Triptych Transitions

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To our treasured audience,

We, the Triptych Trio, would like to express our deepest gratitude and appreciation for your support of our interdisciplinary project.  Over the past year, we have created 10 Triptychs uniting our 3 disciplines–illustration, music, and writing–as well as a hardcopy booklet and numerous behind-the-scenes posts.  This experience has helped us grow in our individual crafts and collaborative abilities, and we hope these stories have brought you as much enjoyment as we had in creating them.

In pursuing our artistic disciplines, we find ourselves transitioning into new and exciting projects beyond the scope of Triptych.  Due to this, we will no longer be posting new content on our site, but we will be preserving the blog as an archive of the project.  In that way, all the Triptychs and informative posts will remain there for your enjoyment.  Please feel free to email us directly to share your comments.  We always love to hear from you.  Also, we have a quick, 5-question survey about our project that you can fill out at your leisure.  As a reward for participating, anyone who completes the survey will receive free shipping* in the U.S. for our Triptych Book 1 (while supplies last)! Or, if you prefer to purchase one in-person, Candice will be selling the remaining booklets at the Downtown Redlands Art Walk on October 23 inside the Cope Building at 19 E Citrus Ave.!

Again, we want to thank you so much for your support and for coming along with us for the journey.  The encouragement has meant a lot to each of us.  We hope that you’ll continue to enjoy the work we’ve produced.  Thank you for being fans!

With love and gratitude,

The Triptych Trio

Candice, Holly, & Natalie


*the free shipping code will also allow a $2 discount for U.K. and Canada locations

The Lunar Divine

a sequel story to

The Last Sun Sage


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Already the forest was no longer silent. Bekthe plodded along the mountainside with her hands outstretched, her glowing skin lighting her way. She touched the trunks she passed, and they seemed to sigh in comfort. It was a comfort for her too, hearing their voices after so long.

The jungle’s hums and murmurs had awoken her moments before, and she’d found herself curled against the great tree where her father had performed his sacrifice. She’d fallen asleep out of pure exhaustion. How much time had passed, she did not know. But utter darkness filled the forest all around her. At long last, Night had arrived.

She paused to gaze up at this strange sky, both old and new. She blinked and squinted. What she expected to be a black emptiness was embedded with millions of tiny, bright specks. How could a sky be so dark yet carry so many twinkling lights? They entranced her, filled her with questions. What were they? How far were they? How long had they existed, and what had brought them into being? Were they actually millions of beings giving off light, just like her?

Was there any way they could help her?

She couldn’t think of a way that they could. Somehow she had to awaken her people, but there was no guidance for that either. In all the writings in the temple, her father had not been able to find the answer. No revelation had come to her in prayer. And now here she was, the last walking creature in her world, with nothing and no one to which she could turn for help.

That realization bore down on her, compressing her chest as she stared helplessly at the glittering sky. She thought of her mother, the first person she would awaken, if she only knew how.

What if she never figured it out? Her father always told her that the answer would come, she would find it…But how could he know that? Even if he was beside her right now, there was no help he could provide her.

Trials and Divinations

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Sun, moon. Fire, water. Light, dark. Death, rebirth.

We’ve always been fascinated by cosmic opposites.

I knew when I first proposed the idea for The Last Sun Sage that I wanted it to have a second half, an invocation of the moon, embodying these opposites.

Thus begins our next triptych, our first ever sequel installation, The Lunar Divine. The story picks up shortly after the events of the Sun Sage triptych, so you may want to get up to speed if you missed that one! Young Bekthe’s father, her guiding light, sacrificed himself to save their civilization in the face of the descending Night. (Parent, child.) Can Bekthe be the light for her fallen people in a new age governed by shadow and moonlight?

While The Last Sun Sage was very much on the fire and brimstone end of the spectrum, The Lunar Divine explores a different kind of sacred space: private, serene, mystical. I pulled out all the stops for the Sun Sage‘s instrumentation (full orchestra and full choir), but I chose a greatly reduced ensemble for this next piece: piano and women’s choir, a kind of pale reflection of it’s predecessor’s grandiose forces. I toyed with the idea of incorporating a boy soprano solo as well, but ultimately felt that a more streamlined ensemble was better here, and the absence of men from the chorus helped represent Bekthe’s new state: fatherless, alone.

The Night Is Young…

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“Lost” from Oculus Story Studio

 

Already, the forest was no longer silent. Bekthe plodded down the mountain with her hands outstretched, touching the trunks she passed. A comfort for them both. The jungle’s hums and murmurs had awoken her, and she’d found herself curled against the great tree where her father had performed his sacrifice. How much time had passed since she’d fallen asleep out of pure exhaustion, she did not know. But the sky was black now. It seemed that at long last, Night had arrived.

In two weeks, we will be reunited with Bekthe after the sacrifice of her father, the last Sun Sage. She lives now in a world of night, where many earthly centuries might pass before the Sun returns—if it ever does. Prophesied to be the only one able to revive her people and lead them into the new age, Bekthe knows she is her people’s last hope. But guideless, orphaned, and alone, her own hope wavers.

 

How could she be the one that would bring back her people and lead them through the Night? She was nobody great, and she had no great ideas.

Just like her father had written, she was only a child.

But as we know, Bekthe is nothing if not resilient.

How to Grow an Alien

Our triptych this month will be a continuation of the The Last Sun Sage, focusing on the character Bekthe. She is the daughter of the Sun Sage, so it follows that her appearance should be similar. Let me take you briefly through the Sun Sage’s development, which lays the foundation for Bekthe.

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The Sun Sage is still disappointed with his lack of pants.

In developing the Sun Sage character, I followed certain parameters. I set limits to provide consistency and realism, which is especially important if you want people to find a story about plant people believable. Here is the information I knew that would affect his appearance:

  1. The Sun Sage is humanoid.
  2. He has plant-like characteristics.
  3. He is living on a heavily forested (but withering) planet.
  4. His culture is reminiscent of the Mayans and Aztecs.
  5. He is a Sage–both an inheritance and a position in his society.

Just with these 5 pieces of information, I knew what his underlying anatomy should look like and what cultural/environmental factors affect him on the surface. I also knew what not to include and what attributes were higher in priority. I could give him ceremonial garments like Mayan priests–a good idea to reference their culture. However, that would then give me less options for incorporating plant elements. Why have clothes when you can “grow” clothes? I went with a “natural” look to the Sun Sage’s exterior and decided reference the Mayans in other ways.

With both Bekthe and the Sun Sage, I started with a human base. I imported the model into Sculptris from Daz3D. These models are a great starting point for humanoid characters–half of the work is already done! I then proceeded to sculpt directly on top, starting with the face. I looked at depictions of Mayans in petroglyphs for the dramatic profile-view as inspiration for the face structure. From there, I added all of the same elements as the Sun Sage onto Bekthe’s body, just in different proportion. The head “petals” are inspired by orchids, the collar area by tree mushrooms, and the other bits by a combination of flower and leaf structures.

Everything added onto the body is designed to highlight part of the anatomy. By following the natural contours of the musculature, I can make the leafy appendages look organic and functional.

Deciding which part to differ in Bekthe’s design from the Sun Sage led me to a few key areas: the head, the collar, and the hips. Initially, I thought giving her a more elaborate collar area than the Sun Sage with be a nice regal touch. The downside to that option was making her look too mature. Bekthe is still a young girl, so I needed to go with something that would be appropriate for her age. By reducing the collar area and increasing the hip area, I create a silhouette that looks more like a youthful ballerina. Not my initial intention, but I think she rocks her shroom tutu.

 

The Faerie Queen

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O’er bridge and brook you’ve found a faerie realm,

behold a rare ethereal tableau.

The moonlight peers between the beech and elm

and sets the faerie revelry aglow.

 

Beguiling bells and flutes the clearing fill.

What sweet music, what strange and simple cheer.

But hidden stay you, traveler, and still.

This merry scene hides more than does appear.

 

See the queen, motionless upon her throne.

She stares, unblinking, silent as a tomb,

Like a broken fountain of old, cracked stone

watching the garden flowers ‘round it bloom.

 

A prisoner and captor all in one,

Unless the faerie magic comes undone.

 

For not a faerie is the faerie queen.

She is all of nature’s wrath incarnate,

spellbound in this form–fair, pale, and pristine

skin of snow, eyes of lustrous garnet.

 

The music calms the waters of her mind

as she watches her subjects sway and sing.

Dancers shake their shimmering wings in kind,

while others play, plucking fox whisker strings.

 

Night after night, their music fills the air

til daylight, when at last their queen’s eyes close.

To cease before, the faeries do not dare,

and risk destruction if she ever rose.

 

They’re prisoners and captors all in one,

both slaves and master ‘til each morning sun.

Of Carapace and Fiddlehead

Within the fairy court you find a small throne perched on a branch of oak….

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My process for illustrating the upcoming triptych has involved imagining a dark fairy queen and her twisted throne. Because we’re dealing with fairies, all of the materials that they’re wearing have to be both organic and naturally small in scale. Building a mental list of objects, I thought of the traditional fairy mediums: flowers, leaves, branches. However, there is an untapped bounty of natural objects like seed pods, insect parts, and bone that are not often used, and also happen to be on the creepy end of the spectrum. Take two fern fiddleheads, some insect carapaces, and a couple of twigs and you have yourself a stylin’ seat.

Something unusual with the initial stages for this sketch was the relatively direct progression from thumbnail to final sketch. I always make a couple initial sketches to explore a concept and experiment with the composition, but the best composition for this one ended up being the first scribble I laid down on paper. It will probably be another 5 years until I witness another miracle.

In the above series of images, the top left is what I would call the “final thumbnail”. I made the reference image directly below it by assembling together two sculpts I made from scratch (the throne and mouse skull) along with a default female model in Daz3D. With this image and two other pages of photo reference, I made my “final sketch”. The final sketch will provide me with a detailed road map while I make the final digital painting on top.

What will transpire in the fairy court? You’ll find out next week! In the meantime, you may want to refrain from crossing woodland bridges.

Fairy Bells and Midnight Spells

You have done well to make it this far, traveler.

The bridge and stream lie at your back; never mind the course of water now flowing at an uphill tilt. Before you, a moonlight-dappled path twists away through the tangle of trees. You may hesitate and think to turn back, but a sweet chiming of bells drifts to your ears, beckoning you forward. They seem to weave a serene enchantment through the entire forest.

A warm summer breeze caresses the shivering leaves. Is that an owl calling in the distance? No, the breath of wind carries the keen of a pipe carved from a weeping tree…

Your footfalls reverberate in time with the low beat of a drum. As you approach the fairy court, a new passage of music comes into focus, plucked by elegant fingers on strings stolen from a silver horse in a vale bathed in moonlight–long before your kind first ventured here…

Do not push aside that broken branch and enter their circle, stranger.

Do not fall in step with their swaying dance.

Do not listen too closely to their lulling song, trespasser.

It may be the last music you’ll ever hear.

Simple Instructions for Entering a Fairy Realm

Perhaps no one has ever told you how to reach the fairy kingdoms hidden around the world.  Someone you’ve met has probably known, but they were wise enough to keep it to themselves.  I really shouldn’t disclose that I am one of those people with such knowledge.  Let’s just say, I’m not so much interested in being wise as I am in seeing what someone might do with this information.

So.  Fairy realms.  Here is how you might find them.

On a night with a full moon, you must find a natural stream far from any city.  A brook or a creek will do.  The important thing is that it must have a bridge arching over it.  Once you find this bridge, stand upon its center and wait.

Should the stream fall utterly still and quiet while you stand there, you will know that a gateway has been opened and that the fairy court beyond it has welcomed you.  You may now cross to the other side–to the fairy realm.  Once you set foot there, you will hear the stream begin to flow again.  When you look, you will see that it is moving–in the opposite direction.  This is normal.  

But keep in mind, volunteering yourself as a guest in any fairy realm is an open invitation to mischief, and mischief will find you, you can have no doubt.  Keep in mind as well, if you do not leave the fairy realm on the same night, you will be trapped there until the next full moon.  So be sure that mischief–or whatever else–does not keep you past dawn, or it will surely be too late to go back.  And when the next night with the full moon finally returns, who knows what manner of being you’ll be by then?

Fairy enchantments change people, for better or for worse.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell which.  So be cautious when you step off that bridge.  If you treasure who you are, then remember what that is.  It is easy to forget on the other side.

For those of you too afraid to make the journey, I will take you there with an old story of one fairy court, whose Queen is no longer what she once was.

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Photograph by Gary McParland

 

Our next Triptych is on the way!  But to tide you over, we have released our first official booklet, Triptych Book 1, featuring 3 of our past triptychs, with the illustrations presented in bold and beautiful color and the three musical tracks available for download.  Don’t wait too long to snag one!  There are a limited number of copies remaining after San Diego Comic Con!

Purchase here with no regrets.

Find Your Step

At long last, I’ll be the true social butterfly I was meant to be, and no one can say otherwise. I, a grown-up lady, will finally be allowed to dance the waltz, to step and turn amidst so many happy adults…and be one of them. Dare I even dream that Detective Chief Inspector Spindson might ask for a dance? He usually refrains from any dancing, but perhaps the stars will align in my favor on such a magical night.
from the diary of Chrysalisa Flutterbey

We’ve featured several Comic Con-themed posts this past month to celebrate Candice’s first convention adventure, and now we invite you to step back in time a few weeks for a reflection of our last triptych, Gentlebugs of Lacewing Manor. The gentlebugs will welcome you at any of their fashionable gatherings, although you may want to bring your own tea and food, unless milkweed brulée and pollen tarts are up your alley!

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Candice’s yet-to-be-named “dapper bugs”.

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Monocle Mantis, at your service.

Before Chrysalisa’s debut, before the waltz, before Chrysalisa herself, we had Candice’s first work-in-progress trio of portraits to springboard our ideas. Candice also noted that these anthropomorphic characters belong to the same universe as her Monocle Mantis, a dapper gent with a steampunk-esque flair to his attire, but aside from that introduction, Holly and I had completely free reign. We were two intrepid explorers on the brink of uncharted territory, eager to boldly go where no one had gone before yet mapless, unsure of the path to forge ahead. (Forgive me, I saw Star Trek over the weekend.)

The daydreamer in me has fantasy on the brain pretty much all the time, so perhaps it was natural for my brainstorming to gravitate toward the Regency/Victorian-era + magic books I’ve read and enjoyed: Patricia C. Wrede’s Mairelon the Magician and The Magician’s Ward duo, and most recently, Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix. (If you know of any other good ones, shout ’em out in the comments!) Both alternate-history universes share the imaginative element of magic as well as the more historically-accurate social settings: sweeping manors, twilight parties thrown by the wealthy, young ladies’ debuts into society, dances…

With these various scenarios swirling around in my head, I latched on quickly to the dance theme. Every dance needs music! And thanks to yet another external inspiration–Joe Hisaishi’s delightful main theme for Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film Howl’s Moving Castle–I knew I would have a lot of fun composing a waltz. Waltzes are also fitting for the era, and in that period have the added social context that only young women who have debuted in society are permitted to dance them. Because, you know, Propriety and All That.