Exquisite Corpses: Not Dead YetPosted: August 11, 2015
A search of this blog will reveal that long ago I released a little book called ‘Exquisite Corpses’ which was my love note to medieval bestiaries, the AD&D Monster Manual and mythology. It will also reveal that LotFP is going to publish a revised edition at some undisclosed date in the future and that the project is YEARS behind schedule. I was talking to a number of people about it recently and wanted to say that it is neither gone nor forgotten — just delayed because I am crap at enforcing my own deadlines on myself.
The original had 26 monsters that could be combined to create something like ~17,000 unique combinations. Each ‘monster’ page had a drawing of a creature (man, woman, dragon, lizard-man, slug, robot, etc.) divided up into legs at the bottom, torso in the middle and head at the top. If the pages were slit into three parts, the user could flip the tabs to put the legs of one creature onto the torso of another and add the head of a third creature. In addition to all of that, there were tables to add additional powers or weaknesses to the creatures, like ESP, a vulnerability to silver weapons, etc. I thought it was a good idea, but the execution was a little crude and the printing via Lulu left a little to be desired, plus people had to slit the pages themselves before they could use it.
Jim from LotFP expressed interest and I began to revise it. Jim has a printer in Finland who can do die-cut tabs and full color printing on better quality paper, so I began to paint the individual creatures with acrylics. We increased the number of ‘base’ creatures from 26 to 40 – a decision influenced by the use of print signatures by Jim’s better quality book maker as opposed to the ‘slap it together coil binding’ of print-on-demand like Lulu. I’m not slamming Lulu — as a creator, I don’t want to be saddled with the necessities of order fulfillment when it comes to shipping books out to all over the world and plan to release other things via Lulu in the future simply because it will allow me to get my work out there without having to make sure everyone who ordered a book gets what they ordered. Most ‘self published’ projects instituted by amateurs and artists seem to flounder on order fulfillment — having LotFP do that part while I concentrate on creating the content seems like the best idea.
In addition to delays from me being a really bad procrastinator and decision maker when it comes to my own projects (I’m capable of sometimes literally turning around assignments overnight when it is for someone else, but when it comes to my own projects, I keep changing my fucking mind), some problems arose. I had difficulty making the color versions work and fit together. I wasn’t happy with a lot of the creatures and didn’t think the acrylic paintings fit together, visually, as well as my original crude drawings had simply because the transitions from one creature to another were too abrupt. After finishing 40 paintings and experimenting with them a while by sticking the head from one creature onto the body of another via the magic of photoshop, I determined that acrylic was the wrong medium. I would need to do the creature images all over again.
I began to do them again, this time working in pen and ink and coloring them digitally. I decided that if I wasn’t happy with the digital color, I could do it over again or always color the ink version after inking. My experiments made me happier this time — the bold, black lines united the drawings a bit more when you switched heads, legs or torsos — for a book where the interaction of the user was primarily visual, I wanted to make the visual experience as appropriate as I could for the user/reader. But there were still problems.
In order to work as a book, the tabs all had to be the same size but I had not drawn them that way. In discussions with Jim from LotFP, we had agreed to place details on the creature on the left hand page facing the illustration on the right hand page… and this information would include what the creature was, how tough it might be, how it might defend itself, etc. Because of printing restrictions, the three tabs needed to all be the same size… but I hadn’t drawn them that way. Fortunately, I figured this out BEFORE I did all 40 of the illustrations for a third time, but there are about 20+ illustrations which, in addition to the 40 acrylic paintings, that I cannot use. I’m having to figure this stuff out as I go along.
Unfortunately, humans and other creatures have all sorts of unusual proportions — the legs of an ape are very different than the legs of a human or a horse. I knew I could take liberties with the more fantastical beasts, but if there was too much distortion in the bodies of the more mundane creatures, it might not fly. I had to draw several of them several times to get it right and am still struggling to get this part right — the legs of a given drawing need to look “right” in the original drawing and when added to every single other creature in the portfolio. This, and the text, are the parts I am still struggling with. I’m incorporating collars, belts, etc., to provide “breaks” where one creature type can join up to another without looking too abrupt.
Here are some samples of recent versions which (hopefully) will make it into the final version:
They will eventually be colored in some fashion and details as to their habits, disposition and abilities will appear on the facing page. The list of creatures is about 90% firm – a few of them might need to be swapped out for alternates unless I can figure out a way to draw them so that they fit with the parts of all of the other creatures. This illustration should show you how I hope to create a book which will allow you to combine a woman, a tree-man and a tentacled creature into a strange mythological creature of strange habits and abilities:
I really hope to have this done before 2015 is over… which is (unfortunately) what I also said last year… but in the last two months I have managed to move the baton substantially closer to the goal line so there is hope. In any case, rest assured that I wont ‘kickstart’ or ask anyone for money until my part is 100% done and I am ready to hand it off to LotFP to get ready for the presses.