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by Valerie

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The next graphic was better as an idea than the final result. I wanted it to look like a block of ice but didn't have any good way of creating that. Instead, I used a program called La Fonta to make a rather lame ice cube. I do like the little bug and also the way it looks through the ice (done with a filter in PhotoShop Elements 2). I scanned the insect from a real clip art book, something I don't do very often. I'd have liked the graphic to be transparent but it took too much bandwidth that way and was easier to optimize with a non-transparent background. My favorite part of "Spring Thaw" is the little tail wag at the end.

Once again, with the next image, I like the idea better than the finished graphic. In fact, I like the title more than my execution of it! "Entomological Entropy" has an obvious clever air about it, but I don't think the realization is adequate. I just couldn't think of any other way to do it. This animation was created entirely in MS Paint. I probably spent more time in the layout of each individual part (each bug is a separate graphic, but there are only five of them) as I wanted them to look randomly spaced.

I was really on a roll with animations that just didn't live up to my expectations, as the next one also isn't as elegant as I imagined it would be. I wanted the "Bubble Bugs" to have round bubbles and not flattened ones. However, my little bubble-making program, La Fonta, which added the shine to the orbs, was limited in how high I could make the illusion appear. I suspect that something better could be done with PhotoShop, but I just didn't want to spend the time finding it. Maybe in another life I will fix this one up.

The next illustration would be appropriate for Halloween, but I used it for Independence Day. I loved sparklers when I was a kid, and "Spider Sparklers" has a nice ring to it. The white flashing sparks would have been tedious to create but I used the quickweb drawing function in Serif DrawPlus. With the various adjustments to the "web" I could get rid of the round parts and just keep the spokes. I made several different ones and then erased parts of the lines to look more like sparklers. It's not perfect, but certainly adequate for the amount of time spent.

The next graphic combines the elegance of a nice colorful metallic look with a silly neon effect. The not-so-creative title "Neon Bug" came first, as I had used graphic letters for the heading that month that looked like neon lights. It is tricky to decide how to handle the color palette on animations. I prefer using a global palette rather than different ones for each frame, so when one frame is a completely different color than the next, the palettes of each need to be merged and forced to use the global set of colors. Anyone who has tried making animated GIFs will know what I am talking about while anyone who has not will be totally lost in this gibberish. The insects themselves were characters in a dingbat font. I do like Ulead Photo Express for graphically working with fonts of any kind.

After several graphics that failed to live up to my expectations, I was pleasantly surprised by the result in "Out of the Ooze." I must have had prehistoric times, evolution, and the dawn of life on my mind. The simple lines have an appropriately fluid look to their movement, which is just a lucky accident, as I created the whole animation in MS Paint, which, as anyone who has used it knows, does not have any special helpful commands to help an artist realize their creations. Because each file had such small bandwidth, I went ahead and made six different graphics, each one with a different timing sequence. I like the random effect.

The next illustration was perfect with no animations at all, since it is cave art. I'd just watched the Disney animation "Lion King" for the first time and was thinking rock art. "Paleobugs" was made using the delightful dingbat font creations of Manfred Klein. I once again manipulated the font characters in Ulead Photo Express. This graphic felt like it needed a caption.

when bugs were big

Once again the annual image-rich holiday of Halloween provided inspiration, as did a type of owlet moth called an Underwing (genus Catocala). These moths have a startle response to disturbances in which they flash orange or yellow lower wings that are usually covered. They fly a short distance and then cover the color again, effectively making predators lose their visual target. There actually is a European moth called the Death's Head Moth with a skull-shaped mark on its thorax, but I added a more obvious image to my creation. I used an old engraving of a Catocala moth overlaid with some dingbat font characters to create "Pumpkin Moth." The flaming pumpkins were produced in Ulead Photo Express using a "special fix" function.

A clipart design with an added small visitor was all it took to create "Cockroach Cornucopia" for our Thanksgiving-themed newsletter. The simplified and generic look of the insect was a slight error of judgment on my part, as some people thought it was a spider. It probably does not matter much, but the gross-out factor is better with a roach.

Sometimes I use very subtle jokes, to the point where nobody gets them. The whole point of "Bugs in Winter" with its twinkling stars and cold, quiet landscape is that there ARE NO BUGS in winter. It was simpler to design than to explain. Sigh. I cannot give enough praise to the creators of dingbat fonts. They are great fun to work with and come in such a wide selection that I had no troubles finding all those nice tree silhouettes.

Bugs in Winter

I really couldn't think up anything interesting for the Valentine's issue this year, so simply played around with some dingbat fonts. The name, "Love Bugs," was the most clever part of the illustration. I feel like this lame graphic requires an apology!

While I like the idea behind "Bug Family Tree," it wasn't an animation and didn't feel like one of my better efforts. I suppose it helps to know that male and female stag beetles look quite different, and that their babies are grubs. This is probably one that appeals more to biologists. At least the lovely green frame matched the heading letters used on this month's newsletter.

No great burst of creative inspiration was produced by the Easter issue. I reused an old idea of a line of ants carrying stuff on their backs. Still, it looks sort of nice, even if there is no punchline. This is a combination of three separate files.

I finally had an idea that made me smile. I like to create graphics with a bit of humor, especially if they have a surprise ending that likely elicits chuckles rather than groans. I used various font characters for all aspects of this animation. The timing of the various frames took some tweaking as I wanted viewers to be able to both read the poem and follow the action of the images.

Sometimes the inspiration for an illustration comes in a rather roundabout way. It's quite obvious that the following is a take-off on "the birds and the bees" but I only thought of it because I wrote an essay for this issue called "Bee-havior." Yes, it was simply about various things that bees do. Once I get on a roll with a theme, I exploit it fully; another feature, the Backyard Beast, was a Bee Fly. I think the fact that it was spring started the whole process. I also really like alliteration, as well as the fact that lots of insects' names start with B, and also B and Bee sound the same. Well, you get it. I started with the most socially acceptable and proceeded to the grossest. The only thing I am not satisfied with is the title. Quite often I come up with a title first, but this one was named after it was finished and just isn't all that clever or interesting: "B & Bs."

All the animals are dingbat characters. I've found that playing around with these brings the same satisfaction that I felt making collages as a kid. Arranging several objects into a picture is just plain fun!

Every year, the Independence Day issue provides ample grist for the animation mill. I also just like the idea of blowing things up. "Bug Burst" is a series of five individual files, all with different timing. The colors were determined by the letters in the heading that month - orange and sparkly. In fact, I just used elements from the letters for the explosions. The color of the insects was simply an aesthetic choice. The nice 3-D effect of the images was created in my little Ulead Photo Express program.

Time for alliteration again, with "Cockroach Conga." Any animation that only takes two frames is quick and easy to make, and using a clipart image to begin with makes it all the more simple.

The whole idea for "Transformer" came when I was scanning through a series of line drawings of trilobites. I noticed how it looked very organic as one image replaced the next on the screen. I simply had to line up each subsequent image so that it centered on top of the last. Nothing complicated, but it is fun to watch. Since the animation was so compact, I needed something to stretch out the filled space into more of a horizontal canvas. The grass-like silhouettes are actually characters in a dingbat font. Elegant, aren't they?

It had been raining in our area (which doesn't always happen with any regularity), and for some reason the pun "Raining Gnats and Frogs" came to mind. Making the frogs catch the gnats and then having the whole thing "rain" down took a little bit of work. As is obvious from the repeated pattern, there are three copies of the same animation side by side. For some reason, making this one transparent worked very well.

I do enjoy playing with words, and coming up with things that are ALMOST the familiar Halloween chant was a lot of fun. Illustrating them was even more engaging. All the images are, once again, dingbat font characters. The title is "Get It Right!"

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