TSToBC (as all the cool kids are calling it) now deliberately eschews the use of drawings of humans and now goes full allegorical.
So this represents the Lion and Dragon clans of the Empire of Rokugan circling each other in the courts and in a militaristic way along their shared border as they might be able to declare open-war on each other.
Looking back through this series, it occurred to me that there weren’t any illustrations that didn’t have people in, so I went for a ride with the idea that each clan in the story has an animal associated with it.
There’s also the other clans of the setting hiding in the picture too; the Kirin, Mantis and Phoenix.
A pretty bad photo of some grey pencils on grey paper.
And here’s some inks! This one was fun. The dragon and his long body meant I could make some fun shapes in the composition.
Rebuffs abound at the otherwise placid Castle Bayushi as the oily hosts the Scorpion Clan try being nice to visiting pirate Endo Moshi from the Mantis Clan and pretty much get a slap, then try reminding the pious Dragon Clan candidate about how he was going to throw the samurai tournament to prove a point, before the monkish Hideo Mirumoto proclaims that he’s in the lead because he just so bloody great.
And here’s a snap of the brush work without the colours. I did this one entirely with a Pentel Colourbrush brushpen. In my head, I though it was maybe a tiny bit chunkier than I’m used to, but it’s fine because the tip’s so good and the whole thing’s just so versatile. Now I need to find where I put my spare ink cartridges.
So I was looking back through the series and thought that I hadn’t done something with an all-over orange colour scheme, or a piece that was fairly dark yet. Or one with what filmmakers call a ‘two-shot’ of characters.
I keep on trying to get characters’ feet into one of these, but it’s not quite happening yet.
I think this one’s probably one of the more weak efforts in the series, but never mind. I was working on two of these at once, so you’ll have another one soon enough to make up for it.
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 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 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…
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 Master of Ceremonies of the samurai tournament has the news broken to him that his competition has 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.
The inks, drawn with a Pentel brushpen on faux-canvas texture paper.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Next: Ready, Set, Go!
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.
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.
I reckon this simple colour flat has a certain something to it that you just don’t get in the finished piece…
And here’s a quick snap of the original. I keep on going over the sketchbook page with these ones…
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!)
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 to you and yours!
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