Sar Cousins illustration

Illustrating Dagger In The Heart

Posted on March 26, 2024 in Project Updates

The Dagger In The Heart crowdfunding campaign is pulling into the station, with less than a week remaining, so we thought we’d take some time to sit down with Sar Cousins, the illustrator for this stunning new adventure for Heart: The City Beneath, to catch a glimpse into how they crafted their version of the bleeding tear in reality that is the Heart.

What was your process for making art for Dagger to the Heart?

I like to work traditionally where I can and this project was the perfect place to use a gritty inky approach. A lot of my enjoyment of making art comes from the process, being able to be looser with the ink and brushwork really adds life into elements like the clouds and worms, I had great fun doing the worms.

Every piece started out as a digital sketch making adjustments and revisions easy. Then once I’m happy, it gets printed and I use a lightbox to trace the image onto heavier bristol board where I can work straight into india ink using brushes and pens. I like to add as much texture as I can before the digital stage where it gets coloured and effects like lighting get added as final touches.

Since the Heart physically changes around the Delvers, the setting almost rebels against the idea of a singular canon depiction. How did you decide what the Heart looks like to you?

It’s a really cool idea for a setting that moves and changes with the players and hearing what GMs have done with it is exciting. I think that’s a wonderful premise and don’t want anyone to take my particular vision as the truth. Mine takes more direct inspiration from Gareth’s written imagery, the idea of the Heart as a real anatomical heart and I wanted the idea of that to permeate the other areas. The idea of the players moving deeper through pulsing veins and flesh into what could be a living creature felt like the right direction for me.

There’s a lot of wild imagery going on in your art. Did you have any particular inspirations when creating your pieces?

I’ve been on a real 80s horror film kick recently and having an outlet to pour my love of the gore and practical effects into has been great. Films like “Evil Dead” and “The Thing” have long been some of my favourites but I’m enjoying discovering more niche ones like “Dead Alive” and “Basketcase” recently. Making something that takes the horror of those dripping bodies and warped limbs into illustrative work has been very fun.

Art wise, I’ve also been reading a lot of Daniel Warren Johnson comics lately and I adore his looser more energetic style of inking. Some of my more dramatic action pieces like the opening for Chapter Five and the Hound have taken inspiration from his work.

You made all the illustrations for the book yourself, do you have any favourites that you’re particularly proud of?

For sure, the headers for some of the chapters turned out excellently, especially the Wormery artworks, the chapter art for that one and the combined piece with Ysella and the others I’m particularly happy with.

Pulling together elements from the chapter art for the GM screen, making them into a long and visceral single image combining angels, the delving machine, and the Heart, was a fun challenge. I’m really proud of how that one turned out. That was a really good idea on Zach’s part. It’ll be a real shame to part with some of these pieces in the crowdfunder but I’m sure they’ll be appreciated in their new homes!

If the Heart was real, what would it take to make you venture into the depths?

That’s a really tricky one. It’s hard to know what could tempt me into such a terrible journey. I think I’m quite a simple person, I don’t have a lot of physical desires. If the Heart can offer something more intangible, easily won success in life or perpetual good health, I could go for that but I can’t come up with an easy lighthearted answer for this one I’m afraid!
If you’d like to see more of Sar’s work, you can find them on Twitter as @6knivesor, Instagram at tocsidiser, or check out their website . Don’t forget to check out the Dagger in the Heart crowdfunding campaign, ending soon!


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