Thursday, January 31, 2013

Page 14: Aaand that's it for the first chapter

 Hectic week:
A. Drug-related shooting 3 houses away
B. Possibility that my husband will be offered a job in another city that will turn our lives upside-down
C. Chapter 2 is twice as long as Chapter 1, which took 40 hours to color....and I only just got started.

But hey, it's not like I have a life, so you can look forward to next month's updates on time.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Page 13: That's just hysterical.

If you type "Green Children of Woolpit" into your search engine, you'll be treated to one of the more unusual fairy legends. According to contemporary accounts, during the 12th century, two green-skinned children appeared in the village of Woolpit. Feel free to read up on them here. I only wish there was more to it. In the end, what amuses me is the far-fetched explanations that scholars come up with to explain the green skin. They suggest everything from malnutrition to extraterrestrials to a symbolic link to the pagan past.

What do you think?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Page 12: Can't see the forest for the trees

This week brings us the last 3 pages of Chapter 1.

I'm having trouble getting photos of woodland in England. I get lots of photos of cottages, fields and city streets, but! not a lot of forested land. Yeah, I understand it was cut down centuries ago for farming, therefore I have to make do with a couple tree photos and my imagination. It is a shame, because forests are as individual as fingerprints. I have a list of trees native to Britain, but that doesn't help me draw them en masse.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Page 10: Alien encounter!

Joking! Not quite the 'little green man' in any case.

Sometimes I think I write because I can't get away with tormenting real people this way.

I'm going to whine about materials for a minute, because they cost me money. I've now worn out 2 brushes on this project. The second one quit after only 40 pages. It was a something-Simmons (the writing has rubbed off) #1 brush, which I only bought because Hobby Lobby doesn't stock Loew-Cornell brand. My Loew-Cornell #0 did about 5-6 chapters of rough drafts before I had to give it up. That's quality.

One of the problems I was having in Chapter 1 was with Higgins india ink I was using. It is not quite black; actually a watery dark grey. The scanner and Photoshop take offense to this. Oh, and Higgins bleeds out of technical pens and makes rough lines, it really is watery. I replaced Higgins with Bombay Black, which is darker but still troublesome. When I Threshold it chews the hell out of the brush strokes, even after some tinkering. I'm wondering if I want to shell out $10 for the expensive ink, since I already need to buy another brush and some pen cleaner. Is it high quality or is it just more expensive?
I'm using plain old printer paper instead of bristol board, at a 1:1 ratio. I'd like to be working at 1.5:1, as it looks tidier, but the scanner only scans up to 8.5x11". It takes more time to scan every page in 3-4 pieces and paste it back together.

I was told that my black&white comics look boring, and I should continue to work in color. It doubles effort and eats up bandwidth, but I'll think about it.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Page 9: Down to business

I rather think corkscrews existed back then, but I was not able to learn what they looked like. There was something called an ah-so, also known as the "Butler's Friend," but it's not something a gentleman would carry around. What he uses in the center panel is a small knife normally used for trimming quill pens, very similar to a modern pocket knife.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Pointy eared elves

Sometimes I come up with questions that I just can't answer. I realized this week that I'm drawing elves with pointy ears like it was a normal thing. A given. But is it? Who says so?

Where exactly did the idea of elves having pointed ears come from, and how long ago was that?

While I'm mulling over several possibilities, I don't know which is true. Going most ancient to most modern:

I don't think it comes from traditional Irish mythology. It could come from German or Scandanavian myths that I'm not familiar with. The Greek god Pan had horns and hooves, so maybe the pointy ears idea started as 'goat ears' or 'animal features' and evolved from there.

The Victorians? It's been too long since I read the original Peter Pan, and I can't think of any other sources offhand.

Elves in the Lord of the Rings movie are portrayed with slightly pointed ears, but I'm pretty certain Tolkien never mentioned such a thing in the text. CS Lewis either.

Pointed ears could have started with the elves in Santa's workshop. Maybe. Santa as we know him started with Coke advertisements in 1931, and the workshop elves came later, making it a pretty modern idea in that case.

Well, and it's possible it is even more modern than that. Dungeons and Dragons in the 70s? Or maybe it was popularized in an anime- perhaps Deedlit in Record of Lodoss War in the 80s?

No, wait. Disney's Peter Pan (1954) has pointy ears. He's not precisely an elf, but.... so did Disney invent the look to go with his pointy shoes and shirt, or were they drawing on an older source?

What do you think?

I have another question, but it might take a PHD to answer it.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Page 8: Crossing the ha-ha

The perspective in the third panel is unfortunately not good. He is using a fallen tree to cross a deep ditch, known to Jane Austen readers as a ha-ha, also known as an ah-ah. It is a deep ditch with a high wall on one side that keeps stray sheep and deer from wandering into the garden. It is designed to be invisible until you're right on top of it so as not to ruin the view.

I work a month ahead of what I post, so I am working on the 2nd half of Chapter 2 right now. It was about here in Chapter 1 that I realized that the scan quality was poor and the colors were not in gamut for printer or web. No biggie for you. For me, it means if I ever want to see this in print, I have to do Chapter 1 over again. Well and there's other things I'd change- proper panels, better page composition, and better sequential action, as it looks choppy. I'm paying more attention to these details in Chapter 2. Someday I'd like to hand letter, but that's going to be a while.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Page 7: He holds his liquor

The difficult thing about illustrating this century is that I must know what things look like to draw them. Regency writers let you fill in the details with your imagination, but I can't. Let me say, whether it is '18th century wine bottle' or 'Palladian architecture', Google gives some spectacular and often funny hits and misses.

Those rounded bottles are appropriate for wine or port. (Rum! I can here some of you say- probably that too!) There was another style of bottle very like a modern wine bottle, but it's no fun drawing another century if things look identical to today. If you could hold a 200 year old bottle you would find it was thick dark glass with lots of inclusions (bubbles in the glass), heavy, and slightly irregular in shape. Each one was hand blown.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Page 6: This proved difficult

In the first panel, do you see that pause before 'My lord'? That's an 18th century dissing.
This page is also an example of how dialogue will seriously crowd a page if I don't plan sufficient space for it.

Page 5: The page with Too Much Text

I think we can all sympathize with this situation.
For design purposes, I probably should have taken this page and the next and rearranged them into 3 pages. Oh well.
There's a hat tucked under his arm. Hats were both an article of clothing and a fashion accessory. There was one style that was designed to be carried rather than worn! Common folk had a variety of hats and head coverings according to their trade; a gentleman at this time would wear a bicorn (think Napoleon) or a tricorn (think American Revolution).

Gentlemen carried canes when they went about in the city, and not just for infirmity. The canes fended off thugs and pickpockets. An organized police force did not exist for another 70 years, so you were pretty much on your own there. There were no street lamps, as gas lights hadn't been invented yet, so the nights were dark indeed.  If you wanted light, you hired a boy to lead the way with a lamp.

Page 4: Words Cannot Describe It

A moment of silence for the late Earl.

Page 3: Ostrich Plumes and Roman Roads

 He's not exaggerating about the trip. At that time the roads were terrible. Roads in ROMAN times were in better repair than roads in 18th century England. They didn't improve for another 50 years!
The plume motif, top center, that has appeared on several pages is taken from a 1780s funeral biscuit mold. By 'biscuit', I mean cookie. By 'funeral biscuit mold', I mean that gifts were handed out at funerals- to the family, gold rings or black gloves or hat bands, to common people, a packet of biscuits, stamped with something symbolic.
Why feathers? For a wealthy man's funeral, black ostrich plumes were worn by the horses in the funeral procession, adorned the corners of the funeral bier, and worn by the female mourners. Google a picture of Abraham Lincoln's funeral and you'll see the custom persisted even a hundred years later.
I did not realize when I drew this that 3 feathered plumes on a crown was the symbol of the Prince of Wales. Who would have guessed that a funeral biscuit mold from Philadelphia would bear the crest of the Prince of Wales?!
So remember, when doing historical research, do a better job of it than me!

Page 2: Many things went unsaid.

Allen was not in the house where the death took place (hence the letter), so he has mirror privileges. Mirrors at this time were glass backed with silver- yes, real silver- most expensive, heavy and very unlucky to break!

What was considered 'manly' was very different in the 1760s. The black bow in his hair is the fashion!

He is wearing a cravat and ruffles made from undyed muslin because he is in mourning, but normally they would be lace and silk. His blond eyebrows attest that white is not his natural hair color. He is wearing rouge and something to whiten his skin, but has not gone totally overboard in the French fashion of gluing bits of mouse fur to his face.
See this clip from Horrible Histories for more on Georgian beauty.

Page 1: It was Unexpected

Well and hey, this is finally getting started! I'm posting today to elaborate on page 1 of Siloen. It's a bit early to discuss plot or characters, so let's start with what we see: a letter, a watch, a chain, and a ribbon.

The letter: Did you know that envelopes didn't exist in the 1700s? You would write your letter, fold and seal it with wax, and send it on its way. Stamps hadn't been invented yet either. The recipient had to pay in order to receive their letters! They were charged by the page. Economy-minded writers would fill a page, turn it sideways and fill it again- sometimes, they would then write more on the diagonal, making it thoroughly illegible!
To recieve a black-bordered letter was bad news, usually news of a death. This was true in Britain until around WW2.

The watch: Watches were a sign of social status. A chain or fob for your watch meant you were wealthy. A watch in each pocket meant you were both wealthy and showing off! Soldiers and working men might have a pocket watch, either handed down or stolen, but it would be strung on a ribbon. (And thank you to the reenactor from the Fair at New Boston for your help and your amusing stories!)
It was another Georgian superstition that in the house were someone had died, clocks would be stopped, and mirrors were turned to face the wall, so the spirit would not become trapped in them.

The chain and the ribbon: There were strict rules on how one dressed during mourning, and it went well beyond black armbands. Men wore black or somber colors, of course, removed any jewelry. Shiny and fancy buttons were replaced with plain ones, and unnecessary buttons (there for show) were removed from the cuffs and pockets.
The shiny watch chain is being swapped out for the black ribbon, but its presence is also symbolic, the watch for mortality and the chain for the ties that bind. For more on this topic, I recommend googling 'Georgian mourning jewelry'.

Thanks for reading!


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Siloen Title Page

The title page was one of the first I inked. It was originally part of a 3-page intro. As I wrote the 1st chapter the intro seemed more and more redundant, so I did away with it. The third page became the basis for the title page. I say 'basis' because of all the changes I had to make to turn it into a title page. Siloen originally had straight hair. I inked a curly replacement, and composited the images with photoshop (still not completely happy with it). I then trimmed the image from 'landscape' to 'portrait, added an oval frame, chopped, redistributed and colored the leaves, redrew her hand and added the watch...

Maybe I should have started from scratch after all.

The image as it was originally drawn held all my feelings for the character. She was captured in the act of turning, like a startled woodland creature. Her hair blew everywhere. Originally she had straight hair, because I felt she had a painfully straightforward personality, but it seemed too plain. So she has wavy/curly hair now but still the skittish personality of a Siamese cat.

The foliage that makes up the background is hawthorn, a plant steeped in fairy lore. You may have heard it mentioned as 'Oak, Ash and Thorn.' It was believed to mark the entrance to the Otherworld. To this day it is considered ill-luck to uproot a fairy tree or fairy fort. I chose it for other symbolic reasons- the young leaves for growth, the thorns for pain, and the blossoms for fragility

Original concept art.

 I was testing colors-
she needed to be green without appearing froggy or slimy.
Fairy lore on hawthorn, fairy forts and fairy trees is fascinating but too much to recount here- I recommend you do your own digging.

New fantasy webcomic

Well, I'm reviving this blog so I can talk about my webcomic, Siloen. It is an historical fantasy set in the year 1761, England. That is a very specific time and place, but it will be several chapters before I can tell you why! A lot of research went into it, and a lot of imagination.... and a lot of work, too. I am both author and illustrator. There are many fascinating things I learned and so much going on behind the scenes that I want to share with you in this blog.

Siloen updates Monday-Wednesday-Friday.
More on this coming soon!