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The Black Tortoise of the North 北方玄武

Genbu (or Xuan Wu in Chinese) is one of the Four Symbols of the Chinese Constellation, along with Seiryuu (Blue Dragon) Byakko (White Tiger) and Suzaku (Red Sparrow). Genbu represents the North, the winter season and the element of Water (if this confuses you, it's because I made a mistake on the element of the previous two. My apologies).

Genbu is the third in the series now. For those who have been waiting for me to finish this, thanks a lot for your patience. :) I spent quite a bit more time and effort painting Genbu in comparison to the other two, so I hope it shows.

It was a bit of a love and hate relationship painting this though. At times it got VERY frustrating to paint. Not so very smart moves on my side mostly, since I painted the shell at the very last minute and since this is all painted in one layer, I had a lot of trouble painting around the head. But overall it was a lot of fun. I had a lot of opportunities to paint details and though I know it’s not perfect, I think I learned a lot.

I came up with an initial sketch fairly early, but it took a lot of tortoise and turtle pictures before I got a good idea of how to paint it all out. The shell is kind of inspired by a multitude of tortoise shell photo's I've seen and honestly I think it’s a weird mixture of everything and anything. As for the rest, I made the snake a viper (love those critters) and the head of the tortoise is sort of based on an Alligator Snapping Turtle, though I think you wouldn’t be able to see much resemblance now :)

I have a whole lot more to say actually, but I know when to shut up ;) Click download if you want to see the full size. It's a large file, but the details can be seen better when you do. I'd appreciate it very much.


Medium: Painter 2, Photoshop CS2 (dodge tool here and there, but that’s about it), Wacom Tablet

Time taken: No idea, but I’ve been working on and off for two weeks.

Other parts of the Series:

Suzaku: [link]

And a hidden Fifth...:heart:

Huang Long: [link]
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© 2008 - 2021 Vyrilien
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DrAgOnOfFoReSt's avatar

Excelente trabajo en esta pieza. :love: Me fascina el nivel de detalle :o

Absolutely beautiful! Represents it well and I love the usage of color to represent North, Winter, and water.

Louisetheanimator's avatar

Very good concept. ^^

pookiesaurus4's avatar
I imagine the creature as a giant black tortoise with a snake for a tail
pardos66's avatar
Vyrilien's avatar
chris-illustrator's avatar
Great designs and rendering.
Vyrilien's avatar
Thank you! I would render it differently today, but the design still works :) I appreciate your comment
URS17010's avatar
MADinSC's avatar
it is great work
Vyrilien's avatar
Thanks! Glad you like :)
saf777's avatar
how much for your genbu here$$$$
Vyrilien's avatar
Interesting question :) May I ask what you're asking for specifically? A print? Access to the original file? (which I don't think I even have anymore) or did you want all rights to this image?
saf777's avatar
specially, am doing a test manga free and for FUN based on the Naruto's manga shinobi world, named Shawella Dzen's saga. For now, we are 8 in the team(majority we are amateurs). All that i want is to have right on this image beacause the story will be show on YouTube in 3 different lang. Genbu have been separated by a dark mystical process did by an old evil god ninja, i'll explain all this in my chapter 0. The snake part have benne seal in a baby futur ninja girl from a clan specialized in the shadow element. You ma take a look on my own page, i show few drawings concepts of my characters. I want the right on it if it cost not too much for me, and probaly i'll buy it if you choose sell it to me. Let'S begin by this, tell me what do you think about all this. I may put you name at the end of the projetc too if you want  to be collaborator  with us. :).  No prob for me if it's not interresting for you.
Amazing the relationship between the Chinese four directions and the Native North Americans' four directions. Thank you for sharing the mythos.

xXninja4lifeXx's avatar
i wish i had a bigass shell to protect my back
UnicornKnight321's avatar
Is the snake his tail?
Vyrilien's avatar
Not in my picture, but sometimes yes! Genbu/Xuanwu is always depicted as a tortoise with a snake coiling around it, but I've seen a lot of renditions where the snake actually appears to be its tail :)
UnicornKnight321's avatar
Firehound237's avatar
I love this picture, I really do its very well done, and I'm jealous cause I can't do these types of pictures: However I thought that Genbu is the god of earth while Seiryuu is the god of water?
HRLSS-GeckoTea's avatar
These are really cool! o3o You'r really good at creatures! <3
Vyrilien's avatar
Thank you so very much! :hug: I love drawing creatures and I'm happy it shows :D
whitefoxdesigns's avatar
I can't but notice the shading in the shell and scales. Awesome work!
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