Of Pomegranates and Unicorns

Of Pomegranates and Unicorns

Digital artwork of an elasmotheirum depicted as being unicorn-like in a field of interlocking flowers. The 'unicorn' has clearly stomped its way into a small fenced paddock, leaving ruin in its wake. The pomegranate tree from which the unicorn snacked is falling over. Regardless, the unicorn wears a beautiful blue collar studded with gems as well as a gold chain twining around the tree. It's a pastiche of the classical medieval tapestry 'The Unicorn in Captivity.'

Is this Paleoart with some Folklore, or Folklore with some Paleoart?
I explored the intertwining concepts of misinformation and natural history in this piece. The story in my head recalled not only mythological hearsay, but also the idea of cryptids. What is Big Foot but a leftover Gigantopithecus from the age where we were less alone, as primates? Weren’t we all charmed by the idea of one last plesiosaur hanging on in Loch Ness for hundreds of years? With that in mind, I wanted to go deeper than the simple unicorn = monoceros = rhinocerous concept. This unicorn isn’t a misplaced African animal. It’s a European animal that went hiding in the woods during the ice age and is only now, for mysterious reasons, showing itself: The elasmotherium.

Photograph of a 14th-century tapestry depicting a unicorn lying on a field of complex floral designs. The unicorn is contained by a small fence that it could easily jump over, but it chooses to chill with the pomegranate tree instead. The unicorn wears a very fancy lapis and gold collar.

Here is the original 14th century tapestry from which I drew inspiration. The original meaning of the tapestry itself has also been lost to time, although it possibly had something to do with marital loyalty and bliss and may have been a royal gift.

Comics Tip

Masters Studies
Say there is an artist you really admire, living or dead, and you want your work to look like theirs. Depending on your rendering skill level, you may want to do one of the following things to learn more about a pre-existing work:

  1. Trace it.
    While many artists (especially younger ones) exhibit rude behavior when they ‘catch’ someone tracing, this is a legitimate learning exercise when done privately. Whether you print out a copy of the artwork and tape tracing paper on top, or if you trace over it in a digital drawing program, tracing allows you to get the ‘feel’ of drawing something. If your motor skills haven’t sharpened up enough to eyeball it yet, tracing is a good way to warm up to that.
  2.  Eyeball it.
    Just like drawing from life, eyeballing works of art you enjoy is one of the best ways to guess at techniques, for lack of a teacher. This can be done at home from a computer or a book, and it can be done in front of art at museums and in public spaces. If you think an artist used shading in a particular area, or mixed particular colors together — give it a try, see if you uncover their technique!
  3. Eyedropper Colors.
    If you’ve got the image open on your computer, steal the colors! In photoshop, the Eyedropper tool is used to sample colors and see what they actually are…as opposed to how the human eyes perceive those colors.

Or if you just wanna chill out and color…I’m here for you! This coloring page is licensed under CC BY-NC 3.0. Have fun!

Care to read more?

Carboniferous Friends

Carboniferous Friends

As it turns out, a person can fit a lot of stuff into an 11x14 inch double-page spread. How much, I didn't realize, until I set out to create an example illustration for a picture book concept that I thought up. The idea is for kids to browse expansive eye-spy pages...

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 3/6

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 3/6

This month in the Sequential Artists Workshop (SAW), I explored making short comics as practice for the final pages in my graphic novel, Warlock’d. This comic in particular was completed for a Graphic Novel challenge hosted by the Society for Children’s Book Writers...

Of Pomegranates and Unicorns

Of Pomegranates and Unicorns

Is this Paleoart with some Folklore, or Folklore with some Paleoart?I explored the intertwining concepts of misinformation and natural history in this piece. The story in my head recalled not only mythological hearsay, but also the idea of cryptids. What is Big Foot...

Want to chat about this?

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 2/6

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 2/6

Digital art of a character design based off of the medieval cynocephalus, or dog-headed man. (No relation to Dav Pilkey). The men are both dressed in fine furs with felt hats and wear snarls on their muzzled faces. The only difference between the two is that one man is entirely wolflike, fur and all, while the other man has no fur on their face, leading to a very bald complexion.

A Tale of Cynocephali
In the six-month Sequential Arts Workshop (SAW) graphic novel intensive, I’ve been getting meaningful work done on my thumbnails and script. Soon, I will have a complete thumbnailed version of the graphic novel.

As for the cynocephali (or medieval dog-headed men) above, that represents a character redesign challenge I had while revisiting the fourth or fifth draft of my script. The first iteration of this character, named Canicula, is represented by the gray wolfish man. Early feedback indicated that sure, wolf heads are cool, but Canicula looked like he was a werewolf form of Pierre, one of the comic’s deuteragonists!

Hated to admit it but I can sort of see how Canicula initially looked like a wolfy Pierre.

So, I dug deep into Wikipedia for more visual reference. 12th century images of cynocephali are quite rare online, or I simply haven’t found them yet. I landed on this example of a 17th century depiction of Saint Christopher as a cynocephalus from Russia and couldn’t get it out of my mind.

Kermira, Cappadocia St Christopher depicted with the head of a dog. From the 5th century on, it was widely believed in Byzantium that the saint was one of the mythic dog-heads, a barbarian race without the gift of human speech. Nevertheless his depiction as a dog-head had not been the dominant in the Byzantine art, since the Byzantine Church frowned upon the linking of one of its saints with the cynocephali. In the post-Byzantine art, though, especially from the 17th c. onwards, the Orthodox artists several times paint the Saint as a dog-head. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons)

There’s something quite arresting about the skin tone, the ears, and the haircut on this artwork. I couldn’t put my finger on it….

Screenshot of Mok Swagger, a character from an ill-fated animated movie called Rock n' Rule. He has excessive eyebrows, lips, and teeth, and he's holding some kind of vaporwave stick. He looks an awful lot like a cynocephalus, with the pointy ears, big curved nose, and ridiculous lips.I don't know. Ask Nelvana.“My name is…Moknicula Swaggercephalus.”

Ah. Okay. Well. This will be my homage to Nelvana’s ill-fated attempt at adult animation, then! Exactly the right level of uncanny valley.

Character redesign: Complete! For now, anyway.

In terms of technical studies I’ve also been working my way through the facial expressions section in Anatomy for Sculptors.

Comics Tip

Managing a Team of One
As I’m independently producing a graphic novel, I’ve come to realize I am doing 4-5 separate jobs, all at once. Just being one person, it might seem easy to keep myself organized, but no, of course not. My brain goes in 4-5 different directions at once. I have to reign myself in and focus on one part of the graphic novel at a time. Above all, writing comes first. Many graphic novelists (and, er, non-graphic novelists…so… novelists) turn to notecards and sticky notes to keep their plots under control. While I adore tactile crafting and drawing whenever possible, I turned to a digital solution.

Trello.com is a free notecard-like sorting system for keeping track of tasks. It accomplishes the one simple thing that I want it to do: Make digital cards that are editable, legible, and can be swapped around. I can access my cards from anywhere. They are also share-able for feedback and if I really wanted, I could invite collaborators.

Screen Shot of a Trello board. It has several columns, including to-do lists, lettering, thumbnailing, and the like. The background is a snowy mountain lake.

I set up my columns to reflect each ‘job’ I have to do in order to complete my graphic novel: Conceptualized, Scripted, Thumbnailed, Lettered, Roughed, Inked, Colored, Polished. Right now I’m very focused on bringing everything into the ‘Thumbnailed’ stage. At the time of writing this I have Act 1 thumbnailed, most of Act 2 thumbnailed, and bits of Act 3 thumbnailed. Trello lets me hop around like a time traveler so I can resolve the scenes I am most interested in first.

If you’re interested in giving Trello a try, and haven’t been traumatized by it yet in a tech workplace, it’s free to use here.

Care to read more?

Carboniferous Friends

Carboniferous Friends

As it turns out, a person can fit a lot of stuff into an 11x14 inch double-page spread. How much, I didn't realize, until I set out to create an example illustration for a picture book concept that I thought up. The idea is for kids to browse expansive eye-spy pages...

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 3/6

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 3/6

This month in the Sequential Artists Workshop (SAW), I explored making short comics as practice for the final pages in my graphic novel, Warlock’d. This comic in particular was completed for a Graphic Novel challenge hosted by the Society for Children’s Book Writers...

Of Pomegranates and Unicorns

Of Pomegranates and Unicorns

Is this Paleoart with some Folklore, or Folklore with some Paleoart?I explored the intertwining concepts of misinformation and natural history in this piece. The story in my head recalled not only mythological hearsay, but also the idea of cryptids. What is Big Foot...

Want to chat about this?