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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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…
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.
And the piece without all those blazing verses.
Next time: Tabletop gaming inside tabletop gaming! An some more fighting!
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.
Next time: MORE FIGHTING but also poetry.
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.”
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.
Next: EVEN MORE FIGHTING!
The first of a new breed of fortnightly-if-you’re lucky illustrations, I’ve decided to swerve these into the realm of comic pages.
The original aim of this series was to prove that I could actually just… Do an illustration. Now I feel I’ve managed that, it’s time to change it up a little. I’m a comic artist, but my finished pages output right now is woefully low while I write a graphic novel script and pitch, so I need to keep my hand in with the comics.
You could argue a vignette comic of an ongoing story always seems like it should be longer than just one page… Well, you might have me there, but producing work by any mindset whatsoever is still good, I reckon.
The thing about comics is that you have infinite possibilities but also particular constraints of time and space. These two fold into each in this case, because in comics, time is space. Frames of story equal acrage on the page.
So initially I thought I’d get more into this, but it’s ended up being a real snapshot. Ah well.
Quick, bad photo of the pencils. The turnaround on these is fairly quick and I hope it all feels fairly alive to look at. The brush pen inking helps with that too, hopefully.
So the moment in question I’m depicting here is a player character in the tabletop RPG I’m running challenging an NPC to a sword duel; all stock in play for noble samurai types in the kind of campaign I’m running.
Here’s the art without the dialogue. Along with the amount of information and story I was able to get in, even the dialogue got really heavily edited down for brevity and ease of understanding as a one-pager. (To my mind, It had to have speech balloon dialogue to qualify as a comic, y’see.)
Next time: the result of the duel! And also more fighting! POW!
Our main man for this instalment’s samurai tragedy is Mitsuhiro from the (possibly somewhat bookish) Phoenix Clan, who follows a mysterious figure seeming to be a servant across the grounds of Bayushi Castle, both parties deliberately appearing over-casual despite the low-speed chase that’s happening… Who is she? We don’t get to find out.
Later, Mitsu’ wishes his powers of observation weren’t quite so keen as he observes some fireworks from a celebratory procession of common townspeople. The flashing lights start triggering his epilepsy and he has to resort to a bit of support from his loyal retinue (and his player spending ‘void points’, in the Legend of the Five Rings RPG game system) to avoid having a seizure.
So on this one, I thought I’d had back into the headspace of classic poster and comic-cover character collage. Larger characters for inmportance, supporting characters dotted and and keep it simple in terms of points of interests.
I did (and do) know that I’ve hardly drawn many feet in this series to go with all the heads, so I was determined to get a few full-length figures in there.
(If you’re into comic art, you know it’s bad artists’ folly to never get around to drawing any characters feet. Deliberately or not… You should be mixing up the viewpoints and distances in your pages and compositions.)
I managed to pick a colour scheme for this one that I hadn’t really done already… Light blue. And some poppin’ yellow. (Truth be told, I wanted all the colours to pop, in a way.)
The inks! I couldn’t quite get the brush pen flowing properly while I was doing this, bu it just led to a bit more decent dry-brushing.
And a quick snap of the pencils. Grey graphite on grey paper, bad light, bad photo. Sorry!
I think I might be heading towards running out of ideas on this series, which makes me think that it might be time to start doing each piece more like a comic page. Get some storytelling in the there somehow. Even if it’s just two frames to a page. I’ve proven I can draw an image, now I need to prove that I can tell a story as well. Let’s see how I get on. Watch this space.
It’s knives out as the peace talks go South and the attendees end up reaching for their oversize letter-openers… It’s open war in the Samurai Tragedy of Bayushi Castle, part 10! (Anniversary edition!)
Now that I have a luxury of a series of images (did I mention it was 10 now?) to do the talking for me, rather than just one, it means I can now take wild steps to just chuck in things that we haven’t really seen so far, just for the sake of variety and always trying to put out something a bit new.
(The early pieces in this series were really busy because I still had everything to prove at that point. They’ve calmed down a bit since then.)
So, I had a look at the series and saw that we were missing out on objects as opposed to people again (It’s a little bit more easy to do design-led compositions with objects, they’re easier to place and contain than depictions of humans, so it was time to throw some more objects in. Also, we were in need of some hands. There weren’t really any compositions involving hands, something else we can emote with. Also also, we could do with some bright, poppin’ colours, like simple yellows and bright greens (and maybe even a tiny bit of sky blue) a scheme kind of like some kind of kids’ cartoon set on a beach.
To be honest, this one is probably too limited compared to the other and suffers as a result, but never mind.