So where have I been?

My last post was about 9 months ago – shameful really. But I have a good excuse, an NDA! In August I started talking to BOOM! Studios and David Petersen about working on a dream project: The Mouse Guard Alphabet book. Every letter has some meaning in the Mouse Guard world, and each word is accompanied by a poem by David Petersen and two illustrations by myself.

The job was unexpected and quite frankly, ideal. I’m a big fan of Mouse Guard – it was my first graphic novel and the art and story has continued to endear it to me for years. It was a lot of fun getting to research the Mouse Guard universe and come up with my own interpretations of it. David let me have a great deal of freedom with my style and character designs (non-canon characters), and I produced some of my all-time favourite paintings.

mouseguard_alphabet_book_cover

So I finished the paintings in January and now I’m free to talk about it. I can’t wait until I can share more of the art from the book. It comes out in September 2017.

It started me on a path to pursuing traditional media. For years I have been using watercolour to almost-finish my paintings, scanning them, and using Photoshop to colour correct, to paint details, to fix proportions. This is a very fast approach, but it leaves my original watercolour paintings looking tragic, not something I can sell. In doing the Mouse Guard paintings, I forced myself to finish the illustrations traditionally in a sense. Some are different from the print versions, but the original paintings still look good.

mouseguard_alphabet_a

It was a gruelling effort. Due to the time constraints of the project, I was able to spend a maximum of 2 days on every painting, meaning that I was working faster and more polished than I ever had been before. In the end, I like the look of traditional more, and I love having originals that I can now sell or hang on my wall.

So when I participated in the Month of Love in February, I set out to create several fully-traditional paintings. Admittedly, I don’t enjoy making romantic art, so my paintings are interesting interpretations of the themes.

 

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Shelter

This is my submission for the 2017 Month of Love topic “Innocent”.

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Titan – 5×7″, watercolour, gouache and gold ink.

This is my submission for the Month of Love topic “Metamorphasis”.

I wanted to transform the humble cow into a goliath. Gary now roams the countryside, feared and respected.

covetous_web

Covetous – 8×10″, watercolour and gouache

This is my submission for the Month of Love topic “Light”.

Inspired by Tolkien’s Smaug, a queen who covets wealth and power. She destroys everyone around her in her pursuit of riches. She sits surrounded by great castle halls, filled with gold, but she sits alone.

Currently I don’t have any projects going on – always a scary time. I’m going to do an interior scene for my children’s book portfolio and see where that leaves me. I promise I’ll post more often now.

 

 

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The Pit – from start to finish

I’ve been working on a new piece and documenting my process with my shiny new camera! I’m learning the camera/editing as I go, so some of these are a bit low-quality, but here’s a good look at how I paint:

The dragon gets his big shiny teeth and little beady eyes... #dragon #artist #timelapse #wip #watercolor

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Heres a walkthrough of my digital process, layer by layer. #dragon #stepbystep #artist #photoshop

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Here’s the final image:
dragon-small

I’ve got 3 top-secret assignments to do in the next couple of weeks, but stay tuned for my next personal painting, a cover for my sample comic “Upstream”!

Swerve Festival Guide 2016

Hey guys! Sorry for the lack of posts lately, but I cant show much of what I’ve been working on! But a couple of weeks ago Swerve magazine asked me to do their Festival Guide, and here’s what I came up with:

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Cover

 

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Children’s Festival

 

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Folk Festival

 

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Global Festival

 

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Honens

 

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“Hamlet” by Shakespeare By the Bow

 

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Spot illustrations

The completed map!

Hello everyone! I have completed my map of a fictional island. I had so much fun creating this, I really wanted to paint a place that I would like to explore. While working on it, I found it helpful to imagine the story of a character from the trading town of Cold Harbour who goes on a journey through these lands. It was a fantastic exercise in design and painting environments, and I would love to do more maps in the future.

First, some process videos:

Building up the towns in my map, listening to "Open" by Rhye.

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Had a chance to work on this today, here's me painting the coastline on my map #wip #maps #watercolor

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A birds eye view of my latest work in progress. The song i was listening to is "To Let Myself Go" by Ane Brun

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You can see more process shots on my instagram, @smalyon

And here’s the final! Click for a higher res image:

serena malyon illustration map fantasy rpg

Thanks for checking out my work! Not sure what my next personal work will be, but I’m hoping to do more information design. Maybe something educational next time, we’ll see!

A long overdue update!

A very long overdue update on my activity for the past 6 months. I had some big life changes 6 month ago, as I moved out of the big city and into a much smaller town, into a house that my boyfriend and I now own! Moving took forever and kept me from posting much of my work on here, so I’m terribly sorry that I’ve neglected this blog!

Before moving, I started work on an RFP for the Medicine Hat Airport, they were looking for artwork to decorate their newly renovated wing. My proposal didn’t win, but now the airport is getting a pretty cool metal sculpture of a horse from an established Albertan sculptor. Here’s what I put together:

serena malyon illustration public art proposal airport landscape map medicine hat

When I first came to Medicine Hat, it was the landscape that really wowed me, and I wanted to express the beauty of the city from the skies, creating a sense of wonder about the area. I really enjoyed fitting my art style to the needs of the airport, and I look forward to submitting to more RFPs in the future.

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I have also been very busy in the past 3 months, which is really awesome. I did another 4 illustrations for Fantasy Flight Games’ Game of Thrones LCG, so stay tuned for when that comes out!

I have also just finished 20 black and white line illustrations for a middle-grade novel from Kids Can Press! I just have the cover to go now, and I get to start work on that early next week. I cant wait to show it, I really enjoyed the book and getting to flesh out the story with interior illustrations.

Finally, I have been working on a secret (I think) project with some other folks, and while I *really* enjoy the piece I created, I can’t show it for a *long* time. Its going to drive me nuts! I feel like I “levelled up” so to speak, in how sophisticated I can make my work.

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Okay, back to the work I can share! So my latest personal project is a map, and its well underway. Ive always loved making maps (map of the black death, map of my interests), and painting landscapes (The Things I do for Love), so this project is long overdue. I also recently discovered that my new phone can take video for Instagram! This is great news as, if you follow me on Instagram, you will be barraged by my process videos. Here’s my instagram: https://www.instagram.com/smalyon/

Here’s where its at right now, before I attack it with my digital trickery! Stay tuned for more updates about this thing (which may be sporatic depending on my professional workload).

map serena malyon illustration work in progress

Video Games as Art / Inspiration

I wrote this post last week as I was waiting patiently for my turn to play Fallout 4 one evening. I recently took part in a discussion among artists about video games, and it seemed that the general consensus was that they’re too big of a waste of time to play these days. If I were still playing World of Warcraft or Runescape like in my teenage years, I would have to agree, but video games have become much more than a mindless time-sink. I like devoting my spare time to video games these days, they open my mind to new creative possibilities. So here’s my little blog post to try and give them the respect they deserve.


Visuals:

Video games have become an art form. With recent advancements in graphics, video games have begun taking their look seriously. Talented artists craft rich worlds in unique styles, giving some games the feeling that you’re walking through a painting. Here are some games that heavily influenced my own artwork and my view of the world.

In my teens I discovered the video games that had amazing stories, inspiring visuals, and challenging controls. The first game to inspire me was Syberia, whose artistic style made me want to be concept artist. Syberia combines an emotional story with beautiful imagery and a heart wrenching soundtrack to create an experience that stays with you for years.

The first area of Syberia, "Valadilene".

The first area of Syberia, “Valadilene”.

Some video games have altered how I appreciate the world around me. It wasn’t until I played Red Dead Rememption that I saw the beauty in the prairie landscape that I live in. Riding through canyons, deserts and fields combined with its emotional soundtrack helped make me see the appeal of the “old west”, and the sometimes desolate landscape that is Alberta. Here is one of the most moving scenes from the game. Its the first time you ride into the beautiful Mexico, and this emotional song by Jose Gonzales greets you.

 

Another game that influenced how I appreciate the “ugly” sights around me is Grand Theft Auto V. This one might be hard to understand, as its a franchise known for its ruthless crime sprees and sexism. But GTA V is more complex than its predecessors, with its focus on friends and family relationships. But that’s beside the point. When I bought this game, we were living in a crappy apartment in downtown Calgary. I hated the place- the people were rude, there were no trees in sight, and it felt like an urban wasteland. When I picked up GTA V, all of a sudden I saw the beauty and excitement of city lights at night, I found the sound of cars driving in the rain meditative, I found character in the grey place I lived in. It made living in that place a lot more palatable.

Los Santos at sunset

Dragon Age: Inquisition had an amazing art style. The paintings used throughout the game made the well-crafted world that much more enticing to explore. With every new character unlocked, with every new region explored, I would get to see more of the tarot-style paintings created by the talented concept artists.

Portraits representing characters from Dragon Age: Inquisition


 

Storytelling:

Dragon Age: Inquisition was interesting for me. I didn’t really care for the style of exploration and combat (I become very overpowered very fast) but the characters drew me into the story. You play as “The Inquisitor” the head of an organization trying to protect your world from demons. You make friends along the way and can then socialize with them, even having romantic relationships. I  wish I had realized that this was a major part of the game earlier; once the game was finished, I felt a great sense of loss that my friends were leaving and I had barely gotten to know them. Characters matter now in gaming, people seem to be bored of the usual archetypes.

Some of the characters from DA: I

Some of the characters from DA: I.

Telltale Games, to me, have taken storytelling to a new level. These unique games use dialogue as the primary gameplay, where your characters decisions craft the outcome of the story. Its like watching a film, but I’m in the film as the main character, controlling my actions. The Walking Dead game is my favourite of theirs so far (I’ve also played the sequel and the Game of Thrones game), where I knew nothing of the “Walking Dead” world, but the story was so compelling that I became hooked instantly. Zombies were the least of my worries. The main problems I faced were the politics of the survivors I encountered and the happiness and well being of Clementine, the small girl travelling with us. These games really showed me what the medium can do. I highly recommend Telltale games to anyone who isnt interested in the combat style of usual video games.

How you speak to other characters shapes the story

How you speak to other characters shapes the story

Fallout 4 has also made me realize just how far storytelling has come in video games. While its predecessors had excellent main quests and interesting side stories, its really been perfected in this new game. Yes, it still has me battling mutated monsters in the apocalypse, but that’s not why I play. I make my way around the map travelling from building to building, peeking around every corner for interesting items or new stories. When I go into a building with computers, I have to check every computer for journal logs or employee notices that give me a bit of history about the place. I check every note I get, I talk to every non-playable-character (npc), I listen to every companion’s chatter as we walk the wasteland.

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Found in a raider base, even the bad guys have a sense of humour.

I want to talk about the depth of the visual storytelling in this game. No other game I’ve played puts as much care into crafting an environment. Every skeleton has a reason for being there – I found a bar where the patrons had been drinking, smoking and having a nice time when the bombs went off, their skeletons told the story. Every little cabin, every deserted bus, every hole in the ground, no matter how seemingly insignificant, has a story to tell. It gives the humanity back to these skeletons, they’re not just scenery, they represent the people trying to get by just like you. In some raider bases, you find teddy bears posed endearingly, making you realize that the raiders are people trying to survive too. If you stop and listen to their conversation, you find bits about their backstory, or how they hate their leader, or how they lost everything and they’re just doing their best. Every bad guy has a reason for being there, and I want to find out all of it. I dont know anyone who plays Fallout for the main quest line, everyone who loves the game seems to love it for the detailed world that you get to uncover.

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This scene is found in an office where the company was experiencing financial difficulties before the war. This scene must have taken place when the bombs dropped… Some scenes are more grim than others.


Video games will continue to help me grow as a storyteller, an artist and a person. To me, there is no other art form as immersive and exciting. Thanks for reading!

Little Jack Frost

I haven’t updated this blog in a little while, but I’ll post a couple more updates with all of the exciting news and progress shots that I’ve accumulated. I’ve been working on a time consuming commission this past month, but I’ve started doing little paintings in my spare time. This is going to be a series of original paintings that illustrate fairy tales and myths, the paintings will be up for sale in a couple of weeks. This guy is “Little Jack Frost” and will act as my holiday card.

serena malyon illustration childrens book jack frost fairy tale winter christmas

Witches’ Sabbath

serena malyon illustration witches sabbath month of fear 2015 devil demons witches

This one nearly didn’t make it! I another commission to work on last week, leaving me just 3 days to do this! It was really rushed, and a lot of this was designed on the fly. I jumped straight from the thumbnail to the final drawing; I hadnt planned on painting a goat-like devil, it just sort of happened. Originally it was a ghost, but I suppose a coven of witches summoning Lucifer was more dramatic. I think its kind of funny that I’m quite a cheery, mild-mannered person, but if you look through my portfolio you’ll see all sorts of dark or creepy paintings.

This painting is best observed while listening to Ghost’s “Ritual“.