Category Archives: Art

Muramasa the Demon Blade and Artwork vs. Realistic Graphics

Not long ago, I finished playing “Muramasa: The Demon Blade” after a two year break (I got a new XBox 360 halfway through and then was distracted by that and other various things for quite some time afterward).  What I noticed first and foremost about this game when I found it at the store was the interesting art style and the rich colors on the front and back covers, which ended up being the main reason I decided to buy it (plus, the game store was having some kind of sale, so why not?).  But, first, a summary of the game.

            This game is a side-scrolling action game.  Throughout the game, you collect or forge different swords, each with its own special skill, some of which can break different barriers that block your progress to various locations.  Battles are fought with three of your swords, which you can switch between, preferably before your current sword breaks, and switching swords at the right time allows you to attack all enemies on-screen at once.  The strategy involved in fighting in this game makes the battle system more interesting than simple button mashing (which is what I still largely did, though).  The game is also composed of two stories, the story of Momohime (though, I don’t know if that is accurate, as she is possessed nearly the entire time) and the story of Kisuke, plus multiple secret endings.  The stories and characters were fairly interesting, though they didn’t particularly appeal to me.  It was other aspects of the game that made it stand out to me the most.

            One aspect of the game I liked was that it takes place in Japan, and I enjoyed being able to play a game while also learning a bit about the country and its mythology.  (The game is actually named after the famous Japanese sword smith, Muramasa, whose blades were rumored to not return to their sheaths until they “tasted blood”, if you will, even forcing the wielder to commit suicide if no other victim could be found.)  I also encountered various monsters from Japanese folklore, like the Kappa, Tengu, and the most bizarre Kasa-obake, a strange umbrella monster that hops around on one foot.  The game, while having dialogue written in English, is also spoken entirely in Japanese, which I also found interesting.

            What distinguishes this game from others the most, though, is the style of artwork.  This game has some of the most stunning scenery I have ever seen.  The backgrounds (and characters) are more in a 2D style, but the background is kind of layered in a way, so it gives a more 3D feel to it.  The locations use such vibrant colors and are positively beautiful to behold, from a stormy ocean (with a cameo appearance of the famous woodblock print “The Great Wave of Kanagawa”) to snowy hills with a frozen river running off into the horizon, from mysterious forests to tranquil fields of wheat at sunset.  This game mainly involves fighting enemies and traveling, and the traveling doesn’t get as boring as I think it would have otherwise because the scenery is so lovely to look at.

            And this makes me think of other games that use beautiful art styles, like “Rayman Origins” and “Okami” (the latter of which uses more of the Japanese ink art style in its scenery and characters).  These games, along with “Muramasa”, stand out from other games, not because their graphics are realistic, but because they are unique and beautiful.  Sure, games like “Halo 4” and “Final Fantasy XIII” look amazing.  But, now that technology has reached that point, we’re going to see a lot more games that look like that.  It’s not going to be so novel anymore once most games look that good, and we have become used to it.

            It is the games with the different styles that will stand out in terms of graphics and are the ones that will always be beautiful to look at, even after the excitement of nearly-realistic graphics wears off.  It’s like the difference between a photo and a painting.  A well-taken photo can be nice to look at, but for me, a beautiful painting is so much more interesting to look at.  A painting can use a style and colors that brings out emotions that a photo can’t.  A photo shows you what’s there.  Yes, photographers can be artsy with lighting and angle, but paintings still can do things photos can’t.

            So I have gotten a bit off-topic about this game.  The game is a lot of fun, with a story and characters that are perfectly adequate (like I said, I didn’t get overly attached to these aspects, but they certainly weren’t bad).  But, it was the art style that stood out to me the most.  This game is an interactive piece of art, and it has one of the most beautiful art styles I have ever seen.  (I noticed this when I bought it, and this initial impression only grew when I saw that it also has one of the loveliest manuals and disks the world has ever known.)  So while this game is not among my list of favorites, it still will always stand out to me because of its stunning art style.  That alone might be reason enough to check this game out so you can see its glory for yourself.

The Duck Blade

Tinkerbell and the Ducks That Draw Her

Don't take her lightly, despite the fact that, in theory, you could crush her with your fist
Don’t take her lightly, despite the fact that, in theory, you could crush her with your fist

I have been pretty darn lazy with my drawing lately.  To give voice to a possible reason as to why this is, I’ve been busy with all manner of other things.  I’ve been spending much of my free time writing fan fiction.  I’ve also been reading fan fiction (just finished reading “Those Lacking Spines” for the second time, which is the best “Kingdom Hearts” fan fiction ever, if not the best fan fiction to have ever been written in either the Realm of Light, the Realm of Darkness, or that one in-between that doesn’t exist but does somehow).  I’ve also been busy with…okay, I’ll admit it.  I just haven’t been in a drawing mood lately.  Not at all.  I still have the desire to make beautiful art, but I have lost the will to actually practice until I am capable of making beautiful art.  There really is no possible way for me to reach my goal unless I practice, but to put it simply, I really, really just don’t feel like it.

            But, I did do one picture recently, a picture I did for my mom because she likes Tinkerbell (not to be confused with Tinklebell, who, as far as I understand, only exists in the imagination of immature people like myself).  And so before she could do much of anything with it, I snatched it away to scan it, and now I present it to you on this here blog (I did give the picture back to her afterward, in case you were wondering).  It was drawn in my sketch pad, inked, and then colored with colored pencils, and as you can see, I decided to draw everyone’s favorite fairy (that has blonde hair, a green dress, blue wings, is in a Disney movie that begins with P and features alliteration in the title, has committed at least one of the Seven Deadly Sins, namely, Envy, and who also has a disturbing homicidal streak) in a variety of poses.  Though my drawing and inking and coloring skills are lacking (none can deny how adept I am at proper scanning procedures, however), I hope you find this to be a more or less aesthetically pleasing picture to gaze upon.

Tinkerduck

Vinvasion

For the last several months, I have been spending all my Photoshop time working on the final draft of my comic, only taking breaks for special little projects.  This, however, has made me sad.  I miss doing fan art, but I also don’t want to slow down on the work on my comic.  It’s taking enough time as it is.  Ten pages in six months?  Is that slow?  I don’t know, but it feels slow.  To compromise, I decided to continue working on my comic and just draw fan art on paper and ink it and scan it in rather than do them on Photoshop like I usually did.  It doesn’t look as nice, but at least I still get my fan art fix.  I also decided it would be fun to draw many pictures of a character or characters with various poses and expressions, with at least one colored in colored pencil.

Are you out to get him?  Because he thinks you are.  So are you?
Are you out to get him? Because he thinks you are. So are you?

            So here you have the first of these pictures (click to enlarge).  This picture includes many sketches of my favorite “Jak and Daxter” character (actually, possibly my favorite character ever), Vin, who was mainly seen in “Jak II”.  (I actually wrote a post about him not long ago, in a galaxy not that far away.)  Vin is very cowardly (note his expression of absolute terror in the upper right), very paranoid (he’s got a gun in one picture, no doubt to protect himself from all the people he thinks are out to “get” him), and very smart (as he happily ponders math problems that would give most people a bad case of the frowns).  He also spends a lot of time working on the many computers in Haven City’s Power Station (and so he is doing just that near the top, a picture I am less than proud of, but at least it allowed me to practice more complex finger poses.  You know what, just avoid looking at the top middle of the page.  Thank you.)

            So behold, my many pictures to depict the (not crazy?) scrawny genius.  Some are better than others, but I hope you like.  My inking and colored pencil skills are lacking, as is my ability for coloring within the lines, a basic skill I should have picked up as a duckling.  Actually, my drawing skills in general are lacking.  But, I am not talented like Vin is.  I’m just a simple duck.  Oh, and Vin is property of Naughty Dog.

The Duck Has Become Vin’s Stalker a Little Bit

The Cover of Mune and Mura

Mune and Mura Cover Small

Over the last month or so, I’ve been working on the book cover for djkeyserv140’s short story, “Mune and Mura”.  It was fun, and I am very glad to have had an opportunity to do such a project for someone.  The cover features Mura on the left and Mune on the right with their swords, Sutaraito and Hizashi, respectively.  In the back is Edo Castle (which is actually a real place).

            If you get the chance, I would suggest checking out djkeyserv140’s blog.  And of course, “Mune and Mura”.  This story is quite interesting and combines fiction and actual events in Japanese history.  Mune and Mura are based off of real Japanese sword smiths, Masamune and Muramasa, two people that were often contrasted, with Masamune being good and Muramasa being more evil and “bloodthirsty”.  Masamune was considered to be Japan’s best sword smith, while Muramasa’s blades were rumored to be cursed.  It was said that swords made by him wouldn’t return to their scabbards without blood, even the blood of the own who wields it.  (My sources came from Wikipedia.  Info on Masamune and Muramasa can be found in these links.)

            While the two did not meet in real life (they weren’t even alive at the same time), this story is interesting because it has them in the same time period, where they actually know each other.  I also like that Mura is not portrayed as evil.  The story gives us actual reasons for his actions.  If you’d like to read the story, the first part starts here.  Pretty much just keep going from there, and you should have little trouble finding the rest of it.

            (Just a note.  I was having all kinds of trouble getting the image to work.  This version is much smaller and with RGB colors rather than CMYK.  But, I believe it looks no different really from the original.  Crisis averted.  Huzzah!)

Mune and Mura and the Duck

Nine Years of Doing the Drawing of the Pictures

Behold and be vaguely impressed!
Behold and be vaguely impressed!

I have two goals in this post.  One, to wish you all a blissful Christmas!  And two, to show you something I’ve been wanting to do for years.

            So behold!  This picture chronicles the artistic achievements of the duck, from 2004 to 2012.  I found pictures in notebooks and sketchpads and on the computer and put them together in the approximate order of which they were done.  Below each picture, I gave the name of the character or whatever’s pictured and what they’re from.  Many are fan art, but some are my own original ideas.  (The hearts and smiley faces are there because that’s what I draw next to doodles I like.  Hearts beat smileys, in case you’re wondering.  Frowny faces show up next to stuff I find mediocre.)

            The 2004, 2005, and most of the 2006 pictures were drawn on just about anything because I wasn’t so serious about drawing back then.  They were done in this weird sketch pad type thing I had (that had basically printer paper in it), in a notebook, and that ottsel at the beginning of 2006 was actually done on those cover sheets that come on top of loose leaf paper.  The last picture in 2006 is when I finally started drawing in an “official” sketch pad.  That’s when you can say I decided it was time to get serious about drawing.  So no smiling.  We’re being serious now.

            All the way through 2007 and the first half or so of 2008 I was doing nothing but drawing in these sketch pads.  I mainly drew the same thing over and over again for long periods of time, starting with a zillion floating heads of Organization XIII members from “Kingdom Hearts”.  Finally, when I was sick of that, I started doing a bit more variety, such as characters from “Donkey Kong” games and the “Kirby of the Stars” anime.

            Finally, I decided it was time to try Photoshop.  The rest of the pictures are done on there, starting with the picture in color in 2008.  Back then, I still would draw things in a sketch pad (and sometimes ink them) and scan it onto the computer before coloring it.  My coloring wasn’t as good back then because I didn’t have a tablet, and thus had less control over my coloring.  The first picture here, I believe, that was done with the tablet is the picture of Asajj Ventress in 2009 (not my first picture done with the tablet, just the first included here).  She was also my first attempt at a picture that had no outlines in the end.

            After that, I just kept on doing the same thing, doing all my pictures fully on the computer.  Some of my methods changed as I learned new skills, and I slowly got better.  There are various pieces of fan art and also designs for original characters for my comics.  Vincent Valentine in 2011 is my second attempt at a picture with no lines, and I think it’s greatly improved over Ventress.  You can also see some improvements specifically in my two pictures of Gretchen in 2009 and 2010 and my two pictures of Maia in 2010 and 2012.  I included a small bit of the final draft of my artist comic in the very last panel, a picture of Margo from page 2 of issue 1.

            This was a very fun thing to make.  It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and perhaps someday I’ll do a new one.  While I will mainly be working on my comics now, I still want to do other things, too, sometimes.  I definitely want to continue fan art, at least.  I loves the fan art.  I’ll just be a lot more picky on what I do from now on so as not to slow down my comic progress too much.  Anyway, I hope you find this picture interesting.  I know the pictures are small, so please click on it to make it bigger.  (You used to be able to give it a second click to make it even bigger, but it looks like they changed things.  Sorry if it’s small.  You can always make the screen bigger, in the lower right, if you use Internet Explorer at least….)

The Duck Who Is Proud to Have Risen to the Status of “Moderately Okay” Artist

Gol and Maia

Two very naughty siblings

“I’d hardly call it a ‘struggle’, would you, dear sister?”-Gol Acheron

“Certainly not.  The Red Sage gave up with so little effort.  No fun at all.”-Maia Acheron

            I decided it was time to do a post (which contains spoilers, so watch out) on two of my favorite characters, this time, twin brother and sister pair, Gol and Maia Acheron.  These two appeared as the villains in “Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy”.  Gol (and possibly Maia, as well) was the Sage of Dark Eco, the most dangerous substance known.  It could corrupt anyone who touched it or who spent too much time around it.

            And Gol and Maia were no exception.  After years of exposure to the stuff, the two became twisted, evil people.  Believing they not only could control Dark Eco but could use it to create life, they decided to open the Silos, objects that contain much of the world’s Dark Eco, so they could flood the planet with the substance and remake the world.  In order to do this, they raised an army of Lurkers, worked on rebuilding and improving an old Precursor robot, and also kidnapped the other Sages and used them to power the robot.

            Ironically, the game starts out with Jak and Daxter looking for Gol after Daxter fell into Dark Eco and got changed into an ottsel (part weasel, part otter).  Samos, the Sage of Green Eco (obviously before he was kidnapped), tells them that Gol may be the only one that can help Daxter change back, but little do they know of the Dark Sage’s fate.  In the end, Jak and Daxter free the kidnapped Sages and defeat Gol and Maia just as they’re in the middle of opening one of the Silos with their Precursor robot.  The robot’s head falls into the half-opened Silo and Gol and Maia are sealed inside.  Here Samos comments that the Dark Eco of the Silo “probably” killed them.  “Probably.”

            Now that you know the background, on to the characters themselves.  Even though relatively little is seen of them in the game, I still find them to be interesting characters, and there is enough mentioned in the dialogue to or about them that allows me to speculate about what we never see in the game.  For one thing, I find it interesting that it seems that Gol and Maia did not used to be bad.  Samos and the other three Sages used to know them, and even though it is mentioned that Samos warned them about the dangers of Dark Eco, it seems they were likely regular people before.  Samos even thought that Gol would help Daxter change back to normal, so he couldn’t have been that bad.  Also, Gol and Maia are obviously quite close.  Even though they are evil, they still show signs of love for each other.  It seems that even though the Dark Eco has twisted them, it hasn’t changed that one good quality.  Gol often even refers to Maia as his “dear sister”, and in one cut scene, Gol holds his hand out to her for a moment, and she takes it.  Gol is considered to be the main villain of the two, though he actually shows a more loving side, while Maia seems to be a bit more sadistic.

            I also find it interesting that the Dark Eco seems to have both hurt and helped them.  It obviously made them more powerful, as they can now teleport and were able to easily overpower and kidnap the other Sages.  But, it also drastically changed their appearances, Gol’s especially, who looks rather thin and sickly, and in the first cut scene, seemed to have some trouble breathing.  (It also has made Gol’s voice strange and echoing sounding.)  They think Dark Eco has given them “beauty”, according to Maia, but it has really hurt them and destroyed their humanity, a fact they seem to be completely oblivious to.

            While they are bad people when we see them in the game, I wonder what they were like before.  Their story is a bit tragic, really, and I feel a bit sorry for them.  I wonder if the Dark Eco destroyed them so slowly, they were never even aware of it.  Their close relationship shows a small good side to them that still remains, leaving overly-obsessed people like me to speculate into their past selves.  I would love to know more about who they once were.

            And perhaps someday I can.  It seems like there’s a good chance that they may come back someday.  Not only did Samos imply that Gol and Maia may not have died (and I’ve learned that in works of fiction, if something is hinted at, it is often true), but the official “Jak 3” guide has a section in the back telling about what happened to various characters.  They say that there are rumors Gol and Maia managed to end up in the catacombs, and they can eventually escape from there now that Jak has opened the catacombs.  (I don’t know why they don’t just teleport out, though.)  How spooky that Jak was down in those catacombs, and little did he know that those two psychopaths were probably wandering around there somewhere, as well.

            Anyway, I would just love to see these two return.  The first game did not do them justice.  I would love to see them in a new game now that the series has much more complex stories and many more cut scenes and better graphics.  The series also has a higher rating now, and I imagine Gol and Maia are probably even more evil than what can be seen in an E-rated game.  It feels like we didn’t quite see the real them yet.  That’s the biggest thing I’m waiting for in video games right now.  Get to it, Naughty Dog, or whoever does the series now.  I think it would be great to see the original villains from the first game return after all this time has passed.  And it would also be great to see them again since the series has gone through so many changes and is almost unrecognizable now.  I want to see some more familiar faces now that even Samos has disappeared from the series.

           By the way, I thought it was interesting to note that Gol’s voice actor was Dee Snider.  You know, the guy that sang in the band Twisted Sister.  Ever heard that song that goes “We’re Not Gonna Take It”?  Well, that’s Gol, kind of.  Every time I hear it now, I think of him.

            Anyway, the picture was drawn by me and is my most recent picture yet.  I have drawn Maia before, but for whatever reason, never Gol.  For years I wanted to draw the two of them together, and so now I finally have.  I’m rather proud of this one.  I think I was able to get a lot of expression in their faces.  Gol’s face was a lot easier to draw than I expected.  I thought it would be hard, but it took little practice.  Hooray!  The background is Dark Eco because I’m lazy.  I decided to include some Dark Eco sparks on Maia’s hand.  If Dark Jak can emit Dark Eco lightning, I’m sure Maia can.  I don’t know what those things hanging off Gol’s belt are.  They’ve baffled me for many years.  Perhaps his skinny self will float away like a balloon if he’s not weighed down….

            One last thing.  Below is a video showing the second cut scene in the game with Gol and Maia, where the main characters find out the fate of the Dark Sage(s).  (I’ve always liked Gol’s voice.  Now you must, too.)

A Duck That Must Buy Naughty Dog and Force My Will on Them

Artist Comic Issue 1 Final Draft Commenced

I am finally working on the final draft of issue 1 of my artist comic.  Before doing so, I figured out names for the characters and the comic and all of that.  The main character was originally referred to as MG or “main girl”, which inspired me to name her Margo.  The bird is named Raiiki, based in part by the Japanese words for red and yellow, akai and kiiroi respectively, his two main colors.  Since the comic takes place in a black and white world, with the bright red and yellow of Raiiki being the only colors for a bit, I named the entire series “Red and Yellow, while issue 1 is named “Black and White”.

            So anyway, after figuring out all the panels and drawing rough copies of them, I finally was able to begin my final draft.  It’s taking a long time, but I’m still getting the hang of things.  I’m doing it all on Photoshop, using a page of 11 inches by 17 inches, the standard Bristol board size (even though I’m not using Bristol board, of course, or else Photoshop would have felt jealous), and I’m coloring in CMYK rather than RGB.  That’s apparently better for printing.

            I still haven’t quite decided on what I’m going to do when the comic’s done.  I might put it online.  I might print it out and try handing out free copies at a comic convention to get interest.  I might do both.  I might also conquer the world and force everyone to buy it, which would be the easiest, but my army of hungry mongooses (or is it mongeese?) hasn’t been cooperative lately.  Might have to switch to plan B and invade the world with an army of slightly irritated chinchillas instead.  Well, either way, I hope my comics will have at least some success.  If I ever even finish them.

A Duck That Will Someday Be a Rich and Famous Comic Artist Just as Soon as I Master Mind Control…Or That Thing Jedi Can Do

My Most Epic, Most Tiring Picture Yet

Da epicness!

I recently finished a most epic “Final Fantasy VII” picture.  Behold my most recent marvel!  I have been working on this picture off and on for almost a year.  I sometimes took breaks to work on other pictures because this one just plain tired me out.  As you can see, it includes a collage of all the main characters from the game, including Jenova in the form of a severed head (when Sephiroth beheads her at the Nibelheim mako reactor, I assume, because that makes her more portable).  Meteor also shows up, as well, coming down towards the poor Midgar below.  I used a screenshot from the instruction manual for the background.

            This picture is the biggest picture I’ve ever done, I believe.  It could be a lot of fun at times, and it could also be very tiring.  I spent so much time figuring out the poses for each character and the placement.  Then, I drew each character separately.  Then, did a test placement picture.  Then, put them together in the real thing.  Cleaned up.  Colored.  It was absurd, but I think it paid off.  I’m rather proud of it.  But, I vow to never do a picture of more than a couple characters ever again.  I hope you guys like it.

A Duck Who Never Plans on Being This Epic Ever Again and Needs a Nap

To Catch a Comet

“It was a good net for butterflies, but a comet’s a bit different of a thing.”

This original picture from several years ago continues to be my absolute favorite of all time.  It inspired a poem I wrote with the same title, as well.  (The caption is actually a line from that poem.)  So far, I just can’t seem to make anything to compete with this one.  I hope you enjoy this picture as much as I do.  And the picture and the poem are my property.

To Catch a Duck