Friday, 18 October 2013

2008/2009 Book sketches (part 2)

Thus further images and insights as promised…

One day at work, in order to take a break from all my shopping about town and tea making and nail filing (because I was always one to work super hard at the ‘actual’ job … I jest, I’m guessing it was a slow day at the office) I started sketching and Amber and Fao popped out of my pencil. Specifically the second from lower-left drawing shown here where she is leaping forwards:

Amber hasn’t changed much over the years she is however, one character who works very well in carton style and probably not so well in a more literal portrait form, I am still not entirely happy with the last portrait I did.

Still a stubborn spiky-pigtail haired girl with a stupidly huge dragon appealed to me, in a way I guess she made me think of tank girl, a rude, loud and crass woman. Not sure why it appealed to me on that particular day or where her name originated from, she was just Amber as soon as she appeared. Fao on the other hand wasn’t named immediately yet after very little consideration I lazily jotted down ‘oaf’ and my brain made that microwave noise ‘ting’ – ‘alright,’ it said ‘we’ll just reverse that and he can be called Fao,’ – et voila.

On an early rendition of patterning for Fao I was thinking he could have leathery skin:

 but decided I disliked the above and went for traditional scales as shown below.

Thought I’d show some of the portrait build ups for Fao, above are the stages of sketching and below the stages of colouring. If you look really close you can probably just about read my scrawled colour notes and see the gathering of tiny pen dots that formed in one corner whilst I was trying to figure this out.

That same day Amber came into being Panda also emerged on a post-it note. 

In the first sketch, Panda looked somewhat demure, but she was easy to draw and reminded me of an older character I had called Nami. This older character got her name from a client whose paperwork I filed in my job at Nationwide Insurance Claims. Considering I went through hundreds of paper files every day in that job I don’t know why ‘Nami Aoki’ stuck out at me and lodged in my brain, I also had no idea whether the name was meant for a man or a woman. Much later I ended up watching the anime ‘One Piece,’ and discovered they too have a character called Nami and yes, it’s a girl’s name!

The ring around Panda’s eye was a pencil slip that I decided I liked, and thought then logically that Panda must be her name! Relating back to Nami, I decided Panda’s character must be bonkers, hell, she has a ring around one eye and a split pupil that looks like a plus sign she must be crazy! So from then on whenever something happened to me that I found annoying or frustrating or just a bit crazy I would sketch Panda pulling another insane face.

Also yes, Panda loves to play dress up and is one of the few characters whose portraits I decided to render in two different sets of colours. I imagine she changes hair colour as often as her barely-there outfits. Her extended full name ‘Pandora Young’ came about later as a kind of play on the fact that she’s ‘mad as a box of frogs’ and the idea that one wouldn’t want to open Pandora’s Box. Plus Pandora is conveniently similar enough to Panda for that to be her given nickname.

Now things really got going, or at least got more complex, after I met my now husband, Jethro.

Naturally, I shared my ideas with him and as a keen RPG player, he was instantly intrigued. His first instinct was to make new characters or incorporate older one’s he’d used in his RPG’s.

In fact the below sketch was drawn specifically for a written RPG that revolved around a place called Cold Harbour in The Elder Scrolls universe. Keen RPG gamers will likely recognise the name as a place that Bethesda are currently making an MMO out of, long story short, you couldn’t play in the realm of Cold Harbour in 2007 so we made a written RPG there because, well we could.

The RPG, like most online written RPG’s started in some kind of dungeon or cellar and didn’t last very long. The image of Jet and Cyan however spurred me to make more images of Jethro as a character for my novel. Thus, the rather lazily named ‘Jet Korro’ came into being, one who looks like my love and shares many personality traits including an OCD quirk for symmetry. All of the clothes Jet and Cyan wear, are clothes we own, so their wonderfully terrible dress sense does belong to us.

Jet’s character evolved visually quite a bit over the years, aging perhaps alongside the man himself and getting several haircuts along the way. Most fun of all was making a sketch combining Jet with Panda. (3rd from right above) Perhaps you shouldn’t question the ‘why’ too much on that one.

This is also when Si’Ra, Dirzryn, Charrock and Dro’Zar were added. All of whom Jethro had created for various written role-plays but hardly used with the exception of Dro’Zar (below) who I do believe had made an appearance in an RPG or two before I swindled him away.

I always liked the early sketches of Dro’Zar, something about his character made me want to draw him in a different way to my other sketches. In case you are wondering, Dro’Zar is a Siamese point type of Felid hence the large ears and shape of snout in his final portrait.

So you can blame Jethro for all the x’s,y’s and z’s that are prevalent in so many of our character names! 

You can equally thank him for many of our anthropomorph designs, because whilst I was into elves, vampires, and fae he liked the anthros, lycans and greenskins, which pretty much made a perfect balance between us for the things I wanted to create.

I had already drawn Argo (left below), although in the first sketch he was more lizard-like and less salamander-esq as he should be, but of course when Jethro showed me his eagle sketch of Charrock (below right) I just knew the two would make a fabulous haphazard duo.

So far as Si’Ra and Dirzryn go, I think even Jethro will agree that I ended up almost completely rewriting their personalities.

The base germ of their characters is still there but I liked them so much that I wanted them to be important players and fill certain roles within the tale, ergo, some of their original traits had to change. Thankfully, Jethro was happy with the alterations and now agrees that the newer versions are now better rounded and three-dimensional, in fact I think he likes them more than the first versions we had! 

Dirzryn (above) is one of those characters whose face I feel like I’ve always known yet pinning down his image on paper I found very tricky in the beginning. His face was stuck in my head and it was super-frustrating to be unable to get it out onto paper. I actually prefer the older portrait I created of him (top left) to the more recent one (top right) and even now struggle to get his face exactly as I see it. 

I didn’t have a clue what Si’Ra (below) looked like until I found an image of a Prussian Blue cat, then I knew, yep, that was him.

Our Felid names (that’s cat anthros to you) originated from The Elder Scrolls feline anthropomorphs which are called Kha’jiit, because the writers at Bethesda are obviously markedly less lazily than I who simply chose to use the Latin for ‘cat,’ to name our species.

As a way to mark out our Felid names from those use in the TES universe we decided that their surname and forenames would be written in reverse and that as a social etiquette trait these people would find it rude to be called by one name alone unless they asked.

So for example Si’Ra’s first name is actually ‘Raeemai’ and his surname is ‘Si’ which is shortened then to ‘Si’Ra,’ and even if a stranger were to prefix a title such as ‘Mr,’ to his name he would expect them to cite ‘Mr. Si’Ra,’ and not ‘Mr Si,’ or even worse as a display of ignorance, ‘Mr.Ra.’

I swear I have come to work by the unforgiving mantra of ‘if it isn’t hellishly difficult and complicated you’re doing it wrong,’ because doing things the simple and easy way would just be too clever.

That said that’s all from this post, so until next time keep it convoluted folks! ^_^

Oh and here's two recent 2013 ACEO's of our Si'Ra and Panda, just because :)

Saturday, 21 September 2013

2007/2008 Book sketches (Part 1)

Character concepts

At the start of this blog, I said that the contents here would be everything that does not relate to my book.

I lied.

These book sketch posts therefore (yes there will be several) offer a more in-depth look at some of my early character concepts, primarily because, well, that’s what I was doing most of artistically speaking during 2007, 2008 and 2009. Thus, most, if not all of these images can also be found in the ‘Concepts Pre-2013’ tab on the sister blog Black Wednesday Isle.

Obviously, I am still busy creating it all now many years later in 2013 but that’s another story…

These posts might feel a little mismatched in places but to clarify I intend to make a visual comparison between the early sketches and the current ‘final’ portraits and then waffle on about the way some of my ideas came together as I seem to be most proficient at doing that!


Now in my final year at university I had thrown some ideas together, bounced around some characters including a girl called Petra and of course our current ‘hero’ of tale, Hvidsten. 

Followers of this blog likely already know that ‘Hvidsten’ was the surname of a friend of mine at university, the man who gifted me the initial character concept for our ‘warrior-type grumpy hero.’ Those readers are probably also aware that this character has a forename that begins with ‘L’, which isn't an interesting name by any means, but I am still not going to tell you!

Hvidsten and Petra haven’t altered a great deal in visual design over the years, it is more refined no doubt but with very few major corrections. Petra’s hair got longer and I perhaps made her look a bit older than in those early sketches.

I’ll be honest that I didn't realise then that Petra was a city in Saudi Arabia (Google’s to check – ok apparently Jordan isn't part of Saudi Arabia now?) because I suck at geography. Nor did I realise that it was already an established moniker, the name just came to me out of no-where and seemed to fit.

It should also be noted that I hadn't met my now husband Jethro yet either, so obviously nor had I met his mother the very similarly named Petrina.

The character of Petra actually evolved after I read Mark Haddon’s book ‘A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.’ This wasn't my usual sort of read but its simplistic way of portraying the very complex subject of autism deeply impressed me. I became fascinated with the idea of writing from the point of view of someone who thinks in an entirely different way.

Petra perhaps began then as an autistic child, and was originally written about in a similar style to the one in Mark Haddon’s book. She is often mistaken as being an autistic savant in our novel, or is viewed by other characters as being far more fragile than she is. I developed her character to possess an eidetic memory instead of being actually savant, so that as stated she simply has a different way of processing thoughts to all other characters. This is always a challenge to write but it is a challenge I enjoy.

(Fun fact: Later I was further charmed to discover that this writer Mark Haddon actually comes from my hometown of Northampton – hey – hooray for coincidences!)

Seeing as I studied psychology for a year at college, I already knew I had an interest in thought patterns and mind disorders, but until I added Petra it hadn't occurred to me that characters might relate to or express mental illnesses or disorders. I carried this idea around for a long time before implementing it. Particularly perhaps because I had decided then to tie in Cyan and Kale from my previous story but knew that I would need to rewrite and develop them in a different way for the tale I had swimming around in my head and that logically Cyan would be the depressive character. I guess because I have always created her to look like me I found this a bit of an unnerving prospect, true she had been a miserable sort in previous renditions but this would push her a step further.

Cyan I like because she has gone through the most evolutions character-wise. Visually her appearance has changed as frequently as my own, so not a great deal really. Interestingly she is also the character who annoys me the most to write about but that is perhaps because at the beginning of tale she is in a very low and dark place, a melancholy whiner as I am inclined to be at times and a very timid person as I was in my past. I want to give her a slap and tell her to wake up! I guess that’s one purpose of bolshie characters such as Amber. Cyan’s name comes literally from my interpretation of the colour cyan as an insipid shade of blue.

So where did Kale come from and why is he named after a vegetable?

I have often wondered that myself, I don’t recall specifically when he emerged but I knew him well right from the start, a face and persona I feel I have always known but cannot place. The name ‘Kale,’ equally was another that just seemed to instantly fit perhaps because it sounds meek and limp and is therefore opposite to his persona.

Close to my heart then is this purported ‘sociopath’ and I really couldn't say why. He was always Cyan’s sire (maker) and seems to have become more insane over the years. You could parry a ‘father-figure’ onto him if you discount the fact that he isn't one bit like my father and that I have never ever known a violent aggressor of a man. 

As an extroverted character who has many expressions and a cheeky one who likes to play act Kale often pops up in my artwork. Here are the two most recent renditions:

Left = an ACEO made for Halloween 2013 titled ‘Hand on Heart.’
Right = A 5x7 card created for charity on the theme of Island Dreams, titled ‘Wish You Weren’t Here.’

Yes, he has a dislike of clothing beyond loose denims and would happily strut about naked.
You might also notice he has a quirk about his feet, more specifically he hates ‘things’ touching them; that part comes directly from me, because I hate having crumbs and bits stuck to my bare feet.

Our Main Antagonist and Protagonist

One evening I sat down and wrote a back-story involving two brothers and that was that.
Luke and Evan were born that day and the groundwork for the world I wanted to create was set.
It should be noted that the back-story isn't, in my opinion, the greatest bit of writing, possibly crafted through a student-type alcohol haze when I felt most inspired to just shove it all down on paper and be done with it. It is mostly a very long form of notes and although I've let a few folks read it, its purpose was never truly to be a standalone short story. Perhaps one day I will revisit the piece and give it a good scrubbing overhaul but for now, it’s my notes about the beginnings of our fictional world.

The middle image here was the first one, they are 16 and 18 years old in the back-story, so the first concept was them as teenagers. The later sketches are meant to be them in their mid-twenties; this is the 'freeze' point for the way they should look no matter what age they currently are. 

This back-story stayed as just another one-off for quite some time whilst I played around with character design and ideas for the actual book I wanted to write. Then I wrote chapters and chapters (whilst at work *ahem*) about this place in my head and the scant few characters I had at the time.

Further images and insights I shall however save for the next posting.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

2007/2008 – For the Love of Doodling

An image heavy post this time around perhaps in preparation for the word heavy post I’m planning to drop on your laps very soon. For now however, I present the unused character sketches that fell out of my pencil during 2007/2008 and a few beyond. 

During this time, I was frantically creating characters for my novel but every now and then, something unplanned would appear. Some of the unplanned things evolved into new characters whilst others did not. Elements of them were certainly used later on in other designs.

Most of these previously unseen one-off sketches plopped onto my paper without a great deal of thought or reasoning beyond, ‘I want to draw.’

Enjoy :)

Random People

I'll say most of these have amazing file names, which I'll use to title them.
Yes that is sarcasm.


 'Random Dude'

 'Cat Anthro’s' 

A little info on this piece: the cat labelled Sar’Son on the left is based around a pet of mine and is a small bit-character that will be used in my novel. The kitty centre stage is a possible design for another character named Su’Ki, also a pet of mine however my pet Su’Ki was male, or so we found out after having him for several years ….could she/he be a transvestite cat then? :P On the right is an unnamed individual, not sure what good ‘stoner cat’ will be I just know that there is a gang of said cat anthro’s that own a bar.

 'Drummer Guy'

'Dragon Head Guy'


 'Goth Fairy'

'Lotus Heads' 

These guys were based around the lotus flower, no, I can’t recall why.

 Not  a clue, this was just titled 'random.'

'That guy outside' 

I hadn’t watched the anime Bleach at this point and this was obviously some person I saw walking about and decided to sketch however my rendition looks eerily like the Bleach character Uryu Ishida. For those of you who don’t know what the character of Uryu looks like, here’s an image from the anime to compare:

Hmm Uryu looks concerned about the lady below, as he probably should be....

'Asua Riyt'

The only fleshed out character concept I decided not to use, I may see if I can squeeze her in yet but thus far there isn’t a place for this zebra lady. We named her Asua Riyt, turns out she was very wrong and got replaced, oh irony you know when to whistle your tune so well.


Lots of weird elf designs:


 'It wasn't me I swear!'

Random Chest pattern thing

'Elf Ladies 1'

'Elf Ladies 2'


I called these ‘dragoons’ because I was being lazy, I will use this design but improve upon it and possibly give the species a better name.

 'Fat cat'
I think that's a dragon licking the cheese - who knows?

'Skull Creatures'

 Yep, no idea, I think I just wanted to draw skulls or something. That said I liked the little guy in the left hand corner enough to have a go at drawing him twice.

'Skull Creatures 2'

The argur are a species of dragon already featured in my novel however this was an early concept and they don’t exactly look like this, I shall have to draw them again!



Well that's it for now.
Although today I had to gallery sit, any guesses what I did in those two hours? 
Yep, left with pen and paper to count visitors to the Artwalk exhibition I ended up doodling this little fellow:

So for the love of doodling - may many more things fall out of our pencils, amen!