My El Goonish Shive Fanart
I am an obsessive fan (also known as a "bunny") of the webcomic El Goonish Shive (EGS), a drama/comedy/sci-fi/fantasy series about a group of high schoolers in a world where the impossible happens with alarming frequency. Friendly aliens? Check. Transformations of gender and/or species? Check. Alter-egos from parallel universes bent on galactic domination? Check. Oh, and there's all the usual emotional tension, angst and absurdity that comes with being a teenager in America.
Be warned, there are some spoilers here, so if you haven't started reading EGS yet, it's not too late to start!
Ellen & Nanase (7/16/2005): A fan-art piece I did of Ellen and Nanase. I drew the original sketch while I was standing in line at Borders for my copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Ellen used to be Elliot, until he was turned female by a transformation gun and then split into separate male and female individuals by the mystical Dewitchery Diamond. Nanase is Elliot's ex-girlfriend, who split with him because she wasn't attracted to him physically -- only to discover later that she was very attracted to Ellen, which forced her to come to terms with some things about herself. These two haven't gotten together in the comic as yet, but they've built up such a load of sexual tension that the fans all figure it's only a matter of time. :) This was the first picture where I attempted to use shading on a colored pic.
Nanase Sketches (8/08/2005): I was sitting in a day-long orientation class for my new job and feeling intensely bored, so I began drawing sketches of Nanase in different poses. Front View | Giving the "Peace" Sign | Mystified by Shiny Object | Transformed into a Naga-Trill Hybrid
Nanase's Lucky Night (10/02/2005): There has been rampant speculation among EGS fans (also known as "bunnies") about the supporting character Rhoda and her possible attraction to Nanase. Between this subplot and Ellen's professed willingness to be "friends with benefits" with just about everyone, it wasn't long before some bunnies were speculating about a possible relationship between all three of these young women. This one was a blatant bit of cheesecake for the Ell-Nan-Rhoda 'shippers, but it was a lot of fun to do. The shading was what made this piece for me -- I was particularly happy with the curves of Rhoda's spine and Nanase's breasts. Facial expressions were still a constant struggle for me to do right, though, and I didn't feel like I was really capturing the "look" of Dan's art style.
The "El Goonish Serenity" Project
This ambitious project was the fruit of my two great obsessions of 2005: EGS, and the Serenity movie, which was by far the best thing to happen to sci-fi since The Matrix (and the best thing to happen to space opera since The Empire Strikes Back). After seeing this poster for the film, a funny image popped into my head: Susan, the "hammer queen" of EGS, wielding her oversized mallets in the same way River is wielding her sword and axe in the poster. From there, the idea snowballed into a plan for an entire series of posters, each one focusing on one of the characters of EGS dressed up as a character from Serenity.
There was already an established precedent for EGS characters appearing in the guise of movie characters, and Serenity badly needed whatever publicity it could get. I knew that there were a number of ardent Browncoats among the "bunnies" of EGS, but there were at least as many who had never heard of the film. I figured that this was the perfect opportunity to bring the two fandoms together, as well as a fun project to hone my artistic skills.
And boy, did it hone them. The growth of my skills as the project progressed speaks for itself...
#1: Susan as River Tam (10/16/05): This one had good posing and decent proportions, but the face still didn't capture the "feel" of the character. I also made the mistake of using the paintbrush tool in Photoshop to color in all of my black lines, which eliminated the hand-drawn pencil strokes and made the picture look too flat. It was a step up from my early attempts, but only a small one.
#2: Justin as Hoban "Wash" Washburn (10/19/05): For this one I abandoned the paintbrush tool and kept the original pencil strokes, laying them down thickly on the paper so they would scan clearly. I like everything about this picture except the head: while it's closer to Justin than #1 was to Susan, it's not quite "him", and the lines ended up being a little too blurry.
#3: Nanase as Zoe Alleyne (10/26/05): This one was the breakthrough piece. I had started drawing head sketches of the characters in preparation for the Justin picture, and for Nanase I deliberately made those practice sketches larger and more detailed. It paid off big-time: Nanase actually looks like herself. The right leg is a little weird -- the model for this sketch was striding toward the camera, which is very dramatic but hard to draw properly. The upper body, on the other hand, turned out great, even with the heavy foreshortening of Nanase's gun hand. This is still one of my favorites.
#4: Grace as Kaylee Frye (11/02/05): Grace as Kaylee was an obvious choice, since their sunny dispositions mimic each other so perfectly. As my pictures became truer to the "feel" of the characters, the sketches also became larger; by the time I got to Grace I was beginning to run out of space on the pages of my sketch diary. It was a problem that would come back to plague me in later installments of the project...
#5: Sarah as Inara Serra (11/11/05): Sarah as Inara was a challenge for two reasons: personality and size. Sarah rarely shows the kind of sultry, wryly amused look that our dear Companion is famous for, so I had to play around a bit to get the right expression while still having Sarah look like Sarah. More troublesome was the fact that Morena Baccarin (Inara) is a lot taller than Sarah; this, coupled with my increasing tendency to draw the characters' faces to be large and expressive, caused me to run out of space on my page for Sarah's legs. I compensated for this after-the-fact by "stretching" her gown in Photoshop, but some people still complained that her legs were too short.
#6: Tedd as Simon Tam (11/19/05): This one was a major setback, in a lot of ways. The problem I had with Sarah-as-Inara was only accentuated in Tedd-as-Simon -- Tedd just doesn't have anything like the broad chest and long legs that Sean Maher brings to the role of Simon. Foolishly, I used Maher's picture as my model in spite of this, and as a result I ended up with something that really doesn't look much like Tedd and falls off the bottom of the page. To make matters worse, his head looks too small, though it's really pretty close to the size a real person's head would be on that torso. I'll be redoing this one as soon as I have the time; I include it here only for the sake of completeness, and to show that my track record is not a steady chain of improvements. :) The one good thing to come out of this piece was experience with a new set of precision inking pens, which made digital clean-up and coloring on the subsequent pictures a lot easier. Before this all of my pictures had been drawn in graphite pencil over blue pencil sketches; on this and subsequent pictures, the ink was laid directly over the blues.
#7: Ellen as Jayne Cobb (11/20/05): Back on track with this one. I had gotten myself a much bigger sketch pad to play with (10" x 10.5", instead of 9" x 6"), which allowed me to draw the characters' heads as big as I liked them to be without risking running out of space. Drawing a female character as voluptuous as Ellen in the role of a big, beefy male character was an interesting challenge; I didn't want to make the same mistakes I had made with Tedd, so I chose a reference photo with a dramatic pose where I could easily determine which parts to make bigger, smaller or rounder to accommodate Ellen's feminine curves. Several of my fellow bunnies saw it coming, but the notion of a man with a woman's name being played by a woman who used to be a man was just too delicious to pass up. Besides, Ellen's the one EGS cast member who most closely resembles Jayne in personality ... though, thankfully, not in brains. :)
#8: Elliot as Capt. Malcolm Reynolds (11/27/05): This is the one that I was most sure I wanted to do from the very beginning, as soon as I decided to expand the project beyond the original picture of Susan. This was both because Elliot is the "leader" of the EGS crew (in as much as anyone is) and because of the physical similarity between the two characters. I thought about doing a more dramatic shot of Elliot striding toward the camera, duster billowing behind him, but after my practice sketches I decided that Elliot's face really looks better when seen at an angle rather than head-on.
#9: Dan as Shepherd Book (12/04/05): It was inevitable, really, that Dan would end up playing the role of Serenity's father figure, conscience and spiritual guide. Given the hardships Dan himself has occasionally faced in producing EGS, Book's quote seemed uniquely appropriate, as well. :)
nan_fire.jpg (01/05/06): A follow-up to the EGSerenity project -- Nanase as a Browncoat. I drew this one as a design to be incorporated into a decorative tablecloth for New Year's Day -- it's a tradition in our family, you can email me for details if you really want to know -- and I liked the design enough that I built it into the "promo poster" you see here.
The idea of the EGS cast members getting married and having kids is one that has been discussed on the forums and depicted in fanfic, but there has been surprisingly little fanart about the subject. I don't know if I was the first to come up with the idea of showing the group's hypothetical progeny, but I think I've taken the idea further than anyone else has. I've included commentary below on the personality and background that I envision for each of these characters.
Lily Danae Dunkel (11/27/05): The first idea that came to me was to draw the daughter of Ellen and Nanase. In the EGS 'verse, of course, two women having children is far from impossible, given the access Ell and Nan would probably have to TF Guns and other alien tech. Lily is Ellen and Nanase's first child, born to Ellen with mNanase as the father. (Since Ellen is bisexual and Nanase is pretty strictly gynosexual, it seemed to me that Ellen would be more accepting of making love to a male version of her partner. We've recently found out that Ellen is still weirded out by being attracted to guys, but she's probably more likely to get accustomed to the idea than Nanase is.)
Lily definitely takes after Ellen in terms of personality, which Nanase finds to be both cute and exhausting. Ellen coaches Lily's kickball team, and Nanase is pondering when to begin teaching her martial arts. Lily adores her Uncle Tedd and has already managed to get herself transformed half a dozen times while playing with him and Aunt Grace, somewhat to Nanase's dismay.
Kevin Guyur Verres (03/09/05): My hypothetical image of Tedd and Grace's firstborn. I've envisioned him having a sister -- either a twin or very close in age -- and they're both energetic, rambunctious children who have made life interesting (and tiring) for the entire EGS crew. Their natural talent for transforming does not equal their mother's -- they can't mix and match forms as easily as Grace can -- but they do have the ability to acquire new forms via TFG zapping. They share their mother's sharp intellect and their father's mad scientist tendencies; Kevin, in particular, is a bit of a show-off in the lab. When his experiments fail, they tend to do so spectacularly, though no one has yet been permanently injured by his mishaps.
Elliot loves Kevin and his sister almost like his own children, but he worries about their safety (and not without reason). Ellen thinks the kids are tremendous fun, though even she has been known to get angry at some of Kevin's crazier stunts (particularly if they threaten the secrecy of their alien heritage). Sarah and Nanase are more disapproving and worry about the long-term influence the Verres kids will have on their own children. Susan views them as a sort of karmic payback for Tedd, best enjoyed from a distance (though she has developed an almost grudging affection for them, as well). Justin mostly finds them exhausting, and sometimes becomes nervous in their presence -- he's been on the receiving end of a number of their pranks in the past, and usually spends social evenings with the Verres waiting for the other shoe to drop... :)
Other Recent EGS Fanart
"All I Want For Christmas" (12/06/05): Another Ellen-and-Nanase piece, this one was distinguished both by the existence of a background ("But I thought backgrounds were witchcraft!") and by the fact that it inspired me to write a song about it. This was new territory for me, but very exciting, as the entire thing came together in less than an hour (and most of that was spent in the shower, working out melodies and lyrics in my head). Over the next several days I wrote out the sheet music and recorded it, and I'm proud to present the results here. | Lyrics | "All I Want For Christmas", recorded 12/10/05 (right-click and save)
Many thanks to Weep for the sound editing, and to all the bunnies for their many comments on this project!
"Minions Get Paid More" (12/24/05): I wasn't actually on drugs when I created this picture, but it would be understandable if someone assumed I was. :) I'd been feeling sorry for Minion, Dan's long-suffering administrative assistant who helps keep EGS running from behind the scenes. The little alien just never seemed to get a break. Remembering, however, that minions get paid more than your average administrative assistant, and that he had the hots for supporting cast member Rhoda, I decided to give the little guy a little wish fulfillment as a Christmas present. He certainly seems to be enjoying it... ;)
"Happy Birthday, Dan" (02/14/06): One of several pieces of fanart that the EGS forum-goers put together for Dan's birthday. This is also the first actual comic strip I've done since ... gosh, probably 1992 or so. Oh, and the chick with the four arms and purple hair is my avatar on the EGS forum, in case you hadn't guessed.
"Venus Ellen & Nanase: Together At Last" (03/15/06): This picture gleefully took advantage of Dan's newly-granted permission to create images containing nudity. Proceed ye no further, brethren, if hand-drawn images of nipples shall offend thee. And yes, I know the bed is too short -- one of those things I didn't notice until it was too late. :-p
"Ready for a Rematch" (05/25/06): This is the first piece of fanart that I did entirely on the computer, courtesy of the Wacom Graphire4 tablet I got for my birthday. It is very, very cool, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to do anything artistic on the computer.
"Box o' Fun" (06/18/2006): Mrs. Dunkel drops off some anniversary presents for Elliot and Sarah. Brain bleach is available upon request... :)