Pun, or, the Confession of an Unrealistically Reliable Narrator [Art Masterpost]

Oct 17, 2014 07:07

Title: Pun, or, the Confession of an Unrealistically Reliable Narrator (read it here)
Author: necrora
Artist: soserendipity
Genre: RPF AU
Pairing: Jared/Jensen
Rating: PG-13
Wordcount: ~23K
Warnings/Spoilers: Language, mpreg. No spoilers.

Summary: Dating your co-worker is hazardous at best, especially when you both work for the same superhero team. Dealing with an unexpected pregnancy with said co-worker-who’s grumpy and hormonal and knows how to turn into a direwolf at whim-is even riskier business. Finding out that your unborn baby has been prophesized to defeat the world’s greatest evil is just too much.

Now evil is out to hunt Jared, and everything he loves and everything he didn’t know he wanted but now can’t imagine life without. And really, he’s all for dying for his true love, his child, and maybe the world, but at least someone could have warned him before fate offered him up to be the modern day James fucking Potter.

Disclaimer: I own nothing but my own ideas. No money made, no insult intended. This is purely fictional.
Artist's Notes: Created for the 2014 round of spnmpregbb. I was incredibly lucky with my artist claim, not only did I get a story that was all I ever could have wished for (more, actually), but I also got the amazing and talented necrora as fellow collaborateur. (I must have done something right in a previous life.) Go right over to the story if you haven't read it yet, it'll be so worth your time! More technical notes and details about the work process can be found below the art for those who are interested in such things. Concrit is always welcome. Please beware that there are a few story spoilers sprinkled throughout this entry. Don't click where it says "Spoiler" if you haven't read the fic yet, 'mkay?
Acknowledgments: Many thanks to yohkobennington for running this challenge, to my fabulous beta lightthesparks for all her hard work and highly appreciated advice, and to necrora for being my squee-buddy throughout this amazing journey! You guys are awesome.

On to the art.
[Click pictures for bigger size.]






Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Closing Piece:



#1 - Reunion

This piece was inspired by the following section from the fic:

[Spoiler]Jared wants to pet Jensen’s fur, tuck himself against the length of his wolf, but he’s half-afraid Jensen might bite him. Plus, he hasn’t figured out what he’s going to say; he had some vague ideas of starting with I love you and continuing with what do you want to do, honey? but both fail him, now.

So instead he says, “Steak.”

Jensen’s left ear flicks, involuntarily, towards Jared.

“Let’s have steak for dinner,” Jared says. “Or-maybe, if we stop by that market on Ninth on the way, they’ll have some fresh T-bone, do you think? I think we still have some mashed potatoes in the freezer, too. And we should break out the merlot, not just the beer. We took down Fortune last night. It was good.”

Fur’s beneath his fingers. It is good. Jared buries his hand on the softness.

#2 - Kiss

The nesting scene was so beautifully written - packed with love, uncertainty, fear, and devotion - and I couln't not try to draw it. The part that directly inspired this piece stuck with me for weeks and I still get all choked up when I read it today, that's how powerful it is.

[Spoiler]They silently sit on old cotton and cheap polyester, the evening sun edged by the cheap frosted glass Jensen bought a year ago for privacy. Jared counts the plastic stars on his ceiling, which Jensen hates, and thinks about nurseries and baby beds and wallpapers with Transformers on them.

“Jensen, if you’re not ready,” he says, and his voice sinks like soot and he has to start over again. “If you think we’re not ready, we can-try again, later. Be more prepared. Maybe not have this prophecy hang over our heads.”

“I know.”

“I love you. I’ll love you whatever you do.”

“I know.”

“I hate-Jensen, I hate seeing you unhappy.”

“I know.”

Silence rules again, and then Jared feels Jensen’s head on his shoulder, a fluttering, feather-light touch that pinpricks all of Jared’s nerves along his spine.

Small, unsure, Jensen says, “I know it’s early and we have to wait for the heart to start beating and we need to talk this over properly. I know it’s early and anything could happen. But I like this one. I love this one already. I want this puppy. Nothing else-no one else is going to do.”

If Jared’s heart decided to shatter and fill his veins glass-sharp, he doesn’t think it would hurt this much, and if Jared has never been so heartbroken before he also doesn’t think he’d understood what being happy meant, before this. Carefully, he creeps his arms around his boyfriend, bringing his languid body closer and pressing lips against his temple in a wordless gesture of love.

#3 - Escher

[Spoiler]Jared grabs the doorknob before it can shift out of existence again, and steps through. Then laughs involuntarily.

It’s an Escher room.

“Shit,” Jeff says. Jared finds him walking in from a doorway that’s sideways on the wall, down the stairs that start upside down and somehow winds its way right side up by the time they get to where Jared is standing. It hurts his eyes just to look at it. Jeff carefully climbs down, takes an object from his pockets, and throws it experimentally into the complicated maze in front of them.

The rubber ball bounces into the wall in front of them, then falls up, landing on a platform on the ceiling.

Reality bending, Jared thinks, throat stark-dry. Nothing in this room obeys the natural laws that even the most powerful superhero knows to be inexorable. And Jared understands, finally, why Prime became so infamous so quickly.

That's what the story says. I hope the art delivers.



Please mind the bibliography that comes with the story. None of these are our own lines, the author compiled them and I made art out of them, but that's how far our own work in this ranges. The actual words were written by much more famous people.


Technical Blurb & Work Process

On a general note, this art set tested and tried me. The muses would have hightailed it out of here a long time ago hadn't it been for the fact that my author was such a delight to work with - witty, kind, always helpful, and so generally wonderful that I had hearts as eyes whenever we talked. But seriously, death by art? Totally possible with this set.

The headers for Part 1 through 4 and the divider were the easiest pieces. I just went nuts with watercolors and layered lots of them in ArtRage until I got a result I liked. I took that result, saved as a single painting file, back to GIMP to add the text and another, general watercolor texture to make it even more watercolor-y. I went through some hassle to turn them into transparent .png files so that the watercolor effect wouldn't be lost on colored backgrounds, only to realize that my author's journal and AO3 are the whites white to ever white. Oh well. At least you get some behind the scenes pictures out of it.

Here are the headers for the different parts and the divider. The first picture is the basic .png file to show how it interacts with my background, the following two show what the effect would have been on white and dark grey.

[As usual, click on pictures for bigger size.]

[Colors, colors everywhere - fake cut for length.]Header - Part 1:

Header - Part 2:

Header - Part 3:

Header - Part 4:


For the banner, I followed the same basic steps, but for some reason it just didn't want to comply. The fact that the final version isn't too hard on the eyes is all due to my lovely beta, lightthesparks, who once again worked magic with my rookie layout skills. I swear I wanted it to look something like it, no matter how hard I failed.

The illustrations were the most elaborate pieces of this set. Here, I first drew the complete line art in GIMP with a custom made pencil brush. Reference pictures of wolves and hands went into the first picture, some of Jared and Jensen into the second, and a few Escher rooms and images inspired by M. C. Escher into the third.

I transferred the final line art as a reference into ArtRage and did all the watercolor work there because as far as I know, this kind of stuff is not possible in GIMP. Then I took the single watercolor layers back to GIMP because as awesome as ArtRage is for this kind of creativity, it's not nearly as versatile as GIMP. (Could very well be simply my inferior skill set where ArtRage is concerned, though.) So after transferring the whole bunch of watercolor layers back to GIMP, I set all whites to transparency to get that lovely layering look back that's so typical for this medium.

Below are a few intermediate steps that went into the first illustration. The layer masks in GIMP were used to get the crisp lines of fur and arms/hands back which I completely abandoned in the watercolor haze. The fine tuning in GIMP entailed, among other things, creating a suitable background (which is what is depicted on the lower left) and editing every single layer of watercolor so the illustration wouldn't look quite as flat.

The final do-over in GIMP varied for each illustration. The first one, Reunion, underwent quite a few, as can be seen above. The second one, Kiss, was actually mostly done in natural colors and got it's blue-greenish tint in post-production. I also altered a handful of details - edited away some clothes that were strewn on the floor, gave the sheet draped over Jensen's leg a bit more plasticity with shadow, and filled the upper right corner that had previously been left white, to name just a few.

The third illustration, Escher, was by far the most difficult thing I ever tackled. Below is M. C. Escher's "Relativity" from 1953 to give you an idea of what my picture should have looked like. One corner of "Relativity" also made it into the illustration, it was the foundation I build the whole picture on because Escher was a genius and I am not.

At first I thought that there are no rules to Escher rooms and that I could simply do whatever I want, perspective wise, but I couldn't have been more wrong. That assumption was responsible for about a dozen false starts and just as many whiny mails to my lovely author who very bravely suffered with me through my painful (and, yes, frustrating) learning process. Also, for someone who cannot draw a straight line if their life depended on it, this was just a wonderful thing to draw. I started by telling myself to suck it up and just keep trying, 'cause practice makes perfect, right? Well, no. I won't bore you here with all the things I did wrong, just know that there were plenty and that it took me over a month just to get the line art done. In the end, I gave in and used the path tool. Some of my crooked lines are still in there, though, because at some point, I was just too exhausted by this piece, both physically (no sleep) and mentally, so I let that slide.

Finally, the line art done, I made a colored sample to help me get my layering right and keep the different depths straight while using watercolors and all the GIMP whazoo, and also mapped out directions of light for all the different elements. In ArtRage, I colored the whole picture in regular watercolor, then took all those single layers back to GIMP again and set all the whites to transparency. Also in GIMP, I then created a ton of layer masks - every set of windows, every staircase, every background, every single element got its own mask because otherwise the shading gradients that were neccessary to create more depth would have been impossible to pull off. I didn't add a watercolor texture to the first two illustrations, but all the shading weighed the picture down. I counteracted that with a texture overlay to bring back a light, transparent feeling. I think everything worked out quite nicely in the end. Just don't ask me to do anything like this again. Ever. (Not to imply my author asked me for it, this was all my own stupidity. Even more reason to not want a repeat perfomance.)

One of the first things I squeed to my author about was the poetry. The muses immediately wanted to do something special for it and since they pretty much dictate my life these days, who was I to resist? If I had to put the thought/work process into conversational form, it would look something like this:

Muses: We love it. We want it. Make something for us, human.
Me: Um, how about using the standard LJ font and adding some mystical fog and magical sparkles? Save each line as transparent .png files so they will look just like the rest of the text, no matter the background color? And then add it into the text as if it were normal, just, you know, a bit more special. Magical.
Muses: YES.

[some time later]

Me: So, erm, sorry to say so, but apparently there is no one standard font for LJ, and also, AO3 and certain journal styles don't have a fixed width. Therefore it's not possible to have each line of poetry as one picture, that would disrupt the text flow and screw with the layout.
Muses: [...]
Me: I really can't-
Muses: [...]
Me: Maybe, if we turn each word into a single picture- but that would be insane, and I couldn't use fog or sparkles either because variable line breaks would then also break the magical whazoo apart, and the result would look like crap. Instead, I'd have to look for a special font and probably color it, too, to make it even more special. This would take ages.
Muses: YES.

So that's what I did. Initially, I wanted to use a handwritten font, as in "Jared writes his own reality", but of course all the handwritten ones are barely legible when small enough to fit into LJ text flow. Add color to that equation and all that's left is chicken scratch. So i ended up with the polar opposite, a font that has so much weight, it could be used to engrave marble. Which also fits because Jared's spells do set the rules for his timeline, as absolute as if they were written in stone. \o/. I know, I know, art pun. Could I be a bigger nerd? (Don't answer that.)

Let me finish by throwing a few numbers at you: just shy of 350 pictures were necessary to create poetry that had a bit of spark while still behaving like usual text. The process of compiling all the links into several batches (after the poetry was already colored, resized, cropped into tiny snippets, exported into picture files, and painstakingly named) that then were mailed to my poor author (who still had to code all of it, poor thing) took over three hours. The Escher illustration consists of 423 layers, the Reunion of 136, and the Kiss of 158. More than 100 hours of skipped sleep, half a dozen panic attacks, at least half a pound of chocolate chip ice cream, and some well placed handholding by my beta and my author went into this set.

To conclude, this was one hell of a ride with lots of set backs and dead ends, but there was also much squee and mutual love and the best of fannish interaction. It was so worth it. The art shed its someone puked all over me look and not only did I get an amazing story out of this collaboration, but also a wonderful new friendship to cherish. All is well.



Previous post Next post