Lovecraft described some of his creations in great detail. Others are described in ways that are give the reader a vague sense of the thing and leave the specifics to his/her imagination. And others are left as vague eldritch monstrosities, barely comprehensible to the human mind. Shub Niggurath is one of those. So she (it) can be depicted however seems most appropriate.
This is the Ugly Dog of Heaven. He made his first appearance in a minicomic I did with my brother, Glenn, back in 1989. Glenn wrote it, I drew it. That minicomic got reprinted in The Treasury of Mini Comics, volume 1. Most flatteringly, the publisher used a image of him on the spine of the book.
Glenn later wrote him into segments of his thousand experiment on his Lovesettlement blog: each day for a thousand days he wrote a post of 100 words. If he didn’t finish a sentence one day he’d carry it on to the next. 100 words a day for a thousand days resulted in a 100,000 word stream of consciousness ramble. Is it a novel? An epic prose poem? An incantation to summon strange gods? Yes.
I’ve spent some time over the last four years trying to figure out a graphic novel project that a writer friend and I could collaborate on. I like his writing. He likes my illustration. We never did find a story that we both were willing to invest the time and money to take to completion.
At one point, while working out a possible scene in a possible plot, he asked whether I wanted the protagonist to battle a tyrannosaurus rex or a giant squid. My first thought was “Why not both?” but I think I told him that I preferred a tyrannosaur.
The “Why not both?” thought stuck with me and the “both” element had me decide to combine the two creatures into one. Sorta.
“Words could not adequately convey the repulsiveness of the thing. It was endowed with a trunk and great, uneven ears, and two enormous tusks protruded from the corners of its mouth. But it was not an elephant. Indeed, its resemblance to an actual elephant was, at best, sporadic and superficial, despite certain unmistakable points of similarity. The ears were webbed and tentacled, the trunk terminated in a huge flaring disk at least a foot in diameter, and the tusks, which intertwined and interlocked at the base of the statue, were as translucent as rock crystal.”
One of the reasons that I’m so fond of the so-called Cthulhu Mythos is its breadth and diversity. H.P. Lovecraft may have originated it but it has long since outgrown his writings. Howard Belknap Long was a writer who added to the Mythos during Lovecraft’s lifetime. His most notable creations are the Hounds of Tindalos and the fellow above, Chaugnar Faugn. All of Lovecraft’s work is in the public domain, easily found and therefore easily read. Long’s work is still under copyright and, because Long has not retained a lot of posthumous popularity, requires some effort to track down. As far as I can tell, the Seattle Library has nothing by him in its collections. As such, I haven’t read The Horror from the Hills, the story that first features Chaugnar Faugn.
But what the hell, I have read T.E.D. Klein‘s Black Man with a Horn, featuring a version of Chaugnar Faugn that only vaguely resembles the original, and I felt like drawing an eldritch abomination so … here he is.
Last Sunday I posted my basic sketches for the individual images that I planned to have make up the cover for Tails of Valor. Here’s what I did to turn those images into the final cover illustration.
Using Photoshop I collaged the images in a variety of ways to find a balance that looked good. The version below is number seven.
Once I figured out the basic layout I did a rough sketch that combined all the images in a way that (hopefully) worked together aesthetically.
Next I did detailed pencils of each scene. We (the book’s editor and I) decided to have me do each scene as a separate image and then have book’s cover designer put them all together for the final product. I regularly combined my working images in order to be sure that I was getting a good balance for the final illustration.
Next I “flatted” images for coloring, meaning I separated out specific areas of each image that I wanted to be able to color individually. At this point I wasn’t necessarily choosing the final colors that I planned to use, just something close.
And then I started adding detailed colors, adjusting colors on specific layers, doing gradients and playing with different brushes. I really don’t have much to say from here on. There was trial. There was error. There was “Hey! That looks good!”
I hopped back and forth between all the illustrations but, in the beginning, I spent most of my time on the Egypt and Rome sections.
I made my biggest post-pencil changes here by moving the jumping cat in the Rome section up in space. The change doesn’t look like much but it makes the scene livelier.
And done. Mostly. I’ve made some tiny adjustments to parts of the illustrations since I created the jpeg below but I’m probably the only person who will notice them.
Golden Goblin Press will be kickstarting Tails of Valor in July. I’ll put a post about that when the time comes.
I haven’t had a chance to finish any new illustrations for this site. I’ve been working on a cover for Tails of Valor, a collection of scenarios for the Cathulhu version of the Call of Cthulhu RPG to be published by Golden Goblin Press. There are three scenarios in the book: one set in Ancient Egypt during the time of the Pharaohs, one set in 15th century France during witch hysteria and one set in Rome at the time of Caligula. The editor asked me to create a cover that featured images from all three adventures.
Multiple image covers are tricky. You’ve got to balance the images and colors so that the results are pleasing rather than just chaotic. I started by sketching an image for each scenario by itself. I figured that once I knew which basic image I would illustrate I could then figure out how to combine them in a way that looked good.
The Rome image.
Come back Wednesday for a process post of the cover from pencils to final colors.
These are the finalish character designs for this year’s abandoned graphic novel project. I say “finalish” because, until I had actually started penciling the story pages I’m sure that we would have made more adjustments. The big guy’s artificial eye’s final design was still being worked out. The uniform probably would have gotten a tweek or two.
Am I likely to ever use these designs for characters in a project of my own?
Mostly not. They were designed with a specific story in mind and so, with one exception, they’re not likely to continue living in my imagination. The one exception is the monster. I’ve gotten found of the critter. I can’t use it for any version of this story – the writer owns the plot – but I can imagine it turning up in other places.