Illustration: Pass It On đź“ť

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I start­ed the game with a plea. I don’t want to play any­more. The scrawled mes­sage was almost illeg­i­ble as if even this vio­lat­ed some implic­it rule. My hand kept mov­ing across the page. Before I even real­ized what I was doing, before I real­ized I wasn’t in con­trol of my arm any­more, I’d writ­ten a reply. 

“Pass it on.”

— ​“Pass It On” by Pen­ny Tailsup

Hel­lo, fel­low hor­ror fans!

This month is Women in Hor­ror Month! When I was lucky enough to cho­sen for this week’s NoSleep art­work, I had the plea­sure of being able to high­light one of the podcast’s female authors, Pen­ny Tail­sup.

In her sto­ry ​“Pass It On” the unnamed pro­tag­o­nist makes the time of her fourth-grade school class­es pass faster by invent­ing a game. She wrote a note on a piece of paper, pass it to her clos­est class­mate, who in turn added some­thing, and so on until, at the end of class, they had pro­duced some­thing more inter­est­ing than what­ev­er the teacher is prat­tling on about.

I don’t know about you, but I have enough grey hairs to prove that dur­ing my time in fourth grade, the use of smart­phones wasn’t very wide­spread (because, you know, they haven’t been invent­ed yet). So I dis­tinct­ly remem­ber play­ing the very same game when I was bored!

Penny’s pro­tag­o­nist soon regrets invent­ing the game, when a super­nat­ur­al pres­ence takes over her hand, switch­ing out her inno­cent child­hood scrib­blings for draw­ings of gore and vio­lence, each of them a grim omen for one of her friends’ gris­ly demise in the future.

It’s my hon­or to present my art­work for this episode:

Pass It On

Buy a print!

Ton­ing down the vio­lence just a smidge

As is often the case with my NoSleep draw­ings, the idea for this art­work popped into my head pret­ty much imme­di­ate­ly. I knew I want­ed to depict the pro­tag­o­nist in the process of draw­ing one of her dark pre­dic­tions, and I knew I want­ed it to be the one about her friend hav­ing an, uh, alter­ca­tion with some dogs.

From the story:

Tammy’s demise was drawn, a snarling pack of dogs tear­ing at her legs and snap­ping her bones between sharp, bloody teeth. The girl smiled in the pic­ture, pet­ting one of the dogs as though it weren’t tear­ing the flesh from her forearm.

This posed three inter­est­ing problems:

  1. I am not at all com­fort­able draw­ing vio­lence against children
  2. I know there are peo­ple of all ages enjoy­ing the hor­ror pod­casts I love, and I didn’t exact­ly want to trau­ma­tize themjust yet…
  3. Good luck find­ing ref­er­ence pic­tures for a kid being torn apart by dogs

So I decid­ed to ​“set­tle” for draw­ing a cou­ple of vicious dogs. Since I depict­ed the pro­tag­o­nist still in the process of draw­ing, I didn’t feel like it took away from the story.

In order to con­cen­trate on the pen­cil draw­ing, I cre­at­ed a Smart Object in Pho­to­shop. You can think of Smart Objects as a kind of draw­ing-in-a-draw­ing, and it pro­vides the ben­e­fit that I can use the trans­form tool to match the per­spec­tive up to the block the kid is draw­ing on. While it shows up as ​“dis­tort­ed” in the main draw­ing, the Smart Object itself is still a reg­u­lar oblong can­vas, so I can con­cen­trate on draw­ing the dogs and not have to wor­ry about match­ing it up to the main draw­ing exactly.

Emu­lat­ing tra­di­tion­al media

My ini­tial idea was to draw the dogs with an actu­al pen­cil, but sad­ly, I lacked the time to do so1. Instead, I relied on a cou­ple of trusty brush­es which emu­late pen­cils quite nicely!

(By the way, if you’re inter­est­ed in emu­lat­ing tra­di­tion­al media in your draw­ings, check out my free Skill­share video on that!)

After lay­ing the ground­work with a shad­ing brush (which you would usu­al­ly achieve by hold­ing the pen­cil at an angle and hatch­ing), I used pro­gres­sive­ly fin­er brush­es to build the detail in the fur lay­er by layer. 

Close-up of the dogs face in "pencil"

I am real­ly pleased with the end result, and I hope I get the oppor­tu­ni­ty to work in ​“pen­cil” again in the future.

What I learned while doing this artwork

  • Dig­i­tal­ly emu­lat­ing pen­cil does not only work real­ly well, but is a lot of fun to do
  • While I am con­tent with the skin tones I chose for this draw­ing, I was remind­ed how fine­ly tuned the human eye is to notic­ing even minor devi­a­tions from how skin looks in real life
  • Smart Objects can real­ly make your work eas­i­er if you don’t overuse them
  • The peo­ple of the NoSleep Pod­cast Face­book Group are insane­ly good at spot­ting obscure details

I hope you like this draw­ing as much as I do, and I hope you stay tuned for my next drawing.

Foot­note 1: While I am com­fort­able work­ing with a pen­cil and like doing so, I’m less used to it, so it takes me longer to achieve a com­pa­ra­ble result