At the start of this blog, I said that the contents here would be everything that does not relate to my book.
These book sketch posts therefore (yes there will be several) offer a more in-depth look at some of my early character concepts, primarily because, well, that’s what I was doing most of artistically speaking during 2007, 2008 and 2009. Thus, most, if not all of these images can also be found in the ‘Concepts Pre-2013’ tab on the sister blog Black Wednesday Isle.
Obviously, I am still busy creating it all now many years later in 2013 but that’s another story…
These posts might feel a little mismatched in places but to clarify I intend to make a visual comparison between the early sketches and the current ‘final’ portraits and then waffle on about the way some of my ideas came together as I seem to be most proficient at doing that!
Now in my final year at university I had thrown some ideas together, bounced around some characters including a girl called Petra and of course our current ‘hero’ of tale, Hvidsten.
Followers of this blog likely already know that ‘Hvidsten’ was the surname of a friend of mine at university, the man who gifted me the initial character concept for our ‘warrior-type grumpy hero.’ Those readers are probably also aware that this character has a forename that begins with ‘L’, which isn't an interesting name by any means, but I am still not going to tell you!
Hvidsten and Petra haven’t altered a great deal in visual design over the years, it is more refined no doubt but with very few major corrections. Petra’s hair got longer and I perhaps made her look a bit older than in those early sketches.
I’ll be honest that I didn't realise then that Petra was a city in Saudi Arabia (Google’s to check – ok apparently Jordan isn't part of Saudi Arabia now?) because I suck at geography. Nor did I realise that it was already an established moniker, the name just came to me out of no-where and seemed to fit.
It should also be noted that I hadn't met my now husband Jethro yet either, so obviously nor had I met his mother the very similarly named Petrina.
The character of Petra actually evolved after I read Mark Haddon’s book ‘A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.’ This wasn't my usual sort of read but its simplistic way of portraying the very complex subject of autism deeply impressed me. I became fascinated with the idea of writing from the point of view of someone who thinks in an entirely different way.
Petra perhaps began then as an autistic child, and was originally written about in a similar style to the one in Mark Haddon’s book. She is often mistaken as being an autistic savant in our novel, or is viewed by other characters as being far more fragile than she is. I developed her character to possess an eidetic memory instead of being actually savant, so that as stated she simply has a different way of processing thoughts to all other characters. This is always a challenge to write but it is a challenge I enjoy.
(Fun fact: Later I was further charmed to discover that this writer Mark Haddon actually comes from my hometown of Northampton – hey – hooray for coincidences!)
Seeing as I studied psychology for a year at college, I already knew I had an interest in thought patterns and mind disorders, but until I added Petra it hadn't occurred to me that characters might relate to or express mental illnesses or disorders. I carried this idea around for a long time before implementing it. Particularly perhaps because I had decided then to tie in Cyan and Kale from my previous story but knew that I would need to rewrite and develop them in a different way for the tale I had swimming around in my head and that logically Cyan would be the depressive character. I guess because I have always created her to look like me I found this a bit of an unnerving prospect, true she had been a miserable sort in previous renditions but this would push her a step further.
Cyan I like because she has gone through the most evolutions character-wise. Visually her appearance has changed as frequently as my own, so not a great deal really. Interestingly she is also the character who annoys me the most to write about but that is perhaps because at the beginning of tale she is in a very low and dark place, a melancholy whiner as I am inclined to be at times and a very timid person as I was in my past. I want to give her a slap and tell her to wake up! I guess that’s one purpose of bolshie characters such as Amber. Cyan’s name comes literally from my interpretation of the colour cyan as an insipid shade of blue.
So where did Kale come from and why is he named after a vegetable?
I have often wondered that myself, I don’t recall specifically when he emerged but I knew him well right from the start, a face and persona I feel I have always known but cannot place. The name ‘Kale,’ equally was another that just seemed to instantly fit perhaps because it sounds meek and limp and is therefore opposite to his persona.
Close to my heart then is this purported ‘sociopath’ and I really couldn't say why. He was always Cyan’s sire (maker) and seems to have become more insane over the years. You could parry a ‘father-figure’ onto him if you discount the fact that he isn't one bit like my father and that I have never ever known a violent aggressor of a man.
As an extroverted character who has many expressions and a cheeky one who likes to play act Kale often pops up in my artwork. Here are the two most recent renditions:
Left = an ACEO made for Halloween 2013 titled ‘Hand on Heart.’
Right = A 5x7 card created for charity on the theme of Island Dreams, titled ‘Wish You Weren’t Here.’
Yes, he has a dislike of clothing beyond loose denims and would happily strut about naked.
You might also notice he has a quirk about his feet, more specifically he hates ‘things’ touching them; that part comes directly from me, because I hate having crumbs and bits stuck to my bare feet.
Our Main Antagonist and Protagonist
One evening I sat down and wrote a back-story involving two brothers and that was that.
Luke and Evan were born that day and the groundwork for the world I wanted to create was set.
It should be noted that the back-story isn't, in my opinion, the greatest bit of writing, possibly crafted through a student-type alcohol haze when I felt most inspired to just shove it all down on paper and be done with it. It is mostly a very long form of notes and although I've let a few folks read it, its purpose was never truly to be a standalone short story. Perhaps one day I will revisit the piece and give it a good scrubbing overhaul but for now, it’s my notes about the beginnings of our fictional world.
The middle image here was the first one, they are 16 and 18 years old in the back-story, so the first concept was them as teenagers. The later sketches are meant to be them in their mid-twenties; this is the 'freeze' point for the way they should look no matter what age they currently are.
This back-story stayed as just another one-off for quite some time whilst I played around with character design and ideas for the actual book I wanted to write. Then I wrote chapters and chapters (whilst at work *ahem*) about this place in my head and the scant few characters I had at the time.
Further images and insights I shall however save for the next posting.