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Title: Artwork for Breaking the Ice
Author: ashtraythief
Artist: dancing_adrift (yup, that’s me!)
Pairing: Jared/Jensen
Rating: PG-13 (for art; fic is NC-17)
Medium: Corel Painter Essentials 5, blood sweat & tears
Artist's Notes: Created as part of the 2017 SPN_J2_BigBang challenge. (My 2nd year!)

Summary: Jared has been harboring a crush on Jensen, the prince from the far north, ever since he was fourteen, so when his parents announce that they’ve chosen Jensen as his husband, Jared couldn’t be happier. But when Jensen arrives in Scayen, Jared realizes that there’s more to him than meets the eye — and even more that Jensen doesn’t want Jared to see. But it shouldn’t take much more than Jared’s sunny charm to melt Jensen’s icy facade, right? Except it isn’t so easy dealing with cultural differences and misunderstandings; sometimes it takes a lot of food, some good friends’ advice, a little kitten, and even a bit of magic to overcome a rocky start.


I know y’all are here to see some art - there’s A LOT below the cut, and you can see it all as you’re reading the fic, too, (which you should do anyway) - but I really need to thank some people first, because this wouldn’t have happened without them.

Jen (gluedwithgold) - I literally would not have been able to do this if not for you. You know all that you did, and I am eternally grateful. I love you!! And many thanks also to our Sammie (non_tiembo_mala) for being there every step of the way. I love you too!

ASH (ashtraythief) - omg, my amazing author. I’ve loved your fics for as long as I’ve known them, and now I got this INCREDIBLE opportunity to collaborate with you… fucking dream come true. We’ve talked about this. If you don’t know how much I love and admire you by now, then clearly I haven’t been irl-schmoopy enough ;) Would love to work with you again, absolutely any time, my dear. You kick ass :)

Anna (whispered_story) - my amazing author from last year and my friend and cheerleader ever since. Thank you, meine Schoene, for your everlasting enthusiasm and encouragement. Ich liebe dich :)

And, as ever, thank you to Wendy for running this challenge (so glad you do what you do!!), and thank you to all my fandom friends for the continued love and support.


As I mentioned above, I made quite a bit of art for this fic. At least one piece for each section (of which there are seven) plus banners, headers, dividers… yeah. Not to mention the pile of rejected pieces I’ve still got sitting on my computer.

Since I unfortunately cannot seem to put cut-text within cut-text, there’s only one truly spoiler-free way to enjoy this art, and that is to view it while reading the story. I’m going to be talking a lot about some decisions I made to create the art, and I reference the fic a lot, so you might as well just read it first. The art itself isn’t all that spoilery, so you could also just skim this first, and then read the story...though I hope you’ll then come back to read my thoughts, too! ;)

Whatever way you decide to enjoy my art, thank you for doing so. I appreciate (love, really) hearing from you, and I hope you enjoy viewing it/learning more about it as much as I enjoyed creating it.


You’ve already seen the title banner above, so let me talk about that for a moment first, as it gives some context to a few of my ‘part headers’. This is not the first - or even the second - idea I had for a title banner, but I’ll talk more about that later. The final design you see above uses the tattoos that are so integral to the story as its decoration. The tree on the left is a white cedar (inspired by The Witch Tree, a local - to me - landmark that I only learned about when I Googled ‘slowest growing tree’ when trying to figure out what kind of tattoo the spirits might bestow upon Jared (and yes, Ash asked for my help with that which I thought was pretty cool)). The pinkish flowers below it are supposed to be purple saxifrage, a plant I discovered when looking for flowers that thrived in cold/harsh environments. After all, Jared asked Misha for a tattoo to symbolize Jensen and their marriage - so, I looked for elements from nature that were perhaps slow to develop (the cedar), but also resilient and long-lasting (both plants) and found in colder regions. While Ash gave the plants different names in the story, these were their inspirations.

With the left side representing the elements of Jared’s tattoo, I of course had to balance it on the right with elements of Jensen’s ‘life’ tattoo. The roots which start at his ankle, the trunk that runs up his leg, the bird that manifested near his knee, the vines that cover his thigh, and at the very top, the white blooms that he didn’t want Jared to see because he didn’t want to reveal his cowardice and fear. These flowers are meant to mimic edelweiss, a flower that it’s no surprise my German author chose ;)

Once I [finally] had this banner figured out, it was easy to take elements from it to create chapter headers. I thought it very fitting to have the Prologue begin the same place Jensen’s tattoo does, at the root. As you’ll see, I used elements directly from this title banner for the Part One and Part Two header banners as well.

Spinach Puffs
My first thought when coding this masterpost after seeing the original size of that image (you can click on it to see it for yourself) was, “Holy shit I need to learn some sort of consistency.” Anyhoo, I digress.

This is the first piece I actually drew for this fic. But before I could draw it, I had some artistic decisions to make.

Unlike my first BB, where I knew exactly what I wanted to do for art just from reading the summary, this fic took a little more time to get it figured out. When I read the fic and realized that, not only was it exclusively from Jared’s POV but also we hardly got any insight into Jensen’s thoughts for quite a long time, I knew that I wanted to try balancing that out. So I decided that I’d try to keep my art from Jensen’s POV in an attempt to give him a voice (which he doesn’t really get for a lot of the first half of the fic).

As I read more of the fic, it was apparent to me that Jensen’s POV wasn’t exactly the most positive. He was scared or angry or both for a long time in the beginning. Of course, the more he and Jared get each other figured out, the happier he becomes, the more hopeful his outlook on life. So because of that, I figured I’d try going with a more neutral palette with only a few pops of color. In theory, there’d be more color as the fic went on, symbolizing the growth in Jensen’s optimism. I’m not sure how well I succeeded in that, but that was the idea. Also, this gave me my method for choosing which moments to illustrate. There’s a lot of unhappy times, especially in the beginning, so I wanted to highlight the moments that would have made Jensen feel the happiest.

So here we have fourteen-year-old Jared, offering Jensen a tray of spinach puffs. Technically, this didn’t really happen in the fic, but the spinach puffs played a pretty pivotal role in Jared and Jensen’s first interactions. I chose to highlight the green of the puffs which also gave me a really convenient reason to color Jared’s eyes as well.

This piece also presented the challenge of “WHAT THE EFF DO SCAYANS WEAR???” Teenager Jared got a couple attempted and rejected outfits before I settled on this. Something that would keep him cool in the heat (no sleeves, minimal material around the neckline), plus the ties at his sternum (apparently a common Scayen attribute - “like the three Muskateers”, Ash said), and the traditional Scayan embroidery. I added the bands around his shoulders because a) he’s a prince, and b) this was at a formal dinner, so why not add a bit of jewelry? You can also tell it’s my first piece for this fic because I hand-colored in his shirt (I used different methods, like the ever-wonderful ‘Fill’ tool, later). I was still figuring a lot of stuff out :)

Wedding Party
Towards the end of drawing this piece, I’d also termed this trio the “Button Brigade” because of how Ash “made” me add buttons to each of their outfits. Alendans really are big on keeping everything buttoned up tight (both literally AND metaphorically), so she was right to have me add that little detail.

Part One is possibly when Jensen is at his most unhappy (?), so I had kind of a tough time deciding what to draw here. Eventually I settled on these three - the only people who supported Jensen enough to travel with him to Scayan and attend his wedding. We have the best friend/pseudo-bodyguard Chris, the mark-sister Lady Danneel, and Jensen’s aunt, Briana. Having them there when he married Jared - practically a stranger, and a confusing and slightly intimidating one at that - would have been a great comfort to Jensen, though I doubt he would have admitted it, at least not out loud.

Okay, so obviously Jensen getting a cute, little, adorable AF kitten qualifies as a happy moment. And just look at how teeny she is cupped in Jared’s [swoon-worthy] giant hand! I just had to draw the cat. A gift from Jared, from the spirits, meant for Jensen… that’s a pretty big deal. Mokaly is a pretty big deal, and she knows it.

Also, this chapter header is the last that incorporates elements directly from the title banner. Though I kept up the ‘easy’ aspect of it and continued to borrow images from other art, as you’ll see.

Just as advertised in the summary that I claimed on LJ, food plays a pretty big part in this fic. The moment that Jensen admitted to his dislike of peeling tangerines was a pretty big moment of growth in his relationship with Jared, enough so that I was compelled to make a second piece of art for one chapter. It brought another clothing decision for Jared (I kept the element of the ties the same, but simplified the rest, sort of, as I assumed this would be a sort of pajama shirt for him), and a new color to highlight (I adore orange, and I enjoyed putting a touch of it also in Jared’s ever-changing eyes ;)).

A Glimpse
When I first started thinking of moments that I might want to illustrate, I made a list. I shared it with my friend Anna, and when she caught sight of “Jensen watching Jared get undressed in their tent on their way to Chad’s home,” she basically demanded that I draw it. (Okay, that didn’t really happen, but she was excited about the idea, and, lbh, so was I. So here we are!)

It only occurred to him when he was standing in the tent in his underwear that Jensen might be offended by his nudity. But when he tried to surreptitiously look over his shoulder, he found Jensen watching him.

Oh, Jensen was definitely watching him, and enjoying the hell out of the view. As would I; I’m kind of a sucker for backs, and Jared’s is particularly glorious. I had a lot of fun playing with the light from the little torch, the shadows of the tent. This is also the first piece where I colored in some of the background which brought about its own challenges.

Prelude to a Kiss
Guh. Part Three just provided soooo many moments that I wanted to illustrate, but I knew I had to limit myself somehow if I was going to have art somewhat evenly distributed throughout the fic. So, my solution was to basically combine three pieces into one??

They do have a theme though. As the title suggests, each image is the moment right before Jared and Jensen share a kiss (and pretty significant ones at that). This is all during the first day/night of the harvest festival that they attend in Mons Arbor.

Left!Jared, as I call him, is supposed to show the moment that Jared and Jensen crossed elbows and drank some ceremonial wine to get the harvest started. This was really interesting (and challenging, for sure) to figure out, especially since it’s from the first-person POV of someone who is drinking wine. Not exactly easy to find reference pics for that. I don’t think it’s entirely right, but I do hope you get the feel for it at least.

Middle!Jared has just eaten some grapes and declared it ‘an excellent harvest’. How could Jensen resist that sunshine personified? Gonna go make that alcohol blush turn even more pink, mmhm. The grapes Jared is holding also became the element I used in the chapter header.

Another fashion opportunity here. Jared’s wearing loose pants, as he’s often described as doing, but they’re pushed above his knees for the grape stomping. And again I used similar elements as that first shirt I drew, but this time with harvest appropriate embroidery ;)

And those grapes…. Fuck, man, that’s a lot of grapes. Each one hand-fuckin-colored, I’ll have you know. This is also the first time that I put any color in the skin-tones, rather than just letting the subject be the same color as the background. This was mainly brought on by the decision to have different backgrounds as well, but I was pleased that this was just one more way to add some color, too (this is easily the most colorful piece in the story so far, and it suits the upward-moving swing of Jensen’s emotions, just like I’d planned ;)).

Right!Jared was a lot of fun. This is the first time I used a brush other than a simple pencil (I used oil brushes! Fun!), and it provided another opportunity to play with color, this time as he watches the sun rise. Of course Jensen is watching his husband, and probably realizing more and more (with the assistance of the wine consumed, I imagine), that he could actually really like this guy he married.

This image illustrates a huge turning point in Jared and Jensen’s relationship. This is Jared’s grand gesture, the last thing he can think of to hopefully prove to his husband that he can trust him, that he can make their marriage work. With as significant as this moment is (it was kind of a selling point in the prompt I claimed, and it plays into the title of the fic), it had to be drawn.

I actually looked up a couple tutorials on perspective (I am not a trained artist in the least), so I learned a little there, which is always cool. I hope the effect is noticeable. And, strange as it may seem, I didn’t draw the ice skates when I drew this piece. They were actually drawn for one of two rejected title banner designs. Though the designs were scrapped for various, totally legit reasons (for example, the one this was in made it look too much like Ash was writing a ‘Yuri on Ice!’ crossover fic - which I’d have no problem with, believe me!! Love that show!), they both ended up coming in pretty handy for other pieces later on down the line. Not only was I able to use them for some detail in this piece, but they were a no-brainer choice for the chapter header as well.

I also cheated a little with this illustration - there are supposed to be pieces of glass strung about the room as well, to reflect the light. But I chose to show only the reflections rather than clutter up an already crowded ceiling with strands of mirrored glass. I think a disco ball would fit nicely in there, don’t you? ;) And this is the cave as Jensen first sees it, just after he notices the skates and his heart is so happy to have a piece of home, made just for him by the husband that he’s coming to love more every day ♥

You’ll notice that I’m back to only one piece of art per Part now. I had wanted to include a second piece for Part Four, but I had a couple days where nothing was coming out right and I scrapped at least two WIPs due to time and motivation constraints. Perhaps someday I’ll revisit them, and if I do, I’ll be sure to share them here :)

This is the last piece I completed for this fic. Also, my first time drawing Misha, ever! The opportunity to draw those enchanting blue eyes… Yeah. I really enjoyed Ash’s introduction of the eccentric conjurer, and since the spirit tattoos are such a major player in this fic, it seemed only fitting to draw the person who brings them about. And the joy Jensen must have felt - after probably the worst birthday ever - to have both his home court’s conjurer and his mark-sister visit him in his new home so they can get their yearly life tattoos together? That had to be pretty amazing. Score one more point for Jared (and the lovingly stubborn Danneel!).

Misha’s staff is a knotty column of natural wood topped by a pair of wings holding a blue crystal. I decided to use wings because we learn from the tattoo on Jensen’s back that his family’s heraldic animal is a bird of prey; as their court conjurer, it made sense to me that the source of Misha’s power would be connected to nature specific to them somehow, and a bird seemed to fit.

Behind Misha I superimposed shadows of many of the tattoos mentioned in this fic, all of which would be found on either Jensen or Jared’s bodies by the end. This, along with the ‘Fairy Dust’ brush tool (my absolute FAVORITE BRUSH EVER) was one more attempt on my part to bring a bit of Misha’s magic into the drawing.

For the chapter header, I used some more art from a rejected title banner idea. I got some good mileage out of those purple saxifrages though, as you’ll see I used them in the end piece as well. I chose them for this chapter because this is the chapter in which Jared receives his tattoo, the one to represent Jensen and their marriage.

Happily Ever After
I was so so so so worried about not having any pictures of Jensen in a J2 fic. Did you even notice, as you read the story, how Jared-centric it all was? Or did it not seem that way? In any case, I wanted to include some pretty Jensen, but I worried about how to do it in a way that still fit with my plan to have all art from Jensen’s POV. Should I use a mirror? (There was one idea that was stick-figure drawn and rejected due to time constraints on that end.) I really couldn’t think of anything that would make sense, other than to do an ending banner in a similar manner as the title banner. There are some similar elements (including the edelweiss above Jensen’s head that I included in the chapter header as well), though they were mainly borrowed from one of the rejected banners I mentioned previously.

Not much to say about this one, except that I wanted Jared and Jensen’s faces to reflect the words - “Happily Ever After.” Because finally, after all this time, and 60K+ words, Jensen is finally happy. Jared is finally happy. And they’re going to be happy together for a really, really, long time.


As with the title and final banners, the dividers carry elements of the boys’ tattoos. Cedar and saxifrage on the left for Jared, and edelweiss and vines on the right for Jensen. The second divider was actually my first design, but Ash and I talked and it was decided that it might be a bit too schmoopy, especially for the first couple chapters of the fic. After a few tries, I came up with the first design for use in the majority of the fic, and suggested that maybe the one with the heart could be used right at the end :)

There’s SO MUCH MORE I could share with you right now - the rejected banner designs, my mock-ups of Scayen fashion, a couple drawings done just for fun… But this post is novel-length enough as it is. Perhaps someday when I am bored I will share those things (though I may also share by request ;)), but for now, I think I’ve given you quite enough to enjoy. Thank you thank you thank you, as ever, for sticking with me. I hope you loved the art, I hope you loved the fic (and have sung your unending praises to Ash, fic-writer extraordinaire); thank you for this opportunity to share our love for J2 and fandom together! ♥
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