This has been one very eventful year.
At this current moment, I have a whole mess of work to get done, both client and otherwise, which is super good. With something as unpredictable and erratic as my current stage in the freelance world a busy month is a good month, even if it does make stress levels hit new highs.
But this doesn’t mean I’ve completely abandoned all personal and side projects. I have one particular project which has evolved and changed quite a bit since I first thought of it, and it’s still definitely in the first few stages of development, but it’s exciting and something a bit more personal so I thought I’d write a bit about it.
It’s basically a story with the intention of being turned into a picture book/graphic novel. It’s not going to be a long story, not an epic, sprawling adventure to save the earth from some horrible evil, but it’s a story nonetheless.
I’ve always enjoyed writing stories and little narratives, with no intent of turning them into anything. It’s fun to get these mad scenarios out of your head and into words, and when you find the right words, it can be really satisfying to read it back. That’s exactly how this story started off, it was just another mad and fun idea I was playing around with and started doing little sketches for.
It started off with this little guy, Tok, and her human friend, a little girl. It was just a doodle, which soon turned into a back story, which became a proper story.
The story is called Sasha And Tok. It’s about a little girl who buries a dead rat (it’s a nice story, honest). The rat is so grateful for this display of kindness that his ghost comes back and stays by Sasha’s side whilst she grows up. I won’t go into the full synopsis, but Sasha can see these ghosts and she soon finds deeper meanings behind why they’re there.
Now for the weird personal bit.
Like I said, this started off as a minor side project, just an excuse to play around with stories and draw some cool little skeleton ghosts, but a few weeks ago I had the displeasure of having to see my dog and best friend, Feurgie, go over the rainbow bridge.
As I’m sure many dog owners – and non-dog owners perhaps – can sympathise with, this was very very not great. At the risk of sounding dramatic, I struggled to find a way to cope with how I was feeling having lost Feurgie, but I came to realise that maybe I could channel some of this into this story.
With the story taking a subject as heavy and unpleasant as death and turning into something hopeful and aesthetically pleasing, the core values of the story brought about a welcomed sense of comfort. I personally don’t believe in ghosts, or an afterlife at all, but by representing these lost animals in this way after they’re gone I feel like it communicates a sense of how important they were, and still are, to the world even when they’re not with us anymore. Feurgie helped to shape a lot of who I am and who my family are, she was a very important little friend to me and I wanted to find a way to show her presence in life even when she’s not physically here any more. Ghosts seemed to work for this. It’s an obvious answer, but uniqueness wasn’t the driving force of this project.
By having the ghosts in the story take care of the main character in subtle and unseen-to-many ways, I feel it bares a lot of resemblance to how Feurgie’s influence and memory stays with me.
Sasha and Tok will very much be dedicated to Feurgie and all the wonderful things she brought into my life.
Now that you know why I’m doing this project, I can explain a little bit of how.
As is evident from other projects I’ve created, like The Ugly Bestiary and Lavish, I’m rather a huge fan of illustrating animals in ways that allow the audience to view them in a different light. I particularly enjoy doing this will less popular animals; like rats.
I chose a rat to be one of the main characters in the story because of exactly that reason. Generally seen as disposable and vermin, rats can be incredibly intelligent and compassionate animals, but their reputation somewhat masks these attributes from the majority of peoples’ perceptions of them. Tok the rat will be smart, friendly, caring, and – the most exciting part for me – he’ll look pretty cool too.
The illustrative and aesthetic potential behind illustrating ghosts is huge and I absolutely can’t wait until I have the proper amount of free time to get stuck into this. I’m choosing an ever so slightly spookier vibe for this project, something I haven’t done in a while, so it’ll be fun trying something a bit different. Spooky, yet strangely comforting.
I’ve already done a few doodles and sketches for the project…
Nothing too substantial, just a few boredom drawings, getting ideas out of my brain. I’ve got a vaguely good idea as to how the characters will look, but I need to build on this more and bring an environment into play as well. Since so much of the atmosphere that comes with the ghosts is lighting dependent, a good environment is key to making them work.
The next step is to finish the text, create some more in depth mood boards, and try to bring these characters to life – or death as the case may be.
Keep an eye out for more updates on Sasha and Tok. I’m super excited about it all and can’t wait to share it all with you guys.