My second-to-last assignment in my second digital painting class was to create a “fantasy” illustration. But it was strangely limited—we had to take a public domain story and illustrate it. I’d wanted to do a spin on one of my books (from a TikTok video I made bringing dragons into one of my novels) or do the winged cat character I’ve been working on, and the instructor just flat out said no. So I picked Puss in Boots and made him Puss in Chucks instead. We had to write a “summary” of the story we were illustrating, so I just riffed on the original Puss in Boots (part of it, anyway):
Puss in Chucks
There was a poor man who had naught save for a tabby cat. He was starving so he thought he would have to kill the cat and eat it. The cat read his owner well and spoke up for the first time to save his skin: “Provide me with shoes, a belt, and a bag and I’ll make your fortune.” The man, having observed the cunning cat hunting small mammals and birds, decided to see what would happen.
The cat departed in his ratty old green Chucks, sporting a studded leather belt, and a backpack. He set out to a wheat field and laid in wait until two frolicking partridges happened nearby. He pounced upon the first, killing it fast, while the other fled in a flurry of feathers. But the cat needed more than one, so he left the first one out until the other partridge returned to check on its friend, whereupon the cat pounced a second time.
With the two partridges carefully stowed in his backpack, he entered the neighboring woods and perchance encountered a rabbit nibbling on some wild mint, which he slayed straight away. Having pounced thrice now, the cat tucked the rabbit into his backpack and set off to a nearby castle of a local king. The king accepted the cat’s gifts, given in the name of the Marquis Carabas.
The king set out in his Cadillac with his daughter, while the cat sprinted ahead to the castle of a giant ogre, knowing an interlude was in order, for the princess desired a cherry limeade from Sonic. The cat swiftly learnt that the ogre was a shapeshifter, when he shifted to a lion form, alarming the cat greatly. “How impressive,” quoth the cat, “What small creature can you be?” The ogre turned into a wee mouse and the cat pounced yet again, snapping the mouse’s neck forthwith.
The cat stood at the end of the long driveway until the Cadillac rolled nigh, whereupon the cat waved his arms to ensure the king would stop. The cat led the car up the long drive and soon the king and princess feasted on a banquet prepared in the name of the Marquis Carabas, who was happily guttling mutton. The princess and marquis fell swiftly in love and soon wed under a white rose-covered arch, the ink on the prenup barely dry.
Of course we had the obligatory thumbnails. These were easier for me because there were several different parts of the story that could be illustrated (the first few are from a different part of the longer story I didn’t include in my version). Here they are:
I came up with a line drawing of the cat going for the rabbit:
Then there were the obligatory color studies. Since it was going to be a view in a forest, I thought I could play with the light a little and give it a blue or purple tint. I tried both here, plus a more generic one:
We actually had an extra week to work on it, so I submitted this in the middle week:
The main feedback I got was that the cat’s face was too dark and didn’t stand out from the background and that the ground in the middle was to digital looking.
I had noticed the cat being too dark but didn’t deal with it before submitting. So I changed him to be an orange tabby since that would be lighter, and I redid the ground. It was supposed to look like moss, but I was using a foliage brush and hadn’t changed the size of it from front to back, which I needed to do (the foliage would be smaller toward the trees than by the rabbit). So I used several different sizes of the foliage brush for the new version. I also toned down the browns. This is what I came up with:
I actually ended up getting an A on it, which surprised me. My last two pieces were both C’s. I don’t know how to make this guy happy.
As a side note, I’ve decided to withdraw from the degree after this term because the next term was going to be really busy and stressful, and I didn’t think I could deal with it right now. I’ll have 7 courses left, so I might go back, but I’ll decide later. Truthfully, I got out of this program what I really wanted, which was to get better faster than I would on my own. But I’m starting to feel diminishing returns, and I also admit I’m annoyed because I’m going to get a B in this class, the only one that will be on my transcript.
So from now on, I’ll be working on my own stuff. I’m not yet sure what this means, and we’ll have to see.