Tuesday, October 30, 2012

NaNowriMo 2012 - Day 0

KI-A Ora! I would like to introduce you to my friend Tiriki*. Tiriki is a kea - a unique species of parrot, endemic to New Zealand. Unlike other parrots, kea make their home up in the mountains, spending much of their time above the treeline. Because of this, they have some interesting adaptations.

- Kea have a very diverse diet. They eat a huge range of flowers, leaves, roots, shoots and other such things, whilst supplementing their diet with invertebrates, garbage and also meat. They are predators. There is footage of keas eating living sheep and also digging shearwaters out of their nests and killing them. I have not heard of them doing this to rabbits, but wish they jolly well would!
- Kea are VERY intelligent. They can solve puzzles. They get bored. There have been reported instances of them stealing stuff and organising it in a logical fashion (in the reported case - arranging pilfered nails from large to small). They pull apart cars. If you want to see some pretty awesome footage of what these birds are capable of, check out this documentary from Animal Planet.

Tiriki first appeared in "Aroha's Grand Adventure" as part of a gang of three. Juvenile keas hang out in gangs and basically forage, explore and what-not for the first three or so years of their life. When Aroha (a weka) first encounters huim, he has gotten himself trapped inside a house:

A green parrot stared back through the glass at her. His nostrils were bright yellow and his wickedly long beak tap-tap-tapped on the window. He gestured with his head, motioning towards the door. How had he got inside? Aroha pondered. And why? She moved in the direction indicated, and he bounced along beside her, like an erratic, misshapen reflection. He paused before a small square flap set into the window, just beside the door. This was at weka eye-level. The parrot tapped at it, then jumped back. Aroha frowned at him.
What do you want?” She asked.
He rolled his neck, waving his beak in a half-circle, before rap-rap-rapping on the flap once more.
Push it!” He squawked, voice muffled by the glass. Aroha stepped forward, tapping her beak against it. It moved, flapping open, then shut again. She pushed it again, putting her head through and lifting one foot to step through herself.
No!” Cried the parrot. “Stop, stay where you are.” Leaning forward, he slid beneath the slightly raised flap, prying it open further with his head. Squirming through, he hopped out and onto the grass. Aroha stepped back and the flap swung shut with a clunk.
Free!” He cried, bouncing in circles and flapping its wings. “I'm free! Thank you for saving me.”
Err, you're welcome,” Aroha was perplexed. “What exactly are you free from?”
Humans,” he sighed and rolled his head again. “They build a splendid-parrot sized door. So I hop on in. Of course, they'd latched it shut – but ain't no lock nor latch this kea can't match! But what can you say? It only opens one way. So, I was stuck. Plenty of time to run amok! Explored the place from pillar to base. Inside and out. Ate the food. Uprooted the plants. Then I grew bored. No telling when they come back and let me out. Good thing you came along. Elseways I might have been in there till my feathers turned grey. Anyhow,” he hopped forward and gave a bobbing bow. “Kia ora,” he said. “Name's Tiriki. I'm a kea.”

She later has several encounters with him, including a run-in with his gang, but he's the boss - his two companions are only described as one having a spiky crest, and the other being scruffy and unkempt. Neither have been given names yet. Maybe Totoa (reckless) and I should totally name one Kaha (strong). Other possible characters are a golden kea (hen) called Miere (honey) and maybe another called Atamai (intelligent). But I'll spend more time playing with Maori dictionaries and baby names later.

Anyhow, the story will start with Tiriki hanging out with his gang. Whether or not his encounters with Aroha make it into this book has yet to be seen - we'll see how things go.

But here's a little background on Tiriki:
* He was the only chick raised from his clutch - his younger sibling being killed in the nest by a stoat (I have debated whether or not to write this scene, it would be quite a violent way to start the book, and I am not sure if that is a good idea since it is a children's book).
* His gang gets up to lots of mischief - playing a game of "Dare" - where each bird takes turns challenging the other to do something. This may have been what led him to get stuck in the house, but that may also have been his general curiosity.
* At some point Tiriki is going to get captured by DOC and taken into captivity for his bad behaviour.

Personality - Tiriki's not a bad guy - he's just a bit impulsive and has a low regard for mammals - partly due to his sibling's death. He likes to goad cats and dogs, but he draws the line at beating up birds. His two companions (who might be brothers) definitely have a slightly vicious streak. However, Tiriki is the smartest of the three, hence why he is the top of the pecking order. He's intelligent and cocky.

Some things I would like to include:
- a "love interest" - keas are not monogamous, but I am thinking maybe having him strike up a friendship with Atamai - the sibling to his two male friends. And then something bad happens to her - possibly lead poisoning and she is taken away.
- a documentary or movie being filmed on the kea.
- lead poisoning (to highlight one of the causes for kea's decline).
- references to earlier massacres (maybe have a survivor of one - kea can possibly live up to 40 years, but not usually in the wild).
- the unsuitability of keas as pets or house mates.
- their intelligence.
- how special kea are and how we should protect them.
I am undecided about how much of their predatory natures to include.

* Okay, so these are NOT actually Tiriki, and it is highly unlikely that they are even the same kea, both photos having been taken some years apart, but let's just pretend ok?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Silky family

Finally, an image I CAN put in my gallery! This is my silky sifaka family. Well, part of it, anyway (it's missing Mother Aurelia). The lemurs featured here are Ophelia (the adult female), Pierre (her infant son) and Aurelia, her blue-eyed niece whom I should hope most of you would already be familiar with. Also featured are a sunbird, a chameleon and a moon moth.

I made this image to serve two purposes - one of which was for this site: Cycling for sifakas. This fellow, Ivan, is intending to cycle about the South Island of New Zealand, dressed as a silky sifaka, in order to raise money and species awareness. What can I say? If anyone wants to dress up in a white pelt and go biking in the summer, well, I fully endorse that. Anyhow, he asked me if he could use Aurelia's image, and I gave him permission, but was somewhat ashamed at the quality of the scan. I think this one will be much better. Of course, he's not going to have the full body of the lemurs - just the heads and top halves.

The second purpose - other than the reason to draw more lemurs, and possibly to use in my novel, is also to submit it to the Illustrated ATCs calendar.

Friday, October 26, 2012

From the Archives...

My mother found an old book on her shelf the other day, that had in it a couple of sketches I had done in my youth. I have no idea how old I was when I drew these, as they are not dated, but I would guess maybe 10 or 11.

So, don't let me here any of you say "Oh, you're so talented, I wish I could draw like you." If you can draw like this - then one day you can draw like me!

Here's some more recent renditions of the same birds (2010):

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Colouring Pages

It has been drawn to my attention that there are not many interesting things for people that are experienced at colouring but not so confident with drawing to colour it (either digitally or traditionally). Therefore, It thought that I would share some lineart. Please feel free to print these off and colour any of these in, if you wish, but the characters represented here belong to me and you cannot claim them as your own characters. Also, if you do colour it and wish to post it somewhere, can you please credit the original lineart to Angela "LemurKat" Oliver and send me a link to it, so that I can see what you've done with it.

Organised from newest to old, so the ones at the top are better drawn in general!

Pippit and the dragonfly

In the Deep Dark Woods...

Victorian Wolf

The Amazon Rainforest

The Australian Rainforest

The Malaysian Rainforest

The Australian desert

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Portrait of Gus

Leaving present for co-worker Felicity. Her dog, Gus, now sadly deceased after an unfortunate accident.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Just so you know...

...I am still making art - it's just that most of it is for the Gavin Bishop award - where the story I am illustrating is confidential and I am not feeling comfortable sharing the images in case that invalidates me and I am also working on stuff for some Secret Santas on Illustrated ATCs, which I cannot show off in case the intended recepients visit this blog!

So, don't give up on me yet ^^ There will be more to come soon!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

My NaNoWriMo Journeys

Last year I wrote up a summary of all my previous NaNo novels - here it is:

I have been a participant in NaNoWriMo five times now, 2002 - I managed only 26k words before I ran out of story, 2003 I suceeded and went on to write a full 97k words (not all in November!) before setting the story aside for almost a decade. I promise one day I shall finish it! It now requires a bit of editting.  In 2004 I tried again, once more failing dismally (made it to 20k). Every year I had good intentions, but sometimes November would roll around and I would find myself burdened down with art trades, work or just general apathy.

In 2010, we had the first of our major earthquakes - a 7.1 centered out west of the city. It struck at 4.35 on a saturday morning, jotling us all rudely from our sleep. I still remember crouching in the door frame, eyes closed against the darkness - which seemed complete, as the house judded and danced around me and all I could hear was CRASH, BANG and the pounding of my heart in my ears. The only thought in my head "pleasestop, pleasestop, pleasestop..." I was dimly aware that my husband crouched in the other doorway near me. It was the longest 40 seconds of my life. What then followed was a mad hunt for a flashlight - eventually we were forced to use the laptop computer. I remember sliding down the stairs on my bum, feet before me, because Tim warned me to be careful - we didn't know what would have fallen over and what may have broken or collapsed. With the light of the laptop screen, I located my cellphone (battery almost spent, of course...) and listened to the radio in my car outside, before dragging the beanbags upstairs, where we huddled in the doorways until the dawn as aftershock after aftershock shook the house. It was a cold, cold morning and because of the nerves my teeth would not stop chattering and I could not stop shaking.

You might have thought that the continual aftershocks may have made NaNo 2010 almost impossible - but by the time November rolled around the rumbling and twitching of the earth was almost commonplace, and unless they were strong enough to knock the power out, writing proved to be a good therapy. Some people found being upstairs too nerve-racking after the quakes - but I actually preferred to be on top. I later worked out that there had been over 400 noticeable aftershocks during the month of November.

"Aroha's Grand Adventure" was a novel that had been fermenting in my brain for a while, and it figuratively poured out of my fingertips. This cheeky little bird came to life and took over my thoughts and heart. I was also undertaking a short course on "Writing for Children" and had previously written a picturebook narrative featuring the same character.

I work full time, and to fit NaNo into my schedule, I decided that the best way to go about it would be to get up earlier in the morning - so as to get it out of the way first thing. Thus, every morning I rose with the birds at 5 am and tried to get out my requisite 1,667 words before breakfast. Most mornings it worked quite well, but if I failed, than there was the evening to use to make up for lost time. The original intent was to write a 25,000 word novel, and then draw 25 pictures (because a picture paints a thousand words), but in the end the novel wound up at 46k, I managed a half dozen or so pictures and pushed the word count over the 50k by writing extensive appendices and a short story (which was actually part of the aforementioned course).

"Aroha's Grand Adventure" was an easy novel to write in part because it was very linear - the weka starts in Christchurch, and makes her way home to Greymouth - walking a route that we had driven on various occasions. To help me better understand the landscape that she was traversing, I used google satellite view to look for interesting landmarks, and my husband and I also drove part of the route. Whenever I got to a place that looked interesting, we would pull over and I would take photographs at ground level. These were later used as references for the backgrounds of many of the illustrations. Due to the hour of the day, we did not get as far as intended (Lake Brunner) and the final bit was done by memory - luckily I had been there only a few months previous, in August.

In June 2011, I undertook SocNoc - the Southern Cross Novel Challenge, which is essentially the same thing. I tried the same technique of the 5am wake-up, but in the middle of winter, this is less than ideal. The novel proved to be a real slog, with me forcing out the requisite words only because I knew my blog was going to be featured on the KiwiWriters website in the middle of the month. And I could not quit before than, could I? How would that look? By that point the story took off, and the first draft of "Fellowship of the Ringtails" was penned. Whilst I achieved the 50k with room to spare, I did end up deleting and rewriting the final chapters. This novel is still in its editting stage, but should be published next year. I began part two; "Tail of Two Scions" in November, but ended up deleting half of it after passing the 50k goalline. It still sits, incomplete, on my hard drive, but it is in good company!

So, how am I prepping for NaNo this year? Well, first and foremost, I am clearing myself of all other artistic obligations - getting all art trades out of the way, not committing to any swaps and also finishing up my entries  for the two storyline competitions. November will be for concentrating on writing. It would have been nice to take time off work as well, but in previous times I have written while working full-time, plus I've run out of holiday leave!

I am also conceptualising. I am not good at taking notes, I prefer storing stuff in my brain - which works well for a while, but I tend to forget things if they are left too long. I have the basic plot-premise set out, a main character and an opening scene. I have not yet written that scene, of course, but I do know roughly how it will go. With writing, I find the hardest bit is the first sentence. If I have not got that sorted out, then I shall sit and stare at the blank screen for up to 30 mins.

This year I have a laptop. This means that I can - if needs must - write at work, and also allows me to attend more of the social gatherings. In previous years, I had considered going - but the idea of going out and not writing, or writing on paper, made it less than desirable. I am using Dropbox as the place to do the writing - which means I can access it from both my computers without shifting files back and forth.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

"I wish I had some of your talent..."

This is something I hear a lot, and whilst it IS considered complimentary, I actually find it a little irritating, although it is flattering and meant in good nature.

So why does it bother me? Well, it's like saying that my artistic ability was something I was born with - like blonde hair and blue-grey eyes. I wasn't born with the ability to draw, it took a LOT of work. If you, random stranger, could put as much time and effort into drawing as I have, then quite possibly you too could be able to draw like me.

I would like to share some pieces with you now - and beware, they may hurt your eyes. These pieces were drawn at the turn of this century. Now, you might think they were drawn by a child, but I was actually in my 20s at the time:

 As you can see, I had also not mastered the art of the scanner either. I didn't even own one at that point and had to pop into my friends' places and make use of them - meaning I couldn't fiddle with the settings to try and make them reasonable.

Here's one from 2000 that I am planning on redrawing today:

I'm not planning on redrawing all of it - just the two pokemorphs (Azrael and Brooke) because I need a book cover for the story - recently uploaded to Wattpad. 

And here it is:
I decided to go with the characters slightly more humanised. Drawing Azrael and not making him look friendly was hard! In the end, I decided I had to omit his mouth altogether. I have realised that designing a black furred/skinned character that dresses in black is a silly idea. Also, I just remembered, I think he has violet eyes. Some editting may be required!  Buttons (the eevee) is my favourite.

After spending the early part of this century drawing Pokemon, I discovered Furries, and become a member of VCL. Which is filled with more painful art, but thanks to drawing furries, I managed to get rather more skilled it drawing the human figure - mostly female, although it did not help whatsoever with human faces, which I am still pretty poor at.

During this time I founded the popular FurArtXchange and FurArtXchange2 livejournal communities. These spawned a large number of "Sister" sites - GryphonXchange, DragonXchange and more. Some of them are still somewhat active, but I have moved on.

I discovered ATCs in 2005 - about the time my interest in Furry waning. My early efforts focused on wildlife and requests, and also I attempted to illustrate every book I read. I was producing art almost every day, and receiving lots of feedback - most of it positive.

And lo' - the more I drew, the better I got.

Here's the first ATC I ever made (you may have seen this before):
I'm still not much better at drawing frogs!

In 2008 I got back into drawing Pokemon again, showing some marked improvement (this is old, then newer):
Now, some 3000 art cards and assorted other mail arts later, I actually consider myself pretty decent as an artist, but as you can see - it is not natural talent that got me that far - except perhaps a natural inclination to draw, but practise. Lots and lots of practise. Studying anatomy and reference pictures, looking at colours - some of my early ATCs are pretty well drawn - but the colours are horrendously garish. And lets not even think about my early efforts at digital colouration. There's a reason I gave up on that!

So, in conclusion, if you claim that you "wish you had some of my talent" well, it's not magic, and it's not inherent. If you really, truly wish you had some of my talent - and are not just saying it to be polite, then practise, practise, practise, because with practise your art will evolve.

And as for the people that say "I can't even draw a straight line". Well, I have no condolences for you - I can't either. Drawing a straight line is not even related to art - it is just something that requires a ruler or a straight edge. And most of us can locate one of those.

The same applies to writing. Now, I've always been reasonably good at writing - probably due to being extremely well read and having teachers for parents. However, there are many people that say "I've got lots of ideas in my head, and one day I'll write my novel." Well, why not make that day today? Or - at least, November? It's interNational Novel Writing Month again soon and if you're really serious and not just full of hot air, then you'll join me on my fifth or so NaNo journey.

There'll be a post on that to follow.

Friday, October 5, 2012

An update, at last!

So, I call this my "daily art blog" but it has been rather a while since I blogged, has it not?

Well, I have been making art - but it is a rather larger piece than I normally make and also... I am somewhat sworn to secrecy. You see, I am preparing my entry for the Storylines Gavin Bishop award. and to receive the manuscript I am to illustrate, I had to sign a confidentiality clause, not to share the story with anyone. It said nothing about my art, but to avoid any issues, I'll keep those under wraps for now too. Needless to say, I have put hours and hours of work into making the full pages, and much time and energy on the storyboard.

But, today I finished it.


So, to celebrate, I drew a Dwarf Puffer atc for a trade with Kaila-Chan.
It is a little sobering to think that this may be the last ATC I make. But I doubt, somehow, that it will.

Cute wee fellow, isn't he?

In other news - my tarot cards have arrived - and they look pretty good. The colour is a bit dark in some of them, but it seems my printer is the only printer that ever entirely does my bright colours complete justice.

Here's a spread of them - you can try and read it if you like - goodness knows what it means with the Chaos card as the central one!

I'm quite impressed with the print quality. It isn't perfect, but it ain't bad either. If you are interested in a copy and live aboard, you can buy it here at the Game Crafter - if you live in NZ and don't want to pay a small fortune (US$17)  in postage, send me a message and I'll buy to order (expect 3-4 weeks for delivery). Using the powers of maths, I have determined the best unit cost comes if I order eight at a time.

I will be selling them for NZ$30 each (plus postage). They are currently US$20.00 (plus postage) on TGC.
I WILL NOT POST OVERSEAS. NZ international parcel post is really expensive.

For those of you that live internationally and want to buy it but have it signed - there is a card in there that is designed to be autographed. Find it, it's easy to spot, and post it to me and I'll sign it and return it to you.