Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Lycanthropes

Christopher Chambers was kind enough to send over some rough drafts of a prop journal he's working on and asked for some feedback. I thought it might be interesting to have everyone offer their thoughts, and Mr. Chambers was very supportive of the idea.

I was wondering if you would take a look at my prop journal documents, created for a LARP, of a werewolf hunters studies of the biology of the creatures. I am trying to make them look as realistic as possible and hoping that they are getting close. I am currently attempting to draw more anatomical sketches for more pages. If you have time, I would appreciate any help you can provide. Thanks a ton.

Here are two of the roughs he sent over:

I think the artwork is outstanding, but the regularity of the text immediately jumped out at me. It looks far too blocky and neatly ruled. Having encountered the exact same problem in some of my own work I think the best approach for a journal-style presentation is to actually write out the text. Yes, it's tedious, but nothing beats actual handwriting. As an example, here's a journal page from the incredibly gifted Francois Launet (found in his amazing gallery of Lovecraftian art at Goominet).

Notice all the little variations in the text? How the stroke length and character orientation shifts? Even when sentences are repeated they're subtly different, a natural byproduct of the failings of the flesh. The incredibly powerful pattern recognition routines in our brain picks up on that almost instantly.

If there simply isn't enough time to write everything out by hand the best alternative is to use a font scanned from actual handwriting with enough alternate characters to add some randomness to the text body. Ideally, you would then go over the text blocks by hand and tweak it even more, something the Liquid filter and Jitter options in Photoshop and GIMP are ideal for.

So what do you think? How could Mr. Chambers improve his project?


CoastConFan said...

This is a general observation, not just about this journal, but based on a number of journal viewings, both prop and original. I think one of the problems with synthetic looking journals is that each page is approached like a single piece of stand-alone art and not a continuous series of pages. If you have ever written in a journal, you know that the side of the page that runs to the spine often begins to have a pronounced curve that simply cannot be accurately drawn upon and many journal writers seem to have a bias leaving a greater margin avoiding this area. Dig out an old diary, preferably a kid-sister’s and note how it is written. BTW try to avoid dotting the i ‘s with a heart or a smiley as it looks bad in a grimoire or a Necronomicon.

The bottom line is that I note an asymmetry from the left to the right leaf as with the margins that does not appear in those journals that are ginned up loose and then bound. This may be a little bit of a nit pick but your unconscious mind registers this even if you don’t realize why something looks wrong. Tiny inconsistencies generally don’t hurt the overall work, but a cascade of items that are inconsistent can tip the mind to unbelief, although you just can’t put your finger on it. One form of inconsistency is too much consistency, i.e. perfect handwriting, perfect or perfectly symmetrical margins in an unruled book.

sirfrancisdrake said...

I think the drawings look a bit modern or cartooney. It definitely always helps to use accurate reference photos when trying to achieve a realistic effect.

Markus said...

The drawings are very well done, but I have to say that the shape of the teeth is not that realistic. If you want to make such things realistically, you have to look at real anatomy, including those of animals. The dentition of wolves doesn´t only consists of canine-like teeth, they are far more complex.

Anonymous said...

Check out some pictures of an old hand-written cookbook:

Notice that the hand-writing does not follow an extemely straight line and gets close to the "spine" of the book. Also, look at the letters. The "d" has that hook to the left.

Chris said...

I agree with the other comments regarding the text: the inner page margins will be hard to sketch or write on, though with my Moleskines, I have a tendency to flatten the book completely and work across both pages -- sometimes a diagram really needs to be that large. I'm not an artist, but a scientist, and I'm describing my own notebooks.

The written portions would most likely be added wherever there was room around the drawings, and would take whatever shape was left. Additional information would be added after the page was originally created, by the original user, but also perhaps from a later user who happens to be in possession of it.

Anonymous said...

There was a photoshop plug-in, I think it was called ransom note, that you set a series of fonts and typed out your message and as you did so it would select that character randomly from one of the chosen fonts. If you could get a hold of that plug-in and then make 4 or 5 handwritten fonts of your own, you might be able to get those natural variations.

Esrafael, the Hooded Crow said...

One thing I'd suggest, and this goes along with the hand written text, is varying up the images up a bit. Even if they're supposed to be the same, hand drawn pictures are never going to be identical.

Anonymous said...

It's a good work, there are ways to improve it but it depends of the final media. Will it be printed ? Or is it a numeric work only ?

If I consider the job as the result of a scholar who has time to write, I will only say that the typing is too regular, the font is almost ok but it lacks of those little irregularities which make you say "hum it's old and written".
If it is a field journal, I think these pages are too clean, it lacks of dirts (earth, blood, sweat...) which can be added as a post treatments.

Draws are too modern (it may come from the excellent shadow work), you may try to be more synthetic, using XIXth century like anatomic boards.

For ex :

But it's still a great job, I wouldn't be able to do the same.

Anonymous said...

I think they look great and as for the text and artwork. Look at some of Da Vinci's anatomical drawings to give you an idea of the text. But you also gotta remember back in those days everything looked almost perfectly block writing. For any educated person went to school and who was taught by the catholic priests who were also in those days the book publishers. Monks would spend days and hours writing calligraphy manuscripts and books. So they were the experts of writing and teaching others how to write. So I would leave it alone. The only problem I had was being able to read the text better to see if some of the letters and words were done correctly. ie like double ss like in the words like Congress look like an f, etc. Maybe if you were able to view it better.