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Djake's avatar

MerMay5 - Carpe Terra

   “Becalmed…”  It seemed like such a harmless word.  It hinted at idleness, languor, quiet; but, to a man of the sea, hard work went down into the bone.  It made one hard and stoic - like the salt that seeped into the heart of the deck-planks and crisped the canvas of the sails.  To such men, quiet was alien, anathema.  A lack of wind was a lack of motion, and a lack of motion was somehow tomblike in its associations.
The third night was falling, and the men lay in their bunks, ears yearning for the slightest sound of wind or wave, or creak of timbers - anything to get them on the move.  There was nothing.
As the last of the sun’s rays disappeared over the horizon, a sound finally came.  It was a sound as alien as the otiosity that held the ship hostage.  It was the sound of a woman.
“Hello?” the voice called plaintively, “Is anyone there?”
The cook’s boy - a lad of sixteen summers - sat up in his hammock.  The rest of the men lay motionless.
“Did you hear that?” he asked, confused by the men’s lack of reaction.  None of them replied, but their faces had gone stern and dark.  Arms crossed resolutely over chests.
“Could someone please help me?” the sweet voice called, “I need some help.”
The cook’s boy rolled in his netted bed, feet swinging out toward his still-new deck-boots.
“Lay back down!” the cook snarled harshly.  Cook was usually a jovial fellow, and the tone stopped the lad as surely as a hand on his lapels.
“But don’t you hear?” the youth inquired, “There was a woman—“
“That’s Lost Sally,” the cook replied, his voice melancholy but firm.  “Keep to your bunk.”
“Go on, then!” the young man chuckled, certain that they were funning the new hireling - but another look at their sad, firm expressions made the smile wither on his face.
“Please!” the woman called, her tone growing tinged with anxiety, “I’ve been adrift for days.  I’ve been praying for a ship to pass, and you have!”
“Have you not heard the tale, lubber?” the boatswain murmured quietly.  The cook’s boy had assumed the man was asleep, but he now rolled over in his bunk and regarded his blank expression.
“Years ago, Sally Cather was the goodwife of a sailor - first mate on the Gargoyle.  They’d been wed for less than a year, and their hearts were filled with the fire of their freshly-built hearth.  But, as ye know, the sea calls.  Sally’s husband left the shore to earn a living, and the Gargoyle made for Boston in a strong tail-wind.”
The cook’s boy’s brow furrowed.  He seemed to remember talk of the Gargoyle at some point in his childhood - when the men sat playing cards at a table higher than his young eyes could peek over.
“Well, the sea can be kind in the morning and cruel by nightfall.  The Gargoyle never made Boston harbour - nor did word of her position.  Young Sally waited on the land - waited for word of survivors, for word of a wreck, for a body that never came home.  That ate at her, more than being a widow-to-be ate at her - the notion that, if her husband were dead, he was floating out there somewhere - to rest in the bellies of crabs and gulls instead of in a good Christian grave.”
From beyond the ship, the sound of weeping stole into the cabin - low, mournful, desolate.
“Sally had no children,” the boatswain continued, “and few things to tide her on.  She neglected her cleaning, her mending.  The livestock grew thin and gaunt.  By the moonlight, she stared out to sea from the spit above Spillars Cove as her garden withered.  She stood up there under rain and beating sun - ne’er washed, nor baked, nor went to church.”
“For the love of God!” the woman’s voice wailed, “Is there no one up there with mercy or decency?!”
It was too much.  The cook’s boy grabbed his boots and began shoving them on over his stockings.  “I don’t know what you mean by this tale,” he scowled, “I don’t know what she did, but she’s a fellow human being, and she’s in trouble”
“She ain’t!” growled the cook, “and she ain’t.  Sit.  Down.”
The woman sobbed.  “I promise I’ll be no burden,” she pleaded, “if only you’ll throw down a line.”
“Sally got a monomania on her,” the boatswain continued, “she thought of nothing beyond finding her man - or what was left of him.  When the vicar came ‘round, counselling her that her husband’s fate was God’s will, she chased him off her land, screaming that she’d shake the hand of Old Nick, if the fiend had a way to find her lost love.”
The cook’s boy stood on the still deck, halted by such a terrible claim.
“Soon after, Sally was seen on the overlook with a pale stranger - and then she was seen no more.  Folk assumed that she’d gone with the fellow who’d spoken with her - or that grief had driven her to take her last swim.  Her body was never found, but other bodies soon turned up - fellas washed up on the strand, pale as snow and drained of all their blood.  Eventually, stories were told of a beautiful woman, dressed in the rags of a petticoat, calling sailors off of their ships.  She’s a vampire, lad, who don’t need to breathe.  She hides from the sun in the dark depths below, and searches for the Gargoyle and its mate, without the cares of flesh.  She still needs to feed, though, and she’ll drag y’under as sure as a riptide if ye heed her.”
“Codswollup,” the cook’s lad retorted weakly, “If she’s a monster, then why does she not just come on deck and take what she wants?
The weak and wan wailing continued.  It was a sound of loss and desperation, not of monstrous hungers.
“A christened ship is sacred ground,” the boatswain stated, “like the yard of a church.  Folk marry aboard ship.  Last rites are given,” the old man looked reproachfully toward the woman’s voice, “Funerals too.”
The cook’s boy balked, “But that’s—“
The cook cut him off, his tone taking the more fatherly air to which the lad was accustomed.  “She can’t come aboard unless she’s invited, and she can’t take a life what don’t disembark.”
The youth went silent.  So had the woman.  Her doleful laments had given way to morose silence.  Minutes passed before she spoke again - and, when she did, her voice was the nigh-hopeless tone of the truly bereft.
“You must help me,” she mewed, “You must…”
The voice of the captain rose into the night, coming from up on deck.  It was hard and sure, and knifed through the still air in a way that brooked no discussion.
“Away with ye, Sally Cather!” he called to the spirit, “You’ll find no warm meal here.  Else wait for the sunrise, and let the light of God warm your bones.”
The sound that rose in answer was nothing from a human throat.  It was the agonized screech of a gull caught in a rusty pulley.  There was the thrash or water, and a loud boom as some piece of flotsam was thrown hard against the outer hull.
“You who live!” the vampiress screamed, “You have no care for me or my love - and so I have no care for you!  Curse you,” she shrieked, “Curse you and all who walk the land!  The only mercy I wish for you is the one my husband is denied!  Rot in the earth, land-dwellers!”
There was another splash, and a long, aching silence.  The only sound was the lapping ripple of the waves kicked up by Lost Sally’s rage.  Finally, the cook rolled back over in his hammock.
“Get some sleep,” he said, “breakfast comes earlier than you’d like.”


So here's my submission for :iconall-mature-content: 's latest contest.  Since the subject matter was wide open for this one (the Group Founder didn't make it any more specific than "Mature Content"), I decided to couple it with the MerMay art challenge - and this pelagic vampiress is the result.  From Greek naiads to Irish merrows to the New Haven Sea Hag of the United States, there have always been beautiful monsters in folklore, ready to drag impulsive sailors to their doom.  Lost Sally is simply my (admittedly lubberly) latest contribution.

Update:  This image took third place in the competition; not too shabby.  :)

By the bye:  not all of my MerMay entries will be dark.  The next one will be much more whimsical.
Underwater kiss 

Drawn in GIMP, using a Wacom Intuos Pro Large.
Creaton time: 12 hours
Image details
Image size
3000x3000px 4.28 MB
Published:   |  Mature
© 2018 - 2021 Djake
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Vyctorian's avatar
Excellent work ~
Djake's avatar
Thanks!  My “Big Mouth” pic seems to be the most popular of my MerMay series; but this one remains my favourite. 
colinofferment's avatar
Both the drawing and the story are very well done. Excellent new presentation of an age-old theme.
Djake's avatar
Thanks! Part of the whole MetMay challenge (at least for me) has been to come up with some new and/or creative angle for each daily pic. It’s a good way to ensure that I won’t be utterly sick of mermaids by the end of the month. :XD:  So far, this has been the one I’m most pleased with. 
Ndzoodzoo's avatar
Great job on the art and the story! She’s so beautiful. And the story drew me in!

Thanks for being patient with me when it come to replying  to you btw. Your messages are long but undeniably interesting! ^^ 
Djake's avatar
I appreciate that!  I see a lot of artists who simply post something like "Aquatic Vampire" and get rave reviews, and I sometimes wonder if anyone bothers to read my maundering brouhaha.  :XD:  Regarding the art, I'm quite pleased myself.  I think this is my favourite MerMay piece I've done, and will be hard-pressed to top it.
As for replying, never fear.  I always enjoy your positive comments, but don't feel overly pressured to respond.  I've had perfectly lovely replies come over a year after I post the original comment, and they're still appreciated.  Nevertheless, I'm happy to know you find my responses engaging.  :D
Ndzoodzoo's avatar
I love reading your stuff ^^
Her face is so beautiful and compelling. I know i’ve already said that pretty much. ^^ Also the colors work so well together and create the perfect mood. I’m sure you can top this one though! But if not, we still have this beaut and of course the others too!

What you said really does put me at ease. I hate to admit it, but i started stressing a little about all the comments I had to reply to— not just from you but others too (I got into too many conversations I guess ^^’ I love it though) —and the more i stressed the more i didn’t reply. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s not a big deal. I love for DA to be a chill, stressfree place for me but sometimes it takes a lot of personal convincing to keep it that way.
I do find your conversations very engaging! I wish you had been there when i first read the reply about how everyone is an idiot and a genius at the same time (do you know which one I’m talking about?) I was with my mom and sister at the store at the time and i kept reading parts of it to them and talking about it! :) I will hopefully reply to that comment soon, and hopefully i’ll say all i want to say. ^^
Djake's avatar
Yeah, I know what you mean about the pressures to reply.  When I first started at dA, I liked to comment on every image I enjoyed, thank everyone personally for Faves, Watches, llamas and group activities, and generally just engage with everyone.  Eventually, though, I realized I was spending so much time chatting that I had no time left for art.  One day (probably after I retire), I'd love to be able to go back to being that active - but I figure that people would probably rather have an art piece they can enjoy repeatedly than a bunch of comments with a limited shelf life.
That said, an inspiring conversation is a gem - and you tend to be a trove of them.  :)
Ndzoodzoo's avatar
Yeah i see what you mean. I try hard not to let it get in the way of other things. If i feel like i'd just be watching youtube vids or scrolling through instagram if not talking on DA, then i'm fine with it; but if i know i would be drawing if not on DA i try my best to draw instead. <3
Thanks so much for that! ^^ Conversations with you are always so interesting!
thormemeson's avatar
impressive work with the  breasts they look like they are really underwater.
Djake's avatar
Thanks!  You're not the first to comment on them.
Breasts are a difficult topic to study, let along figure out the physics on.  I really enjoy the challenge - which is why there are so many shirtless ladies running around my gallery.  ^^;
thormemeson's avatar
the over all body looks good too
Djake's avatar
What can I say?  ^^;  I'm a fan of the human mechanism.
Though, honestly, I find myself picking apart the anatomy problems when I look at it - but part of the fun of MerMay is in letting stuff roll without too much scrutiny and painstaking.  :)
random--squid's avatar
boobs are drawn very well! you'd be surprised how many artists' boobs dont adhere to the law of gravity

good job :)
Djake's avatar
Haha!  Thanks for noticing!
Boobs are really weird structures.  Gelatinous, semi-elastic bags just aren't something that one finds in nature, or in typical manufactured goods.  Also, we're the only vertically-built mammals - so even other creatures with them don't have the same physics.  On top of that, women are trained to nay-say their appearances; and the sexualization of breasts couples with that to keep them hidden from casual scrutiny/study.  As a teen, I was frustrated by the fact that asking a woman to study her hands or hair would be met with a smile (if perhaps a shy one), but asking a woman to study her breasts was taboo.
I think this inaccessibility and over-sexualization have led to some really misguided depictions - even in artists whose intentions are correct.  Added to that the huge variety based on age, hormones, fitness level, genetics, et cetera, and it becomes an utter mess.  From your Anatomy: Female Torso pic, I can see that you've experienced this puzzle yourself - and, may I say, you've addressed it well!
I'm a big fan of the human mechanism and all its components - and I like the challenge of depicting it accurately.  Drawing boobs (even moderately sized ones; she was originally going to be a more buxom femme fatale) underwater required a lot of thought and study.  It gives me a smile to hear that the effort is appreciated.
random--squid's avatar
Oh my god! somebody finally said it!

I totally agree when you say that "asking a woman to study her breast was taboo." And it's such a shame because the human body is so beautiful! The fact that breasts can be "sexual" totally blows my mind because they are literally floppy feeding sacks on a person's chest. 

I confess that I haven't had the opportunity to study the human body live, ehehehe. Is it strange that the only reason I watch porn is because I want to study how the human body moves? Probably, but whatever. 

Keep up the great artwork! I really enjoyed this piece!
Djake's avatar
Well, I can understand the reasoning behind it.  Breasts are a powerful erogenous zone in many people (male and female).  One of the reasons traditional Japanese kimono have such high necks is that they had similar feelings about the nape - and other cultures cover the lips with a veil.  People always hide things that have a power they can't control.
Physical usage aside, there's also the hormonal changes that happen around a woman's cycle - with studies that indicate men are somewhat hard-wired to look at those signals (and the boobs that originate them), and women are equally compelled as an appraisal of one's peers.  We have the choice of how we respond to those urges, of course - and some feel them more deeply than others, but it seems to be a part of what we are.  The sexuality must be taken as part of the whole.
On the other hand, I doubt asking a lady: "Would you mind if I draw your baby feeders?" would go any better.  XD
All of that aside, I agree.  Lovely breasts can be as appealing as well-formed eyes or hands - both in terms of aesthetics and in sensuality.  It's a shame so few cultures embrace the body in its totality, and make its various bits something to be proud of - as we do with our hair or fingernails.  Perhaps one day.

Regarding the use of porn as an anatomy reference:  I might offer a suggestion, as someone who was forced to reference "staged" nudes for many years.
Rather than using pornographic (or artistic nude, for that matter) photos and videos, you might look into the various "live cam" sites that are now available.  These tend to have the models in a much more relaxed environment (often their own homes), so one doesn't get all the convoluted poses seen in so-called "professional" imagery. By contrast, models in porn, art and glamour will often deliberately flex a muscle to look more impressive, tighten a "problem area" that might be a bit soft normally, draw the eye with artificially held limbs and so on.
Conveniently, many cam models simply "hang out" for long periods, waiting for tips to roll in before their show starts.  This offers plenty of time to study a breast in repose, the fold of a belly near the hip, the squish of a cheek resting on the palm, and so on.
Additionally, the models tend to be built more like "real people" - the sort of attractive folk one might meet on the street - rather than models who are hand-picked from a hundred people who already represent the top percentile for a certain look. Seeing a person with real-world muscles and/or curves - moving in normal ways, and/or sitting comfortably - gives a far better understanding of the way muscles move, the ways flesh can bunch, stretch and fold, etc.
I have been fortunate in having a decent number of friends in my life who would be willing to pose for me - but a few dozen sessions spaced over many years are sort of a drop in the bucket.  Being able to log in regularly (most cam models keep predictable schedules, so as to attract more viewers), and study-sketch real people in the nude has been one of the biggest aids to my figure art so far.  Also, some of the models are real characters, and the chats can be a lot of fun at times.  I suspect that helps the process of "drawing people" rather than "drawing models" as well.

Anyway, that's enough long-winded rambling for one day.  ^^;  I hope it didn't get too extensive.  I'm glad you enjoyed my work!  There will be more such drawings (clothed and less clothed) throughout the month of MerMay, so fee free to stay tuned, if you wish.
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