I had the opportunity to grab a pinch hit for this year’s round of Tropefest. VioletHaze’s story is a wonderfully sweet love story set in a small Iowa town. There’s a goat, and Cop Cas, delicious pie, caring Dean...and...you’re gonna love it. Read In this Handmade Heaven on AO3, or read the teen-rated version of the story .
Dean knows Bobby’s given him an opportunity by asking him to fix up this house, but being sent to a tiny town in the middle of nowhere feels a lot more like being banished. One store, one bar, hell, the entire place only has one cop. Dean’s plan is to go, get the house in order, and be back to his real life in Sioux Falls in time for Sam’s visit home at Christmas.
Everyone in Linden seems to know his business before he even arrives, and no matter how he tries to keep to himself, he and that cop, one Officer Cas Novak, keep crossing paths. Despite his initial intentions, Dean finds himself embracing the small town, the people there, and even the neighborhood goat. As he and Cas grow closer, Dean realizes that being stuck in the middle of Iowa feels a lot like coming home.
Huge thanks to the Tropefest mods, Jojo and Muse, for running this challenge. It’s been such a pleasure to make art for these stories!
You can read more about the process below.
Since this was a pinch hit, I knew I needed to go for a minimalist style that I could pull off in a short amount of time. I really loved Dean fixing up the house and it made me think about making art that was very rooted in a physical space. Fun fact: this story might as well be set in MY house! (Goats not included.)
- Cardstock and foil paper
- Bicycle tail light, desk lamps, and the sun for lighting
- An old shed
- The stairs in my house
- A toboggan
The core of the story for me was the way Dean was rebuilding himself. The wood-plank heart with Cas helping to assemble it seemed like an obvious choice for the cover, and Georgina (the goat) HAD to be in there, too. You’ll understand when you read the story.
My original concept for the cover art was that I would have Dean and Cas balanced on a level. I took a background shot against my workbench at home but it was a little too busy for my taste. And while I hadn’t bothered to light the works, the stark white background wasn’t doing anything for me. I entertained the idea of a fabric or otherwise plain backdrop, but the pieces themselves were so small, that seemed like a super boring approach.
This weekend we finally had a lovely, sunny, not-too-breezy day so I took the figures, some painting tape, and my camera outside. I scouted locations in my backyard. What would be lit by the sun, not too plain, and not too busy? It’s starting to green up here, but the story isn’t set in the spring, so I also needed a season-neutral backdrop.
Cue the shed.
This old shed in my backyard STILL hadn’t been re-painted to resemble a TARDIS and lucky me, because it seemed perfect for the cover image - a little damaged, a little sunny. I slapped some tape on the heart and the backside of Georgina’s stand, then balanced Dean and Cas on the door’s cross-bar. With the exception of the wind knocking them over at the WORST times, this worked well!
Here are some progress shots of assembling Dean. I use this translucent paper to guide my cuts as well as to orient the pattern pieces when glueing them together. The “rips” in his pants are little scratches made in the paper with my cutting blade.
I usually work late at night so...this happens.
The second piece is what I just ended up calling “the scary house.” Dean and Castiel are depicted here, practically Hardy Boys style, creeping up on a spooky house. The potential horrors depicted: a wild bear, Bigfoot, and Mothman. (That’s why you gotta keep mothballs on hand in the boonies!)
I’d planned on putting glowing eyes in the house window but alas, it just looked like random electronics hanging out on the other side of a piece of paper. I scouted a couple locations for this one, but the stairway was a last minute inspiration. One day I’ll evolve past lighting “spooky” scenes with a bicycle taillight, but today is not that day!
I used an app called MagicPoser (thanks for the suggestion, Aceriee!) to figure out some general poses since I didn’t have a lot of time to sketch. That saved me a LOT of time.
The final piece is a kissing scene. Now, ordinarily I avoid illustrating kissing because it involves faces and faces are very hard for me to do. But this scene was so cute, I had to go for it!
Sticking with the 3D concept, I made a little 2D tree by cutting out two identical trees from cardstock and slotting them together. Dean and Cas are freeform, no stand required since they can lean against the tree. They are LITERALLY only attached by the lips (their faces are glued to each other). You’re welcome, Dean and Cas.
I made two goats for this story, because they needed to be facing in opposite directions for the cover and what I’d intended for the kissing scene.
(Left: Creeper goat; Right: I like to make a little pile of all the paper I’ll need and then label my template/sketch like it’s a paint by number. Did I mention I usually only make art late at night?)
I’d planned to take this photo with Dean, Cas, and the tree in the scoop of a shovel and Georgina further up the handle. However, a test shot quickly showed me that this wouldn’t showcase anything terribly well. I scrapped that backdrop plan. Then, when I was rooting around outside for possible “set” locations, I noticed our old wood toboggan. The scene was set in a snowstorm… I dragged that down, put my trusty white curtain in as a backdrop to cover up the jumble of bikes and equipment stored in my garage, and took the photos. At one point, a bicycle I’d draped the curtain on fell over. “Georgina, noooooooo,” I cried as Georgina disappeared underneath the curtain and bicycle. She was okay, though! No goats were harmed in the making of this art. I ended up not using the first Georgina I made, because she seemed too much like a creeper goat when she was directly facing the smooching Dean and Cas. Bonus goat!!
I had a lot of fun making these pieces! It was great to work with Violethaze on this project. You are gonna love her story. Read In this Handmade Heaven on AO3, or read the teen-rated version of the story .
Thanks for reading! I love feedback. You might say I need it to survive? Tell me what you think on Tumblr or on my AO3 post.