one night in early 2013, my then-fiancée J suffered a brutal and haunting nightmare that became the black seed crystal of "The Bone Garden." she described a lone Civil War soldier discovering an abandoned cabin on a hilltop, surrounded by a grove of bone-white trees that pressed closer and closer. they assimilate and corrupt anything they touch - that poor cardinal! - and the soldier eventually resigns himself to the grove.
we each continued developing the story in our own ways... her from the pure and bleak original, me from the diseased fancies it gave root in my head. she may get around to telling her version someday, and suffice it to say that we took very different paths. i want to read hers. i crave it.
the earliest files for the "Bone Garden" are time-stamped mid-April 2013. i worked on this thing feverishly throughout the summer of that year with the intent of producing a new work in the style and vein of "Deep of the Well," 2012's Halloween offering. the story flowed, if too verbosely at first. i'd wanted to write something echoing a classic Weird Tale for a long time, and one with an unreliable narrator checks so many of my boxes my leg starts thumping like a dog's.
the art was a different matter.
i finished the first ~2.5 pages in the style that i'd been pursuing since high school, first in pencil and then digitally, maxing out my skill and texture folders in a doomed attempt at what could charitably be called "stylized verisimilitude." whatever. it was killing me and it wasn't right.
i'd hit a wall. i was getting "better" at an asymptotically slower rate, but i didn't (and don't) have the chops to pull off what i'd wanted to do. i'd ended up constraining the art based on model photos i could find, the panels didn't work together, and most crucially / damningly, the style just didn't fit the story.
i showed J my work.
she hated it.
she was right. i shelved the whole damn thing.
memory is fuzzy about how i got back on track. there was a wedding, there was a house, there were dogs, there was eternal overload and calamity at work. somewhere between 2013 and summer of '16, i grew a pair and became comfortable with throwing away months of work to start again and do it right. it took another year and change, but i did it. love and credit to the inestimable Emily Carroll, probably the indy artist i most worship, for giving me inspiration in style, pacing, and beautiful brevity (you know i enjoy me some words). after J, this one is for her.
i intended to go into the second build with a "monochrome economy" approach; stylized and cartoony lines, heavy shading, simple colors. after over three years (at the time!), i wanted to get this thing done. i slipped from that back toward my old ways pretty darn quick, but refrained from using texture overlays and tried to rely on bold lines where i could. i think it worked in general, and i've had some nice feedback from various corners (including Art faculty!).
here are a few more cuts from the first run. alas.
there was a long break between pages six and seven, which i picked back up for the final sprint last summer. it shows... of all the art, p7 is just about the only one that doesn't fit the original concept in my head. i'm getting better at that, and it's exciting to be able to finally give you, my audience of between zero and ten-ish, a more direct line into my shadow-stricken psyche.
the greatest compliment was that J thought the cardinal scene was perfect, straight from her dream.
works for me.
the Next Big Thing is in the works; after playing through "Bloodborne," i feel a powerful urge to try my hand at a short allegory through cosmic horror. see you in thirty years.
/.na [while listening to Halfbreed, formally inaugurating the Halloween season]