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:
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:
- I am not at all comfortable drawing violence against children
- I know there are people of all ages enjoying the horror podcasts I love, and I didn’t exactly want to traumatize themjust yet…
- 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.
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.