Category: folklore

Sketch Diary – Monster Girl Spider


Jorogumo Illustration by Matthew Meyer
Jorōgumo Illustration by Matthew Meyer

Today I’ll be talking about how I created Spider for the 30 Day Monster Girl Challenge.  For my version of spider, I went with a Japanese inspired Jorōgumo.

The Jorōgumo is a mythological creature from Japanese folklore which was known for luring virile young men to their lairs, charming them with food and music, then binding them up in their webbing so they could devour them.

Jorōgumo means “binding bride” or “whore spider”, but is also a word which refers to a particular species of golden orb weaver spiders in Japan.  For more info on this fascinating folklore, check out

Tools and Techniques

For this painting, I used Photoshop CC and a Wacom Cintiq 21UX.

Concept Inspiration

I took a lot of visual inspiration from the golden orb weaver (nephila clavata) of Japan.  My Spider has many of the same markings as decorative designs on her kimono and her color palette echoes the spider’s.  Her kimono is also inspired by a bride’s as a nod to the “binding bride” namesake.


A selection from my references. I had many more of the spider from multiple angles, but I’ll save you the nightmare fodder!

References for Spider
References for Spider



Phase 1 – I doodled a rough sketch in turquoise to make it easier to see when I inked on top.Phase 1 Spider

Phase 2 – Line art created with a hard round brush.

Phase 2 Spider

Phase 3 – I laid in flat colors using the selection magic wand to select areas and Edit>Fill.

Phase 3 Spider

Phase 4 – A shadow layer set to Multiply was created that was clipped as a mask to the entire Group of colors.

Phase 4 Spider


Phase 5 – A final touch of highlights was added with white. The highlight layer set to Overlay.

Phase 5 Spider

Animated process GIF.
You can also watch a sped up time lapse video of the process here.

Animated Process GIF - Spider

For more in-depth instruction on how I created this image plus a downloadable PSD of the image, Pledge $10 and up on my Patreon to gain access to the narrated video tutorial!  You can also buy the individual tutorial separately at my Gumroad shop, but you won’t receive the extra art goodies you would by purchasing via Patreon.

You can watch a preview of the narrated tutorial here:


Angelic Visions Giveaway WINNERS!

The comments are in and the winners have been chosen! Druumroooll pleaaase!
Dun dun DUN. And the Winners by completely random list generation aaaare…:

Marion, who wins an autographed copy of Angelic Visions and an angel feather bookmark! Marion’s favorite mythological figure was the winged serpent, Quetzalcoatl. Read on at his comment to find out why!

The following winners chosen by completely random list generator will each receive a handmade leather angel feather bookmark!  The feather winners aaare…:

Uniformgrey, who talked of a love for classic mermaids of all types!  Read on at their comment to find out why.

Thetarotfool, who spoke of an affinity for angels, particularly Azrael and other personifications of death. Read on at their comment to find out more!

Winners, please email me with your snail mail address ASAP so I can get your prizes out to you!

I will be attempting to send out notice to you as well, just to make sure we don’t miss each other.

I hope you all enjoyed this giveaway as much as I did! It was a pleasure to learn about what mythological figures inspire others, some I’ve heard of, and some I haven’t!  I particularly enjoyed reading comments like Foresomeone’s which talked about the oral tradition behind sharing tales of leprechauns with their grandpa.  There are so many other interesting comments, so I encourage you to look back at the giveaway entry and give them a peek yourself!

Thanks to all for participating!  I trust this won’t be the last Angelic Visions related prize event in these pages, so keep your eyes peeled!  And thanks for sharing your stories with me.:)

REVIEW: Tangled

This Thanksgiving, I got to see Tangled, Disney’s latest computer animated feature and a movie I had been keeping an eye on since early concept art appeared a couple years back.  I’ve always had a soft spot for the tale of the girl with the long hair, having been a girl with hair past her waist up until very recent years!  I’ve done my own rendition in comic strip format which is a far cry from this vibrantly colored movie!  I was a-flutter with excitement (and a little trepidation) at the prospect of Disney adapting this tale for the big screen.

Would Disney keep true to the compelling images of lost innocence that the original tale had, or would they sanitize it the way they’re famous for?  With happy endings and villainous deaths in off camera silhouettes?  The short answer is YES (to the sanitizing), but that is not to say that I didn’t enjoy it either! Read on for my rambly thoughts on the matter…

The Synopsis:  In a medievalesque kingdom far far away, a king and queen rejoice in the coming birth of their child, but their joy is ruined when the queen falls ill.  To cure her, they employ a potion made from the magic of a flower imbued with the healing properties of the sun.  The queen is restored to health and gives birth to a baby girl whose hair has the same power as the flower that saved her mother.  However, Mother Gothel, who had been greedily hoarding the flower’s power, finds out the child has the same abilities and spirits her away to a tower, where she uses the child’s magic hair to keep herself young.

Of course, when Rapunzel comes of age, she’s no longer happy staying in the tower and wishes to leave so she can find out what the strange lights are she views from her window once a year.  The opportunity to escape arrives in the form of Flynn Ryder, a thief who takes refuge in her tower after a heist.

The Good:  Early concept art leaks talked about how this movie was meant to emulate the tone and atmosphere of The Swing, a painting by French rococo artist, Jean-Honoré Fragonard.  This movie definitely delivers in that respect! From luscious green valleys, waterfalls, and countless flowers growing in every nook, Tangled never ceases to amaze with its charming stylization, true to its original intent of emulating the palette of lush oils.  The character animation and settings are a testament to the continued progress of computer animation with the many various ways Rapunzel utilizes her hair for daily tasks.  Gone are the days when hair looked like a texture map plastered around a character’s head with cow spit.

Looks aside, Flynn Ryder proved, as I knew he would, to be the other most enjoyable aspect of this movie for me. Voiced by Zachary Levi of Chuck fame, I felt Disney’s come yet another progressive step away from the flat and perfectly noble Princes of films past.  Then again, I have known biases towards the thiefy rogue types.  His delightful sarcasm versus Rapunzel’s naive, but sassy wit made for interesting quipping throughout.

I was also pleased to see Mother Gothel depicted true to form as a controlling, overbearing mother, and not the old hag of most depictions (for the most part). She sported a rather sexy red velvet dress and dark locks (not unlike my own depiction of Gothel, to my amusement).

But that is where things go south, for this fan.

The Bad:  I commend Disney for really trying to do something different with Prince type characters, but like the Princess and the Frog, I still felt like things moved too fast.  Suddenly Flynn and Rapunzel are singing in a boat together about how they have new meaning in life? After only knowing each other for a few days?  For a thief who had been extremely vain and smug until that point in the movie, this was a hard pill to swallow.  Just like Prince Naveen who goes from womanizing layabout to dedicated husband, it felt rushed and contrived.  The second half of the movie offers no surprises, twists, or even dialog that I hadn’t heard a thousand times before in a thousand other movies.

But no, Angela, this is Disney! They’re supposed to fall in love! Sorry, but I just cannot accept ‘this is Disney’ as an excuse for pushing characters together and fastening them with the cement glue of ‘contrived plot points’ for a happy ending.  Beauty & The Beast, which remains ever my favorite Disney movie, gradually drew The Beast and Belle together only after experiencing the worst of each other’s personalities.  Even Aladdin and Jasmine had their bumps because of her reputation as a cheeky shrew and Aladdin’s deception about his Princehood.  Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Beauty & The Beast – these Disney movies were memorable because they gave us more tension, more development, and less candy-coating.  Characters lied, deceived, and did things they shouldn’t because they were afraid, unsure, or rebellious.  There’s a touch of that in Tangled, but I don’t think it was pushed enough. (Not to mention the musical scores for these movies are still leagues beyond Tangled, which was mediocre at best.)

My other beef – a den full of bad guys who suddenly all ‘have a dream’ and become their bestest of friends.  This happened at the end of Shrek 3. Suddenly every villain EVAR was secretly a nice guy with a secretly good and beneficial hobby who would end up being your ally for life because you shared a dream with them!  I really don’t like this pattern in kids movies. Not only does it candy coat moral expectations in life, but it really just tosses older fans like me out of the story and into sugary kiddie ridiculousness.

Should we have to dumb everything down just for kids to learn a lesson about Goodness? Wouldn’t they learn a lesson more effectively if the heroes had some real and dangerous hardships to overcome?  I look to other movies (like Guardians of G’Hoole and Coraline) for an example of how putting our heroes in real danger can help them discover their own strengths in a way that drowning the story in the viscous honey of Pure Goodness can’t.

I suppose I’m being too harsh on this movie, considering it was made to please a younger audience (despite a PG rating, buh?). It WAS enjoyable and the sort of film you can take kids of all ages too.  I just hope that in the future Disney returns to the types of daring characters that made their greatest movies great in the first place.

I, for one, am highly looking forward to Brave (formerly The Bear and the Bow) which promises a more meaningful tale about a defiant Scottish princess who unwittingly releases woe on her parents’ kingdom and must suffer the consequences of her actions.  Now that sounds like a story (and a main character) I can sink my teeth into!

Fashion Hasn’t Changed in Heaven: A Review of Legion

So from the first moment I saw the promotional images of Paul Bettany sporting cryptic tattoos, a pair of gorgeously rendered dark wings, a gun and a superfluous knife, my interest was piqued. “A new representation of angels in the movies? Interesting…” I thought to myself.

My fears grew as the first trailers showed a possessed old woman climbing, spider-like, across the ceiling and careening across the diner where the main action of this movie takes place. A horribly predictable plot ensues with equally horrible plot holes. But wait, I didn’t see this movie for a plot, I saw it for the latest take on angels!

On that topic, for the five minutes we see Archangel Gabriel tearing up the scene, we’re treated to the spinning, flailing, slicing, dicing, and bulletproof wing-action which was the whole reason I went to see the movie in the first place. Outside of this interesting rendering of wings, I was left pretty unsatisfied. Even Paul Bettany could not save this movie with his role as the Archangel Michael, the angel most faithful in the goodness of man (and yet he spends most of the movie not giving a crap about any of the characters). He is cold, cryptic, and inconsistent, just as the rendition of the angels are.

I could not help but compare this movie to The Prophecy movies with Christopher Walken. No, there wasn’t much flailing wing action, but there was something about this movie’s nod to the mythology that inspired it which made it shine above others with grander budgets. For instance, in Legion, the old-lady turned demonic spider sports an aura of flies, eats raw meat, and curses like a sailor. The angelically possessed terminators even go so far as to crucify a victim upside-down in the process of killing a character.

Even for angels which have been ordered to exterminate mankind, why would they go through such lengths to be hateful and demonic, rather than reverently going about their duties with a sense of remorse or reluctance for the creatures they had once revered and loved? Why would God go against his own promise to never let a disaster like the Flood happen ever again? From a continuity point, this movie just does not work.

I understand it is a movie made for entertainment’s sake, but if you’re making a movie in the setting of the ‘real’ world with a heavily Christian backdrop, then there are certain plot devices which cannot be ignored in order to maintain the suspension of disbelief. Maybe in this world such promises were never made? Maybe in this world, God is just pissed off and therefore his angels are pissed off as well? But none of these pretenses are explained or justified fully in the movie, beyond a bedtime story guessing at God just being “sick of the bullshit” (a story they felt like repeating twice, just in case you didn’t get the message before) and a mention of an offhand order to exterminate mankind.

In contrast, The Prophecy tells the story of Archangel Gabriel, who has come to earth to collect the dark soul of a war criminal in order to fight a war in Heaven that has been going on since humans were lifted above angels in God’s eyes. The angels, once descended to earth, become mortals who have no eyes, a nod to the fact that angels do not have the ‘windows to the soul’, being soulless, unlike humans.

Instead of being vague and cryptic a la Bettany’s Michael, Walken portrays Gabriel as enigmatic and even naive. Being somewhat disconnected with mortal goings on, he cannot drive nor operate a computer. As an angel who does not believe in human worth, he calls them ‘talking monkeys’. The angels also sport dusty long coats and any clothing they could get their hands on, along with angelic script tattooed on their necks that represent their names. No Roman armor and suped medieval maces here!

There is even a point in The Prophecy in which Gabriel tells the main character about the indentation in his lip where he once laid his finger in order to tell a secret, a direct nod to a Jewish story concerning an angel’s role as a keeper of secrets who whispers to the unborn soul knowledge of heaven before it is born, and then hushes them with a finger on their lips so they will forget. Such a subtle nod to the lore, but oh such an effective scene, especially when Gabriel looks at the main character with his hollow illusionary eyes!

It is in this attention to detail, mythology, setting, and world-building that a movie based in supernatural pretenses can maintain suspension of disbelief and a level of uniqueness lacking in the fractured mess that was Legion. Go to see it if you want some nifty wing-fu and mindless action, but not recommended to anyone with more discerning tastes for the lore. I may check out the prequel graphic novel just to see if any of the plot holes are explained, but I don’t expect them to be.

Christmas: Light and Dark

After reading Hayley’s amusing and enlightening post on the Krampus and his antics, I thought I might ramble for a bit about another lesser known winter tradition, the celebration of Saint Lucia (or Saint Lucy). Ever since I saw depictions of her burning crown of candles and haunting procession of light, I was intrigued. I spoke briefly about her in a previous entry talking about the symbolism in my depiction of holiday images. She is the patron saint of the blind, her very name meaning ‘light’.

In Sweden and other parts of Europe, Saint Lucia’s Day is celebrated on December 13th. A young girl representing Saint Lucia wearing a crown of candles and white gown leads a procession of other young ladies, who each carry a single candle. They sing to the melody of the Neapolitan song “Santa Lucia”. Sometimes boys wearing crowns painted with stars (called “Star Boys”) are in the procession as well. They continue through the night singing carols and bringing light to the traditional longest night of the year.

Such a beautiful festival has a darker side, however, and like the morbid artist that I am, I’m delighted by the duality of imagery associated with Saint Lucia. I will relate here a much-abridged version of her tale, which you can read a longer, more detailed annotated version at Wikipedia.

Like many saints, she is also a martyr whose life was cut short in defense of her purity and faith. As a young woman, she pledged her virginity to God, but when a pagan suitor to whom she was betrothed came calling, Lucia dismissed his advances and gave away his handsome dowry to the poor. Angered, the suitor marked her as a Christian before a magistrate, after which she was sentenced to be defiled in a brothel. When the guards came to collect her, she was so imbued with the holy spirit that she was heavy and immovable. They tried to burn her and still she would not be moved. Her martyrdom came at last when the guards drove a sword through her throat and gouged out her eyes. She was said to miraculously be able to see even without her eyes, which is why she is depicted often holding a plate with her own disembodied eyes. Other versions of the tale say she gouged out her own eyes and sent them to her suitor as a sign of her devotion to the Lord, who granted her new eyes soon after.

It amazes me how such a morbid tale was somehow transmuted into a glorious festival celebrating the beauty of youth, abundance, and light against the winter’s dark. There’s something violently primal and yet ultimately beautiful in the imagery left by martyrs in our cultural memories and how they are later transformed into venerated figures bringing joy, light, and feasts. The arrow-battered body of Saint Sebastian, the snow-rimmed form of the dead Saint Eulalia, and countless others all weave a powerful spell that ingrain themselves in continuing traditions (and art!).

Now, would you like a plate of eyes with your Christmas feast?

I hope you all have a wonderful winter solstice. Do you know any lesser-told tales of winter traditions to share? I’d love to hear them!

Image Sources:
Advent Angel by Angela Sasser
Saint Lucy by Domenico Beccafumi

Folklore – Beating the Shinies out of Faeries

After so many serious posts at this blog, I thought I’d offer a brief interlude for my mid-week post.

As it stands, I cannot hide that there is a bit of geek in me. I’ve always harbored a love for anime and video games and sometime last year I began a wholesome little epic on the PS3 entitled Folklore, a PS3 exclusive title that came out early on in the system’s lifespan. Why am I talking about it on my art journal? Because it is my belief that video games are a highly realized art form, despite popular belief in its low brow value as a form of entertainment, and it can be inspiring the same way music, movies, and books are for me.

Folklore is one of those games that just tickles my muse silly.

From concept to execution, form to music, Folklore has a story and a look that hooked me from the start and breathed a little life into my muse when I was feeling less than inspired some time ago.

The Story? A young woman named Ellen ventures to the nearly abandoned village of Doolin in Ireland to uncover the secrets of her past that have been buried there. With no memory of who she is, she quickly finds that Doolin is not all that it seems and the strange calling of the ancient Henge beckons her enter the dream world of the Fae to find out.

Enter Keats, the other main character, a self proclaimed skeptic who writes for a dwindling paranormal magazine and yet doesn’t believe a word he himself writes. A strange phone call from a scared woman claiming to be threatened by faeries draws him to Doolin where he is soon embroiled in the mystery of Ellen’s past.

Review: Faeries, tattooed men, colorful characters, a superb artistic style, mystery, murder, and action, to boot! I felt like this game was designed for me. Others complain about the repetitiveness of the gameplay, but I always found something new and exciting to try with the numerous faeries, or Folks, whom Keats and Ellen befriend in each realm, even though I found myself sticking to a trustworthy few who would get the job done. In order to ‘befriend’ a Folk, you have to beat it until it’s ‘Id’ pops out and then use the motion controls on the PS3 controller to literally yank it out! This was one of the most stress relieving effects of the gameplay and why I like to say that ‘beating the shinies out of Faeries’ is one of the most gratifying activities you can do in this game. I also love a good mystery and each level dropped enough clues to keep me wanting to know ‘whodunit’ in the end.

The strength of this game for me, however, was in its visual flair. Each dream realm the characters enter is created from a certain emotion which humans feel towards death, such as the Faerie realm, which was created from the belief of ancient and medieval man in a Elysian Field type of Heaven. The Faery realm is accordingly bright and colorful with a dreamlike haze while other realms, such as the Endless Corridor, conjure mankind’s idle thoughts on modernity producing a realm full of Dali-esque melting landscapes and the abandoned skeletal forms of clocks, thrones,and book shelves. Each level contains a boss, or a Folklore, created from the lost souls of each realm and suiting to its design. I found myself wanting to get through each realm just to see the terrifying or just plain weird creatures at the end of each one.

All in All: This is one of the few games I will probably do fanart for, which is rare for me. If you enjoy a bit of action, mystery, and well…Folklore, than this game is for you.

And now I shall leave you with a brief cut scene from the game which will explain why I list tattooed men as one of its virtues:

Next on my video game palette: Assassin’s Creed, because nothing says ‘badass’ like taking a leap of faith into a hay pile off of a 20 story building.