Monday, May 21, 2012
Arthurian Alphabooks: A is for Arthur
In fairness, it's not obviously Arthur to me, either, though I think it qualifies as an Arthur. One of the reasons I thought it might be interesting to attempt an Arthurian Alphabooks is because descriptions of characters are often limited, absent, or so conventional as to be unspecific. Another challenge is that some of the more prominent characters feature in decades' worth of narrative events, so that a drawing of Arthur needs to choose a particular age of Arthur: the boy ignorant of his patrimony (in most texts), the young king (who may or may not be bearded), the mature monarch, the dying warrior.
I wanted to focus on not just a particular age of Arthur but a particular moment, when, on the field of battle at Salisbury Plain, he catches sight of his traitorous son Mordred, still alive when almost everyone else has fallen. I made a number of attempts, which were interesting to me in two main ways: first, I discovered that I did have a basic sense of how I thought Arthur might look; second, I realized how devilishly difficult it was going to be to capture in a still image the range of feelings that I imagine Arthur to experience in that moment.
Anyhow, the drawing above is neither exactly what I thought Arthur might look like nor (even remotely) a successful rendering of a face that should register simultaneous regret, rage, hurt, hostility, etc., etc. (An actor would have better luck than a still image, I think.)
Still, I'm satisfied enough to post it here and to have sent it to the good folks at Alphabooks. I will also note that this drawing is the furthest from my original sketches, which were a lot tighter and controlled—and frustratingly stiff. This one I drew freehand with a brush heavily charged with ink, and I began with loose strokes focused on the hooded eyesockets and the drawn cheekbones. (In fact, the original sketch lacked visible eyes, relying just on the solid black area of the upper lids.) I then slowly built up the image, even turning the paper around several times to hold up to the light to check for symmetry and tones. It felt almost like sculpting in ink, and was a fun way to get reacquainted with a real brush dipped in real India ink. (I haven't used those tools in about eighteen months or more.)
Anyhow. My thanks to Isaac for single-handedly keeping the blog alive in a really rewarding fashion over the last long haul. Let's see how or whether I hang in there this time around.