Thursday, 10 January 2013

Turning Over an Old Dry Leaf

I'm so excited!  It was only the middle of December (2012) that I decided I wanted to change my life.  Having been away from the stressful environment of retail management and consulting for a year, volunteering at the local school for the last six months and learning to be comfortable with my 'home' self without my 'work' self:  I decided to become a professional illustrator.  Now...I guess this isn't the type of thing that happens everyday; but, it feels so natural to me.  So now I sit at my one-day-old computer (capable of rendering the images I will be producing) and I'm trembling with excitement.  Not just the thrill of a new career but for an opportunity that has presented itself.  

The ArtOrder is a website devoted to illustrators learning their craft through meaningful critique by professionals in the industry.  They have thematic challenges allowing new artists a chance to flex their artistic muscle.  The thing is, this current art challenge is being critiqued by Chris Moeller, Daren Brader, Jeremy Cranford, Lauren Panepinto, and Tony DiTerlizzi.  Not to mention it is being organized by Jon Schindehette. That means my work will be viewed and critiqued by four art directors, two great artists (not counting the art directors) and one of the artists is Tony DiTerlizzi.  I can't expound upon how wonderful that is to me!  Having Tony hate my work would be a dance through the dandelions because he would have reviewed my work like he would a contemporary.  I absolutely adored his work on the Planescape setting...and I have bought children's books just for his art.

So, the theme...nymphs...okay...okay, yeah, I can work with that.  I mean every fantasy artist in the entire world has drawn a nymph.  So, what are they about...what are the 'what-ifs'?  Okay, all pictures of nymphs and dryads and mermaids tend to be in their 'glamour' form.  I mean...nymphs aren't characters...they are like a summer rain or a harsh blizzard.  Nymphs are creatures without destiny, they are animals...but they are more than that.  They are wise...they have the wisdom of Mother Nature, or Father Time.  What if they grew old, what if they were a part of entropy, what if they lived in modern times?  I think I want something beyond the has to be part of it...I need a patsy.  Yeah, all the Greek myths have patsies and heroes; but, I need to illuminate what they are...not how they are.

I love the idea of dryads in the fall.  The crisp brown, red and yellow leaves twisting and turning...the dryads must celebrate the solstice...harvest?  They could change color with the seasons!  The older nymphs would look different than the younger...there would be differences in they still feed off of humanity...but are an intricate part of nature.  What if as they grow older they gain more powerful glamours to compensate for their loss of physical beauty...or the older ones organize the younger ones to lead the patsy into temptation of a type of dyadic coven?  

As of today I have worked on the composition a total of 3 days.  I think I am making good progress.
It started with an idea for a single-side cover for a book (that could be worked into a fold over if I were to extend the scenery).  I am being mindful of space for a title and author and want to make it captivating enough at a glance...not just interesting under scrutiny.  Careful not to have any of the nymphs eyes daring the viewer I have the patsy, a half-orc, looking uncertain and bemused right at the viewer.  The older nymph to the right is thoroughly enjoying the entrancement of the 'mark' while the younger looks on at her elder with bemused respect...but with just a trace of sexuality with the twist of her knee (she doesn't have the power yet to simply beckon...she must still use her physicality.    

The background will be a darkened autumn forest with a ring of dancing nymphs just out of focus through the mist and swirl of the fall celebration.  Leaves will be falling and swirling.  Each of the nymphs will have a 'natural halo' circling their cranial crowns.  I like the otherworldly bearing the long wooden horns give the dryads (wood nymphs).  They don't consider the half-orc as a living thing...more as a tool to continue their traditions and continue to makes the seasons come and go...not evil...but definitely not good:  this is the hard neutrality of a pack of wolves circling a moose who has fallen through the spring ice.  This is a look at nymphs without the fog of glamour--this is how other nymphs see nymphs.

Okay...this is what I have so far...not finished...but by the weekend I hope to be on to my next iteration (you can submit up to 20).  I wish I had seen this in early December so I could have more time to work on the challenge.  

So, hurrah to turning over an old dry leaf!

I need to still do the background forest, the dancing nymphs, the foreground nymph's bodies and halos...and of course the foreground ground covering.


Started working on some of the I mean foreground.  I'm happy with the bottom one third of the work...and will like the figures and middle ground when I am able to do my washes for proper light...but I want the background done first.

Update part II:

Need to finish the right figure's hand and reconcile my discomfort with the middle-ground.  Not sure if I like the dancing figures.  I don't want them to be detailed; but, having them in the current state bothers me.  All of my sketches placed the dancing figures in two groups of three...or two triads--very Poussin-like.  But as I was working the piece, the figures seemed too close and the right side too crowded.  Also, composition seems dark...which has me guessing at some of the colors from the direct light versus the ambient light.  I really like the idea of the falling leaves casting shadows...but I'm gonna leave that one for now.

Update III

I'm still not satisfied with the middle-ground; but, several people seem to enjoy the look of it...and honestly that is where the bottom half of the title or subtitle will go if it is used for a book cover.  I reserve the right to change it at some later date...beside that I'm gonna call this a finished piece.  I know I suffer from the artist's derangement of never-finish-itice whereas nothing is ever good enough.  I'm setting this aside for my next project and take a look at it in about a week for a second opinion from my future self.  Some of the minor changes I made since the last iteration was the obvious display of magic and power, the adjustment of the right figure for more precise proportions, a toning down of the cartoon like folds in the half-orc's pants, some reworking of the color blending,  a bit more direct lighting over the ambient light and of course the leaves which were always going to be a part of the finished piece.

I really like the idea that fairy folk have different vision than mortals.  I commonly play that card in my games.  Part of this vision allows them to see auras.  Every fairy creature possesses an aura, commonly in the shape of a halo, that describes how and where they draw their powers from.  That is where some of the imagery I used comes into play.  I like the idea that we are seeing these nymphs in their true fairy form instead of their glamoured form.  

I'm hoping this tells a story...more of a genre piece for a narrative that you would see on the cover of a book.    The large half-orc that takes center stage is just a lamb for the slaughter.  He is glamoured, half resisting, half wanting to succumb to what ever will befall him.  Initially he would have seen the creatures in their true form  celebrating the Autumnal Equinox (enough so that he drew his weapon) but is eventually swayed by the fairy power of the nymphs.  The left figure took the lead using her glamour and sexuality; but, the older and more powerful dryad saw the power of the resisting warrior (possibly a follower of Kord--for any fellow geeks) and stepped in.  The left figure respects and admires the strength and wisdom of her leader (hence her gaze is at her senior rather than the half-orc) and together they lead the half-orc out of their lands...or perhaps to the traditional glen of the nymph to fornicate and discard--to further their numbers.  If this were to be a book cover this event would have to be very important, and about the character and development of the nymphs over the half-orc who could easily play a strong secondary character...perhaps he could be a major character in a comedy like a fantasy Pink Panther book...that would make more sense.  A fantasy, half-orc, Sergeant Cluzo!  I like it.  In the Case of the Dryad Stone of the Equinox!  Well, I think of these types of things...painting really is story telling in a lot of ways.

Why not play with a mock title?

David Paul Simcox

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