A Spot of Colour

Commuting by bus had a big advantage in addition to not having to look for a parking space which Elsa never mentioned, in case other people would consider her selfish: It gave her privacy for a while. Between heeding “no cellphones” signs and being surrounded by strangers, she had twice twenty minutes each day to relax, usually without being bothered by anyone.

She had heard of friendships started on the bus, but of the few people she recognised most belonged to the group of punks loitering at the main station. A boy with a hooked nose who changed hair colours more often than his clothes, a girl with the rat riding on her shoulder, and their half-dozen friends, drinking in broad daylight, talking loud enough their voices carried to the office three streets away sometimes, littering, and generally acting as if they owned the world. Some days Elsa carried her briefcase as a shield between herself in her business suit and that crowd, other days she switched it to whichever hand was farthest from them, as if they might snatch it. Only occasionally she even noticed what she was doing, and even more rarely she realised that they had never taken notice of her.

Hyper-aware as she was of their imagined threat, she even noticed a newcomer with her head swimming from a monster of a meeting, frustrated at being mostly ignored by her colleagues. Two hours late, and the last bus of the day gearing up to leave, Elsa hurried through the fry-fat smell of biodiesel behind the bus, and missed her footing on the high curb. There was a crack and a crunch, and she found herself dizzy and on her knees on the platform, suddenly close to tears. Oh god, it’s backed over my briefcase and I skinned my knee like a little girl and it’s all so embarrassing.

She pushed herself up, wiping her hands against each other to get rid of the grit. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the punks staring, and the newcomer, a guy with bright green hair and so many tattoos on his arms there was barely and skin in sight, approached her with long steps.

Looking to the left at the bus, she saw more people staring, and the driver getting out, looking... almost sick. Elsa hoped it wasn’t too obvious that his discomfort made her feel better, less awkward and alone.

“Hello! Are you ready for an adventure?”

The voice made Elsa jump, and when the words registered, she answered the punk with a hostile stare. “Go away.”

He smiled down at her -- what was it with kids these days being so awfully tall? -- and answered, “Sorry, ma’am, just doing my job.”

“Oh, go find someone else to mock. Or an actual job, even better.” Elsa raked a trembling hand through her hair and looked at the ground, left and right. Where had her briefcase ended up?

After a few moments the punk asked gently, “Why haven’t you looked behind you yet?”

The dread this suggestion evoked stopped her breath for a moment. Her voice was a tiny squeak. “I can’t.” She stared at the ground. Old glass shards glittered in the cracks between the cobblestones. A hand rose into her field of vision. Only now she noticed the tattoos on the punk’s arm didn’t consist of abstract swirls of colour, or feature flames and bones and knives, like she had unthinkingly expected. Those sleeves were made up of nothing but butterflies, wing-edge to wing-edge.

“You know what happened.” His voice was soft and sympathetic.

“I’m not... Do I have to?”

“Knowing is better, and seeing helps knowing.”

When she took the offered hand, Elsa finally became aware that the bus driver and a few other people were milling around, but ignoring her completely. She turned and looked over her shoulder, for a glance at her body. The bus had backed up right when she had fallen backwards.

She sighed. “Typical. When you think things are at their worst, something’s going to prove you wrong. I’d expected something like a water pipe or major appliance breaking.” It was a rather feeble attempt at humour, but helped steady her. She was glad for someone to hold her hand, even a rather alarming-looking stranger. “So, what now?” She squelched worries about what this would do to her colleagues and friends, deciding right now it was time to be selfish.

“You need a rest, and a change. A chance to become more yourself.” His warm smile widened a bit, eyes narrowing in amusement. “You seem to be more optimistic in your soul than in your habits, for instance.”

“Or I wouldn’t have pitched forward?”

“Exactly.” He offered his other hand, too, and Elsa took it.

The colours of his tattoos seemed to become even more vivid, the grey concrete and cobbles around them fading to nothing. Elsa felt light and warm, and watched with delight as the world broke into fluttering shards of colour, jewel-bright. Her last giddy thought was that a riot of butterflies was prettier than angel wings.

This story was originally published in the July 2011 issue of the Ellen Million Graphics Zine.
It's in the same setting as Career Choices

tagged Fantasy

That Which Hides In Light And Song

The candle lantern was a heirloom that woke bittersweet memories. It had belonged to Kat’s grandmother, whom she loved. The loss still hurt, after all those years, but this little memento helped her remember the good times.

Kat would light a beeswax candle, its light still warmer through the yellow glass, its honey-fragrance mixing with the smell of hot metal and taking her back to evenings spent listening to her grandmother’s stories.

She would sometimes nod off. It was those occasions upon which the spirit of the lamp entered her open mind, mining for memories of lullabies and embraces.

The spirit brought them forth into Kat’s dreaming mind, rebuilding a shadow of the utter safety she had felt as a child.

It kept her seeking the lantern out for company, more when she was in need of support, vulnerable. Singing old songs no-one else would hear, the spirit took wisps of Kat’s life for itself, feeding its own essence. Knowing there was a risk the lamp would disappear in an attic or worse, it resolved to be careful, make her last, but she tasted so, so sweet.

The title was a prompt by Tango

tagged Fantasy

All That Glitters Is Not Gold

Mary froze at the edge of the clearing. There really was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! Her bare feet slipped on damp leaves as she rushed towards the prize, until the ground gave way.

The pot hid the bottom of the pit with a dull thud close to her head, spilling its contents, big, glittering discs. “Fool’s gold”, she whispered, and unsteadily reached for the closest.

“Actual gold is quite useless, you know.”

She looked up at the gnome who was grinning down at her from the edge of the trap. “You sure like your jokes.”

“I like catching friends of shinies. You will be happy to mine them, yes?”

“What? No!”

“You’re only coming out if you agree.” The gnome sounded like an older sister giving a toddler an ultimatum.

Mary snorted and stood up. Her hip hurt from the fall, but the pit couldn’t be that deep.

The moment she took a step towards its edge, the gnome lifted a gun she must have had next to her, and aimed it at Mary. Still grinning, still sounding cheerful, she said, “Or you come out dead. I am all kinds of hunter, you know.”

The title was a prompt by Tango

Bonus random fact: Pyrite was used to produce sparks at least in some wheel-lock guns.

Free Small Art 2 - Call Close Report

This round was quite a success. Thanks so much to anybody who took part!

Special thanks go to Lyn Thorne-Alder, who got several of her friends to take part, and Meeks, who plugged away without having requested anything herself. (Meeks has a standing offer for sketching story illustrations whose refinement can be crowdfunded.)

21 people asked for art, and tipped enough to get us past the third tip threshold, meaning:

  • All images will be coloured unless otherwise requested. (1 each for 21 participants)
  • Anybody who tipped at all can request two additional files of different sizes.
  • Anybody who tipped at least $5 will get the original mailed. (That's 15 people)
  • Anybody who tipped at least $10 will get a second image. (5 people, including one who got boosted here by a smaller tip plus multiple referrals.)
  • A random participant gets a 5x7 request in addition to their regular one. (This one goes to jjhunter)

That's 27 images for my to-do list.

So far work has been done on 20 - the first requested images for all comers but the one person who is still gathering references. Most are only rough pencils at this point. For the very curious there are badly lighted, grainy cellphone photos I posted to my Twitter account:
last batch - second batch - first batch

I'll first work on the images for two people for whom I have other things to mail (Eliza and ysabetwordsmith), and later on the rest. It will take a while to go through everything.

Rewarded

Shobha Kaur enjoyed the view out of the window of the sparsely furnished office she was a “guest” in, while her “host” prattled on. Outside looked darker than it should be — some foil applied to the glass maybe — but since she did not think she would get out again, she might as well.

“Doctor Kaur, are you listening?”

She made an apologetic noise and turned to the bureaucrat.

The other woman’s skin was pale, almost grey; her hand when she greeted Shobha had been cold. Vampires not hiding themselves anymore was one of the recent developments.

“Well, then let me sum up,” she said with a sigh. “Our organisation is very grateful for your part in lobbying for vampire and lycanthrope rights, and would like to thank you with a grand gesture. Even if the ‘until they’re healed’ codicils were not all that popular.”

Her chipper tone grated on Shobha’s nerves. If Shobha could go back in time, she’d rather shoot herself than let her spread those ideas.

The vampire continued, “Your choice now: would you rather turn into a vampire, or a werewolf?”

A bloodthirsty monster either way. “I’d rather die.”

“That, my dear, is part of the process.”

Based on the prompt "A human key to allowing werewolves, vampires, and other fantasy monster types to go public is 'rewarded' after they go from hiding, to being in the open, to seizing control." by LilFluff

Free Small Art 2

UPDATE 2012-01-07: Summary of this call is available now.

This call is closed, please don't leave new requests.

Want me to draw one of your characters, or anything else?

You can request it here, and I'll draw a postcard-sized sketch. This project is crowdfunded, so I accept tips via paypal, and if you tip, or even if you don't but other people's tips crack a certain threshold, you may get an inked or coloured image instead. If you'd like to request something, please don't refrain from it on because you can't or don't want to tip. :)

Requests will be open for a few days at least; I'll change this message when I close them.

Samples

More samples: postcard-sized art, ACEOs

What I will draw
I'm best with humanoids and portraits, but I also draw furries and animals (or plants, objects, abstracts, whatever). Full figures are likely to be semi-chibified, like so.

Topics/requests for a character doing something are welcome in general, as long as it's not too complicated.

I'm not comfortable drawing sexual themes or gore, and may default to a vanilla portrait if you ask for another theme I find I'm not comfortable with.

Format
I'll default to drawing on A6 cards (the size is close enough to 4x6 inches that in my experience it works in pre-cut mats for 4x6 photos). Requesting other small formats - exactly 4x6, 4x4, tall and narrow "bookmarks", ACEOs, etc. is no problem, either.

For colouring I use markers, possibly combined with coloured pencils. "Coloured" may mean greyscale if what you request is naturally grey (or if you tell me you'd prefer that).

I'll upload scans 450 pixels on the longer side, default "delivery" will be via reply to the comment in which you made your request.

Rights
I retain the copyright to the image. When I post it in an online gallery, I will include your name and link to your website (or LJ or DW account), unless requested otherwise.

You may repost the scan wherever you want and it doesn't break site policies, if you credit me and link back to ankewehner.de.

You may also crop and shrink the image to use as an icon. In places like LJ or Dreamwith that provide a space to do so, please credit me as the artist, but you can use it elsewhere.

Tip- and Link incentives

Progress (updated by hand, so it will lag)

I'm leaving the button up since someone wanted to tip later, but please don't leave new requests, this call is closed.



If you tip, please don't tip less than $1 - Paypal keeps too much of those small payments. Please also make sure that I have some way to identify which request you're tipping for, and that your address is up to date.

If you spread the link and someone mentions they found this page through you, I'll count that as a $2 tip from you, but not towards the total.

Default

  • Anybody who tipped at all will get their image inked, and can request one additional file of a different size (eg original 300 dpi scan, or a cropped and shrunk icon) superseded
  • Anybody who tipped at least $10 will get their image coloured, and I'll send the original in the mail. superseded
  • Everybody else will get a pencil sketch. superseded

Total tips over $30 - MET

  • Anybody who tipped at all will get their image coloured superseded
  • Anybody who tipped at least $7,50 will additionally get the original mailed. superseded

Total tips over $60 - MET

  • Anybody who tipped at all can request two additional files of different sizes (for example both original 300 dpi scan and a cropped and shrunk icon)
  • Anybody who tipped at least $5 will get the original mailed.
  • Everybody else will get their image inked. superseded

Total tips over $90 - MET

  • One random participant wins a 5x7 (13x18 cm) request/commission.
  • Anybody who tipped at least $10 will get a second image. (Level of finish is up to me. I may go more experimental with the style.)
  • All images will be coloured.
  • And my next order of marker refill inks will be paid for.

Total tips over $120

  • One random participant wins a full format (A4 or 8x10 inches) request/commission.
  • Anybody who tipped at all will get a second image. (Level of finish is up to me. I may go more experimental with the style.)

Request

One request per person. I'm making no promises when I finish images, because I think without such a promise I might finish them faster. If you'd like to request something, leave the following information in a comment:

Whom or what would you like me to draw? (Please note that with characters, it's really helpful if you don't only give an image reference and/or physical description, but also mention something about the personality, to avoid getting an image of a stern/serious character grinning like a loon, or the like.)

Any style or format preferences?

If you tipped, or are planning to tip, what bonus would you like? (dimensions of additional file, text on icon, different request for second image)

If you found this through somebody else spreading the link, who was it?

tagged Fantasy Emergent

A Lawyer Lunch

“You don’t look happy.”

“And you know why. This is big. And messy. But mostly big.”

“Your first serial killer, eh?”

“That is the question, isn’t it?”

“She killed people and ate them. No wonder you’re losing your appetite.”

“Tch. Be serious, will you? Laws on murder predate the emergence of supernaturals. My client targeted vampires exclusively. They were already dead. That meets the definition of corpse mutilation.”

“Oh. Yes. Very messy… You might end up with being a vampire being a case of interfering with one’s own funeral...”

“The hell with it. It must be cleared up some time.”

Based on the prompt "A cannibal serial killer murders and eats vampires" by alternatesocks

Android Menu inconistency

I'm currently being mildly confused by interface design, in particular the menu that pops up on the Samsung Android smartphone when you hold down the power switch. (I'm translating the labels from German more literally than actually. I think "offline mode" may be "airplane mode".)

Settings to switch sound and all signals OFF:

Silent Mode
Sound is OFF

Data Net Mode
Data Net Mode deactivated

Offline Mode
Offline Mode is ON

You have two settings where the status message used the same label as the name of the setting, but with "Silent Mode", it's the opposite; to switch Silent Mode ON, you have to set it to "OFF".

You have two settings where the status message uses either "ON" or "OFF", but the third uses "activated" or "deactivated" instead.

You have two settings where if the status message is "ON" or "activated", the phone is allowed to do something, but the third actually switches OFF functionality when it's set to "ON".

I suspect it grew like that somehow, but I'll take my having to actually read the option and message each time to make sure it's set how I want as a reminder to try to keep menus consistent to avoid confusion.

Silent Mode
Silent Mode is ON

Data Net Block
Data Net Block is ON

Offline Mode
Offline Mode is ON

Still a tad odd that you have to set things to "ON" to switch OFF functionality, butsince Offline/Airplane Mode being OFF would be the norm, I didn't want to rename that. But at least it's consistent: Each setting stops something working if it's set to "ON".

Blog tags: Usability

It's this time of the year again

The End Time, that is. ;) Merry Christmas, or whatever you'd like to be merry about.
Christmas Mouse

To save work, I'll combine this with a general Gallery Update of images I neglected to upload here earlier...
Blog tags: Gallery updates

Grave Light

By Yana's reckoning, it had been a month since the king of dragons ate the sun. She had been lucky enough to join a group of two dozen refugees. Together they had found shelter from the cold and strangeness of the sunless surface in a cave, pretending the sun was only stolen to keep their hope alive. Something stolen might be returned.

It was all the same to Yana. None of them was the stuff you made legendary heroes of. The most useful member of their group of refugees was an enemy, even, a lower echelon mage-priest that had served the dragons before turning renegade. Watching him sitting in the centre of the cave, twitchy and watchful like a rat if anybody got near, she was convinced he had turned tail not out of and moral conviction, but fear of being backstabbed. It would make no difference in the long run.

He used magic to give them at least a few hours of light each day, literally making their days, and the effort seemed to warm him. The others in their coats or blankets, if they were lucky enough to have any. In the cave they were not cut to ribbons by blizzards, but it was still too cold to live. To say nothing of food.

A small commotion around the mage drew Yana's interest. Gilmey was arguing, his son cradled in his arms. The boy was coughing and shivering violently. She mage shook his head, and things went back and forth until he, reluctantly, agreed to “do something” for them.

He raised his arms and closed his eyes. The faint glow they had got used to spread out and brightened. Yana turned her face to in and closed her eyes, soaking up the warmth.

When raised voices drew her attention back to the centre of the cave, the mage was trembling with tension. Sparks and lightning danced from his hands down his body and up, crackling when they hit the ceiling. A louder crack sounded, rock breaking.

So he lost control. Of course. Yana felt strangely tranquil. She did not try to scream and run. There was no use.

Based on the prompt "The sun is gone, the dark forces have won and are ruling the lands. Magic is dangerous and usually ends up killing lots of people." by Robert S.

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