To Slink or Not To Slink

Earlier in my career the female face and figure was not my forte – I was much more comfortable drawing guys and even more comfortable and adept at drawing vehicles and hardware than either gender.  All that changed in my mid-to-late thirties, which I attribute to living with my beautiful Saxon Princess – inspiration like that couldn’t help but improve those skills.

So here is the dilemma: do I always want to draw my female characters as beauty queens  – or as we refer to them in the studio “slinky women”? One school of thought pushes for a wider range of faces and figures or as one former student said ‘Women that don’t look like they have “Mattel” stamped on their a**”… but every time  I tone down the glitz I get negative feedback from somewhere.

Up to this point as I have been working on the Gun Kingdoms 3 I’ve following the “slinky women edict” but for this figure I went with someone more true-to-life. Actually, she is based on a real person – a teacher from my high school. I didn’t have much in the way of reference ( just an old yearbook picture) but I think I captured the basic look. She’s wearing a diving suit so there were plenty of ways I could have vamped her up but I kept everything fairly utilitarian.

2016-05-03 GK Diving Suit

Gun Kingdoms 3: Dusker Trinidad

2016-04-04 Dusker Trinidad

This was an unmitigated knee-jerk reaction to the name Scott came up with for our villain. The first time I saw the name”Dusker Trinidad” in written form I had to stop and say it aloud to myself – I immediately envisioned a large islander much like Dwayne Johnson (“The Rock”).  Try as I might I cannot see him as ‘SsCaArRyY! but neither do I see him as a particularly benign person. Amoral and hedonistic but not a jerk about it.

He reminds me of an Islander friend named Jim that I knew at Ricks College .  Jim was a service brat just like I was which meant that it was no surprise that we ended up enrolled ROTC together. Towards the end of that semester I went through a very unhappy upset and when Jim found out about he simply asked if I wanted him to find the other guy and “mess him up”.  No emotional heat involved but rather accomplishing a task for a friend and I am glad that I passed on the offer because

  •  the other guy eventually became a good friend and
  •  I swear I saw Jim drive a nail with this fist one time.

If I get too detailed or mission specific with these designs it often robs the character of…well >character< so with this rendering I stressed the “pirate” part of “submarine pirate captain”. Bits and pieces of his clothing deliberately resemble the uniform Skylla started wearing in “Airship of Fools”; I did that to build in a little ambiguity that Scott can pick up and run with if he so desires. I also have on my check-list one of his crew-members garbed in gear more fitted to “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” or “Das Boot”.

…and as for the pose? Long story involving a very funny story about The Avengers movie and the way Black Widow as posed versus the way the guys were posed.

Gun Kingdoms 3: Doc Rose

2016-04-03 Doc Rose

Authors talk often about characters writing themselves – and sometimes it happens for artists as well. It happens most often to people working in abstract when a happy accident inspires  different directions with color and composition but sometimes we crass, commercial illustrators are bitten by the bug as well.

As I started to sketch out the basic drawing for the Sand Tyger’s ship’s surgeon I experimented with several stances and as I was shuffling around the various sheets of tracing paper a few of them were superimposed for a couple of seconds, giving the illusion of multiple limbs.  It was electrifying and illuminating at the same time.

  • Doc has yet to be pictured or described in the two Gun Kingdom’s books.
  • A multi-limbed doctor would be extremely effective.
  • Who knows what path evolution would take in a mage-punk/steam-punk/fantasy setting?

My only question is how Scott is going to be able to write this….and yes, you have seen the little insignia on his suit coat pocket if you’ve followed my work. It’s been a long time since you have seen it though.


Gun Kingdoms 3: Gunner’s Mate Tourmier

2016-03-05 Gunnery Officer Tourmier

…at least I think it should be spelled that way. Scott’s original spelling was “Tormay” but as the gentleman in question claims Gallic ancestry there should be at least an attempt to “French-ify” the spelling.

It’s probably the most honest self-portrait I have ever attempted. As with any character I design there is a back story for  both clothing and equipment. That’s why his cane looks a little more involved that most sticks people on. It’s actually a split image range finder; by looking through the handle and adjusting the knobs he can estimate range-to-target and get the Sand Tyger’s guns rapidly laid on target. His side-arm is actually a flare gun, used for marking and signaling….though I do believe he also carries a few “OO” (double-ought buck-shot) rounds  for repelling boarders.

He has my facial scar and beard…and my “fire hydrant” physique. Illustrating advanced rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis  in a literal manner is beyond my skills, but I figured the leg brace and missing finger would get the point across. It is evident that Tourmier ( or “Tourmay) has been around – and been knocked around – but he’s still in there kicking.

…like someone else I know.



Gun Kingdoms 3: Mya

2016-03-04 Mya

More imagery in preparation for Gun Kingdoms 3. Mya is also a recurring character and part of the ship’s crew of the Sand Tyger, though her exact job title is…


Remember back several posts ago when I talked about “prom sexy” as opposed to blatant in-your-face raunch?  How details that are left to one’s imagination are always so much better. Well, putting a slight twist on that definition we can safely say that Mya is anyone’s prom date.

Gun Kingdoms 3: Skylla as Water Elemental

Come to think of it “water elemental” probably isn’t the correct term, but you’ll have to consult Scott Taylor on that one. All I know is that Skylla can transform into a  underwater-dweller; her skin turns a green color, her feet and hands become webbed, breathing gills form and her ears change shape to better act as  fins

…and she gets so caught up in the moment that she tears off her shirt.

2016-03-03 Transformed Skylla

….which sounds like something Fez would have said on “That ’70s Show”, but is definitely not what is behind  this  slightly clothing optional look.  It’s a  functional change,  a situation more like the Japanese ama-divers of decades ago who wore even less than Skylla is in this picture.  The reason  will become  apparent as the project continues to develop and I start posting color versions of these drawings.

…and yes,  the fact that she is not wearing her arm bands and neck piece have something  to do with what is going on here.


Gun Kingdoms 3: Petty Officer Stoneham

2016-02-03 PO Stoneham

Momentum is starting to build and it is getting interesting.

Scott has started writing Gun Kingdoms 3 and as was the case with the first two books we are working in a sort of cooperative loop (buzz-word alert)  Scott writes. I read what he writes, which inspires me to design/draw things.  Scott then studies my work and gets fired up to crunch out more words, which in turn fires me up to draw more…and so on and so forth. It is an very effective and rewarding way for a visual artist to work as it acknowledges that I am not just a pair of hands for an editor.

We are not sure how this volume will work when it comes time for crowd-funding. Scott also produces old-school gaming modules which to be honest are more profitable than “just stories”. At the same time my work lends itself more effectively to gaming – the functional detail I build into these drawings pushes them from pure artsty-fartsy illustration to a level than is more diagrammatic…but we need the stories to provide a cohesive world framework upon which we can hang the adventures.

As for Petty Officer Stoneham: he wears a combination of old uniform items and current equipment and garb. While I have not attempted any sort of specific likeness I am basing the character’s build and body language on LTC Mark Lisi with whom I served in the 172d Light Infantry Brigade (FT Richardson Alaska) in the early 1980’s. Mark and I worked together in aerial movement – getting people and stuff moved around via C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, a task made all that much easier because we were next-door neighbors. Mark still calls me “the neighbor who lies” a label based on a story too long and boring to write when I am as tired as I am right now.

Kaleb in Kolor

2015-08-1B Color Kaleb

Oddly enough I like the black & white version better.

Sometimes seeing the comprehensive sketch for a book cover is more interesting than the final painting. Spending six weeks checking every store in Anchorage for a Yoda action figure was much more gratifying that actually having the figure.

The promise is can be better than the pay-off.

Kaleb Portrait

2015-08-1A Kaleb Portrait

Scott Taylor made the comment that he’d like to see a rendering of Kaleb – our hero from the Gun Kingdoms books – in  regular clothing. I thought it would be nice too, though I can’t say without some reservation that mechanical wings are part of “regular clothing”

As far as process goes – I work the image up on successive layers of tracing paper and then when I make a final version I turn around and make a half-dozen photo-copies. I’m fairly confident with my marker work but having extra copies to fall back on in the event of an error is a good idea.

Even though this is the final ink drawing I may tweak it before adding color. For one thing some cut-outs on those main wing spars would seem in order – for reducing weight/increasing lift.

CHATTACON XL (40) Program Book Cover

2015-01-02b CHATTACON Cover Printed

We’re going to CHATTACON this weekend – the first time in about ten years. It should be a lot of fun – all the more so as we are going as Artist(s) Guest of Honor. Part of the gig involves doing the program book cover and I was lucky enough to be able to tweak my current Skyla/Gun Kingdoms project into use.

…doubly lucky in the Dee Holtsclaw did a great job with type treatment.