Steampunk: Tempest Huckstep

el31

July, 1879

Tempest Huckstep, also known as the Angel of Death, is an expert sharpshooter who lives as a gun for hire in the American west.  Her weapon of choice is the Spencer repeater rifle.  She is also known as Hell’s Belle, for rumors claim she also has otherworldly abilities that could only be the result of witchcraft.  She rarely stays in one town for long because she is constantly hounded by lawmen of a federal agency called the “Secret Service” who seem more concerned with any books she may have in her possession than with any crimes she may have committed.

Tempest was born in Illiopolis, Illinois in 1855.  The “City of Illinois,” virtually the exact geographic center of the state, was at first a small collection of log cabins which were destroyed by fire and remained little more than abandoned grassland for nearly twenty years until the railroad came through in 1853.  This sudden link to the state capitol of Springfield, twenty-five miles directly to the west, spurred the town’s rebirth.  Tempest’s father Abner, known as an ingenious inventor by the general public and a talented sorcerer and occultist to a few close friends (including a Springfield lawyer named Abraham Lincoln) owned several hundred acres outside of the town.  It was here he designed specialized steam-powered engines and experimented with electricity over twenty years before Edison and Tesla would. 

By the time Tempest was seven years old, the war between the states was shaping up to be a drawn out conflict, and Abner’s old friend, now President of the United States, called upon him to improve upon artillery range and accuracy. Few people in the future would know that it was no coincidence that Abner’s property would be part of what would become the Sangamon Ordinance Plant in 1942 after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, for Lincoln had also directed Abner to secretly use his other talents to design weaponry unlike anything the world had ever known. 

Despite her young age, Tempest acted as her father’s apprentice in all of his works, both occult and mundane, as had been the custom among sorcerers for over a thousand years. 

Abner’s exotic weaponry, such as an armored steam-wagon that could shoot controlled bolts of lightning, were never manufactured because he did not turn over his designs and diaries to the government.  The civil war had claimed too many lives, and he feared his weapons would contribute to such carnage across the world.  Upon Lincoln’s assassination and hints of deeper conspiracy, Abner set fire to his own laboratories in an attempt to convince the world that all of his work was destroyed in a tragic accident. 

The ruse seemed to have worked for years, until he learned of unknown parties making discrete inquiries about him.  Fearing the worst, he hid his diaries among his now young teenage daughter’s text books and sent her off to a private school in Texas.  The last time Tempest saw her father alive was at the train station, where instead of loving words of encouragement and promises of reunion, her father told her to remember all that she had learned from him, to keep these things secret, and to trust no one.

 

May 13, 2016

Artwork, characters and story: copyright, Louis Eliopoulos

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Ah, what can I say.  The inspiration for this piece is a photo by Annette Kerstin  (Annette Kerstin Photography) of a friend of mine back in 2015.  I loved the lighting and the pose, and there was something about the look on her face that every time I would look away and back, the expression seemed to read differently… mild happiness, amusement, smugness, boredom… it was sort of “Mona Lisa smile-ish”… so I thought one way to lock down a look of “I’m a badass” was to add guns, lol.

As I had bought a new computer since the last paints I did, I had to reinstall and set up the various paint and tablet software and in doing so stumbled across obvious brush settings I simply never looked at before, and to save a lot of techno babble, avoided traps I had constantly fallen into previously.  I played movie soundtracks on Youtube for background music, mostly Star Trek I (majestic vibe) and II (courage under conflict vibe) and at the end tried out Conan the Barbarian (yes, Arnold’s movie) which turned out to be ridiculously great, with sections reminiscent of Verdi and others of Bolero.  Truly epic fantasy music.

In the end, this paint went rather smoothly though there are at least fifty layers of drawn elements in this thing.  I also did it at a large size and resolution, so you can zoom in really close and it still is detailed and can be printed in large format.  For example, you can see the individual threads of the scraped up knee of her jeans, or the engraving on the rifle, and the stitching on her bags and corset.  I still use the “burn” tool a lot though other artists say to avoid it… I just love the way it adds texture to fabrics and skin instead of having to overlay textures on separate layers.

The piece perhaps took 8 hours of drawing time spread across five or six sessions. Its hard to say, because in between sessions, and often in the middle of them, I did a lot of internet searches both for historical accuracy and source photos.  Searches involved history of rifles (settling on the Spencer, the one I created is a combo of 3 different rifles I found), Victorian clothing and patterns, saddle bags, steam engines, trains, peacock feathers, Civil War history, Abraham Lincoln, Illiopolis, Illinois, and more.

At first I had intended on full-blown steampunk, but the engineer in me has a problem with how SP fans have turned the characters into steam powered people as opposed to Victorian era people using steam engines and contraptions.  I was going to replace some body parts with robotics in my earliest sketches, and even designed cable/gear/pulley systems to replace tendons in the hand and forearm, but kept thinking that though it would work mechanically, how would this connect biologically?  And if things are steam powered, who the hell wants to carry a burning furnace and boiler on their back?  This is the issue I have with a lot of steampunk creations… either its overdone and impossible, or people simply glue a bunch of gears to their costume for aesthetics.  As if a vampire would wear a shirt with a bunch of batman logos all over it to make him look more vampy.

When the drawing was looking more Western than Steampunk though, I decided to come up with a story or character bio to maybe inspire me or direct me in which way to go, or at least let me trick myself into satisfying the need for steam.  I knew the general time period, I just needed a location, and that’s when I found Illiopolis, which was too good to pass up as it is almost identically pronounced as my last name (Eliopoulos).  The tiny town had, as a local historian put it, “narrowly missed” history on several occasions… it’s geographical location and name was meant to set it up as the state capitol (as Indianapolis is to Indiana), but the capitol wound up 25 miles west.  The Lincolns likely came into Illinois through here, and Abe himself likely slept here a few times as he had friends here, and ever the Donner Party (who’s hungry?) had ties to the area.

Overall I’m pretty happy with this, though I could add on a few more trinkets and gadgets, and I learned a little bit of history to boot.

 

 

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Skullbaby

ajla_skull

Yes, I’m still alive.

A little surprised though to see that I haven’t posted anything in over a year, and really only because I haven’t done any “serious” drawing in that long.  By serious I mean sitting for a couple hours at a stretch.  There have been the occasional doodles and and 20 second sketches… oh, God that’s just sad.

Well, the other day I decided that, dag-gummit, I was a gonna set myself down and draw.  I had intended on doing this drawing for a very long time, as I loved the source photo when I first saw it.  The girl pictured was one of three I worked with a couple years ago whose face paints I did for Halloween.  This make-up was my favorite of the bunch, especially cause it was so well-framed by her hair.  I altered her selfie a little bit at the collar for the sake of symmetry, but otherwise this is what she looked like.

It’s neat (to me at least) to cover half the picture with my hand, flip it to the other side, then back again… “so pretty…so scary… so pretty… so scary….”

Couldn’t think of a title though, started with “skull…..” and the word “baby” popped into my head.  One of those word association things cause there’s a song called ‘Skullbaby’ by a punk band called the Didjits I used to see (what seemed every other week) back at U of I (Illinois at Urbana) in 1987.  They were usually packaged with another local indie band called the Poster Children.

‘Skullbaby’ always struck me as amusing cause the lyrics began:

“Momma had a skullbaby… and it screeeeamed all night long… you would scream too if all you had was a skull!”

Back then, I had my friend copy his copy of the Didjit’s home-made CD onto a cassette for me… but thanks to the internet I see all this stuff is available on Youtube, and I am blaring what was, in 1987, the new album ‘Hey Judester’.

Holy crap that was nearly thirty years ago.  How is it I still know the songs but couldn’t even tell you what classes I took without looking at my transcripts?

 

Trapeze

trapeze3 trapeze2trapeze1

 

Well, I finally found the time to head over to another figure drawing workshop.  This was a five hour session, but I had missed the first hour since I was at work Saturday morning.  There were about a dozen artists, and the media used was quite varied: digital painting, oils, watercolors, pencils, charcoals, etc.

The petit model had brought in her trapeze set up, which was hung from the exposed ceiling structure of the converted warehouse which serves as the art studio.  She was up at about six feet off the ground, and did a variety of poses in five minute intervals, where she would sort of stretch and get the blood flowing and all that, then get back into the pose again.  There were perhaps three or four poses over the course of the afternoon.

Early on I was griping to myself about how my butt was uncomfortable in the metal folding chair, but then I looked up at the model who basically was perched on a bar as thick as a towel rack, and decided my suffering was paltry compared to hers, ha ha.  On the other hand, I must weigh 2 or 2-1/2 times as much as she did, so at least I have a smidgen of justification.

My line drawing seemed to come relatively easy today; I didn’t have to scribble-erase much.  If I find the time, I think these would look nice with some digital touch-ups like a toned background and playing with the page dimensions to improve the composition.

It was nice to be drawing again instead of writing!

Zel’s portrait

zel

Well, I’m still plugging away at “Fabelwald Book II: Dandle & Lion”, which is why I’ve completely ignored this blog.  Actually, I’m reworking Book I as well a little bit. I have settled on a consistent cover layout for the series, so will reissue “Mythic Forest” with a new cover (the first design I had painted, but then not used) AND inserting a handful of character portraits AND adding a very short chapter at the end to allow for ‘loose ends’ to be picked up in future novels.

The portrait here is a 4×6 digital paint of the main character (Zel, aka Rapunzel) for Book I.  The following pics show the process… I sketched directly into the computer, then messed around until I came up with something that looks like stone for her window frame (on a separate layer).  On a third layer I underpainted the sketch with basic blobs of light and shadow.  I then duplicated the sketch layer (to save a clean copy) and merged it with the light/shadow layer… this allowed me to smudge and paint around the sketch, instead of having to essentially redo the sketch in a new layer of paint.  Finally came the long process of detailing and refining…. eventually getting down to adding individual strands of fly-away hair, freckles, birthmarks, etc.

I also tried adding a little bit of blur as you get towards the edges of the pic, and I kind of like the looseness of those areas.  The problem I keep running into is that I zoom in too much to smooth out the fine areas of color change on the face, which looks great zoomed in, but then when I zoom out to the “actual size” the paint looks strange… Its obvious there’s too much drawn in detail and there is a sort of harshness about the whole thing.  I need someone to stand behind me and slap me upside the head when I press the zoom button!

Sticking to a “rougher” paint will likely not only look nicer (more like oil paint) and save me hours of work no one can see.  Well, actually, the detail DOES allow me to print much larger sized work and even print out zoomed-in, individual areas… but really, unless by some miracle these drawings go viral and people start demanding poster versions, I’ll never use that option.

So, its back to having someone just slap me upside the head.

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Book Cover 1

cover 1

Boy, its been a while….

Where have I been the last 3 months?

Let’s see… in Feb. I had some water leaks in the basement, and my free time was eaten by cleaning, tossing damaged stuff, knocking holes in drywall to find the cracks, having them repaired…

March I went to Puerto Rico during spring break week with the wife and kids, it was very nice…

April was Easter stuff at work, doing some big yard work, etc

May, just taking it easy.

number of drawings made: ZERO

I did scribble once or twice, and worked on novel covers (one drawing is at perhaps 40% complete) the other is shown here, perhaps 95% complete (I want to redo her face and punch up the lighting).

What novels you ask?

Last year I toyed with writing a fantasy story to go along with a dozen or so drawings, and actually had a rough outline and perhaps 10 drawings completed or thumb nailed… well, that project sat on the shelf until I finally committed to doing something about it.  I began writing months ago, and because I nit pick, looked at a chapter and thought ‘that needs some explaining’ so I wrote some more… and then that needed explaining, so I wrote some more.

Fast forward to today, the story has stretched to three books between 200 to 300 pages each.  Needless to say I gave up on illustrating it!  The first book will be perhaps 200 pages or so, introducing the “world” and the background of the parents of Dandle and Lion (the kids who are the subject of some earlier drawings posted, which my own kids modeled for).  Book 2 will deal with their preteens, book 3 with their late teens, and then (hopefully) more illustrated works will lead into their adulthood (standard fantasy art).

I am pretty close to finishing the first book, I have maybe twenty pages  I want to add at some parts that I have “yada-yada’d”… then its going thru the draft to punch up word choices, etc.

 

Its been quite an educational experience working on this, but I will go into the details in a later post…

till then…………..