Starting on the 19th of December, Skyrgámur descends from his mother’s volcanic cave and wreaks havoc on the poor, humble folk that leave their Skyr unattended. Skyr. Mighty cultured dairy product of the gods. It’s like thick yogurt, but less intensely flavored.
Skyrgámur, like all of the Yule Lads, loves to menace the common folk. His prefered brand of menace seems a little passive compared to, say, Stekkjarstaur, who loves to harass sheep. Skyrgámur just likes to break into people’s houses and eat all of their skyr. His name literally means Skyr-gobbler. I’m starting to think old Gryla was running out of ideas for terrible deeds for her sons to commit by the time Skyrgámur came around. Then again, he does have a brother who licks spoons, so maybe Gryla just has a skewed sense of menace.
Still, I imagine if Skyrgámur came calling with his assembled brothers and that infernal Yule Cat, things might get a little freaky.
I used to manage the entire overnight operations of the banking arm of a Fortune 500 company. I was promoted to the position because I could see inherent flaws in certain types of operational practices and came to the table with multiple solutions that might work to solve that problem. Said company was impressed, and thought “let’s give this guy a team comprised of student loans specialists, as well as a smattering of investment ninjas from the consumer banking department.” There was a parade, balloon animals, and all was good in the world.
That was, to put it bluntly, the second worst decision made in any of my vocational arrangements. The first worst decision was me accepting the job. I am not in any way a Leader of Men. I don’t have a lot of compassion for people who don’t want to work, and I have little patience for laziness. I work my ass off, and if anyone is working with me, I expect the same. I don’t work well in the traditional American Corporate Management structure because I don’t want to babysit, coddle, or motivate anyone… I just want to get the job done. Quickly, and in a preferably efficient manner.
The first realization that they had made a terrible mistake was when they had me take the Carnegie Strengths in Business test. The typical Strengths that a strong manager would have were WAAAAAAY at the bottom of my list, whereas problem solving traits were towards the top. Something called Ideation was the giant cherry on top.
What is Ideation? Well, it’s a mindset that is always thinking of new ways to do something, or just new somethings in general. I do it all the time. I am doing it right now. Imagine, now, working for someone who isn’t in the slightest bit worried about how your work performance is today, because he’s thinking of ways to streamline the way you do your job in the future? It’s a trainwreck scenario for a call center. For a creative job, though, it’s pretty cool. It’s the kind of thing that turns a mundane afternoon of reading history into the life and times of vampire Andrew Jackson.
I am self employed. I get to make decisions that could make or break our business, and that keeps me pretty motivated to stay on task and keep things moving. The only time it gets bad, though, is when my brain starts working on something else altogether. We might be working on new menu items for the restaurant, but my brain is trying to figure out how to work a gear on a puppet. I don’t make puppets, but my brain is trying to work it out. I have to shove that aside right now, and focus on the task at hand.
Here’s the problem, though; I have this idea for a game literally rampaging around the brain right now. Yesterday, it was a variation on the traditional Rummy card game, but instead of face cards and number cards it would have been body parts and sabotage cards, with the goal of laying down a stitched together monster before your opponent can sabotage your lab. Today, it’s a deck building game. (I don’t know anything about deck building games…) Tomorrow, it might be a traditional board game with dice and pawns. By next week, it might be a fully interactive RPG using puppets (what is the deal with freaking puppets this week?).
This is the curse of the creative process. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. It’s a huge part of what makes me who I am, and part of how I go from drawing a graphic novel in July to having a published coloring book in August. The creative ammunition is crammed in there, waiting to be fired off. I just need to aim a bit.
I was working on a mermaid concept for the mythology book last night, and realized that I didn’t want your standard fish lady to represent the Undersea Realms. So, I looked up a bunch of different fish and got really into the lionfish. They are pretty amazing to look at, and have some really neat spines, patterns, and colors. I decided that the lionfish would be the basis of my mermaid design, and here she is:
I still need to work out a background image for her, it’ll probably be a shipwreck of some sort or another. My grandfather loved old sailing ships, and I inherited a little of that. I love the haunted mystique of a wrecked ship on the sea floor.
A friend of mine recently remarked that some plumbing problems we were having were due to Vodniks; my confused, vacant-eyed response led to a really fun story about some Czech friends of hers that blamed Vodnik on any plumbing problems that came up.
It’s been a few months now, and as the resident Cryptozoologist of Salt Lake City, I decided to do a little digging on my drippy little house guests.
The Vodnik is the Slavic cousin to the Russian Vodyanoy, a far more sinister fellow (they are all males) that haunts lakes and rivers. The Vodyanoy are frog like creatures, with aged bodies, froggy faces, fish tales, and long, stringy beards and hair. They paddle about on half sunken logs with their webbed hands, looking for unwary locals to drown. They seem to like wandering about without any clothes, too. Sound familiar?
The Vodnik, by contrast, seems more human like in features, although they are a greenish tint and tend to be covered in moss. They wear tattered, cast off clothing, and also loiter about lakes and rivers. Unlike the Vodyanoy, which are mostly malevolent, Vodniks can be beneficial or dangerous, depending on their mood.
One area that Vodyanoy and Vodnik overlap is that they keep little ceramic containers with them, in which they store the souls of people who have drowned in their domain. The crockery is considered currency to these folk, and a large collection of souls is a sure sign of wealth and influence. If the crockery is opened, however, the soul escapes in the form of a bubble, leaving the vessel it was in worthless.
Fishermen and people who make their living on the water will leave offerings of tobacco to the vodnik, in hopes that they will leave them alone or help them in their industry. A vodnik who feels slighted may attack local water features, such as dams, well, (possibly plumbing) and locks. This behavior has also been reported with Vodyanoy.
As I was proofing earlier pages of the Miller’s Daughters, I realized I had made a pretty big mistake. I had missed an introduction of the Miller himself, and went from a nice scenery page to a page detailing the family dynamic of the Miller and his children. Oops. Over the weekend I put together a new page to introduce the poor old chap, and thought I would share. Here are the finished inks for the page, followed by the same art with shading.
I’ll be adding text to the bottom of the page, and amending the text that was on the original second page of the story!
I get these horrific creative blocks from time to time, and nothing that I am working on has the power to move my pen. When times like these come up, I draw monsters. This week, though, luchadores worked themselves into the mix, because, well, luchadores.
Luckily for me, these little drawings got me fired up about the Night Circus, so I designed the background monsters for the circus:
I got lucky this week, too. The next page for the Miller’s Daughters decided to stop being such a brat, and I was able to get the inks done for that one, too. I should have the fully finished page up tomorrow!
I have a few friends that extol the virtues of warming up with “meaningless” doodles before a drawing session, and I am really beginning to understand why. That practice not only loosens up your wrist and fingers, it also loosens up the creative faculties in your mind, making you a better conduit to express your thoughts!
In Leicestershire, England, there is a little cave carved into a sandstone cliff. There is an oak tree growing there, and tatters of thin, translucent cloth can be seen fluttering in the breeze upon its branches. This is the bower of Black Agnes, and should be avoided at all costs.
Where the story of Black Agnes (or Annis) originated is lost to history; some say she is the spirit of an ancient Anchorite who died in the cave, others say she is the remnant of the old goddess Danu, pissed as hell and haunting the cave. Some speculate that she is a remnant of the Hindu goddess Kali, with whom she shares some characteristics. Others say she was manufactured by exhausted parents who needed a good bogeyman to keep their kids out of the woods.
Black Annis is a stooped and aged creature, with sharp iron talons. Her skin is blue, which helps her blend into the night and hunt her favorite prey, which consists entirely of human children. Agnes would lurk outside of a home and wait for a child to wander away into the woods, were she would grab them and haul them off to her bower to eat.
The ancient oak tree outside of Annis’s cave was used to cure the skins of her victims, which she would later drape across her body as skirts and shawls. It is said that Agness carved out the cave herself with her iron-clad claws, and that she still lives there to this day.
Research for most monsters can be a lot of fun, and pretty educational, too. Take this week’s Monster Monday inductee, the Redcap. I had no idea that the people of the border region between Scotland and England had their own unique legends. Makes sense, though, given that this area has been contested and fought over for centuries. Conflict tends to be the mortar with which great legends are built.
Redcaps are malicious, foul little fiends that live in the abandoned castles and ruins throughout the border regions. They may be related to goblins, or faeries, or perhaps some sort of inbred cave dwarf, but no one can really tell for sure; most folk that glimpse them are too busy running away to tell. Sadly, this rarely works, as Redcaps are some of the fastest creatures of the Other and can easily catch up with the fleetest of human feet.
Redcaps have long, tapered fingers, weathered faces, and red tinged eyes. They also sport bright red caps, sewn expertly from human skin. Redcaps are vicious and accomplished slaughterers of humans that wander too close to their haunts, and it’s not just for sport, either; the Redcap needs to keep its hat soaked in fresh blood to stay alive. If the cap dries out, the Redcap will die. Needless to say, this rarely happens.
Redcaps are also known to carry long pikes, which they are very accomplished with. They wear heavy, iron-shod boots, which may be worn to lull their prey into a false sense of security, or perhaps to keep them from running too fast to stay in this realm.
While Redcaps are very common in the Border areas between England and Scotland, there have been several stories of their antics in Ireland, too. The only reliably documented way to defeat a Redcap is to try and hide from them, which is next to impossible, since they tend to know the lay of their lands very well. If you find yourself in the hunting grounds of one of these horrid little beasts, it’s best to make your peace with life; there is probably not much of it left to live.
Page 24 and 25 and probably the hardest for me, because I really held out hope that I would change my mind on the outcome. On the other hand, I already wrote the ending of the story back in November of 2015, and the outcome of these two pages are crucial to the story’s resolution.
Several different drafts of the page breakdown have come and gone, with the conclusion that the long-form, single panel page works best for this part of the story. Here is the script for page 24:
Full page panel: A waterfall takes up most of the page, with little Ophie perched in her tree on the left. Foam and spray from the river below take up the bottom of the page. Text takes up the middle portion of the page.
The Rake slowly, reverently unwrapped the package, he took extra care not to spill the small cakes and pastry (he had an infamous sweet-tooth, and cavities to match) that had been wrapped up within. He licked his lips, gathered his sling, and began to fling the sugary treats at the poor girl in the tree. Being as he was an excellent shot, the branches surrounding our poor, doomed child were quite liberally spattered with sweets.
The Rake opened his pack and prodded the excitable badgers within to action. The poor little creatures had been left in an intentional state of constant hunger, and smelling sweets nearby, the badgers furiously scrambled up into the tree, climbing in a most chaotic fashion towards the increasingly panicked girl above.
Ophie lost her nerves, and began to shuffle slowly away from the safety of her perch. She lost her footing on a patch of sugar-coated bark, and tumbled out of the tree.
He really is a despicable character; I have omitted several pages of his backstory just because he is so rotten… but I might bring them back in, those pages would be a lot of fun to draw!
Here is the original concept art for the Rake, from late 2015:
The deputy who compiled the report also wrote that several children said they “believe the clowns stay in a house located near a pond at the end of a man-made [trail] in the woods.”
I’m a pretty compassionate guy, and I would love for everyone in the world to be able to do their thing and not have to deal with the judgement of others for it. But CLOWNS? IN THE WOODS? And they have a squat-house by a pond? There is no amount of gasoline that could deal with this.