The Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle – Part 7

There’s a horsemanship contest in the samurai tournament at Bayushi Castle and the Dragon Clan delegation talk over how to bring about peace with their warlike neighbours, the Lion Clan…

The Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle - part 7 - the horsemanship contest and preparations for peace talks.

The soaring rider is the jammy so-and-so who rolled a crazy result on some dice in the role-playing game that acts as the beginning point for all of these images.
This one should have had a massive gymkhana with horses and riders doing various things with extreme action and thundering of multiple sets of hooves, but… Before drawing this one, I was looking at this series of images up to this point and came to the conclusion that there were too many compositions bunging the subject in the middle of the piece. So I resolved to make the next image have a completely empty middle section. EDGY!

The Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle - part 7 - pencils before inking.

The pencils. The composition having nothing in the middle seemed to make everything else slide up and down and around a bit too much, but we got there. Once again, this photo is pretty horrible (what with the grey pencil and grey paper) but the paper has a faux-canvas texture that comes in handy in the next step…

The Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle - part 7 - inks rendered with a brushpen.

Inks! With a Pentel FP10 Brush-Pen that was running out at the time – on purpose – because the faint dry-brushing that you get the thing kicking out is pretty interesting compared to boring old pens.

As it was, my initial yen to make this one less busy then kind of got hijacked by the computer colouring process. I was thinking that this was one of the weaker pieces in the series and it was time to give a massive kick with the colours to save it from mediocrity. So I went for full, dark Ukiyo-e woodblock print colours, because that was something that I hadn’t done with this series yet either.

Ironically, I keep on thinking this has run its course and then it keeps on kicking me further down the track. I’m still having fun.

Oh and here’s a quick linkt to ‘The Table is Yours’ audiobook group, who’re reading aloud the Legend of the Five Rings fiction (classically, the game always has lots of official fiction, particularly on the web, to develop the story) from the new version of the game’s setting, available to listen to for free. I partook of some good listenin’ while I was working on this, to get me in the mood.

The Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle – Part 6

The Master of Ceremonies of the samurai tournament has the news broken to him that his competition has been sabotaged…

Omaru Miya from the Imperial Families is most concerned to hear that the tournament he's been officiating appears to have been sabotaged...

So, there were a couple of things I’d not done in this series yet: have a fairly straight, head-and-shoulders portrait and have some dark colouring. So I went for both of them.
I’d not really done much in terms of dark blue yet either, so I went for that. Is this slightly odd approach condusive to making good images? Not sure, but it keeps me on my toes and come to think of it, it might just be how I’ve always worked anyway.

Inks / linework, drawn with a Pentel brushpen.

The inks, drawn with a Pentel brushpen on faux-canvas texture paper.

Inks / linework, drawn with a Pentel brushpen.

The pencils, which are a bit of a squint-fest, but I’ll bung them in anyway.

Next time: Something to do with horses, probably. The animal that makes every illustrator’s working life slightly annoying.

The Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle – Part 5

The Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle - Part 5 - Hideo Mirumoto climbs and an alliance is formed.

So there’s an uncharacteristically community-spirited inter-clan alliance in the name of a peace mission brewing at Bayushi Castle. I love my players, it’s supposed to be full of cons[iracy and back-stabbing… Later, there’s an obstacle course race for sport (and glory) and Hideo the ascetic Dragon Clan samurai has to dig deep to make it up a wall. There’s also mysterious things happening with wasps.

So I already tried some other compositions out and this time, I thought i’d go for a half-dark, half-light design. (But not exactly, because precise compositions like that will kill your images.) This was the result. It’s wandered off-concept a tiny bit, but I like it.

The right hand side was supposed to be darker all the way to the edge of the image, but I was having too much fun making shapes.

The colouring is me trying out something new again – a colour scheme i’ve not quite gone for so far. Popping, saturated colours on some parts.

The Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle - Part 5 - photo of linework in brush-pen.

Here’s a quick snap of the inking. The grey paper has a faux canvas texture on it, so it makes the mark made by partial brush-strokes look more interesting.

The Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle – Part 4

The Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle - Part 4 - The tile guessing game with Kachiko Bayushi.

A simple guessing game isn’t quite what it seems thanks to the presence of the Empire’s most famous courtier…

So there was a game being played in this session involving characters guessing family and clan symbols of the world of the Legend of the Five Rings Role Playing Game. That didn’t necessarily make for an illustration full of thrilling action, but as always we have the powers of design on our side here.

I knew I didn’t want to do a piece with some point of interest or figure in the middle and then a blank surround, as can often happen, so I deliberately decided to make the surround very busy and choking, and the centre of the illustration lighter; even though that’s where the interest is.
I still didn’t want just one focal point in the centre, so I split it into uneven halves.

So the black things are ceramic tiles. I think I could’ve grouped them In a bit more of an interesting way. I shall be more prepared for the potential pitfalls of tile pencilling next time… Or not, as the case may be. The idea is that each one of this series is an experiment that doesn’t look like the others. Forcing me to try and come up with a new bag of tricks each time is the closest illustration gets to having a sharp end. (That and deadlines…) The linework is darker than before, to match the dark tiles. The colour scheme ended up being a kind of ‘tropical pastel’ pallete – yellow, orange and a little bit of green tinge with the purples and blues standing out on purpose. The guy is pondering is one of our player characters – from the scholarly Phoenix Clan – so his clan colours dictate he’ll be mostly that afore-mentioned orange.

The lady is Kachiko Bayushi, preeminent Courtier of the conniving Scorpion Clan and a famous character in the setting, busy sowing intrigue amongst the floating world of the court.

Oh and here’s a snap of the linework, rendered in brush-pen. I love those things.

The Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle - Part 4 - Photo of Line work in brush pen.

Next: Ready, Set, Go!

The Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle – Part 3

Let’s take our mind off all those horrible murders and do some… Wrestling! Fun play-fighting!
Err, well, the very polite diplomat from the plains-dwelling Kirin clan ends up laying the smack-down on the effete Crane Clan artisan.

The Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle - Part 3 - All-in Wrestling!

I should say, once I start throwing around ridiculous terms like ‘Kirin Clan’ and ‘Crane Clan’, you could do a lot worse than looking at the ridiculously exhaustive ‘L5R Wikia’ – the fan-maintained wiki of the Legend of the Five Rings setting that these table-top role-playing game sessions I’m running – and drawing – are set in. Although I then start stroking my beard and then say that I’m running it completely differently to the canon setting. Mynah.)

So these pieces have been coming fairly thick and fast recently because I’ve been catching up. That’s done now, the next one should be in about a week. It’s good to do regular pieces because it lets my experiment a bit. Case in point, I couldn’t quite get the colours and the light-dark balance to work in this one… I knew I wanted a strong background for a change though, going against the pieces I’d done in the same series up to this point.

The Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle - Part 3 - Colour flat.

I reckon this simple colour flat has a certain something to it that you just don’t get in the finished piece…

The Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle - Part 3 - quick snap of original artwork.

And here’s a quick snap of the original. I keep on going over the sketchbook page with these ones…

The Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle – Part 2

Endo the Mantis Clan merchant is questioned by a magistrate about all the bodies outside...

So there’s been a lethal fracas in the castle gardens late at night and Endo the merchant faces some hard questions from the high-ranking magistrate visiting the castle. Afterwards, the verdict doesn’t go down well with all concerned and there is a call for a duel. That doesn’t end well either.

I think I probably threw a bit too much at this one… I had a composition in my head but in practice it’s didn’t quite fit the format of the frame for this one. I’m still enjoying these though and I think this one’s a bit more nuanced in execution, even if the design isn’t quite as strong as the first one.

Endo is from the Mantis Clan of the Legend of the Five Rings setting, they’re a minor clan of pirates and rufty-tufty up-jumped upward to Great Clan status, where they get to rub shoulders (and peasant weapons) with all sorts of hoity-toity, fancy samurai. The fourth edition book of this RPG system was the first proper RPG book I ever bought (If you’re wondering about getting into RPGs or not, don’t wonder… Do!) and the Mantis Clan were one of my favourite things about the game from the very first reading. Salt of the earth, salt-sea types who’re all about the common people. Equality through fantasy informed by history (and lots of latter 20th century fiction tropes!)

The Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle – Part 1

The Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle, part 1

So I’m going to have a go at trying something new: regular, small pieces of new art.
Something all the way scratch to finish…
Because it’s good to actually finish things.
I’m writing a graphic novel script right now, which is taking a while and doesn’t have any visual excitement about it… Yet.

(It occurred to me that this might seem like some kind of New Year Resolution, but it’s actually just complete coincidence.)

Full disclosure: I’m going to base these on the role-playing game I’m running right now, because it doesn’t just come out of my head, but the heads of the people around me too. Group exercise!
The game is AEG’s Samurai-themed RPG ‘The Legend of the Five Rings’ RPG, Fourth Edition. (The Fifth Edition of the “L5R” RPG has just come out from Fantasy Flight Games, but the game started just before the print versions were available, so we skipped it for now.)
By default, the game happens in a Fantasy / Far-Eastern fiction trope mishmash, but I’m running it in a more grounded way, leaning a bit more towards a historical bent with no big magical spells, people transcending to godhood all the time and anything like that.
The system is great at fielding all kinds of different player characters and one thing that really sets it apart is that players can choose to be ‘Courtier’ characters, so all of their skills are to do with influencing other high-ranking nobility, politicking, intrigue, one-upmanship in the social order and chicanery. No other game the vintage of “L5R” gets this kind of role-playing, character development and plot-focused storytelling running quite so quickly and easily.

The working title of this little series is ‘The Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle’. Here’s the first one.

Happy Holidays 2018

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Happy Holidays 2018 with Highly Questionable Santa

Here is another outing from Highly Questionable Santa. As is customary, here is the apology: Sorry.

If you’d like to see previous years’ outings, head here.

Hope 2018 was good for you and that 2019 gets off to a blazing start!

But with bridges burnt, could the this be the end for Highly Questionable Santa..? Continue reading

The Chronicles of Deva: Allen Lawrence

Here’s some more character art from Susan Ruth‘s ‘Chronicles of Deva‘ series of novels.

This is Doctor Allen Lawrence. He’s a nice fellow and he tries to help out the people he knows. And the people he doesn’t know too. A charitable sort, you might think he goes back home to his wife, kids, pipe and slippers and a roaring fire of an evening, but… The poor guy’s got an empty nest. His wife and child went missing in the civil war that tore through the British Isles in the ‘Deva story.

Here’s some character development, right from scratch:

The series has an alternate 1920’s setting, but it’s possible they guy’s design comes from a slightly more Victorian angle…

He’s becoming a bit more ruddy and rounded-out here…

Rough for the character portrait above, in which the artist plays with visual signifiers. Again. Give it a go sometime kids, it’s fun.

And that was then worked up into this rough , which the final pencils were worked from (after it was enlarged and printed out at A3 size and slapped on a lightbox).

Ink linework. drawn with a dip-pen for old-timey goodness.

And then if you thought that was restrained, here’s several palette-loads of black and  grey watercolour paint to pull it into more of a composition.

I did computer colouring for this series over the organic textures already in the watercolouring. The photoshop colours for this one are pretty simple:

Yeah, he looks like someone’s half-finished Andy Pandy or something. Check those cheeks out.

And here’s the finished thing again:

Looking back on this, I really should have done something a bit different with the steps…

Anyway, as an aside… Ah, updating the ol’ blog… How hard can it be? Hmm, quite hard, if my entry tally of late is anything to go by. Apologies, readers. I’m writing this over an-already-existant draft from… Well, I don’t even wanna say how long ago, because it’s a bit embarrassing. Is blogging still the Hot New Thing..? Not really. Do I still have a soft spot for it? Yes. Does being a dad (wee Seb’s two now) and a person with a mortgage (the place still isn’t fully painted yet) get in the way of updates..? They can do.
I’m just trying to throw another update out before the end of the year, so at least it’s not going to be a Christmas card update year with nothing else to show for it.

Behind the scenes: final graphic novel scripts are being slowly written and mini comics are planned out (two keep both ends of the size-of-job spectrum covered, just need to have more content for the ol’ infinite scroll of content providers that is the internet. Or do they just call it ‘your phone’ now..? ‘Devices’ seems to be a parlance. Hope your devices are happy. I have more things to show and more work in progresses to throw out there.