So I Went Adventuring…

So I Went Adventuring…

Digital artwork of a chipper, perhaps even smarmy, kingfisher on a branch. The kingfisher is decked out in fantasy royal knight regalia. This includes a blue cape with ermine fur on the inside, a small buckler strapped to her shoulder, a sword strapped to her back, and a dagger attached to a belt wrapped under her distinctive red 'belt' of feathers which marks her as a Belted Kingfisher. The sky is big, bold, and blue behind her, ripe for adventure!

Lady Sigrid von Eisvogel
“Lady Sigrid von Eisvogel of Gürtelfischer Manor (she/her) is an adventuress who has gained some notoriety as a skilled and fearless swordfighter in recent years. Her origins are somewhat mysterious. While she is more than happy to talk about her home and family, neither she nor various other interested parties have been able to turn up a single other person who has seen or even heard of the realm she claims to come from. Those of a more sceptical disposition might say that it is rather convenient for her that nobody can verify her claims of being a warrior-princess. However, while she may or may not be a princess, the “warrior” part is evidently accurate, so it is wise not say such things within earshot of her.”

-R. Kraft, Avians & Aviaries

About This Piece
Lady Sigrid here would not exist without the chance sighting of a kingfisher by my photographer friend, GettoKnowNature. Kingfishers are notoriously elusive photography subjects and here was one just chilling on a branch one winter morning! The bird had so much character, I was equally smitten when Nature’s luck.

Digital photograph of a belted kingfisher perched on a branch full of lichens. The sky is super blue behind her. The kingfisher is female because it has a rusty brown 'belt' around her waist.Photograph byGettoKnowNature. Displayed with permission.

So, I did what I do best when I see a cheeky beak: I drew it! I also found out tangentially that kingfishers are related to kookaburras. This was related to noticing the beak and crest being kookaburra-like.

Where Have I Been?
I have been right here, busy as ever. Perhaps busier. I had to put the blog on the backburner when contracting picked up a little too much to maintain everything I wanted to accomplish. I return with thoughts on how to continue making the two-week schedule I’d originally envisioned here managable.

Simpler Posts
Step one, from here on out each post will simply be that. I won’t add tutorials to the end. These tutorials were taking a lot of my time. I couldn’t trust that they were accurately conveying the concepts I wanted to teach. Finally, each one kind of contained enough information to be its own blog post, which often felt at odds with the subjects I was actively blogging about. Therefore, whenever I make a tutorial post in the future, it will be its own fullblown post! I think this would be very fun and make the amount of work involved feel like it’s worth it.

Status/Update Journaling
Step two, there will be times when I don’t precisely have a finished product to show. I’m opening myself to status updates and observations that come with that. I’m already experimenting with it via my Amphiox project and it feels great.

Blog Redesign
I would also like my blog to feel less detached and all-over-the-place. I’m going to revisit the layout and make it easier to navigate through posts and find posts with similar tags and categories. I think it should feel like it’s part of my main website rather than a different area.

Up Next
I’m tabling at GeekGirlCon! This is one of my favorite, favorite conventions. I’ll be at table 915 so if you’re in the Seattle area on Saturday 5th November, I’d love to meet you. I will have a new zine and tons of new prints, plus some returning goodies from years past. It has been a long time since I tabled anywhere due to COVID but I’m looking forward to getting back into these. I love meeting people so much.

Care to read more?

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Beenix: A Free Home-Brew Dungeons and Dragons Monster

Beenix: A Free Home-Brew Dungeons and Dragons Monster

Digital artwork of a half bee, half phoenix fantasy creature perched in a cherry tree. The Beenix is about a foot and a half tall, with a bee's thorax and six chitinous legs. It has six bee wings. A feathery tail sprouts from its behind and its head has a beak. The beenix is eating a cherry and tilting its head at the viewer. It has feathers on its antennae. This is one half of a collaboration with Adam Ma.

The Creation of a Free Home-Brew Dungeons and Dragons Monster
When I first approached Adam Ma about designing mechanics for the Beenix Dungeons and Dragons (DnD) monster, I had artwork and a jumbled text document full of features that blended phoenixes and bees. It was ‘lore’ in the worst sense — me blathering about exploding bee trees and cherry honey, having all of one or two experiences as a DnD player and understanding that ‘numbers good’. Overall I did not have a concept of how the Beenix would fit into a tabletop rpg campaign. I passed a link to Adam and was unsure if I should take him up on his offer of collaboration since the beenix was such a mess! I’d honestly been intending to partake of his professional Dungeon Master (DM) services. The moment Adam heard that it was a homebrew monster design to be released freely to the masses, like Oprah would, he grabbed all my Beenix fragments and ran off with them.

When Adam returned, he had a gorgeous pdf containing everything a DM needs to incorporate the Beenix into a DnD campaign. My intent was a creature that is suitable for low-level adventurers to encounter, but could scale up to a mid-level encounter. Not necessarily a hostile entity, but alien and requiring some patience when encountered. Adam translated my ideas into DnD concepts such as ‘swarming’ for multiple monsters. He gave the Beenix better DnD-specific context by ascribing them to an existing setting: the Faewilds. Adam also pushed the concept of the Beenix queen into not just an entity, but as a whole setting unto herself.

Digital black and white artwork of a giant, twisting tree, most like an oak in shape. It towers over mountains, the ruins of a village, and a pair of tiny horses.
Guess what? Beenixes turn into GIANT! TREES!

Adam ran the design through some balancing checks and now here it is, a free, cute, weird addition to any Faewild adventure that could use a little more glitter. I highly recommend developing adventures with Adam Ma. I had so much fun and I’m grateful he took my concept and ran this hard with it!

Click here to download the Beenix PDF

The PDF contains stats, lore, and artwork for the Beenix, and is licensed for non-profit DnD campaigns under CC-BY-NC 3.0.

Comics Tip

How to Digitally Color Diaphanous Insect Wings
Whether it’s a bee or a dragonfly, or a house fly, insect wings can be tricky to figure out because they are shiny, delicate, and transparent, all at the same time. To begin, we should look at a reference photo, courtesy of Pixabay.

Photo of a bee with the wings displayed clearly.

What we learn from this photo is that an insect wing has opaque parts with shiny transparent stuff in between those parts. How do we mimic this in a digital drawing? We’ll use masking and some hand-painting to nail the delicate insect wing look.

Digital artwork of the beenix wing with a 50% dark brown opacity fillThe opaque veins of the wing are filled with 100% opacity dark brown. A bee’s wing has an underlying dark sheen on the transparent cells. I’ve chosen to fill the cells with a dark brown set to 50% Multiply. This is still too dark and opaque, but it’s a good starting point.

Digital artwork of the semi-opaque dark brown layer with masking to provide an insect wing texture.
I set up a masking layer on the membrane which I’ve filled. A quick swipe with a soft brush set to black on the masking layer makes this look more like the light is passing through the wing in a more interesting way. I use a hard brush to define some sharp mid-tone highlights in the end of the wing.

Digital artwork of the bee's wing with a 100% white layer fill.
I set up another layer on top of my brown layer, this time filled with 100% opacity white on normal. It will look like the white has obliterated the underlying brown layer, but that layer is intact underneath.

Digital artwork of the bee's wing with the layer masking on top of the white layer, with various parts of the white masked to provide a texture that looks a lot like an insect wing.
A masking layer and some swipes with a 100% opacity black soft brush, then a 50% gray soft brush first soften the look into a gradient…and then I can pick out brighter mid-tone highlights with a sharp brush. For a final touch, I speckle the edge of the wing with sharp 100% pure white highlights, but only on the wing I really want to shine and shimmer.

Digital art of the beenix perched in the tree. It's lines only and ready to color!

Want to customize your Beenix? Here’s a CC-BY-NC 3.0 coloring page that is free to use for personal, non-profit DnD campaigns, as well as just relaxing with a half-bee, half-phoenix monstrosity.

Care to read more?

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Want to chat about this?