Young Diskworld

D'aw. Baby space turtle.

This young A'tuin sponsored by personal new beginnings. I won't bore you with the details, (the specifics of other people's revelations are rarely as fascinating as they seem to the person experiencing them) but I felt like celebrating/sharing with you anyway.

If you have no idea why there is a sea turtle with elephants on its back balancing what appears to be a platter of world-pie on their heads or why the whole shebang seems to be in outer space... Honestly I'm a bit surprised you read my blog. Everyone has a different opinion which book to start with the in the Diskworld Series, but this would probably be a good place to begin.


Welcome to the final Other Guy! (Other Guys? Others? Hell with it.) I was really, really looking forward to this one, and not just because it's the last. A color palette I like, a species I like (with spots!) and I get to play with glow-y effects? Oh hell yeah. sporeling

The water doesn't so much look like water, but there's a limit to what you can do when it's supposed to look flat, muddy, and purple. The little green mushrooms could use more definition (aka darker shadows... again. I swear, I'll learn one of these days.) and the balloon-tree thingies in the far background have neither treelike or ballonlike qualities. I am however happy with the misty effect. Given that the balloon-trees came out a bit weak, I sort of wish I'd made the mist more impenetrable.

But this is one of those times where the figure came out much better than the background. I gave him deep enough shadows, the skin color variation all makes sense, and his little whiskers are pretty freaking adorable. I had to re-do his toes and hands about three times. They aren't great, but they don't stand out as bad anymore, which I'll take.

And I'm happy to report that on the very last illustration in this series I grokked a new technique. I can reliably make things glow. Now all I have to do is resist the urge to come up with excuses to use my new skill for no reason.


Radioactive special! All commissions with a glowing element 10% off!


Now then, were where we?quillboar

Ah yes. Quillboar.

I tried something a little different here to try to save myself time on the background, and pretty much robo-failed. It took longer than it would have to just draw it from scratch, and it wound up looking like I ran a simple filter over a screenshot. Dammit.

Strangely enough, the thing I was most worried about turned out just fine. I'm talking about the quills of course. With simple color change along the length of the quill I was able to take care of the 'depth' problem without spending lots of time drawing the shade and shadows of each individual spike.

And once again my subtlety rises up to bite me. The difference between the well-lit portions and the dark bits on the figures is about half what it should be. The shadows just aren't deep enough. I could justify it by saying they're in a poorly lit space, but in the interest of learning I really shouldn't. Justifying after the fact is not the same as doing it on purpose in the first place.


Despite them being, well, nasty little creatures, I enjoy Kobolds. They have simple priorities, and all the little things about their character design are consistent with the singleminded pursuit of those priorities. The backpack for holding various shiny objects they might find, (which is overfull, don't want to spend time going back to the surface until you just can't carry any more) badly patched clothes, the barely functional pickaxe, and the candle on the head, necessary for underground work when you can't possibly occupy a hand (vital for grabbing loot) with carrying a torch. As usual, I started with the figure. But I ran into a problem when I tried to make a background. I tried several different mineshaft settings, but nothing seemed to really be working. I wanted it to be dim, both because pre-industrial mines are dim, and also to keep the figure at the forefront. But then I tried to put normal shadows on the figure, and everything started to look very confused. kobold2 As usual, the solution is simplicity. Murder your darlings. (Of couse, as you may have noticed, in explaining this principle I managed to show you the full, unshadowed figure anyway.)


I'm also trying to figure out how glowing works. I've got a good handle on coloring with a directional lightsource, but the flame itself looks...solid. It would be fine if it were a lantern, but it's a shame that one of the natural focal points of the drawing came out a little awkward.


Harpies. Why did it have to be harpies. World of Warcraft harpies are considered humanoids, (meaning you can't skin them for profit. A comforting definition, no?) but otherwise they seem to be only marginally above animals: they lay eggs in nests, don't keep houses as such, and don't talk. And yet they wear metal bikinis. The resolution of this is left as an exercise for the reader.


I really, really like how this came out. Conceptually I was worried about the feathers, as detail work has a tendency to trip me up. But I managed not to focus too much on edges while giving a good amount of color variation. The placement of the feathers on the wing is only loosely related to reality, but I'm okay with that.

And this is a big step up in the background department. I wasn't sure how to integrate a character study with a full background, (and if I'm honest, I wasn't totally sure I could do a full background) so I simplified matters by using a limited and out of focus background with a border.

And yes, I'm doing the orange/blue thing. So sue me, but goddamn it, that contrast works.

Children of Cenarius

Cenarians The colors are kinda gnarly in this one... like the Cenarians were egged with radioactive easter eggs. Cenarians do come in other colorschemes, but I liked the naturally colored fur in this palette so I was willing to put up with the pink and green.

Harder to deal with than the colors is that these forms are partially human. (Humans being really good at seeing the slightest mistake in the depiction of other humans.) Given these issues I'm really quite pleased that this came out as well as it did.

Favorite part: The female's legs. The hooves look dainty and pointy while still being weight-bearing, and the leg bracer-thingies have nice definition without looking pasted on.

Worst part: Ladies' torso. Ick. I'm really quite good at lady torsos in silhouette, but I clearly haven't figured out how light falls on them. It has to hit the ribcage and the curve of the tummy under the bellybutton, but knowing that and making it look right are apparently different things.


nerubian It's all right. You can say it.

Nerubians are icky.

They have several different equally icky body plans. So many in fact that getting them all in one illustration was a little awkward logistically, so I'm only showing two of the more common types that the average adventurer may run into.

Again, there are things I like about this one, and things that make me sigh. (I'm getting better. Sighing is a big step up from disquieting giggling.) In trying to relax about my color transitions, some things are fuzzier than they should be, which gives the whole picture a sort of dreamlike quality. Which would be cool, if I that was in any way what I meant to do.

And my color choice is too close in contrast. Again. The leg red, body brown, and purple wrappings have basically the same brightness, which makes them difficult to differentiate at a distance.

But I like the spiderlings.  They're alternately cute and horrifying, with good contrast and color. They're adorable. Just, um, keep 'em away from me.


One of the great things (and painful things) about having a slight backlog is that when you go to post something, you immediately see everything that is horribly wrong with it. While this is good for learning purposes, it isn't terribly comfortable if you're slightly insecure. Which all artists are, trust me. ogres

I've clearly improved in some ways, but I'm also making some of the same mistakes. I'm happy with my color choices and shading, but it just isn't vibrant enough. In trying to make the skintones natural-ish, I undersaturated them. The contrast is fine, but the lighter skin and the metal bits are washed out and anemic. Annnd the overly precious monster is back. The ogre's faces are actually really cool... but you can't see them, because all that neat detail is on a tiny part of the picture. Oops.

From the WoWiki: Ogres are large, brutish humanoids originally from Draenor. They were one of the last races of Draenor's giants.

Ogre culture, such as it is, tend to revolve a great deal around warfare, violence, and acts of strength. Elimination of competitors is an accepted (in fact, it is the only) way to move up in the ogre ranks. The ogres have great admiration to those that can best them in strength or in combat, an admiration that far transcends anything else, including their hatred for other mortal races, specifically orcs and humans. There are rare but known cases of ogres bowing to the Horde when those have defeated them (such as the Stonemaul tribes) and even rarely the Alliance.

Regular ogres and two-headed ogres are not spellcasters; the ogre magi make up the smarter, spellcasting versions of ogres.

The Other Guys

You know who I mean. All those other non-playable, yet clearly intelligent species in World of Warcraft. That's right, it's series time.

Before we get started, let me define some terms: I'm not doing demons, elementals, or anything that could be described as a critter. I'm also limiting this to things that you can speak with in game, and which seem to have a distinct culture. Plus they have to amuse me. Most likely, this means I will not be doing Quillboar. (Frickkin Quillboar. With their stupid death squeal. And you never have to kill just a couple of them, oh no, you have to listen to that squeal eleventy-twelve times.) I have not however compiled my final list, so if there's any species you're dying to see me draw, just ask.

On the subject of artistic relevance, this series will serve as rapid-fire, low pressure sketching practice. See, I'm gradually transferring my years of hard-won pencil skills to my digital tablet. Unfortunately, that transfer is not automatic. Something about not being able to see the marks on the same surface as I'm making them, plus the different biofeedback from the digital pen is enough to impede my sketching ability. So I'll do no physical sketching in this series. Additionally, all these very similar pictures will help solidify my painting process, and the unreality of the subjects will help keep me from getting too precious and narfy about it.

First up: Naga


From WoWwiki: The naga are former Highborne night elves who mutated into vengeful humanoid sea serpents....Naga culture is complex. A clear delineation exists between the sexes. Male naga are larger and more muscular, reminiscent of dragons. Naga men serve as soldiers and guardians. Female naga are more slender, with smaller scales and finer, more human-seeming faces. Naga women are natural spellcasters and rely on magic and poison to defeat their enemies. Naga men are more numerous, but as naga consider their women to be magically and intellectually superior, their society is matriarchal. Women occupy most positions of leadership, and all naga pay homage to their queen, Azshara.


froglock The sketch for this little guy was originally done for an EverQuest themed commission, but the client didn't like him.

It's okay, his self-esteem recovered. Eventually.

Because I still thought he was cute, I dug him out of my loose sketches for a little painting practice. I'm still learning the broad strokes of how to paint in Photoshop, but I am slowly getting faster, which is necessary for that brain-burning project I mentioned in my last post. (We'll get to that soonish, I promise. Right after the website re-vamp is done. Which will also be, uh, soonish?)

And oh hey, I've learned a thing or two about digital painting.

1: Pick your color palette at the beginning. In this case, I needed a skin tone, a speckles tone, and two tones for the clothing. The thing is that each 'tone' should be made up of three-to-six slightly different colors. You can lay these out in little groupings to remember what's for what. When painting, you can use these color differences to denote shadows or other minor variations.

2: Set the opacity on your brush to significantly less than 80% for everything but the finishing touches. I like around 80% for the under layer, and then around 50% for almost everything else. Also, use a bigger, softer-edged brush than you'd necessarily like to.

3: After you've put down your under layer and laid out the basic form, start using the color picker to grab from what you've already made. Because of the opacity on the brush you're using, you'll get a nice variation in color based on where your strokes overlap. This also makes it quite easy to smooth out harsh contrasts where you don't want them.

Graduating Class, '90, Union College of Law

Something a little different for you this week: A photo restoration. This photo had a sad, sad life before it came to me. It was well loved however, as it must have been put in its frame fairly shortly after it was taken.  It was sandwiched into the frame with the frontpage of the newspaper Club Life, dated October 11th, 1890.

For those of you without a background in conservation, the operative word in the previous sentence is newspaper. Newspaper, particularly old newspaper, is full of all sorts of nasty reactive chemicals. By the time I got my hands on it, the newspaper had begun to dissolve under its own power.

As for the poor photo: At some point, the photo had become one with the glass. I'm not sure exactly what the chemical process was, but removing it was synonymous with destroying it. And that was the state of affairs when someone dropped it, and shattered the glass.

The owner brought it to me, and asked if there was anything I could do.  I blinked at her for a minute, and said I'd give it my best shot. The first order of business was to get it scanned, which was impossible in its current state. The photo had snapped along with the glass in some places, but was still intact in others.  The glass grated against itself every time I tried to move it, causing more damage to the glass and the photo. Flipping it over in order to scan it was out of the question. Also it was spitting glass slivers everywhere.

Painful as it was, I had to use a razor to finish the process of breaking the picture into pieces.  I scanned each piece separately, then I assembled them in Photoshop, which gave me this:


Thirty hours of work later, I gave this back to the client:




There are a few interesting things about this photo, beyond the reconstruction work.

First, it's pretty clear that not everyone had the same idea about how to pose for a graduation photograph. The guys in the back are posed and proper, hats in hand, while others sit with either genuine or awkward informality. Most people look in the direction of the photographer, but others seem to deliberately stare somewhere else. Everybody agrees that smiling is bad, but that's about the only consensus.

The Union College of Law later became the law school of Northwestern University.

Also, where the hell was this taken? A construction zone? An alley? Wherever it was, the guy lounging in the front felt obligated to put his handkerchief on the ground underneath him to protect his suit.

People knew how to put letters in their names in the 1890's. Boy howdy. Here's the best example, before and after.


Lastly, there are two women in the photo. One would have been unusual, and two is really something of a surprise.


The registry lists them as L. Blanche Fearing (to the left) and Mrs. Fearing.

That's right. She has no first name, not for the likes of you, anyway. She is Mrs. Fearing. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Renaissance Faire-d

Well, I'm back.  My next two weekends are still dedicated to the Virginia Renaissance Faire, but since I've done almost all of the necessary work for it I can start doing other things like, oh, drawing again. Things I've learned so far about Renaissance Faires:

-It's easier to not stuff yourself on Scotch Eggs if you just don't eat that first one.

-Talk to the organizers (on the phone or in person, so tonal subtleties come through) early in the planning stages. It may be that you're being way more dedicated to editing out modern stuff than you need to be.

-Apparently, lots of people go to Ren Faires in order to soak up the ambiance. And not to buy anything. Crap.

Photodump! (As always, all pictures courtesy of my dear technologically inclined fiance.  Further photos of his over at his flicker.)






P.S- Best overheard Ren Faire quotation, delivered with full pirate accent: 'Aye, I'm the Scottish Pirate. You can call me Arrgyle.'


Guys! Guys! Lookit, look what I did! wulpertinger

Let me explain why I'm so excited.

I have a historical problem, loosely referred to as line addiction. I draw edges. I draw them first, and hang the rest of the picture on them, like scaffolding. When my college painting teacher told me to build the image from the inside out, my first thought was literally "but- it doesn't work like that." [*]

More recently, this has meant that I've been doing line drawings before making digital color images. Which shouldn't strictly be necessary. If I'm making digital paintings, shouldn't I be able to do an underpainting as my laying out and on-canvas 'thinking', rather than a line drawing? (Trust me, this isn't through lack of trying. It's part muscle memory, part training. It's like putting an accomplished downhill skier on cross country skis and expecting them to not go whup!SPLAT. [**])

Last week, inspired by Three Panel Soul, I decided to give this 'painting' thing another try. Miraculously, something clicked. I know what I want to do differently next time (bigger brush, for one thing) but this is an encouraging start in a direction which has previously been mostly blocked to me.

The subject is a Wolpertinger. I was surprised to learn from wikipedia that Wolpertingers have a historical basis, and were not simply created as an amusing Brewfest pet. (Dear non-WoW players: Brewfest is an in-game holiday involving a lot of drinking. When drunk, you can see Wolpertingers. ) Apparently, "The Wolpertinger is not a typical cryptid, as local people likely never believed in its existence. Rather, it is some kind of traditional prank belief, as is evident from the many stuffed Wolpertingers displayed in village inns along with real hunting trophies, which have been fabricated deliberately in order to make fun of gullible foreigners who may want to go hunting for this remarkable animal." I find this hilarious. [*] Convergently, I listened to a TED talk after I painted this which suggests that edges (and motion) are the foundation of human vision. Very interesting stuff for visual artists, video here.

[**] whup!(SPLAT) is the direct transliteration of the sound you make when your skis fly out from under you for no reason, and you land on your back. For people from warm locals: Downhill skis have a rigid connection between your ski and your foot, plus your ankle is mostly immobile. You walk like a flatfooted duck, but the ski does not slip out from under you while you're standing around. Cross country skis, on the other hand, have soft boots and connect to the ski only at the absolute toe of the boot. This greatly increases your independent mobility, but also that of the ski. Which occasionally chooses to exercise its freedom when you're standing around not paying enough attention to staying centered over the ski.

Banner for a Musician/Programmer

banner banner1.1

Last week my buddy Mike called in a artistic favor I owed him to get something pretty for the top of his soon-to-be-live blog. He didn't really have any firm ideas, other than he wanted it to be something that would be appropriate for both his musical and computational pursuits.

It doesn't always happen, but it did this time: I had a brilliant idea. Punchcards. Musical score. Both covered in dots. BAM.

I think I still have a few tweaks to make though. I like the partial transparency on the punchcard and musical staff details, and I think the dots come off a bit too 'hard' in contrast. Also I'm not sure about the background. It's copied from an aged piece of paper, but it doesn't actually look much like an aged piece of paper.  I may have to do something about that.


mignoloids_final Welp, I've gone and dug myself a hole again.

See, I have in mind to do a little project. I self-published *coughKINKOScough* two trades of a comic in college, but I haven't done much with the form since then. Of course now I've got a comic idea in my brain, and it's not letting go. Unfortunately, this idea is relatively specific about the drawing style it wants.  And it's not a style currently in my repertoire.  Dammit.

So I'm going to expand my repertoire. (And yes, that does hurt, even if you go slow.) I'm going to accomplish this by the time-honored tradition of copying until I understand how the hell the artist does whatever it is they do.

Today, I'm embarrassing both him and myself by attempting to learn the ways of Mike Mignola. Well,  Fritz Leiber as done by Mignola, anyway.


This last Friday, some toys I'd ordered from the internet arrived. To clarify, this post is safe for work.

I'm talking about chainmail toys. I'd been searching high and low find beads that were even somewhat similar to beads I'd used before, which are no longer carried by the store I purchased them from, and found toys instead.

For the curious: the beads I'm looking for are shiny grey disks in the shape of an equiconvex lens. I need the beads to be in two sizes, the larger significantly larger than a quarter, the other slightly smaller than a quarter. Ideally, they should match bright aluminum in color. They also need to have one relatively large hole near the edge at a perpendicular angle to the 'plane' of the disk. That can't be too hard to find, right? Right...

But I was talking about toys. I got some tiny rubber rings, (which shall make an appearance later) and a new style of earring mount, but I spent most of my time playing with scales. They are strange, and seem to be mostly intended for making sheets, (like for a mail shirt) but they are funky and I like them.  First Piece: feather necklace. feather-necklace-1


And! And! When I hunch my shoulders, my hackles raise! *giggles*

Troll Dance

troll-boys3 Just a couple of troll boys, playing around.

Okay, so trolls are hard. They have weird pointy faces, lanky proportions, and tusks. I meant to have the further troll have sort of a playful smile on, but there's no way that's happening with the tusks in the way. Also they have two fingers per hand, and physics-violating ears. On top of that I had a sudden attack of insanity, and thought it would be fun to draw them in a Capoeira exchange.

This was not totally out of the blue. Okay, so World of Warcraft noobs, here's a brief tutorial. Part one: There's this playable race called trolls. They have a decidedly Caribbean cultural flavor. Part two: all playable characters in WoW can dance on command, to the great amusement of the parties playing them. (And the discomfort of others, as this allows female collections of pixels to dance 97% naked on big city street corners in order to get 'tips'. *twitch*) Each gender of each race has a specific dance, and the male troll dance is clearly based on Capoeira.

As martial arts go, Capoeira is particularly hard to draw. As an outsider, it seems that the art relies greatly on momentum switching, acrobatic athletic feats, and constant motion. This makes finding good reference material extremely difficult, because paused video tends to be fuzzy and most amateurs can't take good pictures of a subject in motion.  It also makes my fallback (pressing my friends and acquaintances into services as models) quite impossible, because they don't bend that way.

Tired Tank

tired-tank I realized recently that I was falling into a familliar trap:  I've been drawing only female WoW characters.

Well, other than perhaps the murloc. But I'm not sure I want to know how to tell boy murlocs from girl murlocs. Eesh.

So I decided to fight my natural inclinations, and bring you not only a male character but a burly male character. Plus I'll admit to wanting to show off my digitigrade legs skillz.

I'm not thrilled with the shading on this attempt. I was trying to re-create the magic from the Alexstrasza drawing, but couldn't really get it back again. Ah well. This isn't bad per se, it just doesn't seem nearly as engaging. Here's what it looked like before shading.


Crap. I think I like it better this way.

I'm posting early this week because along with many people my age, I'll be visiting the outlaws for Christmas. As I'm of the Jewish persuasion I didn't think in advance to draw anything particularly festive, so, uh...


Alexstrasza and Korialstrasz

alex-and-korial2 I figured I'd do my own version of a very popular subject in WoW art. You see a lot of fan-created versions of Alexstrasza, because, well... Alexstrasza is extremely hot. Plus she's a very powerful queen, and leader of an ancient people with mysterious motivations. Also a dragon.

Korialstrasz doesn't get nearly as much airtime, and when you do see them together, he's usually in the background somewhere.


I really like this pose for them. It's your classic 'dragonrider and dragon' or 'witch and familiar' pose, and the dynamic gets turned on it's head a bit when you know who these characters are.  Korialstrasz has no official power, his title is 'queen's consort'. Plus Alexstrasza could clean his clock any day. So although he's visually in the 'power' spot, he not only takes orders from Alexstrasza (as a witches' familiar would) he also is not the most physically powerful.

I'm not sure yet about the style. The shading makes them look a bit like stone sculpture. In this case I don't really mind, because this would be an awesome thing to have in the lobby of the red dragonflight, but for other pieces it might be a little incongruous.

Edit: Hahaha, I forgot the irises. Ooops. I am too punchy to put them in now though. I guess they are stone sculpture after all.