Ringing in the new year with a little bit of personal art! I’ve been picking at this since early September, just never really had time to finish it off. One of my new year’s resolutions is the make time for more personal art. I realized that my hectic work schedule is never going to let up, so I can’t keep waiting for their to be time to work on my own ideas. I need to MAKE time for it, even while juggling all the projects I have at hand. 2014 has started off with a major bang, as I’m currently working on a huge children’s book project that takes up a lot of time, while still juggling my private commissions queue, 100 Deeds, and several book covers. So, doing art of my little Nym and her Alecani kin is something I must make time for, or she’ll fade into the recesses of my mind, and her stories will never be told.

Photoshop CS6 with an Intuos 3 tablet

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Recommended music - Rising by Yoshida Brothers

I’m very excited to show this piece finally!  This here is an Alecani version of my friend Kuro’s character.  Kuro already fit the bill, being part wolf and part hooded crow, and I have been wanting to try making her into an Alecani for ages.  She was kind enough to commission me for the idea, and here we are!  We discussed some details about the character to come up with a bit of a back story for her, so she would fit in the world.

NOTE:  Alecani are still a closed species!  I am (slowly) working on a species profile so that people can make Alecani characters, but I would prefer folks hold off till the species profile and all 12 clan profiles are complete. This past month my free time has been very limited, but I have a write-up and a few beginning sketches!

Kuro would hail from the far northern pine forests, a vast area of mountains and pines similar to the Taiga Forest. The clan that occupies this region are called the Noh’Dimali, the same clan The Shadow comes from. The Noh are generally larger than the average Alecani, and more wolf-like in appearance (most others are fox-like).  Stone and earth magic are common in the region, and Kuro here is demonstrating her variant of said magic in battle! Having magically conjured rocks hurled at your face by a flying toothy creature is intimidating enough, but probably neat from a bystander’s point of view to see said rocks shatter into orange crystals on impact. They may be fluffy and shorter than humans, but Alecani overall can be extremely fierce fighters, and are not to be messed with!

See a larger version of this piece here - http://shadow-wolf.deviantart.com/art/Rising-458850487

The flat color layer of a personal piece I’ve been picking at for a month or so now on weekends.  This is the best example I have of Alecani anatomy, especially in the feet, hands, and tail.  I’m still debating if I want the inside wing spots to be echoed on Nym’s tail feathers, but I don’t want to over complicate her.  Might have the final fully painted version done sometime in the next couple of weeks!


Also!  I still have a bunch of Alecani related asks sitting in my inbox, most of which I want to draw something to help answer them.  So sorry if your question hasn’t been answered yet, I just want the time to answer it the best way I can;  with art!

After work tonight I did a little bit of doodling for myself!  My stream audience and I got talking about world building, so I though I would draw two of my favorite characters from TeaFeathers; The Harp and The Shadow. 

It helped me to have some solid real world animal references for each.  Where most Alecani are fairly fox-like in their faces, The Shadow’s clan (the Noh’ Dimali) are more wolf-like.  I think I also tweaked Shadow’s markings a bit, a change I like and will keep!

I have some things written down for the other dominant race of TeaFeathers, the Pylura.  But I want to generate some visual samples before posting anything!

Magic and Spirit energy in TeaFeathers

I like worlds with a little explanation, a little basis in reality, not a world filled only with “just because” (even though there is a lot of that already in TeaFeathers), so I set out to explain why the Alecani have six limbs, and other animals do not!  Why is there a mammal with wings, where are their closest relatives, how did they evolve?  When I went down this road, I ended up explaining how magic works too, and tying it all in with Nym’s story! 

image

Nym’s world is much like modern earth, but without humans (or at least not on her continent, though I waffle about this sometimes).  There are birds, mammals, reptiles, fish, insects etc…. All the animals of the physical world we can recognize.  Existing overlapped and side by side with the physical natural world there is the Spirit realm, which Alecani call “The Source of Souls”, which is divided from physical reality by a thin veil.  This is a common theory for our own world, but in TeaFeathers the veil is very very thin….  Spirit energy constantly pours into the physical world, causing all kinds of really fun and scary anomalies.  Spirits reside in mountains and rivers, and sometimes run free without hosts in high concentration areas.  But instead of being a chaotic force that the natural world can’t deal with, it’s become normal.  Life has adapted over the millennia!

The Alecani can exist because their entire species is part spirit and part physical.  While all creatures in this world are composed partially of spirit, some have higher content of spirit energy than others.  This tends to make them different from “normal” animals in some way.  Pylura have a high spirit content, Alecani much more so.  Dragons are among the most spirit based animals that have physical forms.  The more spirit energy a species of composed of, the more occurrences of magic users there are within their population.  About half of Alecani can use magic.  1/3rd of Pylura can as well, and all dragons can use magic.  Some “normal” animals can even use magic, like deer or birds, but it’s more rare.

How Magic Works

Imagine a person and their soul, mirror images, one physical and one pure energy, walking side by side separated by a wall that divides their realms.  When that person dies their physical self merges with their energetic self wholly.  The energy returns to the vast source of souls, leaving the physical body devoid of spirit energy.  A living person can make contact with their own soul while alive (only very briefly) and tap into that spirit energy in a direct way.  This is how magic users work!  The contact is not constant, otherwise the person would die.  Prolonged contact causes the spirit energy in the physical body to merge with the spirit energy on the other side of the veil.  They and their soul only barely brush one another for moments, transferring massive energy into the physical body which manifests in an elemental way usually, something personal for the individual.

image

For example, Nym’s magic shows as plants and plant-like manifestations, which is a reflection of the kind of person she is.  The Shadow’s magic manifests as any number of volcanic expressions, from heat, to lava, to pyroclastic flows.  The longer a person can withstand contact with their own soul, the strong their magic.  The Shadow is an EXTREMELY strong magic user, he can be a majorly scary motherf*cker if he chooses…  Just like the potential immense amount of power just under the earth’s crust, just under the surface The Shadow is boiling with energy and power.  That is because he can withstand contact with the Source of Souls more than mere moments, like more magic users.

Drop Tea-Feathers an ask if you want anything clarified!  I’m working on a species profile for the Alecani next.  =)  (on my free time at least)

Nym by *TamberElla

Amazingly adorable and perfect art of my character Nym, from TamberElla!  I JUST started watching her art recently, so this was an enormously wonderful surprise to get in my inbox.  Look at that perfect expression!  Those eyes!  ;____;

I was fortunate enough to participate in a SUPER fun project with a bunch of other artists who all kick-ass!  Toulouse organized this project where we all drew portraits of our characters, looking ready for a fight, and coder Jaggers created a fake character select screen, like you would see in Street Fighter.  The end result is so much fun, you can pit our characters against each other in imaginary battles.  I’m already imagining how Nym would fair in a fight with a lot of these other critters. 


Check it out! (has music when it loads)

All the grey slots are spoken for, they’re secret characters that will get “unlocked” as the artists complete their portraits.  So check back for more if you’re curious!

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The Harp relaxes in her private study with a favorite book and a pot of tea, accompanied by her companion dove, Hadi. The Harp is mostly blind, but she can get around well enough on her own in familiar places. She can read with the aid of a magnifying glass, which is one of favorite activities to give her voice a rest and be away from others for a while. Hadi is one of her constant companions, he is her guide when she needs it. Hadi flies ahead holding highly visible red ribbons in his feet, so that The Harp can see and knows where to go. If they needed to get home from very far away without help, Hadi’s navigation skills as a dove would be valuable.

See the final image in higher resolution on my deviantart page - CLICK

Here’s some explanation of the WIP stages:

1) After the flat colors are laid in, I add a layer set to multiply on top and carve out the basic light and shadow.

2) Using a new layer set to overlay, I build the lighter values in.

3) Another layer set to multiply, fill the whole thing with a soft warm red, and then carve out the light areas again. This deepens the colors a bit more, unifies everything a little, and adds that bit of red you see before the shadow core.

4) Now that all my colors are roughed in, I start refining everything in a normal layer on top of everything. I just color pick what’s below the layer and paint!

5) Added steam, light beams, and dust motes.

6) Then the final image, with the completed magnifier and final adjustments! The magnifier was a toughie, I’m still not sure I got it entirely right. There are a lot of light physics going on there, I tried my best to emulate what would really be happening with the help of some reading and visual research, and also fellow artist DimeSpin using a convex lens she has to tell me when happens when she puts it at the same angle. If I had a magnifier of my own, it might be a bit more simple to research, heh!

I’ve had this sitting around for AGES, waiting for either me to add more characters or to name Calluna.  I’m too lazy to add more characters, and I wanted to post this before it got too old to show.  Will probably do another line-up with more of my characters another time.  So anyway, here are some of my characters from the world of TeaFeathers!  I tried to make them distinct not only by their colors, but also by their facial shape and other features.  Will talk about them a bit from left to right:

Kutsal

A member of the Sa’Dimali (sand dune Alecani), Kutsal is a member of the Well Guard, who are warriors who guard well sites in the dessert.  Sa’Dimali are very fennec like, small bodied with large ears and small muzzles.  I wrote a short story about how Kutsal found himself as a Well Guardian, which you can read Here!  I did change his eye color from yellow (in the preview image for the story) to dark brown.

The Harp

Still something of a mystery, no one really knows what clan she belongs to.  “The Harp” is her title, her real name is only known to her closest friend and guardian, The Shadow (far right).  I tried to give her fur a fluffy/flowy look.  More on her here! 

Calluna

This is Nym’s sister!  She’s very feminine compared to Nym, both in her looks and her mannerisms.  She always has smooth well groomed coat, and overall lighter colored fur.  She goes by her full name, but their mom will affectionately call her Cally sometimes.  Calluna’s job is ambassador to the Outer Cat Clans (mostly lions), who are not always very friendly to Alecani.  Despite her clean, calm, proper exterior, she has a great inner fire that the Lion Clan leaders in particularly respect (and kind of fear).  She may be little, but she packs a punch!

Nym

Yay, good ol’ Nym!  Much more rough and tumble than her sister, has a wind blown look to her fur and a slightly more broad muzzle.  She’s also slightly taller, despite Calluna being the older sister. 


The Shadow

Shadow comes from the Koh’Dimali clan, in the high vast pine forest.  It’s pretty darn cold up there, the Koh are pretty big and wolf-like compared to other clans.  He’s a pretty serious guy, and pretty much one of the toughest scariest Alecani out there.  “The Shadow” is his title, much like his charge “The Harp”, and he keeps his real name a secret as well.  He is a very powerful magic user, but what type I’m not ready to say just yet!  Needless to say, he’s practically boiling over with power, but keeps it all very controlled.  Again, more can be read about them here!

This is a fresh post because I wanted to put this in my head world tag by itself.  The other cool news is that I got Photoshop CS6!  I couldn’t have afforded it on my own, but my family is aware of my business and it’s needs.  So for Christmas they all pooled their money so I could buy it for myself! 

This is one of the first things I made with CS6.  Some little hand studies for the Alecani.  Their hand-paws are somewhat squirrel-like, with bare palms instead of individual paw pads like I draw on my anthro canines.  Their hands have true opposable thumbs on them like human hands, and are very sensitive.  Alecani enjoy the sensation of touch with their hands, like soft things and smooth stones.  Group grooming is mutually enjoyable because they are basically petting each other’s soft fur and feathers!

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Sometimes, I get really lucky and a client sponsors me to do personal art. This full illustration is sponsored by RalenFox, and it’s of my character The Harp! Here is some more information on her.

http://eskiworks.tumblr.com/post/19595181084

So here we have the initial composition study in black and white, the refined sketch, and the flat colors. I have to say, deciding on a composition for this one was really hard. I guess when it comes to personal art I often suffer from option paralysis, in which I can’t damn decide what to do because I can do ANYTHING. Prescribed characters and scenarios from commissioners are often mentally easier. It’s the difference between just coming up with the answer to a question, or coming up with the answer AND the original question, if that makes sense.

For this one, I decided I wanted several things in the picture; The Harp relaxing in a private lounge/study, books, pretty tea accessories, curling steam, curtains, a bird, and warm relaxing light. I got so stuck trying to get what I wanted out of the picture, and still have an appealing composition that I needed to call on help from my fellow artists to help me narrow things down. Feedback is really important, working in a vacuum can really paralyze the creative process sometimes!

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I was looking back on some slightly older art for my headworld development and found this rudimentary colored sketch of one of the Alecani races, the only aquatic one.

http://eskiworks.tumblr.com/post/14608800724

This was before I even had a name for her species, so I’ve done a lot more thinking on them since then. This race is called the B’eshuul (pronounced bay-shool), and they are the most unique Alecani race. They are the only ones who cannot fly, are adapted to life in water, and the only ones who have non-naturalist colors in their fur (bright stuff like blue and green). I will someday flesh out ALL the Alecani races more fully, but this one has been on my mind lately. Here’s some more in depth information! Maybe more to come at some point, but for now this is what I’ve got.

Myth and History
Many thousands of years ago the B’eshuul were considered a myth by land dwelling Alecani, because they were an extremely secretive people. They branched off from other Alecani genetically early enough that pairings between themselves and other Alecani don’t always result in offspring. They would be considered a subspecies by human scientists, but culturally the B’eshuul and the rest of the Alecani have long since integrated happily. They are not considered to be another species, they are Alecani brothers like any other race! But not after a long tumultuous war. The tribal wars of the Alecani are more complex than land vs sea, but it was the Be’shuul who were the last to give up their warring ways to join the overarching Alecani alliance. Still, that was hundreds of years before Nym’s time.

Physical traits
Physically, they are slightly bigger than most Alecani. Their wings have evolved along the same lines of penguin wings, which they use to propel themselves through the water at up to 40 mph. At slower speeds they move more like otters, using their webbed rear feet as their main mode of propulsion. Their tail feathers have evolved into secondary fin-like structures with which to guide their swimming, and their tails are thick and rudder-like much like an otter. Their ears are short compared to other Alecani, and a little less expressive as smaller stiffer triangles. They can close their nostrils and ears, and can hold their breath for up to an hour, even under considerable athletic stress. Both the feet and hands are webbed, and tipped with sharp curved talons used for fishing. The rear dew claw found on all Alecani isn’t connected by webbing, and is used as a weapon in battle.

They are the only Alecani with natural bright colors in their coat! They have a set of two-toned stripes on the neck and thighs that can be any analogous color pair from purple/pink to yellow/green. Their eyes are always darker versions of whatever their stripe color is. Most of them have dominantly black and white fur/feathers, but a smaller portion of them have developed a reddish brown color, sometimes accompanied by dark pink skin. This coloration is about as rare as red hair is in the human population. Even more rare would be a blonde B’eshuul, with pale dusty gold in place of the brown/black, but they are born every once in a while.

Culture
Culturally, they are somewhat different than land dwelling Alecani. They are among the most martial of the Alecani, skilled warriors in the water and on land. A B’eshuul warrior is stronger than the average Alecani, trained from a very young age, merciless, but follows a strict warrior’s code. For those of your familiar with Star Trek, think Clingons minus the love for bloodwine! They also believe that the killing of another sentient species for food, under the right circumstances, is acceptable. Many tribes of B’eshuul hunt a single whale once every five years. It’s an enormous honor to be part of the whale hunt, and they consider the prey to be sacred. Most of the time, the hunted whale is an elderly individual who voluntarily gives itself up for the hunt. Most whale species and B’eshuul have had this understanding for longer than Alecani recorded history. However, sometimes the whale is not a willing participant. In these cases, the B’eshuul are required to give one of their members up to the surviving family members of the hunted whale, with varying results. Sometimes they are killed, sometimes they are taken in as servants or companions, or even rejected entirely as an offering and returned alive to their group.

B’eshuul are less likely to form large groups and build villages than other Alecani, preferring more of a wandering life style. The only times they become more sedentary as a group is after a whale hunt, during which mated pairs have kits. What the whale hunt provides allows them to raise kits in relative stability for the first few years of their life, after which the extremely young kits are expected to join the adults in migratory lifestyle. This is also the time at which a young B’eshuul starts their warrior training in earnest. Childhood is short for the B’eshuul, but they seem to derive joy from their warrior life style. So it could be argued that the early years of warrior training, while harsh, are still enjoyable and fun for a young B’eshuul.

While I’m waiting to pick up my cat from her first teeth cleaning, I thought I’d distract myself with coloring some scanned sketchbook stuff. This one is from a few months ago. I was thinking about how Nym’s design is only made unique by her markings (and a little by her anatomy I guess). In character design courses you’re taught to make a recognizable silhouette for your character too, something that will instantly click with viewers if they see it anywhere. So I was messing with a “Nym shape” to see how I liked it. She has to be able to stand out from the others of her kind too. This was just an experiment, as I develop more Alecani characters I’ll nail down her silhouette better.

Also, now that I’ve been on Tumblr for a bit and understand tags a bit better, I’ve gone back and re-tagged posts about Nym and her character/world development. So here’s that tag!

http://eskiworks.tumblr.com/tagged/nym

I made it a link on my page too, so it’s easier to access. I also started tagging things with “alecani” (her species) and “teafeathers” (the name of her story/world).

I wrote this story almost two months ago, as a way to introduce the sand dune race of Alecani, called the Sa’Dimali. I wanted something that would incorporate their way of life and culture so readers could get a practical understanding of what they are like, but would be interesting enough to engage folks. I ended up creating several characters that we’ll see later in Nym’s story in the process. It took me a while to actually post it because I had a hell of a time coming up with names I liked! I just today made the quick cover art so I could upload it here.

To read, click the image and it will redirect to the full story on Weasyl!  I thought this preferable to clogging your dash with the whole story. 

A quick bust sketch of Nym’s mother, Karu! Karu is the villages head healer, having worked her way up from apprenticeship when she was very young. She has worked hard to get where she is today, having encountered a lot of resistance for some of her newer ideas about healing. Now, many of her techniques are practiced widely across the Alecani occupied lands and she is greatly respected. From her, Nym has learned what it means to work hard for something even in the face of great resistance. The healing skills Nym picked up from her mom have come in handy in the field on many of her delivery runs too!

A aquatic breed of Nym’s species! Quick doodle done tonight while watching Surf’s Up with friends (best penguin movie ever, very underrated sadly). I’ve had this in mind for a while, thinking of what different breeds of Nym’s species would look like. Here’s a little info on this breed!

An aquatic one like this one uses it’s wings just like penguins to swim. The wings, like penguin wings, can’t fold, so they’re held back and out while they walk on all fours or their hind legs. Their tails have developed into thick rudders like otter’s tails, the tail feathers becoming short fin-like structures. They can close their nostrils and ears, and hold their breath for up to an hour. In the interest of reducing drag while swimming, the head crest is gone. However their ears are still very expressive even underwater, though laid back while swimming the most part. The hand paws and back paws are webbed, and sport small sharp curved talons to grip coral, or underwater rock (or prey).

They can make their homes in a variety of coastal areas, from tropical to arctic. Making their homes in rocky outcrops or building igloo like compounds for group housing in the snow and ice. Some who live in warmer climates simply dwell on the beach and make temporary beds from surrounding leaf matter. They are extremely quick, and expert fishers, often competing directly with other marine carnivores. Like humans, some arctic groups have specialized in hunting whales, but only kill one whale per year to feed the entire colony.

Now I’d better go to sleep before I get carried away! Maybe more breeds to come.

A small bit of work for World Building Wednesday.  Technically done last night when I couldn’t sleep (again).  I’ve been doing some more world building stuff pertaining to The Harp and her Shadow story-wise, so here’s a quick snapshot of The Shadow that hints at the type of magic he uses.  He is probably one of the strongest Alecani magic users of Nym’s time.  It’s a good thing he’s a good guy….


Got a TeaFeathers related question for today?  Ask away!

http://eskiworks.tumblr.com/ask

Nym looked out across the red stone of her homeland perched at the top of a tall arch that overlooked the series of winding rivers that had carved these canyons eons ago. The morning chill ran through her fur despite the lack of wind. She had woken up long before dawn and tried not to let her claws click on the floor as she grabbed a few hardboiled eggs, and snuck out leaving her family to sleep. The respite in her home village had been wonderful, sleeping in her old bed chamber for the last week had been a great comfort. A note had been left on the kitchen counter, so her mother wouldn’t worry. Mother always worried. That thought made a warm grin spread across Nym’s face. Now she sat in the cool blue of first light and enjoyed a small cup of cold tea as she waited for her partner. Her mission for the day wouldn’t allow for carrying the stone pot and other equipment for hot tea, but she didn’t mind. The temperature allowed the Ceylon to take on a different flavor, a crispness that woke her up faster. She shivered slightly, a pleasant sensation.

She relished these quiet mornings, before anyone else woke up. The morning brought with it a freshness that washed away the previous day’s worries. A whole new day with brand new unknowable events. One more night lay between yourself and the problems of the past, and one more day ahead to heal those wounds. She gulped the last of her tea, getting the remaining dust and pieces of leaves that the steeper didn’t catch. The small black cup wasn’t her usual vessel for tea, which was a large lime green mug with a wide brim and a pleasantly smooth surface. This one was a small black ceramic cylinder with a stony texture to it, of which she had dozens at home. So it was ok if this one broke, which it likely would on today’s mission….

Nym barely heard Usi until he landed next to her, folding his wings silently and greeting her with a small paw on her shoulder. Nym was amazed at how quiet he was. Perhaps his heritage as a Noc’Dimali aided in that. The Noc had always loved the night more than other Alecani, their people had adapted to living in darkness and hunting in darkness. Their feathers had a soft edge to them, like an owl’s, which muffled the wooshing sound of their wings through the air. But Usi was quieter than that. Usi moved like smoke through the air, silent and deliberate, seemingly at the whim of the breeze, unearthly and unheard. Which was probably why he’d been chosen as one of The Harp’s guards.

"Pleasant morning, isn’t it?" Usi breathed deeply and watched the eastern horizon with Nym, not bothering to sit down with her.

"You’re getting rusty, Usi. I heard you almost a meter before you touched down," Nym chided as she grabbed at his ear playfully.

"Tcha! You just have freakish hearing for a stone dog," he retorted with a involuntary grin. "do I smell eggs?"

"Yep, I brought two. Want one?"

She handed him one of the eggs she brought, and Usi sat down and bit into it. Pleasant munching noises ensued, and the overall silence of the morning took over again. A nocturnal bird called out it’s goodnight trill, and the sun peeked over the horizon as a brilliant sliver. Usi took that as a queue.

"Can’t sit around eating eggs all day. Are you ready?"

Butterflies flittered in Nym’s stomach briefly, but she shook and stood up, dismissing the feeling. “Ready Sir!” she mumbled around the last bite of egg in her mouth.

"Don’t call me sir, stone dog," he said with a sideways grin, which vanished in a moment, "and steel yourself. The first day is always the hardest."

Nym gulped down the egg, and looked at him seriously.

"I don’t mean to scare you, but I can’t lie about the difficulties ahead. There is a reason The Shadow recommended you, though. I’ve known you for long enough to know he’s right. Have faith in yourself, Nym! This will be fun." He gave her a dark mischievous look.

Nym nodded and grabbed her small pack. The pair leaped off the stone arch and headed north east. The nocturnal bird trilled one more time. Nym’s stone cup sat in the edge forgotten. A new day, with new challenges….

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