Awesomeness: Nina Kimberly the Merciless

nina-cover-art300She's got a sword, a dragon as a friend, and she's pissed. If you like all your body parts the way they are, you better stay out of her way.

Nina Kimberly is having a bad day.

Why is she having a bad day? Well, for starters, her father, the ex-fearsome barbarian conqueror Marcus the Merciless (there was an incident with a gopher hole, don't ask) has decided to settle down in the cozy kingdom of Langia. Doesn't sound too bad, you say? What if the young idiotic king of Langia, Francis IX, somehow got the notion that Nina and him are the perfect royal match when all she really wants to do is chop his head off and stuff it where the sun don't shine? Except she can't. That would start a succession war, which, despite Nina's barbarian upbringing, would just be unacceptable.

So, what's Nina to do? No, not marry the icky king. What's wrong with you? Go on a quest of course! Unfortunately, the dorky Francis has decided that she cannot live without him so has deemed it necessary to tag along. To make matters worse, Francis has a spell slapped on him to alert the kingdom if something unpleasant were to happen to him.

Now Nina has to keep his idiotic butt safe as well. She's thrilled.

This witty tale by Christiana Ellis is now available on Amazon. It is also available as a freshly remastered podcast in addition to a free PDF version. Check out the Nina Kimberly the Merciless website to get updates and find out more about this extremely entertaining story. Go on, go get it already. I assure you, you won't be disappointed.

PfK Cover Illustration: Enter the Hero

The Backstory: Please see the first PfK cover I did, Rekindling Old Friendships. The Process: This cover started out as two ugly sketches (yes, they really are that ugly that I don't want to post them). One of them depicted Keepsie and Pallas sitting at a booth in Keepsie's bar. The other was an iconic head shot of Pallas. After submitting both versions to Mur, the latter was picked. I then drew up some nice pencils of the piece. I actually filled in some of the shading this time too. This was the first time I've done the curly style of hair before. I felt that since it was a portrait, I should include more detail. Fortunately I had some nice references for the hair style.

After I firmed up the pencils, I moved on to inking. After covering the pencils with ink, I moved on to adding some shading to the hair in pencil before tackling that part. I pretty much winged that part as the references I used for the hair didn't include this type of shading. I was very pleased with the results once I finished applying the ink. I must remember to use this style again.

I wasn't quite sure what to do with the background so I left that a neutral color until the end. I first applied base colors - skin, hair, headpiece, and clothing. I then added a mask layer to the line art and changed the color of some of the lines. I then applied shading to the skin headpiece and clothing. Once I was satisfied with the results I starting working on the hair. Pallas was supposed to have slightly graying hair. I applied several layers of different shades of gray streaks. I then applied a slight blur to them so that they weren't so obvious and sharp edged.

After Pallas was all colored, I tried several options on the back ground. First was solid color. Then I applied a gradient to a solid color. Neither looked very good. I them moved on to play with some interesting brush textures I had. After layering the brush shapes a bit I adjusted the colors until they went well with the colors of Pallas. It still didn't look right, so I added some lighting effects. Finally I applied a blur to the whole background. That did it. The background fuzziness really gave a nice depth to the piece. I did ask my husband for a second opinion as I am never completely sure, especially after staring at it for several hours. The fresh eyes agreed with my original assessment. Done deal.

Enter the Hero

Additional Information: If you would like to see the über-sized version of this piece along with the PfK text and issue title added (J.C. Hutchins did a wonderful job integrating the image with the text, as always), you can download it here. J.C. actually did two versions of the text. The first one was with the "Playing for Keeps" text on top of Pallas' headpiece. The second (the one that Mur picked) is what you see below.

PfK 14 PDF

If you are interested in listening to this story, the first episode can be downloaded for free at Playing for Keeps or at Or if you would rather read the story, go download the free PDF or purchase the book.

Technical Details Medium: Mixed Media (misc. black artist pens, PhotoshopCS2) Paper: Bristol Physical Size: 8.5in X 11in Digital Size: 8.5in X 11in @ 300dpi