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The good news: I'm on vacation and I'm doing a project!
The bad news: the project is improving my physical fitness. Art is taking a back seat for the time being. In fact, it's taking a back seat to the thing that's really in the back seat which is practicing the guitar. In between gym sessions, runs and bike rides, I'm trying to build the callouses on my fingertips back up, re-learn some songs and make my both hands obey my brain again doing things that they haven't really done in a while. When that is done, I may take a bit of time to draw, but honestly, the art I'm producing is not great and is coming together at a snail's pace.

The potentially good news: when I started on Project Get Fit(ish) on Sunday, I was working against overwhelming fatigue as a result of my day job situation and some stuff that happened within the family and household over the past few weeks. I am already finding that with more and better sleep, I am less fatigued and more motivated and productive every day. So more and better art may start turning up as my energy returns. The potentially bad news: at this point "less fatigue" simply means I don't want to sleep constantly. I'm still doing jack shit for much of the day after coming back from a fitness activity. 

At the moment, I'm more encouraged to play guitar and a bit of synth than to draw; my art feels very stagnant, whereas while I can't claim I'm becoming a good guitarist, the stuff my body and brain have forgotten over the years is coming back in fits and starts and that's very interesting and exciting for me. 
I'm really glad I posted this:

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2017 summary in art by Reinder

because it shows just what a lousy month for drawing February 2017 was, and that I got more productive in the months after that. This year, February is also shaping up to be a terrible month, but there'll be finished art by the end of next weekend, which is more than I achieved last year.
Oc Quiz By Jay042-dc19rc1 by Reinder

Let me start out by saying I hate the term "Original Character". Every character is original to someone, including characters that are in the public domain, and in practice, "Original character" or "OC" is often used to denigrate the very act of creation itself, as if coming up with something new was somehow less-than relying on other people's work. I find that use of the term adds absolutely nothing of value. 
But the questions themselves, relating to characters that people have come up with, are worth answering.

1) Your oldest character
My actual oldest character is not represented anywhere on the internet. I've been making comics since I was a pre-teen. My oldest surviving character is X!Gloop from The Lives of X!Gloop
X!Gloop, portrait by Reinder

2) My newest Character
My newest character that is complete (but not completed - I just mean complete in the sense that he has a distinct identity and name) is Opiyo from a forthcoming comic Fury of the Plains:
Inktober Lite 1: Opiyo by Reinder

Disqualified characters include the Doctor from the same comic, who has an identity but no name; Sixtus Platt and his two sons Carson and Sixtus Junior, who have a name but no visual identity and are also based on real-world people, Liana who is not original, and the two female characters that I'm adding to Lives of X!Gloop because they are also unnamed.

3) Favorite Character
Oof, I don't know. Probably Adrienne from Abui's Travels  right now. I mean, long-term I adore Kel from Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan but I'm a bit tired of her right now, you know? 

4) Any villain OC's?
I'm actually terrible at creating villains. In new stories, I do try to take care to have antagonists handy but I can't think of any delightfully evil characters I've created. I'll try to do better with the Platt clan for Fury of the Plains, inasmuch as they can be considered original. The Green Knight is nicely villainous, but he is also not original.
I guess Barnardus Pothelmus from Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan is an OK villain if you overlook how derivative he is.

5) Main reason for creating OC's?

Duh, I don't want to use someone else's characters for my comics. 
... on second thought, that's not entirely true, is it? I've used public domain characters, real-world characters in masks   and author avatars in my comics. But the main reason I invent so many people is to populate my comics.

6) Describe your character creation process
There's a process? I just daydream shit. These days I do try to refine what I daydream a lot more, but that's just to save myself time later on. 

7) Favorite OC ship?
Neive from Spun Off + Finbar, Gavin and everyone else with a penis in the same comic. Actually scrap that. No penis required. Besides, those goblin dicks aren't gonna fit. 
Yeah, I've made up my mind that Neive is poly and a relationship anarchist and that both her sex drive and her capacity to connect emotionally are basically limitless. Oddly enough, it took a guy emailing me to insist on introducing monogamy into the world of Spun Off to help me make up my mind about that. Polyamory is the default setting for the faerie society in Spun Off. Deal with it.

8) Do you ship your OC's with someone else's?
No. Maybe? I guess eventually I would like Liana (a character who is at least based on a character in the public domain) to get it on with Opiyo, but that's not happening until a few years down the line, and it's not because I think they're the best OTP ever, but because it'd make for a good character arc for both of them. It's possible that by the time this could actually happen, the characters will disagree.

9) Weirdest OC?
Dude, have you read The Lives of X!Gloop? Any character from that comic is so weird enough they make Zaphod Beeblebrox look square.
What am I saying? Nobody reads The Lives of X!Gloop because from one page to another, nothing makes sense. So let's just say that John Longcoat is a bug-eyed, floating space alien, X!Gloop is not, when Ahasveros Or Why Man Has Two Eyes ups sticks, she literally picks up a bunch of sticks, and all of them are condemned to live a thousand lives because X!Gloop fucked up badly that one time, and the two out of three that are human believe, in most incarnations, that pants are for other people. 

10) Favorite OC design?
Well, not Abúi, who is impossible to draw. Er, Sheriff Hogsworth from Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan. He's so much fun to draw!
The Sheriff by Reinder

11) Would you consider yourself nice to your OC's?
Nicer than I am to real people, anyway. I mean, the whole dying a thousand deaths thing sucks but most of the time, X!Gloop and pals aren't aware of it. And he gets to be in several of my comics for his troubles!

12) An OC you've killed?
X!Gloop, John Longcoat and Ahasveros or Why Man Has Two Eyes. Over and over and over again. They get better each time. Sent X!Gloop to hell as well.

13) Are any of your OC's parents?
Hell yes! Kel and Jodoque from Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan are parents. Ragnarok from Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan is a parent - as is either Tamlin from ROCR or the Baron von Fieffelfalsfaffel who is originally from Chronicles of the Witch Queen and therefore doesn't count as an OC. Aléas from Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan, Spun Off and Abúi's Travels is a parent, as is Maghreid, also from Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan. Their male co-parents are also unknown but they're from a canonically polyamorous society, so that's not unusual. Ethan and Edina Shirtley from Abúi's Travels are parents, obviously. Shireen from Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan has a brood worthy of Nanny Ogg, and there's a multigenerational dynasty of witches in that comic as well. If you want more single fathers, Sheriff Hogsworth is your man, though to be fair he's  terrible father. I'm not sure I'm done, but I'll leave it at this.

14) Is there an OC you find yourself neglecting?
All of them, because my day job eats the time and energy I need to work on comics. I'm getting closer to where I feel I don't need it, so eventually this will end and I hope I'm not too burned out by that time.

15) An OC that is difficult to write?
None. My writing issues have more to do with plotting. 

16) Tallest? Shortest?
Tallest is Globbo who was briefly in Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan more than 20 years ago. He's a cyclops and is gigantic, or was, until he was magically transformed into a large armadillo.
Shortest is, oh, I don't know. If we go by named characters then probably Emea from Spun Off who, in her non-divine embodiment, is a small faerie and is shown to be shorter than the other faeries. On the other hand, now that I think of it, in her divine form, she may be larger than Globbo.

17) Oldest? Youngest?
Well, let's see. Grandma Turniproot is the oldest, for any meaningful sense of the term old. She may not be the longest-lived, but she's at about the limits of human aging. There may be gnomes or elves or faeries who have lived longer, but it's hardly fair to compare that. They have longer lifespans. And when you get to characters who have reincarnated over and over again, things get really complicated.
Youngest is Harold from Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan, who was born some time after Fay from the same comic.

18) Do you dislike any of your OC's?
Bertie Hogsworth and his father are both scumbags. Kel can be difficult but I think that's part of her charm. 

19) Self-insert?
I've been a minor villain in Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan a few times, yes. Back when I had hair. 

20) Any OC regrets?

(Ganked from jay042. Dunno where he got it.)
In response to 

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2017 summary in art by Reinder
, Valyrian-Wildfire626 asked me how I saw my art developing this year. Well, I think it will become more realistic and detail-oriented, but I also know some of my plans will go against that, because I will need to speed up my process if I'm to do even a fraction of what I plan to do. Here are things that I want to do in 2018, which is not quite the answer to Valyrian-Wildfire626's question but it's the best I can do:

* Exceed the number of updates I added last year, which was... er, the document in which I tallied them is on my other computer and not in the cloud. It was a pretty good number, especially thanks to the one month in which I posted an update a day across my different comics.
* Take part in at least three drawing challenges and do more art than I managed in the three drawing challenges I did in 2017.
* Take part in NanoMango for once.
* Start two comics, but not before they've been properly outlined and a full chapter written.
* One of these comics will be in black and white, because I really miss drawings that can carry the story without colors.
* At least one of these comics should be with a Photoshop-free workflow, either all-traditional or using a digital process that Photoshop isn't part of (so e.g. Pixelmator, GIMP, Krita, or Clip Studio Pro for all processing steps that I currently do in PS)
* Learn Clip Studio Pro.

I'm going to need to make a lot of time for these things. That will be another resolution, to aggressively guard my non-work time.
As in the two previous years, I am collecting the best of this year's Decemboobs challenge into this post. This year, with 28 entries, I managed to stick to the schedule pretty well despite fatigue issues hitting me hard this december. The quality was pretty constant especially during the first three weeks in which I did traditional art. Having said that, I do have favorites. They tend to be the works where I got faces and hands more right or that were inspired in other ways. I'm not sure I improved much as the challenge went along; the discipline of doing one a day was more important, more urgent to me this year.
My favorites from this year:

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Decemboobs 2017, Entry 1: Chilling with a cold one by Reinder

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Decemboobs 2017, Entry 2: BLEH! by Reinder

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Decemboobs 2017, Entry #14: Good morning? by Reinder

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Decemboobs 2017, Entry # 16: I have insecurities by Reinder

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Decemboobs 2017, Entry # 18: Framing by Reinder

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Decemboobs 2017, Entry #25: Post-millennial pals by Reinder

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Decemboobs 2017, entry #27: Deserted station by Reinder

It's been a very Yournudemom month. The model reblogged several of the artworks she was in on Tumblr and these became very popular there; the most response I've ever got for anything on Tumblr was for the second image above, which got more than 120 likes and reblogs. I drew her five times in a month; she's not just a body type I enjoy drawing but she's willing to be goofy and fun, and she does selfies in an interesting way, often using timers or hiding her camera in other ways. This allows her to vary the angles, poses and framing more, which results in more interesting pictures to draw. The only conventional selfie that made it to this selection is also by her (I thought it was by a professional photographer at the time, but it was Yournudemom goofing off during a shoot). 

Before the challenge, I warned that this year's drawings could be more erotic, without being pornographic, because I'd sourced several images from reddit subs including r/normalnudes and r/stacked. I ended up using no images from r/stacked even though some would have been interesting to do as they showed women with comic-book proportions or adult entertainers with implausible breasts that nevertheless still existed in the real world. However, I make a point of only ever using images when I can retrace the original source, because I don't want to be party to some guy's revenge porn. Turns out that for these fast-moving subreddits, simply saving the image isn't enough - you have to keep a note of the post they're from or you'll never find them again. So over the course of a month, I developed better bookmarking habits, but it was too late for the ones I'd prepared. 

I also didn't draw a lot of what I call non-normative breasts - breasts that are different from what we think of as normal, for example because they were reconstructed after cancer surgery, implanted for cosmetic reasons, or on women who are visibly transgender or intersex. All of these count, and I will keep an eye out for good sources for those for next year.  

Previous roundups: 
Decemboobs 2016 roundupLike last year (), I am collecting the best artworks of this year's Decemboobs challenge. I was surprised to find I'd made fewer entries than in 2015; however, I'm happy about the quality compared to last year. Most entries were better than the best entries from last year, and the ones that were bad, I at least got some useful practice out of it. This is good, because practice results in incremental improvements in how I draw, e.g. folds in clothing, eyes hands, noses and so on. 
My favorites from this year: 
         Decemboobs 2016, Entry 19 by Reinder Decemboobs 2016, Entry 21 by ReinderDecemboobs 2016, Entry 23 by ReinderDecemboobs 2016, Bonus Entry: Drunk Wife Theater by Reinder
That's over half the total number of entries
  Decemboobs, final evaluationWhen the call for participation in a drawing challenge focused on breasts arrived on my dash, I thought, "sure, I can do that easily" and so I joined. Turns out I was wrong about that: I missed 8 days out of 31 and the quality of the work I produced was very uneven. I still had fun most of the time, and it's allowed me to chip away at problems in my art and hopefully helped me become, like, a 0.1% better artist. 
My favorite pieces from the project: 
           Decemboobs Day 29: Olivia Campbell by ReinderDecemboobs Day 30: Silhouette by Reinder 
These are the ones where I think I was "on" on the day I drew them. The other ones, meh. I think the fact that my quality is so inconsistent is as big a problem a
We're halfway through Decemboobs and I'm on track to get a drawing in for every day of the month. Compared to the last two years, I've been doing things a little differently by drawing exclusively in pencils and graphite pencils on illustration board. Initially that was just out of convenience and to get away from computer screens for a while (though my reference photos are still on screens). Then it was out of inertia: I kept telling myself I'd switch to digital soon, but with my pad of illustration board being right there, keeping on doing things that way was the path of least resistance. By now, I've embraced it: I don't want to go back to digital unless I have to, and am trying very hard to get better at drawing in pencils and getting every nuance from the reference images into the greytones that they offer. The only things I might want to change:
1) I might want to add white pencils to my toolset for highlighting, or work with grey and white pencils on grey paper so I can work from the midtone to the shadows and highlights; and
2) I may put the reference photos on the TV screen one day, sit or stand at a distance with a large sheet of paper and draw super-fast with charcoal sticks so it's more like doing life drawings. I don't have access to life drawing classes right now and while they've never been my favorite thing, they'd be good for me.

How do you like this new approach? Which of the 17 drawings posted so far is your favorite? Which ones haven't worked for you at all?
In a few days, December rolls around again, and that means it'll be time for #Decemboobs; the annual challenge of drawing breasts from reference. I've said this before: while dedicating a whole month to drawing titties can be a very sexist thing, this depends on the execution. I think in the past two years, I've done a decent job at keeping things varied, tasteful and respectful. I plan to keep doing that this year, by not restricting myself to one body type, by checking in with people whose faces appear in the reference photographs and respecting it when they don't want their pictures drawn or published. Two things will be a bit different, though:

1) in the past year, I've discovered a Reddit sub called Normalnudes. People post pictures of their nude bodies there, usually without their faces visible and identifying marks such as tattoos removed, for commentary and critique. In case I decide to use one of those anonymized photographs, I won't ask for permission, though I may remove the drawing if asked. Another consequence may be that when I use a Normalnudes picture as reference, the picture may be a little more sexualized than I normally allow; not porn, but possibly intended to arouse and provoke. One thing the sub is good for is letting people be safely provocative, and I do need a bit of practice at creating intentionally sexy drawings. We'll see; it all depends on what I choose in the moment. 

2) I've gathered up a stash of images from Reddit and Tumblr in advance. This makes it more likely that I'll actually end the month with 31 drawings. As before, I will still link to the locations where I found those images - or to their ultimate source if I can track that down on TinEye.

My other plan for December is to get back to drawing ROCR after a brief break, so I can resume publication in January. Work at my day job is slowly dying down for the year, though as I write this, it's not reliably slow yet, but I expect in December I will have more time again. I am also planning to get back to prep work on the two new comics I have planned, writing out some scenes, getting past plot hurdles and redesigning the characters. I have a pretty good idea what the characters in Caltrips of Time will look like, but they do need to be practiced; as for the characters in Fury of the Planes, they need to be overhauled. I noticed how much it disturbed me whenever some of the existing character sketches got added to porny collections on DeviantArt, and I have decided that for most of the comic, they will be wearing rather more than they have been so far. No more nudity, and more modern African fashions instead of tribal wear for most scenes. I am not against porn in all circumstances (see above) but I'm very much against these characters being treated as porn.

I hope to be able to find time to work on all these comics in 2018. With better time management, I should be able to accomplish much more than I have in recent years. 2017 was a start when it came to being productive again; 2018 should take it to the next level.
During the past few super-busy weeks at work, sketching for Fury of the Plains stalled, but I didn't stop thinking about it. Conceptually, things have been falling into place bit by bit and thanks to new information coming my way, I've been able to make some decisions.

First, forget all the sketches where Liana, Opiyo and Adongo are nude except for decorative bits on their waist, ankles, neck and wrists. They will wear loincloths by default and may only appear nude in situations where that is explicitly called for by the script. Thank the guy who put my Inktober sketch of Opiyo in a collection entirely dedicated to dicks in general and Black dicks in particular. This comic is not Spun Off - it's not about sexual habits and dick jokes. I'm a little more protective of these characters than I've been with others, but I didn't appreciate that sort of thing with most of my other characters to start with. 

My main reason for doing some development with nude characters for this comic in the first place (something I initially did not want to do, for a change) was to help bring about the fall of Western civilization. It's a long story, but basically this was something that right-wing shitbags in my country took seriously as an idea, and I wanted to stick it to them. However, much as I like to give the middle finger to neonazis everywhere, it's not a concept that works that well in-comic, because as part of the backstory, Western civilization has already been destroyed. I've alluded to Fury of the Plains being set some time after a Very Bad Thing, and if you surmised that the Very Bad Thing in question would be a nuclear war, you'd be right! I've now filled in a few of the blanks: the Very Bad Thing is a limited nuclear war in which the nukes were used as EMP weapons, over the US, Europe and South-East Asia. This means that the cities in these areas are mostly still standing; however, civilization has broken down entirely in those areas and 3/4 of their population has died as a result of starvation, disease or violence. Sub-Saharan Africa, on the other hand, has been spared entirely, and got a chance to take a good look at modernity's end point.

This backstory has the advantage over the more commonly envisaged form of nuclear devastation that any European or American individual I need to be alive and in Europe or America, can still be. But there's no world economy left to speak of, and a return to traditional ways of life will seem extra attractive. 
My scheduling/planning abilities have improved to the point where... I can tell you today at which point I will start missing updates. Yeah. The predicted date is October 28 with some possibility of missing October 24 as well. It turns out that no amount of planning, time management or discipline can make up for me having all my weekday time eaten up by the day job and spending 3 out of the last five weekends being sick for at least one day (as well as spending an afternoon at a running event on one of the other weekends, but that was included in my original planning). 

In my original description of the update challenge, I mentioned a forfeit that I'd make myself pay if I lost. I've decided to waive that, because there were two things I didn't anticipate: one, that I'd get sick so often during the challenge, and two, that there were so many double updates among the pages that I'd be redrawing. Instead of 19 pages, the full scope of the update is 24 or 25. So a bigger workload and less capacity for a reason I cannot do anything about. Since I don't want the challenge to be another source of stress in an already high-stress life, I've decided that dumping more work on myself as a forfeit for failing this challenge under these conditions would be a step too far. Drawing a line right there so things stay enjoyable for me. I'm unlikely to allow myself to buy a new guitar though.
The Patreon is now set to monthly payouts instead of per creation. I just thought I'd get that out of the way while there are still only a few patrons. Most reward tiers that I could think of will only work with monthly payments. If you're a patron and don't want to pay monthly, please adjust your settings accordingly.

Reward tiers are coming. Will be brainstorming them this weekend.
I have launched a Patreon, and you can find it here:
It's still in its baby stage; I don't have any pledge tiers, goals or rewards set. You can pledge money if you want, but for the time being, everything on there will be free and open to the public.

For the time being (again), I will mainly be running another repost of the Feral storyline, publishing daily until caught up, with extra background info about how the pages were made, what the thinking behind them was, and what I can remember about the period in which I made them, if anything. Where the version of the story on is the original cut and the remastered version on ComicFury is the Director's Cut, this one will be the Director's Cut with a commentary track.

Over time, I will set some pledge tiers, goals and rewards, which will involve things like more behind-the-scenes material, essays and criticism, early access to new (as opposed to redrawn) pages when I'm ready to do them, and possibly even a first look at new comics projects with the opportunity to critique and influence them.

I'm not in a hurry to do that, though! I don't need money urgently; my main reason for doing this now is to bring some more accountability into my work on Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan. If there are paying patrons waiting for pages, that will keep me motivated and disciplined. Until the time that I'm actually ready to make those new pages, I'm happy to learn the ropes of using Patreon and share some interesting stuff with you there. So hit that Follow button so you're notified if there's new stuff!
Working on redrawing Feral has helped me take another close look at the story and that in turn has helped me get a better idea of the big picture of where the story should be going, past the last page that I put online several years ago.

When I wrote the first story notes for Feral, it was a different kind of story than it is now: a short, self-contained story in which a woman living alone in the woods is accused of being a werewolf, our witches solve her mystery and absolve her of crimes, and at the end it turns out she is a vampire instead. Ha ha, that's funny, on to the next story. And it might have worked if I'd scripted it in full with an eye on keeping it under 40 pages. Instead, I started taking the scenic route through the plot and its implications, and as soon as it started growing past 50 pages, it had become too weighty for such a throwaway ending.

And now it's sprawled past 120 pages with side-plots and new characters. For a while, it looked like it was going to be the story of how a single event causes the gang to unravel; with most of the gang being clearly guilty of stealing sheep and hiding their criminal activity from Kel, the mystery plot had faded into the background, replaced by the tale of, potentially, how the gang as a whole come back from that.

But looking at it now, perhaps the story is how they don't come back from that. At the end of The Rite of Serfdom, Kel has reconnected with her heritage and unlocked her full magical powers as a half-faerie. Yet throughout Feral, she is unhappy: querulous, short-tempered and judgmental. Something is clearly already not right. Where Serfdom ends on a rising pattern, in Feral everything, tonally and thematically, points to a fall. So perhaps its right for this story to end with another seismic event: the split of Kel from the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan, combined with the breakdown of all the gang has accomplished since rescuing the Duke of Dungill Fens from his captors years earlier - restoring them to outlaw status and something like their original grouping.

This would also resolve a practical problem I have as a creator: what to do after Feral. Chronologically, Feral is followed by a story I was working on at the same time, Invasion, part of a massive multi-universe crossover between several webcomics. Lately, I have become weary of crossovers and the way they tend to get out of hand while they're being made, and the maintenance headaches they present afterwards. The one thing I like about Invasion eight years after working on it is the epilogue, which first shows the gang's daily life in a faerie village, followed by the return home of all of them except Kel, Jodoque and Fay, and their discovery of a new gang in their old homestead, including a very familiar face. If I could skip directly from the denouement of Feral to something like that, that would make things much easier for me, continuity-wise.

So I'm considering 1) having Feral's plot development play out to where everything irredeemably goes to shit for everyone in the gang; and 2) removing Invasion from the overall continuity. This would also remove all of Abui's Travels from the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan timeline, turning another large crossover into something that didn't really happen. Considering how far Abúi's Travels takes the characters it borrows from Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan from what they originally were, this would lead to a much more consistent fictional universe. I would, naturally, keep the stories archived somewhere that people could still read them.

That's some major surgery on the established timeline, so I'm not quite decided on it yet. But as of today, October 2, 2017, it feels right to me. The best part of this development, though, is that I'm starting to develop the obsessive level of involvement that I need to bring Feral to its conclusion. Even if it's not the conclusion I had in mind in 2006.
Browsing forward to the next Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan pages that are due for a redraw, I realized that I needed to add one more prompt to my list for Inktober Lite:

Horse - An animal from Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan. 

The page that is due on October 20 (which I will draw next weekend) will have horses in it that should be more or less believable. skycladstrega did a fine job with the horses in her version despite not being much of a horse problem. At the time, she had had recent interactions with a horse and kept its shapes and volumes in mind. I won't have an opportunity within the time frame to study horses live, so I'll have to wing it. I'll look for stock featuring horses from something like the correct angle to help me prepare. I think SenshiStock has some. I may also decide to start drawing the page earlier, even if that happens at the expense of Inktober Lite. And if I happen to ride my bike past somewhere that there is a horse, I might just stop and take a picture or two. Possibly. 

I have Scottish Highlander cows in my photo archives, but unfortunately the Inquisitors don't ride them.
I had a crazy long day at work today and there won't be any drawing done in what's left of the evening. Instead, I plan to take an early night (on Friday night! Because I'm awesome at adulting and also extremely exhausted), get up early tomorrow and get two pages penciled tomorrow. I also intend to get back to exercise after two weeks of being too ill to, and there's odd jobs that need to be done to pepare for Fall.
After this update challenge is done, which will be in November, I will want to return to Spun Off and Abúi's Travels for a while, hopefully long enough to wrap up Abúi's Travels. Then in 2018, I would like to make some time for some new project that have been in my notes for some time. Allow me to tell you a little about them.

First, there is Greyfriar's Isle, which I've mentioned before but not in a while. This is the tale of a blended family that moves to an island in the Dutch tidal marshes to start a naturist resort/campsite there. They expect resistance from the locals, but instead get enthusiastic cooperation - indeed the level of support is such that they receive approvals for permits that they haven't even filed for. It turns out that the island has a secret that the new arrivals are expected to resolve. Greyfriar's Isle is inspired by the Dutch comic Sjors & Sjimmie, especially its late 1960s, early 1970s episodes, by The Wicker Man and by my own memories of vacationing on the tidal march islands as a child. 

Second, there's Fury of the Plains, which currently stands the best chance of the three new projects to actually be made. That may change, but whenever I start drawing or brainstorming, something good comes out. Fury is basically the result of taking common Jungle Lord/Jungle Queen tropes and flipping the scripts on them, to the extent that there isn't even that much of a jungle setting in the concept at its present stage. What I particularly want to do is strip away the pervasive white-man's-burdenism (at best - at its worst, Tarzan is positively genocidal) of the material that jungle-hero stories are almost all based on and see what is left. What I ended up with was the notion that the only legitimate reason to have a white person as the central character at all was to have the central character be an outsider, someone who doesn't really belong. Liana is my version of that character: a self-driven young woman with no tragic backstory, with living parents, who becomes a defender of her community and the natural world around her to prove herself, and who does so with the help of 'tribal' African partners who are as awesome as she is. The need for Liana to prove that she belongs sets up a new collection of tensions that will be fun to work with, and I'm really looking forward to working with them, methodically, writing complete, 20 to 40-page stories before drawing them. Inspirations include Tarzan, Jungle Book, Kaza's Mate, Gwenna, The Meek, Never Mind The Gap, and Wargyrl - a combination that by itself suggests a wide tonal range.

Third, there's the most ambitious one of my planned project, running into the hundreds of pages if I'm not careful. Traps of Time is my latest working title for a subversive adaptation of arguably Heinlein's worst novel, The Number of the Beast, which I read at a far too early age. I call it an adaptation but it will be a full rewrite with the lead roles taken by characters you already know: the family of black nudists from Abúi's Travels will be reused in this story. There'll be dimensional travel, fictional universes made real and all of Heinlein's political bullshit will be replaced with my own political bullshit, because why not.

And if you're shaking your head right now and saying "Well, that's a lot to take on", you'd be right. These three projects would be enough to keep a creator busy for many years. The reason I'm sharing this now is that telling you about it will increase the chance of one or more of them actually happening. I want to hear from you - which of these sounds the most interesting? What pitfalls do each of them have? And how can I make them all happen? Should I look for collaborators? Crowdfund? A few years ago, a fan of ROCR suggested crowdfunding through Kickstarter, and at the time, that seemed to me the solution to a different problem than the one I had. What I mean by that is that money was not, at the time, the problem directly; time was the problem, and a lack of popularity was the secondary proble. However, a source of income from the comics can help me pay possible collaborators, and crowdfunding on a per-unit basis, like if I do a gofundme where I get paid by the page, can keep me on track even when the number of donors and the price per page is low. There are more options now than back when my fan made that first suggestion. 
So... ideas. If I did a gofundme, would you pitch in? Have you done one yourself and how has it worked out for you?
After asking around about how much time Inktober would take, I decided to approach it in such a way that it won't matter. I realised that on weekdays, it doesn't matter how much time I spend because I'm not going to get any useful comics work done. So half an hour or two hours, it's all the same as long as I keep things simple. But on weekends, I need to have my comic-drawing time slots available. So here's what I'll do: a weekdays-only Inktober based on my own prompts that help me lay the ground work for next year's crop of new comics. Here's the list of prompts, in alphabetical order:

Adongo -  A character from Fury of the Plains
Amadou 'Andrew' Diawara - A character from Traps of Time
Baobab - A basic environmental element for Fury of the Plains
Cal - A character from the RP/webcomic The Bare Squadron, for a cameo in Abúi's Travels
Carson S. Platt - A character from Fury of the Plains
Chief - A character from Fury of the Plains
Finbar - A character from Spun Off
Frau Doktor Müller - A character from Fury of the Plains
Gavin - A character from Spun Off
Generator - A significant prop for Fury of the Plains
Grismoon - A creature from The Lives of X!Gloop
Helicopter - A significant prop for Fury of the Plains and probably one of the last things I draw when all the simpler options have been exhausted
Herr Doktor Müller - A character from Fury of the Plains
Irrigation - A technological feature in Fury of the Plains
Kara - A character from the RP/webcomic The Bare Squadron, for a cameo in Abúi's Travels
Lake - An environmental element for Fury of the Plains
Liana - A character from Fury of the Plains
Opiyo - A character from Fury of the Plains
Phara - A character from the RP/webcomic The Bare Squadron, for a cameo in Abúi's Travels
PO-12 - A small but significant prop in Fury of the Plains
Professor Neil O'Hara - A character from Traps of Time
Sixtus Platt - A character from Fury of the Plains
Sixtus Platt, Jr. - A character from Fury of the Plains
Transgender faerie - A character to appear in Spun Off

Some of these have been drawn before, of course. The main characters from Fury of the Plains need to be fully developed and refined as I will draw them very often. It's been a decade since I last drew a Grismoon, an animal that is structurally unlike any animal found on earth with a complex shape. Others will be drawn for the very first time. It is important to me that I don't treat the natural environment in Fury of the Plains the same way as that in Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan with its scribbled, generic trees and shrubs. Trees, birds and geographical elements must look specific to that environment and that will be difficult for me. So breaking it down into tasks like "draw a single baobab tree" will help me with that.

I will TRY to stick to the guideline of "do it in traditional media, specifically ink". I think that will be good for me and besides, it's faster. But I may change my mind halfway through for any reason. Whatever makes me happy and keeps me drawing.
If you create artistic nudes, model for artistic nudes, create naturist art or photography or any kind of art with non-sexualized nudity, you probably have barnacles. This is not uncommon; many people online have barnacles. A barnacle is someone who attaches themselves to you, has little meaningful interaction with you, but leeches your energy anyway, just by being there. A dedicated troll or someone who hates you is not a barnacle, and neither is someone who is a little too friendly or pushy. But someone who responds to, say, a detailed political argument with comments along the lines of "you're a cuck and a Soros puppet", or someone who makes a single inappropriate request to a nude model after she's said repeatedly that that bothers her, is absolutely a barnacle even if they don't repeat what they said. 

The thing to do about barnacles, of course, is to scrape them off. The problem is that there will always be new ones. There'll be many new ones, and while you typically barely notice one, cumulatively they will drag you down. 

If you're reading this, and you create nude art of a naturist or similar nature, you probably have barnacles. They stick to you through your notifications on DA and they don't say much. Most people don't say much, so that part is normal. Your barnacles are distinct from the rest of your followers who don't say much because when they do, it's something along the lines of "SEXY!" and they mean it as a compliment, even though it isn't what you wanted your artwork to be. Or they favorite several of your works, and when you follow the notification, it's clear that they stuck your art in with the rest of their favorite wank material. Or they ask to add it to a genital-focused DA group. If that happens every once in a while, no big deal. If it happens every day, if wank-motivated faves, comments, follows and invites drown out the ones from fans who do get it, it gets discouraging. 

And sometimes, what you find in a barnacle's profile is more sinister than that. Somehow, you're never more than two steps away from someone with an incest fetish or someone whose posts break not just DA's rules but the law in most developed countries in the world. And they got it in their heads that they can associate that with naturism in general, and with your art in particular. Because naturism often involves familes, it isn't exclusive to adults and... frankly naturists are very bad at noticing when someone is using them as a shield. So they use naturism as a shield.

I have decided to take more action against barnacles attaching themselves to my DA. I'll decline more group requests, remove some existing art from group galleries (because a few years ago, I didn't care where stuff got posted as long as it drew people to my DA. Yes, I take responsibility for allowing my own barnacle problem to grow), and add boilerplate to my postings to discourage people from posting my non-sexual art in pornish collections.*

Beyond that, I don't want to tell other people what to do. But if you have some time, I would like to ask you, if you post naturist-and-so-on-and-so-forth art in your DA, take some time to check if you have barnacles, what they are doing, and decide if you need to scrape them off and spray against them returning. Because the one with the incest fetish wasn't stuck on me, but on one of you. Send me a note if you think it might be you.

*NOTE: what I said in my recent status update about being OK with porn by itself holds true. If and when I do post art with erotic intent on here, that will be fine to share in pornish collections. People can like more than one thing.
I've been keeping a bit of a radio silence here for the past two weeks or so. Things are actually moving ahead now with the Feral redraw. A little slower than I would have liked, but at least I'm unlikely now to have the whole update challenge come crashing down on me in the first week of deadlines (September 19-26). There are four pages drawn and scanned; one of those is partly colored, one is being inked right now, and two will need a bit of digital correction before I ink them. So that's the first two weeks largely covered, though not, by a long mile, in the bag. Give me another few weekends, though, and they will be. And then there'll be 15, maybe 16 more updates to go.

Just over a week after her surgery, skycladstrega took a fall as we got out of a movie theater, spraining both her ankles. Her recovery has been slow and that has meant a lot of extra long walks with the dogs and a lot of fetching stuff and running errands for me. It's been no picknick for her either, because a double sprain is both painful and disabling. This is now also improving at last, just in time for her to go back to university next week. 

I've been thinking, on and off, about the projects I want to start but don't have time for. Maybe I'll get around to at least some of them next year. If only I was the super-fast (if often super-sloppy) artist I was twenty years ago!
As predicted, I've had very little time this week while my wife was recovering from surgery. Not that she needed a lot of actual medical care; it just meant that all the everyday chores around the house became my job to do, including taking the dogs on two long walks per day, grocery trips and preparing dinner. That plus work plus my daily bike commute made for a very exhausting schedule. Things are settling down now and I have another week's vacation next week, so it's a good time to discuss how I'm going to challenge myself over the next few months. 

Following on the succesful gamification of my hobby over the month of July, my next challenge is twofold:

1. I have to redraw 19 pages of Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan that were originally drawn by my wife, skycladstrega, for publication on ComicFury, with the first one of those due on September 15 and the last on November 18 (if any updates inbetween are missed, these will need to be caught up on before the second deadline); and
2. I have to use the reward I gave myself for July's challenge, an OP-1 portable synthesizer, to create a finished track - written, recorded and mixed into something I can publish on Soundcloud, by the final deadline of November 18.

If I win, I will allow myself to buy a new guitar, probably from a local manufacturer that makes really nice looking ones.
If I don't get the pages drawn in time, I will not be allowed to buy a guitar and I will have to pay a forfeit: after I'm caught up, the update frequency of the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan reruns on ComicFury will be increased from two a week to three a week, so that my next big ROCR-related challenge will arrive earlier (that will be adding new pages after the current last page drawn five years ago). 
If I get the pages drawn in time, but don't get a finished track, I won't have to pay a forfeit, but I won't be allowed to buy a guitar until I've won another challenge.

This is a bit more complicated, but there are reasons. The second part of the challenge is there to make sure the expensive instrument I bought for myself after the July update challenge won't sit on my desk unused; if that does happen, then clearly I don't have time to go back to practicing the guitar, so I shouldn't spend money on one. As for the first part, well... win or lose, I wil become more immersed in ROCR and if I lose, I will have to deal with tough deadlines for a while longer.

And these deadlines are tough! The first deadline seems quite a while away, but if I don't work on ROCR everyday from now until then, it'll creep up on me. I can't cheat by using existing pages, because replacing existing pages with new ones is the point; and the pages I'm drawing all have to be visually consistent with the ones before them. That means full color and the occasional technically complicated panel. The pages will be harder for me to do than the Lives of X!Gloop pages from July, where I could mostly rely on the original versions from 1993 and use those as a base to trace the good bits from, so I only had to fully redraw the sucky bits. My plan is to use my one week of vacation to get a good head start and maybe do three whole pages. However, there is a bit of prep work involved: I have to get continuity references for all the characters, prepare some templates and figure out how I'm going to redivide each page into panels before starting production work. And all the while, my wife is still not done with her recovery.

So, fun! And a reason to go incommunicado for most of the day on most days. I can do it, but it'll mean my time management skills and discipline will need to be kicked up a notch. But I get to spend some time learning a new skill of working with synthesizers, which I'm currently amazingly incompetent at.
Late last night, I completed today's Abúi's Travels update, the 31st in 31 days, completing the challenge I set myself to update daily across my many different comics hosted on ComicFury. I added
14 updates for Abúi's Travels, 5 of which were new (9 were drawn back in April and early May);
9 updates for Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan, all of them already drawn but in some cases cleaned up significantly;
6 updates for The Lives of X!Gloop, newly completed in collaboration with myself 25 years ago;
1 update for Spun Off (warning: Goblin phallus);
1 update for White House in Orbit.
In total, I have uploaded or caused the upload of 234 new items to ComicFury this year, without double-counting comics that were published in two different places like the first 9 updates of Abúi's Grand Tour

I promised myself a reward at the end of the process if I won. Halfway through, I found out that the item I wanted as a reward was discontinued in all but name by the manufacturer, so I ordered it and got it delivered before the challenge was completed. I can now say I've earned it though! The reward is an OP-1 synthesizer from Teenage Engineering. I hope to eventually post music here and elsewhere, but it could be a while, because (state of affairs as of July 23, 2017) I don't play keyboards and know next to nothing about synthesis in general or using this tool in particular. It'll be a learning curve, but I was ready for something new. I also got a small MIDI controller as an early birthday gift, so I have plenty of new toys to explore.

As if learning a whole new instrument/approach to music-making won't keep me busy enough, I also know what my art challenge for the next two months is going to be. Here it is: 

Draw 9 pages of Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan before September 19, and another 10 in the five weeks after that.

Yikes! Here's why that's a thing I need to do:
Back in 2007/8, when skycladstrega and I had just met, we took over each other's comics for a few months because we were a bit stuck and unmotivated for our respective projects. We both had a lot of fun playing in each other's world, but in the long run, there were some drawbacks: both comics got a lot of criticism for the change in style, there were long sections where the comics looked vastly inconsistent with what came before and after, and skycladstrega didn't keep any master files so if I ever wanted to print the comic, there's a whole chapter that I won't be able to. Time to fix all that. It's gonna be difficult. Skyclad has her surgery later this week, and the updates themselves will be comparable in complexity with the 6 X!Gloop updates I cranked out during two week's vacation. I've got more vacation time coming up in August, but only a week. So I'll have to draw nine of those without having as much extra time, while looking after my wife as she recovers. Plus there was probably a reason why I got stuck on those in the first place. If I win this challenge, all that means is I won't have missed any regular updates; I may need to come up with some additional motivator.

Back to the challenge I just completed. What have I learned?
Well, that I can plan strategically to maximize updates. I will use that ability in the next challenge.
Also, that I miss black and white. The way my style loosened up as the Abúi updates went along wouldn't have been possible if I'd colored them. There will be more black and white projects in the future, particularly the Jungle Girl story I have planned. That story will be very unlike any others in the genre as I'm making a point of turning overused tropes on their head. But that's a topic for later.
That I can really crank them out if I put my mind to it, but that I'm still much slower than I used to be. Something to do with working in digital, for the most part. Some people get faster, but I mostly get cleaner and slower.
That I do have more than one style in me. X!Gloop, WHIO and Abúi all look very different. Good, because the Jungle Girl comic will have a different look and feel, or at least it does in my head.
As slow as I've been going lately, I'm falling behind on the update challenge and it's likely that I'll lose it by a margin of one or two updates. This is a bit of a problem as the reward I've promised myself, a synthesizer, has already arrived in the mail and is sitting there begging me to play it. What to do?

Well, the challenge itself served multiple purposes: it was a motivator to keep me drawing and writing as much as possible; it was intended to help me clear the pipeline of comics so I could make room for new ones; and it was intended to help me plan a little more effectively, to make me think strategically about what updates were needed, and when. So if I want to follow on from that, I need to keep thinking strategically, keep working on that pipeline and keep chaining myself to my drawing board and Wacom tablet. So here's what I'll do:

For every update that I miss, I will put an extra Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan (the Director's Cut) update in the queue. This will bring forward my deadline for redrawing the pages that were drawn by skycladstrega, so that instead of being due in the first week of September, they will instead be due in the final week of August. My challenge for August, then, will be to get these pushed out without missing an update. 

Looking at my calendar, this was ALWAYS going to be the big challenge for August; now, it's just going to be a little more of a challenge, and because I know that this is the task at hand, I can make that formally Update Challenge volume 2. See? Strategy and planning, I gots it.

It's going to be extra interesting because just over a week from now, skycladstrega will have a surgical procedure done that will keep her at home and unable to do much for a while. Then in September, she's going back to school! She's signed up for a Masters' degree in Art History at the University of Groningen. It means I will have to support her during her recovery and won't be able to lean on her as much as I've been doing afterward. So yeah, I'll have my work cut out.