During the month of October 2022, E. Christopher Clark—that’s me, talking about myself in the third person like the weirdo that I am—is participating in the annual World Anvil challenge known as Spooktober.
His—my—goal is to create art from the thirty-one supplied prompts that he—I—can use for inspiration during December’s big WorldEmber event. Results will be posted, we hope, on a daily basis.
I’ve had the model for “Mean Mr. Pumpkinhead” in my Daz Studio library for quite some time, but it wasn’t until the Rivers & Waterways Challenge that I think I finally wrote down “pumpkinhead” as an idea for a new species. And so, thinking ahead to what I want to write this WorldEmber and then seeing “portrait” on the prompts list for Spooktober, I couldn’t resist whipping up a family portrait. Here they are, a typical Pumpkinhead family—ready to give you nightmares. You’re welcome.
I had a particularly hard day on Sunday, October 2. It was a day which began with me wanting to delete everything I’d ever created, run off into the woods, and hide under a rock until I died. Yes, I’m melodramatic. And yet, if you received the same sorts of news I did, I think you’d have felt similar.
The upside of the day was this image, which I created in Daz Studio and Photoshop for the prompt “vanish.” I’m imagining this as a header image for an article about a cyberpunk district in my world where people go missing, but as I created it I gave the power to disappear to the protagonist. Disappearing is no longer something that happens to them here. It’s something they choose. And that felt like the coolest power in the world to me today.
This one is intended for use on an article about either the abandoned city of the Bekiskapan (the ethnic group I created for the “On the Shoulders of Giants” challenge) or about the halflings who have watched over the city for thousands of years, just in case the Bekiskapan ever come back.
I had some challenges with the hair and eyes on the characters while rendering this one out of Daz Studio, so there’s more Photoshop here than usual. Still, that was fun. I’m enjoying having the opportunity to paint a little bit more—which is the direction I’d like to take my art eventually (a more painterly direction, that is).
Funny story: the actual, intended prompt for this one was “enchant.” And yet, when I copied the list of prompts over into my notes—rather early in the month of Spooktober, mind you—there was a rather fun typo included. The word that turned up here for prompt number four was “enchante,” and I seriously thought that was the prompt. I thought the folks at World Anvil were just being funny/challenging. It never occurred to me that it might be a typo, though the lack of an accent above the final ”e” should have been a clue.
At any rate, I set about trying to come up with a response to enchanté and eventually landed on creating art for a religion I plan to write about in December that revolves around the goddess Mira. Here you see what I’m imagining is an important part of a Riverism courtship ritual: the meeting in the water and the kissing of the hand.
Not spooky at all, I know. But I can definitely imagine them saying “Enchanté” to each other, can’t you?
In my Land of Eden, the halflings are an often oppressed people whose lands are colonized every time reality ends and the refugees of another failed universe turn up out of nowhere. And so, when thinking about what kind of image I might put together for the prompt “misfortune,” I came up with the idea of showing the fabled Emerald City from the perspective of the halflings toiling under the fascist regime of the first Wizard of Oz.
Round about the sixth of the month, things went a bit kablooey here at Clarkwoods HQ. I came down with a bit of cold, I lost access to my laptop for a few days (for a couple of different reasons), and things just got super-busy at work and at home.
That said, I kept on chugging with the art over on Ye Olde PC. I just didn’t get a chance to edit the pieces I was creating daily until today (Tuesday, October 11 as I type this).
For the prompt “chasm,” I chose to create something inspired by the Vale of Thunder area of my world—a land in Eden where dinosaurs still roam. In this piece, I borrowed the protagonists from an earlier piece I created for my Bekiskapan article and then paired them with a herd of my favorite dino: the Triceratops.
This was a tough one. I initially wanted it to be way “thornier” than it turned out to be, but then the image came together and all the thorns I was trying to add turned out to be too much.
The inspiration was a line in my Bekiskapan article about the trio or triad being both the most basic building block of the Bekiskapan military and the ideal configuration in their society for romantic partnerships. I took that idea, realized I’d done a lot of pieces centered on all-female relationships but hadn’t done much with all-male relationships, and then came up with this concept.
Every time I look at this one, it makes me laugh.
It was Saturday, October 8, I was attending the World Anvil livestream on Twitch, and we were talking about the prompt “howl.” I mentioned that I was thinking of doing something around the “howl” of “The Great Wind,” which I first mentioned in my article on Roway: The Crowned Jester (my entry for WA’s Bard Challenge). But then I got to thinking that I really wanted to do something with a werewolf too—to try and upend the cliché a bit.
That’s where this image came from. I already knew I wanted the dragon and the blimp and the planes, and maybe Roway too. But once I came up with the idea to add the werewolf on the aerial surfboard? Game over!
This is another one where I raised an eyebrow at my initial notes when the day came. The idea was to create something suited for an article on The Filters, a group of supernatural forces keeping people in and/or out of the land of Eden. And while I knew how things like The Desert at the Edge of Existence factored into the concept, I puzzled over how mirrors might play a role.
Then, on the morning of October 9, it occurred to me that mirrors which showed you alternate versions of yourself might be the perfect deterrent. And this is what I came up with.
I had to ask my wife for permission to stop on this one.
I mean, that’s not exactly how I phrased things, but it’s close. Basically, I was struggling with whether to add a lot more coral reef to the background of this somehow. The idea, after all, was to represent the Reef of Broken Dreams—one of the aforementioned “Filters,” and I kept thinking I hadn’t made this reefy enough.
Thankfully, my wife told me I didn’t need anything else and that the image was really interesting as it was.
This is the last of six images I’m posting in one day, and the most recent. The concept was to create something for an article on the Intertemporal Waters—a region of The River Without End which divides Eden from the rest of the universe. And while it’s not as ambitious as it might’ve been had I not fallen so far behind on literally everything in my life this past week, I still really love the piece.
It also hints at a bit of the action taking place in my new novel The Dance of Dreams—a book which I’m very proud but which is doing abysmally on the sales front in its first two weeks. Making this piece gave me an excuse to feel good about the story again after a fortnight of doubting myself.
As with several of my responses to this month’s prompts, I had grander ambitions for this piece than what I ended up with. Sure, who doesn’t think of politicians when they hear the word “slime”? But wouldn’t it have been cool to see said sleazeball playing with some slime, just to give the image that extra something-something? That’s what I imagined, but I just couldn’t pull it off with the time and technology I had at my disposal.
At any rate, this one is intended to be used in article about the Reekian Representative to the Council of Five—a title article I plan on writing during WorldEmber.
One of my favorite things to do here on World Anvil over the past couple of years is to “collaborate with my younger self.” In articles like “Augustus Might” and ”Nightmare: The Plot,” I’ve picked up ideas that my younger self left unfinished and then finished them. My only rule? Respect my younger self. Don’t mock him. Appreciate that he was doing his best, and do whatever I can to help him realize his vision.
That was the goal with this image, too. It illustrates a character I first wrote about in a red-covered spiral-bound notebook when I was in my early teens: the Gray Skull, a murdered janitor who haunts the building where he worked and was killed. I plan on finishing off and elaborating on the plot during WorldEmber, and I look forward to taking inspiration from this image when I do.
In two articles I wrote for Summer Camp 2022—one on the city of Kirbyville and one on a war that was decided within the city limits—I setup the idea of superheroes in the land of Eden. And where there are superheroes, there are battles. And where there are battles, there is a need for a cleanup crew.
Enter “The Unwrecking Crew,” my answer to Marvel Comics Damage Control (not to be confused with the Department of Damage Control from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has morphed into a still-interesting but altogether different entity from its comic book counterpart).
Deadlines for other projects kept me from creating visual art over the weekend of October 15–16, but I did get a chance to jot down some notes about what I intended to do once I had time to make art again.
“The headless horseman chasing an unmanned cargo vehicle”—that was the idea here, and I’m quite pleased with how it came out. Is it perfect? No, but it does capture the strangeness of my land of Eden quite perfectly: a world where fairy tale figures can collide with futuristic hovercraft in the middle of a haunted woods.
Since I plan to write one of every article type during WorldEmber, I’ll need a new conlang. And the one I’ve decided on is a language for my dwarves, the most technologically advanced species in the universe and, according to “The One About the Woods,” the favored lovers of one Sadie Winters.
Thus, for the Spooktober prompt of “whisper,” I decided to depict one dwarf whispering to his friend as they hold vigil by the glass coffin of their very own fairy tale princess.
For the prompt “shadow,” I opted to take a stab at illustrating my staff-wielding elven warrior monks the Elind. During Summer Camp this year, I wrote a bit about the ceremony that elevates an apprentice to a full-fledged Elind Knight, but there’s still more room to expand on these folks and I plan to do just that during WorldEmber.
Having fallen in love with the absurdity of the Bekiskapan culture, I decided I would create something around a modern culture inspired by the spirit of the Bekiskapan. See what I did there? The spirit? I bet you were expecting another ghost-related prompt, weren’t you?
I originally had a much more complicated and/or vague idea for the “relic” prompt, but after creating art for the preceding prompt took me longer than expected I decided it was time to maybe get a little more realistic about what I could do in just one day.
That’s how I came to create this piece of my very own Sleeping Beauty, Aesling O’Briar.
As for how well my goal of simplifying went, keep scrolling.
From my very first brainstorming session, I knew this one was going to be complicated. And it was. I spent several days putting the various characters in this orgiastic gathering together, all of whom are centered around the quite-content goddess of fire and chaos called Phina.
In the end, while I’m fairly happy with how it came out, I think the truth is that I have more of a mastery of simpler scenes and that I maybe should’ve scaled back on this one. Oh well. Too late now.
The two characters were named by our pal Kitoypoy: Captain Nunya and the Iron Stache. And yes, I spent many moments of the creation of this one thinking of whether I had done enough yet to make Kit laugh.
This was another one where I had a more complicated prompt to begin with, but over the past few days I’ve taken another stab at simplifiying complicated and/or clarifying vague ideas. Thus: my very own Rapunzel, Daisy Rampion, letting down her locks of golden hair while locked in her tower.
Did you expect me to resist the urge to pun twice in one piece? It’s like you don’t even know me at all.
This is one that got more complicated, but not by much. Originally, I was thinking I’d just frame up a nice render of Grandmother’s House, but then I realized I could depict the initial confrontation between Frieda Jacobs and the Big Bad Wolf described in The One About the Woods (a myth article which will inspire the novel I work on during NaNoWriMo 2022 next month). And as you can imagine, I couldn’t resist.
The folks on my live streams are so helpful, but maybe none are as ridiculously helpful as my pal Author Goddess. When brainstorming things I might with World Anvil’s Spell template this coming WorldEmber, AG suggested the spell “eat your words.” I’m not sure exactly how it’ll work yet, but it felt like the perfect thing to try and illustrate for this Spooktober prompt of “curse.”
In my award-winning Summer Camp 2022 article “Bloodying of the Scarecrows,” I described “a Munchkin ritual intended to discourage vampires and other siphons from tormenting villagers along the eastern borders of Oz.” And so, when brainstorming ideas for how scarecrows might come to life (as in L. Frank Baum’s original Oz books), the notion of the blood “possessing” the straw-filled creatures seemed like a natural option. Add to that the concept of a jealous vampire girlfriend and you have the recipe for this piece.
I grew up on the Star Wars franchise, so it’s quite surprising that it’s taken me this long to introduce some kind of star-fighter into my Land of Eden. I wasn’t quite sure how to do it, as I hadn’t really conceived of Eden as having any “outer space” to speak of. It’s supposed to be a flat-world purgatory, after all. But then I remembered that I’d written into canon the idea that there are five moons in Eden. And if there are five moons, then there has to be at least a little space for the moons to exist in. Therefore, the idea of a dwarven space ship was born. And when I saw the Spooktober prompt “abyss,” I couldn’t resist.
My original idea for the prompt “echo” was to depict Frieda Jacobs, the main character of my legend “The One About the Woods,” as an “echo” of her famous fairy tale princess ancestors. But when the product I’d planned to use to create a convincing amalgamation of those ancestors was delayed, I had to rethink the idea. I didn’t want to create some random face for Frieda that I’d be stuck with later, and that I’d have to reverse-engineer her ancestors from. And so, I came up with this concept instead: show the climactic scene from “The One About the Woods,” Frieda’s cornering of the Big Bad Wolf near The Desert at the Edge of Existence—and let the wolf’s howls echoing through canyon be my echoes for this prompt.
For this one, a portrait of Sadie Winters and her seven dwarven paramours, I did finally get to play with the new Genesis 9 figure in Daz Studio (the one I mentioned in the post above, for October 27). Of course, Sadie is just the first step and now I need to create characters for the other six woodland princesses before I can blend them together to create the aforementioned Frieda—but you’ve got to start somewhere, and when the prompt is “darkness” then how can you resist writing about the princess whose hair was dark as night?
Sometimes I create something where, near the beginning of the process, I’m in love with it and think there’s no way I could screw this up. Then, the more I work on it, the more I feel like I just can’t nail the vision I had when I first started. That’s this piece. I really like the concept. I really like how I was executing it at the beginning of the process, but the more I messed with it the more I felt like it was a lost cause. I can't get the lighting or the colors the way I want them, and I’m too stressed out and overwhelmed with other deadlines to see clearly what needs to be done.
You might even say I’ve been on the hunt too long.
For the prompt “tear,” I decided to create a piece for later use in an article on the “Raunchy Brawl,” a Yeti Wrestling Federation-sponsored event whose name was inspired by a chat between Janet and Caeora on the March 19, 2022 World Anvil stream.
I don’t yet know much about what the Raunchy Brawl will entail, just that I loved that turn of phrase when either Janet or Caeora uttered it aloud. I think it’ll involve a cluster of wrestling rings in the center of a time-displaced version of Rome’s Colosseum. The combatants in the outer rings will be be competing to make their way into the center ring, where the phrase “make love not war” will take on new meaning.
The goddess Mira is not exactly a benevolent deity. She did, after all, once reboot reality to get back at her ex-girlfriend. And so, it didn’t seem like that much of a stretch that followers of hers—including a gentleman by the name of Verti—might have drowned themselves in their efforts to please her.