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?

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...

Aesop’s Crow Fable Comic

Aesop’s Crow Fable Comic

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 to survive a desert island.

Moebius Study Comic

Moebius Study Comic

This page is an exploration into not only the style of Jean Giraud (aka 'Moebius'), but also my own personal style. At the time, I was looking for ways to pare down the amount of work per comic page. I defined aspects of my style to rely less on painterly polishing...

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?

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...

Aesop’s Crow Fable Comic

Aesop’s Crow Fable Comic

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 to survive a desert island.

Moebius Study Comic

Moebius Study Comic

This page is an exploration into not only the style of Jean Giraud (aka 'Moebius'), but also my own personal style. At the time, I was looking for ways to pare down the amount of work per comic page. I defined aspects of my style to rely less on painterly polishing...

Want to chat about this?

Vegetable Lamb of Tartary Illustration

Vegetable Lamb of Tartary Illustration

This is the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary, otherwise known as the Barometz plant. It is an outstanding example of how information warps when delivered in unreliable ways, resulting in a medieval-ish cryptid. This creature was inspired by two real plants, the first* of which was:

Cotton (Gossypium)

The plant was said to sprout lambs as though they were fruits. The lambs were connected to the plant by an umbilical-cord like stem, and could only eat the surrounding vegetation. After it ate everything it could reach, the lamb-fruit would die. I will also point out that medieval bestiary designers would often include cryptids in their books as religious metaphors, rather than strictly accurate scientific observations.

Even after Europeans became clearly aware of cotton, they still heard tales of a plant that sprouted from the body of a lamb. The second* plant to be mixed into this cryptid’s lore was the Woolly Fern. The rhizome that allows this fern to grow looks vaguely like a sheep, I suppose. I could imagine a situation where a European traveler in Central Asia would be taken aside by a friendly stranger and showed a funny little sheep doll, this Barometz, which would sprout into:

Wooly Fern (Cibotium barometz)
See the ‘wool’ between the stems?

Depending on who spoke of the legend, where, and when, the plant either fruited with sheep, or it grew out of a sheep-fruit. That inspired my composition to show a sheep fruiting itself from…itself! The legend fed into itself that way. Sometimes a creature is most real via hearsay, and that’s where it exists forever.

*’First’ and ‘second’ do not refer to anything chronological in terms of the legends surrounding this cryptic. I only used them within the context of presenting one plant at a time as a blog post.Comics Tip

Preserving Textures in Photoshop with Masking
Say you want to forego the tedious experience of manually applying gold leaf to a page, or painting it on. Digital art is great for this and using Masking in Photoshop lowers the stakes even more.

To get started, bring a gold leaf texture into Photoshop on its own layer. This texture’s from pixabay.com, a great Creative Commons resource for art assets. Make sure the layer is selected, then look at the bottom of your Layers menu.

 

 

The buttons at the bottom of your menu look like this.
Click this button while your texture layer is selected.

 

The button applies a ‘mask’ to the layer, represented by the white box. The corner reticules mean all drawing will be done on the mask, rather than the texture underneath the mask.

While your Masking layer is selected, the colors on your Brush palette will change to black and white.

Black acts like an ‘eraser’ on the Masking layer. But, it’s not exactly the same as the Eraser tool, because the texture underneath the Masking layer is preserved, just hidden.

White ‘restores’ whatever you masked with black!

If you select your texture, your color palette goes back to whatever it was prior to selecting the masking layer. You can then manipulate the texture under the mask.

Try it out!

You can apply a texture of your own and mask it onto this coloring page that I’m providing under Attribution Noncommercial 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC 3.0).

Care to read more?

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...

Aesop’s Crow Fable Comic

Aesop’s Crow Fable Comic

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 to survive a desert island.

Moebius Study Comic

Moebius Study Comic

This page is an exploration into not only the style of Jean Giraud (aka 'Moebius'), but also my own personal style. At the time, I was looking for ways to pare down the amount of work per comic page. I defined aspects of my style to rely less on painterly polishing...

Want to chat about this?