A public dumping ground for words and pictures. Contact me at ThomasTamblyn@Gmail.com

Wednesday 3 November 2010

No such thing as magic

Where I come from, we call a "wizened sage" an expert and a wizard is someone that's the best there is at what they do.

There is no such thing as magic, but there are wizards.

Saturday 14 August 2010

Kewl P0werz

A dark and horrible curse that, as a side effect, gives you a variety of cool superheroic powers. Vampirism, lycanthropy, deals with the devil, etc. But it's a little problematic when the coolness of the powers overwhelms the price. People gloss over the "having to drink blood" thing and focus on leaping tall buildings and turning into ninja bats.

Looking specifically at games, one of the contributing factors is that players tend to be given a shopping list of cool powers to choose from. More text-space (and hence brain-space) is given over to the upside. And when your choice of powers is how you customise your character, it's natural that they're the aspect you focus on.

Of course when I put it like that, the solution seems obvious. Swap it around. The cool powers are defaults, and the price is unique. Thing is, cool powers that aren't diverse aren't terribly cool. If you can do something the other person can't, then that makes you cooler when you do that thing.

Fortunately the game that had me thinking about this problem already has an answer to that. Classes - broad categories of character concept and abilities. The difference will just be that classes don't come with a selection of bonus powers, but with your choice of horrible drawback.

For example: you're a swordbearer - you have a demonic soul-eating sword bound to you. Traditionally you'd be able to customise your sword so that maybe it could shoot fire blasts, or had a big glowing eye that warned you of threats. But I think it'll be more interesting and appropriate if the cool powers are relatively generic (though you can justify the colour/flavour to suit your tastes) but the drawback is specific.

To continue the example, maybe the demon sword is a deep sleeper and you don't benefit from any of the upsides until it's been woken up by tasting first blood. Or it's a monstrous organic parasite that drains your strength.

To sum up: keep the cool powers broad, the drawbacks specific and let the player customise with their choice of drawback. It might work.

Wednesday 23 June 2010

PVC cheeseborg

Another refurb. The "PVC cheeseborg" was one of the later MK2 veeps I did, and also one of the better (in my humble opinion). I barely changed any of the original lines when I returned to it.

Leftmost is the original. From the moment I drew him, I imagined his pointy trousers being shiny yellow plastic. With the cutouts it became obvious to me that his name was "PVC cheeseborg". The "borg" part made sense at the time.

No shared theme here. These guys are generic characterful (oxymoron?) sword-havers. I decided #2 was armoured in some kind of scaly leather, hence the texture. The colour scheme took ages to get working though and it's still only just acceptable. With #3 I continue my inexplicable fascination with people in plate-mail leggings. He was this close to having a belly shirt too. No idea what it says about me that I keep trying to give men bare midriffs and metal trousers.

Very happy with #1's colour scheme. The grey bits were originally red and they looked nice, but I'm so glad I tested the grey. #3's eyepatch was an indulgence. They're such cheap and easy head-detail that I have to ration my use of them.

There's not as much variation in the swords as there might have been. They all needed to be long, slightly curved and relatively thin because of the pose. Because they go behind the head the middle part of the blade can't have any important details that might get lost behind a hat. I'm mostly happy with them, but I regret making all the blade/hilt joins boring. It might have been interesting to blur the line between those components a little. A sword where the blade becomes the hand-guard for example, or a hilt that extends up along the back of the blade.

Revamps are a good idea since I'm still having trouble with new sketches. I do want to go back and revisit some of the earlier stuff I posted on this blog, but for now I'd prefer to do as much new stuff as I can. If I ever wind up using these guys for anything, then I can get all perfectionist.

Saturday 19 June 2010

Sweep away the dust

What's going on here then, hm? Nothing much. So let's see about that then, hm?

I'd been stalled on these you see and had largely given up. But last night I sketched a dashing fellow with a wand. I scan him but before I even start on his linework, these unfinished broomboys catch my eye. Before I know it I'm dropping nodes and aiming arcs and shopping colours and here we are!

They felt a lot more androgynous while I was making them, but midway during the colour stage I had to face facts: these are men. Well, young men. Boys really. To my eyes at least. A second flavour of apprentice I guess.


#3's hair was added well after colouring had started. I decided he needed something more and so I went back and biddled with the lines. A little awkward to update the linework on a WIP colour piece, but it's all for the better.

#2's hair is silly. I'm trying hard not to think "Dragonball Z" when I see it. I like it though. Looks autumn-y.

#1's hangy bauble looks to be tugging his hat down. I like that. I'm not terribly good at making things feel weighty and solid, but this is a nice exception.

The brooms were all utter arse to do. This art style is not broomhead-friendly. It was one of the big things I stalled on way back when I started this (#2's hat was another, but big hair to the rescue).

The initial sketch was far more ambitious. Unfortunately it also wasn't very good. These are yet more static-looking flatfoots, but they're much less offensive to the eye than they might have been.

Dissatisfied with the faces. They're looking downward in an uninspiring and vaguely morose manner. I'm leaving them like that for now, but if I come back it'll probably be the first thing I fix.

In the future I'll try and take a crack at the new sketch that these distracted me from. I'll wait until there's something else I should be doing. I also have some more limes I could post up if I felt the need. Or I might wander off and forget about this nonsense. Time will tell.

Sunday 28 March 2010

Profound ones

This is the third time I've posted these fish-guys here. Last time I had expanded the original one with two variant heads. Now I've varied the bodies and arms too and tidied up a few details. So now they're a proper set. Colours too, of course. Subtle detail: Eel face's bulging belly. Really should have highlighted it with colour, but the scheme didn't allow for it. Maybe if I take (yet) another crack at them in the future. other than that, I'm pleased with these colours. They didn't flow easily, but I like the results. Not that I'm saying they're perfect you understand. But I'm content.

The new standard of detail that I've let myself use lets me do a lot more when there's few line-defined areas of detail and lots of contiguous spaces. I'm sticking with the pointilist patterning, both because it's so easy to do in photoshop and because it works well for sea-creatures. On #1 it makes him look scaly (or possibly shiny, depending on how you look at it), while #2 and 3 have different kinds of mottling.

I'm glad that they're not just three different colour schemes of the same pattern. It also means I can keep the colour schemes close to each other without them seeming samey. I did orignally have more variety - Fishman was a lot lighter, and Shark-man was blue-tinted. They didn't look like they belonged together though so I normalised them. I think that was the right choice - the heads alone are plenty divergent.

The file name is "purebloods" because these are meant to be the members of the sea-cult where the mutations have reached their endpoint, Deep one-style. Nicely encapsulates the cult's attitude to their affliction and all just in a name. And of course it's always nice to apply a sacred-sounding term to something profane.

Going back to the colours, I think I'm going to have to come up with an alternative to the pointilism. It works, but it won't for everything. That'll probably involve pissing about with custom brushes in Photoshop. Ah well; life is full of hardships.

Sunday 7 March 2010


I was feeling silly one day and so I made some more sabre-toothed limes.

The sublime was very, very silly. The awful pun amused me though.

The miner was one that I really should have come up with as a part of the original batch. I thought it would be a simple job, just plopping a helmet on a regular lime. It didn't look right though. Hence the coal-blacking. The smears were borrowed from one of my black & white icons. That's a use for the icons I hadn't considered - a library of useful shapes.

The mummy is awful. It looks like it's been attacked with a roll of toilet paper. You can tell I had no big plan for a bandage pattern going in.

The chewing gum is also silly. Won't make much sense unless you know that lime-and-chili-flavoured chewing gum is an item in KoL. It was one of the very few lime-related things in the game that didn't get an entry in the old batch, so it was a shoe-in for generation 2.

The punk is just random. Lime with a mohawk seemed a good start for something. I like the shaved head look though. Lip piercing is unsatisfying. The outlining is overwhelming I think. Also the pink hair would probably look better as a dark green or green/blue.

Lime-in-a-box is not randomness; it's a reference to randomness. KoL has a lemon-in-a-box amongst its enemies. Conveniently I'd already drawn an LitB for another project so I just replaced the lemon with a lime. Job done. Won't fit neatly into a grid should i complie these though.

The batlime I mentioned previously as a temptation. Decided it was worth doing after all.

BRICKO lime was fun. One of the more worthwhile ideas. A reference to a recently added item that lets you summon BRICKO bricks. Tried to ape the art style. The fangs were an indulgence, but they're based on an actual Lego brick so that's fine.

El Vibrato lime is a new favourite. The El Vibrato monsters have a really cool look within the constraints of KoL's style, but I reckon they'd also work great outside of it. Implies a lot of detail. The blue knight-rider lights are taken from an item description. I reckon this lime sits in the sweet spot between faithfulness and looking good on its own.

Gimacite is another I'm happy with. hard, black and shiny. Based it on the sabre-toothed limestone initially, then started meddling.

The lantern's glow isn't quite right, but I didn't want to use gradients.

Limeling's based on the slimeling. But limes don't have eyes, so it gets little limes on stalks instead. I thought this would be a stretch, but it's an obvious riff to look at it and the pun justifies a lot.

I don't have much interesting to say about these four. The class limes are significant I usppose. Not sure if I'll do the other four - the muscle classes have by far the most identifiable headware.

Trivia: I looked at a real seal skull for reference for the seal-clubber's hat, but it didn't look sealish enough. I compromised between it and the in-game icon then added a bone muzzle to seal it up.

The candied lime was almost a crystalised lime - that was I could put a lime in a sweet wrapper and call it a candied lime. The name suits this better though. I could always do a sherbert lime. Pleased with the texture, though I keep wanting to fiddle with it more.

Entirely too much fun was had making the lime green ranger. Never actually a Power Rangers fan, but aping the style was a riot. I wanted to do more. I think that tactical use of white lines is what I'm most pleased with here, though the fanged mouthpiece is also neat.

Werelime was an idea I had during the first batch, but couldn't pull off. Even now that I'm more experienced with inkscape, it was a bother getting it looking right. To start with it looked more like a porculime (mental note: do a porculime) or a puffer-lime. or maybe just a mudkip.

Pinata was fiddly and hasn't turned out perfect, but it's identifiable.

Meat lime was difficult. The fat marbling alone wasn't working, but I didn't want to drown it in detail. The dark creases sell it think, though the highlights on the fat also contribute.

All in all the second generation of limes has a lot more detail than the first. Which is nice. I'm stretching. Right now I feel I'm all out of inspiration, but that's what I thought at the end of the first batch and here I am twenty-two limes later.

I had oodles of fun making these.

Sunday 21 February 2010

A test-drive of the snowflake method.

The snowflake method is a way to write a novel. You start out with a sentence, expand it into a paragraph summary. Break that up into acts. Flesh them out with characters. And so on. Fractal novel-writing. I thought I'd try.

One sentence of plot:

A privelleged asshole betters himself after being confronted by the real world.

One paragraph of plot:

A young lord whose estates are unreachable due to dragons. He is tricked into gambling away his estates by a powerful noble who demands immediate repayment. Our lordling reaches his lands in poor shape and is rescued by the remnants of his subjects. He remains amongst them incognito, seeing how they have survived cut-off from the rest of the country. He gives them information that allows them to rejoin the homelands. In his absence, the noble lord he is indebted to has launched a coup upon the throne. The young lord turns the tide at the head of subjects and abandons his title.

That paragraph was difficult to write. I left out a lot of bits that seemed important to me - twists and other characters. It could be pared down even further if I came at it with fresh eyes, I think. I haven't even mentioned setting yet. This is probably a good thing.

Three acts:

We meet the disenfranchised lordling, learn of his situation and some of his history. He offends a powerful nobe lord, who tricks lordling into gambling away his estates. The noble lord demands immediate payment, forcing the lordling to return to his lands despite the dragon infestation that had rendered them unreachable.

The lordling barely survives travel through the wilderness and is found by the surviving inhabitants of his lands. He swiftly discovers that they curse his name for abandonning them and decides to remain incognito. We see how they have survived the years of isolation. The lordling steps up in the face of impending disaster.

He uses his outsider knowledge to help his subjects back to the main country. There he finds that the noble lord from act 1 has staged a coup and is leading armies against the throne. The veteran troops with our lordling at their head can turn the tide, however a high-ranked officer in this coup is one of lordling's childhood friends and must be confronted first.

The lordling abandons his title, leaving his people to govern themselves.

Hmm. There doesn't seem to be a great deal more information there than was in the single paragraph. This is interesting. I have still not mentioned plenty of stuff I thought to be important. And I wonder how far I can go with not describing the setting. Probably until I start having to define characters.

Coincidentally, step 3 is "characters". That looks like it might be time-consuming. Also the bit I'm not very good at.

Wednesday 10 February 2010


Mission accomplished. Here's a before-and-after comparison. And I remember being so chuffed with the guy on the left when I did him. He's a bit of a mess to me today. I'll probably feel the same about the new and improved version in a few months. But for now I've got that warm glow that comes from making something better.

I kept the basic shape - I think I was really on to something there. I took that little jag at the top of his body and gave it some company, going for a slightly more ragged appearance. The baby Zephyrs are plump and smooth, but the big daddy is fiercer-looking.

I also got rid of most of the edge-lines. I decided that the ribbon-like appearance had to go. Besides, I have colour to add shape.

Speaking of which, I used the whites as more than a highlight here - also using it to add some extra detail swirls. My inability to do proper lightning has created a semi-transparent, almost glass-like, feel. A happy fluke.

The lower shapes are darker and browner, as if he's picking up dust from the ground. No leaves - I didn't feel he needed them with all the extra lines he has. And as a whole he's less saturated than the baby Zephyrs, which is an easy way to use colour to distinguish between child and adult-looking critters.



I never did manage to get those pixies looking right. I was thinking "glows with wings and maybe light trails" but it just wasn't coming together. Shame. But these fill the same niche.

They're wind spirits of some kind. Perhaps elementals? Meh. Cosmology comes second to imagery. They're critters rather than peeps, which is nice for change. I didn't think they were interesting enough on their own so I gave them gust FX as bases/stands.

Little leery of the high linecount on the leaves, but they don't look out of place and I think they're pretty. Also they're great scene-setters. I think they make it obvious that the swirlies represent wind, and that there's a forest context. I tried to arrange them in sensible patterns like they're blowing around rather than just randomly scattered.

I wasn't sure about the arms. Worried that on something non-humanoid, stick-and-ball arms would look like antennae or something weird, but I think it works ok. Together with the eye/face it anthropomorphises them just enough.

Also unsure about the colour. The swooshes look nice with that greenish tint, but the critters themselves... I didn't know what to do. Blue seems traditional for air elementals but it's not quite right. I didn't want to take them all the way to stark white though. Maybe I should have? I also thought I could do something with another colour on the eyes, but it ended up making them look like they were peering out from hoods.

Details are totally unswappable. Swooshes and critters are carefully matched and posed. I don't feel bad about that though, since they're all total redraws.

I've got an old whirlwindy-looking critter that I think I should revamp. He'd only need a little tweaking to match these guys' style and would make a nice boss-type version.

Sunday 7 February 2010

Heavy Metal

This pose has issues. I probably moved from skeleton to detailing too soon. I think I'm ok with the outcome though.

I didn't expect to be as happy with these as I am; even with the off pose I think the detailing rescues them. Fairly different styles too.

Some of that's from the colouring; I never intended #3's shoulders to be part of his cloak, or his legs to be covered in cloth. I'm pleased with how it alters the look so much without any new lines.

I always used to associate knights in armour with swords and shields. Or maybe lances. In real life thoughm maces, hammers and picks were common weapons because they tore through plate in a way that swords didn't. I've come to like the look too. #3's meat tenderiser seems a real can-opener.

There's a lot of swappability represented here. Weapon, body and head as standard. Beyond that, I made the helmet ornaments swappable, and there's more of those floating details I'm coming to love: boot cuffs, gloves and sleeves. I suppose that if I wanted to be really petty I could isolate the butt of the hammers too, but that would be silly. And come colour time the tabards can vary in both colour and pattern. Which is handy, given that they're mostly boring grey metal (though I did tint them differently here).

For the armour, I am using Shine Technology (painting white streaks onto a 50% transparency layer). Need to be careful not to overuse it. Just on the helms seems appropriate; to draw attention there. A little detailing in other places too, most prominently on #1.

Saturday 6 February 2010

Rotten eggland

A random biro doodle made good.

I was pretty sure this would be a simple throwaway without any depth, but somehow it ended up a full variant set with a surprising amount of modability. The colours helped a lot too, going on easy and with great effect (in my humble view).

I'm sure anyone who knows anything about actual monkeys will be shocked by the proportions and colour schemes ("gibbons don't have tails!") but I have the benefit of ignorance.

The starting point was giving bulk to the forearm to signify "ape". That and the curly tail was enough to sell the basic skeleton to me.

The turning point was deciding to ornament them with the same style as the island natives. Nothing too grand; armbands here, a mask there. The point was to make these look like they'd been adopted by the people.

I intended them to be throwing rotten fruits, but I ended up diversifying. #1's melon is probably just heavy. #3's egg could be more defined - the drippy yolk doesn't stand out well enough but is too incidental to outline, and the crack steals too much attention I think.

But overall a success. Certainly better than I expected from something I started just as a distraction from the thing I was trying to draw.

Phrase of the day: monkey poison.

Sunday 31 January 2010

Girls out of hoods

I've been suffering from a lack of inspiration. Or, more honestly, a lack of accomplishment when trying to execute my inspiration. So I decided to get on with doing what I had been putting off: revamping old veeps. Since I've been doing witches, and the apprentice girl is one of my favourite from the pre-blog batch, I made a move on her.

There she is, on the right. The swoosh is a bit clunky and there's more lines than whitespace on the hat but all in all: woo.

I was thinking she was some kind of wind witch or apprentice that lived in the forest. A little bit red riding-hood.

Which was a nice enough idea.

I thought she'd end up completely redone, but in the end it was just small tweaks. One thing I was sorry to lose was the swoosh running from behind her legs to in front of her hand. Shame. Even tried to do it on one of the new witch girls but it just wasn't happening. I'm not displeased with the foreground swooshes now you understand, just something that might also have been cool.

So! I borrowed some leaves from a green man and that was the first variant done. Misc swooshes for the others. I'd have liked something different for the third, but I was at a loss for another way to represent a gust of wind or foresty power. I have a couple of failed experiments banked in case they're good for something else.

You know, except for #1's skirt these are pretty androgynous. #2 especially; fey but not necessarily feminine. A bit Peter Pan maybe, or a bit lost boys.

I'm happy with the level of outside-the-lines detailing on these. The shaping for the swooshes, #2's crinkled cape and #3's leaf-trous. Perhaps mushroom-head's spots would have been better as colour detail rather than linework, but that's just doubt speaking.

Things I don't like are mushroom head's cape. The shading is a bit forced, and the lines down the side are mysterious in their purpose. I reckon that'll be somewhere to pay attention if I come back for another pass.

Colour schemes came easier than I was used. I'm glad and surprised to have three coordinated and appropriate schemes here. It's been a stumbling block more times than I'm happy with.

Yeah, all in all I'm rather happy with these. Hooray!

Now, who to do next? One of the pirates would help flesh out that "tribe", or I've some knights I rather like. A woodsman archer with a novel pose that might fit with the witches. One of the early ones with plenty of room for improvement?


Saturday 23 January 2010

Second dose


Turned out I was frustrated enough with the poison-pickers that I took another whack at them. Not just colours, but linework too. Number three, the only one I was really happy with had the privilege of remaining unchanged.

Number two got an extra line or two to make her sash's path a bit more obvious, and raggedied to look less like an apron. And a hat of course. A hat that screams "witch!".

Number one's still a bit dodgy in my eyes. The strange poofy hat is... strange and poofy. But I'm much happier with her mantle and torso now. The colours aren't ideal, but I can live with them.

I even put some extra crease detailing on the cloth. Nothing for number one unfortunately, but I'm much happier with these three as a set. They look witchier to my eyes. Even if you start swapping parts about. I've a feeling you could swap legs and torsos separately; they're not built for it, but it wouldn't be a huge mod. Perhaps even the unique details - mantle, gloves and cloak - could be moved about. Possibilities!

Even with #1 not totally satisfying, I'm content say these are as done as I need them to be.

Sunday 10 January 2010

Pickled Peppers

I like the idea of these, but they're somehow bypassing the part of my brain responsible for inspiration. Especially the colours. Drab drab drab. I think I wanted an ecclectic look for the witches but they're turning out too mundane. I need to come up with more distinctive motifs. At the moment they just come out looking like random women.

Third one's ok though. I like her hair.

My thoughts were to give them all something that could be delicious/beautiful or poisonous. Apples are a sleeping beauty thing, you see?

Number one is so brown. What went wrong? And number 2's sash/apron defies human logic. Gah - I'm just moving on.

Bleh. There'll be something salvagable here I think (unlike some of the university wizards which I will no doubt scrap completely) but I don't want to look at these any more right now.