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?

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...

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 2/6

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 2/6

A Tale of CynocephaliIn 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...

Ivalice Zine Entry

Ivalice Zine Entry

This is the work I did for the (completely free!) Ivalice Zine organized by Ashley Cope, whose work on the webcomic Unsounded has inspired me for years. When I spotted the call for entries I jumped at the chance. It was curated so it was a little nerve-wracking, but I...

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?

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...

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 2/6

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 2/6

A Tale of CynocephaliIn 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...

Ivalice Zine Entry

Ivalice Zine Entry

This is the work I did for the (completely free!) Ivalice Zine organized by Ashley Cope, whose work on the webcomic Unsounded has inspired me for years. When I spotted the call for entries I jumped at the chance. It was curated so it was a little nerve-wracking, but I...

Want to chat about this?

Ivalice Zine Entry

Ivalice Zine Entry

Example of a zine illustration that spreads across two pages. It depicts a nu mou character from Final Fantasy in an item shop, accompanied by a moogle character eating a kupo nut.

This is the work I did for the (completely free!) Ivalice Zine organized by Ashley Cope, whose work on the webcomic Unsounded has inspired me for years. When I spotted the call for entries I jumped at the chance. It was curated so it was a little nerve-wracking, but I think my pitch of ‘I just want to throw down a nu mou’ worked out. The only additional requirement was that I put a moogle in, too, so of course that was acceptable to me!

Cover art by Ashley Cope. This 100+ page fanzine contains comics, stories, artwork, and more. There’s action, some pinups, and blood so fair warning.
It’s also completely free to download!

I had so much fun making the big splash illustration, I also created this spot graphic intending to be used in the table of contents. It’s based on the Final Fantasy Tactics character, Agrias, who has an ice-sword attack called Stasis Sword. I’ve always really loved her but didn’t quite have the time to render a human character, so this is my little nod to how awesome she is.

Comics Tip

Small Steps to a Career in Publishing
I joined a fan-zine to gain experience in collaboration and publishing. A fandom is a great way to connect with like-minded creators and produce something together. Some zines are curated, others are not. Sometimes they also fall apart, depending on organization and participation. Even so, a complete entry for a fan-zine, whether the zine releases or not, is a fine addition to a portfolio, depending on the job. I mean, don’t submit a comic to a legal firm asking for a graphic designer, you know? Fanfiction and fanart are often acceptable as examples of what creative professionals can do with established properties.

What I learned from working on the Ivalice Zine is that the creators I look up to are people, too, and appreciate help with for-fun projects. I also learned that it’s a blast collaborate with a writer. These graphics based on the Final Fantasy Tactics cursor design were made to mark each ‘chapter’ of a four-part story they wrote. The story focuses on four characters and aligns with earth/spring, fire/summer, air/fall, and water/winter. I really enjoyed helping CorpseBrigadier polish their vision and I hope they liked how it turned out, too! I had so much fun, I’ll definitely be on the lookout for my next opportunity to collaborate with a writer.

Digital lineart of a nu mou in a fantasy shop overstuffed with otherworldly objects. A moogle sits on one of the shelves and eats a kupo nut. The nu mou is like a large upright rabbit-person, and the moogle is a small batlike person with large ears.

In the meantime, if you’re up for a random collaboration with me, here’s some lineart to color.

Care to read more?

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...

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 2/6

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 2/6

A Tale of CynocephaliIn 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...

Ivalice Zine Entry

Ivalice Zine Entry

This is the work I did for the (completely free!) Ivalice Zine organized by Ashley Cope, whose work on the webcomic Unsounded has inspired me for years. When I spotted the call for entries I jumped at the chance. It was curated so it was a little nerve-wracking, but I...

Want to chat about this?

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 1/6

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 1/6

I signed up for a 6-month graphic novel course via Sequential Artists Workshop (SAW). It’s very heavily focused on individual study and progression. As for the graphic, I got sorted into the ‘orange’ group, although it seems like I’m just sort of interacting with whomever. I’m doing a lot of sketchy thumbnail work for the course and…making friends! But mostly working, starting with an exercise to help me visualize my entire graphic novel before going in to the nuts and bolts.

Setting Up Benchmark Scenes
Even though I’d been working on Warlock’d for years prior to this SAW class, I picked up a fun exercise that I will be doing for future projects. The idea is to quickly explore the whole book before writing a single line of dialogue. In my case, I’d already written the script, but every time I tried to fix it, it just spiraled into new ideas. So, to stop it from expanding further, this exercise really helped.

 


Warlock’d in Four Panels

Here I quickly jotted down the spine of the story. They turned into jokes because this much truncation lends itself better to humor than drama. These scenes need to happen for the story to work.

 


Warlock’d in Eight Panels

Here I misunderstood an eight page assignment but I still found this helpful to do anyway. It was sort of like mini-thumbnails for fleshing out the four panels above, giving them more context and thumbnails for the actual pages.

 

 


Warlock’d in Eight
Pages
From the four, then eight, panels, I was able to derive a lot of pages that I’m either excited about reaching, or…excited about changing altogether. Hey, not everything’s a masterpiece. At least I know many months in advance that it needs editing, rather than after I’ve fully drawn the page.

 

Takeaways
This doesn’t have to be done digitally. It could be drawn on napkins with ballpoint pens. The point is to quickly jot ideas down and become more familiar with them, even set up a few to look forward to polishing. Spending too much time and polish on explorations is just like vacuuming my cat…Sure, maybe it looks nice at the end, but did I really have to do that?

Comics Tip

Make Friends, and Support Them
Making comics may seem like a lone effort, but without a community, a comic goes nowhere (and possibly never gets finished). Part of paying into the comics community means supporting other comics creators.

Buy and read the work of your peers. Get to know their interests outside of comics. Beta read scripts for each other. Toss money into a comics Kickstarter or two. Go to some conventions and strike up some conversations with exhibitors in Artist Alley. Show up to a weekly local drawing group. Trade tips and resources. While it’s not a one-for-one trade in most situations, being successful at comics means being part of a larger group of people.

With that in mind, here are three comics friends of mine who kindly volunteered for shout-outs, as well as a link to the Sequential Artists Workshop. Check out their stuff!

Digital lineart of an orange with orange blossoms and orange leaves. It is uncolored so that readers can download it and color it for themselves.
But if you’re not feeling extroverted, help yourself to this CC BY-NC 3.0 licensed free coloring page!

Care to read more?

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...

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 2/6

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 2/6

A Tale of CynocephaliIn 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...

Ivalice Zine Entry

Ivalice Zine Entry

This is the work I did for the (completely free!) Ivalice Zine organized by Ashley Cope, whose work on the webcomic Unsounded has inspired me for years. When I spotted the call for entries I jumped at the chance. It was curated so it was a little nerve-wracking, but I...

Want to chat about this?

Aesop’s Crow Fable Comic

Aesop’s Crow Fable Comic

A two-page, full-spread comic that encompasses the entirety of Aesop's crow fable. Panel 1: This panel stretches across both pages. On the left page the crow flies. On the right page, the sun bears down. Panel 2: The crow sweats, mid-flight. Panel 3: The crow notices something below! An exclamation point is over his head. Panel 3: The desert island landscape offers up but a single, black-red-and-white lekythos jar. Panel 4: The crow alights the jar. Panel 5: The crow peers into the jar. Panel 6: Closeup of the crow's eye, seen through the jar's round hole. Panel 7: A divider bearing the pattern of the lekythos. Panel 8: A cut-out panel where the crow wobbles the jar back and forth in an effort to get the water inside. Panel 9: The crow appears to be looking at a skeleton nearby... Panel 10: The crow was actually looking at the pebbles around the skeleton. It picks one up. Panel 11: The crow drops the pebble in. Panels 12-15: The crow continues depositing pebbles in the jar until the sun goes down. Panel 16: The crow finally tastes the sweet liquid within the jar! Panel 17: The crow guzzles it like a fool. Panel 18: It's possible that the liquid inside of the jar wasn't water at all, as the crow drunkenly sings into the night.

During a Push/Pull Graphic Novel Workout zoom class I took with David Lasky and Greg Stump, I was challenged to tell an entire story using only two pages. In this ancient story, a thirsty crow must be clever and work hard to survive a harsh desert environment.

About Aesop
Yes, I know — if I fall into a research rabbit hole, I’ll never complete a comic. However, respecting the origins of this fable seemed like an interesting thing to do. Today we so often take these fables as always existing…something that just appeared, like magic, in our childhoods. Aesop was a real human being who used stories to gain favor from his fellow human beings, so I used his history as a pin to inspire the look of the overall comic.

This image from Aesop’s wikipedia article may or may not depict what Aesop actually looked like. Due to its easily editable nature, Wikipedia requires some double-checking, but the sources a Wikipedia article cites are always fairly solid. So, it’s okay to use Wikipedia as a starting point for research! I don’t have any plans for this short comic re: publication, so cursory research was fine for my purposes.

 


About the Setting
Aesop lived in ancient Greece, so I hunted for desert-like areas around that area and stumbled upon the island of Lemnos, Greece. It has lovely dunes, rocky outcroppings, and a fierce sun beating down. Perfect for dehydrating our crow-tagonist and forcing them to be clever. Maybe I’ll visit Lemnos someday!

 

About the Crow
Most people would opt for your standard black crow. I definitely have a fondness for the beaky fellows because a family of them sets up shop in my backyard every year. However, corvids come in a lot of shapes and sizes, so I looked into what sort of crow might be hanging out on a Greek desert island. I found the Greece-native Hooded Crow and felt like its duotone aesthetic was quite nice. The dramatic shifts in tone across its feathers look sort of like the lekythos’s design.

Also interesting: Crows actually do drop pebbles into water to raise the level of it! They are clever problem-solvers. Even back in ~600BCE (Aesop’s time), people were making accurate observations of nature that still hold up today. Perhaps I should do a followup comic of Aesop grumpily discarding all the pebbles a crow put into his lekythos.

 

About the Jar
I could have just grabbed an amphora and been done with it, but I needed something that could stand upright on its own so that the crow could interact with it more. I trawled the Smithsonian Open Access collection and came across this lekythos. A little bit of simplification on the design so it wouldn’t overpower our crow, and there we go! A period-appropriate pottery prop. Aesop himself might have touched one of these.

More photographs of this piece from the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) can be seen here. You’re welcome for the giant, sprawling rabbit hole that the site is!

 

 

 

Comics Tip

Use Stories with Expired Copyright to Jumpstart Your Comics Portfolio
Say you’re not a writer. All you want to do is draw. You could hunt down someone to write a story for you, or you could wait for scraps of scripts from friends or writer’s blogs. But what if I told you, there’s a place where all the greatest works of literature from the past have been carefully digitized and proofread as ebooks…entirely for free? And which can be adapted as comics, even comics that can be sold?

Check out Project Gutenberg!

Works you might recognize that have expired copyright:
The Wizard of Oz series
The Odyssey
The Works of Mark Twain*

Project Gutenberg even has a ‘random’ button that will fetch you a surprise work from their vast selection. Get cultured!

*Twain reportedly fought for perpetual copyright extensions, so this one is pretty ironic.

Care to read more?

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...

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 2/6

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 2/6

A Tale of CynocephaliIn 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...

Ivalice Zine Entry

Ivalice Zine Entry

This is the work I did for the (completely free!) Ivalice Zine organized by Ashley Cope, whose work on the webcomic Unsounded has inspired me for years. When I spotted the call for entries I jumped at the chance. It was curated so it was a little nerve-wracking, but I...

Want to chat about this?