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.

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.


Happy Holidays 2017

Wishing you and yours the very happiest of holidays and all the best for the coming year!

After all the turkeys voted for Brexit, Highly Questionable Santa had to go further afield to find a strong and stable coalition…

To see some other Santas, head here:

And as is tradition, the annual apology: sorry.

All the very best from Lee, Bex and Seb’.
P.S. Apologies for the lack of updates, I would blog about how I’ve been doing our house up over the last few months but that would be borrrrrrrrriiiiiiing. That’s mostly the creative outlet these days, for shame. That and a bit of graphic novel script writing. Some entries have been drafted out but never posted… Meanwhile, my (and everybody else’s photo hosting going down doesn’t make for the most attractive reading experience. ANYWAY, will get back on the blog horse soon. Thank you my lovelies.

Happy Holidays 2016

Happy Holidays 2016 with Highly Questionable Santa!

Hello poppets, thanks for reading this year. (And any other year too.) Hope you had a good 2016 and even if you didn’t, that 2017 will be better. Becky and I’s year was basically the best ever yet (ignoring world events for a sec) because our first child, Sebastian was born. He’s like, really cool!

Check out my previous Bad Santas right here. He’s now turned ten years old. Ten flippin’ years! And yes, I really do need to get these printed up into a range of Christmas cards. Maybe next year…

Now for the yearly apology for releasing this image into an already-suffering world: sorry.
Looking at it you might think it’s some kind of Donald Trump swipe. While there’s a crossover of an ageing, unsavoury character and something to do with military hardware, it’s ‘Brexit’ that’s really got my gears grinding and this image simmering away behind my knitted brow. Grr. Sigh. Grr.

As with all fading attention-seekers, our Christmas card anti-hero has made a lurch into the world of politics. But with the spectre of nuclear war’s ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ looming large, the question is:
could this be the end for Highly Questionable Santa..?

The Chronicles of Deva: Revel

The year’s racing to an end and I haven’t even shown you all of The Chronicles of Deva characters I drew for Susan Ruth‘s series of prose novels, so let’s get right down to it.

Chronicles of Deva character roughs: Revel

This is Revel. He’s a wayfarer. A wanderer. He lives outside and avoids people for the most part. Let’s not call him a tramp because that wouldn’t have any romance in it. An anyway, he’s ever so pretty. In a damp hedgerow kind of way.

Chronicles of Deva character roughs: Revel

I had loads of fun with this, making him look a bit appealing, but still functional. (I enjoy solving problems about costume and possessions in character design, they’re problems I’m interested in that can easily be solved…) He also had to look a bit battered and run-down from all the sunlight. cold nights and dewy mornings.
Note the little drawing in the bottom left where I own up to this guy basically being my take on Snuffkin from the Moomins. Because I’d love to be Snuffkin from the Moomins. Who wouldn’t?

Chronicles of Deva character roughs: RevelCertain things set down or being refined; how he wears his gear and in what order and layers.

Chronicles of Deva character roughs: RevelAnother stage of refining. I think the feedback was to not make him quite so weathered. (artists love drawing weathered and worn things, get them to draw something fresh or pristine and we struggle…) It might not be so obvious from the roughs but the cape is made of piece-meal bits of sackcloth.

Chronicles of Deva character roughs: Revel

First rough for final image. Standing stones close in.

Chronicles of Deva character roughs: Revel

Second rough for the final image composition, bit more space and the viewpoint slightly higher up.

Chronicles of Deva character roughs: Revel

A scan of the lineart drawn with a dip-pen (Tachikawa G nib like those ‘mangaka’, nib fans) and ink over pencil lines. You can see the carvings on the standing stones a bit better here than on the final image.

Chronicles of Deva character roughs: Revel

Watercolour greyscale texture painted on. Still imperfections in that and the linework at this stage before they got tweaked out in Photoshop. Not that any of them were huge and glaring at all, I just knew they were there, was all.

Chronicles of Deva character roughs: Revel

Quick grab of the colours going behind the art in Photoshop. I’ve had to make these darker to show, as the way they’re done translucently (I’m surprised the dictionary on my web browser has that as a word, I’m possibly even more impressed that it’s a word at all) in Photoshop means it hard to show them without them looking odd.

Chronicles of Deva character roughs: Revel

The final again, just in case you’d forgotten what it looked like. The colour approach was – as with all the other images in this series – ‘limited palette’, which might make them look like a little bit of a non-event in the world of computer colouring where amazing levels of saturation abound, but the idea was to go for a more vintage look, with more restrained use of colour.

Next: the healer!