Ever since I first read it, historian Jason Steinhauer’s excellent 2017 essay “History is Not There to be Liked” has been rattling around in my head. His point of perpetuated myths often becoming more potent than reality has stuck with me. What we think of as normal can often have an unpleasant past obscured by more palatable lore or legend. It can be difficult for a culture to decouple the truth from its feelings toward a beloved myth.
Those thoughts cropped up again (around a less sober topic, surely) after I watched this excellent video from Vox on the reasons why so many cartoon characters wear gloves and the unfortunate connection between early animation and minstrelsy. It’s a nice bit of investigation around the craft of animation and the historical connations therein—worth checking out.
Want to stay in touch with me? Sign up for Dead Drop, my rare and elusive newsletter. Subscribers get news, previews, and notices on my books before anyone else delivered directly to their inbox. I work hard to make sure it’s not spammy and full of interesting and relevant information. SIGN UP TODAY →
I’ve been ramping up my research for The Bell Forging Cycle, Book IV and while browsing through my Pinterest boards, I kept coming across the work of Chinese illustrator Zhichao Cai also known as Trylea. Since I found his work inspiring, I figured it’d be worth it to take a moment and share some of my favorite pieces with you.
When it comes to mood boards, I tend to like grimy and dank cityscapes occasionally interrupted with bright splashes of neon. So my eye is always drawn to pieces that show clusters of humanity. Trylea’s work has that, but it also differs significantly. It’s mainly due to his use of color. Even his densely packed cities are awash with a vibrancy that captures a unique and frenetic energy—it makes his work stand out, and his pieces serve as a good reminder that even in concept art we don’t need everything to be grim.
I included a small gallery of some of my favorite work below.
Yun Yunzhi – Tiangong Qingyang (Detail)
City in the Clouds
Izumochi – Moonlight Panorama
Song of Void Mountain
You can check out much more of Trylea’s work on his Zcool page, that seems to be where he shares most of his work. He also posts high-resolution versions as well as some process shots. It’s worth spending some time on his page. You can also find him on Behance, and he has some work on Art Station. If you’re not a member of any of those sites, I encourage you to join and give Trylea a follow.
If you like Zhichao Cai’s work be sure to check out some other illustrators and concept artists I’ve shared in the past: