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Line art illustrations
The blog includes an article about how I ended up with the current graphic design and art style for Cartref. Here are a few drafts that I recently created for the game. The guild of goblins controls the creation and sale of real estate in Cartref, including properties inhabited by bigfolk (as in the case of the Artificer and Caravansary buildings).
I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I love Andrew Bosley’s work. In the past year, I’ve made a concerted effort to develop a painting style vaguely reminiscent of his. I particularly like the whimsy of his characters, the natural settings of his compositions, and specific details about his rendering (such as how he handles rim lighting and faces).
Those efforts have just begun to bear fruit. Here are samples that I painted in Q1 2023. They each took between a day and a week. I still struggle a bit with faces. Hopefully, I will keep getting faster. More to come!
Weefolk of North America
The diverse weefolk of Europe are well-known: tomten/nisse/gnomes, dwarves, brownies, leprechauns, etc. North America also has its share.
- The Cherokee consider Nûñnë’hï to be supernatural fairy-like beings. They love to dance and eat. They’ve occasionally fought on behalf of the local humans against invaders.
- Yunwi Tsunsdi seem to be a separate different race of weefolk known to the Cherokee natives. They more closely resemble small children rather than pixies, but they love music and dancing like the Nûñnë’hï.
- Memegwaans are water-loving spirits known to the Ojibwe. They’re hairy, hum like dragonflies, and like carving stuff like symbols and canoes.
- The Choctaw refer to little people as Hatak awasa, describing them as mischievous — like goblins.
- Native Hawaiians know of the Menehune, who built a civilization pre-dating the Polynesian immigrants. For example, they built temples, fishponds, roads and homes.
- Tales of the Haudenosaunee (aka Iroquois to Europeans) natives often refer to the Jogah. These are a nature-spirit that manifest in fairy- forms or dwarf-like forms, frequently playing drums.
Free Gnome Puzzle
I made a 10-minute puzzle for you. The finished puzzle will look like the Gnomadic Gardeners box illustration (below).
Categories of Weefolk
They’re not all gnomes, you know! Here’s a quick rundown of some types of Weefolk known to folklore:
- Gnomes – what I consider to be “baseline” Weefolk. Some subtypes…
- Tomten (Nisse) – home/farm community gnomes of Scandinavia
- Broonies (Brownies) – house gnomes of Scotland
- Duende – ghostly house gnome of Hispanic cultures
- Dwarfs – less free-spirited than gnomes, and more focused on creating magic things and structures
- Goblins – greedier and nastier than gnomes. Some subtypes…
- Kobolds – live on ships, in mines, or in homes (significantly adapted and generalized for D&D)
- Gremlins – mischievous technology-wrecking trickster
- Redcaps – murders in northern England / Scotland
- Coblynau – live in Welsh mines
- Pixies – diminutive visitors from a fairy plane who are more elegant and ephemeral than gnomes
- Elves – inhabitants of our plane who may have the elegance of Pixies and some of the frolic of gnomes
- Imps – what you get if you cross a pixie with a goblin (demonic and not entirely of this plane)
- Abbey Lubber – an imp who lives in a monastery (trickster and tempter)
- Leprechaun – what you get if you cross a pixie with a gnome (highly individualistic, loves gold)
- Clurichaun – a leprechaun who lives in a brewery/winery/pub (highly individualistic, loves alcohol)
Modern culture has largely sanitized the image of Weefolk. As highlighted in the taxonomy above, those cute little gnomes that you see in your local store are just the surface of a very deep and somewhat troubled vein of folklore.
Here are some images of not so nice Weefolk from history…
Here’s my own latest attempt at drawing a goblin. I’ll need a bunch of these kind of guys when I get around to publishing Emblem. This one took a few hours to do, mostly because I couldn’t decide how gaunt and scarred I wanted to make his flesh. In the end, I decided to make him off-putting but not hideous because the goblin civilization in Emblem is still a civilization. I wanted something more humanoid than in the classic portrayal of Goblin Market (below, right), which almost represents them as animals–cunning, but not a People in the same sense as the elves, gnomes, and other Peoples of Emblem.
One of the nastiest kind of Weefolk is the Redcap, who supposedly inhabits the grounds of abandoned castles and other edifices. In an 1888 review of “Brownies and Bogles”–good and bad weefolk, roughly synonymous with good and bad weefolk–Louise Imogen Guiney wrote, “Red Comb or Bloody Cap was a tyrant who lived in every Border castle, dungeon and tower. He was short and thickset long-toothed and skinny fingered, with big red eyes, grisly flowing hair and iron boots; a pikestaff in his left hand and a red cap on his ugly head.”
The “Border” that she mentions is the wild land between England and Scotland, i.e., the massive expanse of heather-clad moors north of where the English lived. Archeologists have some suspicion that small pygmies were the first inhabitants of these moors, during the stone age. Later arrivals to the area might have seen these prior inhabitants as frightening untamed brutes. This is not to say that they were simply animals. They had tools, “free time and complex social and cultural lives.” To the extent that they had amazing abilities to survive an unfriendly terrain for thousands of years, they might have seemed to possess some form of magic.
Through the past couple hundred years, culture has portrayed Redcaps as:
- “An extremely evil and murderous type of goblin… Their skullcaps were coated with blood that if dried out would kill the demons… Supernaturally fast…. Scared away via reading from the Bible” [fandom.com]
- “Also known as a powrie or dunter… a type of malevolent murderous dwarf” [competing page on fandom.com]
- “A group of elves, and it is characterized by educational and moral purposes” who somehow work for Santa Claus [wikipedia entry for Red Caps TV Series]
- “Throw stones at anyone who tried to shelter in one of his castle” — although “Dutch redcaps, known as Kaboutermannekin, are completely different from their Scottish namesake,” and they look remarkably like gnomes. [Icy Sedgwick]
- A 1895 summary of German folklore likewise contrasts various types of nasty goblins with the kind red-capped kobolds of Germany, which we’d recognize as a Continental variety of the friendly-and-hard-working-but-mischievous gnomes or Tomten [Heinrich Heine].
I conclude that redcaps are the emblematic antithesis of gnomes. Gnomes culturally embody and hyperbolize righteous weefolk whimsy, while redcaps culturally embody and hyperbolize evil weefolk malevolence. And then, there are weefolk everywhere in between!
Games with unfriendly gnomes
Speaking of nasty Weefolk, not even gnomes are always genial or frolicsome, nor are they uniformly portrayed as such in tabletop games. In a review of a dozen gnome games, I ran across examples such as these:
- In Rise of the Gnomes, the gnomes fight off a nasty sea creature.
- In Gnomes at Midnight and Gnomes at Night, they sneak around and commit crimes.
- In Oh Gnome You Don’t and The Gnomes of Zavandor, they try to get rich with gems.
- In Red November, they cooperatively save a submarine unless they stab each other in the back.
And elves, on the other hand…
At the other extreme, we have the otherworldly elven peoples. It didn’t seem so nice just to make a sketch of a nasty little goblin, so I had to do a quick elf, too…
Not a gnome…
… But could be edited to become one. (Generated by NightCafe AI.)
Perhaps a fairy scene?
Editing needed for sure — but a really good start. (NightCafe AI)
Gnomes in the News
Somebody in Britain is making surprise deliveries of gnomes. I promise it isn’t me!
A resident of Bushkill Township in Pennsylvania has created a Gnomedom of “approximately two dozen gnomes, miniature houses, animals and accessories” that you can see by driving past his home on Creamery Road. Read more
It’s a shame, but there are some who think garden gnomes demonstrate aesthetic “bad taste,” according to a new article — which also provides a fun and interesting review of gnomes’ history as decorative pieces. Read more
Some clever wag planted a pair of gnomes at the bottom of a Swiss Lake, which startled the diver who found them. Newsweek also mentions another set of gnomes that had previously existed in a UK lake. Read more
Free games: Find the Gnome
Power Sheds, in Finland, posted this brain teaser in 2021. Can you spot the gnome in less than 56 seconds? (Visit NY Post for the answer.)
Likewise, you can also go on a gnome hunt inside the Stranger Things series of game apps. I haven’t tried those games, though.
An AI generated these animations from illustrations of the Gnomadic Gardeners card game — taking gnome creepiness a couple levels higher!
Midjourney AI Art (mid-2022)
Based on past examples of art and associated words, Midjourney accepts a textual description including, optionally, the name of an artist or artistic style. It then will try to draw that scene. I can imagine using this tool someday for conceptualizing compositions. Here are a few samples of art that it has generated for me.
Ralph McQuarrie art of Valkyrie enchantress
Phalanx of gnomes hiding under trees
Louison France sovereign oak (upscaled)
Meanwhile, NightCafe does notably better with landscape art than with individual characters.
Gnome house in the woods
Gnome on a toilet
Potatoes held by fairy
Magic Log cabin floating in a glowing juniper forest
Pumpkin hut atop staircase on mountain with a tree
Stream beside horse & goats, with a fairy flying overhead
Enjoy this collection of gnome pictures gleaned from the corners of the web…
I’d like to post a collection of handmade gnomes here. If you’d like yours included, please email me.
What would the gnomes be without their enchanted animal friends? Sad. They would be sad. And a little lonely.
Here are a few of the illustrations that I created for Gnomadic Gardeners, as we hit the corresponding stretch goal. Cards with these illustrations will replace the tracker mat that had appeared in the base (non-stretch) version.
June 21 was Gnome Day
Celebrate Gnome Day in your own way! It’s never too early to start planning for 2023…
- See if your local community garden, like South Coast Botanic Garden, might host a gnome-scavenger hunt.
- Run your own scavenger hunt by hiding gnome tokens in a public park for other people to find, as one artistic mom has done.
- Perhaps give some recognition to those gnomes in your life, who do chores that nobody else wants, as Wikipedia has done.
- Moreover, you can sponsor a gnome-related event at your local Chamber of Commerce.
- Finally, you can always shop for some gnome paraphernalia, if you don’t have enough (can you ever have enough?)
In 2017, little gnome Seneca appeared in this delightful video…