Today in the 31 Days of Magic project, I’m supposed to create a sigil. This project was launched by someone in the Strategic Sorcery community around Jason Miller; if you’ve enjoyed it, and want more depth — you might consider signing up for his class before the end of January.
That said. I think that the purpose of today’s activity was to make a sigil. Now: a sigil is usually an interesting squiggle, a non-random arrangement of lines and angles and emblems that forms a piece of information. Gordon has written about sigils extensively, and I’ve done some work with them myself. So has my mother, though she’d deny it, perhaps. They’re powerful bits of work, if you have the patience for them, and can shift your thinking enough for them to work. I recommend the robofish and shoaling as part of the complete package.
Enough with the link spam. If you wanted to read about sigils, there’s plenty out there. I have a magical project underway; I launched a servitor to do my bidding earlier this month. But if it’s going to be successful, it needs some more characters besides the one magician who’s been introduced already.
Back to squiggles. The notion is that each line or element in a sigil has some deep meaning, some verbal or imaginal component that can be reflected outward at the world. Some people use the Spare method, developed by Austin Osman Spare, which converts sentences into glyphs. Some use runes. The group of which I’m a member, the DOGD, uses the Coelbren alphabet and the figures of geomancy.
Squiggles. The term suggests an un-disciplined approach to making marks on a page. But there’s nothing undisciplined about drawing. In fact, the only people who consistently say that drawing is easy are the ones who say it should be free. I know that after six years, I have not developed my skills enough that I can draw realistically.
But comic stories, visual storytelling, graphic novels, don’t require realistic drawings. They require drawings that tell stories, that communicate meaning by line placement. And it’s no wonder, really, that Mr. Charles Shultz, of Peanuts fame, could draw any of his characters, from memory, at almost any scale. So could Bill Watterson, of Calvin and Hobbes. It’s a critical skill, those repetitive squiggle drawings that mean something and that carry an entire personality or identity within them. The magician, or perhaps I should say the comic book writer, Grant Morrison, knows this well. His characters are distinctive, realistic, powerful, personal, magical, recognizable.
So I spent some time working on characters for Dabbling this evening. I’ve completed a number of strips for the comic, but I’m not happy with all of them. Some of them fall flat, and some require too much detail for the story I’m trying to create, and the practice work I’m trying to do. But many great stories aren’t driven by the lone narrator alone in his (graphic novel) cell. Rather, they’re driven by the interaction of characters.
Here’s the magician himself, Roger, looking a bit more dapper, and a little older, and perhaps a little meaner, than I intended. He’s got a man-bun, just like me. Maybe a little sensitive about that growing bald spot, hmm? Sometimes wears a tie, sometimes doesn’t. Touchy clothes, off-kilter glasses. DOesn’t seem like the sort of person who could summon an archangel, perhaps. But he knows his stuff when he puts his mind to it. I’d like to think he’s a magician’s magician. But it occurs to me that maybe he knows his magic, but maybe not other humans. He could get a lot accomplished, though. Or lose everything.
Here’s Jim, the carpenter. Jim is a bit heavier-built, a bit more thick in the arms, a bit more thick in the head, perhaps. Or maybe not? The eyes in the full-body image convey a weariness, a slowness. But maybe that’s just because he can carry a 4×4 beam one-handed. He’s sort of a circle on top of a box — heaven surmounting earth, perhaps? It’s important to remember that figures are just geometry. His eyes in the facial portrait look a little brighter, a little more intelligent, a little more frat-boy and a little less heavy-lifting blue-collar guy.
Laura, the Librarian. A long narrow body, a tendency to skirts that are somewhere between the knee and the floor. Long hair, a weird set of teeth in her hairline — I’m not sure why those came about, but they did. Cardigans and shawl collars, button-down shirt underneath. Not sure about the coloration of this character yet — does she favor bright or muted hues? Could go either way. Do you have an opinion about this? What do you think of her? Of the other characters so far?
And finally, Miss Wanda. She is still changing shape, I see. She’s not clear yet about whether she wants short, efficient hair or big 1980s hair. I’m sure she’ll let me know. One of her side-faces is rather sweet and positive. Her full-on face makes her look like the wife of a Televangelist. And her last image makes her look like a furious opera singer.
I created six more sigils this evening. That’s a total of ten. Ten characters, ten signs, ten quick-sketch images for the figures of power and transformation that I want to introduce into my story arcs for Dabbling. Each of them is recognizable, easily created, distinguishable one from another, and with relationships one to another that are already becoming clearer before I’ve even created stories for them, completely.
And maybe they’ll bring me what I want, which is a way of teaching my students how to create characters of their own. Maybe they’ll show you that your drawing talents are something to cultivate, as well.
But it wouldn’t be magic, of course, if there weren’t some hidden meanings. So after I post this, I’m going back to my notes, and writing some ideas about how each of these characters carry my magical energy into the world. And when these characters appear in my stories, they’ll be asking the world for something, even when that message is hidden. And they will do so with their own personalities, their own way of appealing to the universe, and their own kind of thankfulness about their work in the world.