The illustrations had to be large format, 18 x 24, which is not traditional for me. I also used charcoal and white conte, which is not my normal medium. It was challenging for both these reasons and since I was working on a colored paper, which would serve as my medium tones, and had to work in the darks and lights with the charcoal and conte. It was a little awkward because I usually build up my shading by many, many layers of light shading, so going from light to dark, but I sought help from a great early 20th century illustrator (my favorites!) Elihu Vedder and his work on the Rubaiyat. It is hard to find really good examples of his work on the internet, but I once saw a show where they had all of them displayed at my local art museum, and they were absolutely stunning to see in person! Here are just two examples:
He worked with the medium toned paper, building his dark and light value tones. His touch is so soft and subtle, and I love the movement he creates in his figures as well. In these two examples, the one on the left you are drawn in by the twisted arms of this angelic creature leading this young woman. Your eye follows down the delicate twists of his cloak and her dress, but then you are drawn upward by his wings. On the right, the weeping woman's contorted body becomes one with the swirling contortion of the cloth around her. It is so elegant in its execution. There was just something about those early 20th century illustrators in the way they were able to capture the emotion and power of stories, fairytales, and poetry in their use of line, texture, and subtle hues. Normally they had a very minimalistic color palette, or at least from those I am usually inspired by, and I think that adds to the atmosphere and power of their art.
My main source of inspiration for my illustrations was Elihu Vedder, but I also drew from Gustave Dore and Arthur Rackham, who I've spoken on before. Here are examples:
|"The Destruction of the Levithan" by Gustave Dore|
& "Undine" by Arthur Rackham
With these images in mind, I began my work. They are listed in chronological order of the story and I have below each of them the excerpts that I chose.
|"He was running the darkening gloom, faster and faster, around the sinking |
inner lip of a pit, an enormous whirlpool sucking down to darkness..."
|"With all the skill of his life's training and with all the strength of his fierce heart,|
Ged strove to shut that door, to make the world whole once more."
|"When Arren woke, a grey fog hid the sea and the dunes and hills|
of Selidor. The breakers came murmuring in a low thunder
out of the fog and withdrew murmuring into it again."
I really wanted to make the surrounding atmosphere strong around these characters, with swirling clouds, water, or stone, and the characters flowing with it as one. This is how I felt while reading the book, her atmosphere thick with the Darkness that was invading the land. It was isolating, cold, and mysterious and this effected the landscape. I kept with the movement of the lines, clouds moving into sky, into water, into stone, into cloth, into trees, etc which creates a steady rhythm. In this way, I feel that it heightens the feeling of the fantastical, making the landscapes like dreamscapes, more surreal and magical. This movement is something that I felt was key in the early 20th century illustrators that I've listed above and one of the reasons why I'm so drawn to their work.
So, despite my often frustrations in working with charcoal, I enjoyed creating these pieces. I hope you have enjoyed them as well. My next posts I hope to be able to share new pieces, but seeing as this month was so busy for me, I thought it would be a good opportunity to show some earlier work that I don't usually get to show. It was also a great excuse for me to photograph and make this into digital copies. Anyway, please come back in a few weeks, and have a good February!