Revisiting Major Kite Physiology

I’m to a point in the second video where I will be drawing Major Kites in action. Before I do this, I wanted to re-examine their physiology to make sure I was drawing them right.

Some initial sketches where I established the general size and posture of major kites.
Human and minor kite figures shown for scale.

Original Design

The original idea for the major kites came to me when I wanted to make a species that was less mammalian, maybe even insectile. Some of the original image flashes in my mind were for something mantis-like, but I settled on caterpillar-like. So, how would a human-size caterpillar actually work? And why would they look like a giant caterpillar?

I thought it would make sense that major kites wouldn’t be actual caterpillars; they only look as such. Unlike caterpillars they a vertebrates, and their body structure is not an early stage of development that later metamorphoses into something else. So what if the pillow-y body build is just a folded wing membrane? I really liked the idea and developed the design as such.

The armor design for two of the major kite characters; Lir’li’se and Hessness

The initial design had a tall body with a base that had a tail and two front-facing appendages, as you can see above. But when I actually looked at the outstretched, fully open body posture, I started second-guessing that upright design. I wasn’t so sure that the folded-up body would actually look like my original design. So I went down to the fundamentals and drew the bone structure.

Under the skin

drawing the skeleton first helped me establish what the animal’s fundamental physical parameters looked like.

Under all of it, it looks like major kites are just tetrapods, much like us and the larger land animals on earth: they have a backbone, four limbs and a skull. bones, of course, are heavy and creatures that evolved lighter skeletons have been favored in flight. So it made little sense for major kites to have a heavy exoskeleton, or many more limbs. You can also see shoulder blades and narrow hips.

Here’s what the skeleton looks like from above:

I did the flying posture after I did the standing posture, then I reconciled the two in a way that made sense. I experimented with making the center appendages (the longest ones) have a golden ratio – with the three segments having the same ratio as a human finger, but that didn’t look right.

You’ll also notice that the appendages closest to the head and those closest to the tail have no corresponding bones. That’s right; they are boneless, muscular appendages used in flight and general utility while on the ground. Since flying creatures here on earth seem to have a small “bone budget”, I wanted to keep to that principle as much as possible by making some of the limbs boneless.

The results

The final result of the new “skeleton-included” design is that the two front appendages are more prominent and actually originate from a shoulder apparatus about half-way up the height of the creature. The rest of the design is roughly the same. I was happy to see everything fall into place and that my original design was reasonably well thought-out. I’m still picking at the way the wings are folded about the front limbs – this might need some tweaking yet!

This was a fun exercise and definitely yielded a lot sketches to share here 😄. I also super-enjoyed making the image of the major kite with the human seen below. It came out so relaxed and friendly, very in-tune with the spirit of August. It was also a chance for me to experiment with some fashion designs for humans.

I was really happy with how this illustration came out, they both look so comfortable and natural together!
I think knowing how their bone structure works helped me get the poses right.

Thanks for reading! See you soon!!


1st Weekly Art Dump

Hello, sharing some art. All of it was done on Adobe Animate. Let me know what you think!

Coal and Damsel walking and talking, this was a quick sketch that I did as a after putting in some work on the Redwood Class ship illustration (further down the page). I really love these two characters and the energy they have together. As drovers go, Damsel is actually of fairly small in build, but it is still much taller than Coal, who is above average height for a human female.

This was an armor study of Unnur, an important character that appears in chapter 5. This took quite a bit of work for me. I wanted to make sure the armor fit her physique correctly, so I drew her somewhat unclothed first and worked from there. The pose isn’t amazingly interesting, but it’s a study of the armor so I give myself a pass 😋.

This is unnur again, I like this pose a lot more. It’s more scribbly because I time limited myself (maybe took 20 minutes?). I love raw lines, they are often more expressive than refined work. It was great having the reference from the previous image to create this.

Reposting this one (it appeared earlier this week in The Custodians and August (Part 2). This one took me several sittings over several days. I’m really happy with how it turned out. I wanted to create a sleek-looking ship that represented the optimism and drive of the Custodians. I also wanted to make sure that the ship had a scoop that it could use to harvest gasses from space to power itself, I also wanted a conical/futuristic look to the upper half. I really like how it came together. The planet didn’t take too long (probably could have put more time into it), but the shading an details on the hull were quite time-consuming. As I don’t do a lot of full-color illustrations, I was fairly happy with it. Hoping to get more practice with color illustration.

This one is not actually from this week, I posted it on my Twitter page a few weeks back. I was just having some fun with illustrating on this one. This is Phylan wearing the baseball uniform of the Phoenix Tidals. Two of the characters in Free Drove are from this the colony of Phoenix, Phylan being one of them. Phoenix is distant from earth but not nearly as distant as August. Still the two colonies share a common conception of being “remote”. The similarities end there, as Phoenix’s culture is quite different from August’s.

This is Beldeerv, an aquian. You can actually see him in in Chapter 1 Part 1 (link moves you to the time marker right befor he shows up). I have a problem with the aquians being soft-bodied and thus lacking distict joints. While this might be easier to draw, it also tends to look more doodley, so I need to find a way around that. Still, I really like the one on the right. These sketches will help with the animation of Part 2.

With the Coronavirus lockdown in place, I’ve been playing Dance Central Spotlight on the XBox Kinect. It’s a pretty old game but is an awesome exercise and really fun. For a while I’ve wanted to do something related to dance, so this was the result. It’s not Free Drove related, but it was a really fun pose study. It took me a while to figure out a pose that looked right, but when I was done, I felt it was really a notch up from my previous human form works.

I’ll make sure I keep sketching to improve my skill, hope to share more with you soon!

The Custodians and August (Part 2)

This post continues the story from The Custodians and August (Part 1).

The Minimalists fell into themselves, debating how to best apply what they saw as the winning formula of Earth to humanity’s extended habitat.  There were multiple trains of thought.  Some wanted to lobby Earth Central to sanction colonies that did not follow set regulations.  Some were resigned to allow the new colonies to find their own way to sustainability. Others found this unacceptable; humans would destroy too much in the process of re-learning the lessons of earth; was it not their duty to prevent such destruction?  Perhaps the new colonies should be brought under the direct control of Earth Central, by force if necessary. 

The debate spread and contracted, swayed back and forth, until one new method emerged as a positive way forward.  The method was that of the Custodian movement.  The Custodians proposed that they could not force their will upon the new colonies; the fate of the environment in these new Domains was now to be determined by their citizens.  But other worlds, those not yet colonized could be saved.  That is, if the Custodians could get to them first.  Once claimed by the Custodians through the Earth Domains charter code, each new world would be the Custodians’ to keep and protect

Some minimalists abhorred this idea.  To lay claim to new worlds, to spread across space and acquire as much as possible seemed the opposite of a sustainable path for humanity.  In fact, the aggressive expansionism appeared more like greed than conservation.  But the Custodians argued that competing with the myriad unruly colonial efforts would be the only way to shut them out of vulnerable worlds.  The sheer untold number of pristine habitats that would inevitably fall within the ever-expanding Domains demanded it; while not all worlds could be claimed by the Custodians, at least some could be, and those worlds would be safe.

The Custodian movement sprang forward as the prime vector from the Minimalist’s deliberations.  Gaining traction, the movement collected followers from many walks of life: idealists, adventurers, wealthy investors, downtrodden lower classes, disciplined professionals, skilled laborers.  Businesses were chartered, employees hired, ships purchased.  If the Custodians had any hope of making a legitimate claim to new colonies, they would have to be the first to discover them as well as make a case for their viability. 

The Custodians’ greatest competitors would be large commercial initiatives.  These organizations could prove their claim to new territory would yield greater prosperity for the Earth Domains.  Well-funded and well-connected the Commercials would have an advantage against the inherently moderate Custodians when competing for a charter. The path of least-resistance would be to find a colony distant enough that no commercial enterprise would bother making a serious claim.  To this end the Custodians assembled an impressive fleet of high-end ships that could reach far and travel fast.  Millions of custodians flooded the colonist rolls, happily enlisting to become the next wave of settlers to the worlds that would be saved.

A Redwood class exploration/factory vessel in orbit of an Earth Domains colony. Redwood vessels were the pride and joy of Custodian expansion, capable of operating in space for nearly indefinite periods of time.

Two worlds, Tertia and Barrinth were the first.  Tertia, a double planet system rich in minerals sported no life.  Tertia was created as a beachhead of sorts, allowing the Custodians to create an economic engine that would power their expansion.  Barrinth, a cold and dusky world on the edge of its sun’s habitable zone supported some indigenous life and the Custodians were happy to protect it.  But neither of these two worlds was particularly desirable, and the movement needed to show that they were actually protecting something that would otherwise be destroyed.  A poster child was needed, a true Earth-like marble that could.  Long range vessels build in Tertia were send far and wide in search of this prize.  In ever expanding spheres, the Custodians searched, until one day, they found it: August.

The Custodians and August (Part 1)

“We strive for balance in a universe whose final balance means our death. We believe in balance as if it is the way of things, but this is not true. If we want things a certain way, there must be affirmative action, a positive force to move to our destination. Because the natural order would not have things our way.”

Rally speech given during a Custodian movement convention, Summer, 2177

As humans reached out further into space, the environmentalists of old Earth were alarmed.

Through centuries of industrial development, pollution, extinctions, and environmental degradation the humans of Earth had finally reached a balanced system. In the early 2100s, the inhabitants of earth seemed to have figured out how to maintain their own existence sustainably. Populations were maintained by a steady source of food that did not require masses of land and energy. Productive technologies ensured that the average inhabitant of earth were clothed and housed for a fraction of the cost of their predecessors. Energy flowed freely from a multitude of renewable sources, unlocked by superior material sciences. As citizens continued to cluster in dense cities, rising education levels and increased virtual living brought down the reproduction rate. The advent of physical immortality released people from linear lives underpinned by mere survival. A spiritual flowering of humanity exploded upon the barren fields of the old “human condition”, with souls freed from finite lives and the struggle for subsistence.

Wild habitats were restored, chemical balances of the air and ocean and land once again resembled those that existed before the industrial revolution. While more than 50% of the species of Earth were lost in the preceding centuries and would never return, the survivors now faced a bright future. Human culture now revolved around personal fulfilment and responsibility that prized the wilderness as a source of pride and recreation. Eden, had it ever existed, was now restored.

But as faster-than-light travel and new sources of energy expanded the horizon of the Earth Domains outside the solar system, some old behaviors seemed to return. The human settlers of the new frontier seemed once more unbridled from Earth’s sense of responsibility; swiftly expanding and recklessly harvesting resources while damaging life, this time, many light years away from Earth. Dissidents who had always chafed under the fine-tuned equilibrium of Earth Central now found many new worlds to dominate and exploit. It appeared that those most happy to leave Earth were those who cared the least for the hard-learned lessons of their parent civilization.

The ascendant political ideology of Earth, the one responsible for the current world order was known as Environmental Minimalism. Through a cultural shift that began in the mid 21st century, humans enacted Environmental Minimalism by pulling back into their cities and focusing on maintaining their civilization’s needs in perpetuity. The vast majority of the planet was to be left to re-wild. Ultimate value was placed on the ability of the species to prosper while artfully making the smallest possible mark on other species.

The Custodian emblem, a flower tuned on its side, representing permanent natural imbalance. Teal is the color of the Minimalists, the parent movement of the Custodian movement

But now the Minimalists now found themselves toothless in their attempts to protect new found worlds in the same way they now protected Earth. Earth Central was loath to push heavy regulation upon the newly chartered Domains for fear that they would break with the Earth Domains altogether; that would turn a purely environmental problem into a political, and possibly military problem. Furthermore, the economic success of the new colonies, with their unrestricted exploitation of new habitats, was causing the political pendulum on Earth itself to swing backwards. Some on Earth now agitated for renewed exploitation of Earth’s resources so that they might match the exponential prosperity of the new colonies. Minimalists began arguing amongst themselves: something had to be done…

The Aquians: Intro and Physiology

We’ve now covered the Earth Domains a bit. Over the years, the Earth Domains’ population has become more diverse, accommodating new species. However, the Earth Domains are predominantly a human creation and humans still comprise a majority of the population.

The counterpart to the Earth Domains is the Aquian Habitat. As the Earth Domains are the primary political unit of the human species, the Aquian Habitat is the primary political unit of the aquian species.

Aquians are one of the major species in the Proxima alliance and have a close relationship with humanity

Early in the expansion of humanity into interstellar space, the second species to be encountered was the aquians (the scarabs were the first).


Relative to Earth biology, aquians are most similar to mollusks; having no bones and being highly muscular. Aquians have a central body bulb that ranges from egg to potato shaped and can be anywhere from half a meter to 2 meters long. On the rear and narrow end of the bulb are four small anchoring legs with three claws each. On the front of the bulb is a head with four eyes and a mouth. A short distance below the head are four tentacles that are normally as long as the body bulb. Aquians have a pseudo-radial symmetry, with a body arranged into seemingly identical quarters. The exception to this symmetry is their beak, which is usually hidden and looks much like the beak of a parrot or octopus. Within the beak is a flexible toothed-tongue, known as a radula, used to tear food apart.

The Aquian body appears externally as radially symmetrical when seen from the front or rear

The aquians’ ancestors were strictly sea-dwellers who migrated to coastal forests similar to the mangroves of Earth. In these forests, some proto-aquians mutated and gained dry-air lungs and a tough exterior skin that allowed them to live outside the water without becoming quickly dehydrated. Aquians are now thoroughly amphibious, capable of living on dry land or briny marine environments. Aquians vary greatly in size, even in the same family group. This might have given their communities additional versatility in finding food from multiple sources.


Not only do aquians come in many sizes, but an individual can actually change its musculature significantly to suit its environment. Aquians have learned how to fasten their tentacles to artificial mechanical levers that act as exoskeletons. The muscles will become stronger and adept at the range of motion allowed by the skeleton. While this reduces the range of motion, it greatly increases strength and leverage for specialized tasks such as walking and lifting on dry land.

An example of a modern aquian with fastening on the lower two tentacles to serve as walking forelimbs


Aquians are carnivorous, feeding primarily on marine animals, but also on terrestrial and avian species. Aquians capture food one of two ways: they can chase their prey or ambush it. Being great swimmers, aquians travel as fast as 35 km/h* through the water and can hunt in packs to capture marine animals. Additionally, they can anchor themselves to a tree above water or to the seabed and wait until something swims by. Their front tentacles are very quick and can whip or grasp prey before it has a chance to realize the aquian is there.

An aquian fishing in a coastal forest

Aquians are extremely long lived and may reach the age of 150 years in a natural lifetime. They can regenerate their limbs, but not their body bulb or head. Their tongue, beak, and vocal cords can produce a large range of sounds, including human language.

Aquians are highly intelligent, with problem solving and memory skills that match humans. Aquians are social, and have followed a social evolution remarkably similar to that of humans. Pre-agricultural aquians worked together in clan-pods of several dozen members, usually from the same family. Modern aquians are less bound by family group and each individual will associate with multiple with task based organizations that strive for common goals (economic, academic, political, recreational).


Aquians reproduce sexually, but have limited sexual dimorphisym – the difference in appearance between females and males is not readily obvious to non-aquians. Females and males court and choose mate, but will not always form child-rearing partnerships. After internal fertilization, the female will lay one to three eggs within 30 days. After this point, the social group will tend to the eggs together. Another 30 days after that, a polyp will emerge from the egg and attach itself to one of the adults in the social group. The young are raised communally. At first, the young will be attached to others where they are kept safe and fed. Later, at about two years of age, the polyps grow into a juvenile form and detach from their adult. Juveniles will stay with the social group until they are fully mature, growing and learning until they are around 14 years old. At this point they may stay with the group, join another, or start their own.

I’ll go into the social and political context of the aquians and the Aquian Habitat in an upcoming blog entry 😉.

Thanks for reading!!

*Not going to throw knots or nautical miles at you – that’s crap and no one knows what that means. Pet peeve, I digress.

A small difference makes Wacom’s stylus superior to HP’s

I use a touch and pen enabled PC Laptop for illustrating Free Drove.  In fact, I bought the HP Spectre x360 – 15T laptop for this express purpose.  I have been pleased with this computer so far and I will probably do a more detailed review some time in the future.  But today I want to talk about the stylus that came with the computer. 

The stylus is the “pen” that you use directly on the screen and allows you to do anything a mouse cursor can do, but with the added control of a pen grip.  This is very convenient, as most people are probably more skilled at using a pen than using a mouse to write or draw, myself included.

The HP Spectre came with its own standard stylus, about the size of a normal pen, probably a bit shorter.  It is comfortable enough to use and is perfectly sensitive so that your gestures are digitized onto your software accurately. But something unexpected arose as I started using this pen.

The pens with cat paw size comparison

The Stylus buttons

 One convenient feature on the HP stylus pen is a pair of buttons.  Both these buttons are close to the tip and can be activated by one of your gripping fingers or thumb(I use my thumb).  These buttons can activate functions and are configurable via the Pen & Windows Ink settings, standard with Windows 10.

By default, the button further from the tip acts as a right-click if you hold it down and tap the pen to the screen.  The button that is closer to the tip is the most important to me, because it activates the eraser while depressed.  This is extremely convenient because you can erase a line you’ve just drawn without having to switch to the eraser tool on the toolbar or keyboard.

I use the eraser a lot because:

  1. My first lines are rarely right
  2. I use Adobe Animate’s pencil tool.  The pencil tool (a software function, not an actual pencil) creates parametric lines called vectors.  The advantage with vector lines is that they can be modified, warped or stretched with ease after drawing.  The disadvantage is that they are tricky to draw.  After you are done with your stroke, the software must re-render your stroke as a vector. If you’re not doing it right, this can result in a very different line than your original stroke, making erasing common.

So, having the eraser at my fingertips is super helpful.

So Why’s the Bamboo Better than the HP pen?

Here’s where the standard HP stylus is less-than-optimal:  The buttons are flush with the surface of the pen, so it is very hard to tell if my thumb is over the buttons.  This caused me to constantly stop drawing, look and my pen, and rotate it so that my thumb was back in the right place.  I can only imagine how silly this must look to an outside observer – the last time people cared about the rotational orientation of their pens, they were using those old metal nibs!

I wrote several months ago that I lost my stylus.  While it was lost, I looked up a replacement pen and saw that some other pens had buttons that were slightly elevated – allowing the user to feel where the buttons are without looking.  Even though I later found my HP stylus, the notion of getting a better stylus was no in my head and I eventually went out to Best Buy and got a Wacom Bamboo pen (this was before Coronavirus, I only go out shopping if absolutely necessary now!).  The Wacom Bamboo was $50 and is compatible with any Windows 10 pen enabled PC.  I am sure the Bamboo has lots of pressure and directional features that would be important for certain types of art, but the truth is, I only got it for the raised buttons.  I am not a very brand loyal person, so even though I have had two Wacom tablets before, I wasn’t actually out to get a Wacom pen – that’s just what they had in stock.  But I am so happy with it!  Not having to look for the buttons has saved me so much time, that it is well worth the investment to me. 

The HP buttons
Instead of two flush buttons The Wacom stylus one elevated button that has two functions

One tiny con: There is this weird behavior that I get with the Bamboo… Every now and then the contact with the screen “skips” resulting in an uneven dashed line instead of solid store.  But it is infrequent (once every few days maybe?) and all I have to do is move the pen away from the screen for a second and it goes back to normal.  I did not see this issue with the HP pen.

The Earth Domains: A Political Menu

So you want to start a colony in the vicinity of the Earth Domains? Here’s what you need to know. The Earth Domains are a grouping of political units, each controlling a geographic location in space. Each of these units, naturally, is called a Domain. The predominant political unit of the Earth Domains is known as Earth Central. Earth Central is composed of a number of old nation-states (now known as domains themselves) that subscribe to a single Federal structure.

While not all the old nation-states have joined Earth Central, it is the largest single political unit on the planet and in the Domains. Earth Central oversees the political order and administration of the domains as a whole. Even so, while all Domains (States, Colonies, Cities) have some association with Earth Central, the Domains are hardly monolithic and can choose varying degrees of autonomy. This article delves a little into the different degrees of association with the Domains.

I think the easiest way to break it down is like a menu. If you are about to start a colony somewhere in the Domains or in adjacent unclaimed territory, you have multiple choices as to your level of interaction you have with Earth Central.

No Participation

Your colony chooses to have no obligations to the Domains. You run things the way you want and don’t pay them any taxes. This is not a very practical choice; since your colony might not be recognized by The Domains, it might just be annexed at some point in the future. Furthermore, if you are looking to become a local dictator of your very own corner of space, both Earth Central and the Accord of Beings may be at your doorstep soon for offending their sensibilities.

  • No Participation
    • Requires: nothing
    • Grants: nothing
    • Risk: as an unrecognized colony, you are pretty much on your own

Chartered Domain

You register your colony with the Earth Central government so that your claim is recognized. This can be tricky. Practically, you’ll need to be claiming a location that is undesirable enough to be outside what The Domains considers to be “feasibly colonizable”. In other words, you might only be granted a charter if Earth Central and the other Domains aren’t interested in making a claim themselves. If you are making a claim to unclaimed desirable territory, you had better have some political clout.

All registrants are required to adhere to the Accord of Beings Charter, which grants basic rights to all citizens of certain species. Finally, your claim must be proportionate to your population size. A single person claiming an entire planet will be laughed out of the registration office. If you do clear all these hurdles, you will be granted a colony charter. This means that your claim to your space may not be violated by Domain. Note that a Chartered Domain is not an Earth Domain itself. The Earth Domains may or may not come to your aid if you are threatened by non-domain actors or unfortunate circumstances.

  • Chartered Domain
    • Requires: Registering with Earth Central, resolving any other claims from other Domains to your space, adherence to the Accord of Beings Charter
    • Grants: Legal Recognition, Protection from Annexation by other Earth Domains
    • Risk: You are not protected militarily from non-Earth Domains entities

Military Confederate

If you want to fall within military protection of the Domains, you will have to charter your colony (as above) and pay military taxes. You will also have to be a “feasibly defensible” colony. An attack on any Earth Domain Confederate is seen as an attack on all; so the members of the Military Confederacy will want to ensure that you will not be dragging them into a war. Your citizens will also be required to participate in military service, and a draft (if one should be instated). As stated above, your colony will have to contribute to any war effort affecting other confederates.

  • Military Confederate
    • Requires: Chartered Domain, military tax, participation in military service and draft, participate in defense of other confederates
    • Grants: Military protection
    • Risk: You might entangle yourself in conflicts that are not of your making

Economic Partner

As a Chartered or Confederate Domain, you are free to interact economically with the rest of The Domains as you see fit. However, if you wish to participate fully in the economic might of the Earth Domains, you must become a full Economic Partner (EP). Full Economic Partners face no trade taxes and free movement of labor, and participate in a single currency. Economic Partners are not required to be Confederates, but usually are. You give up your own currency and may be affected adversely by economic occurrences beyond your Domain. However the ease of trade and movement of individuals between Economic Partners can be very beneficial. You will be subject to taxes and regulations associated with managing trade, fighting piracy, and ensuring fair trade practices.

  • Economic Partner
    • Requires: Chartered Domain, Removal of all trade barriers with other EPs, adoption of Earth Central currncy (the Credit), additional trade regulations and taxes.
    • Grants: Free trade and labor transfer with other EPs
    • Risk: You might entangle yourself with macroeconomic trends beyond your control

Social Participant

A Social Participant (SP) Domain pays into and benefits from a full suite of social benefits and safety net programs run by Earth Central. Domains can present their own social benefits, but the Earth Central social benefit infrastructure is a fine tuned apparatus second to none. Due to its effectiveness, no other Domain can match the cost/benefit ratio of the Earth Domains social programs. Social Participants guarantee their citizens with healthcare, unemployment insurance, poverty prevention, public schooling and other measures that enforce an agreed level of life quality. Social Participants pay a considerable tax for these benefits, but benefit from more stable and attractive living conditions. Social Participants must be Economic Partners, and while Social Participants are not required to be Military Confederates, currently all SPs that are also Confederated. This is likely due to the political and cultural similarities shared by SPs.

Earth Central

Finally, there is the Earth Central level. Domains in Earth Central not only share military, economic, and social infrastructure, they are also all subject to a federal government with a common legal and statutory code. All federal laws fully apply to all Earth Central Domains and all Earth Central citizens can vote in federal elections. Domains and Cities within Earth Central may have additional local laws and have some executive autonomy, but may not contradict the federal government’s laws. All Earth Central Domains are on Earth itself, except for August Domain, which is 750 light years away.

Status Report

I’m adding a status report to the bottom of the home page to show how far I am on each video. One of the initial purposes of the blog is to keep me on track with video production. While I can’t yet give a certain date of when the next video will be done, I’d like you to know what phase of the process I’m on. Here’s an what the status report looks like at the time of this blog post’s writing:

A quick breakdown, on the left are the phases and on the right are the states.

The phases have to happen in sequence, except for animating and scoring, which can both happen after storyboarding:

  • Writing – this is the process of writing out the chapters. I’m actually with writing all the way to chapter four, and most of five is done. This is not a bottleneck to say the least 😄.
  • Recording – recording voice for the video.
  • Storyboarding – arranging the shots and composition for the animation.
  • Scoring – creating the soundtrack. This is done by Seedling, not me.
  • Animating – drawing, tweening, and sequencing frames.

Each phase will be displayed in one of 3 states. I believe that tasks, any tasks, can only exist in one of three states:

  • Not Started/Waiting
  • In Progress
  • Done

Here it is broken into a table for reference 😋:

Not Being worked onBeing Worked on
Not DoneNot Started / WaitingIn Progress

I will will update the status report whenever I am ready to change the state of one of the phases.

By the way, the header image for this post is meaningless. It’s just that WordPress wouldn’t accept the image of the status report because it was too small. So I goofed out a sketch and called it a blog post.

Thanks for reading!

Step by Step

Keep plodding along. One of the hardest things for me to accept about work is that it takes time. Things that seem like they should take half an hour instead take an hour and a half. I discussed this in one of my early posts – The Trade – the feeling that things should be done sooner and that I am too slow to produce.

This is, of course, hogwash. Things just take time, especially if I am not particularly well-practiced at things. Take for example of Akrai, the Marvan Heron above. I’m having to come up with a physiology of a fictional animal that I invented. The known proportions of the human figure are not helpful here; there is no Vitruvian Marvan Heron. All I can do is rely on my own sketches and pictures of ostrich legs as study. This is one of the first sketches of this creature, so of course I am not practiced at it and cannot produce it very quickly.

A typical canvas where I stick a bunch of previous drawings for study while I working on a new figure (center left).

I have been impressed by how much repetition has aided me in drawing drovers and armored humans (as seen in the first video). A perfect example of this repition is the animation below, which required redrawing the same figure in different poses multiple times.

There are thirteen unique frames in this short animation, with some of those frames repeated.

I used to look at concept/study sketches from animators that thought they were mostly fanciful showcases for characters, not true source material. But seeing how much I’ve been using concept sketches for my own work has changed my mind. I have concept sketches and studies for most of the characters and the species of free drove; and I use them regularly to ensure that I am somewhat consistent.

Here you can see some breakdowns of drover anatomy, not all final mind you, it’s all a process of iterative refinement.

I suppose that much like everything else, the bulk of work in animation and drawing is preparation. I can only approach it one step at a time to avoid becoming discouraged. I will say, it’s a really cool feeling when a series of tiny steps eventually (and sometimes suddenly) lands you with a finished product!

Progress Update: Voice recording for Chapter 1, Part 2 is under way, and I have 3 minutes of animation already storyboarded.

See ya soon!

Chapter 1, Part 1

Yes it’s true, the first video of the Free Drove series is finally up!!

This is the third video to be released on the channel, the first two being the intro videos (subtitled and un-subtitled). But this video is the first in the actual story proper.

You might notice that the posting date of the video is 2020-03-21 which is a day after I promised it (2020-03-20). But, in fact, I did have the video posted around 22:00 Honolulu time so technically, I made the deadline 💪😠. No, I don’t live in Hawaii, but I couldn’t make it by local midnight… It was a real dash.

Animating Coal, the human in the center, was a serious undertaking, took me several days, probably 8 hours in all. I don’t know why I got so ambitious so close to the deadline!! 😩

Anyhow, the morning after the video was posted, we worked out some graphical uggs and fixed up the sound. I reposted the video on the 21st with the fixes and deleted the old one. I promise the sound quality is much better!

The Surprise – MUSIC!

So in my post about the intro video I promised a surprise, and if you’ve watched the video, you’ll have noticed the soundtrack! You might have notied that I wrote “we” in the paragraph above. Well, I’m glad to let you know that I have a talented musician contributing to the project! For the purposes of this project he goes by Seedling and is a self-published composer and multi-instrumentalist. His contribution has added another layer to the video in a way that I could not have done by myself.

I’ve never mentioned anything about music before and it was something I only thought of doing after I started working on the first video. But I really love how it turned out. Working with Seedling was a really fun process. Most everything is a product of his brain, but when I had a suggestion, he integrated it into the work and kept rolling. I think I will ask him to make a post about the music sometime in the future.

Beyond helping with the music, Seedling also lent his discerning eye for catching some graphical issues that were left behind by my clumsy hands.


So now I feel like the spirit of the project is really coming together. I have the same path forward, but the landmarks of two videos behind me. This will help me refine the process and strengthen my resolve to keep going.

In order to be more accommodating to guests, I’ve rearranged the blog’s front page. It now features the introductory video, blog posts, video library and the twitter feed in that order. I think that someone stepping onto the site will not experience the confusion that would have bedeviled earlier visitors. If someone is not sure what they are looking at, they can watch the intro video to get a quick context. People who want to stick around can read the articles and leave comments. I’m always looking for feedback and comments, so please feel free to drop a comment either here, on YouTube or on Twitter.

Thanks to everyone who has been on this adventure with me so far and I welcome all who want to join in and watch this science-fiction story continue to take shape!