Today is my birthday! Yesterday, I got this sign from my friend Meg. I absolutely love it…I just need to figure out where to put it. Thank you, Meg!
So, since I posted last week, Björn is still in the hospital (he may get out tomorrow), and I have tested positive for Covid. Despite having asthma, my lungs and breathing are remarkably all right; my biggest reaction has been in my gut. Nausea, a metallic taste in my mouth, and zero appetite. Since the last time I weighed myself (the last time I weighed the cats), I have lost 5kg (11lbs). Hey, every cloud has a silver lining, right? Anyway, the other night at about 4am, I had this brilliant idea for a 1950’s-style weight-loss ad…it doesn’t include a cat, but it’s a pretty decent Photoshop if I do say so myself.
I haven’t posted since Thursday, because…Björn and I have been sick. Björn is actually in the hospital with Covid, and I have a wicked cough but no fever yet. It’s also the second anniversary of Jacoby’s death, so with all that going on I haven’t felt very inspired. Kalle and I will get tested for Covid on Tuesday, and hopefully Björn will be home soon. Thanks for your patience and understanding.
This week has been tumultuous for a number of reasons…not the least of which is, through a series of unfortunate events, I was banned from a Facebook Abyssinian group (without cause, but no matter)…and created a group of my own, of which I am the leader and head admin. Never having done anything like this before, it’s a bit…revolutionary. That I did it on Inauguration Day was particularly fitting.
So that happened. If my posts have been a bit patchy, that’s why. It’s a whole new world for me. It’s so much faster than a blog.
If you would like to join, search Facebook for the name (which is the title of this post), request to become a member, and answer the three questions. I still haven’t gotten the answer I was expecting for question #3.
So. 2020 is almost over. And what a year it’s been.
Think about it…one year ago today, would you ever have dreamed of even one of the things that happened? Let alone ALL of them! From the pandemic, to the fires in California, to the rioting and unrest in the cities, to the hurricanes, to the antics of the American “president,” to the absolutely bizarre events following the election…Just because I live in Sweden doesn’t mean that I am not affected by what happens back in the States. I just hope things get better in 2021, with a new President and a Covid vaccine.
2021 cannot be worse than this year, can it? Let’s hear it for 2020 hindsight!
Okay. Now, I know these aren’t cartoons. But I have been working on colouring Dashiell Hamilton every day. I want to get the green of his suit just right, and it’s taking a lot longer than I thought…and I haven’t even started on colouring Dash himself! I am trying to do as much as I can in Procreate…but yesterday I got a new Paperlike screen protector, and let me tell you, it is a game changer! It really feels like I’m drawing on real paper, and it is so much better than drawing on glass. Even though it’s digital, it still feels organic. I’ve also ordered a set of Pen Tips, which should also improve the drawing experience. While Paperlike and Pen Tips ship worldwide, they are based in Germany and the Netherlands respectfully, so I don’t have to pay any import taxes!
Since Dash-Ham isn’t finished enough to post an update, I’m sharing some Christmas cards I’ve received. The above card arrived today from my Sverak club AbSolut Kattklubb. That is one lovely blue Somali.
This card came a couple of days ago from my friend Donna in Massachussetts. I think these Birmans are adorable. At least, I think they’re Birmans…hard to tell when you can’t see their feet!
This cute little Siamese postcard came today, also from Donna. I love that she keeps sending me postcards…it’s nice to have physical notes from friends sometimes, especially during a pandemic.
Well…I woke up this morning full of ambition to work on my Dashiell-xander Hamilton drawing, only to have a Facebook friend post the minifigure she made on Hero Forge.
So, you know I had to make one, too.
Annnnnd…I spent most of my afternoon creating what I would look like as my dream player character. Well, it’s kind of like drawing a cartoon…a 3D cartoon.
Basically, you can create pretty much any character you can imagine (with a few limitations).
Of course I made myself as a humanoid feline (or, if you prefer, a felinoid human) with a cute skirt, lots of jewellery, a pen and an iPhone.
Yes, that is a PEN, and yes, I know what it kind of looks like. And she has an iPhone because they didn’t have a laptop as an option.
Maple leaves are scattered on the maple-wood flooring, of course.
The interface on the website is super awesome. You can look at your character from virtually any angle. Cool, right?
You can purchase your character 3D-printed in full colour for $44.99, but the colours aren’t quite as vibrant as they are in the creator.
Still…I think it’s pretty cool. I’m getting one!
Today Björn posted a memory from this day last year, with the comment, “It’s a year since the last cat show we attended, and when we could travel like so many times before. How things can change in a year…”
This was the train to the ferry to a Turku, Finland, where Izaak and Lorelai earned their International Champion titles. We haven’t been to a show since then. A whole year without a cat show…hard to believe. And I haven’t been anywhere at all since July! Because of my asthma I stay in as much as possible, especially since the health officials in Sweden are still saying masks don’t help against the coronavirus…especially on public transportation.
“We don’t see that we are at a point where we might recommend general use of face masks on public transport,” Karin Tegmark Wisell, head of the Public Health Agency in Stockholm, told reporters on Thursday. “Face masks shouldn’t be used as an excuse not to keep a distance.” That’s a direct quote. Yeeeeaaahhhh…I’m not going anywhere by train for a while.
Okay, so the new laptop arrived on Friday. I spent the rest of the day and part of yesterday transferring data from the old MacBook Pro to the new one.
Problem is, I had to upgrade the system. I don’t have a choice; there’s a Magic Keyboard that I don’t think will work with the older software. However, I must say, the thing is wicked cool. The functions you have change depending on which application you’re using. In Facebook, you get predictive text like on the iPhone. Listening to music on iTunes, you have the play, pause and skip functions. And in photo apps, you get controls for whatever you’re doing.
Also, no need for passwords; there’s a Touch ID button so you can log into everything with your index finger.
However…I am absolutely bereft without Photoshop. I did everything I could find to work around it…to no avail. I have been using Photoshop since…1997, I think. I can do everything so reflexively…Why, Adobe, why?!
Well, I absolutely do NOT want to pay $20.99 a month for a subscription. So I’ve been investigating other apps that have very high ratings. I’ve downloaded a couple of trial apps. The first one I tried was Acorn. It is highly rated, especially for Macs, and it’s only $29.99. It’s pretty nice…but I couldn’t figure out how to do simple tone, colour and contrast corrections (the things that are so easy to do in Photoshop). I’ll go back later and play with it. The other one I am trying is Affinity Photo, which is a LOT easier to figure out. It’s much more similar to Photoshop, and it can open .psd files. I can also import all my special brushes into both Acorn and Affinity, which is awesome. It’s $49.99…but it seems worth it (and, okay, it’s a lot less expensive than Photoshop was).
As a bonus, in learning about these two apps (and another one, Affinity Designer, which looks interesting), I discovered I can also import my brushes into Procreate. That means no more having to finish drawings in Photoshop…I may just be able to do everything on the iPad now.
Still, I really want Photoshop back. I have a lot of work and research to do in the next ten days.
Well, my laptop is still limping along…the replacement is meant to arrive tomorrow.
As a result, I have only been turning it on and using it when absolutely necessary…basically, when I need to use Photoshop and make a post. Yesterday’s post was set up a week ago, so I haven’t turned my laptop on since Tuesday.
Anyway, this was how Angel was sleeping in her bed last night.
I thought it was cute…and a little awkward.
So please accempt this peet offering.
I have been trying so hard to keep this blog going, and make sure to post everyday. An I will still do my best. But Friday, I noticed my 2015 MacBook Pro was…broken.
Like, really broken. I suspect that it is a battery issue, but my machine isn’t eligible for replacement. I think it’s probably because it was already replaced, in March 2016.
I have been staying off it as much as possible since I noticed it, but I think it’s worse. This is how it looks today.
Pretty bad, right? I have been keeping it turned off – and unplugged – unless I absolutely need to be on it.
I have already ordered a replacement, I wasn’t really ready to get a new laptop right now…but it was five years old, and it was going to happen sooner rather than later, so…yeah. It is what it is. I will need to find a workaround so I can still use Photoshop, because the updated iOS (Catalina) doesn’t support it. But there are ways to make it work.
…but in the meantime, I’ll do my best to keep posting on my phone and iPad until the new one arrives. Which I hope is soon.
I know, I know…I dropped off the face of the world for a week. Part of that was due to me getting a new medication that was kicking my butt until I got used to it. The other part is that last Monday I got this email from Iris:
Your former region (Region 1) and your adopted region (Region 9) are joining forces for a virtual qualifier show for the CFA International Top Cat Challenge, and Sharon asked me to help with promotional copy and/or a theme. What I came up with is really crying out for some kind of sketch that we can use on the flyer and platform. It’s “Paws Across the Sea.” I don’t have any visual ideas other than two paws reaching toward each other with an ocean in between, but I thought maybe you could come up with something better. Please let me know if you’d be willing to work on this. The time frame is short but not an emergency. . . If you could do something by the weekend I think that would work.
My mind instantly went to vintage Disney “It’s a Small World” art. I made a globe/earth that featured the US Northeast and Europe and then made the quick sketch above to map out the international breed representatives. I had many ideas, but finally decided on featuring a Siamese, a Russian Blue, a Maine Coon (Marlin, the NEMO mascot), a Scottish Fold, and a Singapura. I had wanted to include a Japanese Bobtail, but I realised that if you couldn’t see the tail, it might not be clear what breed it was.
I started by making a generic cat sketch. I enlarged it for Marlin, made it smaller for the Singapura, and stretched it out for the Siamese.
I made sketches for all five breeds, and combined them on one layer.
Then I did the ink outline in Procreate.
I did the undercolour layer beneath the ink layer in Procreate as well. Colouring tortoiseshell-and-white cats is difficult, but fun!
My best fur brushes are in Photoshop, so I moved to that to work on the texture layer.
Here are all three layers combined.
Then I add the whiskers, eyeshine and shadow, and voilá: a graphic for an international virtual cat show!
A slight postscript: I couldn’t fit an Abyssinian into the graphic…but who’s that holding the Siamese’s other paw?
My birthday was a month ago, but my big gift from Björn arrived today: a Baby Yoda doll!
Izaak (rather amusingly) was quite interested in the little green doll.
The Baby Yoda doll also makes sounds.
Lorelai did not like the sounds!
I have a little Lego-compatible Baby Yoda in his Sphere, so…yeah.
He (or she) has a cup of bone broth and a Sorgan frog.
The detail on this doll is spectacular. Hard to believe it’s meant for children over three.
Rory still doesn’t trust it, though.
I love it, though. Thank you, Björn!
But instead of that, do you know what I did? I played a game
I downloaded the game Clan of Cats years ago, but I never played it. Until today. For some reason, I randomly decided to give it a spin. And it’s actually a lot of fun. You’re a cat, and you gather your clanmembers, build your home base (apparently these cats use fire and build log forts, but okay), fight creatures to get magic, fight bosses and conquer other clans.
It could be so much more; you could be able to interact with other players, you could be able to play it on a Mac or a PC, you could be able to really customise your cat…but hey. You can fight alligators in water and kill them with fireballs.
See all the dead alligators? Good times.
I have been very frustrated at the fact that Sweden doesn’t think masks work to control Covid-19. The State Epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, has said repeatedly that “masks don’t make sense” and has literally scoffed at the very idea of wearing a mask in pubic.
Didn’t work. I am still frustrated. And I am still wearing my mask.
Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade has been cancelled out of concern for COVID-19. This is the first time in 26 years the parade has been cancelled. The city of Boston is also postponing the Boston Marathon next month and even the Red Sox spring training and regular season will be delayed.
I went to my first parade when I moved to Boston in 2000, and stood in front of what at the time was a vacant building. Little did I know that I would eventually live in that very building!
Naturally, St. Patrick’s Day and the parade was a big part of Jacoby’s life. Our apartment overlooked one of the staging areas, and Jake loved to watch the activity below. His first St. Patrick’s Day, I got him a T-shirt from a shop in Faneuil Hall. What could be more Boston than that?
Later on, Jake added a shamrock tie and a Celtics jersey to his holiday wardrobe.
I had actually forgotten about this shamrock sun-hat. I think he only wore it that one time, just for photos.
He also had his shamrock patterned walking harness. When we lived on the 5th floor, we didn’t face West Broadway, so Jake and I would go downstairs to see the parade in person.
Angel, on the other hand, was content to watch the parade on television.
When we moved to the new apartment on the 4th floor, we could just watch the parade from our windows. I think Jake kind of missed going outside to experience it; Angel, meanwhile, was perfectly content watching the parade from our windows.
It’s a little surreal to think of the parade just not happening. I mean, they even held it the year we had the record snowfall! Okay, it wasn’t as bad as in my cartoon, but it did snow on the day of the parade!
The last year we lived in Boston, we just watched it from the windows again. Now, though, I kind of wish we’d gone downstairs.
I’m pretty sure Angel wishes we’d gone downstairs, too.
In a way, it feels a little bit right, not having the parade the first year Jake isn’t alive for it.
Last week, I posted Izaak as Olaf the snowman from the Frozen movies. But there are some new characters in Frozen 2, and I had two cats who hadn’t been cast yet. Lorelai and Alfred are perfect as the Northuldrian brother and sister Honeymaren and Ryder. As always, I started with a sketch in Procreate.
Then I did a preliminary ink outline. I had a LOT of fun with this, because, unlike Zakolaf, I got to draw clothing, too. The Northuldra were based on the Sami people of Northern Scandinavia, and I have long had an interest in them from my SCA days (in fact, that was one of the reasons Björn and I became penpals). Drawing their clothing, and especially the knives (I have a collection of Puukkot, the traditional Finnish utility knife), was awesome.
And then, the clean ink layer. More fun refining the clothing.
Switching to the laptop and Photoshop, I did a flat colour layer.
This was done underneath the clean ink layer.
Then the ticking, and texture on the clothing. This took a long time, because I needed to experiment with fabric textures. For some parts, such as the trim on the neck and shoulders, and the puukkot, I found photos of actual Samí trim and knives, and overlaid and blended them into my drawing.
You can see how the puukkot are slightly photographic.
Then I switched to the background. As with Zakolaf and the Zakdalorian, I took a generic Frozen 2 background and painted over it.
As always, on a separate layer, I added the whiskers and eyeshine.
And then, their shadows and the obiquitous leaf swirl.
And here’s the final version. As with Zakolaf, I find it a bit dark…but the Enchanted Forest was shrouded in fog and mist, so it’s kind of supposed to be dark.
You may remember, six years ago, I made this wonderful cartoon with Jacoby, Angel, Kylie and Tessie as Kristoff, Anna, Elsa and Sven the reindeer from Frozen.
Well, of course, Frozen 2 came out last November, which made me revisit my original cartoon. Of course, Kylie and Tessie still live in Boston, and Dashiell can take Jake’s place as Kristoff…but it occurred to me that I now have the perfect cat to play Olaf! Izaak! Of course, Olaf should be a Singapura! I started with a sketch and then a rough ink on my iPad in ProCreate.
Then I did a clean ink outline.
Switching to the laptop and Photoshop, I did a flat colour layer.
On a separate layer, I added the whiskers and eyeshine.
Then I switched to the background. I took a generic Frozen 2 background (there are plenty of wallpapers available online) and painted over it, the same way I created the background of the Zakdalorian.
Then I added a swirl of windblown leaves, to give it the feel of the film.
Then I painted the ticking and Zak’s other markings with my fur brushes.
Finally, I gave Zakolaf a little shadow, to ground him in the scene. I wish this was a little brighter, but that’s just the way this scene is; it’s not as bright as the snow scenes, because it’s autumn. Can’t do much about that.
Oh, and don’t worry…I have characters for Lorelai and Alfred to play. Stay tuned…
Last week, I posted a sketch and a preliminary inking of Izaak as The Child (aka Baby Yoda)
Starting with the shaded ink layer I did last week, I changed it from black to blue-green and did a second, cleaner ink layer.
The whiskers and eyeshine are actually on their own layer. I really like having the whiskers as a separate layer from the rest of the drawing. There’s also a slight outer glow on this layer.
Using the clean ink version, I made a flat colour layer. This layer is about 70% opaque.
Using the same colours, and following the shading done on the first ink, I added a texture layer, with the fur and ticking and the rough cloth of the robe.
The background is a combination of the original screenshot I based my drawing on, and a painted background using bark and grass brushes, run through the oil painting filter.
I also added a shadow and backlighting, to capture the feel of the original scene.
One final, tiny touch: I have a set of steam/smoke brushes. One little stamp at 60% opacity, and…the bone broth is hot!
And here is the final, complete drawing. I am pretty proud of this one!
Last week, I heard a cat let out a loud YOWL, and when I went to see who it was and what was going on, I discovered Alfred collapsed in our bedroom doorway.
I found him collapsed and floppy, drooling and gasping for breath with his eyes locked in a thousand yard stare.
It may seem silly, but one of the first things I did was make a short video of him. I sent it to Meg, Molly and Anne, and also to Freddy’s breeder, to see if they had any idea what could be causing it. I also rang our local vet (and was lucky to speak to our regular vet, because this happened at 16:16 and they close at 17:00) and also the emergency vet in Jönköping.
The emergency vet was prepared for us if we decided to drive there that evening (Björn didn’t get home until 19:00), and I made an appointment for Freddy for the next day at Min Vetrinär.
I didn’t know what to do apart from just being with him.
After a little while, I got him to sit up again.
I made a box for Freddy so I could move him – and take him to the emergency vet if necessary. Of course, Izaak jumped right in with him.
When Björn got home, Freddy was doing a bit better, so we decided he’d be okay until the local vet appointment (those are the photos you saw yesterday). We kept an eye on him all night, and this is how he looked in the morning. When we got to the clinic, they tested Freddy’s blood, and we took chest Xrays (Unfortunately, I was unable to get photos of those). Turns out, the video I made was very useful for the vet to see. She diagnosed him with pneumonia and prescribed Amoxycillin. Which is ironic…since I was also diagnosed with pneumonia and prescribed Amoxycillin. We even started our meds on the same day, and we have the same schedule, one pill three times a day. It’s actually kind of great having a medicine buddy: It helps me remember when to take my pill, and when to give Freddy his – because it’s the same time!