The Mythic Ball, Part 3: The Glow Cloud’s Gown with Third Eye Mask

A strapless white gown. The skirt is made of puffy, multicolored clouds, lit from behind by a bright light source. The clouds are various shades of purple edged with bright blue or green, and there are bright spots of vivid yellow within the clouds. There's a white mask that goes with it that covers the whole face and has no decoration except for a large third eye drawn in glowing purple tones.A newcomer’s arrival always causes excitement in a gathering populated by archetypes that may be hundreds, even thousands of years old. Those that have endured over the years can’t help but judge the newer ones whose sudden popularity or unexpected flexibility brings them to the ball. They may retain their appeal and get used in new ways in new stories, turning into a true archetype, something greater than their original form… or they’ll wind up with the sorry lot that hangs out on the fringes of the party. Those poor creatures sneak strawberries from the snack table as if they don’t deserve to eat good things and trade stories about whatever triumph first won them an invitation to the party — while stringently avoiding any mention of the present day. If any of the organizers should notice that they haven’t made that jump from potential archetype to true archetype, and probably won’t, there may not be another invitation the next year…

The Glow Cloud is new; furthermore, she’s a creation popularized by the Internet, not by ballads, storybooks or rumors. So the others regard her with a certain amount of skepticism until she drifts by, and…

All hail the mighty Glow Cloud.

All hail.

The old-timers discuss the Glow Cloud in whispers, several minutes after she passes.
“Rather specialized, don’t you think?” Dragon says, her expression thoughtful.
“Do you really see an archetype like that getting popular in *other* stories?” asks Fairy disdainfully.
“It’s basically just a cloud,” agrees Kitsune.
“There’s some precursors, you know. Like the Airborne Toxic Event. And Lakitu, that almost counts,” Robot says. (Robot has more sympathy for newcomers than the other, older archetypes.)
“True,” says Dragon. “Well, we’ll see if there’s staying power there.”
“We’ll see,” echoes Fairy.

The dismissive words are intended to mask how shaken they are.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the Glow Cloud, it’s from a popular podcast called Welcome to Night Vale, which is a story built around fictional news from a town where weird things are a feature of daily life. I used this cloud tutorial and brush, in case anyone else wants to try some digital clouds! Next week we’ll be meeting Kitsune, a popular Japanese fox spirit archetype and the winner of my poll. In the meantime, you can download combined color and black and white PDFs of all of my 2014 dolls and outfits for free! Also follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest for sneak previews, paperdoll thoughts and eye-centric teaser pictures. If you enjoy my work, I’d also appreciate your support through Patreon.


The Mythic Ball, Part 2: Kraken’s Purple and Silver Gown with Tentacles

An off-the-shoulder dress with fin-like webbing on the upper arms, a corset top, a tight, sparkly silver skirt edged with more fin-like webbing and several tentacles coming from the skirt and spilling over the floor. The corset is patterned with an abstract tentacle pattern and is a deep purple. It's made of shiny fabric which is nearly pink where the light hits it, and the top of the corset is covered in sparkly silver glitter. The fin-like webbing is done in garish shades of yellow, orange and magenta. The skirt is gathered at the back and drapes over the front from the waist to the knees in graceful folds, and the entire skirt is covered in silver sequins that glitter as they catch the light. The silhouette suggests a late 1800s gown, although the colors, glitter and tentacles don't. There are about ten tentacles, shiny and colored in shades of purple, with large suckers on them. They fall towards the ground, where they spill out and curl around on the floor. There's also a shiny silver mask to go with the outfit.

Kraken had been a favorite in the Victorian era, then airplanes came along, things went poorly for her and she had slunk around the edges of the party for some time. But these days, she’s trendy again. Downright hip, in a way that ever-popular Dragon can’t be: a t-shirt screenprinted with a dragon runs the risk of being cliché and laughable, but Kraken-themed accessories have creepy steampunk style. She suggests mystery, complexity, and a hint of the taboo (as the Great Old Ones are pointedly not invited to the festivities).

Her habit of arriving at the ball with a gleeful cry of “Release the Kraken!” is getting a little old, but no one’s had the nerve to suggest a more subtle entrance to her; Kraken simply doesn’t do subtle, as her flashy dress might suggest. Plus, she has a theatrical streak a mile wide: when Vampire gave her a disdainful look and told her that her ensemble was “very Ursula” Kraken just grinned and started belting out “Poor Unfortunate Souls” right there. Can there be anything better, Kraken thought to herself, than showing off a popular sea-monster themed show tune and mortifying Vampire in the same night? She can think of a few things, but it’s enough of a triumph for this particular quarter of an hour.

Help me out — I have plans to introduce three more guests this month, and I know who two of them are but I’m not sold on the third…

Who comes next? I’ll give you a hint: if you recognize next week’s archetype you can congratulate yourself for being hip to Internet pop culture. In the meantime, don’t forget that you can now download combined color and black and white PDFs of all of my 2014 dolls and outfits for free! Also follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest for sneak previews, paperdoll thoughts and drawing tutorials I think might be useful. If you enjoy my work, I’d also appreciate your support through Patreon.


Ballgown with Tulle Skirt (A Not-Really-A-Tutorial Tutorial)

A ballgown with a halter-style black bodice and a floor-length, bell shaped skirt. The bodice is patterned with a metallic gold brocade. The gown is divided into three layers. The first one is shades of layered orange, yellow and red tulle under a light layer of black tulle, which the warm colors show through. The second layer is light green, dark green and light blue under a layer of black tulle. The third layer is dark blue, purple and magenta under a layer of black tulle. One of my Pinterest boards is titled “Paperdoll Reference.” It may as well be titled my “Why Can’t I Draw Like That?” board. I’ll pin dresses with interesting coloring, particularly shiny dresses or dresses with great draping, with the intention of using them to study from. Not being the most diligent artist in the world, I’ve been piling up interesting examples and not doing all that much with them. Then the thought came to me, why not make the learning process into a paper doll outfit? (Everything’s better with paperdolls.) Sort of like a tutorial, except I, too, start out with no clue what I’m doing. Let’s learn together!

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Lavender-Tailed Mermaid with White and Gold Top and Starfish Brooch

A bluish-lavender mermaid tail with lighter, warmer fins along the top, sides and base of the tail. The top is a one-shoulder Greek inspired white top that shows the midriff and is bordered with gold scroll patterns. At the shoulder is a golden starfish brooch with an opal in the middle, and there are strands of pearls looped over the shoulder and upper arm.Here’s my first digitally colored mermaid tail! I’m not entirely satisfied with it, because without a little scale pattern I think it looks too flat, but I’m only just getting started with digital coloring so for today it will work.

I’ve had mermaids on the brain, because I read a book called Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee, which was all about how to construct a compelling, well-paced and satisfying story. It’s aimed at screenwriters, but it dealt with universal principles, so I got a lot out of it even though I’m not planning on writing a movie anytime soon. It’s a great book, but also pretty dense and something like 400 pages long, so I’ll also recommend Hilari Bell’s writing tips, which present much of the same information in a way that may be more understandable.

I always enjoyed writing my mini-stories about my mermaid world for this site, and I’ve often thought of making it into an actual story. I have a rather large amount of information already written about aspects of mermaid society, actually. Where I trip up is my lack of understanding about oceanography, general scientific principles and experience underwater, which has a direct bearing on a story set somewhere besides dry land. What does it feel like to hear things underwater, and what sounds are easiest to hear underwater? What might materials mermaids could possibly use to build cities look like after years spent in the sea? How far down can mermaids dive before they start to have problems with the pressure? Can they breathe underwater, like fish, or do they have to come up for air, like dolphins? If I want the geography to look a certain way, how did that come about? If you can’t store paper books underwater or too close to water, is there a good way of distributing and storing reading material?

For many of these questions, I don’t even know where to start looking because I have only a vague recollection of my science classes. I suppose if it’s my fantasy world I can answer all these things however I like, or simply not care, but to me it’s more fun if the world is plausible and the fantastic elements are placed elsewhere. I love worldbuilding, especially stuff like this geological history of A Game of Thrones where the setting is taken quite seriously. Still, it slows me down because I’m imagining a lot of things from scratch and learning a lot of things for the first time. If I actually want to write something, I’d probably do better with a setting that is easier to nail down, but I keep returning to my mermaids. And I do like it when I have the time to learn new things that I can apply to the world – I keep reading books about science or marine animals and coming up with mermaid world applications for little details.

In any case, it looks like an elf dress won my poll, with 51% of the vote, so I will sketch some out and be back next week with a black and white dress and a new contest, plus a 1930s outfit. Until then, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for site updates, previews and mermaid jewelry. If you enjoy my work, I’d also appreciate your support through Patreon.