Saturday, 16 January 2021

The 14 Days of Blessing- participate for your chance to win great prizes!

Welcome to the 14 days of Blessing! What's this, you ask? Well, for the two weeks starting 1st February 2021, I will be running daily blog posts introducing you to the world of Azaria- the characters, the setting, the locations, and more, in the run up to the release of the third book in the series, The Blessing! And for each day you participate, you can win a prize!

The prizes up for grabs include:

A free ebook of The Binding (one to give away each day), the first book

A free paperback of Binding (one to give away)- international shipping available

One of three original art prints (three to give away, choice of Ryan and Eliza, the dove Rusephine, or the fox Nahbet)

A free ebook of The Parting (five to give away)

And, if you participate in at least 10 of the 14 days, you could win one of five ebook box sets of The Binding, the Parting and the Blessing!

Sounds great, right? But what do you have to do to be eligible? All you need to do is:

-make sure you like my Facebook page (
-follow me on twitter @maddoctorartist (
-share my Facebook page
-leave a gold 💛 and purple 💜 heart emoji comment on each daily post (either here on the blog itself or the facebook post)

And that's it! Winners will be picked by random number generation and must be contactable via email. Each daily winner will get a free ebook of The Binding, plus one of whichever of the other prizes above catch your fancy (except for the box-set).

Please share with anyone who loves reading young adult fantasy fiction, and best of luck!

The first post starts 1st February, but if you want to get ahead, click here to find out more about the stories...

Saturday, 9 January 2021

How I've Improved My Drawing Skills- by NOT drawing every day!


So, I'm sure everyone has heard of this common piece of art advice, often told to beginners. And while there is some merit to it, taking it literally is not helpful and can in fact by harmful, as it can reinforce bad habits. This has certainly been my experience, and so I decided to try something else after months of poor progress. Knowing these additional tricks have helped me improve more in a a year that I have in the last five years, so I think it's worth sharing to see if they may help you too.

One of my first Inktober drawings from 2019

One of my drawings from Birdtober 2020

 As you can see there's quite a difference in just one year, but I certainly haven't been drawing daily since 2019, so what made such a big difference?

Well, I will try to share what's worked for me, but of course there is no set-in-stone rule to learn how to draw, and different things work for different people- it also depends on what style you're trying to achieve. However, the following have definitely levelled up the quality of my drawings, which tend to a more realistic slant. Such tips I have gleaned from other art resources online and I am by no means taking credit for them- I will try to link to resources where I can if you want to go more in-depth.

Drawing every day sounds like a reasonable type of study- the more you draw, the more familiar you get making lines and strokes, and this builds the muscle memory in your hand as well as co-ordination with your eyes. However, if you're just drawing without any prior knowledge or thought, you'll start to remember the wrong things, and this can be hard to undo!

A red-tailed kite drawing from 2018- see how shaky and uneven the lines are? This is because I was guessing at what I was seeing, rather than understanding what I was looking at!

This red kite I drew at the end of 2020- doesn't it look so much more clean and in proportion? A lot of this comes from having learned to understand what I was seeing!

So before diving in, it's best to train your eye first to understand what you are looking at. Some of this will come from the particular subject, so in my case anatomy of birds is important, but this applies to landscape/ figure drawing/ mechanical drawing!

The whole foundation of drawing is built on the idea that you are creating a 3D image on a 2D plane, so you need to know how forms look to give the illusion of 3D. This is accomplished by using 3D building blocks such as cubes, cones, pyramids and spheres to create complex forms.

There are various ways to practice accurate observation- drawing from life, where you can study an actual 3D object with different lighting, and learning how to break structures down into 3D pieces. You can do this via tracing photos, not for simple outlines but trying to break them down into 3D shapes.

Tracing over photos can be very helpful to identify planes, like with this robin (photograph is my own)

My problem was that I would look at a reference and 'free draw'- try to make flat shapes based on assumptions. You can see this very clearly in my first red kite drawing. Then I moved on to measuring, which helped with proportions but still made me have to look at the reference constantly and I was still making errors. What I now do is 'construct'- more on this below.

Tutorials that help with observation:
Istebrak's critique videos
Drawing from life (take any simple object at home or a model, get a lamp to cast a light on it and draw it!)

Having got a bit more of a foundation as to how forms are structured, you can now construct forms without being too reference reliant. For me, I estimate the length and width of the subject, then use blocky shapes/ planes to fill in the main forms. Everything at this stage is a straight line, no curves, and this really helps identify angles and lengths much more accurately.

A study on 'constructing' an eagle form. This is explained in excellent detail on (the link will take you to Lesson 2 which has a more detailed explanation)

It also makes shading much easier, as you can see contours and plan where light and shadow will fall. I find this most difficult to 'see', which makes shading one of my bigger weaknesses, but using 'blocks' simplifies things and lets me judge lighting a lot more accurately. This way a form can be depicted using shadows rather than outlines, which is more realistic.

Tutorials that help with doing this:
John Muir Laws birds
Proko human anatomy
Ethan Becker

The last thing I've found that really helps is knowing how to reflect after each drawing- it's great to go over old drawings and see how much improvement's been made. It also helps to revisit and see what you could have done differently, and it can be fun to redraw old art.

The first bird drawing I did, redrawn- quite an improvement in only 2 years!

A macaw parrot from Inktober 2019
A macaw parrot from Birdtober 2020- quite a difference to the first attempt!

It is also helpful to look at what worked- often when trying new things you can get good results on accident which are then hard to replicate. Identifying what made a drawing better than another can help with this.

A bee hummingbird painting fro May 2020- I found a way to get a nice feather texture, and I replicated this with the next drawing, an American Robin that I drew in December 2020:

I also found that analysing other art that I enjoy or want to emulate is also a great thing to do. There is no harm in copying a drawing to see how the outcome was achieved (but you should of course never plagerise, and while I would avoid posting at all on social media, making very clear that the work is a study and not your own is super important).

Of course this can be difficult to do on your own, so getting into one of the many art communities can also help with getting feedback!

Resources to help with this:
Proko Draftsmen podcast
Mohammed Agbadi- as well as general tutorials he also breaks down individual artists' styles

So, having established these basics, when you draw you'll know what errors to look for. With this awareness, frequency and mileage now become important, as this will reinforce good habits and you'll be much better equipped to spot mistakes.

Have you ever been told to 'draw every day'? Did this work for you, or did you try other approaches? I'd love to know!

Saturday, 2 January 2021

Announcement: The Blessing (Chronicles of Azaria Book 3) Release Date!

Hello everyone! Apologies for not keeping up with the blog- given the unexpected pandemic, my day job has kept me quite busy!

However, after a seven year hiatus, I am very pleased to announce that the third book of my Chronicles of Azaria series (and the last book of the Goddess Saga trilogy) is finally complete! The ebook and paperback versions will be released on 14th February- the perfect ending to the love story I began writing in 2013.

What took so long? Well, initially it was because of my medical exams/ getting into my speciality training, and my rotations kept me very busy. Then, after fully qualifying as a general practictioner in 2016, I suddenly seemed to have lost all interest in writing. No matter what I tried, I just couldn't make any progress. So I decided to take a break, and I wrote a few fanfictions and focused more on my art and drawing skills.

Thankfully the break seemed to have worked, as I was finally able to finish this book at the end of 2020 and can declare this trilogy complete!

Not familiar with the series? Then let me introduce you: click here to read about the Chronicles of Azaria series, and here to specifically learn about the Goddess Saga story.

So, if this sounds like your kind of book, then you can purchase the first and second books, The Binding and The Parting, here.

Can love choose between death or salvation?

The Binding has been destroyed, and Azaria rocked to its foundations. But Ryan and Eliza's newfound freedom hasn't come without a price. Eliza has been left with devastating nightmares, with Ryan powerless to help her. Yet Eliza's hostile visions may hold the answer, as she dreams of the Blessing- the last fragment of the Goddess's power.

However, the Blessing is more than what it seems, and Eliza isn't the only one tempted by it. The Order of Amaranth are hungry to avenge their fallen leader, while the newly formed Vanguard try desperately to keep the fragile peace. With darker forces closing in, Ryan must fight to tame the power that could be Eliza's final hope, or her final destruction.

You can also read an excerpt of the first three chapters of The Blessing here- brand new and never before released!

You can pre-order the ebook right now by following this link:

Amazon US:

Amazon UK:

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Dr Sam's Birds of the World Colouring Book now LIVE!


Hello everyone! Following on from my previous project, I am delighted to announce that Volume Two of my colouring book series Birds of the World is raring to go! This volume looks at the exotic birds of Africa, and is accompanied by interesting facts about each species.

Click on the link below to buy:

You can see a sample of some images below, along with a page to download and colour while you wait!

I hope you enjoy the content and you can look forward to the next volume, which will feature the birds of Oceania!

Want a free page to download? Then click the malachite kingfisher below!

Thursday, 1 October 2020

New Print Shop!

Hello everyone! I have recently decided to start selling my artwork and bird photos as prints- you can find them here at INPRNT!

 Art prints, canvas prints and framed prints are all available:



Saturday, 26 September 2020

Dr Sam's Birds of the World: A Colouring Book for Adults Volume Two: Africa


Hello everyone! Following on from my previous project, I am delighted to announce that Volume Two of my colouring book series Birds of the World is raring to go! This volume looks at the exotic birds of Africa, and is accompanied by interesting facts about each species.

 The book will be released 15th October 2020 on Amazon- I will post the links once live!

You can see a sample of some images below, along with a page to download and colour while you wait!

I hope you enjoy the content and you can look forward to the next volume, which will feature the birds of Oceania!

Want a free page to download? Then click the malachite kingfisher below!

Saturday, 1 August 2020

My Journey Drawing Tigers (Part Two)

Welcome back, to Part Two of my journey drawing tigers!

As you know I'm an eager artist, mostly for birds, but I'm trying to broaden into other wildlife, starting with big cats. While I'm by no means an expert, I do consider myself more than a beginner, and there does seem to be a vaccuum for those at this skill level. 

What I mean by that is- while in many areas I'm very much a beginner, and even professional artists go back to the fundamentals once in a while to keep their skills sharp- it can be difficult to see what to work on to move on from the simple stages. Looking at other artists's studies also doesn't feel helpful, as often you see near-perfect finished studies rather than the mistakes and steps needed to get there.

So, I want to document my journey learning how to draw tigers. I want to show the errors and mistakes that many artists can be shy to show, and also try to point out areas where I can improve for next time. In doing this, not only will this help guide my eye to mistakes and hopefully help yours too, but I also want to show that art is so much more than the finished final product.

Click here for Part One to see my early steps (from the late 90s to 2018)

My next tiger was from Inktober 2019...

So on the surface this doesn't look bad, but on closer inspection there are a few errors still- another result of free-drawing from a reference and not reconstructing the pieces to make sure things are aligned/ in proportion/ perspective:

1. Anatomy- while the tiger's head is more tiger-shaped than previous, there is a lot of asymmetry- the eyes aren't aligned or the same side, nor are the ears, the neck and shoulders look like guess-work, and the stripes are just drawn randomly with no thought about the skull contours.

2. Perspective- the limbs are very out of proportion, and the ear placement is also wrong. Where the head and neck join also looks strange. 

3. Form- as this is an unshaded drawing I can't comment on this much, but the contours of stripes and fur definitely don't match the underlying structure.

The tips from here:

-need to see/ learn a tiger's skull to know what contours form at which places

-try to think about the anatomy of the limbs before applying perspective to it

-pay attention to symmetry to help proportions

Moving on now to this year, January 2020:

1. Anatomy- so I did practice anatomy for birds during this period, and had practiced drawing from reference. I had my own reference photo for this tiger, so I was able to create a much better rendition. The proportions are far better and make consistent sense, and there's an actual background as well! The ears are still a bit too big, and the front leg and spine aren't completely accurate.

2. Perspective- this is also a lot more consistent, especially in regard to the head. This is because I constructed the head first, rather than free drawing it. As a result it looks far more symmetrical.

3. Form- this is in regard to the ink drawing, as this is shaded. Much easier to see the light and shadows here (I'm far better with ink than coloured pencil!), though the shadowing on the legs furthest away could possibly be darker. The cast shadow on the grass also helps ground the tiger, though it could be better given where the light source is.

The tips from here:

-do some more anatomy studies to really understand the tiger's shape

The next drawing is from April 2020:

1. Anatomy- For the graphite drawing, this is much more accurate, especially the head and shoulders and limbs. The jaw and nose are a bit small still, but most things are in proportion. The body may be a bit too long as well.

2. Perspective- The face and nose is a bit off, but the rest looks more consistent.

3. Form- For the graphite drawing, the shading is a bit mixed- there's no clear light source especially in regard to the head, so it doesn't look as 3D as it should.

However for the colour picture...a lot more falls down here! This is a great example of how colour can ruin a picture if you don't understand values and light source, which is something I definitely need to work on.

-the shading in general is too soft, so it's not really making the form look 3D

-the colouring also seemed to distort the face anatomy- the nose and eye are now far too small and not in proportion

-the lighting is a bit variable- there are highlights in area of shadow on the belly and rear leg, and the front leg has too much light, given that the light source should be from above
So, let's move on to the next tiger, drawn in early July 2020...

1. Anatomy- not much to comment on here as it's consistent and in proportion.  The raised paw could possibly be a bit improved in shape.

2. Perspective- the tiger's head was in a strange perspective here, but I think I captured it fairly well. The placement of the ears I feel particularly proud of!

3. Form- quite a step up from the previous digitally coloured drawing, with a more consistent light source, deeper shadows and better values.The front legs however have too much highlight, and the colour choice for highlight could possibly have been matched better.

The tips here are now more to do with colour than form, which just goes to show how much you can improve, especially with reference photos and knowing how to construct shapes!

And now to the latest tigers I've drawn, this one from 23rd July 2020:

1. Anatomy- now this was a challenging pose perspective, but thanks to all my prior learning, I was able to pull it off!

2. Perspective- I had to re-draw the head several times before I finally got this right. The nose and nose bridge shading is slightly off still, but using the base construction helped me place almost everything correctly.

3. Form- I used fairly light ink here so the form isn't as defined as it could be, but there is still visible light and shadow.

And thus, with all this learning behind me, it culminated in my latest piece:


So, having probably been fed up of hearing about tigers now, here are my main learning points. This can be applied to any subject you want to draw:

A. Understand anatomy. This means understanding the tiger skeleton, how the bones are able to fit and move, and how they join up together. This also means understanding proportion, so how big body parts are in relation to each other, and how to measure them (I usually use 'heads'- so take the head width and measure the body using this as a unit).

B. Understand perspective. This means knowing where you're viewing something, and how to construct simply 3D geometric forms to get the angles correct.

C. Understand form. Knowing the 3D shape helps guide where light and shadow fall, along with keeping a consistent light source.

D. Have good references! But at the same time, don't wholly rely on them. Without understanding of anatomy and perspective, photos can deceive you, as camera lens and angle of the shot can affect the former, so even though you're drawing what you see, it's not how the form works.

While these aren't by any means all you need to know (I've missed out colour theory, value, composition, and a whole host of other fundamentals), but it can be overwhelming to tackle everything at once, so it's good to improve in a few areas first before moving on to the rest.

I hope this walk through of my art has been helpful- if so let me know! Is there anything you've been trying to learn to draw?

Saturday, 25 July 2020

My Journey Drawing Tigers (Part One)


Hello again! Today, I want to try something a little different. As you know I'm an eager artist, mostly for birds, but I'm trying to broaden into other wildlife, starting with big cats. While I'm by no means an expert, I do consider myself more than a beginner, and there does seem to be a vaccuum for those at this skill level.

What I mean by that is- while in many areas I'm very much a beginner, and even professional artists go back to the fundamentals once in a while to keep their skills sharp- it can be difficult to see what to work on to move on from the simple stages. Looking at other artists's studies also doesn't feel helpful, as often you see near-perfect finished studies rather than the mistakes and steps needed to get there.

So, I want to document my journey learning how to draw tigers. I want to show the errors and mistakes that many artists can be shy to show, and also try to point out areas where I can improve for next time. In doing this, not only will this help guide my eye to mistakes and hopefully help yours too, but I also want to show that art is so much more than the finished final product.

To start with, I'm going to go way back to when I was in school (not medical school!), in the last 90s. These were the first tigers I drew:

 Perhaps not bad for the age I was, but now they look pretty deformed!

It may seem harsh that I'm critiquing these pictures when I was so young, but I mean to crit them to my current skill, not the skill I was then. Looking at this early drawings, we can easily see what's lacking, and what needs work....

1. Anatomy- the first tiger in particular has no concept of this! There is no structure for bone, muscle, or anything, and I clearly didn't know how any of the pieces attached to each other. All the proportions are also wrong. The stripes don't follow any contour, the face is asymmetrical, and the background has no relation to the tiger itself.

2. Perspective- kinda obvious this would be all wrong given that the anatomy is so weak, but there's no way of telling where the tiger is sitting in space, which direction it's heading in, and where we're viewing it from.

3. Form- the second picture in particular has a lack of visible form- it looks like an amorphous blob! The shading on both pictures is basically non existent so I won't comment too much on the shading and colouring. The second photo I also drew from a reference, but clearly I didn't understand what I was seeing. However it does look quite a bit more like a tiger than the first image, which was done from imagination.

Thus, from this, it's been very helpful to deduce some fundamentals that need to be understood before drawing a tiger:

-anatomy, to understand how the body parts connect, how big they are in relation to each other, and how they move together

-perspective, to understand where you are viewing a form in space, and how proportions change depending on the angle something is seen from

-form, to understand how things exist in 3D space and how light and shadow affect how we perceive it

Now we skip ahead to 2007 years (yes quite a skip!), and this is the next tiger I attempted:

So although this is technically a fanart of the white tiger Driger from the anime Beyblade, it's still a tiger, so let's see how we're doing.

1. Anatomy- immediately this is a huge step up from the first drawings! Everything is a lot more in proportion, and things connect much better. I can't recall exactly but I think I did use a reference for this. A few things are still not quite right- the paws are not equal, the tail is too thin, the back ear is too far back, the nose is too long and the jaw is too small- but it 'reads' tiger much more than the older drawings.

2. Perspective- better than the older drawings, for sure, but this is more a part of the pose being more straightfoward than me understanding it. The paws in particular aren't in perspective and neither is the head. The 'crown' is also uneven.

3. Form- again much better than before, it does look more '3D' but there's no shading here so can't really comment on that.

The learning points:

-work on proportions

-make sure the whole form has the same perspective applied

Then we skip ahead to 2018, where I'd had quite the break from drawing animals...

1. Anatomy- another step up from before, as this time I was using a reference, and had been using references for other drawings so I was more familiar with how to use them. The head shape is much more accurate, along with how it joins the neck. The pose however is more tricky, so the front ear is a bit off, as is the 'scrunching' of the nose.

2. Perspective- this is slightly weaker once more, as for this drawing I was operating under the phenomenon of 'free drawing'- this is where you draw lines as you see them, rather than constructing a form first and adding details. It's where you keep looking to a reference and try to 'judge' where the lines should go (instead of, say, creating a sphere or circle and then building lines on that).

3. Form- so this picture is coloured with coloured pencil, I medium I really don't get at all (I still colour like I did when I was 6 years old), so there's essentially no shading here. Practically impossible to tell the light source, but that's also a fault of my lack of skill with the medium.

So the tips from here:

-try to draw using construction shapes, not free-lining

-keep perspective in mind

-perhaps one day learn how to use coloured pencils (lol!)

I'm going to end part one here, as otherwise this will go on and on! Part Two will delve into my most recent drawings, all from 2020, so you can continue to see how much progress can be made in such a relatively short period of time!

Friday, 10 April 2020

Top 5 Favourite Stories in Video Games


Hello again! I hope everyone is doing well. So, as well as being a doctor and an artist, I am also a writer, with my two published novels in my Chronicles of Azaria series already available and the third (which has been on a long hiatus, I know) back in progress. I must say that compared to drawing, writing definitely takes longer to get back into, and has much less obvious 'results' to show- I can't really share a completed chapter of a book in the same way you can share a finished piece of artwork, and in this social media-drive world, it can put you off as you don't get 'instant' feedback.

However, as I strive to get back into the writing groove, I began thinking, what kind of stories really pique my interest anyway? Thus, by looking at why I enjoy certain stories, I can hopefully try to channel the same thoughts to my own work and make better experiences.

So let's dive in!


Until the last decade or so, video games were not known for their depth of story. I mean my favourite game remains Sonic the Hedgehog, which is where a blue hedgehog goes up against a mad evil genius called Dr Robotnik (Eggman) who is using his advanced technology to ruin the natural beauty of Sonic's world and take it over. Hardly Shakespeare, I know!

Oddly enough, though, this simple story feels far, far more compelling than Sonic's rival Mario. Mario is a plumber who is out to rescue a princess from an evil reptilian king. And it has pretty much stuck to this formula with very little iteration or change. Personally I find the entire premise boring, dull and extremely cliched (perhaps it was less so at the time in 1989, but even so), and while gameplay wise I respect the Mario franchise, it has almost no noteworthy story to speak of.

But from these humble beginnings, video game story-telling has come a long long way, adotping many attributes from cinema, and I think this medium has some of the best stories to share.

Many mainstream audiences can be quite dismisive of game stories, but I've found these tales much more compelling that any film or TV show I've ever seen. Video games have the added element of you, the player, being literally an active agent, and this adds a whole new layer to the experience.

Anyway, enough waffle! These are five of my absolute favourite video game stories. I will be avoiding spoilers as much as I can but a few minor ones may crop up.

1. Horizon Zero Dawn

This is a relatively new game, coming out in 2017, but good grief did it hook me in! The premise is about a post apocalyptic Earth with robot dinosaurs. While that sounds ridiculous (if certainly very cool), when you delve into the story you find a deep, rich lore and an impecible standard of worldbuilding.

The main character is named Aloy, a girl outcast from her isolationist tribe, the Nora, as she was found on the doorstep of their Mother Goddess temple (which is deep within a mountain). Without any confirmed parentage, she is taken and given to another outcast, Rost, to be raised, at the beheast of one priestesses who disagreed with her peers that she was a bad omen.

Aloy thus grows up training for 'The Proving', a physical test held every so often for all of her tribe that would allow her back in as a normal member. Alas, during the Proving challenge, mysterious soldiers attack, killing Rost and several tribes members, leaving Aloy bewildered and alone. Searching for answers, she heads out into the open world- a world that her tribe has been isolated from- and discovers the truth about the past.

The game is layered cleverly, with present day Aloy finding pieces of old technology (which her tribe explictly forbade use of) that reveal the past, which is essentially a few years ahead of our time today. We find out that a corporation that manufactured self replicating war machines lost control over them, and they were going to wipe out all humanity and destroy all life on the planet.

To combat this, a brilliant scientist named Elizabet Sobeck instigated a hugely ambitious project called Zero Dawn, and the details of this plan are slowly unravelled. Each piece of this history is revealed through datalogues, audio recording and holograms, and I was very invested and engrossed in the story. It's not often I play for hours into the night, wanting to see what was coming, and this held me all the way to the end.

I think what captivated me most was the sense of mystery this story provoked. I wanted to know how and why humanity had regressed, why were there robot dinosaurs (yes even this is explained), and why Aloy was deemed an outcast. The story was also able to provoke real anger- I absolutely hated Faro (the CEO of the company who designed the war machines, although that's not the reason I loathe him so), and it's probably the first time I have actually thoroughly hated an antagonist of any story.

On the downside, Aloy isn't a particularly memorable character in that she lacks any real flaws- she's definitely not a Mary Sue or anything but she does feel more of a blank slate type character, as her personality quirks are quite tame. Still, it takes absolutely nothing away from this amazing story.

2. Persona 4

This is another game I only played recently (all 80+ hours of it), and hands down I think this is THE best story I have experienced in any media, full stop. It has it all- extremely well written characters, well paced plot, great twists and reveals, and again that same beautiful sense of mystery that Horizon Zero Dawn had. The story itself is essentially a murder mystery, with a serious of unusual killings taking place in the small town of Inaba. You play as teen protagonist Yu Narukami, who has moved here to live with his uncle and niece as his parents are working abroad.

Very soon it's apparent that Inaba has hints of the supernatural abound, and Yu gets involved investigating the killings, along with his newfound friends from school. Yu is very much a blank slate protagonist, which does impact how much he can be related to, but his supporting cast has bucketloads of character to make up for it.

His best friend Yosuke is your typical hormone rampaged teenage boy, with his own deep insecurties behind a friendly and bombastic personality. His other female friends Yukiko and Chie again have strong personalities, with Yukiko being the smart bookish shy type and Chie being a brash aggresive character (rare to see in female characters!), and then there's rough and ready Kanji, whose gruff exterior hides an impressive sewing talent. Finally there's Naota and Rise, the former being a boyish detective type and the latter being a bubbly pop idol.

I think the beauty of this game lies in the fact that its characters are all based around a central flaw (which ties into the gameplay), and this makes them really well rounded and believable. The side characters are similarly portrayed, making for a very rich experience. Mix in a compelling plot and the supernatural elements, and it for me is a near perfect experience in all ways. The only nitpick I would have is that the protagonist lacks anywhere near this kind of development, and if he's supposed to be a blank slate, then having a custom character (with gender options) would probably have worked better.

The game also got an anime adaptation which I also highly enjoyed (it's also really funny), and would recommend to any non gamer or anyone who doesn't want to grind through an 80 hour Japanese RPG.

3. Eternal Darkness

This game is very special to me, as I consider it the game that made me decide to try writing stories with my own characters. It follows protagonist Alexandra Roivas, who is phoned in the middle of night and is informed of the sudden murder of her grandfather in the ancient family manor. Alex therefore goes to the manor, and when the police don't get far in their investigation decides to take it on herself. During her exploration of the dusy mansion she comes across a strange book, the Tome of Eternal Darkness, and begins to read, kicking off a deep, era-spanning epic with repercussions that affect the present day...

This is an unusual game for this list as I am not a fan of horror at all, but it has a very clever plot spanning a great portion of human history, from the early Roman empire to the present day (year 2000), and I enjoyed it more for this aspect, as well as the interesting characters. While Alex is the main character, every 'chapter' you read of the Tome puts you in the shoes of the character from that era (so ancient Cambodia, Medieval Europe, World War I), and they all have interesting, if tragic tales to follow. I also love its magic system, and the personalities of the three 'Old Ones' who form the major antagonists of the game.

I also find the game pretty quotable, with some great lines from the villains in particular. The characters are certainly not as deep as the ones from Persona 4, but it's the setting, atmosphere and greater overarching plot that really drew me in. The biggest thing for me though was how events in the past impact the future (for example one character hiding an artifact in the past reveals where it can be found in present day), and is one of themes I carried through into my Chronicles of Azaria series.

4. Tales of Symphonia

Another JRPG title, and until Persona 4 came along this was my favourite video game story. This was the first 'Tales' game I played (which is Namco Bandi's equivalent to the Final Fantasy series), but this is far more subversive and enjoys playing with common tropes in the genre.

I love how this story pretty much rips apart the 'Chosen One' narrative, beginning by being told in the point of view of a non chosen one character. It also has themes of every 'evil' having a sympathic motive and backstory, fantastic racism, issues about resource management and preventing greed and paranoia causing more strife, and I though it handled these themes very well.

The main character Lloyd is brash, loud and has a big heart, and is very much a protagonist you want to root for. The supporting cast also have their own quirks and flaws- not quite as deep as Persona 4's, but there's plenty to get stuck into. From mage prodigy Genis, clumsy but kind-hearted Chosen One Colette, master assasin and harbinger of bad luck Sheena, to imposing but self flagellating Regal, they all have their own pieces of themselves that they want to improve, and Lloyd is there to help them. Even he undergoes some development, too, and makes for a satisfying arc.

The villain is also hugely sympathetic, and though immature in his approach, his motives have clear definition and reason behind them, which makes him all the more terrifying.

5. Dragon Age
Another game I only got into relatively recently in 2016. I had never played any western RPGs before, but this was recommended by a friend, and I loved the story so much it was enough to inspire some fanfiction (which you can read here). Dragon Age is a dark fantasy, similar to the Game of Thrones series. This game has a custom character, where you can choose from various backgrounds (noble, commoner, human, dwarf, elf) and play out an epic fantasy tale.

You are a Grey Warden, newly recruited to this ancient order against your will, and after a devastating betrayal at the start of the game, you have to unite the kingdom of Ferelden against the incoming 'Blight'- a disease that turns all it touches into mindless 'Darkspawn'. The Darkspawn armies have risen and seek to consume the entire kingdom, and you and your ragtag band of heroes need to raise an army and fight back before it's too late.

Like Persona 4 the game has very well fleshed out supporting characters. You have Alistair, the only other surviving Grey Warden with his charm and wit, the sultry Morrigan, a witch with very strong opinions and a deep interest in old magic, Leliana, a bard who lived a dangerous life as an assassin and spy who's now turned to religion for peace, a foul mouthed drunken dwarf named Oghren seeking to atone for the past, the stern and discliplined Qunari soldier Sten, the flirtacious and high spirited elf thief assassin Zevran, and the motherly kind mage Wynne. Each have their own 'quests' and ways you can gain their approval, so you really get to know them well.

The protagonist also has their own backstory and 'origin' (hence the name), and this can play into how they act in the story. I enjoy the human noble background, and is what I usually play as (female noble rogue).


So those are the top 5 video game stories, in my opinion. There are many more I've enjoyed, but I consider these the best. I hope this has also opened the eyes of those not into gaming, who may have had their interest tickled to look into this games!

Friday, 3 April 2020

Doodle a Day March- Highlights

Greetings all! I hope everyone is remaining safe and well. Before all this current situation kicked off, I participated in a small drawing challenge called Doodle A Day- created by Instagram user Ellolovely. This is very similar to Inktober, but is more flexible in that any media can be used.

I posted daily on my Instagram (@maddoctorartist), but I thought it would be fun to share the pictures I was most proud of during the challenge!


I drew a marsh space! I quite liked the effect of colouring the background in black and making 'stars' (though it did drain my pen quite a bit!). It was also fun learning how to make contours and feather texturing. All in all I was pleased with how this one turned out.


For this prompt I drew a familiar face- this is Rocky, the plucky robin who lives in my back garden! He is always singing in the morning when I go to work and he visits the bird feeder often, so I almost always see him daily. For this picture I really concentrated on making a  'soft' texture, as well as seeing how I could convey colour in just black and white (you can tell that the brown is daker than the red, which is darker than the white). I also learned that following the contour of the subject makes for more realistic shading.

This is my second favourite of the prompts, as I was able to able the lessons I learned in 'Garden' and I was super impressed at how the fluffiness of the feathers came out! It was also giving me more practice with shading and outlines. In fact I was so impressed I photocopied the original and did a version with coloured pencil too:



Easily my favourite of my prompts- earlier with another prompt I had attempted a snow leopard and I really did not like how it turned out. This was my chance to learn from that (never throw away your drawings kids) and I was blown away at how much improvement I'd made. The pose was beautiful, and I was able to get a proper fur effect which I hadn't before. The background is perhaps too dark, but I wanted to convey 'rain' in a different way, but overall this is my favourite piece.

I enjoyed this one more for the theme- I actually have a phobia of butterflies and moths and so this was my change for revenge! Hence I drew a pair of bee-eaters snacking on a butterfly. Again I enjoyed trying new methos to make a feathery texture, and I was happy how it turned out.


I drew a rufus treePIE for this prompt, and here I made more of an effort to draw in a background. I was used to this, having had to draw backgrounds for my colouring book (available here), but it was the first time I'd done it in traditional media. It gives the piece a more finished look.


This may not make the most sense initially- how can you do green when you're working in black and white? Well, I chose a bright green plum headed parakeet, which worked just as well! Here I tried a new approach for the bark, and I was really pleased with the result. It also helped me build more pen control, though to be honest I draw in my lap and not on a table so my lines are already at a disadvantage!


As an artist who loves drawing birds, what else could I draw for this prompt but a proud peacock? This was extremely time consuming and took 5 hours, as you can imagine looking at the details!


This prompt was an excuse to draw flowers and a more detailed background, so I added this to the long-tailed tit. I have very many fun poses of long-tailed tits from my bird watching photography, and it was fun to add the details here.


I notice for these challenges that my choice of complexity changes- I usually start with basic sketches, then elaborate into detailed pieces. This was another one that took over 6 hours- a pair of sleeping eagles which I found on an 'eaglecam'. As you can see the majority of my effort went into the birds, with a much simpler background, but I still think it works as it allows you to focus on the subjects without it being too cluttered.

Another of my favourites, this time a blue tit having a bath. This was the first time I tried stippling, which is a technique where marks are made with dots. Very time consuming, but it gives a very different look, which I felt was ideal for the moss effect. Wet feathers are also fun to draw!


Here I decided to step out of my comfort zone and try another animal, this time an Asian Water Dragon, which is a species of lizard. This was another time consuming piece, as I had to draw the individual scales, but wow was the end result worth it! Once more I was able to employ the 'think in 3D' tip I'd recently picked up, and I was happy with how this one turned out.


Similar to the rain prompt, but this time I decided to go for a white on black method, which turned out better. This is a white-throated kingfisher taking shelter under a leaf. I haven't quite got raindrops down, but you can only learn by trying, and I learned a huge amount during this challenge by trying different things!

Almost at the end now! This prompt allowed me to mix all the styles I'd learned so far, and it was great to combine them all in a single piece! I particularly like the stippling on the breast and tail.


This was the final prompt, and once again I had to draw something that wasn't a bird. The perspective on this was difficult, but it was worth trialling as it has shown me what to consider when planning a drawing like this. Even then, I really liked how the birds and babies came out, along with the boot 'rim'.

And so there you have it, my favourite drawings from the Doodle a Day challenge! There's another one this April, so if you're up to have a go, find @ellolovely on Instagram and check out the prompts!

If you like my artwork, please consider following my Instagram @maddoctorartist, and you can also follow my Facebook Page as I post my art there as well.