Tales of Quahnarren: RARE items

RI_preview

A preview of two RARE items currently on offer as part of the Kickstarter campaign for the exclusive special edition of my Beyond the Morning Mountains gamebook. These unique, precious and powerful items add various benefits and abilities to your character, which may aid you to successfully survive the long journey to Liust.

ToQ: Laneway ruffian

Tales of Quahnarren: Laneway Ruffian

An illustration from the free preview version of my Beyond the Morning Mountains gamebook. A key part of the development for this project is for me to create a number of fantasy images using a range of different styles and techniques, in both full colour and black & white. This piece shows a possible encounter with a thief in the town of Ustahm and has been created digitally, using a comic/graphic novel style that I enjoyed working with and will certainly use again within this adventure.

Tales of Quahnarren: Spacers

Tales of Quahnarren: Spacers

A selection of the small black & white spot illustrations recently created for my Tales of Quahnarren gamebook. These small pieces are known as ‘spacers’ as they are used to fill or create space when formatting the pages of a gamebook. They are frequently utilised to prevent widows and orphans from appearing in the text layout, and also to help with the placement of written sections that are accompanied by a full-page illustration and therefore must fall at a particular point in the document.

Tales of Quahnarren: Spacers

ToQ: Objects and Artefacts

Tales of Quahnarren: Objects and Artefacts
I’ve recently been creating several illustrated articles for my Tales of Quahnarren project site, detailing some of the unique items to be found within the world of Quahnarren. The Objects and Artefacts page will be regularly updated with further new pieces as they are completed, and will eventually contain a wealth of information regarding the daily lives of the Quahneri people, their possessions, customs and beliefs.

Tales of Quahnarren: ancient artefact

Qadhul statue
A small wooden statue carved to represent a Qadhul, made by an accomplished craftsperson from the ancient Guahn peoples. The mythical Qadhul were menacingly intimidating creatures featuring a long prehensile trunk similar to the modern Makkhra, and historically were widely worshipped as significant spiritual creatures with divine attributes.

This example stands roughly one hand tall and was used as an incense burner, as it features a hole at the top of the head in which numerous sticks of incense can be inserted. It is therefore likely that this statue was of regular ceremonial use, appeasing the vengeful gods with aromatic smoke in combination with small gifts, prayers and songs of praise.

ToQ: Beyond the Morning Mountains fantasy adventure gamebook

ToQ: Beyond the Morning Mountains
Today I’ve finally announced my gamebook project set within the fantasy world of Quahnarren. Beyond the Morning Mountains is a very ambitious project, featuring over 120,000 words it is extensively illustrated throughout, and is the first in a planned series of adventures that will take readers to all corners of the world that I am creating.

Visit the Tales of Quahnarren site to read more about the book, and if you’re completely new to the adventure gamebook genre you can also preview a few written sections to gain some understanding of what these books are all about.

ToQ: Duquellah coat of arms

Duquellah coat of arms
A new coat of arms design for the City of Duquellah, as part of my ongoing Tales of Quahnarren project.

Duquellah is the largest city in Quahnarren and the oldest permanently inhabited site on the continent since the arrival of the Guahn people. Known by all as the ‘city of learning’, Duquellah is famous for the Victory Gate of Vehkorr and the broad thoroughfare Aelisen Way, both located near the central area of the city amid the attractive natural parks and small gardens that abut The Skar river.

ToQ: Tomb of Haakuhl

Tomb of Haakuhl
On windy nights, when thick low cloud rolls in off the sea and settles into the small valleys surrounding the tomb, a shape in the form of a man wearing a long cloak, is occasionally seen drifting silently around the immediate area of the Tomb of Haakuhl. The cloak itself appears to be formed from the twisting fog tendrils that cover the ground, his long white hair glows with a radiant intensity, and his body and face are said to be of a limitless blackness. This unsettling figure causes no physical harm, and has never attempted to approach any witness, but all reported sightings tell of a strongly emanating feeling of distress and desolation as the lonely apparition keeps silent vigil of the family tomb.

A quick piece for my Tales of Quahnarren project. Illustration completed in Painter and Photoshop.

Tales of Quahnarren: Ustahm

Tales of Quahnarren: Ustahm

As a part of an extensive current project set within my fantasy world of Quahnarren, I’m creating detailed maps of some of the towns and cities within the land. This colour map of Ustahm, which is a mid-sized town located to the north of The Skar river in the Dehanthor Valley, is the first that I’ve completed.

Ustahm is a prosperous, well-kept, and industrious town, famously surrounded by multiple rows of the giant redwood Sehquoihar tree, providing a distinctive elegance and respectful civility to the area. Ustahm is a vital stopping point on the busy and important trade route between the major cities of Duquellah, to the southwest, and Moornehm, to the northeast.

Places of interest in Ustahm include: Warden Guhlnaar’s ornately majestic offices on Merchant Row; the Spotted Serpent Tavern on the notorious Koq Walk, for those needing refreshment or entertainment; the vibrant market corner, where locally grown and manufactured goods are enthusiastically sold and traded; the grandly appointed Haanstrom Inn on Shadow Lane, opposite the central governance sector; and the renowned Azifhar Bathhouse on The Hollow, the largest of its kind in eastern Quahnarren.

Tales of Quahnarren: Great Statue of Tahsanook-Lai

Great Statue of Tahsanook-Lai

Situated in the spectacular rocky valleys formed along the western base of the Morning Mountains stands a towering monument to one of the most important and legendary figures in Quahnarren’s history. Carved from a rising outcrop of ancient sedimentary rock by a dedicated team of skilled stonemasons and local artisans, the Great Statue of Tahsanook-Lai is a striking 24-foot tall permanent remembrance, impressively honouring the visionary ruler of the Guahn nations, who thoughtfully initiated the permanent migration of his people to the unpopulated island landmass of Quahnarren.

The Great Statue was constructed nearly a century ago, and is considered to be an engineering and artistic masterpiece of considerable cultural importance. Tahsanook-Lai has been accurately sculpted wearing his winged battle helm, a famed and sacred symbol of everlasting victory, worn for both ceremonial and practical purposes by only the most revered leaders of the Guahn peoples.

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The most recent illustration for my Tales of Quahnarren fantasy series. Nice to have finally turned my initial quick sketch into a finished piece.

Tales of Quahnarren: Sacred Bone Tree

ToQ: Sacred Bone TreeIn a small glade surrounded by thick forest, an ancient tree, known as the Sacred Bone Tree, stands starkly in the centre of the clearing, isolated amid the brilliantly luminous grass that grows only in this singular location. Long ago it was believed that the great warrior, teacher, and protector Guahvaan, the purposeful and enlightened leader of the early nomadic peoples, met his untimely end in this location, most likely directed or influenced by tricksters summoned by demonic forces who sought to swiftly kill his rising influence. The tree is said to have risen from his fallen remains, fractured bones forming into a sturdy trunk and branches, enriching the soil and creating an area of remarkably fertile growth, offered as a parting gift to all his people and a demonstration of the genuine power of the human spirit.

Tales of Quahnarren: Firebird

Firebird

Rarely seen, these large and impressive birds are known as the ‘life giver.’ The arrival of a Firebird is always extremely welcome, as they only ever appear in moments of great personal need, when all hope seems lost and death imminently awaits. Featuring a vivid red and gold plumage, and long sapphire-blue tail feathers, Firebirds promptly restore life and vitality to all in peril within their immediate vicinity.

Those who have been bestowed the gift of the Firebird’s recuperative powers, state that they experienced a joyous and heartfelt warmth overrun their entire body, and that they felt affectionately protected and comforted during the restorative process. Many religious orders claim these birds to be arbiters from the heavens: returners of life to anyone about to be mistakenly called before their time. In various styles and uses throughout Quahnarren, the image of the Firebird is symbolically used to denote virtuous qualities and celestial affinity, and is regarded as an emblem of all principled people.

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A new addition to the creatures found in the fantasy land of Quahnarren.

Mapping Quahnarren

Map of QuahnarrenQuahnarren.com is now live, so as part of creating the new site for my project I’ve produced a detailed map of the fantasy land of Quahnarren.

I have always had a genuine interest in maps and cartography, and the absorbing sense of wonder and discovery that they offer, and knew that a nice map would be an essential component to help visualize Quahnarren. Developing the size, shape and actual geographical features of the landmass was not a particularly simple task, especially considering that most of the locations and stories for the project have yet to be devised and written! This process involved quite a bit of future planning (and some guesswork), which will hopefully prove to be suitably flexible and appropriate for my needs as this project proceeds.

The finished artwork originally started with a hand drawn map outline, which was scanned into Photoshop where the detailed colour and texture were added. All of the map typography was set in Illustrator and then imported as layers into Photoshop, which makes it more manageable and updatable, and also provides a sharp vector base for the type too.

It would take about a week and a half for a reasonably fit person to walk across the entire length of Quahnarren – along the way you’d be sure to see and experience a great deal of adventure and excitement.

Tales of Quahnarren: Trial of the Alvaiser

Trial of the Alvaiser

Those few that have survived an encounter with an Alvaiser claim to have been generously granted a second chance at life, and speak earnestly of the tremendous awe and humility they felt during what is now commonly described as the ‘spirit judgement’ – a personal trial of the soul.

Alvaiser are supernatural woodland spirits, keenly watching all who venture into their forests. They are guardians and protectors of the natural world, seeking without compunction to redress the actions of human weakness and violence. They are primarily found in areas where trauma and death has affected the natural balance of the environment, and therefore take what is necessary to achieve the required equilibrium within their individual location.

Appearing in human form as beautiful semi-transparent goddesses, they float amongst the treetops, glowing majestically in flowing white gowns that separate into ribbons below their waist, where no further human form remains. Their long hair radiates a warm and enveloping heat, and their hands emit a vaporous blue energy that silently flashes with arcane potential.

All who gaze upon the Alvaiser find themselves stupefyingly transfixed and unable to turn away. Reaching down to touch the head of their target, they communicate solely through direct thoughts and images into the mind, prompting powerful sensations of extreme loss, confusion, and submission, and decisively searching the soul to determine a suitable sacrifice for their needs.

Victims of an encounter with an Alvaiser are never seen again – they magically cease to exist and no remains are ever found. Those who pass judgement however, continue on to live with a new appreciation for the world they share, and believe that their personal destiny is favourably altered forevermore.

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A potentially fatal encounter for travellers in my ongoing fantasy project Tales of Quahnarren. The Alvaiser are equally feared and respected, and feature heavily in the folklore and historic fables told across Quahnarren.

This illustration was created in both Painter and Photoshop, and is one of the enjoyable quicker pieces I’ve completed recently using a palette knife style. This image was initially produced in Painter, only in black & white, and then coloured and altered within Photoshop. This technique allows me to firstly concentrate solely on the complete composition, values, and contrast, before progressing on to determine a final colour palette, add/delete/alter any details and textures, and to fully develop the atmosphere I wish the subject and overall image to convey.

Below are a few small sections of the illustration showing the differences between an unfinished early black & white version, and the final coloured piece. The advantage for this particular image of using individual programs for separate stages of production, was the ability to work with a specific brush style within Painter, and then import that base art into Photoshop (a program I have considerably more experience in using), where I could easily add the required highlighting effects onto my existing art.

process_head_stripprocess_hand_stripprocess_gown_strip
As part of this personal project I’ve been compiling various notes and descriptions of the people, creatures, historical events, customs, and spiritual beliefs of all those that play a significant role within this fantasy world, and will continue to produce new illustrations of a diverse selection of these elements as I move onwards in the creation of this world.

Tales of Quahnarren: Buhldaag of the Northern Scourge

Buhldaag_The Northern Scourge

From the wild northern regions they came – determined men with empty hearts and pure uncontrolled fire in their hateful eyes. They flowed unhindered into the settled central areas of Quahnarren like a breaking wave eagerly seeking the shoreline, intent only on reaching its destination without hesitation or pause. Their tumultuous wailing attack cries struck a cold paralyzing fear into all peaceful inhabitants south of their homelands, and they created confusion and disharmony amongst normally calm men, who dishearteningly understood that they had neither the strength, nor will, to halt the plundering advancements of the accurately labeled Northern Scourge.

Their raids had quickly become more numerous, more murderous and increasingly uncontrollable. No longer content to just take what they desired, whole villages were now burned to the ground, simply in spite, for sport, and to feed a destructive longing. These men of immoral and vicious temperament were also acquiring a fondness for taking gruesome souvenirs, and reveled in the violence and chaotic mayhem created during their southern incursions.

Chief tormenter amongst them was their unscrupulous leader, Buhldaag – a fearless and driven character, who commanded a horde of easily fooled lesser men, deceitfully misled to serve his own egotistical madness.

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A new piece for my Tales of Quahnarren illustrated short story collection. This black & white character illustration was completed in Painter 12, using a smeary palette knife in a similar style to The Dreamer.

Tales of Quahnarren: The Dreamer

Tales of Quahnarren: The DreamerThe Dreamer

The Dreamer is the latest addition to my Tales of Quahnarren illustrated short story project.

This character went through an interesting visual development process, during which he transformed from a troublesome outlaw into a civilised musician and entertainer – quite a switch!

As is my normal working process, I saved many stages of completion whilst producing the illustration, which captures the evolution of the image over time. Below I’ve set up four individual versions into one image, which tracks development (top, left to right, then bottom, left to right) and shows the way I like to work on specific areas of importance, before making balancing adjustments or detail improvements across the overall piece.

The Dreamer: development steps

This illustration initially started with a loose sketch drawn directly in Painter with my Wacom tablet, which at the time was little more than just a head shot without any preplanning for a particular background design or treatment. A key element for this particular character was to capture an expression that matched his nature, which partly explains his personal change in destiny. This pose presented a nice faraway look, which helped to solidify the character in my mind and brought forth the idea to place him in an outdoor setting, suggesting his travels through the countryside as a wandering entertainer. As the focus was purely on the main interest area of the face I only needed to suggest organic shapes and continued to blend his form with the background itself.

As can be seen I wasn’t originally working with any colour, and was unsure until almost complete about changing it from a duotone to a colour piece. I regularly import my finished Painter files into Photoshop for final colour, contrast and saturation adjustments, so after completing that stage added some colour overlays to decide if a suitable effect could be achieved without losing the simplicity of the piece that I favoured. Introducing a light brown for the character of Leahslee and supporting that with a blue-green background added a bit more mood and interest, so I was happy to finish with the final version you see as the main image.

The illustration took about 8-9 hours to complete and is a welcome new part of my Quahnarren series.

Tales of Quahnarren: Black Hunter

Tales of QuahnarrenBlack Hunter

I’ve been working on several different pieces for my continuing Tales of Quahnarren project, and have finally finished, after much delay, one of the earliest illustrations I had planned: ‘Black Hunter.’

This was always a tricky image to compose and produce, particularly because I desired to show a night scene with a dark horse and rider. Exactly how to go about achieving this, whilst still making the image readable, was something I had to experiment with a little. This illustration evolved quite a bit as I progressed and it took some time for the final design of the rider’s mask and armour to emerge – the mask shape was heavily influenced by a very interesting gnarled piece of wood that I noticed at a nearby winery. It can help to be observant of nature!

I used a few custom brushes in Photoshop to produce the effects I was looking for – notably the various cloud shapes in the background and the detailed, textured finish for the horse. I’m happy that the final artwork has the darkness and mood that I was searching for, and yet still has enough contrast and light to be an effective illustration. It is also nice to see it completed…