Hope you enjoy this little interview with Charting Stars creators Micheline Ryckman and Erin Kleveland. (Be sure to hang on until the end for the blooper reel! :D)
“Jarrett, where are we going?”
“Shh! No questions!” Readjusting his gentle hold on Talia’s hand, Jarrett turned with a brilliant smile, excitement gleaming in his eyes as he led the young woman through the underbrush and dense clusters of trees. “We’re almost there.”
Over the past weeks, Talia had become proficient at holding Drew with one arm, this unusual skill allowing her to hold both the cat and Jarrett’s hand whenever they walked together.
Mindful of her steps, Talia’s feet paused as Jarrett moved to stand directly in front of her, the squirrel perched on his shoulder anxiously skittering from one side to the other.
“Alright Talia, close your eyes please. I promise I won’t let you trip. You trust me, right?”
“Of course I do.” The young woman gave a small chuckle as she obeyed Jarrett’s request, making certain that the cat dangling from her arm wouldn’t slip as she waited in eager anticipation. “They’re closed. Now what?”
Jarrett waved a hand in front of the girl’s eyes to make certain that she couldn’t see. “Not much farther, just keep walking”
The first change Talia noticed was the warmth of sunlight against her cheeks, the low chatter of birds replaced by the gentle rustling of grass as it tickled her legs.
“A few more steps, Talia. There we are. You can look on the count of three. Ready? One…Two…Three!”
It took Talia’s eyes a moment to adjust as she squinted in the bright afternoon light, a gasp escaping her parted lips as she struggled to believe what she saw. Wildflowers of every imaginable shade and form billowed over the open field she now stood in, the kaleidoscope of colors stretching from the forest’s edge to the base of the mountains far to the east. The gentle breeze made the plain ripple and roll like ocean waves, the low babble of a nearby brook distinguishable above the whispering grass.
“Oh Jarrett, it’s absolutely beautiful.”
Enjoying her reactions, the young man dipped his head in thanks as he pulled a hand up to distractedly pet over QB’s tail. “Pretty, isn’t it? Maren found it last night before we made camp. Thought you might enjoy it.”
“It’s wonderful. I’ve never been very good with painting landscapes, but I think even I would try it with a place like this.”
“And I bet you’d do a great job. Come on. I have a place we can sit.”
The grass made a soft crunching sound from beneath Jarrett’s blanket as Talia sat, carefully placing Drew on her lap as she watched the young man move to settle down beside her.
Acting rather unimpressed, the cat was content to stay curled up in the folds of Talia’s skirt, the girl’s gentle touch urging a low purr from Drew as she slipped back into light sleep.
Recognizing his moment to act, QB carefully moved down Jarrett’s arm to sit atop the blanket, keeping a wary eye on the slumbering cat before scurrying off toward the tranquil brook flowing just out of reach.
Talia’s hand methodically felt over the thick white fur of Drew’s slender back as she and Jarrett talked, their conversation taking them in every direction as they sat in the warm sunshine. A simplistic idea soon pushed its way into the young woman’s thoughts, her hands deftly picking through the flowers that surrounded them as she began to weave them together.
Unaware of what Talia was doing, Jarrett continued to casually talk on, having since moved to lay beside her as he watched the wisps of clouds lazily roll above them. “I don’t know why Bash still insists that we’d be better off going through the pass instead of around the-hey!”
Giggling freely as she threw the flower crown over the boy’s eyes, Talia adjusted the way it laid as he slowly sat up to face her. “There we go. Probably the best I’ve ever made.”
Even QB returned to see what was so amusing, the squirrel’s high pitched chattering receiving a quizzical glance from his companion as the small creature moved to perch himself upon the young man’s knee.
A smile hinted at the corners of Jarrett’s lips, unable to contain the urge to laugh along with Talia and QB as he carefully removed the array of flowers in order to admire the girl’s handiwork. “Well, color me impressed. How…How did you do this?”
Tilting her head as her quiet laughter subsided, Talia’s gaze remained fixed on Jarrett even as Drew shifted and stirred in her sleep. “You want me to teach you?”
“Well, sure. Here, you see how these stems are all sort of braided together? This is how you start.”
Talia was just as much a patient teacher as Jarrett was a persistent student, neither noticing the late afternoon sun as it began to make its daily descent toward the forest.
“Hey! I think I did it!” Jarrett eagerly held his completed crown aloft, his smile almost like that of a child as he quickly turned to face Talia, his excitement holding despite the few flowers which tumbled away from the others now adorning the young woman’s head.
“I think you did!” Jarrett’s eagerness and excitement was truly what made Talia’s smile brighten, placing her own flower crown back onto him as she gave a small laugh in satisfaction. “Now we match.”
“We do indeed. Look, even QB learned a thing or two.”
The squirrel’s every step was quiet and careful as he slowly approached Talia, a collection of tiny flowers knotted together clutched in his little paws. With one swift motion, QB tossed the miniature crown over Drew’s head, the chain sliding to dangle from one of her twitching ears as he scurried back to the safety of Jarrett’s shoulder.
The cat lazily opened a single eye, looking between the flower crown and the squirrel before shaking the flowers from her head as she tried to go back to sleep.
“Oh, come now, Drew. QB made a very nice crown for you. There, much better. It looks very pretty.”
The cat’s glance was unamused to say the least, but she made no move to rid herself of the flowers a second time.
It wasn’t until the last rays of golden light faded from view that the two reluctantly moved to stand, Talia repositioning Drew in her arms as she leaned up to leave a light kiss against the boy’s cheek.
Jarrett’s face grew visibly more red at the gesture, fighting to regain his composure as he quietly laughed away his momentary surprise. “What was that for?”
“It’s a thank you. I had a wonderful time, Jarrett. Thanks for taking the time to bring me here.”
The young man began to distractedly rub at the back of his neck as his smile grew a little wider. “You’re very welcome. I’m glad you enjoyed it so much. I did too.”
As they made the long trek back toward their camp, Jarrett couldn’t seem to stop smiling, able to ignore even Drew’s threatening glances as he walked hand in hand with Talia through the darkened woods. The day had gone better than he had hoped, but it was more than just a good day, it was the very best kind. It had been a day spent with Talia.
It is amazing how much time it takes to create a new world, write scenes, pull it all together into cohesive illustrations and then edit, edit more and finally print. These things are what we are currently working on here at Whimsical for our upcoming graphic novel series. For me, the between times are full of practicing, and more practicing! As an illustrator it helps me to look ahead and come up with ideas and visual concepts for the series, it especially helps me grind the character designs into my drawing memory. I thought it might be fun to share with you some of the concept drawings I’ve come up with in the past few months around this new world (more to be announced in 2017), I hope you enjoy these! (Oh and if you’d like to see more on a daily basis be sure to follow me on Instagram –> @whimsicalillustration )
Oh and coming up shortly we’ll be posting an illustrated Christmas story special – another opportunity for you to get to know of these characters a little bit more!
We are excited to announce that Whimsical is in the beginning stages of developing a new series of graphic style novels! These novels will be aimed towards pre-teen and teen ages (as well as those who are just young at heart). The novels will be constructed in a half graphic / half traditional novel style. Our hope is to provide the illustrated graphic novel excitement but still emphasize and encourage kids to read. The more they read the text that corresponds to the illustrations, the more depth they’ll receive about the story. We want kids to love reading and our hope is that this style of novel will encourage this! We promise to give you more concrete information on all the details of this project in 2017.
But to whet your appetite my co-creator, Erin Kleveland and I have been having fun drafting and creating the characters for this new series. Attached below are the preliminary character sketches – we hope you enjoy! 😀
Pssst… if you’d like to follow along with us on a more daily level be sure to come join Whimsical on Instagram —> @whimsicalillustration
Drew, master magician and changeling child, don’t let her innocent and seemingly youthful appearance deceive you. She has seen far more years than anyone would guess, her reputation as a skilled handler of magic paving the way for her to be allied with vast and powerful kingdoms. When the plagues of war broke out through all the land, Drew was called upon by many to prove her usefulness in battle, entire armies rising or falling in a single night at her hand. But when the battles had ceased to be waged and the kingdoms had begun to heal, the great magician was nowhere to be found. Some thought her dead, others believed her to be deep in hiding from the countless enemies she had made, but only a few knew the truth. For reasons unknown to most, the Witch of the Nine Realms, as she had been since called, had decided upon a simpler life to suit her, not in hiding, but simply distancing herself from the troublesome kingdoms who would seek to use her again for her power and power alone. Few would even be able to distinguish her in a crowd, Drew’s nearly permanent form being that of an ordinary white cat, clear of scrutiny and prying eyes so that she might live the remainder of her life in the way she would so choose.
Jarrett has been an orphan for as long as he can remember, fending for himself on the streets of a kingdom in the middle of the nine realms. With his charismatic wit and easy-going outlook on life, no one would be the wiser to the hardships his lowly beginnings have afforded him. He will do any and everything to remain feeling useful, putting his street-smarts to use for just about any honest job that will pay in cash. With Jarrett’s personality, he has often found himself making friends with relative ease, his loyalty towards those he puts his trust in nearly unshakable once put into place. In comparison to most of his friendships, his closest attachment is with his squirrel companion, QB, the two having spent years together traveling the realm, going wherever they please, making friends and bonds in any place they find themselves. But despite his vast freedoms, Jarrett has never felt wholly complete, making his way over the world as if in search of what he is missing without the faintest idea of what that “something” could possibly be.
Calystra, daughter of the air thrown back to the earth, one can instantly recognize how greatly she differs from Jora. Though born of the same race, Calystra has never shared the sentiments of her kinsman towards humans, seeing those who live upon the earth as lesser beings, undeserving of the protection her people have always freely offered. Her pride and avarice had long gone unchecked, those leading above her holding firmly to the hope that she would one day shake off such notions, but time alone was enough to force their hand. Upon Calystra’s demands to be granted the star promised her from birth, the council’s attempts to explain how ill-prepared she was for such rights to be granted were met by the girl’s attempts to forcibly acquire what she believed to already be hers. Her punishment was severe. Banished to the earth she despised so poignantly, her powers nearly all stripped from her, the wings Calystra had always been so proud of could no longer bring her higher than the treetops, forcing her into as much of a mortal form as could be done to a child of the air. Wallowing in bitterness and her desire for recompense, most days of Calystra’s confinement to the forests and mountains are greatly spent in idle mischief and the caring of her adopted twin foxes Toss and Lear, simply biding her time until the day her plans for revenge can be realized.
Born of a race quickly receding into legend, Jora belongs to the company of those who take to the air, keepers of the stars and caretakers to all that their light shines upon. Her years are unknown to most, even to those closest to her, Jora’s wisdom and understanding of the world and those which lie beyond the nine realms only a small testament to her disguised age. Just as most of her angelic kind, she is graced by majestic wings which carry her to the sky and across the kingdoms, allowing her to better oversee the care of the people she has long sworn to protect. She does everything with reason and careful thought, her abilities, though more powerful than many can truly understand, never put into use without thought of the price there will always be to pay. Jora’s wise counsel and extensive knowledge have long distinguished her as a leader among her race, but it is her patience and unending compassion which truly set her apart as capable to guide the worlds into harmony and peace.
Upon first glance, Talia is the sort of girl that anyone would consider rather ordinary. Her childhood was a happy one, Talia’s every spare moment spent scribbling over any paper she could get her hands on, the years that followed only furthering her love for expressing her vast imagination through art. Paint or pencil, charcoal or marker, if Talia could think it, she could create it. But of anything she loved to portray, her greatest love was for the night sky. Stars had always fascinated her, Talia’s insatiable curiosity for them earning her the nickname “little star gazer” from her mother. They were a tight-knit pair, Talia and her mother, especially considering that they were all the family each other had. Being a single parent, raising Talia had been an adventure, but never an unwelcome one. Her mother sacrificed a lot for their little family, working hard to put Talia through college. It was a sacrifice that was not about to go overlooked. Talia was determined to perfect her artistic endeavors, hoping that her efforts would someday come to fruition to offer up the life she had always dreamed of for herself and for her mother. But no one, not even Talia herself, could yet understand just how truly extraordinary this ordinary girl was or the incredible destiny that would soon unfold to change her life forever.
Sebastian, prince and heir to his father’s throne in one of the center-most of the nine realms, Bash is a credit to his kingdom. His fierce loyalty, courageous heart, and determined spirit inspire many in their anticipation of the day he will ascend the throne. Trained in the sword from youth, Bash also showed great interest in the bow, his hands clearly skilled in any weapon he so chooses. Despite his father’s discouragement of pursuing archery, the prince spends a majority of every day perfecting the craft through hunting and competition. Well educated, a proficient leader, and adept warrior, though seamlessly able to appear perfectly content, Bash’s happiness is simply the mask he wears. Years of experience has taught him to play the dutiful son and prince rather well, but those closest to him know how greatly he longs after a more normal life, the peasant life.
In a time when most animals are seen only for their ability to be useful to their human friends and masters, a lowly squirrel like QB would easily be overlooked. Playful but a bit aloof at times, friendly yet always wary, QB’s unparalleled loyalty was tried and proven true when his undiscovered potential caught the eye of Jora. It was during the age of bloodshed, a time when the Realms were inundated in the seemingly endless plagues of war. Jora saw a purpose in QB, his inconspicuous presence proving vital to the secretive messages the winged guardian passed between her allies at his hand. Once the fighting had come to an end, Jora did not wish to lose the friendship of her companion, placing him in the path of a young man named Jarrett. She had plans for this street-smart orphan, knowing perfectly how well he and QB would be able to work together. Having felt that he never truly fit in anywhere, QB found new joy for life in his travels with Jarrett, the two sharing many mishaps and trivial adventures together. The two are nearly inseparable now, for theirs is a friendship destined for greatness, the kind one would not expect of those starting from the humblest of origins.
Maren, a warrior by blood and by trade, her fierce determination makes her a dangerous enemy, but a loyal ally. Born in the southern-most lands of the nine realms, she was raised to be a leader and an example to her people like her father before her, but it was not to last. Sent away by the very villages she called home, Maren is determined to regain the respect of her people, working as the eyes, ears, and hands of Jora wherever she is most needed. Even though her skills in a fight should never be underestimated, Maren’s strength lies just as much in her vast knowledge of the realms as it does in any of her physical accomplishments. With both mind and body at work, she is not one to be trifled with.