Friday, October 3, 2014

Mm, Squidy Things

The Clawed Girl from the game They Bleed Pixels enjoying some lantern-roasted Squidy-Things. Because even Lovecraftian monsters need to eat.

Each morning when I wake up, the first thing I do is fill a notecard-sized piece of paper with ink sketches of various characters--some from TV, some from games, some my own. Sometimes (rarely), I like one enough to color it. Even more rarely, I'll turn it into an actual drawing and paint it. Hence, this piece.



Mm, Squidy Things - 2014

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Revisiting Old Characters

This is an illustration of Laurel and Samantha, the two main characters of my second novel. It really makes me want to go back and properly finish it--give it a real second draft (perhaps even a total rewrite), and do all the illustrations. Then actually try to pitch it to agents and publishers, not just give the half-assed and half-hearted attempt I gave last time. (Hey, the publishing world is supremely discouraging, and engenders apathy towards trying by fostering a "I can't win so why bother playing" attitude. Sure, persistence is key and [sometimes] pays off, but you can only be kicked so many times before you say "the hell with this".)

What I find amazing about this piece is it was done after a very extended break from any and all creative endeavors (two years), but is better than anything I did before that break. It seems that extended breaks only serve to improve my craft rather than damage it. If this is true, I should just quit creating altogether and perhaps I'll become a great artist.

Anyhow, I've got other projects I've got to try and get off the ground before I return to these characters and their story, but this particular drawing of them really tempts me to drop the other projects in favor of theirs.


Laurel and Samantha

Complex Work

This was a short (fifteen page) comic I did for Tokyopop's Rising Stars of Manga contest, back when those were things that existed. It was done nearly 10 years ago now, at the end of 2004. A bit embarrassing to look back on it now, particularly the writing. But the whole thing was a rush job; I'd found out about the contest late and had about a month to do it from start to finish, which for someone who moves at a glacial pace is not a lot of time. Not that I'm making excuses here--the thing would've been lousy if I'd had a year. So why am I even posting it? Who knows. Why do I do most of the things I do?

Anyway, it's called The Complex - Short Work, and is a sort of one-shot based off of an idea for a sci-fi comic I was developing at the time but later put aside. I didn't finish it in time to submit it, though I came close. Pulled a 109 hour work marathon at the end to try and finish it, but just barely missed. Still, it helped me land a job with Tokyopop regardless. Which I promptly screwed up.


Title page, page one


Page two, page three


Page four, page five


Page six, page seven


Page eight, page nine


Page ten, page eleven


Page twelve, page thirteen


Page fourteen, page fifteen






Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sunrise

This was a speed painting I did of a character from a book I've been thinking about writing, sort of a prequel to that massive epic fantasy I wrote. It's of the main character. Might be odd to start with the illustrations, but they help me get a sense of who the character is.



Sunrise - 2014

I liked the landscape enough so that I decided to paint the character out and make the landscape its own piece.



Sunrise Landscape - 2014

Poolside


This was a piece I did in Painter a while back to test that program out. (Full disclosure: Photoshop was also used.) It had been a while since I'd used it, and I like the results.



Poolside - 2014

Where you been? Part II

Been gone a long time, I suppose. Funny how much time can pass without your even realizing it. I won't say I'm back on anything more than a temporary basis, as I've got other things I'm working on, and I feel my time would be better spent there than here, writing and posting things that no one sees and I don't particularly care about. Still, I might throw up a few things from time to time, and try not to let so much time between posts elapse. (But no one should count on that.)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Sketchy Ideas

Here are a few character sketches featuring the three main characters of a comic I'm thinking of attempting in the coming year. Well, no "thinking" about it anymore, I'm definitely going to try and pitch a comic, possibly more than one (time permitting). I guess it makes sense to diversify, try to hit as many targets as possible. Still, it feels like a fool's errand at this point, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, I suppose. These particular characters are based on this painting. (If you're interested, you can find more info on that piece on this very blog.)

While there was originally no story behind that painting, one developed over time (quite quickly, actually). If the characters here look a bit different from how they did in the painting, it's the style. For these sketches, I've gone back to my old "manga" inspired style that I used way back when. Whether or not I actually use this style for the comic remains to be seen, as there's still a lot of design work and thinking to do between now and then.

Each of these was done in pen and ink, which, for me, is unheard of. Ink and me have never gotten along, and this is the first time I can recall where I actually got halfway decent results from it.



Character Sketch - Nanette - 2012


Character Sketch - Adeline - 2012


Character Sketch - Ari - 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Best of Vine Leaves Literary Journal 2012 Out Now

The title's pretty self-explanatory there, isn't it? The Best of Vine Leaves Literary Journal 2012 is available now from eMergent Publishing. Apparently, my vignette Calm Before the Storm is in there. It's not available on Amazon yet, due to problems with the printers. However, it might be up on Amazon by the end of the week; I'll give an update when it's available there.

For now, you can purchase it here.

Also, don't forget to check out Vine Leaves Literary Journal and support them.

Oh, and I'll be posting a few more updates this week. A few illustrations and perhaps some other stuff, so keep an eye open.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

…And, We're Back.

Sometimes I forget I have this place. It always amazes me just how much time passes between my posts here, but hey, I’ve been focused on finishing up my novel. And when I get into that focused mode, other things tend to fall away (especially if I’ve got nothing really substantial to say). Well, I’m done with my novel now, so maybe I’ll pay a bit more attention to this site. Of course, I’ve still got to pitch the novel to agents, and that also requires quite a bit of focus …

In other news, the vignette I wrote (Calm Before the Storm) for Vine Leaves Literary Journal was selected for inclusion in their “Best of 2012” anthology. It’s due to be released on December 1st, and will be published by eMergent Publishing.

You can purchase it here, or by using this link at the Vine Leaves website, when it becomes available. So pick up a copy when it does and support them, yeah?

Oh, and here's another link to the anthology on goodreads.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Where You Been? Also, Publication

Been busy.

It's been a while since I’ve posted anything, hasn’t it? Posting once again makes me realize just how long. But I’ve been busy with the final draft of my novel, and I felt my time was better spent working on that rather than writing posts no one will ever read. (Yeah, you could say the same thing about the book, but at least that feels like a better investment of my time.)

Anyway, I’ve had another short work published, this one a short story in the latest issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree. For those of you who don’t know, Underneath the Juniper Tree is a great little online magazine with a focus on dark and macabre tales for a younger audience (though it really is meant for readers of all ages).

My story is titled Sleepwalker, and has an accompanying illustration. The illustration only took about a day, but hey, it came out well enough for a quick effort. A retouched version is posted below.

The September issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree is out now. Go give it a read.


Sleepwalker - 2012

Friday, July 6, 2012

Notification of Publication

In the first of what I can only hope will be an ongoing series, this post is a notification of publication.

Specifically, it’s for a vignette I wrote, which is now up, in the latest issue (July 2012 – Issue Three) of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, an online magazine that specializes in vignettes.

My piece is titled Calm Before the Storm. It was originally written way back in 2006, before I had given honest consideration to trying my hand at becoming a writer. When I started up with the short story writing recently, I went back and looked at those older pieces I had written. While most of them weren’t quite good enough, a couple were serviceable, and so I took them out, dusted them off, and gussied them up. Calm Before the Storm is one such retouched piece.

I also painted an illustration to go along with it; it’s posted below. It was a speed painting, taking me about 3-4 hours. Yes, I know that some wouldn't consider that a speed painting, but keep in mind this was the first time I’d so much as picked up a brush (well, stylus) in over four months.

Issue Three of Vine Leaves Literary Journal is up now, so go check it out.


Before the Storm - 2012

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Some Posts You Should Read (No, Not Mine)

It's been a while since I've posted, hasn't it? Not that it matters. As I've pointed out in the past, no one reads this thing. But for those who may be curious, I've been spending my time writing a crop of short stories, touching up my most recent manuscript to prepare it for submission (again), and developing new projects. It doesn't leave much time for blogging (or anything else). Not that I have anything to say, anyhow.

No matter. Here's an article or two by someone who does have things to say: Matthew MacNish over at the Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment. They're about The Book Thief, and whether it should be classified as a Middle Grade or Young Adult book. He argues for both stances, and makes good points on each side of the argument. It just reinforces my view that the whole MG / YA categorization system is flawed. Sure, some works fit comfortably into one category or the other, but nowadays many books don't, either due to content, length, protagonists' ages, and so on. And the best works are usually those that don't worry about restricting themselves to such arbitrary boundaries. If only agents and publishers felt the same way.

Here's his argument on The Book Thief as a Middle Grade novel.

Here's his argument on it being a Young Adult work.

Check them out. They'll get you thinking, which is never a bad thing.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Problem With Categorizing Your Work

As I stated in my last post, my query is up and critiqued at the Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment. Mr. MacNish’s comments were very helpful, as were the comments of his readers. But one issue in particular that arose in the comments caught my eye, as it struck a certain chord with me – the intended age group.

I knew this was going to be an issue from day one.

Some commenters said if it’s a Young Adult work, the characters in the book should be older. At their current age (seventh-graders) it seems more Middle Grade, and thus the book should be shorter. Both these statements are accurate. (There are some issues with the exact definition of the age range of “Young Adult” and “Middle Grade,” but that’s another subject.) And before we go any further, please understand I’m not being defensive here. I completely agree with those comments – if I want to categorize it as one or the other, I need to change one thing or another.

However, there’s a bit of a problem.

The problem is that my book exists in that nebulous, fog-shrouded area on the fringes of the categorical world. It’s not something that can be easily stuck into one category, either in terms of content or age group. It has elements of horror, fantasy (both urban and traditional), mystery, even touches of what H.P. Lovecraft referred to as “weird fiction.” Fortunately, it can still fit under the umbrella term “Dark Fantasy” safely enough, so it’s not as big a problem as the age issue.

The age group is a bigger problem. The main characters’ ages make them more Middle Grade than Young Adult. However, the situations they’re dealing with are certainly not Middle Grade material. There’s some gruesome stuff in there. Just look at the related illustrations. Those are some of the less intense things in the book.

This came about because of my steadfast refusal to conform to ideas of categorizing your book from day one. I personally think it’s a huge mistake. By saying “this will be a Middle Grade book” or “this will be for Young Adults,” you’re already truncating possibility. You’ve already defined boundaries for yourself you cannot cross, and even if you’ve got great ideas, you may not be able to incorporate them because they don’t fall within those self-appointed boundaries. You’ll have to save that great idea for another story.

I refuse to place boundaries on my works.

In the end it makes for works that not only straddle genres and age groups, but works that are ultimately stronger as a whole, for they better capture the original intent. Unfortunately, genre-and-age-straddling also make your book harder to sell, initially. I accept this, though I think it’s poor practice for agents and publishers (and readers) to shoot down ideas because they don’t fit into neat little boxes. (Admittedly, I am biased in this respect.) You can thank the commercialization of art for placing emphasis on the importance of “category.” But usually, it’s the ideas that don’t fit into neat little boxes that can cast the widest net. The net may be harder to throw out there, but if you successfully deploy it, it’ll catch more fish.

In regards to my own book, A Child’s Faerie-Tale, it’s a book that had to straddle not only genres, but far more importantly, age groups. Why? Ultimately, it’s a book about straddling age groups – a book about growing up, about that nebulous age between the end of childhood and onset of the teenage years, a time of nascent adulthood. Though it’s a fantastical tale of action, adventure, horror, and other such elements, at its heart it’s a work about transitioning from childhood to adulthood. It's about growing up in a difficult world, and how we deal with the loss of our own childhood innocence in it, and because of it.

Laurel and Samantha (the protagonists of A Child’s Faerie-Tale) are the age they are because that’s the age they had to be. They’re dealing with a scary and difficult situation because that’s what they’re facing in life. That’s what those so-called “tween” (and teen) years are. A time of intangible monsters, of uncertainty and fear. A time when you can lose your soul, or become a stronger person than you ever realized you were.

I’m not one of those types to imbue meaning into his works on purpose, that’s just how it comes out sometimes. And that’s the point here – how your story comes out. If you restrict yourself to certain boundaries, your story may not come out the way you wanted it to, or the way you intended it to. You may miss a lot of great opportunities, a lot of truly new and unique characters or ideas. I’m of the mindset that writing – indeed, all art – should be as natural and unrestricted as possible, because that’s what the creative arts are: Freedom. True freedom. One of the only true freedoms we have in this world.

So why would you want to pinion your wings by categorizing your works from the get-go? Yes, it makes it easier to sell them in the end, but if you’re approaching writing from a business standpoint, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Stick to your day job, because the paychecks are steadier, and oftentimes heavier.

But if you’re pursuing the arts because you love them, because you can’t imagine yourself doing anything else, then spread your wings and take flight, and the boundaries be damned. Let your works be what they will.

After all, there’s always self-publishing.

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(ADDENDUM: Two important caveats I feel I should mention here. One, sometimes it’s apparent from the start what a work will be in regards to genre or age group, or becomes apparent as one is working. This is fine. When a work decides the boundaries for itself, there’s no problem – it’s when the artist starts arbitrarily deciding those boundaries for the work that it becomes restricted. However, one should never hesitate to move outside of those boundaries if it serves the best interest of the work.

Two, and I can’t stress this enough, if you are crossing genre and generational lines, you’d better be damn sure it works. Mixing genres and age groups is risky territory; there are a lot of examples out there where it failed miserably. You can’t just throw whatever you want in a blender and expect to create something great. This is especially true if you’re the one deciding what goes in or not. Again, let the work decide for itself. Your job is to take an objective view, make sure it works, and if it doesn’t, toss it out. Remember, above all else it’s the job of the writer to tell a good story, and tell it clearly.)

A Postful of Thanks – Also, an Article

My query has now been critiqued by Matthew MacNish of the Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment – but chances are if you’re reading this you already knew that, because it was his site that brought you here.

(Technically, as of this posting it hasn’t been critiqued, though it will be later today. But now we’re just splitting hairs. Or something like that.)

My boundless thanks to Mr. MacNish for agreeing to critique my query, and for the advice I’ve yet to read but am certain will be great, and only help me improve my pitch. Lord knows I need the help – I’ve always been terrible at pitching and promoting my work. The transition from artist to businessman is one that escapes me.

My thanks also goes out to his readers, particularly those who commented on my query, and those who came here to follow me and read my ramblings.

(UPDATE: The critique is up, and I was right: the advice was great. So too was the advice given by those who gave their thoughts in the comments section.)

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Speaking of rambling, here's some right now. Here's an article you might find interesting.

The short of it is researchers think we have a tendency to become more like the characters in a novel that we identify with. Interesting if true, but I’m curious as to what the researchers’ definition of “becoming like a character” is. Is it taking on completely new qualities and character traits that may run counter to an individual’s personality, or is it merely bringing innate qualities into greater focus, or subconscious traits to the surface?

No matter the case, it just goes to show you that the written word still has quite a bit of power behind it. Consider this the next time you’re writing a knife-wielding psychopath, and for all our sakes, at least give them an ounce of mercy.

Monday, May 14, 2012

When the Dam Bursts

The flow of creativity is a strange thing.

It’s always running, make no mistake. But sometimes it’s nothing more than a trickle through a dusty creek bed. In those times the headwaters are blocked by an unseen dam built by unknown hands. There’s no forcing that dam down, no forcing the flow to return. Those are the lean times, the dry times, when it’s best to drink from wells previously dug.

Yet creativity’s waters never stop flowing. Even if you don’t have access to their full flow, the waters are there, building up behind the unseen dam that blocks them from time to time, slowly filling the reservoir. And in time, that dam fills to fracturing. A heavy rain at the headwaters, and the dam bursts.

Creativity comes rushing at you, an inundating wave moving at the speed of thought.

There’s no escaping it, no moving from its path. There’s no choice but to let it carry you away, no matter where you are, or when it happens. You can try and fight it, sure – but it’s better to move with the current than against it. Let it take you where it may. There’s never any knowing where you’ll end up, but that’s part of the thrill of the deluge.

It happened in this way to me the other night. It had been a while since I’d had any decent ideas – those I was working on were ones I had created long ago. My novels, my paintings, snippets of ideas I wasn’t sure what to do with. And the few new ideas I came up with seemed, well, not so great. The creek had gone dry, been dry for a while. I was drinking from my wells, and those wells, while deep, can’t sustain you forever. The waters start to seem stale after a time. Oh, for a fresh rain to refill the creek.

Sure enough, that rain came. It must have been a hell of a storm.

In the middle of the night (quite literally – I had gone to bed four hours earlier, and would be getting up in four), the dam suddenly burst. Something had woken me from my slumber, I don’t know what. But when I tried to get back to sleep, I couldn’t. Suddenly, I was generating ideas. A few at first, but they began to multiply. The wave was coming.

Then it hit.

I had no choice but to get up and write down everything that was coming to me, lest I lose it. Anyone who creates will tell you that if you don’t capture the ideas the waters bring you right away, they’re liable to be carried off, never to be seen again. I’ve lost a good many ideas because I told myself “oh, I’ll get it down later.” I always wind up kicking myself later.

But now, I was getting those ideas down. Writing. And writing. And writing.

Over an hour later and I had written down pages and pages of notes, ideas, dialogue, and other miscellanea, and the wave was still carrying me to places I’d never before been. But I’m an individual who values sleep above all else (in no small part because of the strange, vivid dreams which are a great source of inspiration), and so I had no choice but to move against the current, try and hold it back until morning. Eventually, I was able to get out of the flow for a time – maybe by holding the branch of a tree I was being swept past, I don’t know.

The wave has passed, but the waters are still flowing, mighty and wide as a river. For the first time in quite a while, I feel refreshed. Ready to tell new stories, paint new pictures. I have no idea how long that dam will be down for, how long those waters will flow unobstructed, but while they do, I plan to take full advantage of them. Divert a bit of the flow to some new wells for the drier times, which I’m sure will come again before long.

When they do, I’ll be ready. And I know that eventually, the dam that’s holding the waters back will burst, and the deluge will be upon me once again. Keeping that in mind helps me get through the droughts. I just stay patient, waiting for that wave. And the longer it’s been since it’s hit, the bigger it’s going to be, and the farther it’s going to take me.

What a ride it’ll be.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Why Bother?

It’s a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately.

Why bother trying to travel the traditional publishing road?

I’d like to think every aspiring writer asks themselves this question at one point or another. That it’s the inevitable result of impatience coupled with rejections and self-doubt.

After all, it’s a difficult road to travel, and attempting it is a fairly large gamble. You’re putting in time and effort – a lot of each, sometimes years’ worth – for potentially no payoff. Ultimately, it’s completely out of your hands. You can have a great book and a great pitch, but it might not be what an agent or publisher is looking for. A lot of it just boils down to pure, dumb luck – having your work in the right place at the right time.

Knowing that, why not self-publish?

Nowadays it’s easier than ever to self-publish, and more importantly, it’s no longer the death sentence for a book that it once was. More writers than ever are choosing to self-publish, and some of them are even thriving through it. Just five years ago, this was unheard of. You can thank “social media” for the prevalence of the self-published success story.

The rise of social media has, to borrow an oft-uttered phrase, “put the power in the hands of the people,” and the revolutions it’s helped cause are not just limited to the world of government. It’s the business end of the creative world too. Creators are finding success outside of the traditional constructs of big business, be it in music, games, or writing. A single person no longer needs a corporation behind them to find and reach an audience.

So, why bother with traditional publishing anymore?

For me, the answer I (eventually) arrived at is simple – exposure. Even though you can generate great exposure for your product with social media, it does take a certain savvy, a certain skill set that not everyone has. And no matter how proficient you are at using social media the simple fact remains that, despite their troubles in adapting to this new reality, the big publishers still have more cash and muscle behind them than you ever will. The playing field may be more level than it ever has been, but it’s still tipped in their favor. They’ve got the weight, the history, the money and reach behind them of a type an individual just can’t generate, no matter how great they are at using the web.

Big publishers have advertising dollars. They can get you reviewed by critics who would otherwise ignore you. They can cross oceans, have your works translated, sell your products to studios for development into other mediums. Even smaller outfits – indie and specialty publishers – can get you perks that you might miss out on otherwise, such as access to critics or built-in audiences.

Exposure. That’s what walking the road to traditional publishing can get you that the self-publishing path cannot.

No matter how optimistic things may be for the self-publisher now, the writer who toughs it out through all the shilling, bowing-and-scraping, waiting and rejections to land that agent or publisher will be in a much stronger position than the writer who lets the “why bother?” mentality get the best of them, and rushes off to self-publish. It’s a hard, lonely, scary, heart-and-soul-crushing road to walk, but as long as you don’t let it break you, it’ll only make you stronger.

So I’ll just keep on sending out those queries, hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. One day, I might get that hit I’m hoping for. But if I don’t, I can take comfort in knowing there’s another path to walk, and it’s not such a bad one anymore.

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Story

As I said I’d put it up, here’s an excerpt from my first novel, Reil.

There’s not much you need to know to understand it – it’s just one of the three main characters telling the other two a story. It’s self-contained, a little story within a story, so no background info is really necessary here. (There may be some unfamiliar terms, but you can ignore them and still understand the story. I hope.) However, if you’d like the elevator pitch for the book, here it is:

The story of a young amnesiac girl's search for identity through a strange world, and how she becomes wrapped up in that world's fate over the course of her search.

Fairly simple. But it’s long – very long. It’s technically a high fantasy (though not your typical one), so I suppose that makes the length issue more acceptable. Anyhow, this is from the second draft. Obviously there are issues with it, and it needs a good bit of work yet.

Still, I’ve always liked it.

Oh, and in case you didn’t know, there are illustrations featuring the book’s main characters posted on this blog. They’re also on my deviantART site, which I suggest you visit instead if you’ve any interest in seeing them (they’re bigger there). Without further ado, here’s the excerpt (after the jump, if you're viewing this on the main page):

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Silence

Wow, it's been a while since I've posted anything.

Well, not that it matters. No one reads this thing anyhow. But for anyone who might stumble upon this, I'll be back soon enough, with new illustrations and perhaps some additional content. Writing has occupied my time as of late, along with a few other things that needed to be resolved before work could continue. And when I get distracted by writing (or other things), I tend to ease off on the illustrating. But I'll return to it within the next few weeks, hopefully.

In the meantime, I might post an excerpt from my first novel in the coming days. Nothing major, just a little piece I've always liked.

Until then, I'll just let silence continue its reign.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Escape


Laurel and Samantha Escape - 2012

An illustration from my second novel. Painted in January 2012.

Laurel is the girl with the glasses, and Samantha is the girl with the machete. They're the main characters of the book. In this scene they're on the platform of a freight caboose, narrowly escaping the creature that has been pursuing them.

When deciding on the girls' appearance for the illustrations, I wrestled with a "realistic" look versus a more stylized one. Obviously, stylized won out. Why? Well, bizarre, grotesque imagery features heavily into the book. I find that the ugly is made even more so when juxtaposed with something beautiful, or in this case, cute. While a more realistic look for the girls would have worked just fine, and might have been more visually pleasing or appropriate for some viewers, their stylized features (smaller noses, larger eyes) help to accentuate the hideousness of the world they find themselves within, and separates them from it all the more, emphasizing the "otherness" of that world. Plus, people tend to care more about characters when they're cute. A calculated manipulation of the viewer, yes, but it works.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Quiet Dinner


The Diners - 2011

An illustration from my second novel. (Unpublished, but I'm trying this time.) Painted in December 2011.

I'm not even going to try to explain the content of this one. All you need to know is that the girls in the doorway are the novel's main characters. Anything else I say here simply won't make sense. Just know that it would if you read the book (it still wouldn't make it any less strange). Of course, you can't read the book, as it's currently unpublished. But as I said above, I'm working on that.

This was only the third time I had portrayed these characters. The first time involved a few sketches of their faces, and the second time was in a test illustration. Considering how little preparation went into designing them, they came out pretty much exactly how I had envisioned them. It's rare, but sometimes you hit the mark on the first shot.

Monday, March 26, 2012

...And The Return


Just Passing Through - 2011

...Yes, I think that 15 month hiatus did some good.

This was the first piece I created after my 15 month break from all visual arts. No drawing, no painting. I wrote a second novel in that time period, finished the first and second drafts of it, and also finished the second draft of my much longer first novel. The break did me well, and recharged my creative batteries. Even better, I started to enjoy the creative process again, something I hadn't felt in a very long time. I think that comes through in this piece.

Originally there was no story behind this image, no rhyme or reason; it was simply something I felt like painting. Of course, due to the way my mind works, as I painted a story began to take shape. Characters began to form from nebulous wisps of ideas and became more than flat, lifeless images. The world they inhabited became richer, more detailed, more real. Now there is a story to this piece, and while still being formed, it's far enough along that I know where to take it should I ever get the opportunity to tell it. I hope I do, because it's very interesting. (To me, anyway.)

Also, the spider-cat breathes fire.

The Hiatus...


White Forest - 2010

The final test illustration for my first novel. Painted in June 2010.

Not only was this the final test illustration, it was the final piece I created for the book before I had to move on to other creative ventures. It solidified how I wanted the main character to appear, and even when I finally return to work on the novel and related illustrations once more, her look won't change much, if at all.

This was also the last piece I painted before I took a long hiatus from the visual arts. There were a number of factors contributing to my departure (to include writing a new novel), but primary among them was simple exhaustion. I had been drawing and painting nonstop for years and years. I don't take weekends or holidays off, and vacations are exceedingly rare and always short. For some people, drawing and/or painting every day is fine, but to me it had long since become grueling work and a draining experience. There was no joy left in the creative process, and when you don't enjoy creating something the end product suffers. So, I took a break. A long, long break. 15 months long, to be exact. An eternity for an artist to go without once practicing their chosen craft. Did it do any good? Well....

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Traversing Styles


Traversing the Heathlands - 2009

A test illustration from my first novel featuring the three main characters. Painted mid 2009.

This was the first time I ever depicted the two male characters, and considering that fact, they actually came out pretty close to how I had envisioned them.

One of the problems with not doing many character sketches or sheets to standardize their look is the inconsistency of the characters between pieces (particularly in their faces, in my case). Without a standardized look consistency will obviously be a problem, but with me that problem was compounded by the fact that at the time I was doing these illustrations I was undergoing a major stylistic shift. I had just jumped from a style that was vastly different, and trying to develop a new visual style at the same time I was developing these characters made for large disparities in their appearance from piece to piece. But then, the whole point of these pieces was to help me figure out how I wanted everything to look, so consistency was not something I worried about.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Illumination


In the Dark Garden - 2009

Originally intended to be an actual illustration for my first novel. Painted in July 2009.

While at one time this was an actual illustration, such is no longer the case. Too much time has passed, and I know that I could do a better job on a piece like this if I were to paint something like it now. In addition, at the time this was painted I was still figuring out just how I wanted the character to appear. Her look changed often in the early pieces, and although they were usually subtle changes, they were noticeable enough (to me, anyway). I should have known when I painted this that after only a month or two it would become outdated. Still, it's a decent enough piece, and helped solidify how I wanted to set up any future illustrations, in regards to the border and text. Though the subject matter is simple, I feel the choice and intensity of the colors help to offset any visual boredom. If you can't make your subject matter interesting, go for broke on the coloring.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Vista


Spires in the North - 2008

Another test illustration from my first novel. Painted in late 2008.

When I painted this, I was finishing up the groundwork for my book. I hadn't yet begun to write it, and was still uncertain about certain issues, such as just what the world it took place in would be like. Test illustrations like this one can help me answer questions that I might not be able to otherwise. Having a visual is very different from visualizing, and sometimes what works in your head doesn't work so well on paper. After finishing this up, I decided against going too over-the-top in terms of fantastical architecture for everyday locations, and the original design of this city was scrapped. That being said, I still like the picture.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Ascent


Ascending the Coral Tower - 2008

This was an early test illustration for my first novel. (Unpublished, but then, I never tried.) It's of the novel's main character. First painted in August 2008, then retouched in December 2008.

I don't care for drawing character sketches or sheets; they generally bore me to tears, and if something bores me it oftentimes won't come out well. If a character sheet doesn't accurately reflect the character's look it kind of defeats the purpose of doing one in the first place, and I find I can get a greater sense of a character's appearance through a single color illustration than I can with a hundred sketches. Hence, I often do fully painted "test" illustrations instead, tweaking and re-tweaking the characters as I paint until I get them to look how I envision them. Time consuming, yes, but ultimately effective. Plus, they make for better pieces in the end. (All this doesn't mean I don't do character sheets and sketches, however. I've got pages and pages of them.)