Aug 30, 2010

Naga Fireballs

Sorry for the slight lapse in posting, everyone. The majority of the last week was spent holed up in my apartment frantically cracking away at a couple of things. This is one of them, a two-page spread and spot for Muse Magazine, with art directed by the World Famous John Sandford.

The story these accompany is about the Naga Fireballs, a natural (probably) phenomenon that occurs in the Mekong river in Thailand's Nong Khai province. Dozens of witnesses annually report these pinkish lights that rise up off the waters surface and hover, stationary, before ascending into the sky. Thousands of these lights are reported each year.

Experts credit the lights to pockets of methane gas trapped in the riverbed which are released and ignite when exposed to oxygen. Some superstitious locals credit them to the Naga, a god-serpent that makes its home in the Mekong river. The lights are also called "ghost fireballs."

Fun fact: the Wat Pa Luang temple is a regular hotspot for these lights. The temple is also famous for its monks who keep bengal tigers.

A couple of details:

An accompanying spot, depicting the shadow of the Naga:
The final spread, with the title text that I also drew, as well as the article.
I did a textured background for the third page of the article, which is overlaid with the spot:
After reading the article, a few obvious things flew to the surface immediately: Buddhist monks, clad in their saffron and red robes, the pink lights, the mysterious Naga. I wanted to downplay both the scientific and mythological explanation for the fireballs and focus solely on the phenomenon. I knew I could hint further at the folklore in the spot, but I wanted to keep the spread relatively grounded in reality. Trawling the internet for reference images yielded photo after photo of the local fishermen who work on the Mekong every day.

Among the few liberties I took with the source material, the biggest was that the article specifically states that the lights occur at night. John mentioned that he'd rather have a light background with darker text overlaid and I was totally for it. Hovering lights at night always evokes aliens to me, and lights in the mist says will-o-wisps, which is closer. Having lights occurring in the daytime also clarifies that these aren't being shined from a source but are themselves the source.

Aug 18, 2010


Kali and I were listening to the Harry Potter audiobooks a few weeks ago while we were working. They're pretty good to work to. Don't really care for the films much, I have to say. They made a lot of bad decisions during the production phase of all those movies. Pretty fun books, though.

I thought it would be pretty cool if Voldemort had flaky skin like snakes get when they're about to shed. Remember when he was that little talking fetus? And then later he was that gross, raw fetus guy under the bench in heaven? That was some weird stuff.

The "Half Way" on the bottom was a little note to myself that these pages mean I officially passed the half-way point of this sketchbook. I started this one in June, so I feel pretty good that I'm cruising through. This is a really terrific sketchbook that Mel Chao and Mark Grambau of To Boldly Fold sent me, and if anyone's looking for an amazing looking sketchbook filled with Rives BFK, go to Mel's store and pick one up.

Aug 11, 2010

Dead guys again

There are some dead guys in the story I'm currently working on, but these are more prospective, since the next story has a principal character who is a corpse. I feel like it's necessary for anyone interested in drawing fantasy or horror to know how to draw a good corpse, since it's surprising how often they pop up in stories.

Dead or decayed bodies are an interesting challenge as an artist. When you're drawing living figures, you can really play with shapes since flesh, muscle, and fat vary so much person to person. However, when you break that down and you're relying more on the skeleton and less on the soft tissue, the focus has to change. Unless you're the Elephant Man, your skeleton and skull probably looks just about the same as anybody else. Gesture gives way to texture and the form naturally takes on more angularity. Once the structure of the skull or skeleton is established you can start adding on uneven layers of the remaining flesh. It's all very gruesome and interesting to think about.

This applies also to zombies and the undead in general.

A fun fact about corpses is that the hair and nails continue to grow for a few days after death.

These guys work in a quarry, or they used to, I guess. They mostly just lie around rotting these days.

Next time I'll draw some baby deer or whatever.

Aug 10, 2010


The prince isn't a major character, but he exists and so I had to draw him. When I hit the middle drawing I knew I wanted him to be a general or an admiral-- some sort of war hero and then I got distracted drawing medals and here we are.

Reed told me to draw a corpse prince and so there he is.

Aug 9, 2010

Eagles 1

The eagles, like the wolves (wargs) in The Hobbit have always seemed weird to me. I don't know why, but even as a kid I wasn't really ready to believe that these were talking animals. For whatever reason, despite the elves and trolls and dragons, the things that kept sticking out to me were that the birds and dogs talked. It was weird.

By all accounts and purposes these are just regular eagles (and wolves), but bigger and they talk. Seems a little weird. I guess it just seemed really cartoonish, in a bad way. Like I was watching Winnie the Pooh with that talking owl.

I'm hoping to inject a little humanity into this design without anthropomorphizing it and without making it seem like a Disney movie. I originally planned on doing something like the bird people in Zelda, and that may still happen at some point in the design phase.

At this point, however, I'm just getting used to drawing birds. They are some weird things.

Aug 6, 2010

More dead guys

Getting better...

My work already has a pretty heavy Mignola influence, that's pretty easy to see. I'm a huge fan of his work and besides that we have a lot of the same influences (Frazetta, Wyeth, etc. Shape-based illustrators and painters), so when I'm drawing things that dip into his familiar territory (i.e. SKULLS), it's hard not to draw the parallel. It just means that I need to tap into some other vein. These are starting to drift in a good direction, though I'm sure I'll never be rid of that looming shadow. I'm not sure I'd want to be.

Aug 5, 2010

Dead guys

These corpses are part of a new project I'm working on. They are unfortunately a very small part, but you can never be too practiced at CORPSE DRAWING.

Also, a new project after this other new project has a lot of corpses to draw, so you know, always be prepared.

Aug 3, 2010

Some more pokemon

I must apologize for the recent lapse in posting. I've been working on some things that don't have pictures yet. I'll continue to try and show some nonsense until I can post some more substance.

I guess I remember some Pokemon better than others. I was on a Poison-type kick today.