Tag Archives: Tukti

A song for the Tukti

I haven’t been on Soundcloud for a while, but their algorithms know me too well! This is the first song Soundcloud recommended for me when I logged in. Sweet yet eerie. Perfect for the Tukti. Wow…just wow. 😀

cheers,
Meeks


The Acolyte

I was going to do a cooking post today, but everything fell into place with the graphic I’ve been working on so I couldn’t resist showing you:

The blue background is only temporary as it helps to make the image ‘pop’ much better than a plain white one.

Apart from showing off, I’d also like your feedback on what you think is the ‘feel’ of the image. I’m hoping for something to come through the body language, but as I already know the story, I lack the ability to view it objectively.

So, the red beastie is a Tukti. This is the concept image I finished a while ago:

Happy Tukti

The figure holding the Tukti is the Acolyte. I introduced the Acolyte in the first book:

‘The Female was fast asleep when the steady drip, drip of the timepiece was joined by the scrape of wood across sand.

It was a small sound, as was the gap that appeared between the edge of the door and its frame. The gap was just wide enough to admit two twiggy fingers tipped with blunted claws. The fingers strained at the wood to no avail.

A dull thump sounded from the other side of the door as something heavy hit the sand. Two more fingers appeared and four blunted claws dug into the wood as the fingers jerked at the door. Each jerk widened the gap a little further until persistence finally triumphed, and the opening became wide enough for a small black face to appear.

Everything about that face was small, except for the eyes, which glowed huge and golden in the soft, blue light of the chamber’s single glow-worm.

After darting a timid glance from left to right, the face disappeared only to be replaced a moment later by a small black rump. Over-sized, jet black wings swept the sand as the hunched shape of the small iVokh backed into the chamber, dragging a sloshing leather bota. The water sack was almost as tall as the iVokh itself.

Diminutive by any standard, the healers’ acolyte looked more like an iVokhti than a fully-grown iVokh. In fact, the only parts of its anatomy close to normal size were its wings, and they seemed far too large for its small frame.’

Excerpt from Vokhtah, book 1 of the Suns of Vokhtah

The Acolyte, and the Tukti, have important roles to play in the ongoing story so I’d love your feedback on both of them. Do you get some kind of a feel from the image? Does it tell a ‘story’ or is it just a static image? If you saw this image as part of the cover of a book, would it pique your interest at all?

I know that not many of you are scifi tragics like me, but I’d still love to know what you think.

Many thanks,
Meeks


Getting close…

Still some things to tweak, but the graphic is starting to feel more alive. Night all. 🙂


A work in progress

Getting that hand to look as if it’s actually gripping the Tukti has been hard, and I’m not really happy with it yet. But…it’s getting there.

cheers,
Meeks


The Making of a Tukti, (or digital collage with bitmaps and Corel)

In my previous post I showed you the finished Tukti graphic (shown on the left). In this post, I want to show you a few of the techniques I used to create the graphic.

I call this style of making graphics ‘digital collage’, but real digital collage involves taking whole photos, making them very small and then building an over-arching image out of them. Think tiled mosaic. If you zoom in far enough, you can still see each image in its entirety.

My version of digital collage is rather different. I cut snippets of shape and colour and texture out of photos and then build up a multi-layered image out of all those snippets.

To give you some idea of what I mean, these are some of the 40 snippets I used to create the Tukti:

And those bits don’t include the many transparencies I used to blend the colours and textures into an apparently seamless whole. But before I confuse you too much, let me show you what I mean by some of this terminology.

First up, you need to get an idea of the difference between bitmap images [derived from photographs] and vector images [derived from geometry]. The image below is part of the original concept drawing and shows the Tukti eye blown up so you can see the pixels:

Pixels are tiny squares of colour which is how digital devices represent an analogue image – i.e. a photo, drawing or painting. There are literally millions of pixels in an average photo, and the gradations of colour help to create both smooth colour transitions as well as ‘outlines’.

By contrast, vector graphics are all about outlines. You have lines, closed shapes and solid colours like the image below:

The beauty of vector graphics is that images have transparent backgrounds. That means they can be layered, one on top of the other. Bitmaps can’t.

In the example shown below, the two images on the left look as if they have a transparent background, but that’s only because the page is the same colour as the background. When you place the bitmap on top of a darker coloured background, like the image on the right, it becomes obvious that the red circle sits inside a white background.

Luckily, Corel has a couple of ways of creating a hybrid vector image out of a bitmap. The first method uses nodes to draw the outer perimeter of the bitmap into the area of interest, node by node:

If anyone’s interested, I gave a fairly detailed explanation of this technique in a post entitled How to vector a bitmap. This is the technique I’ve used for most my graphics, but for regular shapes there is another way of ‘hiding’ the background of a bitmap:

Using the example of the eye again, you draw a vector circle on top of the eye image [white circle on top of left image above]. Next, you select the circle, hold down the Shift key, and select the eye image so you end up with two objects selected.

The sequence in which you select the objects is important because it tells Corel which object is the ‘do-er’ and which is the ‘do-ee’. In this case, the circle is the ‘do-er’ and the eye image is the ‘do-ee’.

Next we click the Object function and select Intersect from the Shaping menu:

The Intersect function uses the circle to create a duplicate of the image, but only of the bits inside the circle. The new object is still a bitmap, but all the bits outside the circle are hidden.

Hidden but not deleted.

This is important because each ‘snippet’ you create still has the entire bitmap image in it. That means Corel is working with the whole image even though it looks as if it’s only working with a small part of it. That can, and does, chew up computer resources.

Despite the issue of resources, I love this technique for the images it allows me to create. I hope you enjoyed this small insight into my techniques and how vector graphics work. 🙂

cheers,
Meeks


Ta Dah… a Tukti

I don’t have time for the post I’d planned so for now I’ll just show you the Tukti, complete with legs. 🙂

I’ll show more in the next post.

cheers,
Meeks


Progress report

I’ve been doing a lot of graphics lately. It seems to be the only creative activity I can focus on with all the craziness in the world, so here are the latest concept images of the iVokh:

These two images will never grace the cover of a book, but they have clarified a number of simple mechanical issues for me. One of them is that when the primary arms are held up above the head, the legs have to be a little bit apart otherwise there is not enough ‘give’ in the wings.

I would very much like to create an image of the iVokh flying, but I know that will be a major project so instead I’m working on creating a digital ‘collage’ of the Tukti. They’re cute little critters and have an important role to play in the on-going story of Vokhtah.

This is the original concept drawing:

And this is how far I’ve got in translating that concept into a more photo-realistic, 3D image:

Creating something that looks ‘furry’ with vector graphics has been a lot harder than I originally thought. Read…I didn’t think. Anyway, I’m pleased with how the head and body finally turned out, and once I have the legs done, I’ll do a post showing a little bit of the process. As per usual, I create my digital collages with Corel Draw X8.

Hope you’re all having a great weekend,

cheers,
Meeks


Vokhtan Bestiary – food animals

Technically the Tukti should be part of any list of food animals however as they are not common food animals – because they are only eaten by the Vokh and because there is a possibility that they may be sentient – I am not including them in this list.

Akhat

Akhat are small, flightless, bird-like creatures that resemble terran emus  with large eyes and long flexible necks. However instead of feathers akaht are covered in soft fur ranging in colour from mid purple to a soft, luminous lavender which allows them to blend in to the grassy plains where they live.

They have two very strong legs with powerful clawed toes that allow them to run very fast and change direction easily. As Akhat are herd animals they rely on safety in numbers and their running ability to get them away from predators.

Akaht are omnivores and their varied diet makes their blood taste salty and a little gamey. They are the favoured food of high ranking iVokh such as healers and seneschals.

The Vokh will feed on akaht as well but only if they are very hungry and tukti are not available, or if their eyries happen to be a long way from the great plains where the akaht herds live.

Most ordinary iVokh will feed off one or more of the following animals, depending on season and availability :

Rock lizards.   Rock lizards are six-legged, reptilian scavengers covered in scales which can change colour to match their surroundings. Similar to terran chameleons, they can go from being a drab grey when scurrying around the rocks to a brilliant purple when slinking through the rich vegetation of the ravines.

Rock lizards abound in the ravines and are always plentiful as they breed at a very fast rate. Their blood is nourishing but has a strong smell and a  slightly bitter taste.

Ahp. Ahp are fresh water snails which thrive in the small streams of the ravines and canyons. Although they have a shell they cannot retract their bodies completely like the Titi so the iVokh love eating them as snacks, sinking their sharp fangs into the body cavity and then popping the whole ahp into their mouths to suck out the rich, slightly nutty body fluids. When they are done they spit out the flesh.

Like most of the animals of vokhtah Ahp can change the colour of their shells but, as they spend most of their time in water the colour range is usually muddy brown to grey.

Titi. Titi are small barnacle-like crustaceans that spend the daylight hours clinging to rocks just below the waterline of Vokhtan lakes and streams. During the dark however they crawl across damp rocks, feeding on moss, lichen and any dead things they can find.

These scavengers are usually slow moving, creeping across the rocks by pulling themselves along with two tentacle like feet covered in suckers. When threatened they snatch their feet back inside their shells and seal themselves in.

The following short excerpt gives an insight into how the iVokh catch and eat titi when they are out in the wild.

‘By the time the Acolyte reached the shoreline the Second was already belly down on a large, flat rock that jutted out into the lake. The upper half of its body hung down into the water as it scraped at something below the surface. When it sat up a moment later it was brandishing a small slime-encrusted crustacean. Slime covered the Second’s arms as well but it looked quite pleased with itself.

“Watching for predators,” it said as it threw the titi at the young iVokh’s feet. “And keeping titi from crawling away!”

Nodding with a distinct lack of enthusiasm the Acolyte bent towards the slimy creature that was already extending two tentacled feet from within its shell and picked it up between finger and thumb. At the Acolyte’s touch the titi pulled its feet back inside and snapped its shell shut with a sharp snick.

Despite disliking titi intensely the young iVokh found that hunger could make even the most unappealing of food seem appetizing. Wasting no more time lamenting the delicacies it could not have, it stepped carefully over the slippery rocks until it found a nearby boulder that was already starting to steam in the warmth. Quickly building a corral of small stones on top of the boulder it dropped the titi inside and headed back towards the Second who already had another titi ready to be steamed.

Both suns were in the sky when the Second and the Acolyte finally sat down and began pulling the half cooked titi flesh from the shells. The meat was chewy and tough, with an unpleasant after-taste of slime but both iVokh  were so hungry they would not have noticed if it had been seasoned with mud.’

Ipti. Ipti are small, fast, rodent-like animals with six legs. It is possible they are distantly related to the tukti because they too are herbivores and have the same general body structure. Like the tukti they have four running legs and two ‘arms’ but unlike the tukti their eyes are small and they have longer snouts with large nostrils. They also lack the tukti whiskers as they do not burrow but instead nest in crevices and caves.

Because Ipti live in caves where the temperature remains fairly constant they lack the downy undercoat of the Tukti and so their bodies look smaller and sleeker – less rounded and fluffy. Another difference is that their fur is a dark grey with only the muzzle and under belly showing any colour – usually a washed out lavender or white.

Ipti teeth are generally larger than those of tukti and this may be because their diet includes the moss, lichen and fungi which must be scraped from the rocks in caves. This cave food makes them taste quite bland.


Vokhtan Bestiary – the Tukti

I had a rather rude awakening this morning.

“Mum? Mum!”

“Wha?”

“Mum, there’s a huge huntsman right next to the front door!”

“Mmmm…”

“It’s HUGE! And we can’t get out!”

“Mmmm…go out the back door…”

“Oh…”

And so the day began. I got out of my nice warm bed, pulled on some daggy clothes and Ugg boots and went out to face my nemesis. To make matters even worse I could not even wait for the fortification of a cup of coffee. I knew I could not wait for the kettle to boil because that big, hairy, many legged spider could easily sneak off and hide somewhere else while I was trying to wake up. Sad to say the one thing that scares me more than a spider I can see is the certainty that there is one lurking about somewhere that I can’t see.

I won’t go into the gory details of just exactly how I killed that huntsman, let’s just say that it involved a lot of smelly Mortein and a broom. So now, while my house airs and I wait for the kettle to boil, I’m going to tell you about a different kind of many-legged creature – a Tukti. [Pronounced  ‘took’ + ‘ti’].

Of all the creatures of Vokhtah, the Tukti really are my favourites. They may look like bright red, furry, almost-spiders [see above] but they are actually one of the few truly inoffensive creatures in the Vokhtan Bestiary. Tukti do not kill anything, even bugs, because they are vegetarians and feed almost exclusively on the roots, stalk and seeds of the lush grasses that grown on the great Plains of Vokhtah.

Despite being herbivores however the Tukti are not stupid. Nor are they easy to catch, as the Vokh have long known. They are, however, quite delicious which is why they have become the preferred food of the Vokh.

One of the most distinctive things about the Tukti is that they are builders. Every colony begins as a roughly circular mound. As the colony grows the Tukti begin to build tunnels radiating out from the central mound. These tunnels connect to smaller, sister mounds and in time a truly large colony can look like a village of rounded mud huts from the air. The resemblance ends there though because there is nothing inside the mounds but dirt; all of the activity in a Tukti colony happens deep below ground.

Schematic of a tukti mound

The large white pipe shown in the schematic to the left is both an entrance and a conduit for water during the rains. It leads directly to an underground water storage basin. From there the water slowly drains away to the aquifer shown in bright blue.

To reach their storage and living areas the Tukti have to go up from the main access tunnel. All of the narrow tunnels shown in pink stay dry even in the worst of the rains.

If some water does manage to seep into these pedestrian tunnels however then it immediately drains down into the second, smaller water basin.

As an added precaution all of the short pink access tunnels leading from the main pink tunnel to each of the living or storage areas are built at an angle so again, to reach those areas the Tukti must go up. Thus the whole mound would have to fill with water before the living and storage areas could become innundated.

Fresh air is brought into the mound via air shafts that break the surface from their own, raised mounds.

The areas shown in pink are communal living areas. Those shown in beige are for the storage of grain which the Tukti harvest as a group.

In many ways the Tukti colonies could be mistaken for terran insect colonies however the Tukti are not insects. They are warm blooded, pseudo-mammalian creatures that give birth to live young – usually triplets – and care for those young until they reach adulthood. These young are called ‘Kits’.

The Tukti also possess another rare feature – they are born as either male or female and remain male or female their entire lives.

Breeding pairs of Tukti do not generally mate for life however they do stay together while their kits grow, roughly five Vokhtan cycles.

A question that has often vexed the iVokh healers of the Guild is how the Tukti manage to co-operate on these massive building projects when they are mute?

This question remained unanswered for a long time until a Vokh, the Six of Needlepoint,  discovered that the Tukti could communicate mind to mind. How it made this discovery is still a subject of debate at the highest levels of the Guild.

And there you have it. Tukti are cute, smart and very strange by Vokhtan standards. I hope you like them as much as I do.

 

 

 


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