Category: Veronica M.

Desert Museum Week 5

Hey, it’s time to actually make some comics! Mrs. Robin was off work this week so I was set to go off drawing on my own.

First step was to acquire the supplies: paper and pens. After some online research I headed down to Michel’s to buy some smooth Bristol paper. The paper came in 11in x 17 in sheets, in packs of 24, and could barely fit in my tiny backpack. As labeled, it was very smooth, and sliding a pen nib across the surface of the paper felt like silk.

For pens, I briefly experimented with dip pens, but quickly scrapped a work-in-progress page and resigned from that idea. Some artists can make real beautiful work with dip pens, but I’m not one of them. I just lack the dexterity and experience with my wrist, and I decided I should save learning that skill for another day. I settled on using technical pens for the linework, because they are quick drying, smudge resistant, and very convenient to carry and use. The fact I already owned a small collection of them was an additional factor.

So basically, it was a week of drawing and inking, inking and drawing, and so forth. What a time.



Desert Museum Week 4

This week was spent sketching more specific subject as well as doing more detailed planning for the comic. My major question for this project is how does the comic production process work, and admittedly, since I make comics in my free time as well I already had an idea. However, I soon found that I couldn’t follow my usual production flow for several reasons.

My usual process is a very rough and messy one, because when I make comics for fun I release one or two pages a week, rather than posting the whole story at once. I start with Because of this, I’m able to edit my script and story as I write. This wouldn’t be a good plan for this project, though, as I’ll be drawings and releasing these comics all at once. I have to make my scripts as perfect as they can be before I start drawing, and this has proven to be very difficult. I thought the writing/editing process would pass by rather quickly, but I still find myself stuck on some pages and have difficulties in pacing and wording. This is probably because I am a writer, not an artist, and most of my experience in writing for comics is just writing dialogue. I’m writing narration for these educational comics, and so far it has been very different. Making expository text entertaining, informative, and kid-friendly all at the same time has been frustrating, but I feel I’m getting somewhere.

A second issue came in the form of plans for the artwork. Usually when I do comics, my medium of choice is digital. I prefer it over traditional for several reasons, one of which is efficiency. Coloring, lettering, and paneling are all much faster in digital media than traditional. While it may take me 10 minutes to just paint a basic watercolor wash and let it dry, in the same time I could color and shade a digital sketch. Additionally, in digital corrections are much easier, there’s no ink to smudge, no paper to tear, no water to spill, just pure, unadulterated, pixels. Unfortunately, I don’t think working in digital would be ideal for this project.

Some of the work for this comic will be done at the Desert Museum, AKA not at my computer desk. I can’t just pack up my brick of a PC and set it up at the Desert Museum whenever I need to draw, so traditional seems to be the more efficient method. I’ll have to (re)familiarize myself with many traditional methods and make several decisions on supplies soon.

Additionally, during this week I spent some time doing studies of taxidermized bird feet and wings. the museum keeps several specimens of preserved bird skeletons and body parts. They’re often used during educational demonstrations, and just a few weeks ago I helped talk about them during a class on birds for elementary school kids. I have always struggled drawings accurate wings and feet, so this was great practice.

The wings were kept in a dingy crinkled Ziplock bag, and were frayed from years of handled and fondled by children. I mainly studied the kestrel wing, as it was the most intact one on hand, as well as a great horned owl foot.

Desert Museum: Week 3

Who’s ready for another fun week of animals? Probably me, I kind of signed up for this.

Over this week I really started planning out the structure of how the graphic novel will work. I decided the book will be divided into several sections of around eight pages each, just to make it convenient for printing. I was mainly writing this week, trying to plan out each section of the comic to be. I settled on these topics:

  • Sonoran Desert Overview: Basic facts and reasons why it is such a biodiverse desert
  • Saguaro Cactus: It’s role as a keystone species and how other species interact with it
  • Hibernation and Estivation: How cold blooded animals beat the heat and cold
  • Nocturnality: How animals avoid daylight to conserve water and stay cool
  • Desert Birds: The unique avians of the Sonoran desert

Each of these chapters are independent of the others, so if I ran out of time, I could simply cut one out without adverse effects on the final product.

Additionally, during this week I got to attend a meeting on working at the stingray touch tank, despite the fact I won’t be allowed to work there anytime soon. Still, it was informative to the behind-the-scenes planning that goes on in a zoo. The basic logistics composed most of the meeting, such as how many people to let in at a time, when to open up and close, what to do if there’s a thunderstorm, and so forth.

One thing that stood out to me were the procedures in case a ray jumped out of the pool. Apparently, rays do jump out of the water occasionally in the wild, but it’s a problem when it happens in an enclosure like this because the ray would be stranded on the concrete. The basic plan in such a event would be to immediately scoop the ray up with a net and place it back in the pool. In case any museum visitors started asking about the ray, museum staff , they are to acknowledge the fact that the ray jumped out, but to explain that this in an occurrence in the wild and that they will have a veterinarian later examine the animal.

Overall, this week mainly consisted of planning.  Next week I’ll start getting into the real nitty gritty of working out this project.

Coati Kids Club #2

When Ms. Robin took me aboard as her intern, she wanted me to help with the Coati Kids Clubs, an educational event for children held once a month on Saturdays. This Saturday was the second one I assisted with, an off-site event.

Everyone started at the Desert Museum at the Baldwin Education Building. There were fewer families than usual this time around, maybe two thirds of the number who came last time. That was understandable, I imagine less people would want to drive out to the Silver Bell Mountains to stand out in the sun for two hours.  A man who worked in preventing soil erosion near Marana gave a short lecture before anyone left. He spoke about bluegrass and fires and keeping dogs on leashes as Ms Robin passed a Desert Tortoise around to be petted. Soon I joined Ms. Robin and her daughter in an old and dingy Jeep, property of the Museum.

We drove for 45 minutes, following a trail of cars led by the lecturer. He stopped a few times to show everyone a patch of buffelgrass as well as the most numerously armed saguaro in the world.

When we arrived at the hills near Silver Bell Mountain, the lecturer walked out to a small garden on the side of the road where another man was working. He walked us around the area to show us his project: one rock dams.

One rock dams are a simple tool used to prevent soil erosion from rainfall. They’re constructed of a flat bed of rocks, one stone deep with each rock fit in with the others like a puzzle piece. The sheet of stones lets water flow over it, and over a few years soil will be washed between and over the rocks, creating a new patch of earth for grasses to thrive in.

The club was given a short lesson on how to make one rock dams, and then the kids and their parents were set loose to make some themselves. I wonder if part of the reason he agreed to teach the club was to get some extra hands to make more dams, but I imagine he’d have his doubts about the construction skills of ten year-olds. Still, for or vife one rock dams were swiftly laid out, and while, I’m no expert myself, they looked pretty good to me.

This day was a lot less involved than the last Coati Kids Club meeting, but it was still very informative. During my time at the museum, I’ve been mainly focused of fauna, so learning about the soil and plants of the Sonoran Desert was new. I didn’t have many opportunities to really assist in this club meeting, mainly because it was the men who worked to prevent soil erosion doing most of the teaching rather than Ms. Robin. Still, I’m very grateful that I was invited to come along for this Coati club event, and I’m excited for the next one in April.

Week 2 at the Desert Museum

During this week at the desert museum, I got to meet a very handsome gentleman. He’s very charming, he loves to chit chat with me in the classroom, and gives me a chirpy, “hello, how are you?” almost every time I see him. Ms. Robin keeps telling me that he has a “thing for brunettes,” in her own words, and I’m starting to think he likes me! And of course, he had just the cutest name: Luca!


Who’s a pretty bird? Luca is!

But in all seriousness, Luca is a lovely bird to work with. He’s from the museum’s interpretative animal collection, where they keep all the animals who are regularly handled and brought outside of their enclosures for purposes of teaching the public. During this week I helped Ms. Robin with several classes, both involving Luca!

On Tuesday, Ms. Robin and I went on an outreach program at Hiaki High School, located on a Yaqui reservation. She did a presentation on pollination to a class of seniors, using desert tortoise, bat, and military macaw for her examples. The students enjoyed it, there were plenty of people pulling out their cellphones to take pictures, participating in the presentation, and observing the animals. It was a little weird, though, assisting in the educational program when all these kids were my age or older. I’m only used to helping out with small children, so it was a different experience.

Thursday held another education program, this time on-grounds and for a class of elementary school students. This on was completely focused on birds, featuring an American kestrel, a barn owl, and again, the lovely Luca. During these presentations, I mainly served as an assistant. I lack the training to actually handle the animals, so Ms. Robin does much of the work by museum regulation. Still, I was able to help by setting up supplies, explaining confusing concepts to the students and answering some questions.

Lastly, here’s this week’s sketches.


Week one

My first week at the Desert Museum recently ended and it was nothing short of lovely! The museum staff and docents have been overwhelmingly kind and helpful, providing me with no shortage of information and ideas. Ms. Robin wanted my first week to just have my head getting crammed with information, to which I think she succeeded. In just the first week of internship I’ve been able to help feed porcupines, get up close to barn owls in the aviary, and watch cactus wrens build nests inches in front of me!

20170207_100110What an absolute doll! This wee pokey critter was taken out so her enclosure could be cleaned. She was given some fruit and veggies as a treat, which she eagerly gobbled up. She didn’t appreciate the sweet potato, though, and refused to take it when I offered it to her.


The cactus wren nest in this chain fruit cholla was right next to the main trail in the cactus garden. Hopefully no on will disturb the birds by the time their eggs are laid.

This week was quite calm at the Desert Museum, not too many visitors, no educational events, so I had plenty of time to talk to the docents and staff to gather research and sketches for my comic plans.  I’ve already gotten plenty of ideas, the main trouble will be deciding what info to keep in and what to keep out. If I made a comic about everything I had learned so far, it would probably be at a hundred pages long, and I simply don’t have the time to draw all of that.

The current plan is to have the comic around 48 pages long, with section on specific features of the desert each being 8 or 16 pages long. Comics are usually made to be some multiple of four pages long, due to the way the paper is folded when printing. This limit is already proving to be a bit tricky to write around, as it means I’ll have to compress a lot of information if I want to get everything I want in the comic.

As for working on the comic’s art itself, I’m still getting a handle on drawing live animals, many of them are quite animated in their enclosures. It’s hard to get even a decent gesture sketch down when the critters refuse to stay still.

Continue reading “Week one”

Day One at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

I don’t know about you, but my definition of a fun day is standing around in the sun for three hours watching animals ignore me. And fun days they were! In just my first week at the Desert Museum I’ve managed to get up close with all sorts of animals I never thought I’d be so close to, as well as learn a ton of natural history from the museum docents and staff.

Day one

My first day of volunteering at the Desert Museum was Saturday the 5th. I was helping out with a Coati Kid’s club event, a program to help teach grade school level children about Sonoran animals and wildlife through presentations and fun activities.

The kids were learning about otters, which aren’t animals typically associate with the desert. Apparently, otters used to be more common in southeast Arizona, but as the rivers and riparian areas left so did the otters. This makes me really wish there were still permanent rivers in Tucson. Imagine if you could see otters in the Tanque Verde Creek next to Basis? I’d want that, that would be amazing, I love otters! Instead of otters, however, the Tanque Verde River is just filled with dirt and sadness.


Ms Robin, my faculty adviser had brought an animal to the classroom, a hog nosed skunk. While skunks and otters are very different creatures, the share a superfamily, musteloidea. Her name was Penelope, Penny le Pew and she was quite charming. She got to eat some mealworms in the dirt, what a cute thing she was! I did some sketches of her, as well as Dot, the museum’s river otter.


Later, the kids were given a craft to do, a tiny felt stuffed otter. All the pieces were cut out and laid out for them, they just had to put it together. It looked something like this:


Very detailed sketch, I know. I was manning a hot glue gun, to attach the plastic bead eyes to children’s crafts. A boy came up to me, about eight. He said, “I need my eyes glued, I can do it.”

I shook my head, “Sorry, but the glue gun can get very hot. We don’t want you burning yourself on it, so can I glue it for you?” I took the felt otter, dabbed a bit of hot glue onto the felt and pressed a bead into it, and yelped in pain. I burnt myself on some glue.

I’m sure that boy thought I looked very competent that moment.

After Coati Kids club was over, Ms. Robin set me loose to familiarize myself with the museum grounds and get some sketching done. I settled myself in the aviary and drew some bird, because I like birds.


And thus ended my first day at the ASDM. It was 3 o’clock when I turned in my volunteer badge and planned to set off to home.However, my father/my ride forgot that I got out at 3:00 PM. He was 45 minutes away from the museum at that point. So I got to sit in the hot sun in front of the museum for 45 minutes.

Again, bummer, but good day overall.

Sonoran Wildlife Education Through Graphic Novels

I will be interning at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum to draw a comic on Sonoran wildlife. The ASDM is a non profit organization committed to wildlife conservation and education, and one way in which they do that is through the arts. Here I will be doing artistic studies of the flora and fauna, shadowing docents, as well as assisting in children’s education programs.

Rather than doing research to uncover new knowledge, my project is focused on presenting known facts in a fun and entertaining form. Many people overlook the lush and illustrious Sonoran Desert as just wide plot of dirt and cacti, but with this comic I hope to help educate people on the flora and fauna of the landscape. While there will be some fantastic elements to the comic such as personified animals and plants, there will be an emphasis on factual education. By creating a comic book rather than a series of scientific illustrations, I hope to provide education in a form that can be enjoyed by a younger audience.

I plan to study illustration in college, and hope to pursue a career in the arts, especially comics, and this project ties directly into those goals. As I create this graphic novel, I hope to learn what is the process of creating a comic book, as well as the problems encountered along the way.