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  "The Burning of the Brain" art commissionFeb 14, 2015 6:41 AM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:And that's the end of episode 24! Episode 25 starts Monday!
This week I shipped off my first ever real paid art commission to a reader! : o I had kind of avoided them because the thought of having to drawing stuff to people's specifications was scary, and also just doing the art for the comic seemed to take up all my time (as it still was for most of the time period over which I worked on this commission—seven months (!), into which I finally squeezed in the mostly non-exhausted 7.5 hours of work it took to do this commission from start to finish (which included 2 hours of reading assigned source material!)), but the reader who proposed the project to me was very patient and polite about it and the subject was kind of intriguing, so I figured this was as good a time as any to give it a shot. (My commission rate is $25/hour, and probably I will ask for some amount up front if you've never purchased anything from me before.)
For this first commission, I was told to illustrate a scene from a collection of short stories by an author of classic science fiction whose nom de plume I had never heard before: Cordwainer Smith, the collection in question being The Rediscovery of Man—the reader who commissioned me was kind enough to send me a copy. :") It is pretty trippy stuff! These stories were written in the '50s and '60s, so computers as we know them aren't really involved; instead there's a lot of hm strange mechanisms and telepathic powers and feeling terrified of space. Some of it is genuinely disturbing (like the story in which human convicts are subjected to an extraterrestrial mutagen that causes horrific pain as extra organs grow from their bodies : ooooo), and most of it is really interesting. The stories occur at different times in a chronology Smith dubbed "The Instrumentality of Mankind," his fictional account of mankind's colonization of the galaxy, spanning from about 2000 to 16000 AD. He doesn't really take time out to explain all the vast backstory of things to you; he sketches you some broad strokes, some immediate pertinent details, and lets you sort of fill in the rest yourself if you want.
The scene I decided to illustrate occurs at the climax of the story "The Burning of the Brain" (written by Smith in 1958; taking place ~9000 AD in his timeline), in which (***I guess you might want to skip the rest of this paragraph and the following quotation if you don't want to read SPOILERS about this short story***) Earth's top space navigator makes a supreme sacrifice to save his ship and its passengers after an unprecedented accident has left it lost in space:

A quiet pinlighter thrust a beam-electrode so that it reached square into the paleocortex of Captain Magno Taliano.
The planoforming room came to life. Strange heavens swirled about them like milk being churned in a bowl.
Dita realized that her partial capacity of telepathy was functioning even without the aid of a machine. With her mind she could feel the dead wall of the locksheets. She was aware of the rocking of the Wu-Feinstein as it leapt from space to space, as uncertain as a man crossing a river by leaping from one ice-covered rock to the other.
In strange way she even knew that the paleocortical part of her uncle's brain was burning out at last and forever, that the star patterns which had been frozen in the locksheets lived on in the infinitely complex pattern of his own memories, and that with the help of his own telepathic pinlighters he was burning out his brain cell by cell in order for them to find a way to the ship's destination. This was indeed his last trip.
Dolores Oh watched her husband with a hungry greed surpassing all expression.

The final version of the watercolor I made based on that, and which the reader kindly gave me permission to show you, looks something like this:
Over the months it took me to get it all done in little bursts here and there, I would email them updates to make sure we were on the same page. Here are a couple pencil updates, from near the beginning and the end of the pencil work:
So eventually it got done, whew! : ) Fortunately, over the past several weeks I've managed to make some optimizations to my processes that so far seem to have made my A* work schedule much more sane, which means that in theory if someone should be crazy enough to come to me for more commissioned work, they wouldn't have to wait nearly as long as my first exceedingly patient client had to. : o This one was quite the education in many ways! And the colors turned out nicer than I had dared to hope they might, so that was a relief. ^_^ This painting measures 11.5" x 10"; I can work up to oh say 18" x 24" in watercolor, but the client wanted me to be able to scan it in before I entrusted it to the postal system, and my scanner can only handle about 10" x uh 16 or 17".
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