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story sketches: call for prompts!

Welcome, writers and readers! Many of you will already know who I am, but for those of you who don't, hi! I'm Meeks. I'm an illustrator, and I need your ideas!

what's in it for us?
I love illustrating stories, and I recognize that most self-published authors have neither the budget nor the need for the usage rights that big publishers typically license. One of my goals is to make artwork more accessible to you. A good illustration can also capture readers' interest, and I've had more than one person comment that a sketch of mine drove them to check out the story. So, writers link their fans to my sketches, and my sketches attract new readers to their work. Readers (including me!) can find new stuff to read. Everybody wins!

first one is free!
You are all invited to request art based on scenes you have written (or have permission to use), and I will post a rough sketch for you right here, for free. The sketches are shared under a creative commons license, so if you're happy with the rough sketch, and want to use it as-is, please do! (Just be sure to give me credit and a link back to my site.)

and then what?
Story Sketches is a crowdfunded illustration project, which means that you, as my audience get to choose which sketches I continue to work on. If there's a picture you'd like to see refined, leave feedback, send me tips, and link to it to let me know!

There are several ways to prompt more work on a sketch. The tip button at the bottom of every sketch post can be used to fund specific revisions or overall refinements. I know that a lack of money is not equivalent to a lack of enthusiasm, and I do appreciate different types of involvement, so I will also work more on sketches in response to comments and linkbacks!

the perks

  • To save on bandwidth, the images I post are much smaller than my working files. That makes them easy to display comfortably on screen, but sometimes makes it difficult to distinguish fine details. Both sponsors and prompters can receive higher resolution versions upon request. Just message me with an e-mail address to send it to.

  • Rough sketches get cleaned up once they have received feedback from 6 or more people.

  • After that, for every $10 contributed to a picture, I'll post a detail view for everyone to see. These details will be updated as the sketch gets refined.

  • I will do another round of work for every $15 I receive for an image.

    The first five work sessions ($75 in tips) will be used to bring the drawing from sketch to full value study. This is basically a monochrome version of the final image, and can be considered a finished illustration in itself. Prints will be made available on Imagekind when a picture reaches this stage.

    At this point, I will begin either inking or colouring. The prompter will have a choice of

    • a finished ink drawing in one colour with stippling/crosshatch style shading, to be finished in 2-3 sessions (or about $100 in tips)
    • or
    • a full colour painting, to be finished in 5 sessions ($150 in tips)
    Prints of finished work will be available on Imagekind.

    Particularly complex or labour intensive scenes (eg. battles between armies of individual characters) may take longer to complete, and thus require additional rounds of work to be funded.

  • bonus! I will do a free round of work once per month on
    • the sketch that receives the highest amount in tips
    • and
    • the most linked sketch from the archives! LJ's pingback_bot does a pretty good job of telling me when other users link to my posts there, but if you're linking somewhere else, please let me know!

  • As an added incentive, if total donations within the next month reach $200, I will do a value study of any image with feedback from 12 or more people, regardless of the amount donated to it.

  • If total donations in that time reach $500, I will also do a full painting of every sketch with 25 or more commenters.

  • feedback is important! I really appreciate people taking the time to leave constructive comments on my art. To encourage participation, I will be choosing a random commenter each week to receive a custom icon. Every feedback post you make gives you another chance to win! (Not including one-liners like 'that's ugly', 'nice!', or emoticon-only type posts. These posts are welcome, they just won't count as entries in the draw - my goal here is to reward constructive and thoughtful feedback.)

    Want to join, but having trouble coming up with something to say? Consider what you like/dislike about the piece, and why. Where does the composition direct your eye? Are the characters body language and expressions convincing? Does it make you want to read the story? So far, I've been extremely fortunate in that my project seems to be attracting an audience of very talented people, many of whom have a good eye for art, so reading comments made by others can help you learn what to look for.

  • help spread the word! You can also request an icon, or equivalent amount of work on a sketch of your choice for every three new commenters who mention that you sent them!

guidelines for prompts:

  • Any chapter, scene, flash fiction, narrative poem, etc. that you have written, that is in the public domain, or for which you can show that the copyright holder has given explicit permission to create derivative works (eg. a creative commons attribution license or an author statement encouraging fan art.)
  • Nudity is okay, but I won't post anything explicitly erotic...I'd rather not get any complaints from scandalized parents whose kids found my work through a children's book.
  • If you plan to use your picture for anything that requires a specific aspect ratio (eg blog header, book cover) please let me know. The best way to avoid awkward cropping is for me to draw at the correct size to begin with.
  • Story text may be accompanied by additional description, photo reference, suggestions for composition - basically anything else you think I should know about the characters and settings you're asking me to draw.
This is an excellent example, taken from the notes I received from Michael Thedford, while we were working on Lorelei has a Dream:
Page 3 text: When a hedgehog's up, everyone else is in bed.

Description: (bright-eyed hedgehog peeking out from under a thick quilt on a bed so soft it resembles a giant pillow. Glasses lie on wooden nightstand along with old-fashioned round alarm clock with hands pointing to 10:30 [short hand straight down, long hand halfway between 9 and 12] Visible window somewhere in shot with view of starry night sky and crescent moon.)

Which resulted in this illustration:Lorelei Hedgehog, waking up at night

That's it!  Prompts can be left as comments on either LiveJournal or Dreamwidth, or sent to me by e-mail at meeks-at-mikaspace-dot-net. Thanks in advance to everyone who participates or helps spread the word!

Crossposted from Dreamwidth. Comments are welcome either here or there.


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I just wanted to post to say that your illustration is beautiful! It really looks like a professional image from a classic children's book. Well done. :-)
Thanks so much! It means a lot coming from someone I know has a good sense for art :)
Oh, yip!!

Totally coming back as soon as I figure out which scene.

Your enthusiasm is much appreciated! I got your e-mail, and will let you know when I post your sketch :)
Emailed you - and will link - to THIS, and, of course, hopefully to any sketch which you might do/post of the Thing That I Sent You...
Thanks for the signal boost! I got your e-mail, and will let you know when your sketch is done.

Here via aldersprig and ysabetwordsmith, and might be sending you something. Just started a new crowdfunding project myself (fiction writing), and I need some art to go with it - yay!

Just need to figure out what scene, first. :) I'll be sure to signal boost as well.
Thanks! I look forward to reading your work :)

Also, I'm sorry your comment was screened for so long...I didn't realized that option was on, and I have since disabled it.


I would like an illustration of the scene in "unfolding wings" from my Origami Mage poetry series. You can read the poem here:

Clothing in this setting is, like the culture, eclectic Asian. So robes, kimonos, and tailored clothes appear in various contexts and combinations. A little girl's kimono is often a simpler version of the adult, and popular designs are yellow, pink, white, or red with cherry blossoms, kittens, or other youthful motifs.
Those are fairly close, though the designs would be simpler and the decorations not so loud. People tend toward the really fancy kimonos today, but not all the historic examples were that elaborate.

I found a slightly quieter one as an example for the mother:

The blind beggar would wear much plainer robes. The image in this painting is about the best I could find:

Images of the Origami Mage are in the character gallery on my LJ:
She has a narrow face with tilted eyes, golden skin, and black hair worn loose at shoulder length or longer. (In contrast, the Kirigami Mage has a round face and wears her hair pinned up.)

Re: Prompts

Here's a sketch of the young Origami Mage in "unfolding wings": http://meeksp.livejournal.com/13371.html


I've been coming back to this thread every few hours since you started it, waiting/hoping to see the sketches, and would have missed the two I've now seen entirely were it not for the entries plugging them on ysabetwordsmith's journal. You might get a bit more traffic, and thus hopefully donations and comments, if you used this thread as a "landing page" for the project, and continued to post links to the artwork and updates here. Just a thought...

Re: Suggestion

Okay, that's not a bad suggestion. Would replying to prompts posted here be enough, or should I add a list of links at the end of the main post?
If you are still taking prompts, I would LOVE to see an illustration for this story: http://ellenmillion.com/pageview.php?writing=9

Jenny is the dark-haired girl in this image: http://hotlink.ellenmilliongraphics.com/ellen/bjornfinal.jpg

Beautiful work so far!!
I'm going to keep taking prompts until/unless they start arriving too fast for me to deal with them in a reasonable amount of time. I'll make sure there's a clear announcement if that happens, so if you don't see one, please feel free to keep sending them!

Did you want the part with the elemental, or one of the scenes with Bjorn?
I had to think about a scene that I'd like to see done. I think I've reached the conclusion that I'd love a snapshot out of this Wonder City Stories interlude: http://wonder-city.dreamwidth.org/25562.html

In particular, I'd like to see Molly having her conversation with Hel (Hel being represented by her brass speaker horn (and possibly including, "As if to demonstrate, one of her shiny brass arms -- with black leather gloves over the articulated hands -- deployed in order to remove a kitten from a speaker, settle it on a cushion, and pet it.")

I would be pleased to see any subset of this scene, really. Of course, I'm giving you the challenge of drawing a 13-year-old body with an 82-year-old's brain behind the face. :}
Ooh...that sounds like an interesting challenge, indeed! I'll go read and let you know when I have a sketch posted :)
I have a character who I'm having trouble figuring out what he looks like, myself...I would be interested in an artist's representation but I need to send you a character sketch. :)
I'd be happy to work from a text description, if you have that :) What sort of character is he?

Feather-Blessed picture?

I think your style would work well for my Feather-Blessed Dragons stories. I'm torn between wanting to see Grace and Stella in their original human forms or seeing an illustration from later in the story arc, when they're dragons.

The first story is here: http://wyld-dandelyon.livejournal.com/88168.html
and continues here: http://wyld-dandelyon.livejournal.com/91626.html
but we don't see them as dragons until here: http://wyld-dandelyon.livejournal.com/95264.html

Would you rather do them as girls or dragons? Something cool in the way of including the magic feather in the graphic would be appreciated too.

As to dimensions, I'm not sure whether I want to consider self-publishing this yet, but something that could be used as cover art if I do would be wonderful.

Re: Feather-Blessed picture?

Finally got to read them! I'll be working on a sketch for you today :)
I've been eager to give this a try; now I've finally written a pair of poems that should suit your style of illustration.

The first one is here: http://minor-architect.livejournal.com/165899.html
But the backstory for those events is here: http://minor-architect.livejournal.com/168544.html

I'm fairly flexible as to how the gnome should be depicted; all I really know is that he's old, short (3 feet tall?), clean-shaven, and carries a gnarled wooden staff. The female narrator of the poems has average looks, dark hair just grazing her shoulders, glasses, and is somewhere between 30-35 years old. Are those enough details to get you going?

Thanks for starting such a unique project! :)
Oh, those are fun poems! Do you have a preference for which one (or which part) I illustrate?
I would love to see what you do with a skycat. How about an illustration for The Reluctant Rescue? http://www.tornworld.net/storypageview.php?id=153

Noithil doesn't have any particular description yet, so you have free reign with him. :)
This is Teddy: http://the-vulture.livejournal.com/tag/teddy%27s_terrific_travels (Be sure to scroll down.)

As you can see, Teddy is well traveled and has been to a lot of different places in the world. He has shared journeys with me in every country I have ever visited... except one.

Sadly, Teddy and I only made each other's acquaintances long after my adventures in and around Adelaide, South Australia. One day, I hope to rectify that. Until then, though, I wonder what a photo of Teddy in Australia might've looked like.

Would you be willing to sketch an image of Teddy in South Australia? Maybe he could be seen boarding a trolley in downtown Adelaide, dipping his feet into the fountain at the South Australia Whale Centre (Victor Harbor, SA), poking about at Rundle Mall (Adelaide, SA), or even rambling up the trails of Morialta Falls. I would be very pleased to see what you come up with. :)

P.S.: Yes, I now realize that I've been negligent in posting my photos of Australia in LJ. I'll blog those shortly and post a link.

P.P.S.: Photos are up! http://the-vulture.livejournal.com/199180.html

Edited at 2011-08-01 11:00 pm (UTC)

Yes, please!

I'd like a sketch of Nib and Brod from "The Henchmen's Hitch" showing the two of them with the ginormous sword in the wagon.

The troll guarding the gate hefted his huge halberd.
“Hullo, Nib,” said the troll.

“Hullo, Brod,” said Nib.
“Got sword?” said Brod.
“It’s in the wagon,” said Nib.
“How come bags on draft horses?” said Brod.

“The sword,”
said Nib,
“is in the wagon.”

Brod looked in the wagon.
The hilt lay in the lower left corner,
the point propped in the upper right corner
where it had cut through the canvas.
The broad blade had sliced open a sack of grain
wedged against one side of the wagon.

Brod is a troll, and as I search for troll images, I realize that his breed is unlike anybody else's version of a troll. This is the closest I could find: large, with broad shoulders, long arms, and short legs with stubby feet. Brod's arms are thicker, though, with short tough claws on the hands. This is another helpful one, for overall roundness of form and face. The nose is close: kind of piggish, but not quite an actual snout. His ears are large and pointed, again kind of piggish. His lower tusks curl up and back toward his face; the upper tusks are much shorter and straighter and just point down a bit over his lower lip; and those are the only four teeth that show with his mouth closed. He has a short thatch of black hair atop his head, and a lion-tuft of hair tipping his tail. Despite what would ordinarily be fearsome features, he actually has a sweet face: endearing in a rough sort of way. His skin is like gray granite and it's flecked with multicolored rosettes of symbiotic lichens. As a youngish troll, his spots are still small and round, scattered rather than overlapping each other. He's quite a bit bigger than Nib. His halberd is built for force, not finesse: a heavy weapon, technically, but light in his strong hands. Brod usually wears a vest or short-sleeved tunic and short trousers of heavy canvas, and goes barefoot.

Nib is much easier: he's a peasant boy with straw-wild hair of dark blond to light brown, trying to look tougher than he really is. In his late teens, he's gangly but with the large bones that will turn him burly later on. You can see it a lot in the knobby wrists.

The sword is very large and very plain, a greatsword with a wide blade in proportion to the hilt.
Hello! I'd like a sketch based on "Starlit Rays": http://stryck.livejournal.com/846891.html

Specifically, I'd like the scene with Scyne and the comet - Scyne the star ray half-curled around a big, sparkly, dirty snowball.

Star ray description: They were large and flat, with kite-shaped bodies like the giant manta rays that lurk in our own oceans. Their shining scales were as black as deepest night, sprinkled with tiny, blue and yellow and red dots that glitter when the slightest light touches them.

Also, I will note that star rays do not have eyes. :)

I've loved the contrast in the sketches you've done so far.
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