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My new website

In case you were wondering what I’ve been up to the past few weeks…

I want to promote a new website I set up for myself using Bluehost and WordPress.org (as opposed to WordPress.com). As was the case with this blog, the site is meant to showcase my art and writing, but I wanted it to look more professional (like a sort of portfolio for me).

Brandon Pilcher’s Creative Adventures

To be honest, now that I’ve set the new website up, this old blog now seems superfluous and obsolete. I’m not going to shut it down right now, as I want people who have been following me for some time to check out the new site. But I might be less active here unless I can find an alternate use for this blog. Anyway, check out my new site!

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St. Georgius and the Dragon

Georgius and the Dragon

This would be my artistic interpretation of the myth of Saint George rescuing a princess from sacrifice to a dragon. Although St. George has become the patron saint of England, he didn’t start out as the medieval knight of popular imagination. Instead he was a Roman soldier named Georgius from the province of Cappadocia, in what is now Turkey. Furthermore, his episode with the dragon and the princess took place in “Libya”, which referred to the entire continent of Africa back in antiquity. In some versions of the myth, the princess helps by offering the girdle around her clothes as a leash to capture the beast around the neck.

Also, dragons in older traditions were portrayed as resembling giant snakes rather than the more lizard- or dinosaur-like creatures we imagine nowadays. That’s why this dragon looks rather like an oversized python.

Ancient Libyan Warriors

Ancient Libyan Warriors

These are warriors of the people known as ancient Libyans, who were not a unified nation but rather a collection of nomadic, pastoral tribes living west of Egypt during pharaonic times. Some of these groups would have clung to the Mediterranean scrubland along Libya’s northern coast whereas others may have eked their existence out in the Sahara Desert and beside its oases.

You may have noticed that I’ve given these two Libyan warriors different skin colors, even though they are supposed to be tribal compatriots. That’s because Egyptian depictions of their Libyan neighbors give them different skin colors too. Sometimes Libyans in Egyptian art are colored light yellow-brown like the peoples of western Asia (aka the “Middle East”), whereas other times they are painted much darker brown, more like the native Egyptians themselves.

I interpret this as showing physical variability among the disparate peoples of Libya during this period, with some of them having received more gene flow from Europe or West Asia (which would have lightened their skin on average) whereas others kept the darker skin of their indigenous African ancestors. I suspect the former would have been more common along the Mediterranean coast, since it would have been more accessible to migrants from outside of Africa, whereas the latter were more common deeper within the desert. At least that is what makes the most sense to me.

Amanirenas Against a Roman Legionary

Amanirenas Against a Legionary

Amanirenas, the famous warrior queen of classical-era Kush, faces off against a Roman legionary in her war against the (newly rechristened) Empire between 27 and 22 BC. It would have been quite a bloody and devastating affair for both sides of the conflict. The Kushites started with a successful attack upon Syene and Philae in the south of Roman-controlled Egypt, but the Romans retaliated with enough force that they managed to sack Napata, the second of  Kush’s three historic capitals (its first and third being Kerma and Meroe, respectively).

After this particular war ended, the Roman and Kushite civilizations would not clash that often anymore. The peace treaty between the two powers in 21 or 20 BC conceded most of the Roman territorial gains during the earlier war back to Kush, and the Kushites received an exemption from taxation to Rome. From that point on, the Roman Empire and the kingdom of Kush would enjoy a relatively peaceful coexistence next to one another until the latter declined as a power after 300 AD.

Empire Earth’s Prehistoric Clubman

Empire Earth Clubman

This is a little nostalgic fan art I did for the game Empire Earth, an old real-time strategy title which came out back in 2001. Designed by Rick Goodman, one of the guys behind the original Age of EmpiresEmpire Earth extended the concept of “advancing through the ages” to cover the entirety of human history, starting in prehistoric times (around 500,000 years ago, to be more exact) and ending sometime in the distant future. It also boasted an in-game “civilization editor” which allowed you to create your own civilizations, in addition to the map and campaign editor which were standard features for RTS games of that era. Although Empire Earth enjoyed enough success to spawn two sequels, it seems to have faded into historical obscurity relative to longer-standing series like Age of Empires or Warcraft.

Nonetheless, I had a lot of fun playing as a prehistoric tribe in the original Empire Earth, especially since the prehistoric stages had more gameplay depth to them than their equivalent in the first Age of Empires game. I also appreciated the cultural diversity added in the second despite it being over-laden with new bells and whistles (the third game, alas, was too broken and buggy to have much redeeming value). I’d love to see a remaster for Empire Earth with the epic chronological scope of the first game and the diversity of the second.

This clubman here would be based on the first game’s clubman available in the prehistoric age. However, he is Africanized in phenotype relative to his pasty-white game counterpart since the hominin lineage leading to modern humans (Homo sapiens) would still have been living in Africa 500,000 years ago.

Early Ironworking in West Africa

Early Ironworking in West Africa

An Egyptian traveler visiting a village in West Africa circa 3000 BC wants to know what’s up with that grayish metal called “iron” they’ve been smelting and forging into tools.

This little doodle was inspired by an advance summary for an upcoming report in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia, which mentions archaeological evidence that people in West and Central Africa were smelting iron as well as copper as far back as 3000 BC. That would over two millennia before ironworking technology became a widespread trend anywhere in Eurasia, or even other regions of Africa like the Nile Valley of Egypt and Sudan.

To be fair, the ancient Egyptians would sometimes make beads and even daggers out of iron mined from meteorites (they called it the “metal of heaven” for that reason), but it wasn’t until the 6th century BC when they started smelting the stuff for themselves. Another hotspot of ironworking in the Nile basin was in the Kushite city of Meroe, which had become the kingdom’s capital after 590 BC. I am honestly not yet sure why neither of these civilizations had picked up the technology earlier if it had been a thing further west in Africa for far longer.

Kamuysaurus japonicus

Kamuysaurus japonicus72 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous, a pair of Kamuysaurus japonicus enjoy the warm and sunny weather alongside the beach of what will someday be known as Japan. Kamuysaurus was a Japanese member of the hadrosaurid dinosaur family, the so-called “duckbills”, and its fossil remains were found in what were once marine sediments (that is, originally laid under the sea). The paper describing it suggested that it and its relatives would have preferred coastal environments in general, hence why I have chosen to depict this dinosaur alongside a beach.

Kintampo Complex Family

Kintampo Complex Family

This little family represents a Neolithic culture of West Africa called the Kintampo Complex, which occupied most of the territory of what is now Ghana between 2500 and 1400 BC. Living in villages of wattle-and-daub houses (sometimes built on stone foundations), these ancient Ghanaians would have subsisted on crops such as pearl millet, yams, and oil palm, as well as keeping livestock such as cattle and goats. However, they had yet to adopt the metalworking technology that their contemporaries elsewhere in West Africa had begun to develop, so they would have still used stone for making tools and jewelry.

A lot of artistic guesswork went into this illustration since I had more written descriptions than photos of the Kintampo people’s material culture to go on. I did read that they would have possessed cigar-shaped rasps for beating barkcloth, so that is why they’re wearing barkcloth clothes here. As for the young son wielding miniature weapons to the left, he’s supposed to be playing soldier like little boys around the world cultures like to do.

A Different Kind of Dinosaur Huntress – Sketch

A Different Kind of Dinosaur Huntress

With this sketch, I set out to design a dinosaur-hunting heroine who was cast from a somewhat different mold than the usual tribal chick in a hide bikini. Don’t get me wrong, I like that old archetype too, but this time I wanted someone whose design evoked more of a specific African cultural heritage. In this case, most of the influence came from brass plaques from the West African kingdom of Benin (bizarrely enough, this was located in what’s now western Nigeria rather than the modern nation called Benin, which on the other hand is coextensive with a separate kingdom in the region called Dahomey). Old Benin’s capital, known for earthen ramparts containing more material than Khufu’s Great Pyramid in Egypt, was also the inspiration for the big walled settlement behind.

I am pretty sure I drew her pet Velociraptor’s legs way too short, but that can be fixed in the (probably inevitable) digital makeover.

“The Sultan of Finback Isle” is Now Available!

The Sultan of Finback Isle_Book Cover

Time to announce that my new novelette, The Sultan of Finback Isle, is now available for purchase and download on the Amazon Kindle Store!

Having broken off from the other continents two hundred and sixty million years ago, the landmass known as Finback Isle has protected a unique ecosystem in the equatorial Pacific older than the dinosaurs themselves. Only a near-extinct nation of Polynesian settlers, together with the crew of Ferdinand Magellan in 1520, have ever set foot on the island within the annals of human history.

And then Ibrahim Fawal, a native of Casablanca turned controversial new Chief of Police in Los Angeles, decided to establish his private winter getaway there.

Enter Abdullah and Monique Kalua, a daring husband-and-wife team of FBI agents sent to investigate the LAPD’s accelerated record of corruption and brutality under Fawal;s leadership, including the shooting of Monique’s own close relations. Their mission is to penetrate Fawal’s secret lair and bring him to justice.

Not only must they brave treacherous jungle littered with Polynesian ruins and teeming with beasts from the late Paleozoic Era, but they must also contend with the armed officers of one of the most vicious men ever to head the police of Los Angeles…the Sultan of Finback Isle!

Gathering the Sticky Black Mud

Gathering the Black Sticky MudIt’s a cold winter night between eleven and fifteen thousand years ago on the plains of North America. One of the ancestors of the Native Americans is so absorbed in gathering sticky liquid asphalt for use as glue that he doesn’t notice the hungry Smilodon fatalis stalking him to his right.

At least our human protagonist might be able to escape this one if he’s able to kick or shove the saber-toothed cat into the asphalt pit (or “tar pit” as they’re commonly misnamed).

This is a scene that underwent a lot of revision from its initial conception. It started off being set in the Los Angeles area of California, with the asphalt pit representing its infamous La Brea pits, but then I decided I wanted a more iconic “ice age” environment with lots of snow along with woolly mammoths together with the bison and sabertooth. This is why I moved the scene to somewhere in the northern Great Plains, possibly near the rich petroleum reserves of central Canada. The third, digital draft of the work required me to change the Native man’s costume and his encampment to look somewhat less like a stereotypical 19th century Plains Native sleeping in a tipi (as I was informed that tipis were only introduced in the Americas after Columbus).

Overall, I think the work has improved a lot over its transition from pencil draft (see here) to digital reworking.