Tales from the Sketchbook: The Peacock

A picture paints a thousand words; a picture with context can say a lot about a game; but explanations of the random sketches of an artist-gamer can say the most of all. In this series, I look at the just-had-to-draw-them images distilled from my games: what they are, what they mean, why they demanded drawing, and what techniques and in-jokes went into them.

Most of my Tales sketches are pre-existing characters (mine or someone else’s, I’m not picky), or characters I’m going to need really soon and know exactly how to introduce. This one, though, isn’t.

Seriously, what was I thinking?

This is The Peacock, from my primary game’s timeline. If it has a name, it hasn’t told me what it is, simply that it’s a demon, and connected to my demon-spider Akhterim. I’ve played with a couple ideas about its history, some of which did work their way into the artwork itself, but I can’t really commit on anything yet; I want to keep a few secrets, after all. It’ll show up; one of my players, seeing the artwork, even requested that it make an appearance. Just… not yet.

It’s not just the context that makes the Peacock different from my other creations. One aspect is how it was created—unlike most of my animal pictures (take Shizuyo, for instance), it didn’t have a reference picture. (Fortunately, demon peacock feathers don’t have to look like other peacocks’ feathers.) Another is the sheer level of complexity; while I’ve had segments of a project that could be construed as similarly complex, I haven’t done something that ambitious since. While it was before I really understood penciling techniques, it was after I learned to appreciate the power of inking—so yes, if the color changes, there is a line there, usually in .005 stationery pen.

As for the picture itself, it’s a classic example of “I got bored, therefore…” In this case, the situation was a really, really long train trip up the US West Coast. I love the Coast Starlight, but it’s a long enough trip to begin with, and worse when it runs into the usual shared-track delays. And that time around, I hadn’t packed near enough reading material. So partway in, I drew the body, then started in on the feathers. The pencil version was done by the time I finished the trip; the inking and coloring, after I made a ‘coloring sheet copy’, took a week at my parents’ house and my first month of my senior year of college. (I imagine the girl whose patience I complimented, not realizing the irony of doing so while I was working on the fourth feather, must have gotten an interesting impression.)

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