Inktober 2019 – What’s in My Sketchbook? (#1)

This is the first year I’ve actively participated in DeviantArt’s “Inktober”, a challenge which entails that you begin and finish as many drawings as you can manage throughout the month of October. The purpose is namely for relaxed, unfettered practice – to stop hyper-correcting and judging your own work, and just getting it finished. I filled about a third of a palm-sized Moleskine storyboard sketchbook with small drawings, all sketched and inked in roughly four hours or less.

Here are some raw snapshots of some of them. Fair warning that these were taken on my phone, and are unedited, so still retain pencil marks. I’m a miniaturist at heart, so these drawings are also tiny, which made them harder to snap. One square is about the length of my thumb, if not shorter.
I corrected the photos enough to where the drawings were clear, though. I did think it was kind of cool how a phone camera sometimes reads the faces of drawings as human faces and focuses in on them. I will upload high quality, clean versions of all of these to my DeviantArt later.

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Sailor Moon on the top right! The top left drawing looks very similar to the illustrations I did for Loverboy. I prefer to work on miniscule scales such as these for book illustrations, too. Why? Well, the details of small drawings remain intact no matter how you resize them. While large-scale illustrations are often amazing, a lot can be lost when they are squeezed down to fit into a standard 5×8 or 6×9 novel. Continue reading “Inktober 2019 – What’s in My Sketchbook? (#1)”

Best Horror Games #6 – Layers of Fear

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★★★★★ 4.5 Stars

Genre: Psychological Horror
Platform: PC, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Aspyr / Bloober Team
Published: 2016

Summary – Layers of Fear focuses on a painter who is determined to finish his Magnum Opus, no matter what. The painter walks throughout his enormous, deserted house collecting strange “ingredients” to add to his masterpiece, all the while tormented by the horrors within his own paintings.

Overall Thoughts
Behold, the devil’s art project! If you’ve always wanted to see the worst of a creative mind’s obsessive nature, this is the best way to do it without actually going insane.
I love classical art – impressionism, gothic art, surreal art – whatever its nature, I love beautiful art, and I’m sorry if I accidentally jump-scared anyone with the title image! She’s beautiful too, in her… um, decomposing, meaty, salmonella sort of way. This is a project focused on the dark, cruel side of classical art.

Developed by an indie team from Poland, every inch of Layers of Fear is hellish yet impossible to look away from simultaneously. It’s too appealing to the eye, and the dark secrets that you can find (or cause yourself) are too appealing to the mind. There’s so much to explore, and it seems like every corner hides some fresh derangement flourishing in the dark, or in bright, Argento-esque bursts of light, paint and blood. The hauntings and delusions are so realistic, too, that it could be a movie.

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Layers of Fear is a potent, actually scary experience that makes use of psychedelic horror effects and the unexpected to infiltrate your waking nightmares. It’s not like other horror “games”, in that there are no real enemies or game mechanics, it’s just you and your eyes trapped in the head of a mad painter who’s possibly a murderer, or even a serial killer. One of the most creative parts I found, was watching the “Magnum Opus” unfold as he collects the parts to make it (which are body parts, by the by). Depending on the route you take morally during the course of exploring the mansion, the Magnum Opus could appear grotesque, as it does above, or beautiful. It can even appear neither, but ordinary and with a scathing expression on the woman’s face.

While it has a more vibrant, grotesque character than a lot of horror games I’ve seen before, it gets the psychological horror the medium is known for down to a T. Silent Hill 2 is known for its somber depiction of depression, and I think this one is comparable to like, the schizophrenia and ADHD spectrum.
I found some of the weirder imagery to be familiar, as intrusive thoughts (common with ADHD, anxiety and OCD, among other conditions) tend to have that horrible sort of flavour to them. I wouldn’t call it a relatable game, per se, like Silent Hill – unless of course, you prefer to paint with human blood! – but the comparison to mental illness is interesting to consider.

Would It Make a Good Novel?
Yes. Layers of Fear seems to take heavy inspiration from classics, not solely paintings, but novels as well, notably The Picture of Dorian Gray, where a man’s self-portrait becomes grotesque and horrifying as he becomes a more horrible person.

Final Rubric
Story and Characters – 4.5
Art and Design – 5
Gameplay and Entertainment Factor – 4.5
Fear Factor – 5
Music and Sound – 4
General Score – 4.5 out of 5

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🎃Harvest of Horror 2019🎃

The month of Halloween, the only socially acceptable time to be creepy, in both demeanor and your cerebral interests. And yes, I said month. As if Halloween lasted only a day, are you kidding? Not in this household.
Since I felt that last Harvest of Horror was churned out rushed and somewhat lackluster, I’ve planned this one way ahead of time. I’m always busy in October for whatever reason, usually because I have something being submitted for publishing around this time, so I’m actually writing my Halloween posts from back in May and June and touching them up from the present in October. Confused? So am I, by this point.

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Anyway, all this means is there is no particular schedule like there was last Halloween. There will be something horror-related every day. I thought I’d be a bit different this year and branch out into other things besides books and writing, so there’s to be a miniseries on the best and worst (in my opinion) horror video games, some artwork for Inktober on DeviantArt, some reviews and poems scattered throughout as usual, amongst other uncanny novelties.

The series on video games I think you’ll find especially interesting, since despite the cult following many of them have gotten, not many people discuss them in the same vein they would a book or film review. If you’re into games for the story aspect, or don’t know much about them and want to, you might like these. My recent trend of talking about video games probably won’t spill into the rest of the year, though, as I’ll likely be going back to a focus on writing and books when I can, but I feel like to be a writer-reader, it’s best to understand every medium.

I had considered doing a mini-series on the Fear Street saga by R.L. Stine, but I didn’t realize the later books were out of print, and quite expensive if you aren’t lucky enough to happen across them in a thrift shop. I certainly was not up to hunting them all down. I might talk about Fear Street and Goosebumps a bit, but no promises.
Anyway, enjoy the special, and have a horror-ific October!

Halloween on the Horizon

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Halloween, limited to a single day? I don’t think so. Didn’t you know that the entirety of September and October exist solely as an excuse for horror to be socially acceptable for awhile? Who am I kidding, of course you did! They haven’t renamed it Septober on Mars for no reason…

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I already prepared most of this year’s Harvest of Horror special back in May and June, because I was anticipating publishing a book near Halloween, and wanted to give myself plenty of time. I ended up with a couple of excess horror-related shenanigans that I no longer have room for to publish during H.H., and I don’t really want to save them for next Halloween, so I’m going to go ahead and publish those this month. I only start to wake up around September, so this is a perfect way to get started.

Last year’s Harvest of Horror was somewhat unfocused, because it was the first Halloween special I’d done since starting this blog, but I ended up featuring mostly books. This year, the special will revolve around horror as an interactive medium, in video games and other alternative methods of storytelling. I’m doing a countdown of the, in my opinion, best and worst horror video games, as well as some unrelated horror reviews and posts, and of course, Haunt Me to Sleep should be published by the end of October. I’ll be posting previews of it sometime this month, too, as I think I’ve already mentioned.

Some more of what’s happening in September includes a week dedicated to the Silent Hill franchise and its legacy – the main series, the books, the movies, everything – and some miscellaneous horror reviews and poems. Also coming up is some art! Yes, I’m actually posting some drawings again. I talk about it often, but go through with it rarely. The ePub and paperback editions of MHz should also be out soon. There was some complications with the cover design and formatting that prevented them coming out when the Kindle version did, and I didn’t figure anybody was in a huge rush for it to be out, so I’ve put off fixing it. ‘Tis the way of procrastination. Anyway, hope everyone’s looking forward to Halloween as much as I am!

New Art – April 2019

Well, not all of it’s new, just an upgrade in image quality. I have more stored for later, so I’ll probably be adding it all to the renovated portfolio pretty soon. If you have a DeviantArt, feel free to follow me if you want, and check the new artwork out:

http://smshuford.deviantart.com

The uploaded art includes illustrations from Loverboy, a handful of fanart, and some touched-up pieces from 2017.

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Thoughts on What Holds Us Back

Completionism, procrastination and lack of confidence, I can tell you right now are the unholy triad of offenders that keep us from achieving more. The last one is not as much of a worry for me as the first two, but a lack of confidence in a particular project can damper it to the point where it stays in hiatus hell for a long time. Until a couple of months ago, that’s where most of my writing was.

I don’t have any clear-cut, good advice that works for every individual when it comes to completionism and procrastination, as they are much, much trickier to overcome. The former is responsible for the hiatus on posting my artwork, because I’ve been set in this mindset that I realize is absolutely the stupidest, that I need to finish every piece I’ve begun before I can post any of it because it should all be posted together.
Yes, it is ridiculous, but when you are a perfectionist these little things will drive you mad while nobody else notices! It’s the key reason I wanted to redo those chapbooks so badly, because I can’t stand to have anything that seems unfinished or flawed. Even though they weren’t – to me they could have more and better content, so that’s what they’re getting.

Procrastination is a matter of breaking habits, namely avoidance and laziness. Procrastination is kind of like a very persistent and needy phantom that clings to you whenever you have the time and need to work. Like I said, I have no advice for this, it’s just something you’re going to have to decide to stop when you’ve had enough of it. No motivation in the world is going to work if you don’t really want to change. Some personal ambition grown from your own heart is necessary.
What I find squashes the want to procrastinate quicker than anything is thinking of what you won’t have in the years to come if you don’t do it while you can. You may miss your opportunity to write anything if you don’t seize them while they’re there. I have finished more in this month than the entirety of last fall and winter by keeping this in mind, so if it helps. It’s probably not too healthy to panic under time, but considering how little there is in our lives does make one want to live for more, I believe.

Silent Hill 20th Anniversary – An Overview

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Harry Mason has been looking for his daughter at the mercy of someone else’s demons for twenty solid years today. This was foretold by gyromancy!
Being my favourite disturbing influence, I had to do a mini-special for Silent Hill‘s landmark birthday on the good parts, the bad parts, the books that it brought me to and influence on my own work. Which is more than Konami will do for their own series today, I promise you that.

I know it’s a series that ended rather unceremoniously some time ago, but its impact makes it the only one I will draw something specifically for for its anniversary.
What’s scarier, Silent Hill or the fact that 1999 was twenty years ago? Yeah, pretty much nobody born in the 90’s is in school anymore. That’s… bamboozling for some reason, and I didn’t really get to experience the 90’s save for the tail-end.

Anyway. I don’t want to go into a boring essay – there have been dissections upon discussions upon dissertations on the series and its symbolism for years. The series is old enough to buy cigarettes on its own now, so there ought to be by this point! So don’t worry, this won’t be that. Just an almost-short dedication to a really phenomenal series with a handful of recommendations.

The Books
Silent Hill is based heavily around literature, both English and Japanese, as well as a couple of darker films like Jacob’s Ladder. There are numerous references to Shakespeare, Stephen King, and contemporary writers like Richard Matheson and Andrew Vachss. One creepy creature that stands out from the series is based off of Caliban from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”, a man who is half-human and half-beast.

SH brought me to the discovery of my current favourite author a couple of years ago when I got into the series. The entire insane plotline of the fourth SH, which revolves around a serial killer obsessed with his mother and a hermit who finds himself in the killer’s mind, is based on the novel Coin Locker Babies by Ryu Murakami.

The similarities aren’t… incredibly apparent, other than both are based around two men who are close through isolation but end up taking opposing paths, though both paths lead to bad places.
In the novel, they are brothers who have an obsessive hatred for their mothers who abandoned them to die at birth – one becomes a criminal and murderer while the other loses his mind after feeling alone all of his life, even after he becomes a famous musician. In the game, they are a man abused as a child by a religious cult who becomes a fanatic and murderer, and a recluse who may be beginning to lose his mind being trapped in isolation for so long with this murderer.
I recommend the living crap out of the novel, and the game too if it’s your thing. Continue reading “Silent Hill 20th Anniversary – An Overview”

Top 10 Songs from Silent Hill

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I don’t normally do music posts and don’t plan to start writing them regularly, but this is a rare occasion. On the threshold of the 20th birthday of my favourite series, which is tomorrow, I was surprisingly befuddled on what to analyse and dissect and ramble on about.

Silent Hill, for the uninitiated, is a psychological horror video game series that behaves strangely like artsy cinematic novels, and centers around a tourist town with a bad history. The town harbors a demonic entity that calls broken and vulnerable people to it and creates a delusional world out of the fears it senses in them. It was THE psychological horror series and still holds that place today, despite being indefinitely killed off by its own publishers. There are novels, comics and two films based off of it. I don’t recommend most of those, save for the 2006 film, which is how I discovered the series in the first place, and some of the later comics such as Past Life.

I decided that I should start with a short piece on a part of the Silent Hill series I could recommend to anybody and would be fun to talk about, regardless of the interest they might have in the series itself – the music. If you absolutely hate, hate, hate horror, it would still be unlikely that you’d dislike these soundtracks entirely.

Akira Yamaoka’s compositions for Silent Hill are legendary. They are pretty much the god of soundtracks, and other soundtracks have to earn their blessings before they’re even allowed to exist.
I exaggerate… but not by that much. These are innovative, multi-genre albums that make creative use of more traditional alt-rock, electronica and metal, ambient noise, discordant industrial sounds and even classical music to breed a new genre that’s unique to Silent Hill.
Despite there being some truly disturbing songs, like the infamous “Prayer” from the third game, which sounds like an actual replication of Hell, more often the soundtracks are introspective and mellow rather than scary. “Prayer” itself is quite beautiful in its own demonic way, and I’d love to know how something like it was even made.

I’ve boiled my personal favourites down to ten. Shaving them to this tiny number was no small feat, as including cut material and remixes, the first four entries in the series alone amass 300+ tracks of music with a plethora of different moods within those. Silent Hill‘s vocal themes with Mary Elizabeth McGlynn are pretty popular, but this list is solely for Yamaoka’s instrumentals. They’re really a monster of their own.

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This list is in no particular order, and I’ve given the YouTube link to ones I especially like so you can give them a listen. You can find most of the soundtracks, save the fan-made OSTs of cut and salvaged material, on other music sites as well. There are much, much more than just these. If you’re already familiar with SH, feel free to leave your own faves in a comment!

10 – “Theme of Laura” and “Theme of Laura (Reprise)” from Silent Hill 2
“Theme of Laura” is the series’ theme song by this point. I guarantee if you’re into soundtrack music or have browsed for ‘relaxing’ instrumentals, you have run into the reprise at some point. I guarantee it. Continue reading “Top 10 Songs from Silent Hill”

Musings on Explicit Content

The term “explicit” in the context of something that is not suitable for younger or more sensitive audiences is an interesting, and extremely loose term. One individual may think that a picture of a woman in a bikini is explicit, while another may think that only the most heinous, taboo acts of violence and sexuality are explicit. Judgment of the term varies heavily across a spectrum from mild to graphic to “why would a human make this” levels when it comes to art and writing.

Personally, I consider “explicit” content to have material that may be extremely upsetting, somewhat tasteless but not promoting harm, or has enough nudity that you couldn’t look at it at work. I agree… somewhat begrudgingly… to websites mandating an explicit filter, such as DeviantArt. Anyone who doesn’t have an issue with possibly explicit content can just turn the filter off.
However, if the website is for adults and older teens, there is no purpose in being childish like Tumblr and outright banning anything that might be explicit, even if most people would not agree that it is. I have difficulty using Tumblr that often anymore because their new filtering system seems to have broken my tag system, and little that I write shows up on the search anymore. But that’s a rant I’ve already gone through.

When does someone consider a piece they’ve done explicit? It’s a pretty different experience between visual media and writing. Most writers are very aware that their content might be inappropriate for some, seeing as they usually have a clear audience in mind, but what about art?
Artists usually don’t think of their work, at least I don’t think of mine, as something that would bother somebody else, because it just kind of happens for us without there being much thought. Nudity is natural to art, and has been since cave drawings. The beloved classics of art can get quite raunchy for their day, as well, though this doesn’t keep photos of them out of textbooks, as it shouldn’t! Continue reading “Musings on Explicit Content”

Upcoming Reviews and Art

I realize I’ve strayed a bit from reviews lately. I haven’t had and suspect I won’t have much time to read for awhile. I’ve been sprucing up some older ones to bring them up to quality and finish some NetGalley ARCs and abandoned reviews, but it’s not my highest priority in the face of larger projects, so maybe if you’re here for the reviews you’ll forgive me. 😉
It may look otherwise but I’m not actually that fast of a reader, I prefer to spend time with a book and take my time dissecting it. Piecing together a book of my own has really been my focus, so it’s been easier on me to post poetry and little articles.

February will bring a few more reviews, specifically for the events Women in Horror, and Black History Month, which both begin February 1st. There may be some unrelated books scattered in, but the main focus will be on darker fiction by women authors and books by African-American authors.

I am becoming more active on Twitter and DeviantArt after being dormant on most of my social media due to finally recovering from a long, drawn-out illness that kept me from wanting to bother. What else is there to do, really? I will also be redoing the gallery here. Eventually.
You can follow me on Twitter, if you want, though I can’t post some drawings there due to their content, so those will have to be on DA. I become very strange on Twitter though. Fair warning.
I will also be revealing an ambitious project, Haunt Me To Sleep, on there, which is a combination ghost story, poetry and horror fiction compilation, along with some other future shenanigans you might enjoy. It’s on Goodreads, too.

I never announced it formally, but horror-fantasy monstrosity Absolute Heaven has been available on Kindle for awhile. It had some mild problems that I haven’t been well enough to deal with, I don’t know if and when it will come to paperback. The Kindle version looks fine, though. For some reason, it’s never shown up on my author page. Absolute Heaven’s nature as a B-side to Loverboy has caused me never to warm to it, though I think it turned out quite solid if you enjoy experimental, fantastical and dark poetry. It’s only like 2 bucks for a lot of poems, so if you want, check it out. A fellow author wrote a very wonderful review for it that is worth reading if you might be interested.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07M5P3LRV

Crawling Out of the Crater Into 2019

2018, what were you, exactly? Were you the pit or the pendulum? A little of both perhaps? Just a skim against the axe’s edge, but still not as bad as it… could’ve been?
Ah well. There will always be another year for redemption.

Firstly, thank you all for reading my little book blog. This month was its one-year anniversary and I never expected it to do so well. In my spare time, I’ll be revamping it to look cleaner and include a good bookshelf for my finished works.
I have gotten rather unfocused with book reviews due to the poetry books I’ve been trying to perfect and release. Loverboy and Absolute Heaven are both finally out on Kindle if you want a copy. The paperback for Loverboy is available but AH‘s will need a bit of touch-up, as it’s kind of massive for what it is.
You’ll have to be patient with my independent book releases. I have a sensory disorder and other unrelated ghastly stuff tends to happen around publishing time, and it’s only me working on it. Better for the books to come out later than I want than come out incomplete, no?

Anyway, I’ve got so, so much planned for 2019. I have remixed versions of my four chapbooks, two separate poetry compilations (one of which may get traditionally published – yay!), and three rather intriguing fiction works.
I found the chapbooks extremely excrutiating to read in their raw forms, but I never really… received any negative feedback at all? There was like, one or two bad ratings somewhere, I think? So maybe it’s just my perfectionism, I don’t know. The horror ones I definitely found more stupid than the romantic ones, but guess which ones were more popular? Continue reading “Crawling Out of the Crater Into 2019”

Censorship and the Modern Blog

Recently, Tumblr disappointed the blogging world by banning all adult content from their website, in a catastrophic combination of censorship, laziness and idealism.
It’s lazy censorship because it’s cutting out blogs which seriously deal with mature topics, as well as erotic art and book blogs, while completely ignoring the rampant bots and actual problematic material that the ban was supposed to get rid of.

I had developed an art blog several months ago in June that I’ve not used, I was meaning to have it take off next month but now I think I’ll just be deleting it. There’s no point, thanks to the childish ban most art’s out of the question. It doesn’t really matter if it’s explicit, apparently, as art has been getting flagged like mad.

I’ll still be updating my poetry blog, and I’ll instead be using DeviantArt and Twitter to post artwork in the new year. I’ll have to back up my poetry here though in case there’s any naughty prose, according to their automated censor, or whatever. I am very disappointed in Tumblr, to say the least. None of the problems were solved, but some fresh new ones were born and a lot of bloggers’ hard work was basically flushed down the toilet. Disastrous.

Book Review – Death is a Bloodstained Shadow by B. B. Frank

Death Is A Bloodstained Shadow: The Giallo Cinema Chopping List

★★★ 3.5 Stars

Full Title: Death is a Bloodstained Shadow – The Giallo Cinema Chopping List
Genre: Horror / Nonfiction
Publication Date: November 5th, 2015
Publisher: Videogeddon

If you didn’t know, giallo is a subset of horror-thriller film, set apart by its blend of both psychological and visceral themes. Giallo is considered the grandfather of the slasher film genre and had a significant influence on modern psychological horror. Most giallo are Italian or Spanish, and in fact giallo is just ‘yellow’ in Italian – the genre named after the colour most mystery paperbacks were at the time these movies started to become popular, in the early 70s. Giallo posters tend to be outrageous, beautiful and psychedelic. Vibrant infernal colours abound.

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Death is a Bloodstained Shadow is a pretty solid list – it goes beyond the mainstream Argento and Bava into more obscure gems (or ironically enjoyable grubby rocks, depending on your personal taste), and the poster art is extremely entertaining. Many remind me of pulp book covers from around the same era.

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However, the eBook version could be better and less cramped, and some crucial info is missing. The actors are never listed and there isn’t any DVD information! I know that several of these are likely to be extremely expensive and difficult to find in print, especially outside of Europe. Nonetheless, an engaging look at a much-loved genre (at least by me, anyway.)

One more neat fact and I’ll leave you to be scarred by this artwork – the Dario Argento film Phenomena, known also as a butchered version called Creepers, was the inspiration behind one of the innovating survival horror series, Clock Tower. Dario Argento’s filmography is, in fact, a fantastic place to begin if you want to get into the giallo genre, as they are the easiest to find and for the most part masterpieces of their time.
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Art and Creation Notes – “Contortions of Fortune”

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You will probably recognize that face. “Contortions of Fortune” was a bit Babylonian / ancient Egyptian inspired. It’s really intended to be translated into colour, but it doesn’t look bad as black and white.

I had a dream once as a child about a group of women outside of a torch-lit temple preparing for some sort of occult ritual, and this drawing reminds me of that dream. For some reason it’s stuck with me a long time. Maybe it’s a remnant of a past life. Or a twisted memory of a film, more likely. Her oddly decrepit hands I thought were a result of magic. Perhaps she is really much older than she looks, and only the hands reveal the truth.

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Seven Devils II – Designing Sloth

[Creation notes and ruminations I took while designing the ink piece “Apathy of an Idol”, part of a horror mini-series. Read the previous entry here.]

Sloth is simultaneously the most difficult to personify and the most personally incensing of the seven sins. It’s a broader term than the others, for one, encompassing apathy, laziness, ingratitude and wastefulness, all of which are equally “Sloth” but different acts entirely.

Arguably, Sloth could be the worst of the whole lot, as an immeasurable amount of evil has been gotten away with due only to apathy. The idea of evil and misfortune always being “someone else’s problem” is a corrupting one, indeed. I suppose it’s more than fitting, then, that Sloth be an aggravating and slow-going ink piece with little inspiration to run on, isn’t it?

Sloth has no natural expression – you can’t really sense an apathetic or lazy nature on a person’s face, nor does it have the sinister or obsessive shine of the eye that greed or does, or the definitive flame-red of wrath. I guess at best you might get a sense of emptiness from somebody, or a lack of humanity at Sloth’s strongest – a mechanism that functions like a human but just only.

Again, this is something you sense – it’s incredibly challenging to convey the same thing in an artwork. My initial but admittedly boring idea for Sloth was to give the central character and their surroundings an overwhelming sense of sleep and melt, something akin to the dripping clocks of Dali, but with a more grotesque unkemptness fitting with the mini-series’ theme. Strewn garbage and moldy residue would’ve oozed from the world, which sounds fittingly disturbing, but was too similar to the sketch I already had finished for “Gluttony of a Beast”. I feared that the point might be missed if it was as gross as that one, or else they might be confused for each other. Why should the Sloth piece necessarily be an unhygienic wasteland, when you can find apathy even in paradise?

So… after consideration and a full remix of the early sketch, the idea of melt and rot changed into a dystopian atmosphere of luxury – the focal character became an idol or figurehead of such overblown (and totally ambiguous) importance that they no longer are obligated to move their own limbs, as others stand by, ready to do it for them.

I chose a female figure for this piece, as she fit the “idol” tone more, and it evened out the gender disparity with the other pieces (most at the time had ended up being male or androgynous leaning towards male; the only other female one was Envy). I wanted this piece to convey abused privilege and really drive home the evil of such an atmosphere, as the central figure is surrounded by doll-like helpers who in reality may not be there by choice – handmaids in name only. As bad as Sloth is, its worst facet by far is turning a blind eye towards the oppression of others, if not outright condoning it for the sake of laziness. While probably the lightest piece in appearance (especially if it gets a colour version) “Apathy of an Idol” is the darkest in meaning.

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Seven Devils Series I – Designing Gluttony

[Creation notes and ruminations I took while designing the ink piece, “Gluttony of a Beast”, part of a horror mini-series.]

Gluttony – the most animal yet the most self-destructive of the traditional sins, usually causing more harm to the practicioner than the practiced upon. I say usually, but when gluttony writhes out of its boundaries, it has no mercy to those who stand in its path. It’s a rabid and perpetually starving behemoth.

Gluttony when it applies to food is arguably on a moral level beyond simply “good” or “evil”, as animals who have a moral sense completely foreign to and far more instinctual than humans still can be gluttonous if the opportunity is there. Stranger still, opinions on gluttony vary so drastically, it could easily be taken as a virtue.

I don’t personally believe gluttony toward food can be considered “evil” exactly, as delicious food is quite the temptress and easy to give into, though it can be incredibly harmful to the self. It’s more understandable that it was considered to be a worse action back when they first began to write about the seven sins, as food was much more scarce for far more people.

Gluttony is strange. Inherently a dark feeling, though it’s separate from greed and definitely not obsession. It might cause apathy, but it’s not apathy. Nor is it an emotion, but it’s like an instinct that has gone cancerous and mad. Whether this yields bad, good, or neither, it is always too much and always taken too far.

With “Gluttony of a Beast”, I wanted to turn it onto an inhuman and fully grotesque edge that you might get a hint of once in a lifetime, but never, ever see in another. The Beast calls for a lot of grimy residual textures, like rice that congealed to a bowl over a week ago, as well as meaty textures. Meat textures are notoriously difficult to draw or paint, being a paradoxical combination of rough, spongy and greasy at once.

A notable inspiration was the monster No-Face from the film Spirited Away, who showcases a similarly odd, slimy texture. I also was adamant about including cannibalistic or hyper-carnivorous themes, to add to the feeling of unnatural rawness. We’ll see how this looks when it’s done, it might even get a colour version if it’s polite to me.

See some of my current art on DeviantArt.

Help out my work on Patreon or Ko-fi.

“Cosmic Love” Art by a Friend

Today I just wanted to show this lovely, vivid sketch done by one of my Goodreads friends, inspired by one of my Cosmic Love haiku. If I’m not mistaken it was this one:

Cathedral ruins
On a granite pillar waits
Time-corrupting imp

Anyway, I thought this was amazing and was rather flattered that my brain-rambling poems could inspire someone. 🙂 You can check out more of Tom’s awesome drawings here.

Art and Creation Notes – “Just Relax”

JustRelax(c)SMShuford

Incredibly ironic considering the rather ocular focus this piece has, I sustained a mild eye injury while in the stages of completing this drawing. Hence, the sketch was actually finished like, in January, but it didn’t get cleaned up until April. Annoying, but I guess those kind of sneaky inconveniences come with the territory.

This is one of the more interesting ones featuring my signature “ghouls”. Here a few of the face-thieving variety are pictured in one of their natural habitats, the hotel lobby. Don’t be fooled by their exquisite lack of eyelids or matching grin-grimaces – – – they have zero table manners, and tend towards illegal facial feature harvesting as a career path. Of course, even though I invented them (a semi-secret concoction of human DNA, ghost DNA and various fruits and vegetables, but you didn’t hear that), I shouldn’t make such brash generalizations about them as a species. There are sure to be exceptions.

Check out some of my other work here on DeviantArt.

Brief Update on Art and Art Books

A Jack, or should I say Jane?, of all trades, I have multiple cakes scorching in multiple stoves right now, an important one of which is improving this blog. I don’t think it’s terrible by any means, but anything can be further perfected upon, and this needs a new wardrobe rather desperately. A major point I feel has suffered neglect is all of the art portion of the site – including art books, which like the rest of my reviews are getting a makeover to make them more engaging and just slightly more elaborate. Starting with the next art book review, ones I own will get inside photographs.

As for my own art, rather than just showing the picture in a batch or snippet, I’ve thought of writing a short article to accompany each, also with the goal of making this a far more engaging blog for multiple creative interests. Some of my ruminating lunacy may actually inspire someone, somewhere. Oh, and as a side, as of today (April 16th), I now sell prints on my DeviantArt page, mostly limited to tinted / coloured pieces but if the ink-only ones are popular enough I may add them.

Visit my art gallery on DeviantArt.

Infinite Summer, Friday the 13th, and Donations Launch (What a Mess)

HAPPY FRIDAY THE 13th! THE LUCK STOPS HERE!

InfiniteSummer(Line)(c)SMShuford

I am mildly joyed (not over-joyed) to announce Infinite Summer, another free eBook gleaned from the depths of my psyche and put on the chopping block, to be cleaned up and published somewhat later this April. The rough line-art for the cover is above, courtesy of myself. I almost rejected that drawing, actually, as I had a more appropriate one in mind but ran out of time.

Anyway, Infinite Summer is softer yet more sorrowful than my previous ones, but I think better since it’s far more recent. I have a massive backlog of these tiny books which I hope to print myself as two omnibuses perhaps next year or around Christmas (if I’m lucky), but since they are so small and really have their own characters (plus I have fun creating the cover art) I wanted to print them all individually.

Which brings me to my next point… unfortunately, I have a few issues which prevent me from working a lot of the time, which are medical, not easy repaired and actually effect my work negatively, so sadly it’s become pretty difficult to balance reviewing, writing, art and blogging along with studies. So I’ve decided to set up both a Patreon and a Ko-Fi (Buy Me a Coffee) page for all who wish to help me out. If you can’t or don’t necessarily want to, which is okay, please consider sharing this page on any social media you prefer. It’s newborn and needs a bit of working out, so I need any help I can get here.

I mentioned these yesterday but thought I should “officially” announce it. Patreon is for long-term or consistent donations, whereas Ko-Fi is for single, small donations.

Join my Patreon page! or Buy Me a Coffee!

100% of any funds donated to my Patreon or Ko-Fi pages goes towards improving this blog, books to review and fixing the issues which cause strain to my artwork, that make what I am passionate about a source of pain. Long-term Patrons may get the chance to win free goodies if it is successful, even if you don’t partake in the tiers.