Monday, March 5, 2012

Star Shard Week: The Thunder Rake

The Thunder Rake
I should mention that there might be some minor spoilers for some parts of the story during Star Shard Week.

Welcome to Day Two of Star Shard Week! Now with even more excitement! Check out The Star Shard author Frederic S. Durbin's companion posts over on his blog.

First of all, can I point out what an awesome name the Thunder Rake is?!

The Thunder Rake is so important to the world of "The Star Shard" it's like another character in the story. The Thunder Rake is a gigantic merchant ship that rumbles across the landscape, carrying its own bustling city from place to place. While I'm not sure it would technically be considered steampunk, the Thunder Rake reminded me of the spirit of adventure and the anachronistic fantasy technology that is characteristic of steampunk.

The Thunder Rake was quite a challenge for me to design, as my artistic focus is usually on organic living things like creatures and characters. That's not to say that it doesn't take on a life of its own, which Fred will tell you much more eloquently than I over on his Thunder Rake post.
It's usually easiest to design things, be they creatures or vehicles, in a flat perspective like a side view before getting wrapped up in trying to figure out how to foreshorten all the details from a more complicated perspective. In addition to the descriptive text, I had Fred's sketch of the Thunder Rake to help me understand the massive scale he had in mind for the vehicle.

Fred's sketch of the Thunder Rake.

I tried to remain faithful to his vision while adding some of my own flourishes. I was inspired by ships of all kinds, from sailing ships to cruise ships. I added a metal wedge reminiscent of a locomotive's cowcatcher on the bow, imagining that it would help the Thunder Rake burst through difficult terrain. While it is powerful and intimidating, I also wanted to keep a sense of whimsy about the Thunder Rake, so I made sure to retain one of my favorite elements on Fred's sketch: a big, beautiful tree with a wide canopy, growing on the top level of the vessel. When I was drawing it, the imagery from one of my favorite Hayao Miyazaki films, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, was not far from my mind.

The mysterious floating city of Laputa.
Plants sprouting from the rusted metal of a train engine. Photo by Vinod Rams.

Looking back, I wish I had made the tree even more impressive. I love the juxtaposition of nature and technology, and the imagery of a living tree almost breaking free from the confines of the man-made Thunder Rake echoes Cymbril's longing to escape.

My first Thunder Rake sketch.

I realized my first sketch of the Thunder Rake didn't feel interesting enough. It looked a little too boxy, without enough variation in the shape. I wanted it to have a more unique silhouette, so I added onto the bow and stern with tracing paper and blended everything together in Photoshop.

My revised drawing of the Rake.

Since vehicles are not my forte, my husband, Vinod, helped build a simple model of the Thunder Rake using Google's SketchUp program. It was quite handy for drawing the Thunder Rake in different perspectives for my illustrations of the monstrous machine.

The SketchUp model of the Thunder Rake, mocked up within my (very) rough sketch.
The finished drawing of the Thunder Rake, which became one of the first paintings I completed for The Star Shard.

An intimidating look at the Thunder Rake seeking Cymbril and Loric.

Thanks for reading, and don't forget to stop by for Day Three of Star Shard Week!

The Star Shard, by Frederic S. Durbin, is a fantasy adventure story about Cymbril, a girl on a journey of self-discovery.

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