Monday, 28 December 2009

Gift drawing

You know what: visitor number 3000 (see the counter below in the right column) can claim a free drawing if they feel like it. Show me a screencap of the counter @ 3000, leave a comment with your e-mail address or send me a mail, and you get a picture.

Neat or not?

Good luck!


Sunday, 27 December 2009

The Darkest Hour 104-108

This week we have a pretty wordy update. This episode was not easy to script. I guess the tricky part was to condense everything and still keep it comprehensible and credible. If it doesn't work, please let me know :). I spent more time on some of the art than is reasonable for a storyboard, but, you know, I do want to have something worth looking at - that is more enjoyable for you and me both. Some of the faces came out so well that I'd gladly use them to accompany a cast description :-). I may just do that.

At the comics festival in Turnhout at the beginning of this month I was told that my storyboard is much too elaborate art-wise. That is true. But if I had drawn it with stick figures, I couldn't very well have posted my progress. The storyboard has been my main occupation, art-wise, since April of this year. Take out its pages from this blog, and there will be rather little left. I guess I could have progressed faster if I'd spent less time on the art, I suppose - but I don't think I would have been able to assess how well (or not) certain set-ups would work if the pictures had been strictly basic. That, and it's always a good thing if I enjoy myself while working on something, especially on a project this big.

Famous last words?


In any case, we are in the meantime getting very close to the story's end indeed :).

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Season's Greetings

Have a very merry Christmas, or whichever festival you celebrate at this time of the year :D!

Monday, 21 December 2009

And at that holy tide

"And if the wars were unwelcome, the winter was worse,
When the cold clear rains rushed from the clouds
And froze before they could fall to the frosty earth.
Near slain by the sleet he sleeps in his irons
More nights than enough, among naked rocks,
Where clattering from the crest the cold stream ran
And hung in hard icicles high overhead.
Thus in peril and pain and predicaments dire
He rides across country till Christmas Eve,
our knight.
And at that holy tide
He prays with all his might
That Mary may be his guide
Till a dwelling comes in sight."

From: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Part 2 (translation by Marie Borroff, 1967)

I'm trying. But clearly I still have a loooong way to go. Why is colour such a difficult matter to me? Painting this was so very hard. And in my head the colours looked better :/.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

The Darkest Hour 102-103

I had intended to post extra-large updates from now on, so that The Darkest Hour would be all told by the end of December, and here I am with an extra-short update -_-. It is all because of the snow - the snowy skies inspired me to do a full-page illustration with watercolour, the colours of which I couldn't get right and spent a lot of time worrying about. So now I have only two pages of comic. At least I did finish the illustration today, meaning I can devote myself entirely to the comic now :). I may end up doing middle-of-the-week updates - I'm thinking about it.

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy the continuation :).

As always, lcik the images for a readable view...

Sunday, 13 December 2009

The Darkest Hour 98-101

I have the feeling that this week's episode has finally cleared the road towards the story's ending - there are some minor things to figure out, but King Uriens rather unexpectedly showed up exactly where I needed him, so now the waiting is for the last two guests of the Grand Finale. It would be great if I could finish The Darkest Hour this month... That would require Extra Large updates, though, because I have only two Sundays left before the new year :-). We'll see.

(Just trying to attract an audience - don't pay it any attention. But there is a bit of blood and a walking almost-dead, so I don't feel guilty about stretching the truth a little bit :P.)

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Watercolour sketch: young Gawain

Yesterday evening I was pottering around with my watercolours. I 'potter around' much more often than applying myself seriously - mostly because, though I love watercolour, it also makes me nervous, and I have to overcome my fear before I can paint something 'for real'. It is just so easy to ruin a picture if you have as little skill with watercolour as I have :/. And yet it's fun!

What I was actually supposed to be doing is to paint Christmas cards. Trouble is, I haven't got a design yet that I like enough and can replicate a dozen of times. So instead I started to mess around. That is when I decided to do a little try-out for Gawain. It's very frustrating: he's the hero of my comic (even though at this point in the narrative he hasn't been born yet), but I have such trouble getting him to look right. One thing that annoys the hell out of me is that I never manage to colour his hair properly. Gawain has glorious red hair, and it's sort of important. Now, I used to start from a basis of cadmium red because I reasoned that real red hair looks a bit orange-y. But it always looked awful on poor Gawain, and it was also pretty difficult to combine with greens and blues. It was garish. Now, I'm pretty sure that much of the failure is due to my own ineptitude at mixing colours. But, well, there's no one but me to do this, so... In my experiment of yesterday, I started from a basis of crimson with some raw sienna. I have never seen anyone with this hair colour, but it gets the point across and it is easy to combine. I like the result - even though there is, as usual, lots of other stuff wrong with the picture :s.

For the record*:
- I used very cheap watercolour paper - 175 g/m² and with a texture like ordinary drawing paper. Not pretty. I wouldn't use this for a 'good' drawing, but it serves for a sketch.
- The drawing itself was done in lilac watersoluble pencil (Caran d'Ache Classicolor). This was fun and I think I'll do it again. The unnecessary lines just dissolved with water (I draw very lightly) and I was able to do some corrections while painting, most notably on the nose and mouth.
- The paint is Winsor & Newton and some Cotman. I mixed it on the page, because sketching serves as an excuse for the most awful laziness. It's a miracle the skin tones turned out as reasonable as they did XD. Colours used: raw sienna, Winsor yellow, Alizarin crimson, permanent carmine, permanent mauve (my new favourite! it's such a great colour for mixing), cerulean blue, Winsor blue, Winsor green. (You can tell by all the Winsor colours that I bought them all together in a box, I guess :P.)

*I need to keep notes, because otherwise I forget how I got a certain colour/effect, which is stupid.

I made a complete mess of the shadows, the nose and the placement of the eyes. So, um, suggestions for improvements are always welcome :-).

Sunday, 6 December 2009

The Darkest Hour 93-97

I guess this week's episode can be summarised as, "Time passes" :-). But I tried to make it pass nicely.

I am getting everything aligned for the story's ending, finally. Mind you, I think that it may take another twenty pages until The Darkest Hour is told completely and in a way that doesn't feel rushed. Keep reading :-)...

As always, click to enlarge!

Monday, 23 November 2009

The Darkest Hour 91-92

Just two pages this week, because the nearer I get to the end, the tougher the writing is...

Click to enlarge!

Friday, 20 November 2009

King Lot sketches

Until I get round to doing a complete King Lot painting, these will have to do :-). Does it show that I love his hair?

Click for a better view...

Sunday, 15 November 2009

The Darkest Hour 88-90

This week in The Darkest Hour: boats! Horses! And King Uther has grown a beard!

Uther is pretty dreadful, but I so love writing him. I'll actually miss him when the story is done. Fortunately I'll be able to console myself with Merlin, a series currently running on BBC, in which Uther is very much alive and ruthless, looking and sounding like Rupert Giles Anthony Head...

As for the comic, it may have to do without Uther in the future, but look, that's King Lot on page 89! Three cheers for my favourite Irish macho king! ;-)

Sunday, 8 November 2009

The Darkest Hour 85-87

I can't really explain why, but the dialogue for these three pages gave me quite a bit of trouble. That is the main reason why the drawings are sketchier than usual. I wanted to post on time, but had to do a lot of work at the last minute because the writing was difficult.

One funny thing about doing a comic is that it is easier to "show, not tell" than it is when you write prose. Nevertheless, it's still an art in itself; the sequence with the nuns held quite a few pitfalls in that respect. Please warn me if you think I'm "telling" too much. It's a thing that I hate in comics. It rather baffles me that published authors get away with very flagrant instances of "telling". I mean, sometimes you need some to move the story forward quickly. But I am absolutely horrified by a comic like the latest XIII Mystery, Irina, which is currently being published in the free newspaper Metro. There is hardly any dialogue in the book. 80% of the story is told in captions! Maybe other readers don't mind, but personally I find it boring. For me, a good comic tells a story in pictures; it's not rows of pictures to illustrate a piece of prose. A matter of personal preference?

For a readable view, click the images!

Friday, 6 November 2009

The Arthurian Review, Issue 1

It seems like fun to review some Arthuriana from time to time. I have been reading, re-reading and re-watching parts of my collection, and I thought I'd share my impressions with you :). The first item on review is a novel I bought a few months ago.

Idylls of the Queen (1982)
Phyllis Ann Karr

“When Patrise put his head down on the table beside me and started groaning and twitching, my first thought was: and they call me the churl of this court.”

That is how Sir Kay starts his tale. Queen Guinevere hosts a dinner party at which one of the guests is murdered with a poisoned apple. The kinsmen of Sir Patrise, the unfortunate victim, accuse the Queen herself of the crime. The lady will be burnt at the stake unless someone proves her innocence by vanquishing Patrise’s kin in a joust. Alas! Sir Lancelot, the Queen’s champion, is away from court! And Sir Kay, the one knight who is free - and willing - to take up her cause, happens to be better at using his wits than at using weapons. So he sets out to unmask the killer by looking for someone with a motive and an opportunity to poison the bowl of fruit.

Idylls of the Queen is a kind of Arthurian detective novel, with the unlikely duo of Sir Kay the Seneschal and Sir Mordred as his sidekick setting off to discover the why and wherefore of the poisoning of Sir Patrise of Ireland. If you have read Malory and/or books based on him, the murder mystery is not especially exciting. The murder of Sir Patrise is an incident in the Morte d’Arthur, and Karr does not deviate from the murderer and motive as revealed there. The exciting part of her book is that she uses the poisoning as a starting-point for an exploration of the Arthurian court, its intrigues and main actors.

As Kay and Mordred, two outsiders, go around questioning knights and ladies, they uncover rather more unsavoury histories than they would have liked - all of them Malory’s, but now seen through the eyes of Phyllis Ann Karr. Karr’s own interpretation and the way in which it twists Malory’s plot (and several conventions of medieval romances) will not perhaps strike those who are unfamiliar with the Morte. But for them, too, the interaction between Kay and Mordred, each with their own reasons for wanting to track down the murderer, is reason enough to read Idylls of the Queen. Malory adepts, however, should consider themselves warned: Karr’s book does not share the Morte’s sympathies. Malory’s favourite knights do not come out looking good, and those Malory does not show in a positive light are the heroes of Idylls of the Queen.

Which brings us to…

Which Gawain?

Sir Gawaine of Orkney

Handsome, broad-shouldered and blond, with an unscathed face despite his having fought many a battle. In his forties and slowly going white.

Low. Kay and Mordred send him off to find Lancelot. There is a lot of talk about him, though.

Absolutely sweet, in a knightly sort of way. Kay reflects that it looks as though Queen Morgause and King Lot spent all the virtues they had to give on their firstborn son, so that unfortunately there weren’t any left for the other three.
Basically, Karr’s Gawain is the opposite of Malory’s. He is very courteous, patient, protective, honourable, honest, modest, unassuming, decent - well, see Kay’s comment about the virtues. In this novel, we get a pre-Malory Gawain in a Malory setting. A particularly delicious characterization of Gawain comes from Mordred: he says his elder brother “believes in Heaven, but not in Hell”.

Rating on the Ampersand Scale of Arthurian Favourites: ****-

Monday, 2 November 2009

The Darkest Hour 82-84

This week: a regular three-page update, mostly drawn with my small Faber-Castell pen. I rather enjoyed it, so I guess I still haven't decided on the way to ink the definitive version. It's about time I get an epiphany though - we're finally nearing the end of this prologue...

Yesterday I was browsing one of my manga to get some idea of what about a hundred pages of intro amounts to in manga format. It's not that much. The manga in question (Mushishi, in case you were wondering) has about 220 pages per volume. In a multi-volume manga, it wouldn't be so odd to have a prologue of about a hundred pages, I think. And yes, my story is definitely multi-volume :).

I don't suppose I have mentioned the term 'manga' before when talking about my comic, but I have recently realised that manga is really pretty close to what I am making. Obviously my layout and way of telling a story are far removed from the classic European pattern. But I haven't consciously chosen the manga way. It may partly be a consequence of my sketching in an A5 notebook... That, and I just like the Japanese way of telling stories - it suits me too.

So, with that I leave you to the next three pages :). Hope you enjoy them!

For a readable view, click the images.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

The Darkest Hour 76-81

To make up for the fact that there was no update last Sunday, I am posting a double dose today. Here are six pages for your pleasure :). Well, pleasure... As usual, life isn't fun and games for poor Ygraine. When, oh when will Uther get his comeuppance? Keep reading! ;D

Click the images for a readable view...

Sunday, 18 October 2009

No update today...

The last three days have been alternatingly 1) stressful, 2) nerve-wrecking, 3) hectic, 4) crazy and 5) amazing - but most of all they were busy. As these three days happen to be crucial to my ability to post an update of The Darkest Hour, I'm afraid there will be none this week :/. There is plenty of material, but I haven't got round to preparing it for posting. Hopefully that means that there will be an extra large instalment next weekend :).

Sunday, 11 October 2009

The Darkest Hour 74-75

This part is less than ideally executed, I'm afraid. It's a bit clunky, and pretty short for an update :/. The difficulty is that I have to skip ahead to the next great event and I don't seem to manage to do that elegantly. I could have let it lie longer and looked for a less clumsy way to handle it, but I don't want to delay the end of the story. My priority is to get the tale finished. I'll go back and edit later. I'm sorry for not giving you a better read this week... I'll do my best to make up for it next time :-).

Monday, 5 October 2009

The Darkest Hour 70-73

A while ago I estimated that the story would probably end around page 75. Seeing as we have arrived at page 73 now, that's not very likely anymore. 95 then? :-)

Sunday, 27 September 2009

The Darkest Hour 67-69

I would have preferred to post more in one go, but unfortunately I had no time to draw more this week. Also, we are nearing the end of the story and I need to think very carefully about how it is to be wrapped up nicely. There are still a few important events to be told, but the difficulty is that they require leaps in time. Making those smoothly is always a bit of a challenge. So: three pages this week.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

The Darkest Hour 65-66

Ygraine does not find it easy to cope with her new responsiblities. Look what happens...