Nature Burger

Ahhhh… nature.

Living in the suburbs, and in particular a suburb that butts up squarely against a natural river valley preserved against development, it’s not uncommon to have the occasional run in with wildlife. I’ll often see coyotes or deer when I’m out running and extending my range into theirs.

When the reverse is true, those critters extending their range back into our habitat, things take a turn for the strange and curious.

You probably don’t know a lot about this guy yet, but Gaige is the kind of guy who upon running up against a midlife crisis here in the digital era has decided that he wants to get away from his work-a-day lifestyle and spend more time out and about in the wood.

In fact, he started a YouTube channel and has been uploading amature documentary-style videos of his wandering “adventures.”

To date, this is basically a lot of nature walks and campfire cooking tutorials.

And, I know what you’re thinking: “Gee whiz, this guy sounds a little bit like the author of this blog I’ve been reading. Are you sure they’re not connected somehow?”

To which I reply: “We all have our stories to tell, and this is one of those stories.”

Because as certainly as Gaige and his dog are just starting to meddle in some small local adventures, the moment will certainly come when he’s going to start stepping a little further… and further… and further out of his comfort zone and trying to tackle the interesting types of things that attract viewers and subscribers and …

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

For now you’ll just need to be contented knowing that as Gaige steps out into the world he’s bound to encounter a whole swath of surprises. And wildlife doing wild things are just the tip of a very big iceberg.

Crispy Campfire

As much as I’ve been spending time fine-tuning my campfire cooking skills, I’ve been thinking about all the small ways that effort has translated into a bit of backyard humour, too.

Having a teenage daughter helps. She often and candidly points out all my shortcomings. Free of charge. “I’m embarrassed for you, dad.”

Or more recently, “The ribs are burnt, dad. I can’t eat this.”

They we’re not burnt. They were crispy.

So it goes that in episode two of Gaige and Crick I tried to do what I always do when I write up a script for a new comic: take a dash of real life and salt it heavily with a bit of exaggeration.

Perhaps you too have spent some time cooking over a hot flame recently. Watching the professionals barbecue juicy meats over sizzling coals looks like knowledge that should be baked into our genes, locked into the primal ancient skillset possessed by every human on the planet. If I need to grill a hunk of flesh over a fire, darn it, that is my legacy as a participant in the human race. Right?

The hot grease that dripped from my slow-cooked ribs was hardly the ignition source for a mushroom cloud, but it sure felt that way when my meticulously prepared coals and carefully laid plans turned into a small inferno a few seconds into the grilling process.

Gaige is in over his head, it often seems. He so desperately wants to be a professional. He so eagerly wants to build himself up as a something he is not. Luckily Crick’s head is a little closer to the ground.

Spring Snow

It’s the latter half of May and after weeks of sitting in the backyard sun, cooking out on the campfire grill, starting the garden work, and contemplating the birds, bugs, and flowers, it snowed last night.

It snowed a heap.

So much for spring. Well, for today, at least.

Of course, I stepped out into the yard and checked my trees. The apple tree was covered (no, COVERED) in blossoms and while snow does not equal freezing or frost (mind = blown?) the chill temperatures are not great for those delicate little flowers-soon-to-be-apples.

The dog on the other hand was in her glory.

Born in September, our eight month old puppy spent the first couple months of her life with her litter inside, in a heated garage, cuddled up with her siblings.

Then we adopted her, and brought her home in a minor blizzard, and set her in the backyard to do her puppy-business in a hand-depth of powder.

The first four months of her life here were bound in snow, covered in ice, and braced in chill winds. In short, she grew up in the snow covered city and will likely forever be a snow dog.

It’s probably not surprising then, that when I opened the back door and let her into the yard as the flakes began to fall, her reaction was…

Nostalgia?

Elation?

Unfiltered puppy excitement?

I didn’t think I could express this any other way than to share a bit of art with you: she ran in circles for nearly ten minutes, chased snowflakes and leapt through the patches of accumulation settling into the greening grass. She shook and jumped and played, and in the end I had to coax her inside with a treat to dry off and warm up.

At least one local was excited about the temporary change in the weather, I guess.

Comic: Kicking off Gaige and Crick

I alluded in a previous post that I was fumbling through the idea of starting another web comic as a kind of spiritual sequel to the comic I stopped drawing about two years ago now.

I think it would make a great addition to a daily blog like this and allow me to supplement the wordy nature of daily blogging with something unique and more visual.

It’s not much to look at yet, but it blossomed out of an idea to take an art style I’m comfortable with and a legacy of drawing comics about parenting and then extrapolating it into a story about a guy and his dog and their adventures through the backcountry.

I fussed through some concept work over the last couple days and did some loose sketching on my iPad:

I roughed that out in my go-to vector editing program, Inkscape, first playing around with a character design and getting the models where I liked them. What resulted was some basic art and recycling of the some of the assets from my former comic to rough out the scene:

I did another hour or so of work to build some updated custom scenery, specifically looking at how I can do “nature” better if that’s going to be the primary setting for a future strip. I sketched some trees, I cleaned up my backgrounds and worked on some shadowing.

I’m also keeping to my custom cartooning font that I created and tweaked for use in that aforementioned web comic project.

The final result was a masthead that I’m reasonably happy sharing as a kick-off to this sub-project:

Where this goes next is probably going to take me a few weeks or more to get rolling properly. Stories & jokes. Some settings. More art assets. And a schedule for designing and publishing these on this blog.

Stay tuned.

The Adventures of Gaige and Crick has taken it’s first step out the front door.