Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Little Sugar

For a request/trade. One of the cutest marsupials EVER.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bugs of the Sea

Crustacean time!

Crustaceans are not particulary easy to draw. The crayfish especially took quite a while. But anyway, here they are:
Glass shrimp, Sandhopper
Red rock Crayfish, Half Crab

All native to New Zealand.

Totem Time

I am participating in another "totem" swap which gives me another excuse to make more of these. As if I need an excuse!

The Horse ...You enjoy freedom - to run wild and explore. You are friendly and adventurous and have the power to overcome any obstacles that might be put in your path.

The Octopus ... You are productive, intelligent and efficient. You are able to achieve much in a short space of time, although you must take care not to overlook your own health and general well-being. You are not known for being particularly tidy.

The Hummingbird ... You take great delight in spreading joy to those around you. You are adaptable and able to adjust to many situations. Even to achieve what others might believe impossible.

The Dolphin ... You are intelligent and sociable, with a good sense of humour.You move through life with grace and beauty, taking pleasure in the small things and allow nothing to bring you down.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hunter Melise

Hunter Melise is a Milne-Edwards Sifaka, called in the story a "piebald sifaka" or "pied simpony". Her kind normally make their homes in the rainforests on the eastern ranges of the island. She is one of the Queen's Hunters - her profession is to wander Madigaska and hunt down - and kill - any monkeys or monkey sympathizers. She rides a tawny antelope (probably an impala or a springbo, I haven't decided yet) and has a small clan of ringtailed mongooses which she uses to track down and subdue her targets.

Melise was taken into the Hunter Pack as a yearling female and trained in combat - both with and without weapons. When she graduated, she was paired up with another female of the same species, called Cheri. Whilst they were never exactly friends, the two worked well together and were often sent on missions to weed out the monkey vazaha, kill them and bring back their tails. On a solo expedition, she was sent to track down a vervet monkey known as "Chike" (whom you should meet eventually) and stumbled upon Aurelia and Matthieu instead. As soon as she saw Aurelia's big blue eyes, she knew she had located an heir, and sent word out to the Queen. As a Hunter, she has been trained to recognise monkey artefacts and read their words, and she is also able to swim - a rare trait in a lemur.

Melise is a lanky sifaka. Her head is round, her ears very small and tucked close to her head. She has red eyes. Most of her pelt is brownish-black, but a white band of fur wraps around her belly and sides, meeting a thin line of black down her spine. Where the white meets the black, the fur is a dirty-brown. Her tail is black.

Like all Hunters, she is cold and dispassionate, dedicated to her duty and seeming to lack in empathy. She resents being out-ranked by Noir, a mere male, and in his presence resorts to sarcasm and subtle jives. She is in general, sharp tongued and nasty. However, as mocking as her words may be, and as willing as she is to kill for her Queen, she is not sadistic, just efficient.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Faraka the Varikamavo

Faraka is an adolescent varikamavo (red-fronted brown lemur) just coming into adulthood. He is an apprentice shipwright, and helps make boats in a little west coast village. He is a good natured and easy going fellow, with creative leanings and always curious about new ideas. When Manjoretra's lakana (boat) wrecks near his village, he is eager to help the Vezo-maky repair his vessel and also to travel some of the distance with him. At least as far as Belo-Sur-Tsiribihana.

Faraka has a fairly minor role in the novel. His name tranlates as "eager, desire to help" His species is Eulemur rufifrons - the southern red-fronted brown lemurs (can you see why I'm using the Malagasy names? They're shorter, even if they do mean about four different species).

Saturday, August 13, 2011

She's a Killer Queen....

Lemurian royaltie is complicated. The throne is matriachal, but passed down from Queen to niece. Matthieu explains it here in this post about Rakoto. Also, the royal line is indicated by the presence of blue eyes. As you will see from looking at this lovely image of Ranavalona, the current queen, her eyes are not blue. They are red, like all diademed sifaka. From this you might assume that Ranavalona is not the niece of the previous queen. And you would be right. Ranavalona was chosen by the previous queen, Ramavo, as a suitable mate for her brother, Radama. Ramavo alas, died soon after and less than a year later, her brother also died. Leaving no heir. Therefore, Ranavalona inherited the throne more or less by default and is considered by some to be an usurper.

The fact that her son, Rakoto was born rather more than 180 days* later, is the cause of some of this conflict. Nor does he have the requisite blue eyes and aside from all that, he's male. Therefore, there is no heir - legitimite or otherwise, to inherity.

Even when a mated pair, Radama and Ranavalona were less than happy. Ranavalona had her eyes only for the throne, and Radama had his only for the beautiful silky simpony, Solange. He resented his sister for choosing someone else to be his mate. In an effort to beat Ranavalona in providing an heir, Solange begged a medicine from Mephistopheles, a herbal concoction that would make her ripe for mating in the wrong season. It worked. When Ranavalona realised that the silky was pregnant, she was furious and made various attempts to poison the unborn kit and its mother. During this time, Radama accidentally took some of the poison and died. Solange fled, fearing for her life. Ranavalona took command of the Hunters and sent them after Solange, who was killed near the Vezo-maky village of Madiorana. Before she died, however, she gave birth to a daughter, Aurelia, who exhibited the royal blue eyes.

Ranavalona is not evil. She is determined and dedicated to her country. She has strong views - and some strong prejudices, that are, however, detrimental to those of her subjects that do not agree with her. She is not afraid to eliminate any perceived threats by violent means where necessary. She is also well aware that Aurelia is necessary to her position. Initially she wanted the kit dead - so that her own daughter would inherit. But when her kit was born not a daughter, but a son, Ranavalona struck trouble. Sons cannot inherit. Now she needs Aurelia alive so that she can manipulate her. I suspect Aurelia will not take well to the manipulation.

Ranavalona also has a dislike of foreigners. Although there used to be regular trade between the monkeys of the mainland and the lemurs of the island**, this link has all but been severed. After she took the throne she announced that the few monkeys left - which are teachers and seekers of wisdom, must depart the island forever or they will be put to death. Most left. The Queen's Hunters are currently seeking the few that stayed and killing them. She believes that their ways are corrupting the traditions of her lemurs. Also, she does not want the four-foured lemurs - the Eulemur species, to learn. Some sifaka, especially those living in Narivo, can read and write, but Ranavalona fears that if the "lesser born" Eulemurs learnt, then it would lead to social unrest.

The royal bloodline are the only sifaka's that do not have French names, and the name "Ranavalona" was not her birth name, but one given to her when she became Radama's official mate.

She is a diademed sifaka of striking colouration. The black "V" crown on her head is distinctive and surrounded by a fur "cap" that is more silver than grey. This cap extends down her head and to her shoulders, and down her spine getting paler until it fades to white halfway down her back. Her facial mask is black, but the mane of fur around it, pure white. She has a white "collar" under her chin and a creamy-white belly. Her arms and legs are furred in golden-orange and her hands are black. She has red eyes.

Diademed sifaka are probably the most striking of the lemur species, and it is why I chose them for the royal bloodlines. Ranavalona is based on the real Ranavalona, the butcher queen of Madagascar. It you think Lemurian politics are complicated, trying researching Malagasy ones...

* Gestation period for sifaka
** Which explains the presence of antelopes on the island

Friday, August 12, 2011

Mr Mephistopheles

It's been a week now since I introduced you to my Lemurian characters, so it is high time that I put up another one. This fellow has been a character of mine for around 12 years now. His character career started in my ill-fated, go-nowhere novel "Quest for Lemuria" where he co-starred with Astrid and a girl named Kaitlin. When that novel fell flat for the third time, I moved him here, into my "epic lemur novel".

His name is and has always been Mephistopheles.

Mephistopheles is an aye-aye, also referred to as an "aiay". Like all good aye-ayes*, he acts as an advisor, in this case it is to the Queen Ranavalona (you'll meet her tomorrow). His middle finger is slender and bony, the so-called "magic finger". Mephistopheles also claims to have the ability to communicate with Lemures (lemur spirits of the dead) and can fortell the future. This is not entirely accurate and has led him into a bit of trouble, especially when it concerns the existence of Aurelia and the gender of Ranavalona's unborn kit (Rakoto).

After Rakoto's birth and subsequent fostering-out, he becomes the kit's closest acquantince, almost a friend. He educates the kit and develops a fatherly affection for him. He is serious and stern in nature, and does not quite understand humour.

He is a lemur of medium size, with grizzled grey-brown fur, darkening to black around his rump and tail. His belly has a slightly reddish tinge and he has a little tuft of white fur under his chin that extends in a stripe down his belly. His ears are large, dark and hairless. His muzzle is shorter than other lemur species, and his golden eyes, surrounded by paler fur, look larger than they actually are. He sometimes wears a cloak, as some of the diurnal lemurs find his appearance a bit distubring.

(* "Madagascar" reference)

And here's a selection of images of Mephistopheles (and other aye-ayes) from over the years:




Saturday, August 6, 2011

The lighthouse at Cape Reinga in bookmark format and about to make the long journey to Vietnam.

And here's Little Grey

Getting sick of lemurs yet?

Little Grey is a varibolomadinik. Or as we say it "Western Gentle Lemur" (or "bamboo lemur"). The other bamboo lemur species live on the east coast of Madagascar, and the western gentles are only found in small pockets on the west. Why so small? Because they have a fairly limited diet - they are the pandas of the lemur world, that is to say, they eat bamboo.

This young lemur lived with his mother, aunt and his cousins near a small waterfall. That is until the day the varijatsy bandits came along (you'll meet one of them later). Then, his mother was viciously murdered and he was kitnapped and taken north, to be sold into slavery. Rather traumatised by these events, he is a melancholy fellow. He is friendly enough to his fellow captives, but happens to be quite shy. However, he does have something they do not - knowledge of the forest that they manage to escape into.

Overall, his fur is a greyish-brown, with his belly being more grey and his back having more hints of brown. His face is grey and his eyes are deep red. He has a relatively flat head, and tufted ears. His muzzle is shorter than the Eulemur species, and he is small in size.

He has not yet had much of a role to play in the story.

Hrm, I think I might be a bit burned out of drawing lemurs. Maybe I'll switch back to birds for a time. Or hedgehogs. Anyone fancy hedgehogs?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Meet Matthieu

Matthieu is a Verraeux's sifaka. He lives in the Spiny forest near Madiorana (Karazana's Vezo village) with his parents and his younger sister, Celeste. He is also one of Aurelia's first friends. When Aurelia meets him, his parents are away visiting a neighbouring family and organising a future mate for him. Sifaka lemur, unlike maky, form long-term, monogamous pairings.

Like all sifaka, Matthieu and Celeste consider themselves the upper crust, and far more civilised than their boistrous neighbours. Unable to walk on all fours, they move by dancing and leaping through the trees. Matthieu is polite and kind, and Aurelia quickly charms him. Celeste is rather more vain and self-important.

Typical of his species, Matthieu is a medium-sized sifaka. He is probably around three years of age. His fur is mostly white, save for the thin fur on his belly, where the grey of his skin shows through. The top of his head is a rich chocolate brown, and this extends down the back of his neck. He has golden eyes. His hands and feet are black.

Matthieu's hobbies include playing the traditional game of fanoraona with his sister, sunbathing and foraging for food. He has received a modest amount of tutoring and is more educated in politics than his maky neighbours.

Final Chimera for Summer

Whilst Summer is off in the hospital, bringing her little leorabbit into the world, I thought I'd work on her older daughter's chimerical creature. Now, this lass was a trickier one - she was born in the Year of the Ox, but her star sign is Libra. Libra is symbolised by a set of scales. Now, scales do not hybridise well. So I suggested maybe something WITH scales, but Summer decided to let the girl decide instead. And she likes monkeys.

Oxymonkey was a bit trickier than the other two. The first effort was an abysmal failure, but on the second go, this handsome fellow stepped from the page. He's more monkey than ox, and that monkey is a squirrel monkey.

I hope they all like it. And now, I guess, my commisisons for that family shall end.

Unless Summer and her husband would like one each?

And since Summer mentioned me in her blog, I feel I shall mention her blog. As you can see from looking through it, Summer is a wonderful supporter of local artists and I am sure her children's bedrooms must be truly delightful (I rather want to buy this felt cuckoo clock. If I had a child, I most certainly would, it would look awesome in a nursery).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Here's Astrid

Astrid the Avahy has a very special talent - she can communicate with the birds. This ability had her initiated into the Sisters. The Sisters are a community of female lemurs that reside in the Stone Forest of the Tsingy. Much folklore surrounds them - they are considered a sacred order - almost religious. Alledgedly, no males are permitted within their realms. Each species of lemur is represented by one of the Sisters.

Brought amongst the Sisters at a young age, Astrid barely remembers her parents. She is sweet and rather naive, always wanting to think the best of others. She loves birds, and has made her home in a shallow cave high in the rocks, where her feathered friends come and go as they please.

She is a small sifaka, with brownish grey fur. Her belly, thighs and the insides of her arms are a pale creamy brown. Her muzzle is black, and she had dark rings around her eyes. Other than that, her face is white. She also has a white patch on her upper thighs.

Like all Avahi, she is most active at night. However, as her avian friends are diurnal, she spents a fair amount of the day lazing in the sun and sharing gossip with the birds.

She is pictured here with a Madagacar Fody and a Madagascar Lovebird.

Astrid has yet to appear in the story, but I expect her arrival will be imminent. She has been a character of mine for a very long time. In fact, here are some rather earlier renditions of her:

These two are from 2009 and drawn in my attempt at the style of some other artists (I forget which ones, sorry). I kinda like them, even though my anatomy leaves more than a little to be desired:

And here's one from the archives! Before I started seriously drawing, I was planning a novel called "Quest for Lemuria". In fact, I've written it about four times and am still not even slightly happy with it. Since then she has changed her name three times - initially it was Astarix, then Astaria, but now I have settled for the less pretentious Astrid. I think it suits her.

This image clearly shows the affects of 10 years of diligant practise and a moderate amount of study can lead one to achieve in terms of art. I'm sure I have somewhere a a slightly better rendition from about the same era, but am unable to locate it, so it has probably fallen victim to my original lack-of-a-computer. On the plus side, because I didn't trade art then, I probably still have the original around somewhere. In a box under the bed I imagine.

Fidgety Mijifajifa

Mijifajifa is a Boenga - a Red-tailed Sportive Lemur. He is a trader of the Western forests and collects and exchanges all manner of stuff - mostly junk. Some of it he trades for, but he is not opposed to stealing. His role in the plot is a minor one so far, although he may occur later. He is selfish and whiny and changes his loyalties to best benefit himself.

In appearance, he is a small, lanky lemur with grey-brown fur which deepens to chesnut around his shoulders and tail. Like all boenga, he is mostly nocturnal, although he does peddle his stuff during the day at times.

In this passage he has just stolen something from Aurelia and she has wrestled him to the ground after chasing him down:

Mijifajifa,” he whimpered. “I'm a boenga."

My name is Aurelia,” Aurelia replied “I'm a sifaka.”

Smell of fish and maky,” Mijifajifa mocked. “And monkey. Reek of monkey. You big smelly monkey's friend? Queen not like that. Kill him. Kill you too. Kill all the monkeys and all the friend of monkeys too.”

You speak bold threats for someone I've just thrashed,” Aurelia growled. “The Queen will kill me? Queen's got to catch us first. But you... I have you here in my grasp. What's not to stop me killing you now?”

Not threat,” he whispered. His orange eyes widened. “Warning. And you sifaka, sifaka no kill,” he whimpered. “Sifaka eat no meat, draw no blood. Sifaka gentle.”

Are they?” Aurelia asked. “Tell that to the sifaka that murdered my friend.”

You kind sifaka, good sifaka,” the little boenga pleaded. “Not hurt Mijifajifa. Let Mijifajifa go. Take box of pictures. Friend, yes?”

What did you want with these?” She asked. “Why are you stealing Chike's maps?”

Maps? That what they call? Know they show places. Places to go. Others want them. Good for trade. Take to market. Trade for medicine. Medicine for sick kits, no?”

She sniffed him. He smelt of forest and the sweet scent that was male lemur, but there was no trace of disease on him. No trace of other lemurs, either. He's lying, she decided. There are no kits. No mate either.

They're not your kits, are they? You're all by yourself.” She cuffed him again. He whimpered. “Where is this market?”

North,” he said. “Baobab Alley. Big market. Many lemur come. Next full moon. Much to trade. I could lead you. I could be your guide.”

She stared at him, incredulous. “You want to help us?”

He nodded. “Sure, sure. I help you – you help me, yes? Long way to go through trees. I ride in little boat with you. Show you best way.”

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A first glimpse of Rakoto

Rakoto is yet to fully establish himself in the plot, but he is cast in a major role for Act 2. Indeed, if the story goes as planned (ie: Aurelia deigns to take a back seat), he will be the Focus Character of the second part, which I shall write for NaNoWriMo this year.

Rakoto's mother is Queen Ramavalona, the Lemur Queen of Madagasika. He was born some time after the King's untimely death and was something of a disappointment to his mother. She was hoping for a girl, you see, to inherit the throne after her.

I shall now get Celeste and Matthieu to give you a little education on Lemur politics:

"... Sifaka royalty is passed down from female to female, understand? The Queens rule,” explained Matthieu.

Aurelia nodded. “It's the same in maky society, the females are the bosses.”

Okay, maybe they are not so primitive,” Celeste smirked at her brother.

But not all of the Queens have the time or inclination to produce their own heirs,” he continued. “So this task falls to their brothers. The Queen choses a mate for her older brother – one of fine breeding and good health, and it is their duty to produce a daughter to inherit the crown.

However, in this situation, Queen Ramavo died early, before her only brother, Radama, had the chance to produce an heir. So, by default, the crown passed to his mate – Ranavalona. It was supposed to be temporary, until they fathered a daughter. But before that opportunity arose, the Queen's brother died.”

Under rather suspicious circumstances,” Celeste interjected...

So as you can see, when the kit proved to be a male, Ranavalona was rather disappointed. So disappointed that she had her advisor, Mephistopheles (we'll meet him later) take the kit away and foster him on another nursing female, a Tattersall's sifaka called Araminta. However, Aramainta already had a kit of her own - older and bolder than the fosterling and had no real attachment for Rakoto. Although she supplied all his needs - food, warmth and grooming, the poor kit grew up with no affection and being bullied occasionally by her real kit.

As he grew older, his mother showed more of an interest in him. Here Mephistopheles stepped in too, teaching him social etiquette, politics and furthering his education in the manner that ruling class Sifaka need to know. Mephistopheles grew rather fond of the kit and Rakoto learned to love him as a father*.

Rakoto is a Diademned Sifaka with some distinctly different colour patternings. His black "hood" and white forehead are atypical of his species, but are a colour variant found in real world Diademned Sifaka. For the record, neither his mother nor the late king had this colouration. Anyhow, Rakoto's head is black, with the colour continuing in a stripe down his spine and terminating at the base of his tail. His body fur is mostly silver-grey, with orange fur on his lower arms and his legs. His tail is silver. His belly is creamy-white. He has orange-red eyes, like his mother.

As he has yet to play a role in the plot, his personality is not yet fully understood. However, I intend for him to be shy and quiet, preferring his own company or the company of books. He does not relate well to kits his own age, but has formed a strong friendship with his mother's advisor. Other than that, he has a somewhat sulky nature and avoids conflict where possible. He is a thinker, not a fighter.

* When I say "as a father" I don't mean as his real father. Although Rakoto's paternity is rather in doubt, there is no way the Queen's Advisor is his father. Honest. It's not genetically possible.