Tales from the Sketchbook (Solace)

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.

I wasn’t sure I’d have this in time for my game, but fortunately they’d stalled long enough the week before (when I was still working on it) that I was able to get it together, inked, and ready to go. If the coloring looks a bit rushed, that’s why.

"Thought you could avoid a plot complication, did you?"

This is Solace—you may remember her from a couple of the recent Impracs. She’s just spent the last while listening to the group make deals with one of her contacts for information about her—I think she finds them amusing—and, as they’ve walked through the doorway she’s standing next to, let them know she was present.

One of the interesting things about Solace is that she doesn’t exist; she’s a cover identity, and they all know it. The character as character sprang fully formed from my discovery that having a major antagonist who never actually showed up wasn’t doing me jot of good. I needed my troublemaker to be onstage, both so I could give them progress and something to actually hate rather than to just vaguely squint in the direction of and mutter threats, and because it usually takes a couple speaking parts to really cement a character for me. So I created a cover identity for her, one that I’d hinted at the existence of in an offstage IC conversation, found an excuse to bring her in….

I think this is the first time in a while I’ve worked from a camera reference, and possibly the first time I’ve been my own model; I had the pose in my head from the beginning, but no amount of taking it and then estimating the comparative locations of my limbs and joints was doing me a jot of good, until I finally got sick of it and gave someone else my cell phone so I could get a decent picture.

The biggest first I encountered on this one, though, was the face. Most of my faces tend to sort of bleed into each other after a while; I’ve been trying to vary eye shape, but that’s about as far as it had gotten. Solace here, though, demanded something better, so I decided to try for a haggard, almost emaciated look. It rather amazed me to discover that I could do that with a slightly more angular face shape—already a result of using a picture rather than trying to envision it—and adding one contour line, then shading the outer sides of the eyes a little. I’ve found it always sticks better when I trip over it by experiment; something about the stuff I read in art books tends not to stick, or at least not consciously.

The reflection was something of a last-minute whim; I’d tried for shiny on the walls, it failed, so I needed some other way to remind my players that what they were dealing with was an almost translucent stone with a polished shine to it. A vague, distorted reflection seemed like the next best option.

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