“Nothing. I’ve got nothing.” That’s one of my moods. It’s also a quote that comes from my Marvel Comics days back in the mid 1990s. I’d guess 1995 if I had to. In those days Marvel was in the middle of transitioning from traditional cut and paste publishing to newfangled desktop publishing. As a consequence we in the Bullpen were figuring out how to do our jobs on computers instead of on drawing tables.

The computers we were using were Apple computers running System 7. That was the name of Apple’s operating system at the time and I remember it because the sound files it used were called “System 7 Sounds.” It used those sound files even into System 8. I remember that because we made a lot of System 7 sounds. Computers were fairly new at the time. They weren’t everywhere like they are today. No one carried one all day to make phone calls on. We were discovering new things about the computers all the time in the beginning of our desktop publishing days and one of our most fun discoveries was playing sound bites and alert sounds.

Alerts sounds are those little beeps a computer makes when it wants to let you know something. They’re sort of what ring tones are today because back then you could customize them. You might still be able to customize them but I haven’t bothered to in decades. But back then when everything was fresh and new we were customizing sounds all the time. Plus we were recording each other.

There were two ways to make System 7 sounds. One was to sample things from already existing sound files such as movies or TV shows and then you would click on the System 7 sound file to play the sound. We played a lot of sound bites from the movie “Aliens” and from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” I swear I can still hear a lot of those sounds in my head. We used to use them all the time to punctuate conversations and amuse ourselves. “Help, help, I’m being oppressed!” became part of our everyday landscape.

The second way to make System 7 sounds was to record them and record them we did. The Macs came standard with a microphone and it was a good thing they did because they used their own proprietary mic jack in those days. No standard eighth inch jack for Apple. They had to make their own. So we’d all say goofy things into the mic to make sound drops out of. Over the months a few favorites developed.

One of my favorites happened one day as my friend John was randomly recording stuff. He shouted across the room at Thomas to get him to say something. Thomas responded “I got nothing.” Then you can hear John say “Say it again.” Thomas responds more loudly, “I’ve got nothing!” That’s it. That’s the extent of the exchange caught as a System 7 sound but it still resonates with me. It’s a mood. I’ve got nothing.

I haven’t played that sound bite in a long time but it’s still alive in my head. To this day whenever I’m trying to get something done, think of something to do, or generally try to motivate myself and fail that sound bite goes off in my head. “I’ve got nothing. Say it again. I’ve got nothing!” It encapsulates that mood so perfectly.

I bring this up because of my mood cards. They’re something I came up with this week to add to my art card oeuvre. They aren’t ground breaking or fancy but more along the lines of simple things. First I have to think up a mood. Not things like happy, sad, or chilly but more succinct. I pulled out one of my little writing notebooks and wrote things down in it that I felt during the day. Hopefully pithy things but not always.

Along with “I’ve got nothing” I have other ones like “Is this a live show? Because I want a second take” and “Something weird made me smile.” It’s not easy to put moods into words but so far I’ve been able to write down about twenty five of them in a week. It’s a strange thing but in order to write these I have to be on the lookout for whenever I feel something that can be put into words in a way that people can relate to. It’s also hard not to fall into the negative. There are a lot of bad moods a person can be in and I’ve found that dwelling in those is not very amusing. I’ve been trying to keep it positive.

After I’ve got my mood and decided I want to work with it I get one of my 2.5×3.5 pieces of Bristol board and start the lettering. I chose to go with a freeform lettering style and not even rule lines to letter between. I try my best to make them straight by hand. First I write the sentences in pencil to get my spacing correct and then I letter right over top of the pencil with an ink marker. I’ve been using a black .5mm Copic Multiliner for that task. I have other pens that work just as well but the Copic handles the task of erasing the pencil lined best. Given the chance to dry the Copic marker doesn’t smear when I erase over it. I lot of other markers smear. Even if I leave it all day to dry.

Then I draw my mood. That’s not an easy task. I draw the face of a character with simple lines. I try to muster up the mood on my face and then look in the mirror and draw what I see. Trying to find just the right little cartoon takes some doing. I draw it in pencil first and then ink it. Since it’s so small I’ve been inking them with a pen rather than my usual brush. I ink the letters, ink the face, wait for the ink to dry, and then erase all the pencil lines and it’s done. I’ve been keeping these in black and white. I think that helps with the mood. Color would create a mood of its own and maybe interfere with the drawing’s mood.

Nothing. I’ve got nothing.