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Art vs. Illustration October 22, 2018

Posted by thejinx in art, writing.
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I’ve been drawing seriously, or at least trying to, for the better part of thirty years now. While it hasn’t been my only, or even necessarily primary, method of creative expression, I’ve done a lot of it. My artwork folder on my computer, which consists only of pictures I have at one point deemed worthy of sharing, has over 500 files in it.

Most of those pictures are more or less portraits. The character(s) might not be looking at the viewer and they might be doing something interesting, but the whole point of those drawings is just to show off a character. I’ve drawn my share of scenes, pictures showing a clear story, but they’re still one-off images. I have considered and even scripted comics and/or graphic novels, but I haven’t taken the time to really attempt it yet.

Now that I have been drawing for the chapter book I wrote, however, I am starting to understand the particular challenges to actual illustration, particularly now that I have started colouring my illustrations. Up till now, it’s mostly been fun: determining visual quirks of characters the first time I draw them and extending those to subsequent illustrations, designing characters’ clothes, hair and accessories, setting the scenes I’m trying to convey. There was a challenge in keeping characters consistent, of course, and I had to consider things I’d never dealt with before, such as height of characters relative to each other, but it wasn’t all that different from what I was used to.

When I coloured the first character in the first illustration, however, I suddenly realized that I should colour all instances of that character to keep their portrayal consistent. And then as I worked further, I found myself needing to consider things that even backstory for the book itself didn’t prepare me for. Take this drawing, for example:

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All went well enough, I was enjoying the way it came together as I coloured each character over the course of a few nights, and then I got to that breakfast bar. What colour should the counter and the cupboard be?

I hadn’t put much thought into it at that point, but suddenly it became a crucial issue. I knew what colours the characters may favour, but they live on a space station. What would the counter and cupboard even be made of? An aluminum counter top is easy enough to decide upon, but what about the cupboard? Trying to answer that question only spawned more. Are these characters the first ones to live in this apartment? Because there wouldn’t be wood or drywall on a space station, and I don’t think repainting would be likely on a space station. How old is the station? Because that’s going to determine whether this is a new apartment or if they’ve moved in to someone else’s design choices. What would the walls be made of? Because that’s going to affect their colour, and so the design elements in the kitchen.

I hadn’t even considered these things while developing the story. I probably never would have if I hadn’t been trying to answer a simple question regarding a background element to a single illustration in the book. And this is only a taste of it; I have several more illustrations to go. What other issues may crop up as I work through the rest of the drawings? What else might I discover if I went on to write and illustrate more books?

It certainly makes for an interesting, and fun, challenge. In a way, I’m also a little saddened, because I have to, and I want to, focus entirely on Sisters of Chaos book 2 after I’ve finished with this book, even though I already have some ideas for another book. I’m also enjoying creating the art for this book, as time-consuming as it might be, too much to consider letting someone else illustrate for any possible future books. This has been a very fun process, weaving art and writing together in a way in which each affects the other, and I hope to get the chance to do it again before too long.

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Flash fiction: The Grind May 31, 2010

Posted by thejinx in writing.
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People tell me all the time that I must have a great job.

I’m so sick of hearing this. No, it’s not a great job. Working at an intergalactic foreign exchange is boring as sin. It’s not interesting meeting all different species, because they’re all stuffy bureaucrats, irritable business travelers, or inane tourists to whom I am just an obstacle in their efforts to get the right type of money. No, I don’t hear a lot of amazing stories about bizarre planets, because once you’ve heard at length about one person’s “unique” home world, you’ve heard it all.

The worst part is the crime. It’s not even successful enough to keep things interesting. You’d think after so many foiled robberies that these idiots would realize how stacked the odds are against them, but this guy coming in today, I could see the look on his face from halfway across the lobby and knew he would be stirring up trouble.

I resigned myself to a sigh as the line shuffled forward and he began approaching my counter. I hadn’t seen many of these creatures before, fleshy peach-toned skin hairless except for the top and back of his head, and clearly, he hadn’t seen many of my kind, either, as he paused and started slightly when he caught a glimpse of me.

“May I help you, sir?” I intoned in Galactic Common, cursing company policy for the formality. Even to the security cameras focused on the counters from overhead, his intentions were obvious.

Summoning his courage – if I suppose it can be called that – he thrust a weapon towards me and demanded, “Hand over all the money!” The weapon was a standard black-market hand laser, the kind we see a few times a week, and the slight tremble in his hand betrayed his inexperience in using it, or perhaps in threatening someone. A hush fell over the line as the scene unfolded. I fought the urge to shake my head in exasperation, wondering at this guy’s incompetence.

I raised myself up off my stool to my full height, nearly as large as him, and extended my back pincers forward. The colour drained from his face and he stood dumbly as I struck out with the pincers that had won me a few bash’kleh regional championships back before my molting.

The poisoned pincers threaded cleanly through the round hole in the security glass, from long practice, and stabbed him square in the chest. With a gasp, he collapsed, convulsing on the ground.

A few of the people in line, tourists from the look of them, looked horrified, but most of the customers, businesscreatures used to the frequent attempted robberies, relaxed, unfazed.

Settling back onto my stool, I slid the back pincers back under my coat, shuffled my mandibles more comfortably in my mouth, and faced the line. “Next, please.” The tellers to either side of me, half-raised in case I had needed assistance, calmly sat and resumed their business with polite apologies to their customers. The next suit in line approached my counter, stepping gingerly around the fallen man, now foaming at the mouth as the poison worked through his body. Security had been alerted and the medics would administer the antidote before he suffered too serious damage. The attack was so routine I doubt I would have to do more than merely sign off a form confirming the attack, though I still detested the added inconvenience. He had it coming to him.

Because when you stock five billion types of currency, everyone is security.