Saturday, July 14, 2012

Magic, the Gathering issue #2 samples

Professional work done for IDW. These are a few of the sample pages I help paint. I assisted the  main colorist, J. Edwin Stevens for IDW's Magic, The Gathering comic. It was interesting working for IDW with this project. The story is interesting. The line art is gorgeous and so breathe taking! The colors J. Edwin Stevens did are well thought out and help guide the story from panel to panel. Stunning. 

It is a visual work any Magic fan or fantasy lover should check out, and not because I worked on it. Sincerely! Truly! I really think its that visually fun and the thoughts the line artist and colorist put into this series beautiful. If you loved Disney's Tangled character, Flynn, you'll like Dack. He is a swashbuckling thief with a heart of gold who constantly gets into trouble. He's also happens to be the main hero in the comic and a new plains walker.

                          Copyright of Magic, The Gathering belongs to IDW and Wizards of                             the Coast©.
                           © IDW/WoTC
                           Linework by Martin Coccolo©
                          Coloring by J. Edwin Stevens/level20artist©
                          Color assistant by J.S. Choi©

Media: Painter & Photoshop collab

Character Sketch 9: Character Design of the Day

This was a sketch influenced by modern fashion, Ancient Rome, and RPG video game character designs. Nothing more than a drawing of the day.

COPYRIGHT:  Character Design belongs to J.S. Choi (c). DO NOT USE!

Media: Graphite, Ink, & Markers

Character Sketch 8: Sad Songstress

Inspired by the women of Alphonse Mucha, I designed the songstress based on them and opera. Other influences were cages and birds, thus the chains and wing like sashes connected to her arms. It has some mistakes I wish to fix, but it's a just a sketch-of-the-day so I suppose it is fine. I may re-draw her one day. She seemed like a fun and fluid design. 

COPYRIGHT:  Character Design belongs to J.S. Choi (c). DO NOT USE!

Media: Graphite

Character Sketch 7 : Girl and her cat

When I drew this, it was a quick-sketch-of-the-day kind of thing. I think I was kind of inspired by Harry Potter's Hermione Granger, but I didn't really give it deep thought. I'm not sure. Maybe a rich girl with spiral drill curls? Hmm. It's been a while. I do recall imagining the character walking on a beach side. How did she convince the cat to follow? Who knows!

COPYRIGHT:  Character Design belongs to J.S. Choi (c). DO NOT USE!

Media: Graphite

Character Sketch 6: Girl and her pups

Here's a random girl loving some puppies. Nothing more.  Just cuteness. A drawing for the day.

COPYRIGHT:  Character Design belongs to J.S. Choi (c). DO NOT USE!

Media: Graphite

Character Sketch 5: Troubled Thief

I just wanted to draw a fantasy inspired thief. I find most thieves hilarious for some reason, even if some are kind of charming. However, the charm is in their flaws and acts of stupidity. It is never because they are suave. They try to be charismatic like swash bucklers, but only get into trouble as they try to become renown 'treasure hunters' (I.E: Bruce Campbell as Autolycus from Xena: The Warrior Princess. I love Autolycus!).

COPYRIGHT:  Character Design belongs to J.S.                                                                                                  Choi (c). DO NOT USE!

                                                                                      Media: Graphite

Character Sketch 4: Yuki Onna

Demon Definition:  Yuki Onna- Snow woman is the literal translation. In Japanese myth, a yuki onna is a beautiful, female demon made of winter itself.  She appears to be a proper Japanese maiden. She can become the freezing wind and fog. She can turn to snow. She is from my understanding similar to Jack Frost in European myth. She is not the symbol of winter itself like Jack Frost, but she controls similar powers to him. She can take solid form usually in white and/or blue kimono. She said to never leave a trail behind in snow. She has pure alabaster skin and raven dark hair. It is not uncommon of her to freeze wayward travelers, especially those that offend her. In nature, she is a malevolent
                                                                          creature who takes joy in those that
                                                                          die in her blizzards.


Artist Note:  This is my interpretation for the Yuki Onna as I pondered her habitat, life style and physical mechanics as a demon.

COPYRIGHT:  Character Design belongs to J.S. Choi (c). DO NOT USE!

Media: Graphite

Character Sketch 3: Paladin

This is another drawing of the female paladin from the full illustration, Flames That Clash Against Me [Link 1] [Link 2]. I liked her enough to draw her again. I may draw her again another time. Who knows.

COPYRIGHT:  Character Design belongs to J.S. Choi (c). DO NOT USE!

Media: Graphite

Character Sketch 2: Feline Warrior & Fox Kid

This female feline warrior is the same character for my illustration, Moonlit Night & Brutish Bane [Link]. I drew her in a casual pose amused and worried by the fox child. I imagined the interaction between the warrior and the adorable fox child was made in a random town she stayed at for a few days rest before passing on. Quick girl!  Roll a skill check to diplomatically decline the fox child's crush, and avoid importantly a annoying kid's wailing.

Oh kids... O_O You love them and hate them... Both at the same time.

COPYRIGHT:  Character Design belongs to J.S. Choi (c). DO NOT USE!

Media: Graphite

Character Sketch 1: Feline Warrior

This is another sketch of the female feline warrior in the illustration, Moonlit Night & Brutish Bane [Link]. You can tell I liked drawing her a bit too much. ^_^;; Something about the dreads/braids and her outfit, particularly the patterns are fun to draw.

COPYRIGHT:  Character Design belongs to J.S. Choi (c). DO NOT USE!

Media: Graphite

Shadowrun- Data Mining

A commissioned illustration I did for Catalyst Game Labs. The title to this piece may have changed in the printed book, but I was told it was called Data Mining. Shadowrun is a urban fantasy tabletop RPG game that is also heavily influenced by sci-fi with its technology. The illustration depicts a dwarf gathering data from his hard drives while a elven thief sneaks a away with a stolen hard drive in invisible mode.

This is a piece I did last year that just recently got published.

Copyright: Illustration belongs to J.S. Choi (C). DO NOT USE!
Copyright of Shadowrun product: Data Mining concept, characters, and
world belongs to Catalyst Games Lab(C).

Media: Graphite, Ink, & Photoshop

Huntress VS Black Canary (Mock Cover #4/ Value Painting)

This is the value painting for the Huntress VS Black Canary[Link].

Huntress VS Black Canary(Mock cover #4)

Dinah(Black Canary) and Helena(Huntress). Two awesome DC characters (Yes, I like DC and Marvel equally. None of this rivalry of who is better non-sense). I love them, particularly in Bruce Timm's Justice League animated TV series. I do love them in some comic series but Bruce Timm just makes anything he touches gold. Is there anything this man has done that isn't loved? Vampriella. Justice League. Batman, the animated series. Batman Beyond. Seriously!

Now then! I shall stop my fan raving heart and blush profusely for geeking out immensely to this amazing artist. I shall now commence the point of this artist comment with my mock cover of Huntress and Black Canary.

The two characters in this piece are from the known comic company, DC, particularly in series titles, Justice League, Batman, and Birds of Prey. Helena and Dinah's relationship is a solid friendship. Each heroine has her different idea of justice.

One believes in protecting the innocent no matter the cost, even breaking a few rules and bones. It doesn't matter if she looses her innocence, being consumed by darkness isn't so bad to her. She would rather save those who desperately need it, and if she has to kill the bad guy to do it, she will. This is her view in being a heroine.

In fact, she will even end a force of evil permanently if she could. She hates the idea that most of the law will simply let the scum loose to hurt the innocent again. They do the crime, a hero catches them, they get sent to prison, get loose from prison, and repeats the cycle all over again. This bothers her and she is close to killing at points. Most of the time, someone stops her from ending a criminal's life. She is a woman, who lives in a corrupt city where the law is too tainted to try people fairly. This heroine's name is Huntress. She is the cape covered woman with raven hair, and holding two metal pipes striking aggressively in the illustration.

The other heroine is Black Canary. She is pure in some regards and has a good conscious on her shoulders. Even if things look down, she boosts her friends up as a leader. She is loyal to a 'T'. She believes in a no-kill policy. She also believes in second chances.

The law will punish those that deserve it, and help those who need a chance to be better as individuals. She believes in capturing villains and letting the scale of justice fairly weigh a person's sins. It isn't right as heroes to kill. They aren't the executioner. They aren't the judge. They are meant to help the laws set out improve and stay secure. This is what she believes.

I wanted to show that tension, the yin-yang philosophies between the two as they duke it out. I really wanted to show the strength, dedication, and conviction in their belief as well as show the sensuality and persona of the other.

Black Canary is fair in hair and skin. She is being more defensive than offensive, dodging and blocking her assailant- Her friend.

Huntress, the dark one, is aggressive and charging forth with all she has through her legs and arms swing pipes with vigor and anger.

I wish to show that tenacity, and yet show the battle like a dance. Beautiful and elegant, yet, dangerous and menacing. They are striking contrasts revealing a elegant and ugly side like a coin.

The process for this particular piece was a rough technique based on Adam Hughes' greyscale process. The technique is a balance between values painted traditionally with color painted digitally.

COPYRIGHT: Illustration belongs to J.S. Choi (C) DO NOT USE!
Copyright of Huntress and Black Canary belongs to DC(C).
Huntress' original creator is Mort Meskin.
Black Canary's(Dinah Lance) creators are Denny O'Neil and Dick Dillin.

Media: Graphite, Gouache, Marker, Watercolor, White Charcoal, & Photoshop

Loki - The Oedipus Trickster(Mock cover #3)

Oedipus Ideas and Sexual Thoughts:

Loki Laufeyson. You are one fucked up child only a parent could mess up. I heart this character to bits! Man Loki. Lady Loki. Kid Loki. It doesn't matter! This character is pure fun!

For those who do not know this Marvel comic character, she is based on Norse Mythology. She is specifically based on the god of trickery and deceit. This illustration is influenced by both the Thor film and the comic book series.

Being a messed up case in both classic and modern interpretation, Loki is a complex villain and in recent events, changed into a woman not of his will in the comic, but of complex circumstances (It doesn't mean she didn't have fun being a female. She messed with so many people with her new sexual identity. Verily so!). XD

In a way, this is a transgender piece to me. Loki is generally a man, who turns into a woman from time to time. He is all about transformation and change in some ways. I am not saying Loki is some deep symbolic character per se, just that this illustration for me is a transgender piece- Nothing else. Nothing too complicated in my opinion. I worked on this piece, constructing it, trying to understand the character, and what not when making this piece... It doesn't mean I am necessarily correct. It's an interpretation.

However beyond the sexual theme, I felt Loki's tale is more of an Oedipus-like story of a child, who grows up to be an adult with the will to overcome her father and triumph. The idea of needing to kill the old to rule as the new is very classic concept be it Norse, Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and so forth in history and in myth.

For Loki, the need to rule means much to her, I think. I constantly feels she is casted in the shadow of her brother, Thor. She never feels she can gain Odin's love. She isn't the ideal son. As a half giant, abandoned for being small and human proportioned (a deformity in frost giant culture) by her biological father, the frost giant king, Laufey, her existence is tragic. She was unloved to begin with. Her own father abandoned her as a baby in the frozen tundras of the icy Nifelheim realm to die. She was then saved and adopted by the main comic hero's(Thor) father, Odin. She was raised never knowing of her origin till much later, which must be a shock to her self identity. Eventually Odin, her adopted father, would abandon her for Thor, who she compares herself too always as a rival and enemy.

She has always had a complex issue with father icons. The usual result of wanting to overcome said paternal figure shows through her constant evil schemes, battles, vengeance, desire for love, need of acceptance, need to murder, need to over throne, and other classic parental wants. Loki is a very Oedipus being.


In the illustration, I wanted to show her as a strong character regardless of moral code enjoying the success of getting past her pain and anger with one father- Laufey. Yet, I also wanted to show the villainy of her archetype. This visual approach was to show a human side of Loki yet show she is still evil. Powerful and independent, but still evil. She is able to overcome a chapter in her life in vicious glory whether the audience find this is the proper way to do it.

As an experiment, I used different textures from ink spilt photos, different types of metal, and papers as I wanted more painterly and toothy quality in the piece. Graphite made lines disappeared for the most part in this piece as I let it be more of a guide to the digital aspects. Using graphic elements and painterly strokes for a more modern approach is heavily influenced by Adam Hughes and James Jean to pop out figures and show story through symbols and literal imagery.

The piece revolves around death such as the ravens, or the graphic, flat shapes of trees withered and dry. Everything about the piece even the pale and almost sickly color palette in both Laufey and Loki's skin is screaming death. Emotionally I wanted the viewer to sense the sexuality and horror emanating from the subject matter as a beauty slaughters a beast of a giant, covered in crimson glory only to understand the monster she killed is her father. The violence is harshly stark in contrast against the pure, white snow making it feel more vulgar as if innocence is tainted beyond repair. The fans should see it both disturbing yet sensual, monstrous yet human, and sympathetic yet unforgiving.

Simply put:

Loki is a beautiful asshole!

Lol. I do love crazy, funny characters!

COPYRIGHT: Illustration belongs to J.S. Choi (c) DO NOT USE!
Copyright of Loki and Laufey belongs to Marvel(C).
Laufey's creators are Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
Loki's creators are Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby.

Media: Graphite, Texture, & Photoshop

Harley & Ivy: Had Enough!(Mock cover #2)

Oh, these two crazy maniacs. Hooray! Gothom Sirens! I first loved them through Bruce Timm's series, as I should as he and Paul Dini made Harley!

I always felt a lot of Batman's characters were sympathetic and understandable. It doesn't mean they aren't bad or shouldn't be punished-- They should. What is human is you understand their mind and what their intentions are for better or for worse. I liked the phycology of going deep into the mind of criminals. After all, a criminal isn't born, they are made, especially a murderer. Batman, for this and many more reasons, is my favorite DC comic universe, and any story that connects solely to Batman's world.

When I depicted this image, I really wanted it to be personal. I wanted the image to be melancholy and beautiful yet dark and nightmarish. The peace felt in the piece is an illusion. I wanted to show the humanity and delicate madness each of the characters have.

For those who know little of Batman, the characters portrayed in this piece are Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, and the Joker.

Poison Ivy, also known as Pamela Isley was a botanist. She was a strong activist for plant life and nature and it lead her to bitter anger at society for not being more green conscious. It pushed her to be an extremist ecoterrorist. Anyone could see her cause as good, it just went too far into insanity. Good intentions paved to a road to Hell.

She was a human turned practically plant by her formal scientist and lover, who manipulated and abused her in many regards. In some ways, she could relate to Harley and the Joker, just in a lesser mad fashion and more cold calculation on Woodrue's end. They were mirror image to a degree. Her with crazy plant scientist. Harley with a crazy murdering clown. What a pair!

After a point, Ivy despised most of humanity with the few random spurts of humanitarian action. She was quite the misanthropic gal until she met some orphans and Harley during an earthquake .

Whether one can say Poison Ivy loves Harley as a friend or something more is debatable. It's one sided if its romantic love because Ivy won't ever be #1 to Harley Quinn.

Harley Quinn, otherwise known as formal Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel. A young psychiatrist enthralled by the dark jester prince of crime(Joker) and became his most loyal minion. Unlike Poison Ivy, she can't see the true nature of the one she loves. She is blinded by her obsession and sees him as a misunderstood creature in the harsh world of society.

In reality, the Joker is a mad raging sociopath wanting to inflict pain to cause a person to react, particularly Batman. He craves anarchy. His killing doesn't necessarily have rhyme or reason. It only has to entertain him, and be funny to his standards. He's clinically insane and dangerous, and through him, Harley becomes more deranged and dangerous as the years go by.

I always wondered what would happen when she finally realized what a monster he is. What a monster she is becoming. I always wondered when she would stop taking the abuse and truly see him. What sort of reaction would she pull? Could she live with it? If she could live, how? Who do you turn to when you kill your shining beacon? Where do you go when you're ideal salvation and freedom is gone? What the Hell do you do? How do you feel? Where is your mind when the pain stops? When the mad laughter is silenced? When the insanity stops and nothing is quite funny like it use to be? What do you do? Who is there for you at the end of it all? I can imagine all this and more could go through someone's mind when their personal system they depended on crumbles. Thus, I created this mock cover thinking 'what if' Harley killed the Joker.

In Harley's case, I could see her going to her best pal, 'Red' for advice as a potential path. I could see her wanting comfort from the second person she trust the most. Hell, I'm sure 'Red' wouldn't have minded helping her choke the Joker for all the blonde suffered. In some ways, Harley and Joker's relationship is personal to Ivy in a mad sort of way. She can relate. She had her own 'Mistah J' in some regards through Woodrue, her formal lover.

This image is an aftermath to 'what if' Harley killed Joker to end her delusion and suffering. What if Harley gave up pining over the clown prince and moved on? What if she wanted to open her eyes and whisper with a hollow tone,'(I) ...Had enough'?


'The jokes on you, Mistah J.' Empty hollow cries ensue from Harley's lips.

It's always been a thought lingering. A part of me always hated the fact that behind the humorous storytelling... Behind the humor the audience is suppose to laugh at, Harley is in pain. She is still abused. It doesn't change the facts. She is still violently beaten and so tightly wound around Joker's finger. If she never met him, she'd still be a doctor, but then again we'd never love this crazy jester.

The relationships between the Joker, Harley, and Ivy always intrigued me. I could see the mad twisted fandom of Joker and Harley and the madness between Harley and Ivy. There really isn't a happy story with either shipping. I just think Ivy wouldn't intentionally hurt her all the time like Joker did. However... Even if those two girls loved, it be a delicate spiral to madness. It doesn't take much to kill in their world. It's a vicious cycle of 'mad love'. I could be wrong, but it seems that way to me.

COPYRIGHT: Illustration belongs to J.S. Choi (c) DO NOT USE!
Copyright of Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Joker belongs to DC(C).
Harley's creators are Bruce Timm and Paul Dini.
Ivy's creators are Robert Kanigher and Sheldon Moldoff.
Joker's creators Jerry Robinson, Bill Finger, and Bob Kane.

Media: Graphite & Photoshop

Dare Devil & Elektra (Mock cover #1)

Oh, Dare Devil and Elektra... I never did get into these two Marvel characters. Not that fans liking it is bad, it's not. It's cool if you like them, it's just they weren't my cup of tea for numerous opinions that didn't satisfy me. To each their own, you know?

I visually liked Elektra, but never the story. I felt her character design could be fun to illustrate. The whole sai wielding ninja assassin schtick is always a sexy concept, plus she was your typical tall, dark, and beautiful with gorgeous blue or brown eyes. It's an appealing idea.

Dare Devil was too hard to believe as a story for me. Yes, I get most comics are fantastical or sci-fi, and so made up crap happens all the time- It's half the fun of the amazing genres. I gobble it up all the time. BUT! There are plot points, concepts to justify things or rules not to break! And just coughing up his abilities to radioactive substance bothers me. I also lack sympathy or relation to Murdock because rather than be crippled by his accident, it heightens many things in his body. So his loss of eyes is small to the comparison of gaining higher bodily senses due to the accident. Also, the whole 'The Man Without Fear' is a complete turn off. Everyone has fears and everyone has weaknesses that frighten them to some extent. This schtick makes him boring to me and unrelatable. I wish he was afraid of heights and he had to find obstacles to overcome this weakness when he is faced with it like Monk with his phobia of germs and blood in the TV show, Monk, or Indiana Jones with snakes. It would have made him human, but every time I read about him, he was so lacking as a character and stiff. I don't buy the whole martial arts, parkour/free running super hero. Martial arts yes. I believe that. There are plenty of blind martial artists. Parkour? Free-running? The philosophies and concepts makes it is hard for me to believe a blind man would go for it or concepts similar to it especially when you get to the advanced moves. Also, because the man seems so lacking, it's Kingpin who brings interest into the books when he is in an issue for me. Or Punisher for his stupidity and that isn't much as I find little pleasure reading about this guy.

So in the end for those who read this dissertation up to this point, you are probably wondering... Why did I do this fan-art if I give so little about him and Elektra?

It's the artists who drew him and Elektra that do it visual justice and make them seem fun to illustrate.

Marko Djurdjevic does Dare Devil's comic covers amazing justice with his artistic talent. So artistically orgasmic! Oh, and the amazing artist who inspired me to illustrate this piece is Bill Sienkiewicz. MY GAWD! I love his depiction of Kingpin, especially in the beginning and end of the short Dare Devil book he worked on called, Love and War. Truly a master in the comic world. I am also fond of his Moby Dick comic. It is most illuminating! I don't know how he does it! The art work just kicks ass so hard!

Also, like I said before, Elektra's design seems fun and her bandanna's whimsical nature is elegant. Oh, and who doesn't love sais!? The best characters wield them! Raphael from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! Gabrielle from Xena: The Warrior Princess. The list could go on! Come on! Sais are sexy weapons. I haven't touched sais in a very long time, but they were fun to train with during the short while. I'm more of a bo staff and sword lover. But I do love pointy, sharp things. Daggers. Knives. Swords. Halberds. Naginatas. Etc. Never been a real gun fan, though I have an encyclopedia dedicated to the history of this weapon. O__O Did you guys know their was a real gun blade in history? It was crap, but it existed. I do recall it made more sense than Final Fantasy 8's gun blade. At least history's gun blade was suppose to work as a blade and a gun. It was epic fail, but the inventor tried. Oh, history... So much to learn and see. T^T :tears of joy:

This piece was a test to do a comic cover, and get into the mentality of the field and their compositional interest. I personally don't care for this cover, and found it lacking. It was never the less, a good experiment and a start to the other mock comic covers I worked on.

COPYRIGHT: Illustration belongs to J.S. Choi (c) DO NOT USE!
Copyright of Daredevil and Elektra belongs to Marvel(C).
Stan Lee and Bill Everett are his creator.
Elektra is Frank Miller's creation.

Media: Graphite & Photoshop

Flames That Clash Against Me (red ver.)

This is the second version of this piece after getting critiqued by amazing and wonderful illustrator, Mark Zug at Illuxcon. For those who want to know the concept written and other comments I made on this piece check the original piece here: [Link].

Flames That Clash Against Me (Orig. Ver.)

It's pretty simple. I wanted to draw dragons and knights. Proper fantasy paintings with a real time setting of foreground, midground, and background. It is something I wanted to try for a while. I just never had the time. This is one of the first of many fantasy paintings I want to depict in the future.

In this piece, I really had fun designing the dragon and the female paladin knight. I kind of had a comical idea in my head when painting this piece. I wondered what the paladin was thinking fighting a dragon in a sky kingdom where any move could make her fall to her doom. I imagined constant swearing. I also imagined her complaining about hurting the next morning, getting scars on her shield arm to match the one on her face, and the idea of retirement sounding pleasant. Oh, and how really hungry she is. ...Maybe the dragon does have something to worry about. Fighting a brave paladin is one thing. It's another to fight a brave, fearless, cranky, hungry, and tired paladin. Hopefully, it's not her time of the month.

... ... ... ...

The dragon should seriously leave the area than fight. It's gonna be screwed and eaten. O___O Never mess with femme fatales!

"Dragon Cuisine!" -Slayers TV series.

When I depicted the dragon, I thought of animal mechanics that would be fun to hint at. If the beast was frightened enough, it could blow fire out of its horns as a last minute resort. The horns are hollow. I made it if the animal expanded its lungs and blew hard enough, fire would blaze from its nostrils, mouth, and two horns to cover more ground and defense that its spike covered body could not protect. When I drew the dragon, I think I called it a crimson triptych fire dragon or something similar. It's been a while since I illustrated this, but never the less, fun. I think I'll illustrate the dragon again one day to show this mechanic in full mode.

COPYRIGHT: Concept, character, and illustration belongs to J.S. Choi (c) DO NOT USE!

Media: Graphite & Photoshop

Moonlit Night & Brutish Bane

This piece is the first proper fantasy piece I've done that has a cat girl, an elf, a magical wild cat, and an ogre-like giant covered in the skull of hunted warriors, nasty boils, and pimples over its sharp hooked face, hairy vessal, and gnarly fingers.

It's a pretty simple story.

The traveling companions lay around an open fire to rest for the night. Then! An unwanted guest, the brutish bane invades their peace. Classic and to the point. Commence battle! Roll initiative! XD

I had loads of fun designing the characters and sketching different ideas and silhouettes before deciding which version of each character I would use for the illustration.

COPYRIGHT: Concept, character, and illustration belongs to J.S. Choi (c) DO NOT USE!

Media: Graphite, Texture, & Photoshop

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sea of Shadows


This piece was originally suppose to be a book cover with my interpretation of the characters and setting from the first novel of the 12 Kingdoms series by Fuyumi Ono. I decided to make it more poster-like and obviously gained inspiration from illustrators like Drew Struzan. I loved the TV series in my teenage years for the vibrancy of the world and the ancient Chinese-like atmosphere and politics. The character development moved me, especially the heroine, Yoko Nakajima. I found her transformation splendid from being a girl to a woman! What a metamorphosis!

I do not think I loved the novel series as much as I had hoped, but I was interested enough to read the first three books. If I recall, I found the characters, though having interesting qualities, somehow dry and dull in the book. I am not sure if it is how the English translated it or the original writer herself, but if felt stiff. I did however love the elaboration on the complex world Ono created, and her use of made up vocabulary to pull the reader in to such imagination. The culture and politics fascinated me.

However, I could see if I had no interest in such subjects the writing would bore me even if the concepts weren't creative, which they were. They were creative... In fact, I don't know how someone could write such wondrous things in such a boring fashion.

Before I started this piece, I drew many concept sketches as I originally wanted to illustrate three books from the series. I would underline book excerpts, jot notes and descriptions, and hunted Ancient Chinese and Japanese fashion such as the Tang dynasty. Why? The book is incredibly influenced by the two countries. At points, I would modernize certain outfits or fuse the two cultures into a costume. Other times, I would focus on one culture/dynasty/era depending how I felt the character's personality blended with a particular fashion. It was fun researching and sketching the characters.

After I did that, I struggled on the thumbing stage as I wanted to incorporate how amazing I felt 12 Kingdoms was. Yet, every time I sketched an idea, I felt it didn't captured enough of the world, enough of the culture, enough of the characters, or enough of the magical beasts. It simply wasn't enough!

Then it occurred to me to do a montage. So I studied comic covers like the X-Men, which have a plethora of montages, and really focused on Drew Struzan for his movie posters such as Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Star Wars, and etc. Another montage illustrators I looked at was Bob Peek. I tried to understand what made montage so successful, and strikingly beautiful. How to interweave the different segments and make them flow and unite as one composition. It was intriguing and illuminating to me. It was sort of like a comic page and meshing the multiple frames into one fluid harmony.

While I worked on the final piece, I wanted to explore the first novel's title and what it meant to me as I developed other concepts. The title is Sea of Shadows. I wanted to show the young heroine, Yoko, being engulfed by her shadows, her dark fears as she fights against her inner demons and the world she knows so little about. Yoko is constantly fighting for her sanity and pushing forward. She struggles with herself as she tries to distinguish foe from friend, but instead sees everyone in one massive darkness. While she struggles with herself, I also wanted to show hints of her embracing this world. I wanted to show how the scared girl pushes her fears to become a brave and courageous woman. No longer a whimpering girl, but a strong woman slowly adapting to her surrounding.

Another aspects I wanted to show is the architect of the world. Sadly, even a montage has limits so I choose to depict one of the many kingdoms this series has, the kingdom of Kei. This kingdom bears great importance in the first book. It is described if I recall as warm, golden and majestic in its proper form. At the front of this kingdom, I painted the values darker as it gradates to a brighter value toward the back of the kingdom. I wanted to show a darkness looming at the edge of this kingdom. The kingdom has a great tie to the heroine and the man she is looking for named, Keiki, who in my piece is the elven-like figure dominating most of the upper composition of my piece.

I depicted Keiki large with long white, blonde hair, as he is the main story device for the heroine and the main thought in her mind. He represents freedom, power, hope, and divinity. In many ways, he influences the heroine's actions. The heroine needs his abilities and his guidance to achieve that which she desires. It is through him, her journey begins and transforms her into a greater person. I wanted to show how great a influence he is in the story and the heroine's link to the man with his flowing hair.

As this artist comment is becoming a heavy dissertation, I should probably end it here. There is so much going in this piece, it would take forever to expand. I wish I could go into it, but I don't have the time sadly. Also, I fear I spoiled somethings when I was trying to keep points ambiguous. So if you are curious about the book or the show- Go check it out. I highly recommend the TV series. All I can say is while this piece was a struggle, it was also great fun. I learned much from it. And in the end, the hard work paid off!

I got into Spectrum #19 this year with this piece! SPECTRUM!

It's a great honor! I didn't think I'd get in a second year in a row!

If anyone is curious about what I got in to last year's Spectrum, it was my La Belle Au Bois Dormant piece, which can be found here: [Link] . This is the updated version that is published in Spectrum #18.

COPYRIGHT:  Illustration belongs to J.S. Choi (c). DO NOT USE!
                          The characters and world-- The whole she-bang belong to its
                         original novelist, Fuyumi Ono (c).

MEDIA: Graphite, Watercolor, Gouache, Texture, and Photoshop

Tata Gala: Little Miss Muffet

Little Miss Muffet was done specifically for an annual exhibition last year called, Tata Gala. It received a Distinguished Merit and is on the site's online exhibit. While Little Miss Muffet was in the online exhibit, Year of the Tiger entered the actual exhibition at Florida. It was a real pleasure to get into and help breast cancer victims.

For those who don't know what Tata Gala is, it's a yearly exhibition that depicts the theme of breast, most artist display tasteful erotic works. It is founded by two fellow Ringling College of Art and Design alumni named, Erik Jones and Nick Burch. The two have amazing work people should check out.

In the submission process, each artist pays a fee to enter, that money goes to helping breast cancer and research to cure it. If you choose to sell your work, a portion of the money will go to the cause and the rest to you. You may choose to give everything you received from your sold piece to the cause or refrain. It was fun to be a part of.

When I depicted this girl, I had inspiration from the classic fairy tale, Little Miss Muffet and modern film, Chicago. It lead to an overall thought on the rolling 20's, the mafia, show girl, brothels and what not. Ideas that you'd see in Noir stories.

Miss Muffet isn't the girl's name depicted in the picture. It's a false title. In fact, she doesn't recall her real name anymore.  Muffet is owned by an illegal organization called,The Arachnid. Her body is branded in tattoos showing anyone who is near know who owns her. If this doesn't help, her collar should identify her allegiance.

In all honesty, Miss Muffet never wanted this life and struggles to escape. She wishes for freedom, to sing, to write, to dream, and be her own woman. She recalls a safer and warmer time of wide blue skies, jasmine fragrance, gentle winds, and sweet giggles of innocence surrounding her, easing her to slumber. However, the thought is so far down memory lane its hard to hold on to. She wonders if it really existed or if it was all a figment of her mind longing for peace.

To run away is to be killed, and so the never ending spiral of darkness consumes the poor girl into despair. In the eye of the public, she is a classy and elegant courtesan. To the Arachnids, a useful 'ear' and 'eye'  to watch for their enemies. After all, no one expects a pretty dame spreading her legs to be smart, right? Pssh. Fools. However, when all is silent and she is behind her own closed doors, she is a broken porcelain doll in the dark wanting salvation.

Since it was one illustration, I don't think I thought more on the story after that. If I did, this tale would probably be a romantic action packed thriller using fairy tale symbolism, drug induced wonderlands, deep husky women singing sad tunes, euphoric escapism, classic bullet totting, underworld politics, smokey bar clubs, hidden agendas, girl power, and a bitter happy ending. I imagine I would trying to figure out a story that would get her free to be her own individual. She would have to wield her inner courage, strength, and intelligence to pave her own path. Who knows? Maybe I will one day, but I need to research the culture better first. Can't do a interesting story without understanding that, which one lacks and in my case, the time period. I know the fashion, but the culture, the dialect, the history... I'm lacking. I know some things, but not enough in my opinion. Knowledge is power! To the library~!!! I'm such a dork. XD

COPYRIGHT: Story concept, character interpretation, and illustration belongs to J.S. Choi (c) DO NOT USE! Original Miss Muffet is free domain. Mine is not. Don't use!

MEDIA: Ink, Texture, & Photoshop