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

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.