Tag: Exalted Art Challenge 2020

Exalted Art Challenge Collection 8 – Demon, Manse, etc.

We’ve finally made it to the penultimate collection in the Art Challenge!  I only have a couple of topics left and then I can declare myself a victor!  This was an interesting set of topics ranging from the inhuman to more challenging environments.  Again, I had a ton of fun inching out of my comfort zone, which is exactly why I wanted to do this Challenge!

23 – Demon

In Exalted, demons aren’t necessarily the fiends we’d imagine, but a wide variety of alien and humanoid beings which populate the otherworld of Malfeas, the prison of the fallen gods.  Sorcerers in Creation often call on demons for their useful purposes as aids, givers of arcane knowledge, or brute strength, binding them to their will.

One might summon a Neomah, elegant pierced fleshcrafters, to create unimaginable life with their morbid ability to mold flesh in any form, or to see the wonders their notaulus dwellings can conjure from the minds of its visitors.  They must pay the Neomah’s price of flesh for her purposes of creating a child of her own, however, or risk the Neomah’s ire.

One might summon Mara the Shadow Lover to learn her deadly sorcerous arts.  The Shadow Lover appears to the summoner in the guise of a beautiful woman from their native land with the feet of a deer hidden in her long skirts and bright blue eyes.  She marks those who learn her sorcerous arts with a spiral tattoo formed of one of her misbegotten souls, granting the bearer dark powers.

27 – Manse

Manses are wondrous buildings erected atop convergences of magical leylines in the land.  They can be harnessed to create all sorts of magical wonders within their walls.

At the heart of the city of Dinas Rhydd lies the ruins of a great Solar manse complex where the campaign involving Kalara and her friends took place.  Despite the war that had reduced the once-great city to rubble, the central control room remained a marvel of engineering and splendor.  The day our band of disparate outcasts sat in the thrones of their Castes was the day that marked the beginning of the city’s revival from its ashes.

The Manse of Verdant Wyrm’s Heart rises from atop a Wood-aspected demense.  This great tree’s roots produce a priceless green jade, while a bustling city has risen within its branches and in the shadow of its great canopy.  The Heart is ruled by a powerful Outcaste Dragon Blooded Wood Aspect who has ruled for generations, providing his citizens with safety and wealth.  This is yet another location invented by our Storyteller for his game where we got to play a different cast of characters.

28 – Location/Landmark

One of my favorite locations in Exalted is Chiaroscuro, the city of glass that rises amidst the inhospitable sands of the desert.  Built atop the ruined stained glass towers from the First Age, Chiaroscuro hosts a bustling port with famous lighthouses enhanced by magic blue glass breakwater barriers that protect the city from even the most powerful storms.  From above, the city resembles a great crab, with the blue breakwater glass the crab’s arms.

Kalara spent her formative teen years as a slave in this city of opulence where she served a lord and lady of House Cynis and learned to love and hate them by equal measures.  (If you’re curious to learn more about this story, I’ve been sharing the beta draft of it here!  I’d welcome any new readers who are not required to know anything about Exalted to read and understand it.)

The image for this landmark and the next topic are all on one page, so scroll down to check it out!

29 – Signature Character

Exalted’s rule books tend to feature ‘Signature Characters’ in the art which act as example characters for the various kinds of Exalted in the world.  For this topic, I chose Novia Claro, one of the signature Night Caste characters.  Not much is known about Novia Claro, but I chose her almost purely on how cool her design is, alone.   Just check out this art by Mel Uran!

And now I only have one topic left (including the bonus meme topic) and it’s going to be a doozy!  The final topic is Favorite Stunt (or over-the-top roleplaying moment).  

I want to send this Challenge off with a bang, so I’m going to attempt to create a comic of a favorite scene from our game session!  It’s going to be very experimental, but I’m looking forward to giving it a shot, since comics are something I’d like to make more of, but I’ve always been too intimidated to do more of them.

Stay tuned!  I hope to have it done by the end of the year, if holiday vacation doesn’t distract me too much. 

I’ve set this post to go public a day before Christmas, so enjoy the present, everyone!  

Have a happy and safe holiday!

♥ Ang

Exalted Art Challenge Collection 7 – Familiar, Mutation, etc.

The next particular set of topics proved a real challenge for me, since I do not draw animals often.  Saying that, I am extremely pleased with being able to try something different and had way too much fun drawing cats for this collection!

22 – Familiar

Sacred is the bond between animal and the Exalted, especially the bond between a Mouse of the Sun and their chosen Solar.  The tiny stature of these creatures belies their powerful connection to the Unconquered Sun, as they have been known to swarm the cities and deliver a plague to the unvirtuous.  They can show up in unexpected places to lend their aid, carrying a key or granting a boon of essence.  They fight fiercely to the bitter end for their bonded masters.

I thought I’d end up drawing something flashy like a phoenix or some other impressive mystical animal, but the Mice of the Sun stole my heart because I enjoy the contrast of such a small creature with such loyalty to the Solar and such unexpected power.

24 – Beastpeople

Races of animal creatures with human intelligence are said to have been created by the Lunars who wanted to create a society outside of Realm control. Others are descended from humans whose wanderings into the chaos of the Wyld mutated them to have animalistic characteristics.  In other instances, what strange encounters between man and entities that happen in the Wyld don’t always stay in the Wyld!  

These hybrid races are generally shunned by humans, but even noble and ambitious beings among the Beastmen can become Exalted.

Though, really, it’s just an excuse to draw whatever kind of humanoid animals I wanted to, in my case!  I did not see a lot of insectoids Beastmen in the lore or fan community, so I thought I’d try my hand at a fancy orchid mantis lady inspired by the shapes of ballgowns and wigs (if you look closely, her ‘hair buns’ are actually her eyes).

Next, I couldn’t resist Secretary Birds for as striking as these birds are.  Just look at these eyelashes!  I also have a soft spot for Washimi from the show Aggretsuko, one of the most majestic bird people in existence.

25 – Mutation

Much like Beastmen, those who have been mutated by the Wyld are generally shunned as well.  The chaotic energy at the fringes of Creation has been known to warp the body and the mind in an number of ways.  Lunars tattoo themselves to protect from this energy, while others use magic.  Mutations can be all manner of things, from strange wings, flowers growing from places they shouldn’t, horns, too many eyes, etc. Your imagination is the limit!

The poor soul we see here was a great sorceress, once.  She let herself become mutated in exchange for arcane knowledge.  This won’t be the last you hear of her! I have plans…

26 – Favorite Animal

Finally, we have the Peacat, an original creature of my own Creation!  These fickle creatures prowl the streets of the desert port city of Chiaroscuro at night stealing food and causing general mayhem.  It is said they are beloved of Luna for their night-time activities and beauty, a connection echoed in the moonlike feather markings in their tails and crests.

Local custom tells that if you leave food offerings for a Peacat, it could bring you luck and blessings.  It could just as easily make a home of your dwelling where your most beautiful things may end up destroyed because the Peacat would prefer to be the most beautiful thing there.  Either way, better to have a Peacat’s favor than naught!  However, it is a sin against Luna to try to domesticate them.  Those who have tried have had bad luck.

The Delzhan honor these creatures too, for once upon a time a Peacat led the Tri-Khan’s ancestors out of a night-time storm in the desert.  Though they can be a menace, they are accepted as a fact of city life.

EDIT:  Exalted STs, you are free to use Peacats as background fluff!  I might one day add them to the Storytellers Vault along with other The Uncrucified-related story resources, but that’s a long ways out still.  Perhaps once that happens, toss a few bucks my way then once they’ve been properly statted.  Otherwise, have at and have fun!

You might notice that I forgot the topic Demon!  I ended up accidentally skipping it, so it’ll be in the next compilation, instead.  We have only 6 topics left now (including the bonus topic).  I’m so happy I’ve been able to stick with this Challenge, even when the difficult topics hit.  They ended up being a welcomed foray into something new!

I hope you all have been enjoying this trip as much as I have.  We’re almost to the end now!

More soon!

♥ Ang

Exalted Art Challenge – Collection 6 – Magical Material, Fave Weapon, etc.

I was really worried about these next few topics, as they’re definitely out of my comfort zone!  I have never drawn a mech in my life, for example!  I’ve always wanted to try more object and environment art as I think this could be great fodder for building my own worlds and also for portfolio pieces for Magic the Gathering and more.  

I gotta say after pushing myself with these, they’re some of my favorites from the challenge list thus far!

18. Magical Materials

There are a number of magical materials in the world of Exalted, all of which resonate best with the Exalted.  Solars like Kalara resonate best with Orichalcum, gold that has been infused with the radiance of the Unconquered Sun, himself.

For this topic, I explored different approaches to portraying this metal, from a manuscript page talking about the alchemical processes involving mystic mirrors you can use to create it to the natural quarries high in the mountains where the sun’s radiance blesses the ‘blood of the earth’ (magma) to create naturally occurring orichalcum.

I also chose a more Hindu-inspired depiction of the Unconquered Sun, as he’s usually more Roman-inspired in the setting.

19. Favorite Weapon

This topic came easy, as there was always a weapon that stood out to me during our Exalted games!  In one adventure, Kalara and her Circle of Solars faced off against their dark counterparts, the Abyssal Deathknights.  Kalara’s opponent in this battle was Crown of Thorns on the Head of the King Who Never-Was who wielded warfans fashioned from soulsteel, an abominable metal created from trapped souls, among other dreadful components.

Called the Eyes of Lord Automeris, when Crown of Thorns activated his weapon, the souls trapped in the soulsteel would appear to writhe and wail silently on the surface while a conspicuously closed eye on the fans would open fully, revealing a terrible red open eye that allowed him to impose his will on others, while also filling them with fear.  The fans were inspired by the Automeris moth with its shocking eye markings that look like a starry sky.

Thankfully, Kalara was able to use her strong will to shrug off Crown of Thorns’ mental attack and end the Deathknight in a flurry of shots from her prayer piece guns before he could impose his will again. Despite their short battle, I never forgot the sheer coolness of this Deathknight’s fans created by my Storyteller (Exalte’d version of the Dungeon Master)!

20. Favorite Artifact

Artifacts, items of wonder from a lost age, represent some of the coolest flavor in the Exalted setting!  It was difficult just to pick a couple because there are so many interesting choices.  

I chose the Sorcery Catching Cord, which allows its user to catch multiple spells and release them at a later time by untying a knot.  The design for this straw hat sorceress wielding orichalcum cord emerged from an old concept for a sorceress Twilight Caste who has appeared in Kalara’s story and our game on occasion as a healer, demon summoner, and bathhouse owner.  I love her design so much that I’m really going to have to do more with her!

Next, we have the Infinite Resplendence Amulets, amulets of various magical metals that create clothing for the user with various properties.  Orichalcum amulets create clothing constructed out of light, adding to their beauty in the eyes of onlookers.  I couldn’t resist creating a decadent Solar decked out in orichalcum clothing made of pure light!

21. Warstriders

The pinnacle of First Age tech and magic, Warstriders were grand vehicles of mass destruction the Solars of old rode into battle.  Over time, they have been lost to the ages or enshrined and protected.  We never discovered the Warstriders of our characters’ First Age Incarnations in our campaign, so this was an opportunity to let my imagination run wild with the organic mech aesthetic I love in Zone of the Enders 2 and Warframe.  I adore Exalted’s unique flavor that’s taken the scifi mech concept and blended it with mystical imagery.

The sketches explore moments in time, from Kalara discovering the warstrider enshrined in a hidden temple where she meditates to bond with it, to her finally being accepted by this sentient weapon.

The warstrider itself was a very spontaneous design inspired by Kalara’s connection to fire, the warstrider having fire hair and other elemental connections in its ornate swirls.  I imagine in battle this warstrider sends her floating wings out for slashing damage or to use as a mechanism for ricocheting energy shots in normally impossible angles.  She is as yet unnamed, so feel free to suggest a name for her in comments!

I had to stop myself from making more thumbnails because I can see so many more moments spent earning this warstrider’s trust and bonding with or other scenes of derelict warstriders blended with the low tech world that has sprung up around them.  

Here we are at less than 10 topics to go.  I’m almost done!  I hope you all have been enjoying this diversion thus far.  Have you seen any topics you’d like to see more of?  I keep having to cut myself off from spending too much time following a tangent down another story rabbithole (which is always a good sign!).

More soon!   I expect I’ll be wrapping this up in a couple more compilations.

♥ Ang

Exalted Art Challenge – Collection 5 – Anima Banner, Limit Break, etc.

HUZZAH!  With this compilation, we’re officially at the halfway point of this Challenge!  As promised, here’s the next compilation shared a month ahead of time for my wonderful Patrons.

It’s been an interesting journey thus far building on each topic that came before and explore facets of the characters I hadn’t thought about till now.  Kalara has especially come together after this random style experiment inspired by Blood of Zeus! (Not part of my official Challenge, but something that’s really blown my mind, regardless. I have FINALLY captured her face correctly after all these years!)

I’m also getting a lot of cool concepts for future TTRPG portfolio purposes and that’s also pretty exciting for me!

Anima Banner

When a Solar expresses the peak of their divine powers, their aura flares in a show of their ‘anima banner’ or ‘totemic aura’.  Kalara expresses her banner with a phoenix that rises from behind her, signifying her own rise from the ashes of her would-be execution on the cross, which is alluded to in the golden spikes through her palms.  Chains of energy appear on her arms and legs, the links falling off one by one as she ‘unchains’ herself from a mortal fate that would have kept her a slave.

The phoenix wasn’t in her original anima banner design, but I’m so happy I’ve added it for this new design.  I can’t imagine her without it, now!

Limit Break

For all the discussion of how epic and amazing the Solar Exalted are, a fatal flaw resides in them –  a Great Curse laid upon them without their knowledge by the old gods they threw down.  Each Solar will fall to this flaw at some point or another.  As a game mechanic, a player rolls ‘limit’ when they meet a certain condition that triggers their ‘flaw’.  Once they lose control, they ‘limit break’.

Kalara’s Great Curse manifests as a paranoia that her enemies are out to get her.  She has nightmares of the night her father was poisoned, fearing that she, too, will meet the same fate he did in his battle against the Guild.  She even starts to doubt her friends, who are the only people she’s let close enough to assassinate her.  In our campaign, I never saw her in this state, but I  was always dreading it (and also relishing the roleplay opportunity). Perhaps it will happen in her story, The Uncrucified, sometime?

Reasons to Have Ox Body

When you start playing Exalted, the book suggests taking a level of Ox Body so your freshly made character is just a bit more tanky in a world where people can punch gods in the face.

Take Ox Body, they said!  Not me.  I started our game with Kalara having maybe one level of it, if any.  I learned the hard way when a spoopy tree creature nearly one-shot my gal towards the beginning of our game.

This is what happens when you ignite your bag of firedust on the spoopy tree creature’s face and get its undivided attention!  It critical rolled and punched a hole right through my squishy Eclipse Caste.  Our Night Caste, Night Locust, wasn’t near this amused in-game, but I’ve dramatized the moment for comedic effect. 

And to add insult on top of injury, she still had to translate for the rest of the scene with a gaping hole in her torso.

(If you’re wondering why Kalara looks different, she was in disguise as Koh, a rebel bandit leader, early on in our game.)

Reaction When No One Takes Sail

Or in our case, when only one character in the party takes Sail and knows how to maneuver a ship!  When you take a point in Sail, that gives your character access to a fancier pirate hat than everyone else.  It is known!

(Click to view the larger version here)

The next few topics are going to deal with subjects that I’m not particularly skilled at drawing (beast people, materials, etc.) which should be an extra-fun challenge!

I’ve also been dabbling on and off with NaNoWriMo, so if seeing writing from this world and Kalara’s story might intrigue you, be sure to drop in on my Twitter thread dedicated to my NaNo adventures! 

Proud of myself for being so productive with this!  We’re almost there!

♥ Ang

Exalted Art Challenge – Collection 4 – Abyssal, Deathlords, Etc.

My next spoopy topics for the Exalted Art Challenge arrive just in time for Halloween weekend!  I’m pleased to introduce you to some of the most fearsome and terrifying villains within the world of Exalted!

Abyssal – Golden Lies Spewn Forth From Avarice

No that title isn’t a sentence, it’s this character’s name.  Abyssals are the dark reflection of Solars like Kalara.  Their once-divine Sun essence has been corrupted by beings empowered by the ancient fallen gods.  This character once had a name, but it was taken from him and stricken from the books in Heaven when he was transformed into an Abyssal.

In life, Golden Lies obsessed over material wealth and pursued it to his end.  In death (or undeath), he cloaks himself in the finery of a king’s funeral adorned with bejeweled bones.  I played with a couple of different color schemes for him and am favoring the white-haired look at the moment!  This isn’t the last we’ll see of this fellow, as he might appear in The Uncrucified down the line, if the story goes where I think it’s going.

On the bottom-right, I also decided to draw fan art of another Abyssal who I liked the design of, the Saint of Promised Silence, who belongs to HamSandLich.

Deathlord – Lover Clad in the Raiment of Tears

Masters of the Abyssals, the Deathlords terrorize Creation, the whispers of dark gods in their ears driving them forth.  Each Deathlord is a powerful ghost who rules over an array of weapons and armies poised to bring about the destruction of Creation for the Neverborn, the remnants of the Primordial gods imprisoned in the Underworld in ages past.  

Not so for the Lover Clad in the Raiment of Tears.  She has no armies, nor does she make war like the others.  Her insidious claws seep into every corner of her enemies’ territories in the form of spies and hidden knives.  She once seduced an entire monastery of celibate monks before transforming their holy land into a Shadowland and building her own fortress atop its ruins.  I do enjoy a clever villainous lady and couldn’t resist drawing this particular Deathlord!

I wove the ‘tears’ of the Lover’s name into her design, her dangling jewels mimicking falling streams of tears and the makeup on her face flowing like tear streaks punctuated by a drip of ‘blood’ from her lips.  The tear shape even echoes in the cleavage cutout in her dress.  For a seductress as high caliber as the Lover, I wanted a sense of high class, of ornamentation.  She has bare shoulders to show a tantalizing bit of skin and smokes an opium pipe, which to me embodies her motif of ‘luxurious destruction’.

She really seems to agree with the muse!  I am definitely planning to choose one of her thumbnails to turn into a full painting.

Monstrance – The Arms of the Lover

The divine essence of a Solar is no easy thing to corrupt and thus the Neverborn created the most cruel of implements for their Deathlords to use- the Monstrances of Celestial Portion.  These sarcophagi are uniquely forged to corrupt and bind the Exaltation of a particular servant and keep it under the thrall of the Deathlord.   A Solar thrust into this insidious coffin eventually succumbs to corruption until they give themselves over and accept their new existence as Abyssals…or perish.

As each monstrance suits the Deathlord’s intentions (the way I interpret the lore), I’ve chosen to portray this monstrance controlled by the Lover as being much like its owner.  The silk satin pillowing inside makes it seem like a luxurious bed, the soulsteel and jade construct gilded with gold.  A prismatic crystalline lid allows one to gaze on the poor soul inside, whose body is trapped in an arc that mimics ecstasy by gold caressing arms that come alive and clasp the victim within.  Inserted along the crystal lid, jewel encrusted needles stab into each of the victim’s chakra points, plying the Solar within for corruption.  Like the Lover, this monstrance combines a beautiful and terrible aesthetic.

This one’s somewhat NSFW for artistic nudity, suggestive themes, and non-graphic body horror, so click HERE to see the full version:

Despite all my flowy whimsical goddesses, I really enjoy these darker topics and have been looking forward to them since I began this challenge!  

Have a fun and safe Halloween weekend, everyone!

♥ Ang

Exalted Art Challenge – Collection 3 – Fave God, First Age Incarnation, etc.

I’m changing up my format a bit as it seems I’m not going to be able to share many of the final paintings from this challenge in these compilations!  I’m going to stick to sharing sketches and then once all of my final paintings are done based on my favorite picks from the sketches, I’ll share those in their own collection along with their story snippets.

For now, enjoy my explorations with a bit of commentary for Exalted newbies!

Favorite God – The Plentimon of Dice

Exalted has many gods, all which represent various abstract concepts in Creation who gain power from how many worshippers acknowledge and make offerings to them.  Creation is full of offerings a-plenty for the Plentimon of the Dice!  He is the God of Gambling and one of the most present and active gods in Creation.  This god gets a thrill from watching games of chance unfold and the excitement of high stakes.  He’s always circulating Creation, visiting every casino either in his full splendor or a mortal disguise.  Those who gamble to him and lose without repaying their debts meet mysterious unexplained deaths.

The Plentimon shows up often in The Uncrucified, as Kalara’s hometown of Gem hosts one of the most magnificent subterranean gambling parlors built with such finery as to please the gods themselves.  Games of chance are part of the culture of Gem.  One day, a pauper might be a prince.  Fortunes are always turning, something Kalara has experienced firsthand as her contract was lost several times in a game of chance, usually during Plentimon’s festival day.

I’ve chosen to depict the Plentimon with a half-mask representing Good and Bad fortune with jewelry and adornments made from various game pieces and jade obols.  Perhaps they are the good luck charms from those who have lost to him?

First Age Incarnation

In centuries past, there was such an age of splendor where the chosen of the Gods, the Exalted, ruled with a firm and magnificent hand.  These demigods among men stood above Creation stabilizing it during a time when mortals and gods alike had finally freed the world from the tyranny of the ancient Primordial gods who once ruled Creation, much like the Titans of Greek mythology.  However, their hubris and their extreme virtues turned against them with the Great Curse hidden in their souls by the vengeful defeated Primordials would be the downfall of the Solars of the First Age.

Each spark of Exaltation resides in a Shard which is passed down from one worthy vessel to another. This gent here is Calym Lang, the Solar and Righteous Devil practitioner whose shard Kalara would eventually inherit.  Calym was a shrewd and paranoid master of trade whose cold pragmatism would be his downfall.  Kalara is more like him than she would like to admit at times and the two maintain a begrudging respect towards one another.  She often communicates with his greater soul in the underworld, the two poking fun at each other’s flaws in a good-natured competition to see who will achieve their goals through more effective ends.

He’s also ghostwritten a series of erotica novels that Kalara is a fan of, but will never tell him.

Calym’s mural venerates his status as one who united the four corners of Creation, all trade routes leading to the compass in his hand.  I imagine this to be the centerpiece of a wider mural, each region of the mural depicting the exports of the area they represent (an image our Storyteller described once that never left my mind).

Age of Sorrows Incarnation

When the Exalted of the First Age fell, the Age of Sorrows began, but a glimmer of hope stands on the horizon.  The Shards of the Exalted have begun to appear again, imbuing heroes like Kalara with the power to change the face of Creation.

Like Calym, I’ve depicted her in a mural style with some key differences.  While Calym’s focuses on veneration from his worshippers, Kalara stands among people who rise up in revolution carrying tools of their trade, as she spends much of her power in Creation empowering escaped slaves like herself with trade skills, creating fair economy through her organization, the Pristine Guild.  She struggles between the Gun and the Quill, violence and diplomacy.  By the end of her time in Creation, she will have learned to balance both.

She and Calym share the phoenix as a personal symbol, though they oppose each other in gold and silver.

Incarnations Back to Back

While Calym’s time is over, the two remain inextricably bound.  The Shard granted to Kalara has also passed on some of his memories and knowledge.  She strives to learn from the mistakes Calym made and the emotionless spirit construct of himself he has left behind to tutor her.  Should she ever prove unworthy, Calym has made his intentions known that he will destroy her so that a more worthy successor might come along more quickly.

This week’s collection was packed with a lot of fun ideas!  While I won’t be able to paint a finished polished piece for every idea here, I want to pick a few out of the bunch to bring to final!  I’d like to finish up the Back to Back thumbnail with Kalara and Calym with their weapons drawn and the smarmy Plentimon of Dice with his dice cup and floating cards.  The temple mural pieces are also calling to my muse!

Which ones would you guys want to see finished up?  Always curious to know what calls to you!

More soon! 

♥ Ang

Exalted Art Challenge – Collection 2 – Fave Spell, Fave House, etc.

Continuing directly from last week’s collection, I finished my concept for Favorite Charm I teased last entry!  The goal for me with this challenge was to generate ideas and maybe get a few TTRPG portfolio pieces out of them.  I’m excited to say this piece has done that for me!  It may mean I won’t finish this challenge in a month, but it’s been worth it to take some time to explore my other inspirations as an artist and get a taste of what kind of art I want to be making in the future.

I’m so happy to see the game setting’s company also Retweeted this painting on Twitter, which makes me hopeful I’m on the right track! 

(Painted entirely in Procreate!  This Challenge been a learning experience for new tools as well.)

Favorite Dragonblooded House

No, the Dragonblooded are nothing like the Dragonborn of Dungeons & Dragons.  These noble houses descended of ancient mystic bloodlines imbued with the power of dragons do not have draconic attributes, but rather convey the aura and characteristics of their elements – wood, water, fire, earth, and air.  The individuals who started these bloodlines became the founders of the first dynastic houses, all ruled under the Scarlet Empress.

I chose House Cynis, a wood-aspected house known for their luxurious lifestyles, finery, and debauchery.  They feature heavily in the story of The Uncrucified and I wanted to spend some time conceptualizing Varia and Sana Cynis, two nobles from House Cynis who have fallen on hard times, though they do their best to portray themselves as the rich nobles they once were.  This pair would be trouble for Kalara in her younger days, but also give her a very unexpected “gift”!

With their wood theme, I chose to explore bonsai-inspired framing and Hanfu inspired fashions, as their their home country in the Blessed Isle always struck me as more Chinese-inspired in the setting.

Favorite Spell

There was no contest in choosing a fave spell. How could I resist the motif of razor sharp obsidian butterflies that fly out of the caster’s hands, butterflies being a personal symbol fo mine?  If a sorcerer chooses this spell as their specialty, they can also grow slashing claws of obsidian. 

I made this character up on the fly as a sorcerer-assassin, of sorts.  Instead of the more proper elegant mages, I imagine this nameless mage to be much more world-weary and cold.  She would fit in well with the Guild assassins that Kalara will no doubt clash with later on in her story!

Favorite Incarnae

The Incarnae are the holiest of holy among the gods of Exalted.  Their machinations and existence helped form the fabric of Creation.  Again, choosing Luna, goddess of the moon, was an easy pick for me!  She resonates so strongly with narrative themes I enjoy as a goddess of not only the night, but of tricksters, fertility, and chaos (not to mention her visual themes of tattoos and silver, which I am also partial to in my work).  Luna balances the rigid order and burning presence of the Unconquered Sun, giving Creation a respite from his burning rays.

For her visual themes, I wanted to portray what might be a mural in one of her temples. I imagine this would be ever-changing, showing her in any of her countless forms as a Hunter, Maiden, Crone, Beast, etc. depending on the time of month you look at it.  The masks around her symbolize the many guises she takes, with the rabbits worked in as symbols of fertility referenced as being connected with her in the setting.

I took strong inspiration from the beautiful murals of Steven Universe, particularly for the last sketch.

I’m currently favoring the asymmetrical take on Luna, as the symmetrical ones feel too defined by rules of order, which doesn’t fit Luna’s personality.

I don’t have any finished art from all of this sketching this week, as I’m exploring at my own pace.  I may pick a few that speak to the muse more strongly to bring to final, then only create sketches for the rest.  We shall see!  The journey continues and it’s felt GREAT to indulge in this geeky art love!

 ♥ Ang

Introducing My October Exalted Art Challenge!

The time is neigh, my October Art Challenge approaches!  So far, this year has been about allowing myself to rest and recuperate while also letting my muse off the chain to wander different paths for awhile.  The next excursion is going to be with the Exalted Art Challenge that I created with the Exalted RPG Discord community!

For those who don’t know Exalted, it’s a tabletop roleplaying game much like Dungeons & Dragons where you get to become a character with epic-level powers!  It features a world full of mystical places, vengeful gods, and faerie creatures with a rich tapestry of lore to explore.  Its roots in non-Western mythology have made it one of my favorite worlds to play in on my days off!

I’ve even drawn illustrations and written many words for a story set in this universe entitled The Uncrucified.  I’ve been sorely missing the characters from this story and wanted to get back into the mood of creating in this universe by challenging myself to a list of 31 art topics inspired by this fantastic setting!  I expect many characters from my storyworld to show up for this art challenge.

I know many of these topics don’t make sense to non-players, but I hope to introduce you to them with a bit of explanation and art to go along with each one!  In fact, enjoy a little sneak peek of thumbnail sketches for a few of the topics for a taste:

Patreon-Only Sneak Peeks!

Because my Patrons are the coolest, I wanted you guys to feel special during this event!  You’ll be getting Patreon-Exclusive Early Access to my collection of exploratory sketches with my thoughts and notes on the topics each week , while the finished paintings and prose will be shared at The Uncrucified’s project blog.  A compilation of the finished art will be posted here on Patreon once I’ve completed all topics! 

For those keeping up on my Patreon Discord Server, I’ll be sharing the sketches as they happen in my Ang’s Sketchbook channel as well!  (Read here for instructions on how to join my Discord Server dedicated to my Patrons and fans)

The Goal

I’m hoping by doing this event I can create more art in the TTRPG vein which is work I’d like to do more of in the future to channel my long-time passion for gaming!  I also plan to experiment with an expressive painterly digital style, since I have been so married to detailed tight line work for a long time now!  

With luck, I can finish all the topics in a month, though I won’t be too hard on myself if I can’t finish one a day.  The big goal is to remember how to play with art again and enjoy the process more than perfectionism!

I hope you all are ready for the ride!  I’m excited to see what happens during this hugely experimental time.  Are there any Exalted players here?  Sound off in the comments!  If you’re an artist who loves the game, I invite you to do this challenge with me and share in my Patreon Discord in the dedicated Art Challenges channel!  I’d love to see what you all might do for this list!

More soon.  I can’t wait to begin!

♥ Ang

Exalted Mini Comic WiPs

It’s been an anxiety-filled month with everything happening in the US this month and other personal challenges I’ll post about later once I have all the details.  For now, I wanted to at least share some progress shots of the mini comic I’ve been working on for the Exalted Art Challenge.

This has been a fun challenge to try in Clip Studio Paint for the first time.  I knew this program was created for manga artists, but everything about it is so much more efficient for this purpose than photoshop, especially the panel tools.  I really love its touch gestures for making my life easier as well!

This mini comic was created for the Exalted Art Challenge‘s topic “Favorite Stunt”, or in RPG terms, favorite cool moment of roleplaying!  For this particular campaign, my favorite moment happened when our band of weary Solar warriors went up against the Walker in Darkness, an extremely powerful Deathlord who had invaded our town.  My gal Kalara decided to initiate combat in a pretty badass way I had fun with!

Storyboard Sketches

My comics begin as loose sketches that give an idea of where the dialogue and main figures will be.

Ink and Screentone Style Tests

Next came figuring out how to ink and style the pages.  I opted for a style inspired by the energetic line work of one of my favorite manga, Blade of the Immortal by Hiroaki Samura.  I enjoy the graceful energy of the lines and the way the screentone portrays the local color of the elements (darker skin vs lighter clothing, etc).

Here’s a peek at our entire party of Kalara’s Solar band!  From left to right we have:

Cathak Demiato, Dawn Caste, who rose through the Dynast ranks as a decorated warrior, only to Exalt after discovering the war crimes her family was committing.  

Night Locust, Night Caste, a child slave turned assassin who Exalted when they tried to ‘test’ him by having him kill his young best friend.  He’s the prankster-sage of the group.  

Kalara Vadras (my character), Eclipse Caste, whom most of you know, but if you don’t, she’s an emancipated slave turned Guild reformer who has Major Beef with the Guild after they murdered her surrogate dad and framed her for it. 

Chaos Divide, Zenith Caste, raised by a wandering Air Aspect and Immaculate monk after his family was killed by fairfolk.  He bakes really good cookies!  He’s also the one who gave Kalara the most headaches because he never hesitates.  

Xesa, Twilight Caste, a wandering fortune teller who told the fortune of the wrong person and ended up Exalting when they hunted her down.

This comic has come along slowly, but surely.  It’s been a fun experiment to get to know Clip Studio Paint and to stretch my legs, creatively, before I return to the final phase of my Birthstone Goddesses project.

Are you enjoying the Exalted material thus far?  I’m curious to gauge interest here!

Next, I hope to have the finalized pages to show to wrap up this ‘finale’ for the Exalted Art Challenge.