The Actually Quite Mellow Plugging
Some quick linkage before I dive into the art-heavy, writing-lite post:
* K.V. Taylor is hosting a contest at her blog – only one more day to enter! Talk about your favourite atrocious-yet-lovable character and win cool stuff, such as:
* A copy of Grants Pass, a truly nifty post-apocalyptic anthology from Morrigan Books with a concept to die for.
The Angry Unicorns
I thought that with all the focus on writing WIPs in the form of WIP Wednesdays, I thought I’d do a one-time-only WIP Thursday and show my art process in the form of a bunch of WIP shots.
After months of on-and-off work – mostly off, to my shame – I finally finished a commission for Pam Noles. Check it out:
Why The Unicorns Are Angry
Back in May, there was a not-so-minor kerfuffle dubbed MammothFail ’09, which resulted in a well-intentioned white SF author implying that, before the advent of the Internet, there were no non-white SF/F fans. This ties in to a more common belief that they don’t exist, period. Tired of being constantly rendered invisible, someone on LiveJournal started the wild unicorn check-in, asking people who identify as a PoC/non-white fan of colour to make themselves known.
(As a minor aside: this post was in May. People are still commenting.)
Pam Noles mentioned on it in her blog, suggesting people take that phrase and run with it. The word was spread over a couple of other blogs, I was intrigued by the concept and interested in helping out, and doodled up the sketch to the right.
Pam came across it, dug it, and shot me an e-mail commissioning me to finish it. The rest is history (and described below).
How The Angry Unicorns Came To Be
First, I focused on refining the orcs. I enlarged the file and sketched over it on a new layer, adding details and fixing the poses where necessary. The orc on the left (our left) needed the most work – I drew the original sketch without putting an awful lot of thought into it, and now it was time to wonder exactly how someone would ride
a horse an angry unicorn. The leg worked all right; the arm and head did not. The right orc was equally stiff-looking in the first picture – what I fixed was the leg (which was drawn up awkwardly initially) and the arm (which needed more foreshortening as well as a prominent hand).
At this point, I only used reference for the orcs’ hands, as well as their designs, which were tossed together haphazardly based on Lord of the Rings merchandise and screenshots.
Next, I worked on roughly sketching out the unicorns – more detailed in the front, then fading into the background. I also started outlining on a new layer.
(In case you’re interested – the background colour is there because the standard white background is very annoying to work on. Staring at that brightness and contrast for so long can really hurt your eyes.)
I kept on outlining, and added another unicorn in the middle. The outlines of the front-and-centre unicorns are thicker than those of the others to give the illusion of closeness. Here’s what it looked like without the sketch:
(Note: none of these insets are actual size. I worked on a 10,000×10,000 pixel canvas for this piece. That’s 85x85cm, about 33.5×33.5″.)
This was in August. Pam posted a slightly different version on her blog, which included a lighter background so the lines would be easier to see, and the sketch versions of some unicorns I hadn’t outlined yet.
At this point, there’s a pretty large gap in WIP versions. I finished outlining and started flatting – in other words, colouring on a layer positioned underneath. Because the line-art was all on different layers, this was a pretty tough job, made even tougher by the fact I had no freakin’ idea how to colour it.
Unicorns are traditionally white, which also worked with the picture as I originally conceived it, which has them fading into a big ol’ mass of white in the background, with only minimal outlines. Of course, due to the story behind this picture, it would make an awful lot of sense if the unicorns were anything but white – as they are in other wild-unicorn-herd-inspired art. I shot an e-mail to Pam asking her preference, she said she had none, and so I went ahead with how I’d originally envisioned it.
Unicorns problem solved.
This left the orcs – and at this point it became abundantly clear how little experience colouring I had. The orcs, who wear traditionally dark, grey/brown colours, were incredibly prominent in front of an all-white background of unicorns. (Going with the alternative of brown unicorns wouldn’t have worked, either – that’d just have reversed the problem and made the orcs much harder to pick out.) On top of that, all those desaturated shades made the picture look awfully plain.
I played with the colours, saturating and desaturating them, darkening and lightening, upping and lowering the contrast… it took a while before I found a compromise I was happy with. Neither of the above problems are solved, but they’re minimised.
Without any details filled in, this was the picture at that point -
(This time, the inset is actual size.)
The background is obscenely bright because that made it easier to spot when I missed colouring a few pixels. As an aside, to help with that same contract and to make clear which layers some of the mane/tail colours shared, they were originally bright shades of green, red and one other other absurdly bright colour I don’t remember. It had a certain charm, I must say.
For part deux of this rapidly growing post, in which I actually fool myself into thinking I finished this thing early, check back tomorrow.