What we talk about when we talk about tentacles
Recently, I was flipping through my 1978 edition of the Advanced D&D Monster Manual. I’d only ever played Dungeons & Dragons at one point in my life, back in the early 1980s when my dad was stationed on an Air Force base in England. Almost every summer weekend, my parents dragged us over to their friends’ house where the adults drank and played Mille Bourne until 2 am and my sister and I were stuck hanging out with their friends’ two boys who wanted to do nothing but play Atari or D&D. So I did a lot of both, not realizing that these Pepsi-and-Fritos-fueled sessions were to blame for sowing the little seed of dweeb that would later blossom into full-blown, nerd-girl dorkdom and a love of fantasy, science fiction, and retro video games.
Anyway, I was never a Dungeon Master, so I’m not sure why I own the AD&D manual. But for years, I combed its pages, dutifully copying its beasties and learning their histories and attack methods. Like all little girls, I was into horses, so I focused mainly on the more equine creatures like unicorns, pegasus, ki-rins, and even a demonic stallion from hell called a Nightmare. I loved the dragons and nymphs and lycanthropes and even a bizarre, dung-eating thing called a neo-otyugh.
Yet one of my absolute favorites was the Eye of the Deep.
The Eye is listed as Lawful Evil. Other Lawful Evil baddies include Boba Fett and Anton Chigurh.
Today, I blame the Eye of the Deep for my tentacle obsession. Because while I stopped drawing horses and dragons eons ago, to this day, I’m still fascinated by squids and octopi and anything involving long, feeler-like swirly bits. I love freaky, underwater creatures (like everything on this page) especially and most definitely if they feature all or some of the following: tentacles, big scary eyes, antennae, funky claws, strange mouths, and anything resembling brains or organs.
As I got older, the tentacle-thing manifested itself in other ways, such as my love of calligraphy and anything by the Art Nouveau master, Alphonse Mucha.
Ads for cigarette rolling papers never looked so gorgeous.
And then, of course, one of my all-time favorite artist/illustrators, Aubrey Beardsley.
I ♥♥♥ Beardsley
Tentacle-love also explains my zeal for Celtic knots, the grotesque and the arabesque, illuminated manuscripts, Japanese brush painting, the incredible designs of Marian Bantjes (especially this gorgeous poster), and definitely William Morris textiles. If there’s some voluted line swirling around like pea shoot or an elegant worm, you can bet I will adore it. I even worked one into my old logo.
The “S” has since been replaced by a squid.
So the Eye of the Deep got its swirly bits wrapped around me pretty tightly. I don’t think I’ll ever shake my tentacle obsession, which is why I opted to do my own interpretation of an Eye of the Deep for today’s drawing. I’d been jonesing to do some intensely detailed ink-work, and I figured the Eye would make a nice subject.
At this point, I realize the drawing will take forever and I kind of start to hate myself.
I wasn’t certain if I liked how the swirls were so closely packed together. Yet by the end, I thought they created a nice clockwork/steampunk look I hadn’t anticipated.
Sometimes, you just have to let the tentacles do what they will.