Inktober; or, I’ve Actually Got the Time to Do This For a Change

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Every year, when autumn rolls around, I tell myself, I’m going to participate in Inktober or NaNoWriMo, and every year, I either forget or I try and fail. “Well, this year is going to be different!” I proclaimed. Then I blinked, and it was October 7th, and I’d forgotten. Oops.

But you know the old expression: Better late than never. My friend, Ally (@Ally_Santra on Twitter), started doing a pinup Inktober prompt list, which I found very interesting. So, I dove in and double-timed it to catch up, and in the end, for the first time ever, I completed it. I can’t tell you how uplifting that was in a time when I really needed a win.

In this post, I’ve included every black-and-white drawing I did throughout the month, but my favorites I’ve colored and added a few words about what I like and more importantly, what it has taught me about myself and my work.

At the beginning, I was posting three drawings per day to catch up, and I actually liked two out of every three. Not bad, really. And it’s not that I hated the others; I just didn’t feel they were nearly as good. I used all five of my series’ recurring female characters as the models, and while I love all of my girls, I think my favorites are Ash and Maren. Their drawings usually turned out to be the best ones I created for this month.

Inktober 2018 #31

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world…”

Alright, let’s get this one out of the way first. You all know how much I love Casablanca, so for the group Halloween costume this year, I decided to take inspiration from there. First off, yes, it’s not a pinup. Sorry, not sorry. My challenge to myself was to actually make a scene without any dialogue, and I’m pleased with what I accomplished. There’s tons of tension everywhere. But my favorite part is Mike as Sam. His design turned out better than I could have hoped. It’s a difficult pose, and it was going to be an excellent test of my skills. I had so much fun with this drawing.

Okay, now, on to the actual pinup drawings, starting with Stefanie, Esmerelda, and Caroline.

Inktober 2018 #1

“Witchy woman. See how high she flies.”

First drawing of the month, and I felt great about it; one of my best drawings of Stefanie. Until this one.

Inktober 2018 #26

Raggedy Ann, you need a longer skirt, I guess?

I’m sure a good chunk of these don’t technically classify as “pinup”, but who’s counting anyway? I really tried to get good pinup poses when I could. I think this one was a homerun. Or at least a triple followed by an RBI.

Inktober 2018 #22

“Gotta lose your mind in Detroit rock city.”

I’m a KISS fan, I’ll admit it. They’re a legendary spectacle, and I wanted to have some fun with the prompt.

Inktober 2018 #5

“Hey, good lookin’. Whatcha got cookin’?”

Esmerelda, our newest character, kind of got the short end of the stick. But she started off well. I found out that I had a hard time drawing butts, apparently.

Here’s Caroline showing off that I still cannot draw posteriors. Wonderful. On the other hand, here’s Caroline looking delightfully literary…sort of.

I absolutely love this drawing. With my Inktober drawings, it was either feast or  “I guess I could eat”. I either loved it or it was just passable. Unless it was one of these two golden girls: Ash and Maren. I loved just about every drawing I did of them. I’m going to start with Maren first.

Inktober 2018 #4

Music makes me happy.

There is nothing here I don’t love. Everything just kinda clicked. Everything looks good. It all works. I was blown away.

Inktober 2018 #28

“Hey! Listen!”

Another one rocking on all cylinders. I have a few girls who have interesting hair styles; interesting in that they look great from one side and weird from another. Maren is one of those girls. Stefanie is the other. Maren looks excellent from her right side. Not so much from the left. So, I wanted to work on that. For reference, here’s her from the right.Inktober 2018 #24 (Color Background)

See? Looks so great. That’s why I focused on the left side. I want to be able to get her into shots from all angles, along with other characters, and there’s only one way to get that down: Practice.

Inktober 2018 #7

Good morning!

Ash, on the other hand, has no problems like that. She’s the first girl I drew and has changed relatively little over the course of the series. I really think the only major change to her look is her eyes, which have elongated over the past couple of years as I figured out my drawing style, something I probably should have done before starting a comic, but whatever; that’s neither here nor there. Anyway, I love this drawing for the pose. It just looks like it works, and there’s such a lovely little moment there. I love the joy in her face, the optimism, because that’s who she is.

 

Inktober 2018 #3

Fall is upon us.

I could absolutely envision this before I drew it, and I’m gobsmacked that it actually came out the way I imagined it. Another happy stretch for Ash. She’s been a great study in body language.

Inktober 2018 #25

Heartbreaker? Hardly.

This one was another surprise favorite. The response on this one was higher than I expected. Don’t get me wrong: I love the hell out of this drawing. I just was surprised it got as much love from y’all as it did. I almost think this one shows more about my growth as an artist than any others. It all just looks…right.

These were fun ones. And I think that’s the other side of Inktober: Enjoying your art. If it’s not enjoyable, what the hell’s the point? We create because, well, we must. There’s no other way to describe it. We create because if we don’t, we’ll probably explode. The energy needs an escape, and this is our steam release valve.

Inktober 2018 #27

Opposing forces.

I’ll leave you with this one. Not the strongest of the group, but it’s a fun one. There’s two sides to every coin. Doesn’t take a lot to flip it.

So, what has Inktober taught me about myself? A good deal, really. September and October have been trying months. Really, 2018 in general has been difficult. With so much going on, Inktober was, first and foremost, a much-needed lift, a wonderful release. It was incredible having both the time and energy to be able to pour into such an exercise. Beyond that, it showed me how much I’ve grown as an artist. Inktober made me take some more risks than I usually do in my regular comics. For the most part, I feel I was successful, and really, I felt successful in just completing this month-long challenge. It was an enormous boon I desperately needed. This is something I can do pretty well, and it’s something that I can enjoy at the same time. I can’t stress enough how important such a thing is to have in your life. It will help propel me forward for the challenges which still lay ahead.

-The Retail Explorer

Job Hunt; or, Thank the Maker for My Savings Account

You know nothing Jon Snow

It’s been hard to find the time, energy, or words to sum up the past two and a half weeks without going into massive amounts of extraneous detail. If I had one word for it, that word would be “strange”. This has been a new experience for me. I’ve never resigned from a post/been laid off before. I’ve never had to fend for myself when there was no real safety net to catch me. That uncertainty has been slightly unnerving, though not nearly as bad as the previous three months with the other owner’s idiocy and ego looming over the business.

I was so sure how this whole mess was going to play out, but life has an incredible way of making you brutally aware that, like Jon Snow, you really know nothing. My fiance got a tattoo when she went to Hong Kong this summer as a tribute to Anthony Bourdain. It’s in Mandarin (I think?) and loosely translates to “I am sure of nothing.” That is life. Just when you think you’ve got it all worked out, it tosses a wrench into your machinery and mutters about how it’s a pity you didn’t see that coming.

By the same token, though, I’ve never felt so free, really. I’ve been working on a massive project at home almost every day since I left my job, and it’s finally at the completion stage, which means I’ll need to get hired soon or find something else to do immediately, because I might die from boredom.

(“But, Explorer, what about the webcomic? Or that novel you started a decade ago?” Shut. Up. Voice. In. My. Head. Nobody asked you anyway!)

Anywho, to get you all caught up, a couple of weeks ago, I arrived for work with a text from my boss saying he would not be returning to the business as long as the other owner was there, since the other owner had called a meeting and voted my boss out as president. Turns out, he was installing his own people, who knew less than nothing about running the business, and hoping to keep the rest of us on to keep the business running. Yeah, I had an enormous laugh about that later, too. After meeting with him and showing the new office staff how to do the bare minimum (taking payments from students so that they could pay my instructors), I submitted my formal resignation. A week later, the business was shuttered. I don’t know what all went down, and I really don’t care. I’ve washed my hands of it, because I had determined that attempting to keep that place running without the two most essential cogs (my two bosses) would be a nightmare, and I didn’t want that fucking headache. The last task I completed for my former bosses was payroll for their final payroll period, and I never walked back into that place after that.

So, I’ve been doing what’s best for me, recharging, applying for other positions, working on my projects, and helping with my folks while my dad recovers from foot surgery. It’s been a good period, all things considered.

Here are my thoughts on this period in my life: 1) OMG I am elated that I will never have to deal with Big Boss or Minivan Moron EVER AGAIN! 2) My boss from the job before this most recent one called me. I did not take the call, and I don’t know if I will be returning it. Yes, it’s a job. It’s money. But that man is an idiot and undervalued me, and I refuse to work for someone like that again. 3) Do you know how confusingly gratifying it is to be told that you are overqualified for a position? 4) Furthermore, do you know how amazingly gratifying it is to have an interview with multiple, strong, stable, growing companies? It’s staggering. I have a #1 company and a fallback, and neither is a step backward for me. 5) Earlier this week, I shot a 99 on the golf course, and I had some good strokes out there, too. I’ve never shot so well in all my life. So, there’s that, too.

I may write more on leaving and moving on from retail later, but for now, I’m going to focus on where I stand currently. To say I feel good is probably the most accurate descriptor that I can find. Because I feel great these days. I’m going to go into the next phase of my life with renewed vigor and determination. I have been given so many tools and experience over the previous nine months. I can do anything for myself, because I make my own destiny. There is nothing forged into the stars for us so much as a path which must be followed, merely destinations you will reach. The path is up to you.

That is what I have learned. I am who I am, and I’m excited for who I will become.

-The Retail Explorer

Top Ten Annoying Things; or, Stop Doing This in My Store Or I’ll Run Screaming Into the Night

Phone Call #1 (Completed)

Usually, like 99.99% of the time, if we answer the phone, it means we’re open. Don’t ask the dumb question.

I was recently inspired by a post I shared on the Facebook page about things that really annoy retail employees, and it’s pretty spot-on. But it got me thinking: What are my biggest Shopper pet peeves? I have never actually listed them out before, so this was really interesting. Let’s start from the bottom, shall we?

10. MONEY HANDLING

In general, currency is interesting but ridiculously disgusting. If you don’t believe so, think about how many people touch a coin in the course of its life. Yeah, all those germs just hang around on there.

Yeah. Nasty.

So, we’re not starting from a great point. Throw in some summer heat and humidity and you might as well be wearing a hazmat suit.

img_0808

Beyond that, there’s customers just being mindless asses in regard to paying. From just setting it all down on the counter, as opposed to actually handing it to you, like a normal, considerate person, to flinging it at you, my personal favorite, Shoppers are fucking horrendous when it comes to money handling. As with all things the Shopper does, it’s truly remarkable.

9. DISCOUNTS

Shoppers beg for discounts so often, you’d believe they were destitute. In my industry, it’s understandable, as aviation is incredibly expensive across the board, but it’s still vexing to hear them ask for discounts constantly. No, you don’t get a student discount here. Our own students don’t get a student discount here. You know who does? Military and staff. That’s it. And do you know how much military gets? 10%. Let me spell that out for you, Shopper. That’s sales tax plus a little extra. I know, every little bit counts, but it makes you into a little beggar, and we hate listening to it, especially when we’re bound by this little thing called “Store Policy”.

8. GROUPS

I’ll admit that this is a slightly specific thing, but I always find it weird when a small herd of Shoppers comes into the shop and only one of them buys something. It’s nothing bad; it’s just…weird.

7. BACKORDER/OUT OF STOCK

IMG_9863
C’mon, Pete. You know they don’t read things.

This is something that will always amaze me. It’s one of the simplest concepts in the service industry, and it’s basic economics: Supply and demand. Especially in a small business setting, supply and demand is carefully watched and regularly adjusted. So, when demand suddenly takes an unexpected upswing, supply depletes. It happens from time to time; demand for certain items comes in irregular waves.

The bottom line here is: Things sometimes run out of stock, and then it takes a while to get them back in stock. Sometimes, demand rises and stays steady that it takes a while for stock levels to adjust to them fully.

We had an issue along those lines with a brand of headsets. They introduced a new line of headsets to compete with one of the best selling headsets on the market but at a much lower price. They were an instant success. So much so that every time I went to order more, I had at least a three week backorder from the manufacturer, which never went over well with Shoppers seeking out these hot headsets. There was always a groan and then the begging began, in the hope that I’d know who might have one in stock. Here’s the answer I always give to that one: I don’t know. I’m not going to tell you to go to a competitor, especially when that’s not my job and you’re perfectly capable of seeking it out yourself. Beyond that, I don’t know which stores have what stock on which item. You want it bad enough? Call around. It’s not hard.

That brings me to another thing: Backorder. I know there are some people in the world who don’t know what “backordered” means, so I explain it to them by telling them, “I’m not sure when I’ll get it.” The funny thing is the follow-up question I always get: “Will it be in tomorrow?” Seriously, what part of what I just said made any indication that I would be getting it in tomorrow? Yes, there’s a possibility, but that possibility is so minuscule, it’s not even worth entertaining. If it’s on backorder, it’s probably going to be a while, i.e. weeks. Usually, when an order ships, I receive a confirmation telling me when I can expect delivery. If I don’t have that, it’s not going to be in tomorrow. Otherwise, I’d have said so.

This is getting into one of my bigger pet peeves, though, so I’m going to end this topic here and move on.

6. PRICE

“Wow! This is pretty expensive!” Lemme tell you how much I love hearing this one. I don’t. It’s hot garbage, and I’ll tell you why: This is aviation. Everything is expensive, from training to supplies to maintenance. It’s all expensive. Please, the sooner you learn this and process this, the sooner we can all move on and cease this vexing line of discussion.

Here’s the other kicker: We’re not expensive. In fact, most of our pricing is set at the MSRP. You wanna complain about it? Go to the manufacturer and let your whining fall on their deaf ears. And actually, a few of our distributors force us to sign agreements to sell their products at a price no lower than the price they have set. That’s where we price our items, so don’t complain to me about it.

5. RETURNS

This is not to say that all returns are bad and annoying. I get it; sometimes, a purchase just doesn’t work out. My problem rests with the Shoppers who feel that any return is an acceptable return. It’s not. On the bottom of every receipt is printed our return guidelines, which must be made within thirty days of purchase and must be accompanied by the original receipt, original, undamaged packaging, and if it was a credit card, the original card used to make the purchase. These are basic, simple guidelines. So, why is this so hard?

Too often, it’s either damaged packaging or outside of the return window or without the receipt or without the credit card. Something is always wrong. Item-for-item swaps are different and simple when their prices are the same. Sure, you can swap out a chart for another one. I’m still going to think you’re an idiot because you don’t know where the hell you’re flying, but it’s a harmless and easily corrected mistake.

But if you want your money back and expect me to make an exception for you? Nah, piss off. Store Policy is the law around here, and I’m not going to risk my boss coming in and holding me responsible for something that I did that was against that policy. I may not like my job, but I do like the income it provides. So, read the receipt and don’t expect me to bend the rules for you.

4. CLEANLINESS

This is a big, overarching one. When I say “cleanliness”, I mean everything along those lines: Personal hygiene, misplaced items, leaving trash in the store, etc. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone through the shop and found an item placed literally one hook away from its rightful spot. What. The fuck. Even. Is. That?! How do you do that? Honestly, someone tell me how that’s possible. It’s one hook away. It does not take that much brainpower to look at the item, look at the wall, and place it on the correct hook. Nor is it so hard to replace a hook in the wall that you moronically pulled out of the wall because you have the motor skills of a five year-old. (Sorry. That was a big insult to five year-olds, who are not that bad in eye-hand coordination. My apologies.)

Beyond that, how do you not smell your own stench when you just reek? I know I do, and you know what it does? It embarrasses the hell out of me to the point that I just want to get home and shower as soon as possible. Also, don’t wipe your nose and then hand me something. Or leave your fucking latte cup sitting around. Or track mud into the store. Or let your little spawn wreck my shop.

All of these things are just examples of the larger issue of Shoppers being so inconsiderate of other people, so uncouth, that you wonder how they’ve survived this long in the world without incident.

3. BAD JOKES

bad-jokes-1-completed

Yeah, smile. That’ll help…

“Doesn’t scan? Must be free!”

“I printed them this morning!”

“Working hard or hardly working?”

“You look like you need something to do!”

If you’ve ever thought any of these were funny, or have ever said them to a retail worker, please, never do it again. None of these jokes are original or funny or good. We HATE them so much that we might put our heads through the front window out of pure insanity.

You know what we do enjoy? Actual, pleasant, genuine conversation. Don’t lead with the “I’m sorry you have to work today” or anything like that. Just a “How’s your day been?” and go from there. How easy is that? Just act like you give a crap and acknowledge us as human fucking beings for a hot minute. We’re not automatons installed to serve your every whim and take all your abuse with gentle grace. We’re living beings with feelings. Just act like that’s a thing that matters to you, and go from there.

Just, please, no tired old jokes. They’re worse than dad jokes.

2. READING

The top two slots on this list were neck-and-neck, really, but this one is slightly less annoying than #1.

We are taught from an early age of the importance of reading. If there is a skill you use literally every single day, it’s reading. You read signs on the roadway; you read instructions on food packets; you read articles on your phone; you read everywhere. When you come into my shop, you’re bombarded by reading opportunities. I’ll list them in order of appearance: Hours of operation, Open/Closed, “Please, Use Other Door”, item names, item descriptions, prices, sale racks, total due, receipt, return policy. How much of that do my Shoppers read? I’d say around 20%. I’m not kidding. It’s that low.

I constantly get questions, from Shoppers in the store, about our hours, our return policy, how much this item costs, or where they can find that item. It’s maddening because it’s all so simple. You use your eyes to take in the information and then your brain makes sense of it and moves your muscles accordingly. So, if you have a wall of charts, which are alphabetized, figuring out where St. Louis is should not be difficult. Neither should the price tag. There’s one on literally every single product.

Signage is the biggest issue. I honestly don’t know why I waste my time sometimes. I could have the largest “Closed” sign up in the universe, and I would still have Shoppers yank on the locked door. It’s remarkable.

I once had a Shopper, a particularly aloof one, walk up before I had even gotten there (I actually watched him walk into the main building as I parked) and complain to me about his wait:

“Oh, there you are!” he said. “I’ve been waiting for you.” (Suuuuuuure you have.)

“Well, we don’t open until ten, so, I just got here.”

“Oh, well, how was I supposed to know that?”

As we approached the front doors of the shop, I pointed out the “hours of operation” sign and informed him that our hours are clearly posted right there and I would be with him in a few minutes to open the shop. When I went to unlock the front doors a few minutes later, he was nowhere to be seen. I’m sure it was embarrassment, but you know what? I really didn’t give a shit at that point. I still stick to the mantra of “I shouldn’t have to hold your hand like you’re a kindergartner.”

1. LISTENING

There is nothing that pisses me off more in the universe than having to repeat myself to a Shopper. I know I’m going to have to, but dammit if it doesn’t just piss me right off when it happens. It’s exacerbated by the fact that it’s usually a response to a question posed to me. How the hell can you ask me a question and then not pay attention to the answer? What the hell is wrong with some people?

I have some customers who make me repeat things THREE TIMES or more. And I know as soon as they walk through the door I’m going to have to do that. And the worst part is it’s usually in concert with #2 on my list, which means they’ve come into my store, turned their brain off, and just decided to let me do everything for them. Not. Fun.

I shouldn’t have to tell you twice the basic specs of a headset if you ask me about them. I shouldn’t have to tell you twice about your total. I shouldn’t have to tell you twice about anything really, especially if you’ve asked me about it.

So, there you have it, my top ten list of infuriating Shopper tendencies. Now, I’m going to go have a burger and a beer and a shower.

-The Retail Explorer