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I’ve been gaming a lot more than creating lately – unforgivable, I know. But it did, at least, lead me to our subject: wrestler Shelton Benjamin.

A young Benjamin decided against training for the Olympics to become a professional wrestler. He signed with the WWF in 2000, and made his debut on television a couple of years later. This was at the tail-end of my watching wrestling – I was far too big and grown-up for it by then, of course. It was just silly. Whilst there was an element of that, I think a bigger factor was that I was starting to admire certain superstars in a different way; newcomer Shelton was no exception, his impressive figure squeezed into a royal blue singlet. It was confusing and scary in equal measure, but I think we can safely say it’s no longer either of those things.

On a less shallow note, I remember Shelton as a pure and gifted athlete, though, such were the times our paths crossed, I don’t know an awful lot about his career. He enjoyed multiple tag and Intercontinental title runs, upset Triple H once in a great match, and there was an incredible moment where he leapt off the top rope into a super kick from Shawn Michaels which looked, as the youth of today would say, sick. As this is not part of a series from two years ago, we’ll move swiftly on. What I do know is that he’s an avid gamer, often challenging fans at conventions, and art lover. All of this made him a natural choice. I hope you approve, Shelton. I recently made a new texture brush, and used it here – swifter movements brought about some promising results at first, but, characteristically, I found a way to overwork it, the face in particular. There’s a likeness, though, so we’ll run with it.

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Someone’s enjoying the weather.

It’s been years since I’ve drawn a seal – one that’s ended up here, anyway – so here we are. Seals are the coolest. That’s all there is to say, really.

broads-horseyrain3East Anglia is often said to be one of the driest regions of the UK. This is normally something I’d dispute, but I don’t think I can remember a dry spell quite as long as we’ve had lately – it must be eight weeks or so since our last drop of rain! With this, I thought I’d try and rescue two unspectacular landscape drawings, stitching in some angry skies and throwing the scene into a much-needed rainstorm. Sorry, sun fans.

Above, we have the approach to Horsey Windpump on a more traditional summer’s day. This was a last minute thing, as the way my fiddling with Photoshop was going, it looked more like spits and spots on a windscreen. It’s a new spin on the concept for me, anyway – and I’ve always rather enjoyed the way raindrops transform the passing landscape. From experience, I can say that Horsey Mere is not the most desirable place to be caught in the rain, even less should lightning decide to tag along. Stay in the car!

broads-caisterrain3The remains of Caister Castle, standing just to the east of the town, still looking out over the trees. Built for Sir John Fastolf, a soldier and knight who fought in the Hundred Years War and Battle of Agincourt, its construction began in 1433, making it one of the earliest and best-preserved ruins of a brick-built residence in England.

Fastolf would die at the castle in 1459, aged seventy-nine, and was buried ten miles away at St Benet’s Abbey. With no children, ownership of the castle was contested, but eventually it went to John Paston, a close confidante and advisor. Challenging the inheritance, the Duke of Norfolk would end up attacking the castle with up to three thousand men, ultimately succeeding in taking the site, however, it would once again find its way back to the Paston family on his death, with several others claiming it into the sixteenth century. The castle gradually fell into disrepair, and with a new manor built nearby in 1600 it was all but neglected, except the tower, which saw continued used as accommodation. Easily the proudest and most intact feature of the building today – I believe you can still access and climb it – the tower is not only testament to the craft of those that erected it but a marvellous landmark, a beacon of inspiration against the vast Norfolk skies. Oh, and as if that weren’t enough, there’s also a motor museum on the grounds.

Temperatures are set to climb further still next week. Fingers crossed for a nice downpour to cool off – maybe a flash or two of lightning, too? 😉

xerath_01bIn a quick impromptu journey back into the fantastical universe of League of Legends, we’re confronted this time by Xerath. A resurrected being of pure energy surrounded by the shards of a magical sarcophagus, this gargantuan perfectly captures the feel of uncontrollable power.

Unsurprisingly, energy is at the heart of Xerath’s attack, with orbs and bolts of the stuff managing to both stun and damage an adversary, even at long range. As if this weren’t enough, increased ability from successful strikes will be channeled into his armour, making him even more durable. As with most giants, there is the caveat that stamina and failed shots tend to have greater implications, leaving him vulnerable. This gives players the age-old quandary: conserve energy and make progress slowly, or take a risk and go all out.

As you can probably gather, I returned to Photoshop and drawing for this one. Just because, really. Another curious peek into a new world.

Part two of this mini anime adventure – this time, a Twitch panel show, making acquaintance with a curious quartet in the process.

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Firstly, we have Kagetane Hiruko from Black Bullet acting as YouTube ambassador. As one might expect, given the smiley face and sharp attire, he’s a villain – the boss, in fact. He is a soulless mastermind, acting entirely without remorse and getting a twisted kick from ruining the lives of others. Nice guy.

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Amaimon, from Blue Exorcist, who looks like me, apparently. Pff. I’m not nearly so smiley. Saying this, I took some liberties and cheered him up somewhat – I thought this rather cute glance might bring a persuasive pull to the donation field! It would seem that Amaimon is, as the name would suggest, a demonic force to be reckoned with, since he has the title ‘Earth King’ bestowed upon him. He has a warped sense of humour, and doesn’t react kindly to his fun being ruined. His host is, in fact, over a thousand years old. Yes, I’m beginning to see a resemblance now.

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Representing Discord, we have Rentaro, a protagonist of Black Bullet. Juggling high school and a role in Civil Security, Rentaro is a loving boy who endeavours to treat everyone as equals. Rentaro is an intelligent, agile and resilient fighter, such that even the most fearsome hoodlum underestimates him at their own peril. Oh, and he has a gun if all else fails.

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Finally, we have Ken Kaneki, the main protagonist of the Tokyo Ghoul series. Formerly a gifted student living a relatively normal life, things changed dramatically for Ken when his manipulative hellcat of a girlfriend turned him into the one-eyed ghoul you see here, using elaborate surgical magic. Well, we’ve all been there.

Once the drawings were complete, it was simply a case of bundling them into the specified dimensions of Twitch panels (320x320px). I ran with colour coding almost straight away, and tried to design around that. Here are a few developments that didn’t quite meet the grade for Mr Sekioz, along with some others which I felt worked moderately well in isolation, but not so well transferred to stablemates.

These were completed today, hopefully the finals will be live on Sekioz’s Twitch soon.

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It’s been a while since I dipped my toes into the alien anime scene, with Astro Boy now almost two years old, but it’s returned with a vengeance of late, thanks to certain Frenchmen. We begin with these twin terrors. Though disparate in derivation, they are brought together by one powerful affinity. If you thought Sonic the Hedgehog turning yellow was impressive, well, take a look at these chaps.

Firstly, from Naruto, is the titular hero of a series which has appeared in various incarnations since the late nineties. It appears that his particular ability comes courtesy of his ninja father – whilst fighting a monstrous nine-tailed demon fox, Kurama, his father somehow managed to instill the beast into his son’s body so that only he can use it. This was not without consequence; it was in fact a sacrificial act, leaving Naruto orphaned and something of a pariah in the world of Konoha, for they know what lurks within. In a bid to follow his father’s footsteps and gain the respect of his fellows, Naruto strives to become a ninja himself, while also learning to taking control of his inner demon.

I was initially compelled to try a ‘split personality’ angle, but I soon found that rather difficult given the extreme disparity in scale, and besides, people have done similar elsewhere, and much better than I could. With that, I moved to a simpler concept of our hero standing as guardian before his beastly companion.

The murky orange overlay seemed to add to it, and that progression lead to the final, with some texture thrown in, just because, really.

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I thought I would carry this over for Gnar, our next subject. Part of the League of Legends series, he is a prehistoric creature whose cute, delicate exterior masks a very different reality. Quite the temper, fury and rage is at the heart of Gnar’s combat – he thrives on it. One most definitely shouldn’t wish to incur his wrath, for Mega Gnar is ever waiting to be unleashed, turning this curious little critter into a gargantuan monster until the blaze dissipates.

Following on from Naruto, once the characters were drawn it was a case of trying out some different effects based on the colours of creature and beast:

And experimenting with custom typography, though I ultimately decided against that. It’s a relief to have them done and dusted now, since they’ve been in the works for a while, coming to life almost immediately after the Twenty-Six Spins challenge (I promise to stop linking to that now). I’ve been slapping effects on here, there and everywhere for a while, and not to a tremendous benefit.

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There we have it – for now, anyway. I know who Naruto and Gnar are, now. There may be more of this ilk to come.

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Grunge again, and so soon? Perhaps the wheel is feeling kind as we approach the end of this series. I’m still waiting for W, by the way.

In terms of process, there isn’t much here that wasn’t covered in my last go. I went a touch more urban with this one, thinking more about stencil and graffiti. I’m not sure that’s entirely answering the prompt, but there’s surely an overlap there, so I’m going with it.

The stencils were looking OK, until I overdid it!

And then came the attempts to make some striking S forms, before subjecting them to the gamut of Photoshop manipulation:

Again, this is always a hoot. I wouldn’t mind if the rest come up grunge! 😉