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How One Fish Leads To Another And Thoughts Of Mortality

April 29, 2014

Did you know that illustrators– especially humorous illustrators– suffer from a chronic condition called Idea Cascade?

No? You’ve never heard of it?

That’s probably because I just made it up… : )

We usually think of a cascade as a waterfall, but it also means something occurring
in a succession of stages,
or something rushing forth in quantity.

For me, ideas are like that– on a good day, anyway. You find yourself coming up with endless variations. I thought it might be fun to look at an example.


I’m currently working on a self-promotion slideshow called 13 Reasons To Hire An Illustrator. Reason #7 is about how illustrations enhance your social media posts (on Twitter, Facebook, etc), making them more likely to be shared and retweeted.

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Reason 7 of 13 why you should hire an illustrator: to help you be more social and connect with others via social media, fish waving and rushing to join other fish swimming in school

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I have an online store now, so when I finish a drawing I ask myself: is there an idea lurking in there that would make a good poster and/or greeting card?

My fish drawing “spawned” several ideas. I selected one, and set about constructing the new illustration in Photoshop.


I’ve learned to ask myself: Can I save myself some time and effort by reusing part of a previous illustration? Here, I used the Copy Merged command to copy the underlying
sea water in my fish drawing.

Then I rotated it 90 degrees to make it vertical, and pasted it into a new Photoshop document:

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sea water for underwater image of fish, used Photoshop copy merged command to copy water and wave current effects from previous illustration

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Next, I did a new line drawing, and scanned it into Photoshop.

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line drawing of fish, one lone fish looking with dismay at whole school comprised of fish skeletons

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Then I pasted it onto my sea water layer, and added some base color.

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lone orange fish and school of fish skeletons pasted onto wavy sea water background for underwater effect

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Using clipped adjustment layers, I added light and dark tones to the fish and the water.

Worth noting: all the skeleton fish now have some light blue shading. It makes them more credible somehow– more convincing than the stark white skeletons in the previous image.

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light and dark shading added to lone fish and school of skeleton fish in underwater setting

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Last step: adding some bubbles and the text which explains the joke.

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visual pun don't wait too long to attend your school reunion, lone fish staring in dismay at school of skeleton fish with bubbles floating up through sea water

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Here’s a close-up detail:

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detail image for visual pun don't wait too long to attend your school reunion, lone fish staring in dismay at school of skeleton fish with bubbles floating up through sea water


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Have you ever attended a high school reunion?

Ever been shocked to see how someone turned out?

Ever met a skeleton at a high school reunion??

Hope you’ll leave a comment.

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Other Posts You Might Enjoy:


Woolly Bully! Calling All Sheep!

From Hokey To Hip: Animated GIF Goes To Hollywood!!

Fish Story: How To Use Sales And Social Media Tools To Create A Feeding Frenzy

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footer for all future blog posts showing picture of blog author Mark Armstrong, along with short bio and contact information

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39 Comments leave one →
  1. April 29, 2014 11:56 AM

    Ha! Delightfully bleak!
    Never attended a school reunion. If I’d wanted to keep in touch with them, I would have..


    • April 29, 2014 1:42 PM

      Ha! My work’s been called delightful, and it’s been called bleak, but I believe “delightfully bleak” is a first!!

      I’ve never attended a school reunion either. It’s hard for me to imagine fitting into a reunion any better than I fit into school…

      I’m always happy to see you here, and I always appreciate your comments and support– thanks! : )


  2. April 29, 2014 12:09 PM

    Hi Mark,
    I have not attended a high-school reunion and have no desire to attend one. Those days are hazy recollections that were not particularly outstanding ones for me. However, the friends I made in college and university are still my friends today.


    • April 29, 2014 1:57 PM

      Thanks, TT. I can identify with your feelings about high school. I have some fond memories, and I think of certain people with affection, but I have no wish to go back. Sounds like you did much better in college than I. All my friendships seem to have come after high school and college. I feel I’ve made up all the lost ground, but learning basic skills out of sequence makes for a rough ride.

      Of course, nowadays I’m a particular friend of the Time Thief, so I’m sittin’ pretty… : )


  3. April 29, 2014 12:43 PM

    Smashed it Mr Armstrong!
    13 Reasons to hire an illustrator? How about 1001 reasons to hire MArk ARmstrong!!


    • April 29, 2014 2:02 PM

      My dear fellow–! You’ve got me grinnin’ like an idiot, and gibbering like one, too. S’OK, I’ve had a lotta practice… : P

      1001 reasons to hire Mark Armstrong?? Absolutely: he’s neat, he’s clean, he’s tidy, he flosses between his toes, he keeps a banana tucked behind each ear… oh wait, I’m confusing myself with you!!

      Well, we’re both outstanding chaps, no doubt about it!! : )


  4. April 29, 2014 12:46 PM

    HI Mark,
    I think that is a great idea. It may be difficult to monetize it. It is the big fish that have all the money and they have their old boys network to draw from. Keep thinking and working it through.


    • April 29, 2014 2:11 PM

      Thanks, Leslie. The big fish have all the money, along with the old boy net– I can see I’m not the only one in “fish mode” today!! We’re reeling ’em in, right and left!! : )

      You’re right– not easy to monetize ideas. If it were, I’d be a billionaire several times over. It would spoil my good and sweet and kind nature, however– I console myself with that thought… : )

      Thanks so much for your support and encouragement! : )


      • April 29, 2014 2:13 PM

        You’ll never know where your next great idea will take you. Just don’t give up.


        • April 30, 2014 8:30 AM

          I couldn’t agree more. You never give up, because you know, you just know, your best idea is just ’round the bend!! : )

          Sincere thanks, Leslie, I really appreciate your encouragement!


        • April 30, 2014 10:54 AM

          I’m glad to be there for you.


  5. Mia Moravis permalink
    April 29, 2014 1:48 PM

    Fascinating! Loved reading this!


  6. April 29, 2014 2:32 PM

    I fear that I will soon look like those skeleton fish after dying of laughter!
    You are killing your viewers!!!!!!! 😆
    First off, congratulations on your shop. Just visited and …whooooooosh!!! [my personal way of saying ‘super wow’] All the very best my friend!
    and two: I will never be in a situation like that. I fled from the first reunion before anyone ever got to see me arriving, about 25+ years ago. Never again! 😉
    Have a great Tuesday, Mark! 🙂


    • April 30, 2014 9:41 AM

      My dear Marina!! I could see you wearing one of those black theatrical outfits with bones painted on the front and back, as you dash about your studio from canvas to canvas– yes, I think that would fit your mischievous nature! But we can’t have you laughing yourself to death– no, no! That’s carrying a joke too far!! : )

      Thanks for your lovely comment and that wonderful whoooooosh!!– very encouraging!! Of course, my store is not as whoooooosh as your store, but that’s my goal… : )

      Hmm… I can see we’re going to have to come up with a new approach to reunions. Ah!– I have it!– all our old classmates can have a big reunion at our stores. We, of course, won’t be there. They’ll all buy something, and go away happy. Then we’ll come out, check the sales totals, and be happy, too. Yes, I think I could support that kind of reunion!!

      Thanks as always for your charming and effervescent support!! : )


  7. LIFEHACKS: ORLANDO permalink
    April 30, 2014 8:51 AM

    Really liked this concept. In regards to high school reunions, my 10 year is coming up in 2016 (starting to feel old now, thanks to that milestone). I kept in touch with the people I wanted to, and, thanks to facebook, I can silently judge the rest from a safe distance. 😉 Keep up the awesome work.


    • April 30, 2014 12:37 PM

      Thanks, Naomi. Your quip about using Facebook to “silently judge the rest from a safe distance” really made me laugh– an excellent strategy!! : )

      Nice to meet you, and I really appreciate your kind comment.


  8. SingingTuna permalink
    April 30, 2014 2:45 PM

    MARK!!!! LOVE your new site! WOW!!!! I think I ditched my FAA account but if I didn’t I’ll go visit it there. And I do really LIKE this, but I LIKED it using Firefox, where I’m signed in to a different account with a different avatar. Just wanted you to know. It’s me, but a different me…LOL
    ANYWAY! Gosh your fish stories are brilliant. The “want to be more social” one is sweet and poignant and funny. The school reunion one is eerie and all too true!!! I esp like the expressions on those skeleton fish.Wow! Such a good use of your work, two ways. Yes, I know what you mean about cascading ideas. It’s exciting and comes in handy.
    Went to one high school reunion (20 years). Meh.
    SPAWNED!!!!!!!! BWAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    • May 8, 2014 11:44 AM

      Ah, my dear Robin!! Can’t thank you enough for your wonderfully kind and effusive comment!! It made my head swim– and I’m not even a fish!! : )

      One high school reunion was enough, eh? They probably served fruit cup instead of Reeses– bad mistake… : )

      I thought of you when I put “spawned” in there, knowing you would catch it– ha!! Your reaction was everything I hoped for!!

      Thanks as ever for being so supportive, and one of the truly sustaining forces in the universe!! : )


  9. April 30, 2014 9:51 PM

    Hysterical, Mark. I never went to my high school reunion. Now, if I did go, I’d be like your heartbroken fish. I think it’s better to remember them as they were than be shocked by how “old” they are now. Not me, of course. 😉


    • May 8, 2014 11:58 AM

      Ah, dear me, there’s a lotta truth in that ol’ “you can’t go back” line– all-you-can-eat buffets excepted, of course… : )

      I agree, my dear Judy: at this point, it’s probably best to remember people the way they were. Sadly, I’ve often found myself wishing I’d appreciated people “the way they were” back when I had the chance… : (

      Must be nice to have eternal youth (and I really believe you do). You must explain to me sometime how you manage it… : )


      • May 8, 2014 6:57 PM

        The secret of my eternal youth? Don’t look in the attic. There’s a Dorian Gray painting there. 😉

        Mark, I agree. I also wish I’d appreciated people “the way they were” back when I had the chance. That’s why I wrote a post about my French teacher in high school. She was tough, but she was only trying to help me do my best.


        • May 13, 2014 8:09 PM

          HAW!!! A Dorian Gray painting in the attic!! That’s my kinda wild ‘n’ crazy and supremely literate quip!! Beautiful, my dear Judy! You made me laugh so hard, I doubled my “laugh lines.” Now I need a DG painting!! : )


  10. May 1, 2014 7:00 PM

    Reblogged this on moneyfromhomesa.


  11. May 2, 2014 12:30 AM

    Have you ever attended a high school reunion?

    I attended my parents’ reunions. I was not impressed. I was tempted to go to my 10th, though, because a friend was in charge. Golfing and drinking was not my idea of a good time, however, and I caught up with her online and then again face-to-face later.

    Unlike some who have commented here, however, I found Facebook to be more trouble than it was worth, and I went to a rather exceptional high school (it was a relief compared to middle school). Fond memories or terrible nightmares had to do more with the teachers, than any of my fellow students.


    • May 8, 2014 12:11 PM

      Thanks, Jak. Ah yes, golfing and drinking– too often they substitute for any real communication. They are, of course, much easier!

      I can identify with your desire to see selected high school classmates– not the entire class. I can also identify with your experience of high school memories often being tied more closely to teachers than fellow students. No doubt about it, teachers leave a lasting impression– sometimes happy, sometimes traumatic.

      Always good to see you, sir! : )


  12. Lily permalink
    May 2, 2014 5:42 PM

    Another informative and entertaining post! The blue shading on the fish was interesting – it’s one of those things, I wouldn’t have understood how it would make it more convincing if I hadn’t seen it first!

    If I ever go to a high school reunion, I hope my biology teacher brings his skeleton friend. He used to hang out in the corner of the science lab, every single lesson! 😛


    • May 8, 2014 12:22 PM

      Many thanks, my dear Lily, your cheery presence always does me good.

      It is interesting, the effect of the blue shading. I think it’s something that just gradually seeped into my brain from looking at hundreds and hundreds of cartoons and illustrations. Art education by osmosis!! I’m constantly amazed at the importance of light in paintings and illustrations– its impact is enormous. I feel I have so much more to learn in that area…

      The skeleton in the corner of the biology classroom!!– we had one, too, and I remember him fondly!! The sad thing is, he was the smartest kid in the class!! : )

      Always a pleasure, Lily– thanks so much for your support!


  13. May 2, 2014 8:24 PM

    That type of reunion card certainly would be an eye-grabber of invitee! I went to a high school reunion only 2 yrs. after I graduated because I was the yearbook editor who trumpeted in my final year that our school will celebrate 125 years. 🙂

    For 150 yr.birthday, there was a large reunion which I had no interest in attending. I was living in another province. Yes, I did hear what some people looked like now…kinda shocking.

    I was quiet geeky girl that fell in love in cycling which probably surprised a lot of people.

    I’ve kept a few great friends since university..they have been super support through our various career changes….I think we inspire each other….to make significant geographic moves and different employers.

    Hope you’ll visit my blog corner one day again….


    • May 12, 2014 12:45 PM

      Hi Jean, thanks for your lovely comment. You were the yearbook editor, eh? Good choice! I suspect you were well-organized from an early age, and that’s a great trait to have, a great strength– it makes so many other things possible. And being an editor is great early training for a future… blogger!

      And I’ll bet you have surprised a lot of people. High school can be such a misleading time. At that age, we tend to equate “cool” with meaningful and successful. So often, the opposite is true, and we learn that in time to our sorrow.

      Sorry to have been a stranger to your blog. For some reason, I haven’t been getting email notifications of your posts. I recently checked the subscribe box again– hopefully that will solve the problem!! Always good to see you.


  14. May 6, 2014 9:51 PM

    Hi Mark! I’m on hiatus, but tonight I’m missing you and your illustrations, so I had to stop by and see what’s new. I love the fish! So creative, funny, and a much better idea than what most people send out for reunion notices.

    As for reunions, I only ever attended one. it was quite surreal. I was no longer a stringbean and gawky, and I had braces in my early twenties, so my teeth were fabulous. Several people surprised me by how much they had changed (mostly gained weight and/or lost hair), but I guess people were surprised by me, too. Guys who wouldn’t give me the time of day in high school were more than friendly – one even accidentally spilled a beer down the back of my dress. I slipped out shortly after that fun event and never went to another reunion. C’est la vie.

    What about you? Have you attended reunions? Were there surprises?

    Hope you are well and that the graphic novel is coming along swimmingly!


    • May 12, 2014 1:59 PM

      My dear Maddie! Thanks for that wunnaful, wunnaful comment, I’m grinning from Ear #1 to Ear #2! Great to see you, what a nice surprise.

      I really enjoyed your reunion story: Revenge Of The Stringbean!! I can see a future novel there somewhere: Reunion Hunter!! Susan Hunter attends her high school reunion and must find a killer when the Ex-Prom Queen is found floating in the punch bowl. Yes, friends, it was a very large punch bowl… : )

      Well, just an idea.

      No, I’ve never attended a reunion myself. I never fit in very well in high school or college, and have no wish to go back. Besides, I worry I’d have to spend the whole time signing autographs– might hurt my drawing arm, you see… : P

      The graphic novel progresses, thanks, tho I fear it won’t have the adrenalin power of a Susan Hunter Mystery… : )


  15. May 8, 2014 6:50 AM

    Fabulous complete reversal Mark!


  16. May 8, 2014 11:44 PM

    I thought I had posted a comment here several wks. ago. Anyway..

    I loved the horrified fish facing the petrified/ossified colleagues. I did go to a school reunion 2 yrs. later ….because it was 125th anniversary for school.

    Next one, was um…150th anniversary. I didn’t go but heard the scuttlebutt.


    • May 13, 2014 8:18 PM

      Hi, Jean! You did indeed post an early comment, and it was excellent. Unfortunately, the guy who runs this dubious blog (I won’t reveal his name) is woefully behind in replying to comments and making reciprocal blog visit. He says he’s relying on your merciful nature to forgive his lapses. At least that’s what I think he said. (He’s hiding under the bed.)

      Hearing the scuttlebutt later is often highly preferable to hearing it firsthand! Thanks again for your kind support. : )


  17. May 14, 2014 7:44 AM

    You made my day, Mark, with your response. And, my day has only begun. Have a great, laugh-filled day. 😉


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