Monday, December 2, 2013

Kushiel's Dart - Portrait Sketches - Young Phèdre, Hyacinthe, and Dowayne Miriam

It's been a little while since I posted last.  Life keeps throwing surprise punches at me, but I'm back at the drawing desk again with some warm up sketches inspired by re-reading Kushiel's Dart!  Consider these 'getting to know you' sort of sketches while I figure out the look for each character as I go along.

HB and 6B graphite drawing pencil on 60 lb paper.

Phèdre definitely has shades of Eva Green, who I once saw in a fan casting call for the series and thought her quite fitting for the role of Phèdre.  I tried to give her French features as Terre d'Ange is the quintessential fantasy France.  I think I'm close to that mind's eye image I have of her here in her first sketch, but I'll keep plugging along and seeing how she develops in future sketches!

Hyacinthe is a bit goofy.  Smiles have always been so difficult for me to draw!  I tried to keep in mind his ethnic features as well, considering the Tsingano are very close culturally to the Rom (Gypsy).

As for Dowayne, I'm rather happy with her!  She reminds a bit of Susan Sarandon, despite the fact I did not think of this visual connection until after the fact. I find this quite fitting, however, considering her propensity for playing the part of iron-willed gracefully aged women.

I expect I'll keep sketching characters as I read along!

On a parting note, notice on the top of the blog there are tabs for page sections now!  You can check out the Art List to see what other illustrations I have planned or see the Gallery for other Kushiel-related art I've already finished.

I'm having so much fun with this side project and  I hope you all will enjoy the journey with me!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Kushiel's Dart Art Prints

For those who enjoyed my latest Kushiel's Dart cover piece, Jacqueline was kind enough to give her blessing on selling prints.  I may have to stop selling them should the TV/movie options ever be sold, but that's an instance where I would be more than happy to oblige doing so!

"Kushiel's Dart", digital painting.
Prints available at my Storenvy shop!

I am offering a more affordable photographic print option as well as a limited edition stretched canvas option.  I produce the former myself with my own Epson Artisan printer.  With the latter, I order from a giclee canvas printing source, which I hand stretch across a wood frame.  Both come signed by the artist directly from the artist.

I hope you all will enjoy this offering!  Meanwhile, I am preparing art for show at both Dragon*Con and Illuxcon (where you can see this piece on display), so I may go dormant here for a little while.

It's usually when I say this that my distractable muse finds me doodling the most!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sketch Diary: Kushiel's Dart Cover Part 3

After designing Phedre's marque and Kushiel, this painting has finally arrived at finished!  It's been a long, long journey and there was a definite turning point in the middle where this image changed completely, much to my surprise.

What was the turning point?  The biggest one was a change in color scheme inspired by Giancola's beautiful cover for Kushiel's Dart.  I decided mine was too similar and wanted to strike out on my own by experimenting with the color scheme, swapping the strong reds and whites for jewel tone garnet and pale blues.  The difference was like night and day!  Check out this process video to see how the painting morphed into what it is today:

The finished art:

Kushiel's Dart by =AngelaSasser on deviantART
Prints available at my Storenvy shop.

You can also view a step-by-step with detailed notes at WiPnation.

What did I learn?

- Keep it simple!  If I were to start over, I would make this even more simple, since I got very carried away by all the details.  Clear figures and composition with a hint of narrative to tease the mystery are better than jam packed images that tell you everything.

Master copies are the best medicine if you're ever stuck on a piece!

- Don't be afraid to 'murder your darlings'. I changed this image SO many times by the end that I pretty much destroyed it - ALL in service of making a more successful piece.

What's next?

Inspiration begets inspiration!  I'd love to return to the carving of Kushiel and brush up the design, as well as try my hand at the rest of Elua's companions in the same window carving style.

Considering how much I learned from this exercise, I'd really love to try my hand at rendering other covers in the series.  I've been wanting to re-read the books and this would be the perfect excuse.  I'm sure character sketches and other art will sprout up along the way.  I hope you'll stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Designing Kushiel the Angel of Punishment

After designing Phèdre's marque, the next phase of my painting involves the wall carving in front of Phèdre, where I plan to include a wall carving of Kushiel to ground the temple setting.

But what exactly does the Angel of Punishment look like?

Bronze wings.  A haze of red.  A whip of fire to punish nations.  Kushiel of rod and weal.  The Punisher of God never quite gets a detailed description in the series beyond his appearance as a temple statue and the presence Phèdre experiences during her spiritual and physical moments of duress.  That's where I get to have a lot of fun as an artist playing around with my own interpretation!

I began by researching how others have rendered Kushiel.  There are surprisingly not a lot of fan works involving him.  This rendition of Kushiel captures the vibe I get when I read his description.  Long haired, dark, beautiful, classical Romanesque clothing, and, of course the three keys to Hell engraved in his belt (Kushiel's symbol as adopted by House Sharizhai):

Kushiel Rising by ~XsilverleenX
I also very much like the idea of Kushiel wearing a bronze mask just as his priests do.  The idea of contrasting his angelic nature with his role as a punisher with the donning of a foreboding mask feels right to me.

Kushiel by *Winneganfake

My mood board for Kushiel. More on my Pinterest.

I let all of the imagery that felt right to me simmer in my brain and arrived at this design for the wall panel:

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Designing Phèdre's Marque

Everyone who has read the Kushiel's Legacy series instantly recognizes the twisting knotwork of Phèdre's rose marque.  It's become so iconic with the series that it was a very tough decision to decide to change it at all!  I decided I should continue my pattern of trying to be a special snowflake by designing my own version.

Admittedly, I also always thought the established marque, while lovely, doesn't quite work with the description.  Here's a refresher for you all:

"With some effort, I recognised the underlying design, which was based on a very old pattern, the briar rose. Somehow Master Tielhard had kept the dramatic vigor of the archaic lines, yet infused them with a subtlety that spoke at once of the vine, the bond and the lash. The thorny lines were stark black, accented in only a few choice hollows with a teardrop of scarlet - a petal, a drop of blood, the mote in my eye."
-Phèdre no Delaunay, Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey
Bearing that in mind, the first indicator of the look is the fact it takes Phèdre effort to actually discover the underlying floral arrangement of the design.  Here are some wonderful versions by other fans that I drew on for inspiration during my research process:

Both of these examples are by Elegaer on DeviantART

EDIT:  Thanks to Google 'search by image', I've finally located this cosplayer here! I found this version via Tumblr, but don't know the cosplayer/photographer. If you know them, please comment so that I may properly credit them!  The curling vines in this version really stood out to me as truer to the 'briar rose' inspiration.

I went through a few iterations, some which swung wildly from a very literal rose bush and others that went more abstract.  In the end, I decided to keep it simple and to preserve the flail 'tail' of the original design (with some slight modification) because it feels to me like the perfect representation of 'bond and lash' all rolled in to one.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Sketch Dairy: Kushiel's Dart Cover Part 2

The last entry involved a lot of ideation about the composition of the cover.  Well, we're not through yet!  Here comes the fun part that the research nerd in me adores.

Gathering Reference

The reason I gather references after creating my thumbnails instead of before is so that I can preserve the energy of my drawing without getting caught up on details that don't need to be defined just yet.  It can be a real time sink when you're trying to get ideas out fast!

But now? Research, glorious research!  Here are just a few of the images I pulled up to get my creative juices flowing:

This is just a sample of the items I've gathered
on my Kushiel's Legacy Board  on Pinterest.

The visual themes I kept in mind while I researched:

- Classical Orientalist/Romantic paintings
- Blood red roses
- White marble
- Sheer cloth
- Glowing skin

I also lit and photographed my own references for the figure.  Here's just one from the set of many that I took trying to get it right:

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Master Copy - Offering to Venus

Re-sharing this study here since I painted it specifically to guide me in painting the redo of the cover of Kushiel's Dart that I'm currently working on. This painting has given me some fantastic ideas about how to handle Phedre's wardrobe as well. I can't wait to get back to it!

What I Learned from Master Copying - Offering to Venus
I recently finished a master copy of John William Godward’s painting, Offering to Venus.  This was my first ever attempt at copying a masterwork and it’s proven to be a most enlightening experience!  Many thanks to Sam Hogg for her suggestion to try this exercise and her tutorials on the matter.

See a step by step with detailed notes at WiPnation.

Why Do This?

Why would someone drive themselves insane this way, you ask?  For me, I did this exercise to prime myself for another painting which I had hit a dead end with.  I wanted skin glow, gorgeous roses, a classical painterly feel, and translucent material, but it all seemed flat and plastic no matter what I did with it.  I needed some time away from the piece to figure out how this was done. 

The ‘other’ painting, a reinterpretation of the cover of
Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey.

That’s when I came upon John William Godward’s Offering to Venus.  This painting had everything I wanted in my own - glowing soft skin, roses, sheer cloth, and a classical feel…
Read on at the full blog post.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Kushiel's Legacy Covers from France

Here we have more Kushiel's Legacy cover inspiration!

For images you can enlarge, see my tumblr post.

These are some of my favorite covers to the first trilogy of Kushiel books that were sold in France. Some of the best and most fitting illustrations, in this fan's opinion!

More covers collected at the Jacqueline Carey cover collection site.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Donato Giancola's Kushiel's Dart Cover

Awoke this morning to find that Donato Giancola has shared his version of a cover for a re-release of Kushiel’s Dart over at Muddy Colors!  Definitely check out his blog post to see the beautiful preliminary sketch for this one. It’s quite lovely!

Talk about massive inspiration for me to finish up my redo of the cover!

EDIT: Now with text treatment, thanks to the Art Director's blog post!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Sketch Dairy: Kushiel's Dart Cover Part 1

In the last post, I shared my thumbnails exploring the idea of a redesign of the cover of Kushiel's Dart as illustrated by John Jude Palencar.  I explored many themes in this initial set of thumbnails, including Phèdre's masked guise at the Longest Night masquerade to a more spiritual connection with prayer and doves in the later thumbnails.

It was very difficult to choose between what iconic symbols of this series I wanted to show - the heterochromia of Phèdre's eyes or her symbolic rose marque tattoo.  In the end, I personally favored the tattoo, as her eyes just aren't readable from far away and a prospective reader needs to be drawn in a little more immediately.  Number 7 seems the most aesthetically pleasing, but it feels too confident to me for a coming of age story such as this one.  Number 8 vogues the most with me for the possibilities of creating a very atmospheric spiritual piece and the presence of an angel statue, which very much ties into the lore of the universe.  The rest of the thumbnails feel too generic and posed to be interesting.

Nothing is quite hitting the mark, so on to the next set of thumbnails!

Number 1 still feels too boring and generic while number 3 shows the very important object of Melisande's diamond. However, new readers won't understand the significance of this diamond, which still leaves me with a rather boring image.  Number 4 is my second favorite in this batch again for the possibilities of a twilight garden with Phèdre in somber prayer before an angel statue.

Number 2 was my 'eureka moment' and my favorite out of this batch. Something about the idea of Phèdre framed by a bronze panel engraved with angelic wings and guarded by the bronze masked priests of Kushiel resonates visually.  Is Phèdre a prisoner enchained or is she chained to the post willingly?  Readers who know the story can appreciate the moment that inspired this scene (the scourging at the temple of Kushiel), while those who don't know it yet will (hopefully) start asking questions about her predicament, which is exactly the kind of interest I want in a cover!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Keys of Inspiration

Years ago during my days as an over-caffeinated college student, a friend introduced me to a then unknown novel called Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey.  I didn't know what to expect, at first, but once the book got its thorns in me, I could not escape.  Fallen angels, beautiful tattooed women, elegant sensuality, a rich medieval world? These keys of inspiration fit the lock to my muse like no other!  I yearned to draw the things my mind's eye saw in this glorious book, but at the time I just did not have the skills to fit my vision, being the budding artist I was back then.

It is only now, years later, that I feel I even remotely have the competence as an illustrator to embark on this grand journey that I have longed to undertake.  What is that journey?  To create art inspired by the Kushiel's Legacy universe so that I can pay tribute to this wonderful series and produce the kind of art I love.   It was when I sat awake one night, an over-caffeinated adult now four years out of grad school wondering what I could draw for my fledgling illustration portfolio when I began to feel the thorns of Kushiel's Legacy in me again.  Did they ever really leave, I wonder?

Professionally, I want to fill my portfolio with the kind of art and subject matter I am passionate about because it is important to me that my career follows my passions as an artist.  This journey of visual development is to be but the first step in what could be many projects, with Kushiel's Legacy as my initiation and catalyst.  In the future, I might turn my mind's eye on the The Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire, etc.  Who knows? The possibilities are endless in a world where words meet visuals!

Expect all kinds of art in this journal, from my own renditions of the series' book covers to concept art of the characters to interior illustrations. All things are possible where my multi-interested muse is involved!

To kick things off with a bang, enjoy this feast of thumbnails exploring various compositions for a wrap-around cover for Kushiel's Dart!  I have my favorites, of course, but I want to hear what you think!  Share in comments.

You might remember the expertly rendered book cover for Kushiel's Dart by John Jude Palencar.  If not, here's a reminder:

Join me next time for a look at the creative process for this cover's redesign!