I first became familiar with Dara Gold and her art a few years ago when I came across her booth at Niagara Falls Comic Con. A friend of mine was particularly interested in a Magikarp drawing she had done, while her Wind Waker print was what caught my eye. Knowing she was a huge Legend of Zelda fan, like myself, I would later have her draw me a commission of Kaepora Gaebora, from Ocarina of Time.
But that would only be my second favorite commission by her. I was lucky enough to have her do a wonderful piece of two characters from The Legend of Light; the Bachus, Hinton and Pauma. Bachus are a race of mammalian creatures found in the land of Tordale who primarily live in a vast network of tunnels and caverns beneath Sleekleaf Forest. They’re a hard-working race who love to mine for precious gems, forge metalworks in their forges, and then spend the nights partying and feasting. Dara always injects a dose of levity into her work, so she was perfect to draw the happy-go-lucky Hinton and Pauma (commission seen above).
Dara’s unique form of art is what she calls “tea staining”, where, after drawing with inks, she applies color with the use of tea–as in, the kind you would normally drink. I’ve never come across any other technique like it, and it turned out perfect for her commission of two of my favorite characters from The Legend of Light story.
She was also willing to do a brief interview with me, where she divulged plenty of info behind her artistic process. When you’re finished reading through this, I hope you’re able to pay both Dara’s website a visit to check out more of her work, as well as The Legend of Light’s Facebook page and give it a ‘Like’!
What was the most difficult part of drawing the Bachus? What part felt most natural?
Dara: I think the most difficult part was figuring out the proportions of their snouts, arms and legs. How do you anthropomorphize a badger type creature in a believable way? How long should their faces be? I did quite a few sketches to experiment with the facial expressions and body types. After I doodled a bit in my sketchbook it all felt pretty natural.
What was the most satisfying part of drawing the Bachus, or what part did you feel turned out the best?
Dara: I’m always really pleased by the natural highlights that the tea creates, the little flecks of white paper that don’t get stained. Those details are randomly created with how the tea dries on the paper, and I love accentuating them with ink. I also really enjoy adding different patterns into the illustration.
Aside from the input I provided you, what, if any other, references or inspirations did you pull from while creating the Bachus, and the layout of the image?
Dara: You provided really good reference text and visual cues, so I didn’t really have to seek out much else. You gave me a really clear idea to work with and fully fledged characters. The layout for the image appeared in my head pretty much right away. There are absolutely some Zelda references in there. Disney’s Robin Hood was probably a subconscious influence too. Robin Hood and Little John running through the forest definitely came to mind.
You, of course, use tea to bring color to much of your work; can you briefly describe the process of the teas you used with the Bachus? What kind of decisions you had to make regarding colors, how accurately the colors ended up turning out, etc.
Dara: I spend a lot of time experimenting with different types of tea, so I know what kind of colors I have access to. That being said the color can vary depending on water temperature, steeping time, acidity of the paper and how quickly the tea dries. So I expect a range of a color for every tea. There is a limit to how much control I have over the final color. For the Bachus illustration I used orange pekoe, puerh, green, ginger and cranberry tea.
Was there any unique techniques you needed to employ while drawing the Bachus and tea staining them that you hadn’t used frequently with previous works? Anything that was unexpected?
Dara: Things are always a little unexpected with tea! I have my intended idea and colors, and then do my best to coerce the tea into that image. I do get to enact a fair amount of control with the ink (which gets added after the tea dries). That lets me decide what tea shapes to follow, and what needs to be more exact to properly covey the image. This image was one of the first where I used a little white paint (for their stripes). It’s something I’ve started to do more frequently to add highlights or details when the tea gets too dense.