Kurt Komoda     agony@optonline.net

Monday, July 18, 2016

Pokronomicon

   Yes, I'm playing Pokémon Go, but the only part I seem to enjoy is collecting the monsters. 










  Oh, I wish I could create and place my own monsters into Pokémon Go. Thing is, if everyone could do that, there would be a lot of penis monsters.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Ghastly Ghouly : H.P. Lovecraft's Ghouls and Ghasts




 My original plan was to handle the ghast, gug, and ghoul all in one post, since they all converge at one point in Lovecraft's Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, but as I was writing and drawing I found that I was going on and on about the gug, leaving no room for the other two. A better pairing might have been the ghast and the gug, since they appeared to be enemies of old, with the ghouls trying to avoid them both- but, here we are. One commonality between the ghast and the ghoul (aside from both of them starting with "gh") is that they're both basically slumped anthropomorphic naked things with claws and sharp teeth. Even though the story makes them quite distinct from one another, I had them both confused for a long time. The first time I tried drawing them was ten years ago, in 2006:

My first ghoul drawing from 2006. I think I gave it hooves only because I had it confused with the ghast, although the ghouls were described as having half hooved feet.
My first ghast study from 2006.
  Of course, now I find it quite easy to distinguish the two species and have some difficulty in comprehending how I had previously muddled them together. The most distinguishing feature of the ghoul is its canine-like head. In Arabic folklore, the ghūl is a type of jinni, a spawn of Iblis (the Devil). First mentioned in One Thousand and One Nights, it is associated with graveyards and the consumption of human flesh, but it is also known as a desert-dwelling shape shifter that can assume the appearance of any animal, but especially the hyena. The hyena has been linked with the ghoul partly because of its tendency to dig up graves to devour human flesh but also because of the trickster nature attached to it, no doubt helped by the hyena's ability to create sounds that sound like human laughter or crying. I believe that Lovecraft may have drawn from this particular bit of folklore. That the ghouls communicate through a series of glibbers and meeps (as opposed to the ghasts, who communicate in the coughing gutterals  of their Pnathic language) further supports this.

More traditional ghouls in a sketch for an illustration I did for The Burning Wheel RPG.

An article containing an interesting bit about the ghoul and its relation to the hyena in Arabic sources HERE.

Interesting history of the ghoul HERE.


   The ghouls are described as having rubbery skin that ranges from white to green. Initially, I was drawing them completely hairless, but in later drawings (meaning this week) I've begun to add sparse hairs in certain spots to give them a grungier look. I used a lot of photos of hairless dogs as reference. They have bloodshot eyes, great fangs, pointed ears, flat noses, and scaled claws (like a bird of prey or a reptile, I suppose). Of great help was a drawing of a ghoul by Lovecraft, himself- something that he apparently drew for Pickman's Model. You'll notice the jutting lower jaw, underbite fangs, and that short tail- none of which are mentioned at all in the texts.



      Of particular interest is the fact that the ghouls are transformed humans, but by what process, I know not. In Pickman's Model, ghouls are seen depicted in a painting training an abducted human child to eat as they do, turning the child into one of them. Another painting depicts a matured changeling- a ghoul baby left in place of a stolen human baby- sitting amongst its Puritan family, curiously displaying features similar to Pickman, himself, who later appears as a ghoul in The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath.  I'm not sure if that meant to infer that he was already a ghoul (that he was a changeling) or if it was just something he desired. Incidentally, we never hear of female ghouls- though, I can assume that they exist.

The one drawing on the ground with the stick was supposed to be Pickman, but I think I should have had him be just slightly more human, as the story suggested that he was recognizable as Pickman and that he hadn't completely turned.
     Now, the ghast is something I was sure I'd find in folklore, but apparently, this is a case where the word existed- Middle English: gast "afraid" 1350-1400- and then the monster came later. "Ghast" is an obsolete term for "to frighten,"and then, of course, ghastly, aghast, and beghast. As far as I can tell, we have Lovecraft using it for his beasties and then....Minecraft. Someone please correct me if I missed the actual origin

A Minecraft Ghast
   Of course, Lovecraft's ghasts came first and aren't giant floating cubes with tentacles that make monstrous baby sounds and shoot fireballs- which really makes me wonder why Mojang, the developers of Minecraft, decided to call that thing a Ghast in the first place. Lovecraft's ghasts are humanoid, about the size of a small horse, and possess long legs with which they hop about like kangaroos. Their coloration is never mentioned, but their bodies are described as filthy and scabrous. For some reason, I always had the impression that they were a sickly grey color, but there isn't anything to justify this. We can be reasonably sure that they weren't any garish color and didn't have any obvious patterning, like stripes or spots, i.e. if they were bright purple with yellow feet and green spots, Lovecraft would most surely have pointed this out.



   As for the ghast's head, they have a face that "is so curiously human despite the absence of a nose, a forehead, and other important particulars." When I eliminate the nose and the forehead, a lot of my attempts tend to look too reptilian, which I don't want.

Ghast head designs that I wasn't at all happy with. The topmost ones have this flat-faced design, while the rest were trying to incorporate a muzzle.
This one looks too much like some sort of snake-man and the legs are too short.
   I kept getting this reptilian snake-man look when drawing the head, but then my brother sent me this picture of a man with severe facial disfigurement from World War I:\


   No disrespect for the man in the photo, but something about it was on the level of being disturbing that I wanted for the ghast. The photo might be squashed down vertically a bit, but the compressed shape may have been part of why it reminded me of the ghast. The horrible eyes, definite absence of a nose, receding forehead, the protruding teeth, and the way that the flesh of the neck just stretches onto the small lower jaw: all seem to me to be crucial elements for the ghast.

   From the beginning, I've always drawn the ghast with big, round luminous eyes. Not sure if that's right, but I seem to be stuck on them. Originally, I drew them with very flat faces- just eyes over a gaping mouth, but then there's this bit in Dream Quest where it describes them as biting the gug sentry with their muzzles. So, I've been trying to draw them with the mouth protruding from the face a bit. The fact that they're venomous makes me give them sharp reptilian teeth. Even though I don't always depict them, I figure they must have nostrils, for they are supposed to possess an acute sense of smell. Ears: not sure, so I tend to draw them very small or not at all. I give them this slightly bulbous cranium, and strangely, that was mostly because when I was drawing them, they were looking a lot like a demonic version of E.T., from the Spielberg movie.

This particular ghast head drawing possesses mammalian teeth. Even though I tend towards rows of sharp reptilian teeth, perhaps it's more disturbing if they look more human. This one also lacks nostrils, which they probably should have.
   The good thing about ghasts- and, in fact, all the Lovecraft monsters I've drawn, is that they're a species, so they're allowed to look different from one another. There could be a variety of head shapes within the limitations of the description. The image below shows rather silly drawings, but it shows how I was playing around with the ghast's face.


   The ghast's legs are pretty straightforward, though I keep drawing them slightly differently- and I keep forgetting to make them long enough. They're basically just hairless kangaroo legs, complete with the sharp hooves- especially that long center hoof-claw. 

The ghast's hopping movement. I'm not sure how such movement would differ without the kangaroo's long tail, which I'm pretty sure it uses for stability and as a counterweight when leaning and hopping forward. Of course, they could have tails- since the ghouls have tails and Lovecraft never mentioned them.

Ghast standing flat on its feet and standing "upright" on its toes.

   As far as culture, the ghasts appear to have none. They're described as primitive beasts who hunt the gugs in packs- and the gugs, in return, hunt the ghasts in the darkness of the vaults of Zin. The ghasts communicate through coughing gutterals, but this by no means assures that they have a working language. Female ghasts? No idea. I don't suppose that ghasts just sprout out of the ground or reproduce by budding, so I suppose that they're should be some form of sexual reproduction. Well, in Lovecraft literature, unless we're talking about a witch, no females are mentioned. Asenath Waite Derby, from The Thing on the Doorstep doesn't count, because she was a female body possessed by a male throughout the story. Oops. Spoilers.

A sketch for an ink and water color drawing I was preparing for this blog, but I was surprised and disappointed to find that the ink I was using (Higgins Eternal black ink) was not waterproof.
 Okay, that's about it for this post. Oh, one more thing. Here's a little size comparison chart I drew the other day of all the monsters I've done so far in this series:



Not sure what's next. I may do a non-Lovecraftian beastie or two, since there are a bunch I already have a load of drawings for. If you're interested in purchasing any of the drawings you see in this blog, just contact me at agony@optonline.net. Not all drawings are available, and some of them aren't even actual drawings or have been reworked in Photoshop. Until next time, bye-bye!


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Gug Ugly


   The full title was actually going to be Gug Ugly: Let's Try to Not Draw a Face Vagina, but I didn't want that showing up on all the links to this page. Then again, maybe it would have done wonders for my exposure. Anyway, let's get going here.

   We return to H.P. Lovecraft's The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, but this time we move underground, to the eternal twilight of the subterranean Dreamlands. A week ago, I thought that this post would be Gugs, Ghouls, and Ghasts (oh my), as I was going to cover those three. As I started sketching, however, I realized that all three were giving me problems and were eating up sketchbook pages, so I'll hold off on the ghasts and ghouls until next week. Now, I had already done some drawings of what I thought the ghasts and ghouls looked like years ago, but I had somehow never drawn a gug. Lovecraft's description is mostly in a single paragraph:

    "It was a paw, fully two feet and a half across, and equipped with formidable talons. After it came another paw, and after that a great black-furred arm to which both of the paws were attached by short forearms. Then two pink eyes shone, and the head of the awakened gug sentry, large as a barrel, wobbled into view. The eyes jutted two inches from each side, shaded by bony protuberances overgrown with coarse hairs. But the head was chiefly terrible because of the mouth. That mouth had great yellow fangs and ran from the top to the bottom of the head, opening vertically instead of horizontally."


   Further descriptions include that they stood 20' tall and were voiceless and communicated through expression, though the muffled snortings of sleeping gugs are heard in the very next paragraph.It's interesting to note that the gugs are a fallen race, previously worshippers of the so-called Other Gods and Nyarlathotep, banished to the underworld by earth's gods for some abomination they committed. The gugs are somewhat intelligent, at least, having built a great city of round cyclopean towers that disappear into the grey subterranean sky. They also have some sense of reverence, for they have erected a great forest of monolithic monuments to mark the graves of their dead. I have to consider all this when drawing them. I can't just have them be this slathering, lumbering monster, as I have seen so many times before. Now, I'm not saying that they wore full suits of clothing or played golf, but there must be a sense of culture.

Initial sketches, trying to figure out the mouth and arm structures, and of course, just how cultured the average gug is.

   At the very worst, I figured, they have, since their banishment to the inner earth, devolved over aeons to be like our own Stone Age ancestors, for they have a kingdom and a great wall and the aforementioned city of looming towers.


   Okay, I'm not going to go as far as the drawing above as far as costume, but it makes sense that the gugs would have bags or packs for carrying things, maybe belts, definitely tools and weapons. I imagine them wearing talismans and maybe other forms of jewelry. Note that in the above drawing that I was trying out digitigrade legs, like those of a quadruped, and that the gugs still lacked any visible ears. This gug is also carrying some sort of staff made from a bioluminescent plant, but this may just be ornamental and is not intended to be used as a torch in the dark. The fact that they live in near darkness and that they their pink eyes glow just tells me that they can see just fine. Maybe that's wrong, but having luminescent eyes just hollars night vision to me.


   Still, just because they can see in the dark doesn't mean that they wouldn't mind a little extra light here and there, so I'm fine drawing them holding sources of light. I haven't drawn the gug city or any gug dwellings, but I imagine that they could be lit or decorated with torches or luminescent objects.

The Gug Head: Yes, it's going to look like vagina dentata with eyes, so let's just get that out of the way. When I first started drawing the mouth, I had this idea that it didn't make much sense that the eyes would be attached to the two jaws, as they opened and closed like a bear trap. It seems like the gug would be blind to what's in front of it as it opened its mouth unless the eyes were very close to the open maw or they stuck out to the sides sufficiently. Lovecraft, however stated that they only jutted out two inches from the barrel-like head.


   Now, when you have a creature 20' tall, and I figure the head is about 4-5' tall, 2" is a very small distance for those eyes to jut out. In other depictions of the gug- in fact, in mine, too- the eyes stick out way more than 2". In the detail above, I've drawn the eyes pretty small, but I figure that the bony ridge surrounding the eye juts out 2" from the sides of the head, but the eyes could be part of the face and be much larger.

   Still, at this point, I was concerned about the eyes moving with the jaws as they opened wide, but mostly because I was thinking that the eyes would be back, halfway between the front and the back of the head, like where human ears are. I came up with some designs that had the jaws separate from a skull that held them, like a split egg shape inside a cup.


   In the sketches above, you can see that I had three basic concepts for the jaws. The first (A) was the split egg shape being cradled by a surrounding skull. I only did this to keep the eyes stationary, but it just didn't seem right. The second (B) had the jaws hinged onto the outside of a skull. Notice how far back the eyes are in that early version. The third (C) was a clam shell or bear trap design, with the entire head opening and closing. This is certainly horrific, but I couldn't figure out how that would fit on a neck or how the throat would work.  In the lower left, you can see that I did a version where I rotated the mouth at a 45 degree angle...because I was thinking that the gug wouldn't be able to hold food in a bear trap like mouth that was completely vertical- this gets solved in a moment. What I ended up doing (D) was a variation on B, but by moving the eyes forward, the jaws could open and close and the gug could still see what it was biting into.



   I made it so that the gug's jaw hinged on the top and bottom of its skull and didn't occupy the entire head. Solving the food spillage problem was simple: add a tongue. The gug's tongue attaches behind and below the lowest and furthest back teeth of both jaws and is massive, able to fill the entire mouth. It is triangular in shape, being flat on top, and is able push and maneuver food past itself, along both palettes, to the throat. Even with the tongue managing food, the gug still needs to throw its head back to properly engulf food.

   Also here is the first drawing of the gug ear and the head looks kind of like a twisted bat's. It is noted that the gug's have excellent hearing, and living in an eternal twilight and in the vaults, that makes sense. I settled on something like the pointed ear of a dog or rodent, but I figure that they could be a variety of shapes in the species.

   I also made the decision to give the gugs lips. I had sketched some heads where the jaws had the teeth on the outside, fangs projecting left and right, looking like a bottlecap folded in half, but decided  to keep the teeth inside. This doesn't eliminate the possibility of other gugs amongst the species to have projecting fangs or tusks. In fact, I'd like to think that there would be some diversity in the appearances and builds of various gugs.

The Face Says It All: Just as the night-gaunts communicated through gesture, the gugs communicate entirely through expression. It was therefore important to give them the means to do so. I gave them very fleshy heads, full of wrinkles and folds, and of course, the lips on their great mouths could be manipulated and skewed to provide a near limitless variety of shapes. 


Gug expressions. Because the mouth is so crucial to their form of communication, the gug are a very polite species, as they cannot talk with their mouths full.

The Double Forearm: Aside from the vertical jaw, the other big thing about the gug is that it has two forearms extending from each upper arm.Throughout most of my sketches in the past week, I was drawing the gugs with an over-under style of arms. That is, as the forearms extend from the humerus, one elbow joint is above the other. Without giving it much thought, I decided that the gug humerus would divide like a Y, as opposed to having a massive joint that could accomodate two ulnas and two radii. I'm no expert on musculature, but it seems like having the Y-shaped humerus could allow more room for the muscle attachments of the two forearms. Again, I didn't give it a whole lot of thought. It just looked right. I thought I was so clever, though. BUT....


  See, there's a basic problem with both of these designs. In order for the forearms to have any left to right movement at all, the humerus must rotate in the shoulder socket. With a Y-shaped humerus, neither forearm could move independently, outside of twisting and up and down. I think there has to be two humerus bones inside that upper arm, with both attached to an accommodating scapula. Like so:


   Now, it'd get pretty crowded in that upper arm, what with two humeri and two complete sets of muscles- bicep and triceps, but...in a freakish way...I suppose it could work. I'm just not real sure that muscles could work, always sliding and rotating next to each other on their separate humeri inside one arm operated by a single deltoid, pectoralis major, teres minor and major, etc.


   A hairless gug. Why? I was just trying to show a clearer view of how the double forearm(and hidden double humerus) might look. You can see that in the over-under arrangement that the bottom forearm gets screwed. Only way to fix that would be to make that arm's humerus longer, making its elbow further out than the top one's, allowing for up and down movement.

Further Thoughts: I wonder just how the gugs exist as a society. Does the gug city contain a gug marketplace? A gug doctor? A gug tailor? Though they cannot speak, I imagine that they might have a written language- strange scrawls on the great monolithic tombstones in the gug graveyard. Perhaps just hieroglyphics, Do they even have names? They must. We still have cultures that exist today, like the Miao, in China, that historically have never had a written language, yet have built villages and have highly developed art and clothing (a written language was imposed upon them in the 1950's by the Chinese and the Thais and then later by Christian missionaries).

   Are there lady gugs? Aside from the spore reproduction of the Elder Ones, Lovecraft never mentioned the reproductive processes of any of his creations. With their hair-covered anatomy, I suppose that the gugs are mammals, but I'm not going to speculate on this right now.

   So that's my gug- for now. Next week will be the ghast and the ghoul. Being as the ghasts have this nasty relationship with the gug species, I'm sure there will be some more gug drawings in the near future. Maybe I'll have changed my design completely by then. I might veer away from Lovecraftian for a post or two after that. I want to tackle some of my favorite beasts from folklore and maybe some more creatures from other authors I love. As for Lovecraftian monsters...hmm. I might take on the Deep One, but my brother, Paul Komoda, has that one nailed. It'd be fun to draw them at their various sizes. Kind of done that already. Below is some artwork I did for a Lovecraftian wrestling card game. Yes! You read that correctly! Wrestlenomicon was created by game designer, Dennis Detwiller, and you can check out his page on it HERE. Not sure when it's coming out, but I did 120 cards for it. Here you see my cartoonish version of Cthulhu (I wouldn't dare try to take him on seriously just yet) dealing with an annoying batch of Deep Ones. It was fun stuff to work on.


   Anyway, that's this week's post. It's been a really bad couple of months for freelance, so I've had plenty of time to do these things. Considering starting a Patreon account, but I'm not sure how that works. Stay tuned for more monster explorations! Follow me on Twitter...cuz.....that's a thing...I guess. https://twitter.com/TickleMeCthulhu

Saturday, May 21, 2016

H.P. Lovecraft's Night-gaunt: The Tickling Terror

   "Suddenly, without a warning sound in the dark, Carter felt his curved scimitar drawn stealthily out of his belt by some unseen hand. Then he heard it clatter down over the rocks below. And between him and the Milky Way he thought he saw a very terrible outline of something noxiously thin and horned and tailed and bat-winged. Other things, too, had begun to blot out patches of stars west of him, as if a flock of vague entities were flapping thickly and silently out of that inaccessible cave in the face of the precipice. Then a sort of cold rubbery arm seized his neck and something else seized his feet, and he was lifted inconsiderately up and swung about in space. Another minute and the stars were gone, and Carter knew that the night-gaunts had got him."
                                                        - H.P. Lovecraft, The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, 1927


    H.P. Lovecraft wrote of the night-gaunts in his poem "Night-Gaunts" and in the story "The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath." He certainly had a vision of what they were and how they behaved because, as a child, he was tormented by them in his nightmares- which I'll talk about a bit later. They were later expanded upon in the writings of Brian Lumley, who hinted that they may have mouths with which to suckle Yibb-Tstll's black breasts.

   The alternate title to this post could have been "Why I Hate Wings On the Backs of Humanoid Anatomy." For almost a quarter century I have struggled to come up with a feasible way that wings on a humanoid (while still retaining normal arms) could work and, for now, have concluded, like so many others, that it just doesn't- not with our bone structure and musculature, anyway. To carry the weight of the human body, the wings would have to cover an extremely large area, with a wing span of something like 25-30 feet. Now, the muscles needed to move such limbs would be immense, requiring additional bone area on the scapula and sternum- and these muscles and bones couldn't interfere with the existing arms. It just becomes ridiculous. Wings just growing out of shoulder blades always bothered me, even in the most beautiful depictions of angel or demon. For the purposes of fantasy, it really is best to ignore it and just plop those wings on there. What I am going to do, then, is take my very limited knowledge of physics and physiology and try my best to come up with a solution for a humanoid with wings while at the same time freely ignoring some of the complications.

   If we can change the anatomical structure of the organism we're dealing with, we're given some anatomical leeway. You see, we're not dealing with a human, or even an earthly lifeform. In fact, we're not even dealing with something that is absolutely confined to the physics of this universe. The night-gaunt is a denizen of the H.P. Lovecraft's Dreamlands, and while it is a "real" place- just one separate from ours- it is fantastical, and while I won't be as lazy as to just say this or that happens or exists "because magic," I'm pretty sure it is exempt from at least some of the laws of physics. I mean, cats can jump to the moon- the Dreamlands moon with forests and oily seas on the dark side of it. The Dreamlands is a constantly changing world, formed by the dreams of the people of Earth. Other planets and realms have their own Dreamlands.

 So, in no way would the night-gaunts that I draw "work." Lovecraft described them as "noxiously thin," so I wanted no musculature. The night-gaunts are black and rubbery, with a skin texture akin to a whale's. I picture them like a skeleton or demonic armature covered in oily latex, but with a bit of weathering here and there. The only loose flesh they have is the membrane of their bat-like wings. Lovecraft, again with the bat-like wings. It leaves room for artistic liberty, but this time I decided to stick with almost exactly a bat wing. Problem is, a real bat's wings are comprised of its two arms and the membrane goes all the way down to the ankles and then across to the tail. Night-gaunts have to have those two arms in addition to those wings.

Night-gaunt with its wings folded. In this design, the wing membrane only extends down to about the hip, something I later changed by extending it to the ankle.
Those Damned Wings: The problem with just attaching wings so that they just stick out the back of the shoulder blades is that, because there is an existing set of shoulders in the way, they would lack the clearance for the down sweep in the flapping motion. Now, if you watch this slow motion footage of a bat in flight from the Smithsonian Channel, you can see that while the wings don't down sweep to steeply, they still can't be blocked by the previously existing shoulders, lats, and rib cage, so the attachment point (where the humerus attaches to the scapula) has to be wide enough to accommodate this range of motion. It's basically like wearing a "wing pack" on one's back.   Notice that even the legs and the tail/tail membrane are involved in the flapping motion in the video below.


   Speaking of flapping, I've watched bats flying around in my parents' backyard on many a summer night. We used to throw pebbles into the air and watch them chase them for a bit. One time, my brother and I even tried bits of bologna, and I know at least one of them caught the piece- don't know if it ate it or not. Anyway, a bat's flapping sound, though quiet, is still audible. Lovecraft made a point of saying that the night-gaunts were completely silent, even in flight. Now, owls have special serrated feathers along the back edge of their wings to allow for near-silent flight, and that just doesn't work for membranous wings. Basically, I'm just going to attribute this to being a supernatural Dreamlands...thing.


The forward shoulders (the "normal" shoulders, if you will) on these sketches are too broad. The shoulders of the wings would have to extend out a bit further to allow a full range of motion.

   Assuming that the night-gaunt bone structure was light enough to allow for winged flight, it's still unlikely that they could carry the weight of a struggling human, but in the Dreamlands - and we might as well say in all of fiction- it is possible. I am confident we can all think of an instance where a winged  man-thing has carried something about its own size aloft, so we're just going to have to let that go (even though I will not let the wings sticking out of shoulder blades thing go!). In Dream Quest, the night-gaunts were able to lift the toad-like moon beasts into the air. Now, the story never describes the size of the moon beasts, but I imagine them to be these heavy, blubbery things. It takes several night-gaunts to haul even one up into the air, and not always successfully: "Sometimes a group of the black flutterers would drop a toadlike prisoner from aloft by mistake, and the manner in which the victim would burst was highly offensive to the sight and smell." I love that.

Two night-gaunts carrying a moon beast. A rather small moon beast. Probably should have drawn it larger.
   For some reason, once the night-gaunts are no longer these fearsome shadow entities and take on the role of loyal soldier and transportation, they fly in pairs to carry our hero Randolph Carter and his ghoul allies through the sky. I'm assuming that this was for some sort of comfort, but I cannot figure out how this would work. It's really hard, if not impossible, for a pair of winged things to carry a singular object- not talking about something spread out like a tarp or a ribbon- without their wings interfering with each other. Take a look at this illustration from The Wizard of Oz, drawn by W.W. Denslow:

   Now, it looks wonderful as an illustration, but there's just no way those flying monkeys could flap their wings without hitting each other or Dorothy. Still, I bet that what we see in the drawing is exactly what Lovecraft was thinking.



   Now, in the drawings above, we can see that it still would probably be best for just one night-gaunt to carry one man or ghoul, though, I doubt that there would be a comfortable way to do this. In the first drawing, it's like the man is being held in baby-swing position, with the hands grasping the thighs from below and the back being supported by the forearms. The second drawing shows a tandem carry- with one night-gaunt behind or below the other. This...I suppose could work, though I don't know how efficient it is and it doesn't look very comfortable the way I've drawn it. In the third drawing, the night-gaunts have these tiny Final Fantasty Moogle wings, so they can fly side by side and not bump into each other. Okay, I haven't solved this at all and I'm not going to. Let's move on.

I imagine that the wing membrane wouldn't be so saggy looking as this, but I was using a hairless bat as reference and loved how the membrane looked.


The Basic Shape: Lovecraft dreamed of the night-gaunts. Rather, he was tormented by them in dreadful nightmares, as described in a letter to friend: "When I was 6 or 7 I used to be tormented constantly with a peculiar type of recurrent nightmare in which a monstrous race of entities (called by me 'night-gaunts'—I don't know where I got hold of the name) used to snatch me up by the stomach...and carry me off though infinite leagues of black air over the towers of dead and horrible cities...The "night-gaunts" were black, lean, rubbery things with bared, barbed tails, bat-wings and no faces at all. Undoubtedly I derived the image from the jumbled memory of Doré drawings (largely the illustrations to 'Paradise Lost') which fascinated me in waking hours."
   
   And then "...They had no voices & their only form of real torture was their habit of tickling my stomach...before snatching me up & swooping away with me. […] They seemed to come in flocks of 25 or 50, & would sometimes fling me one to the other." -I cannot find a copy of this letter or a complete transcript of it- only portions of it here and there. There are numerous books dedicated to the letters of Lovecraft to various friends.

   I think that the silent, black, night-gaunts in Lovecraft's dreams were like winged nightmare shadows come to life. Of the tickling sensation, I can say that I have personally felt something like this- sort of an electrifying paralyzation that occurs in dreams- probably akin to dream paralysis (where certain motor functions have shut down during sleep but your mind is semi aware). It has happened to me while being attacked by some nondescript entity (a shadow or shape). I wonder if it's the same thing that Lovecraft was talking about.

The elements of my night-gaunt design. The bat wing is from www.uksafari.com. The devil's purse, the black beetle (possibly blaps gigas), and the black wasp paralyzing a spider to be used as her future nursery (possibly Anoplius nigerrimus) are my own.
   When drawing the night-gaunt, I drew inspiration from a few things. Obviously, bats. The bat wing and the texture of the membrane was very important. Devil's purses, which I find on the beaches on the Jersey shore, have the perfect texture (when soaked) and these long, curly hooks on them, which made me think of claws adapted for tickling (I guess another design would be something that looked like a Koosh ball for a talon). I like the rubbery black texture of the beetle and I've always felt that the night-gaunts would have a wasp-like appearance with their elongated limbs, not to mention their behavior.


A Trip Down Night-gaunt Memory Lane: Now, I've been drawing night-gaunts for years (and not real well, mind you!). So, let me show you some of my early designs from way back there in the closet full of sketchbooks.


   July, 1992: My first drawings of the night-gaunt were pretty typical. I think those horns would be considered outward pointing, so that's wrong. You can see by the bottom sketch that I'm already troubled with the wings on the back concept.


   July, 1992: At this point, the head is just this ovoid shape. I'm starting to elongate the limbs, but the forms are still too thick, especially the tail. 


   First studies of bat wings and how they might apply to the night-gaunt. You can see that I basically just took the bat on the left and stuck it on the night-gaunt on the right. At this point, I even had a small set of pseudo legs extending from the hip so that the wing membrane could attach there.



   January, 1993: I thought it might be interesting to add a bit of form to the head, but these camel-like designs are just funny looking. The two-thumbed design on the right is stolen directly- and badly- from Wayne Barlowe's Overlord design from Barlowe's Guide to Extra Terrestrials- one of my favorite books from my childhood.



    1994: By this point, my night-gaunt designs began to take on more insectoid qualities. Wings have a barbed or serrated edge and the horns are still outward pointing. 


   1999: Introduction of the "x-faced" night-gaunt. Horns became larger and ridged. Was playing with the idea that the non-wing arms would be these arthropod limbs extending from either side of the chest which, when folded, would fit into the cavity under the sternum. I dunno.


   1999: Okay, I have no real explanation for the one on the left, with its huge crustacean arm and muscular legs. The thing on the left side of the right page is just a doodle, but I kind of still like the night-gaunt on the right, although I could do without the massive hips/pelvis.


   2000: A really clumsy handling of the wing limbs on the left, with both pages looking more towards pterosaur anatomy, Still sticking with the "x-face" design.


   2000: Still pursuing the pterosaur wing design. The drawing on the right was supposed to be night-gaunts communicating through gesture, but I abandoned it on the grounds that it sucked.


   2006: Doodles of the night-gaunt with the x-face becoming less pronounced. Also, studies for Baku, a Yokai from Japanese mythology. Yep, all those years later and the wing design was still no closer.

The Head: I don't have a real clear opinion of how the head should look. It seems like every time I draw one, the head is a bit different.

Various night-gaunt head designs, some with the hint of features. The one in the center that's just pencil line- not shaded with wash- was a design that occurred where there would be this mass of wrinkles that could form expressions. I thought this might be something, since they spoke entirely in gesture,but then realized that it would imply a definite feature on a featureless face, so I abandoned it. It was a silly idea. The lowermost one with the black wash is this "X-shaped" night-gaunt face that I was using for years. Also, you can see that I haven't settled on a horn shape, yet.

   The interesting thing about drawing the head and neck of the night-gaunt, and one that I was constantly forgetting, is that this is a creature with no features, which meant that it had no nasal passages, no need for any musculature on the face, no mandible, no throat, and -supposedly- they were mindless. I don't think that necessarily means that they have no brains, but it is interesting to think that they are these just dream constructs, without any need for such things.

Night-gaunt skulls.
   I began to think of what their skulls might look like. I'm guessing that they would be these solid masses of bone, but it's also interesting to think of a skull being nightmare twisted. Like if you took a human skull and smeared it flat like it was made of clay. The remnants of features and divisions in the bone might still be visible, but maybe don't transfer to the skin that encases it.

   Looking at my old drawings, the description of the night-gaunts being faceless immediately made me think of this smooth surface where a face would be. As time went by, I began to add hints of features or even features that could contradict a face. In the end, I think a blankness, like a phantom's face in stark shadow, is more appropriate. Right now- and I say this because my opinion may change in an hour- I even want to avoid the hints of a brow or cheekbones, as I have done in the previous drawings. Maybe it all goes back to the x-face. I still like that one. 



   The night-gaunt head is just one of these things that keeps changing in my mind, and I'm not sure why. With the inward curving horns: again, there's a lot of leeway, but we can take note that no special attention was paid to them, so we know that they probably weren't immense or elaborate. Right now, I'm partial to the second one in the top row in the sketch above.



The Hands: As the instruments of the night-gaunt's torturous tickling, at the last minute when starting the drawings for this post, I decided to make their fingertips- in fact the tips of all their extremities- these long wiry things, like the hooked ends of the Devil's Purses I find on the beach. I had considered- and with no justification from the source material- that they can extend and retract these hooks at will, but really only because when I look at them I think that they must be terribly bothersome when not tickling something.

Hands of a night-gaunt. Tips retracted.
   No matter what, long fingers and toes lend to the look of the night-gaunt, so I like them to be almost cartoonishly elongated.

Further Thoughts: I was going to do a whole section about the night-gaunts form of communication through gesture, but I felt that it was pretty self-explanatory and I wanted to finish this within the week. I do wonder what they would talk about, unless it's just directions of how to get to this or that, similar to how bees communicate to other bees the location of a flower (by wiggling their butts).

   Even though the night-gaunts are mindless, there must be some continued order throughout the species, as they have certain enemies and allies  and seem to know where things are in the world. I'm not going to go into night-gaunt reproduction because I have no idea and I don't think that Lovecraft  ever even thought about that.
   I find it curious that Lovecraft was tormented by the very thought of these winged beasts, but that in The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath they are almost instantly made to be tame with the use of a secret password, which I bet Lovecraft himself had wished he had possessed when he was 6 years old.