Pale Fionn Mac Cumhaill Gets Some Colour

I’ve been trying to get pretty serious about the Fionn Mac Cumhaill graphic novel for a wee while, progress is very stop-start on something like this when you’re the only person working on it. I’m trying to run it as a kinda social media project with fairly regular updates too… Seeing as how, y’know, nothing’s real these days unless it’s on social media. It’s all a bit galling really, but it’s the landscape creatives are in these days, so never mind. (The gag here is that this guy is talking about social media and hasn’t updated his blog in four months… Harrr.)

Fionn Mac Cumhaill the Irish mythological hero, here being a scrawny young guy out in the backwoods.

Oh boy, did I really just blurt all of that out when you just came here to look at some art..? Sheesh. Sorry about that. All the art angst has to go somewhere I guess, block the flow and it’ll just all back up somewhere.

So here is Fionn Mac Cumhaill. Irish Celtic mythological and folklore hero. Women love him. Men want to be like him. He’s like He-Man as a Nobel Laureate… Except, I like him looking like a disfigured, scrawny, unexperienced, pale weirdo though. He ends up being the top of the heap in Ireland at the very end of the late Iron Age, as the captain of the Fianna, the land’s most amazing warrior-poets and defenders of the realm.

This is a younger version of him, maybe he’s just about to leave the care of his foster mothers Bodhmall & Liath Luachra the woods of the Sleive Bloom Mountains, or he’s taking a moment out of his chores under the tutelage of the poet Finnegas on the wooded banks of the River Boyne.

My go-to one-liner to describe Fionn’ (also known as Finn McCool) to people is that ‘he’s like the Irish version King Arthur.” A guy who comes to be the leader of his version of the round table of knights by a combination of chance, adventure, birthright, mythical derring do and more. There’s stories about his parent’s courtship, his birth, boyhood, coming of age, adulthood, even embittered old age, his death and supposed mythical slumber to one day live on. The bits I’m concerned with for the graphic novel are his youth and coming of age, where he and his family face great adversity and then everything turns around for him.

This is one of my favourite rough drawings of him – doodled out at the end of the day on a comic convention table – I coloured up because I needed something with actual colours on as a icon for a Facebook page I made for the GN – to make it look appealing – as opposed to yet another black & white sketch, on a feed of black & white sketches… It was only a few weeks overdue. I’m dead good at this social media thing, me.

So anyway, there’s Facebook page for the FIONN graphic novel here. So that’s all the FIONN content in one place. I’ll still be putting Fionn things up in all my other feeds though, it’s all I’m trying to work on these days!

The Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle – Part 19

So The Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle is… resting right now, while I work up a graphic novel set in Celtic Ireland in about 200AD, instead of a feudal Japanese samurai setting. There’ll be a printed zine/mini artbook of Samurai Tragedy’ with extra art in at out some point in the future. For now, here’s one of the character pieces from it, of genteel tea ceremony host, artisan, red-hot steel basher and sword-smith, Hideyoshi Doji of the Crane Clan. There’ll be more of these in the finished, printed thing.

Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle - Part 19 - Hideyoshi Doji - Tea Ceremony Host & Swordsmith

This one was done as a double-up, for the series and also to go into the ‘City of Remembrance’ Legend of the Five Rings zine, put together by the fine folks from the ‘Shadows in the West’ L5R RPG podcast. You can go buy the zine on Gumroad here, proceeds go to charity!

Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle - Part 19 - Hideyoshi Doji - Tea Ceremony Host & Swordsmith

Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle - Part 19 - Hideyoshi Doji - Tea Ceremony Host & Swordsmith

And some of the inking progress. For some reason I never got around to taking a snap of the pencils. I was probably just thinking it was time to just get on with things. The fortnightly update schedule for this, plus the fact it was a personal collaborative project between me and… my mates, means everything just flowed really easily.

Happy Holidays 2019

Wishing you and yours all the very best for the holiday season!
Hope your year was good and your 2020 is even better.

(This year, Disturbing Father Christmas has dressed up as right-wing UK politician & millionaire Jacob Rees-Mogg, from that time when he acted like a small child and lay on the seats of the British parliament because his country wasn’t crashing out of the European Union fast enough for his liking, so him and his mates could make up some new laws.)
But does acting like a Dickensian despot raise the ire of the British populace? Could this be the end for Highly Questionable Santa..?

Do remember to take it easy,

– Lee, Becky & Seb.

The Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle – Part 18

It’s a beautiful view from the balcony of Bayushi Castle, but Master of Ceremonies Omaru Miya is sharing his view that his contestants are rubbish, just to haze them in the ‘Courtier’ debate round of the Tournament of the Samurai, the Topaz Championship. Freebooter Endo Moshi of the Mantis Clan gets the (pirate) boot stuck into him, just like everybody else.

So the main thread with this one was me thinking that I hadn’t really drawn much setting or backgrounds in this series, so it was time for some kind of grandiose, vulgar gesture like drawing most of the grounds of a feudal Japanese castle, including its charming garden and castle towers…

The big head was originally going to have more of a body attached to him and serve as a kind of frame to take in the view through, to break up a rectangular image… But I ended up stalling that because I wanted to get the castle details in, then the lines were suddenly already down and the big character had lost his oomph. Ah well, never mind.

Colours! Running out of colour schemes I haven’t done yet in this series means the colour-work is getting a bit more over-wrought. Here, I was going for fairly primary yellow and red as a scheme, because we’ve not seen those all that much – or as a pairing – the Samurai Tragedy so far.

If the dark-to-blacks look over-powering here, it’s only because they have to be strong to make their way through the grey paper and big blacks of the drawn artwork.

Finished image without the text.

I’m now itching jump off this series and get back to working on my graphic novel, but the figure of 20 images – and the fact the adventure’s about to end – is calling me on to just see it through for a little while longer. Grr!

The Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle – Part 17

Bookworm Mitsuhiro looks to add another string to his bow in the archery contest of Rokugan’s Topaz Championship. He’s wide of the mark on his last arrow though. Monk Detective Hideo smells a rat.

A snap of the inks. A4 paper to keep the acreage down,

I finally managed to escape from underneath the umbrella of dark, golden sepia tones for the colour scheme in this one and I ended up digging just the colours on their own quite a lot.

With each one of these, I look at the collection of all of them I’ve done so far and then figure out what colours or colour combination I haven’t tried out yet in the series. That’s then the one I go for. It might sound a bit arbitrary, but it keeps me amused. I quite like the airy, high-noon blazing sunlight feel I managed to get in this. Not that sunlight is quite this blue, it’s just that a lot of the other pieces in this series are pretty brown.

Ghost Shops for Deluxe Magazine

Not shops you can buy ghosts in, but shops that aren’t there anymore.
Cover and illustrations for Deluxe Magazine, a periodical about music and record shops.

The main feature in this issue was an interview with Joe Mount from the musical act METRONOMY. (Joe’s from Totnes in Devon like me and The Drift Record Shop who publish Deluxe.

Here, the copies from the Newspaper Club printers had just arrived at The Drift Record Shop. The drawings were done with a ‘Parallel’ calligraphy Pilot Pen & Pentel ColourBrush brush pen.

Or grab a physical copy from Drift in Totnes. I think you can mail-order free physical copies from their website too, you just have to pay postage.
It’s distributed nation-wide by Forte Music Distribution so copies will be in record shops all over the UK too.

You can read an online version of the interview – complete with drawings – right here.

Check out those piles.

I think there was something like 3,000 copies of this printed up.

The graphic design on Deluxe is by the peerless AtWork studio. Check those guys out.

The Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle – Part 16


Shaolin monk-eying around in the sword fight between the Dragon & Lion clans… The clans now at war with each other. Pure soul Hideo Mirumoto of the Dragon knocks Kujiko Matsu of the Lion on her arse several times until the poor dear doesn’t try to get up again.
Later, everyone is forced to put on jumpers and play a boardgame no-one understands… (It’s Go, which is really hard to draw…)

It was only when I was finishing this one that I realised that the colour scheme was basically that of a watermelon. BUT, Y’SEE, it’s informed by looking at the series as a whole and figuring out what colour scheme I haven’t really done yet. So I came up with green and pink.

I still wanted to work a full-length figure pin-up into a composition sometime, so this was one of those. Monkish Hideo of the Dragon Clan uses the Niten sword technique, developed in this setting’s history by a called character Mirumoto. It uses… Two swords! The katana and the wakizashi. This is actually a bit of a real-world thing, developed by actual, real, historical samurai tramp Miyamoto Musashi.

Bad photo with bad thumb. Bad.

Yeah, I didn’t even go anywhere near trying to draw Go boards with a brush pen. My apology for this was to get Go grids into the frame layout… I was very careful to never ever have straight up-and-down lines, because that kills the life that’s in layouts like you would not believe.
Oh and you might see that I tweaked some of the scales of anatomy on this…

The Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle – Part 15

Dial Daiymo for Danger!

Next Samurai tragedy piece. This one had both sword-fighting and poetry in it! An incredible balance. There was a haiku competition. I composed some quick haikus for some supporting characters to spout and then the players proceeded to fully get into the spirit of things by composing their own. They got so good at it that the messenger app where we all plan RPG sessions was completely awash with haikus for days (if not weeks) afterward. (Try it for yourself if you like, it’s micro-self-expression and therefore very achievable. 3 lines, syllables run 5-7-5. Easy.)

So the haikus being short statements fitted the idea of different characters slotting into one frame of the comic very well. The full haikus were still too long to get included in their full forms, so I had to just have one line from each. And drop some of the supporting characters.
The idea of a grid for such florid, poetical expression seemed a bit off, so I went with a circle frame layout instead, which worked out well because the dead space around the edges of circles fitted into rectangles mean you can put more supporting frames in, as I did here.

Dial Rokugan for Risk!

And the piece without all those blazing verses.

Next time: Tabletop gaming inside tabletop gaming! An some more fighting!

The Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle – Part 14

Thanks to John for the 'Welcome to the... CLUB!' line.

So I was determined to make this one as comic-like as possible, just to show I was firmly a new resident of comic-town with this series. So cue loads of frames all squeezed in and lots of frame gutters. (I could still only fit in a tiny bit of the adventure, as always.) I just couldn’t resist the large, full-figure shot in the top left though.


It’s always interesting how making a single comic page means you have to twist things from the original source material (in this case, a role-playing game run by me with my mates) to make it work. Different mediums of storytelling require different approaches. Obvs.

Squint as this horror to grey pencil, paper and bag 'photography!

Next time: MORE FIGHTING but also poetry.

The Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle – Part 13

Thanks to John for the 'Welcome to the... CLUB!' line.

So, funny thing… As soon as I decide to make this series into a range of standalone comic pages instead of standalone images, I then go and forget to put any frame borders in this one, so it might not read very well… AH WELL.


It’s not like it has lots of frames, I suppose. In a way I’m kind of proud that no straight lines or gutters crept in. (Every once In a while, I remember ‘Calvin & Hobbes’ creator Bill Patterson paling about, “the tyranny of frames.”

Squint as this horror to grey pencil, paper and bag 'photography!

Reading down, it makes some kind of sense; exterior establishing shot, interior establishing shot, headshots and general view and then more closeups to finish.

At every stage of this – pencilling, inking colouring – I was just sort of breezing along with no great idea of where it was going next… And I kind of worked. I got a nice page by accident.