bought some cheap replacements so I could keep working. The cheap pencils work just fine, though they lack the hefty joy of the fancier tools.



Back at My Desk, 28 Days Later

I spent 27 days on the road, and didn’t even power my PC up until the day after I got back. This means that 1) it’s 28 days later, and 2) I’m glad it’s not the movie kind of 28 days later.

I have a full month of stories to tell. Some of them are hilarious, some are triumphant, and a few are really complainy and kvetchy. None of them are being told here, however, because I’m tired. I will, however, provide a few titles:

  • Low Clearance But We Made It… Twice
  • The Palace is Boring Now That I Know It’s a Replacement
  • I See You Wrapped it in Bacon
  • “You Are Spy”: the Tale of the Writer and the Submarine
  • There Must Be a Ley Line Here
  • I Bet Walt Took Pictures
  • Oh BarCon, Where Art Thou?
  • I Promised Myself I Wouldn’t Do This
  • Maybe I’ll Let Somebody Else Say It For Me
  • Oh Laundry, Where Art Thou?
  • Rabidly, Ravenously Committing to a Joke
  • Who Cares I Bet The Moon Will Do This Again Eventually

Should we meet in person, I might share one of these stories with you. Where appropriate, I might relate one of these stories while I’m on a panel at Salt Lake Comic Con.

Now, however, I need to go make up some stories and draw pictures for them. It’s been four weeks since I got any actual work done.