Spring Forward—Ack! I Tripped!

Hi folks, there will be a slight delay in this week’s Mermaid Music — I’ll be posting tomorrow (Tuesday) instead of today. All kinds of things have been happening here — new projects, new neighbours, tons of events— and, well, I’ve burned through my buffer again. Never fear, however; we’ll be back on track with a proper Monday post next week.

The most exciting project with relevance to this comic is that I’ve just completed an eight-page story about Root Redwing in her younger days for an anthology by Kraken Komiks, a group of comics creators that I hang out with here in Victoria, BC. Here’s a panel with an actual MERMAID to make up for you having to wait until tomorrow for the next instalment!

Root encounters a young mermaid and her pet octopus! Like dogs, octopuses should be well trained.

Root encounters a young mermaid and her pet octopus! Like dogs, octopuses should be well trained.

It was drawn in ink, with brush-pen, somewhat larger then I usually work, then coloured digitally in greyscale with Photoshop (which took way longer than watercolour, by the way — but I’ve been doing watercolour for about a million years and digital only a couple). I learned a lot doing it though, as I did a lot of experimenting to get it to look the way I had envisioned it. I’ve worked very little in greyscale, either digitally or traditionally; it’s always been straight black-and-white or full colour for me. This was harder than either!

If you’re interested in what else I’ve been up to the last month or so, head on over to my main blog, Karen Gillmore Art! I’ll post more about the upcoming anthology soon; the theme is cephalopods, and it will be in print around the middle of April! I’m also planning to have a new print issue of Mermaid Music out by Mid-May, so stay tuned.

UPDATE: Well, the new page is posted, and technically, it’s still Monday (it’s 11:35pm). Hope it was worth the wait!

New Year, Fresh Start!

Hi folks! Happy 2016! Mermaid Music is about to be back in the swing of things, and it’s appropriate to be starting a new subplot at the beginning of the year! I’ve got a nice buffer of pages drawn, and am right now finishing up the painting of the page of which I posted the inked version, oh, too many moons ago. *blush* I didn’t mean to take so long, but my art life has been very busy — just to prove it to myself, I wrote a post on my main blog about all the art stuff I have done in the last year.

I’ll be posting once a week, on Mondays. At one point I was posting more often, but that was part of what led to my burnout, and I felt that I wasn’t able to do the justice to the art that I wanted to do. I really care a lot about this story, and I’ve decided it’s more important to give each page all I can rather than giving myself too-tight deadlines. I have enough of those in other parts of my art life! It’s nice, and I think important, to have one project where I can give myself permission to relax into the process.

So stay tuned, and for those of you who have subscribed, you will start getting those weekly story updates in your inboxes again on Monday! I’ll be scheduling posts for 6 AM PST. In the meantime, here’s a fishy doodle, on the back of one of my band’s Christmas set lists, done during the open stage prior to our feature set. You can have some fun trying to decipher what we played!

I've had cats on the brain lately; we are currently catless, and I've been drawing a LOT of them. Here's some for the mermaids.

I’ve had cats on the brain lately; we are currently catless, and I’ve been drawing a LOT of them. Here’s some for the mermaids.


Sometimes I've been feeling like I'm swimming upstream — but I think I've found the flow!

Sometimes I’ve been feeling like I’m swimming upstream — but I think I’ve found the flow!

Hi folks, I’m still working on getting the comic back in action, but in the meantime, I’d like to fill you in on what I have been doing! It’s been an incredibly busy couple of months since I last posted. I have finished the two huge illustration jobs I was working on (still can’t talk about them until they’re published, but I can say that one of them is about undersea stuff!) and done a couple of other smaller ones. The bills come first, alas!

I’ve also been part of a group of local comics artists that launched in September, and we are doing some really exciting networking, and planning some publishing projects for the spring. I took part in Inktober, a world-wide initiative which I wrote about here, here, here, and here. It was great to relax and do some little, one-off drawings, and it kind of cleared my head for getting back into the comic.

But the big, big, BIG news, is that I’ve finally broken the ice on having an online shop. I’ve been doing tons of research, trying to decide how to make my art available, and decided to start with a POD (print on demand) company called Redbubble. I just uploaded my first design tonight, and it’s page 36 from this very webcomic where Sami spies the mermaid amongst the dolphins! It works very well as a print I think. I wrote a bit more about it, with links to the shop, on my regular blog. Please go check it out!

I’ll be back with more news about Mermaid Music very soon!

Pushing the Pause Button

They told me so. Did I listen? Noooooo!

Common wisdom has it that one should have at least six weeks of buffer pages before starting posting a webcomic. When I started posting the first chapter, it was all pencilled, and much of it already coloured and/or inked, which let me post blithely first once, then twice a week into June. In my customary eternal enthusiasm and almost pathological optimism, I had planned to jump back in at the beginning of August with the next chapter, which I did, and unwisely.

Why? Because I. Did. Not. Listen! Common wisdom is common for a reason.

As you know from my last couple of posts, I’ve been struggling a bit (okay, a lot) to keep up with a regular schedule of pages. I’ve been up to my eyeballs in a couple of big illustration gigs (which I can’t post about yet, it’s killing me!) and life just keeps happening. Which is good, one wouldn’t want it to not!  But it can have a way of thwarting plans based on sheer optimism.

Looking at my workload, I’ve concluded that I’m going to have to back off and obey the Purveyors of Common Wisdom (not to mention the laws of nature that give us only 24 hours in a day): I’m going to pause the comic until I get a backlog finished so that I can keep up a regular schedule and not have to keep apologizing (really, if I have to keep being sheepish on a regular basis, I’m going to have to go live in a meadow)! Realistically speaking, based on the last chapter, this will probably take me a couple of months, so hopefully it will be back up and running in early November.

I want to be able to spend the time on this comic to make it the best it can be, out of respect for you, my readers, and my own vision, so that when I launch back into it, it will be the best I can make it. I’m finding myself slowing down and really putting the love into it; since this is my own project, a labour of love, I need to feel free to do that.

I won’t abandon you entirely, Dear Readers; there will be sketches and news (maybe even some tutorials!), and I’ll try to do that often. So I’m going to leave you for now with a teaser of the next page: Aunt Root returns in a “meanwhile” interlude back on shore. This is the inked version, which will be coloured as I have the others. The story will resume in a couple of months with this very page in full watercolour glory!

Aunt Root is back, and about to find out about that contract she mentioned to Sami back on page 20. The Redwing logo was fun to design, and I'll be playing with that a bit — might even make some jewellery!

Aunt Root is back, and about to find out about that contract she mentioned to Sami back on page 20. The Redwing logo was fun to design, and I’ll be playing with that a bit — might even make some jewellery!

The Artist is Human

Hello readers, just a quick post here to let you know what’s going on. I’m forced, with much blushing, to admit being human (not that I’ve been posing as a mermaid or anything). My superpowers seem to be on the fritz right now, and I have been too ill all week to do much art. With much regret, I’m going to switch back to a once-a-week schedule for a while to give myself time to heal and address some long-term health issues. The story will continue, though — I have so much good stuff planned! I will post weekly on Monday mornings, beginning this Monday, and hopefully resume the twice weekly postings within a month or so.  Thanks for sticking with me, and Sami and the crew!

Here's a bit of my past seashore art to keep you in the mood!

Here’s a bit of my past seashore art to keep you in the mood!
“Dancing Starfish” — acrylic on canvas

Delays, and Cook’s Grog

A mermaid sketch card: watercolour and ink, 2.5x3.5 inches

A mermaid sketch card: watercolour and ink, 2.5×3.5 inches

I’m about to set sail (on a ferryboat) to the great dry inland of BC, and fear that I may have to leave you all high and dry on our story until next Tuesday — I’m setting off with two partial pages, but then I realized that I will probably have no way to scan them and send them off to you. Arrrgh! So next Tuesday (August 18), the winds being willing, I will post the next two pages at one time — so be sure to check them both and find out why Hart Jones feels he must feed the mermaid a libation of grog!

And what exactly is grog, anyway? According to the Wikipedia article on the subject, it was a drink made with water or “small beer” (a weak beer), lemon or lime juice, and rum, to help combat scurvy. Nowadays, however, it can refer to any alcoholic drink.  Aboard The Mermaid, scurvy isn’t so much of a worry, because she is a coastal vessel in a mild climate, able to get plenty of fresh fruit and veggies (and Cook makes sure of that) — so they have their own grog recipe that they like, made of cider infused with spices that they trade for in the Southern Isles. It’s not always the same, but Cook makes it with a medium-sweet cider (did you notice all those barrels down by the galley?), sticks of cinnamon, star anise, cardamom pods, ginger root, and cloves. He makes a big batch of concentrated syrup using the spices and some fresh squeezed cider (so no alcohol yet) by heating it in a kettle. He bottles it up and seals it, then he adds the spice infusion to the hard cider when he taps it. If they have lemons and lime on board, he adds a squeeze or two to taste. Mmmm!

A Preview, in Ink

Hello, loyal followers! I have a confession to make — It has somehow gotten to be Thursday night, and I’m a bit behind on tomorrow’s page, due to, well, life, and summer, and so forth (imagine me looking rather sheepish here).  I spent so long perfecting the script that I’m now making up time to create a proper backlog of pages so they will all come out on their proper dates at 6AM PDT (do any of you really get up that early? Of course you do, some of you are even on different continents!). Please know that I am now in Painting Like The Wind mode, and will have tomorrow’s page out… tomorrow. Just not at 6 AM. Sometime tomorrow.

But in the meantime, in case you are going away for the weekend and will miss tomorrow’s page, and will pine away, not enjoying your vacation unless you know what is going to happen, here is a rare look at my inked version, before I slather watercolour all over it! Kind of has a minimalist charm, doesn’t it?

Page one of Chapter 2: Pigma Micron pens on Opus Watermedia paper. Sami is still mesmerized by what she has seen in the water!

Page one of Chapter 2: Pigma Micron pens on Opus Watermedia paper. Sami is still mesmerized by what she has seen in the water!

The Music of the Waves

Hello, Denizens of the Internet Sea!  I hope you’ve all been swimming about happily in the summer sunshine. Myself, I took a brief break this past weekend; I desperately needed to get away and get some perspective on life — and for me, the place to do that is down by the sea.

"Dawn Fog" Watercolour

“Dawn Fog”

West about an hour from Victoria, BC, is a place called French Beach. It’s a provincial park with a campground, in a beautiful forest next to a cobblestone and sand beach. There are silvery driftwood logs to sit on, and the smooth, many-coloured stones hold the heat of the sun — you can lie on them, after wriggling around to make a nice comfy hollow, and soak up the heat from below while the cool breeze blows over you. There is always a cool breeze; the Pacific Ocean is like a giant refrigerator, and although it may be properly summer-hot half a kilometre inland, by the ocean you need a sweater. Or two.

On Friday, I was basking on those stones, leaning on a log with two friends, sleepily gazing at the gentle waves lapping the sandy part of the beach and being lulled by their music. The distant horizon, where normally one would see the Olympic Mountains across the strait, was misted over, and it looked like there was nothing between us and China. I found myself drowsily contemplating of all the things that could be under that silvery surface. There could be whales just out of sight, or giant squid, or sea serpents. There were certainly undersea gardens; I could just see the tops of the kelp floating in great rafts on the surface. I knew from kayaking over those same beds, gazing down into the clear waters on a still day, that the kelp’s holdfasts are attached to rocks many metres below, making a whole undersea forest for fish and tiny creatures.

The night before, I had lain awake listening to the wind rushing through the trees and the breakers crashing on the shore. Sometimes it was hard to tell the sounds apart. The night sea sang a song of power, a duet with the wind; I could imagine King Neptune himself out there, gleefully hurling bits of his kingdom at the alien land, eroding and claiming it to pave his pelagic halls. Sitting in the sun the next day, the languid fingers of the waves rolling the rocks together in delicate, tinkling cascades of sound, I thought of how many different tunes water can play. Or perhaps it is all one symphony, never-ending, and ever changing.

I fell to imagining what it must sound like underwater to those who live there. Not like the sloshing noise and muffled shouts of playing kids that you get when you duck under the surface at the pool — it must be like hearing the planet breathing. The sound of the waves above instead of the wind and the gulls and ravens; the rustling of anemones and sea fans and eels slipping in and out of their caves instead of the hooting of owls and rabbits rustling through the grass. And you would feel it on your skin, and reverberating through your blood, not just in your ears. If you were able to make sounds, like the whales, like the mermaids, your songs would pass right through other creatures, changing them for a moment into a part of you, a language far more intimate than our words carried on the thin air.

At last I had to return to the dry stones and the forest; but something had been conveyed to me by the chanting waves. I took away a kind of peace, an urge for a slower rhythm. Here’s the thing: if you can go to the sea, do so as often as you can, and listen carefully. Even if you are nowhere near the sea, remember that you carry its salty song in your veins; keep a large seashell at hand so you can listen to its echoes. And don’t forget to sing along.

Beneath the Surface Watercolour

Beneath the Surface

Making a Mermaid Maquette

I’ve been shamefully neglecting my main blog lately, because I’m having so much fun over here at Mermaid Music! So I thought I’d get double the use out of a post and write something that applied to both blogs.

One of the things that has been a semi-regular feature on my other blog is the occasional tutorial, or series of tutorials. Tonight I started making a mermaid character maquette for use as drawing reference for this comic, and have documented the first stages. I’ll continue posting the progress of the piece as I go along. Rather than post it all again here, I’m going to send you over to Karen Gillmore Art now, to read the post about how to make a mermaid!

So click away, and while you over there, if you like what you see, why not follow or subscribe on e-mail to get lots of art and comics related goodies in your inbox?

I know she doesn't look like much yet, but this is the inner soul of a mermaid maquette!

I know she doesn’t look like much yet, but this is the inner soul of a mermaid maquette!

Cartography, At Last

I love drawing maps. As a kid I drew pirate maps on old brown grocery bags, burning the edges to make them look old (with Mom’s help). In geography class, I lived for the feel of onionskin tracing paper, and the traced and coloured maps we were assigned. I had great fun recently making an updated map for Elizabeth Ann Scarborough’s Seashell Archives series. And at last I get to make one for my own world, the world of Mermaid Music.

I’ve had the shape of what the world looks like, or at least Sami’s little corner of it, in my mind for some time. Those familiar with the area around the west coast border of British Columbia and Washington State may recognize some influences here, though I’ve kept it very loose (I didn’t even look at a map because I didn’t want to get too close). My concept of the islands trade and the voyage The Mermaid will be taking grew out of the landscape of my home, on what we call the Salish Sea, which includes all the straits, sounds, and bays between our islands and the mainland, so it seemed a natural place to start.

This drawing was entirely made in Photoshop, based on a pencil sketch. There's still a lot of work to do, to give the land some more form, add place-names, a compass, and maybe a couple of "here there be dragons" kind of things!

This drawing was entirely made in Photoshop, based on a pencil sketch. There’s still a lot of work to do, to give the land some more form, add place-names, a compass, and maybe a couple of “here there be dragons” kind of things!

This drawing is a work in progress of the area where the next bit of the story will take place, or at least start. The Mermaid and her crew will be heading even further south, and I’ll expand the map as we go. As for names, I have a few, though the map is only roughed in, so I haven’t written them in yet. I’ll present a more finished version soon. (UPDATE: there is now a “map” tab in the top menu bar!)

Sami’s home is the island near the top with the two lakes. The little round bay on the west side of the island (assume standard map directions) where the two rivers come to the sea is Moon Bay, where the action so far has been taking place.