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.