Inktober 2017

My first ever Inktober! Inktober’s rules are simple: Post a piece drawn in ink, every day of October.

Initially, I did try actual ink, pen nib, and brush. After day 2, however, I decided that my inking skills were so lacking that I was in danger of totally frustrating myself, especially after almost a year of hardly any art at all. So I decided to stick with what little comfort zone I had left, and do these pieces in ballpoint pen.

I also had the idea that sustained me throughout this month: I decided to dedicate Inktober to my personal heroes of page and screen – all the film and book characters that have fascinated me in my life.

A couple of days in, I had to ask myself: Do I want to have 31 top notch pieces at the end of October? That was my fuzzy mental idea when I started out, and I had to bury that as early as October 2nd. It was marking season; my desk was buried under a hundred exams. I thought about quitting. Then I decided to make this my personal “DO THIS” project. No matter how busy the day was. No matter how little time you have. No matter how crap the drawing is. Do it. Post it. Inktober is all about forming habits. I wanted to show myself that I could still art.

The only one I missed was 15 – we went to see Bayer Leverkusen play VfL Wolfsburg. In retrospect, I should just have done a scribble in the stadium. Today (Oct 31) I would. Two weeks ago, that prospect still felt daunting.

Here are the results, along with my thoughts and comments on each as I first posted them. You can navigate through them by just clicking on the image that’s open.

 

Inktober has been an incredibly valuable experience for me – over the last few years, with two small and then borderline teenage kids, a taxing day job and sky-high levels of exhaustion, I had a lot of excuses for not being creative. Those excuses had become so ironclad that they effectively kept me from creating for about a year. Even the things I did draw and paint were a huge effort. At times, over the summer, I felt that maybe it was time to stop being an artist. The most frightening thing about that thought was that it didn’t frighten me at the time.

I was totally sure I would never finish Inktober (as with the ill-fated Junicorn I tried one and a half years ago), so I hardly advertised it, and hardly prepared for it. Maybe that was good. It definitely took the pressure off me, and uploading even the pieces that were sub-par in my eyes proved unexpectedly cathartic.

A wonderful asset of Inktober has been the flow of positive vibes I’ve been getting through social media, talking to people about the films and books we love (and even encountering some of the authors – talking to Tamora Pierce and being shared by Guy Gavriel Kay and Tad Williams).

Thank you! <3

Cannae updates

Work on “Darkness over Cannae” is in full swing. I haven’t been this deliriously happy with anything I have done in… decades?!

 

Finished header image!

Finished header image!

Cornelius Lentulus.

Cornelius Lentulus.

Not from "Cannae": Hannibal, wounded during the siege of Saguntum.

Not from “Cannae”: Hannibal, wounded during the siege of Saguntum.

Hannibal and Maharbal on a small hill overlooking the field prior to battle

Hannibal and Maharbal on a small hill overlooking the field prior to battle

Double page illu: Balearic slingers

Double page illu: Balearic slingers

Layout test: the Romans break through

 

Check out the (updated!) Project Page: http://darknessovercannae.com/

Or follow it on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DarknessOverCannae

Darkness over Cannae – some impressions

Work on “Darkness over Cannae” is well underway. I now know it’ll be an illustrated novel – a bit like Neil Gaiman’s Stardust in form (highly recommended, by the way!) – of probably around 120-150 pages.

It’s all set on this one fateful day – August 2nd, 216 BC – spanning an hour before dawn to a few hours after sunset, from the perspectives of six men, three Roman and three Carthaginian.

I’ve been doing some sketching, but the more finalised images and of course, greater portions of the text will not be online until the thing is done. Until then, here’s some impressions!

Maharbal, Hannibal's second in command.

Maharbal, Hannibal’s second in command. Quick sketch with a splash of watercolour.

Top: Hasdrubal, commander of the Punic heavy cavalry. Writing him is an indecent amount of fun due to his sense of wry humour. Bottom: Bomilkar, captain of Hannibal's bodyguard.

Top: Hasdrubal, commander of the Punic heavy cavalry. Writing him is an almost indecent amount of fun due to his wry sense of humour. Bottom: Bomilkar, captain of Hannibal’s bodyguard.

“Either Varro is smart – and conservative – enough to keep his line close together, which enables us to envelope him on the wings. Or he’s innovative – and dumb – enough to deploy in a long line to encircle us; in which case we’re more likely to break through his centre as it bumbles along than he is to break through ours. We’ll see. For the moment, however, we’ll assume he is smart and conservative, and the original plan remains the same as ever, in its main points.” Hannibal positioned the six Roman infantry rectangles as a neat, solid line with spaces between the blocks, then looked at each of the men assembled in turn and went on, sombrely, “At the risk of boring you into a stupor, here are the details again. If you want to, sing along; it can’t hurt.”

“It will, if I do,” Hasdrubal growled. Hanno chuckled; Mago snorted.

Top: After the battle, Hannibal kneels at the Aufidus, cleansing himself before praying. Bottom: Aemilius Paullus and Terentius Varro, the ill-fated consuls at Cannae.

“Terentius.” Paullus hastened after him, holding his colleague by the arm, speaking in a low voice. “Let us not fight on the right bank, at least. It favours his cavalry too much.”

“You don’t want to fight on level ground for your fear of his cavalry. You don’t want to fight on rough terrain for your fear of ambushes.” Varro had come to a halt in the semi-privacy of the tent entrance. “Where, in your opinion, should we give battle? At the bottom of the sea? Or on treetops?”

“In a place where we know he can’t stage an ambush, and that we have controlled for about a week before he gets there!” Paullus answered between his teeth. “He has been here for weeks! What do you think he has been doing?”

“Such a situation will never happen!” Varro’s face was red with contained anger. “We cannot force him to fight. That much is clear. The gods know why he even wants to fight here, outnumbered as he is! We need to take this chance, and beat him now, before he can come to his senses! Aemilius, why won’t you see it – Hannibal has finally made a mistake. We finally have him where we want him, and we can finally end this. And by Jupiter Stator, I will. It’s the great deeds and courage of our ancestors that have made Rome great. Not hesitating, not hiding, and certainly not bickering!”

First ink test. Not exactly what I wanted - too clean.

First ink test. Not exactly what I wanted – too clean.

Second ink test – NOW we’re talking! Aemilius Paullus in the last moments of his life.

Servilius Geminus was dead, hacked to pieces by several Iberian swords at once. Furius Bibaculus was dying, run through with a spear. The legates’ bodyguards were just being cut down along with them. Lentulus had drifted into view and out again, shouting at him, but the words had made no sense. Claudius Centho was dead, defending the consul, who was in a state of shock and utter disbelief.

Aemilius Paullus had left the dying right flank, only to die in the centre.

Cannae: Aemilius Paullus and the end

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“Servilius Geminus was dead, hacked to pieces by several Iberian swords at once. Minucius Rufus was dying, run through with a spear. The legates’ bodyguards were just being cut down along with them. Centho was dead, defending the consul, who was in a state of shock and utter disbelief. Lentulus had drifted into view and out again, shouting at him, but the words had made no sense.

Aemilius Paullus had left the dying right flank, only to die in the centre.”

Part of a new personal project of mine I’m working on in between commishs. It’ll be a while, but… stay tuned. ^^

Nine

Just a quick sketch done on, yes, a bowling alley. And yes, there is a connection. My son turned nine yesterday, and today, we invited his friends for bowling (or, more precisely, the German variant, Kegeln). The kids were having fun and they were exceptionally well-behaved, so I had some time to get some sketching done – of an equally nine-year-old Hannibal standing next to his father in the temple of Baal Hammon. That scene is going to need a stronger illu at some later date. When I’m not on a bowling alley and the light is better.

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A similarly simple sketch of Antiochos III, done last week. With reference – a marble bust in the Louvre.

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That’s all Greek to me

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“δίδομαι, δίδοσαι, δίδοται, δί… uh… διδόμετα…”

“διδόμεθα, Hannibal. That’s a theta, not a tau.”

Hannibal sighed. “Sosylos… can’t we carry on with the Anabasis?”

“The Anabasis? You think I’ll let you near Xenophon when you can’t conjugate δίδωμι?”

“But is that important? People’ll understand me. You understand me.”

“It’s not about being understood somehow. Even a peddler in the market can be understood somehow. I wouldn’t have to be here if it was just about that. It’s the details. Today, you learn to conjugate δίδωμι. You’ll learn to distinguish between tau and theta. Next year, we’ll read Plato. You’ll learn to distinguish between fine points  of right and wrong, and one view and another. You father is chasing you around the fields to exercise your body. This is just as important. I’m chasing you round the Greek verbs to exercise your mind. You’re going to need both.”

“But why Greek? Can’t I exercise my mind with Punic?”

“No. Because, no offence, Punic is a language for peddlers. Your esteemed father saw that and gave me the task of getting some culture into your head. Now, again. δίδομαι, δίδοσαι, δίδοται…”

We know next to nothing about Hannibal’s youth, save for one thing that I, personally, find very touching: He learned Greek, from a Spartan turot called Sosylos who later followed him on his campaigns as a historian. When I did my Graecum at University and struggled with the Greek conjugations, especially δίδωμι, I often wondered whether there were any words Hannibal hated, too. I always thought it was funny that I understand not one but two languages, Greek and Latin, that Hannibal also spoke.

And of course, if you’re a Latin teacher, you’re so used to fifteen-year-olds with thin arms and legs and huge feet slouched on chairs in deep concentration, questioning every task you make them do.

Sosylos is ever so slightly based on the professor I learnt Greek from. Obviously. :D

Mago’s victory report in Carthage

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Livy reports that, after the Battle of Cannae, Hannibal’s brother Mago was sent home to Carthage to report of his brother’s great victory, pouring out “three pecks and half” of gold rings on the floor of the Carthaginian council. These rings had been taken from knights and senators who had fallen in the Battle of Cannae.

(Long historical rambling following. I had this thought today, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard it voiced, so I need to pin it down before I forget it).

Usually, this gesture is seen as nothing but “Look at my bro’s awesomeness!” and its flourish is well enough in keeping with what we know of Hannibal’s general conduct, so that was most likely the overture. Mago then proceeds to demand support (money, grain and reinforcements) for his brother.

I actually think that the rings episode was one of Hannibal’s more brilliant ideas, and if anything could have worked, it was this. Alas, it didn’t, as so many other things after that time.

Why do I think there was more to it than a joyful victory report and a mandatory plea for reinforcements that was never implemented in a way that actually made a difference for the war?

Firstly, Livy says Hannibal did not send Mago straight away. The reason he gives is that some peoples in Italy had declared for Hannibal during that time, but there’s something else, something incredibly important, that happened in that time. Hannibal’s envoy he’d sent to Rome for negotiations was denied entry to the city. This must have been the instant in which Hannibal realised that his entire concept of the war threatened to collapse in itself. According to every rule of war in the Hellenistic world, Rome should have capitulated. It did not.

Secondly, Hannibal sent Mago. Perhaps his closest confidant after Maharbal. Granted, he couldn’t have known that Mago would never join him in Italy again; that the council would send him to Spain where he would never do much good. But the fact that it was Mago makes it clear that Hannibal wasn’t just reporting home. Mago had something important to say, something that Livy, in the speech he puts in Mago’s mouth, doesn’t record, but it’s highly likely that it was these three main points.

(I) My bro is awesome. Yes, there’s no way around that.

(II) These are the rings of senators. Old men in their fifties, who, as opposed to you, don’t sit in a council and debate on how many men to send where, who actually get on their horses or stand in ranks in a bloody field and die in their dozens.

(III) This is what we’re up against. We’re up against a nation whose very leaders bleed and die on the battlefields. A nation that, after its entire army has been annihilated. closes its city gates to peace talks. A nation that will not surrender unless it is crushed even more decisively than it already has.

And this is the point where we can’t really find fault with Carthage, or with Hannibal. Hannibal had played his hand. He saw affairs rather plainly. He might still hope to bring over Rome’s associates, and it’s highly likely that his successes in that regard fooled him and Carthage into believing it might be enough. But he knew that this Rome would not surrender in one battle. Had Carthage sent more men, it’s even possible he might have attempted a siege. But we can’t really fault Carthage for not sending as many as Hannibal would have needed (we’re talking at least another fifty to seventy thousand). Carthage could never have matched the insane numbers of soldiers that Rome sent into the field, and Carthage must have thought the very idea of it was completely insane, and that it had to be possible to win the war in another way.

Later, after the war, Hannibal’s political opponents put him on trial for not attacking Rome itself, and thereby losing the war. Hannibal defended himself by saying that Carthage itself had brought about its defeat by not sending him enough reinforcements. Both sides have been criticised – the council for leaving Hannibal hanging through ignorance or malice; Hannibal for originating such a stab-in-the-back-legend. The truth is that both acted as they had to. Hannibal probably had a clearer idea of the threat Rome posed – and its nature – than any of his contemporaries, while it would have been impossible for Carthage to grasp this idea. And even if they did grasp it, who can fault them for not resorting to the same means that their Roman counterparts employed?

Hannibal had been brought up far from Carthage, on his father’s Iberian campaigns. War was second nature to him, much more than to most other Carthaginians, and much more than any of the men sitting in council. In that, he probably understood Rome better than most of his fellow citizens. And he probably also understood this too – that he would not be able to make his fellow citizens see this, and act on his understanding.

Watercolour, 2013

Leaving Qart Hadasht

Two stages in Hannibal’s life, 42 years apart.

Leaving Qart Hadasht (I)

237 BC. The First Roman War is over, as is the Mercenary War, which brought Carthage to the brink of destruction. Rome has taken advantage of the beaten opponent’s plight and taken Sardinia and Corsica from it, as well as Sicily. Hannibal doesn’t care about that right now. For the first time in his life, the nine-year-old sees his father for a longer period of time. And not only that; Hamilcar, who until then was little more than a vague hero figure for the boy, has agreed to take him to Spain with him. On board a warship to Iberia, embarking on the adventure of his life, Hannibal can barely believe his luck. He has no eyes for the city he leaves behind; little does he know that it will be 34 years before he sees it again. He is too young for sentimental thoughts. wp_qart-hadasht1_col Leaving Qart Hadasht (II)

195 BC. The Second Roman War is over, and lost. Hannibal, now fifty-one, has managed the considerable feat of saving his city financially, by beating down on corruption and restricting the rights of the nobility. Said nobility fears for its centuries-old power, and the only one they can think of that they might turn to is Rome. His political enemies claim that Hannibal is plotting another war. Several factions in Rome are only too happy to believe these claims, and send a delegation to Carthage. Hannibal knows they will grasp at any opportunity to finally get hold of him, and drag him to the Capitol in triumph. He manages to slip away before Rome can demand his extradition. On board a merchant ship to Tyre, he looks back at his city for what he probably knows will be the last time. wp_qart-hadasht2_col I found myself listening to Ken Theriot’s “Visby” the other day, and while it’s totally about a pacifist Viking and not about a retired Carthaginian general, it really hit a spot…

The world is nothing but a piece of land

And fame and glory fit in the palm of your hand

Death will find me where I am today

And home is ever calling me to stay

Am I weird to feel painfully sorry for a guy who lived 2200 years ago? No, absolutely not.

Pencil versions:

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Unfinished Hannibal sketches

Before the Battle of Cannae, an otherwise unknown officer of Hannibal, by the name of Gisgo, looks over to the Roman battle-line and remarks, visibly worried, how many they are. Hannibal replies: “That’s true, but there is one thing that has escaped your attention.”

“What is that?” asked Gisgo.

“That there’s not a single man over there who is named Gisgo.”

All the surrounding men laughed, Gisgo felt flattered, and the men took courage in the realisation that their commander held their qualities in higher esteem than the sheer numbers of the Romans.
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Abandoned because of bad composition, a creepy blind eye, and because Gisgo looks like Brian.

Though that’s actually an asset…

 

At the end of his life, Hannibal has lost everything. He has lost the war, all his brothers, has been exiled from his home, and has spent the last twelve years of his life trying to find a place that allows him to move things, stirring the kings east of the Mediterranean up against Rome, with increasingly less effect. In his last refuge, in Bithynia, at the edge of the world now ruled by Rome, he finds that the king he has sought refuge with has betrayed him to the Romans, and all the secret entrances of his house are blocked.

His last escape is poison.

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Quick sketch, mainly abandoned because he looked a bit too much like Mandy Patinkin O_o

 

Watercolour, 2013

Confrontation

In the winter of 220/219, things between Rome and Carthage are headed for confrontation.

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Here’s my interpretation on what happened at that meeting, based on the accounts of Roman historians and some corrections by contemporary historians, such as Zimmermann, Seibert, Hoffmann or Christ.

Glossary:

byrsa: “castle”

Carthage: Karchedon in Greek, Carthago in Latin, Qart Hadasht in Punic. To make matters confusing, Qart Hadasht is the Punic name for both Carthage (in Africa) and Carthagena (in Iberia).

Ebro: a river in Spain, agreed on as a border north of which Punic forces are not allowed to cross.

Saguntum, Zakantha in Greek, an Iberian city south of the Ebro.

Torboletes: an Iberian tribe living next to Zakantha.

strategos: Greek for “commander”, the title that Hannibal holds among his Iberian allies.

Messana: modern Messina, a city in Sicily over which the First Punic War broke out. in this text, obviously, from a Carthaginian perspective, it’s called the Roman War.

Confrontation

The Roman delegation, Hannibal was told, had been put up in the byrsa. His brother Hasdrubal told him they had been growing impatient at Hannibal’s prolonged absence, sensing a deliberate slight.

“You told them, I hope, that I had a revolt to put down and couldn’t wait on the needs of a delegation from Rome.”

“Not in such plain words, but… yes. Somehow, they still didn’t seem delighted.”

Hannibal pondered. “Send them word I will receive them in two hours.” That was barely enough time to get cleaned up and presentable, and barely enough time to consider the situation. It did not take much imagination to work out what a Roman delegation was doing here in Qart Hadasht. The quarrels with Zakantha – which the Romans named Saguntum – had escalated over the previous year, as they all had known they must, and the situation had quickly come to the attention of the senate. This, too, had been plain from the start.

“Two hours?” Hasdrubal asked, his eyebrows raised. “They’ll think it another slight.”

“The alternative is receiving them in arms and smelling of horseshit. We’d have a war before dinner.”

***

The Romans did not appreciate the long wait after Hannibal’s arrival, but Qarthalo had finally made them see that the strategos wished to receive his guests in a state that would not cause an international incident all by itself.

Two hours later, Hannibal entered the council room, together with his brothers Hasdrubal and Mago, Qarthalo, who spoke Latin as well as Greek and Punic, and Sosylos, Hannibal’s former tutor and present advisor. The Roman delegation had been studying a large wall painting of the map if Iberia, and turned at their arrival.

Yes, thought Hannibal bitterly, look at it closely. I don’t know about map-makers in Rome, but in Iberia, we know that Zakantha is south of the Ebro. Does that surprise you?

There were four of them; two consuls of the previous two years, Marcus Claudius Marcellus, and Marcus Minucius Rufus, as well as two praetors, Gnaeus Servilius Geminus and Quintus Fulvius Curvus. Fulvius Curvus had lived in Qart Hadasht for ten years as a prisoner during the Roman War and acted as translator for the Romans when needed. Marcellus, a powerful, fleshy man around his fiftieth year, spoke Greek well enough to make translators unnecessary for the most part. He still used Latin names in his speech, pasting the Greek inflections to the Latin words, and Hannibal, deciding to give a little show of education, stuck to Greek. He noted Sosylos hiding a grin as he caught the strategos’ intention. Hannibal wasn’t sure the Romans did, but it was worth it just as a private joke.

“Our allies,“ said Marcellus, after the niceties had been observed,  “are worried about your… ah, activities around their territories.”

“I understand,” Hannibal replied, not batting an eye. “And your allies would be in…?”

“Saguntum,” supplied Rufus. “As you very well know.” He managed to make his Greek sound even harsher than Latin, if that was possible.

“May I remind you, Minucius Rufus,” Hannibal answered, “that Saguntum, or Zakantha, is south of the Ebro. Within the limits your senate so graciously granted my predecessor Hasdrubal.”

“It is a friend of Rome,” said Geminus.

“Is that why Zakantha has attacked my allies this past autumn?” Hannibal demanded. “Because it is a friend of Rome, and feels bolstered by its protection? Or are they so emboldened by the fact that Rome has executed members of the Karchedon-friendly party in the city?”

“Saguntum has reacted to transgressions on the part of Torboletes,” Marcellus said sharply. “The Senate has been called to help settle a dispute in Saguntum. Would Carthago have acted otherwise?”

There it is, Hannibal thought. A second Messana. As we knew it would be when it became clear Rome had suddenly found a new friend south of the Ebro. And just like Messana, Zakantha will be made a bone of contention first and a bridgehead into Iberia second, unless I prevent it.

“Karchedon aids its allies,” Hannibal said pointedly. “Zakantha has moved against my allies, in my territory. I would be a faithless strategos indeed if I left my friends to their fate.”

“Rome will not tolerate it if you threaten one of her friends.”

There, finally. Plain words. He had half-hoped for them. Ten years of Roman interference in Iberia; they had put up with it. His father had reacted with smugness, his brother-in-law with diplomacy. Both had been men over forty; in the eyes of the Romans, equals in terms of age. Here he stood, barely twenty-seven, most of his staff twenty to thirty years younger than the toga-clad dignity on the other side of the room, and they obviously felt he would watch helplessly as they slowly wrested Iberia from his grasp.

Enough was enough. No more smugness, no more diplomacy. “And I will not tolerate it if you threaten mine.”

There was a drawn-out silence in the room, as both sides assessed the meaning of those words.

“You would risk Rome’s goodwill so easily?” Marcellus finally said.

Hannibal head Mago’s sharp intake of breath behind him.

“Rome’s goodwill?” the strategos repeated, very slowly. “Tell me, Marcellus, what exactly constitutes Rome’s goodwill? Is it the theft of foreign colonies, the continued interference in foreign territory, the execution of people supporting Karchedon, or the instigation of aggression against me under my very nose?”

Both Geminus and Rufus  looked to be on the verge of angry words, but Marcellus stayed their retorts with a hand. “Are these the words of Hannibal, or of Carthago?” he asked, his mouth a thin hard line.

There’s the catch. As he very well knows. “In this case, the two are the same.”

Marcellus nodded. “Then Rome will hear the answer of Carthago.”

***

As soon as they had left the room, Rufus gave an incredulous snort. “The whelp thinks himself a conqueror,” he said, immediately reverting to Latin.

Geminus raised an eyebrow. “The whelp has conquered a larger portion of Iberia in less than two years than his predecessor did in eight. If he thinks himself a conqueror, he has good reason for it.”

“Don’t quarrel,” said Marcellus, cutting short Rufus’ reply. “He is young and imprudent; the impetuousness of youth. He will soon find that Rome will not be cowed as easily as Iberian tribes. But it does not do to underestimate him.”

***

Gnaeus Servilius Geminus, Consul 217 BC. Died fighting Hannibal at Cannae in 216 BC.

Marcus Minucius Rufus, Consul 221 BC, magister equitum 217 BC. Died fighting Hannibal at Cannae in 216 BC.

Marcus Claudius Marcellus, Consul 222, 214, 210, and 208 BC. Nicknamed “The Sword of Rome”, fought Hannibal in Italy for several years and conquered Syracuse before he fell in a skirmish against Hannibal’s troops at Venusia in 208.

Some sketches of Roman togas from several views:

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Togas are cool. Sorry Hannibal, but… togas are cool.

(Ignor

Watercolour, 2013

One short winter

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Imilke doesn’t have it easy.

First, her name isn’t even historical. Neither is the son she has with Hannibal. She might well be the figment of the imagination of Silius Italicus, a Roman who wrote a poem named Punica two hundred and fifty years after Hannibal’s death. We are pretty sure that Hannibal married an Iberian nobleman’s daughter, but the rest is left to imagination.

The imagination of most novel or script writers is plain godawful. I’ve by now seen Imilke as a Mary Sue who goes on campaign with her husband and rids his entire army of lice and is then gang-raped to death; as the pupil of Celtic druids who runs around with a handmaiden called Gwen (on campaign, of course); as a brattish diva who travels to Italy after ten years of war all by herself (with a son who, miraculously, is only six),; as a helicopter wife who inspects her husband naked for new wounds whenever they meet; and lastly, as a cold Spanish beauty who hates her Punic husband.

I’m going to do something that’s pretty much never been done before.

In my headcanon, Imilke is a normal woman. Not a druid or a diva. She’s married to a guy whose language she doesn’t speak well, but thankfully, he does well enough in hers. She only sees him briefly over the winter when he’s not campaigning, but whenever they get the chance, they try to make their marriage work, instead of making each other’s lives miserable. She is so much a normal woman of her time that she stays in Iberia while her husband goes to fight a war.

When she gives birth to their son, her husband is away laying siege to Saguntum, and when they meet again, for one brief winter before a war longer than anyone could have feared, they discover something unifying – the ties of a child, and the realisation how frail life can be – in the dangers of childbirth, or a Saguntine spear.

I also think that both she and the boy died soon afterwards, or we would have heard about their fate when Scipio took the city of Cartagena. Possibly, as Silius implies, they boarded a ship to Carthage, but never reached it…

And this is the attitude that makes me unable to turn this stuff into a successful comic. :D

Watercolour, 2013

Faces of war

Marcus Fabius Buteo (in other accounts, Quintus Fabius Maximus – it seems the gentleman in question didn’t want his name associated too clearly with the declaration of war after the effect) arrives in Carthage in late 219 BC, at the head of a Roman delegation. Their goal: Make Carthage either hand over Hannibal, or accept the guilt for war. When the Carthaginian council is neither willing to extradite their general nor to accept the blame for the crisis, Fabius grasps the folds of his toga and shouts, “Here we bring war and peace, choose whichever pleases you.”
The Carthaginians tell him to give them whatever pleases him. He shakes out the toga and declares that he gives them war.

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Following Hannibal’s unexpected arrival in Italy after crossing the Alps, the first full-scale battle is fought only a few weeks later. It was the only battle in Italy in which Hannibal’s elephants played any role – they’d survived the Alps, and some survived the battle, but none but one survived the winter.

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In 216 BC, Rome fielded the vastest army that had ever stood on Italian soil. 86,000 legionaries opposed just over half that number of Hannibal’s army of Africans, Spaniards and Celts. On the plain of Cannae in Apulia, on a wide open field to forestall any Punic treachery or ambush, Rome meant to end the menace from the Carthaginian strategos. They advanced with a massive phalanx, meaning to crush Hannibal’s centre so that his cavalry superiority wouldn’t avail him anything.

Hannibal’s centre slowly retreated before the advancing legions, drawing them into a trap which they didn’t see until Hannibal’s cavalry, having driven off the enemy horse, appeared at their backs.

By nightfall on that 2nd of August, between fifty and seventy thousand Romans lay dead.

Hannibal had fought with the Celtic mercenaries in the centre, knowing that his presence would be needed there most to keep the Celts from routing, leaving his officers to do what had to be done on the rest of the field.

At the end of the day, when after hours of incredible slaughter it became clear just how complete the victory was, he must have thought the war would be over now, that, according to every rule of war of that time, Rome would accept his offer for peace.

Rome didn’t even let his emissaries into the city, determined to fight until it was either reduced to rubble or the war was won.

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More Hannibal

I’m gradually warming to the idea of doing more with this – a Hannibal graphic novel; now that would have been a childhood dream of mine…

I’ve just come back from five days with my parents, which were largely spent drawing. First up, a dump of some sketches – Hannibal in the Alps, an age-up trial of Hannibal at 28 and at 64, an elephant, and a Numidian.

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Hannibal says good-bye to his wife Imilce and child before he leaves for Rome. History never talks of her again and it’s likely that she and the child died before the war ended.

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In the command tent after midnight, Hannibal fine-tunes tactics. (If you’re familiar with ancient warfare, the battle line might look familiar – it is to become the Battle of Cannae. (“I think I’ll move the center forward – that will lure the Romans in…”)

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Hannibal on horseback, on the march to Italy. I’m having an almost indecent amount of fun mixing and matching Greek armour, Iberian saddle and tack, Hellenistic head piece, and Iberian and Punic design elements on clothing.

The scar on his thigh was from the siege of Saguntum.

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Hannibal, 15, sees his first Romans. They come to his father in Spain, demanding to know what the Carthaginians are doing in the country. Hannibal clearly feels this question is none of their business.

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Second Punic War – Reloaded

So, I’m going to do something outrageous. I’m going to leave Tolkien – at least for the time being and a few side projects. You may now say, “Why Hannibal? Where’s all this coming from all of a sudden?”

I’ve been a fan of Hannibal since the late eighties. When I was thirteen to sixteen, I read everything on Hannibal I could get my hands on, and back in the day, I produced probably more Hannibal drawings than all the Tolkien work I have ever done combined. I haven’t revisited him since 1991, but old loves die hard.

I’ve now bought a stack of Osprey books (Punic Wars, Roman legions during the Republican times, Hellenistic armour, Iberian tribes around 220 BC), and I plan to go bonkers with all this. I’m giddy with excitement here.

First sketches of Hannibal, and some armour pieces of the right time period, worn by the peoples that Hannibal came into contact with):

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Ooooooooooo can’t wait to do more…

And by the way, it’s August 2nd – happy 2229th anniversary of the Battle of Cannae!

Some more, from a day later. Getting the right mix of North-African and Eastern-Mediterranean, and groping towards fitting representations of different leaders of Hannibal’s army.

Fingon and Aredhel – mixed media experiment

I doodled a very nice Fingon and Aredhel into my sketchbook yesterday – with coloured pencil, which yielded some really charming results. I decided to try watercolour on top of those – only to realise that my coloured pencils were water soluble.

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So I printed the sketches out on watercolour paper again, and got to work, spraying the entire paper with water and then laying down a Quinachridone Gold wash.

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A bit of flesh-tint with Burnt Sienna and Madder Red.

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Some Ultramarine for the shadows.

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More reddish and bluish tints. I really like this effect. Maybe next time I try this technique, I won’t do it on a character with dark hair.

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Painting the hair with Ultramarine, Madder, and rather a lot of Shadow Violet.

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Some final touches with paint, and later some more with Polychromos and white gel pen.

 

Finished:

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Tolkien-Tag am Niederrhein

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I spent the weekend at Tolkien-Tag am Niederrhein (Tag being the German word for day; just in case you thought it was a weird game of tag, you’re it.)

Had a bunch of very nice conversations and a drawing workshop, and sold a couple of prints – and got some art done! It’s always a good idea to sketch while I sit at my stand. I don’t know why, but people will never believe that I drew these things I’m selling. And even if I tell them, they’ll assume I’ll just “print them out” or, hilariously, “Do you draw those freehand? Or do you use… stencils?”

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Yup. Never go anywhere without my “Finwë dying in Fëanor’s arms” stencil.

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I also did two more sketchbooks. The left was a commission, the right one is for sale. Any takers? I’ll make it 35 € instead of the usual 40 for sketchbooks because it wasn’t a free prompt. And because Éomer’s hand is a bit wonky.

The Darkening of Valinor (and other odds and ends)

Firstly, I’m finally drawing again – there’s still a whole load of tests that need to be marked over the next month, but most of the other work is out of the way.

This is a commission about the Darkening of Valinor – this will be the centre piece, with Fëanor holding his dead father.

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My latest print sale has been a huge success – thank you, all of you who have supported me by buying my prints! The print sale is still up; if you’ve been debating so far, you have until tomorrow to make up your mind. :)

And lastly: I’ve now got a tumblr! I’m still in the process of making up my mind what I’ll post where, but I can imagine that random sketches and wips will go to tumblr rather than my blog – unless it’s walkthroughs, of course. I’ll still do those here. :)

The harp no longer sings

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This is a concept that has occupied me for years, resulting in several pieces already. It’s symbolic rather than illustrative of any given passage in the text – Maglor, a remnant of the Elves in Middle-earth but excluded from his people, caught in a world of his own where music no longer brings consolation, surrounded by the ruins of the former greatness of the Noldor, whose downfall he had a part in.

I’ve never really done much with the “ruins” part of the scenario; half-hearted attempts at best, probably because I really struggle with architecture of any kind. Now, though, I’ve decided to give it another go.

This is a more refined version of the first sketch.

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Here’s the lineart:

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When I print the lineart, I tint the ruins in the background more greenish and very light, so that it will mostly disappear in the finished painting, and reduce the ruins to faint structures that could just as well be from a dream.

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This picture is a great excuse to make excessive use of my new Cobalt Turquoise from Schmincke. For the first background wash, I mix it with Chrome Oxide Green and a touch of Ultramarine and Cadmium Yellow, and apply it very thinly with a soft brush, lighter at the top and darker at the bottom.

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I then re-wet everything, and paint darker streaks, that will look like sunlight filtering through tress – or through water. I want the whole lighting here very ambiguous.

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After this has dried, I use the same colours – more green here, more blue there – very thinly to paint the detail in the ruins.

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To make it less monochromatic, I go in with a bluer tone, and paint the shadows in the areas between the streaks of sunlight. This is the point where my camera decides “This is all just green. Yeah, whatever.” I hope my scanner is more sensitive later…

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In all the following, excuse the turquoise colour mash, please.

Next, I add some Ochre to everything in the foreground – first the structures, to suggest sandstone or a similar stone.

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It gets a greenish-blue layer for shadows, to make it stand out less. I then decide Ochre will make a great foundation for the figure too. This looks very yellow now, but will mostly vanish under the greens and blues of Maglor’s clothing later, only serve as a “grounding” in the light situation around him.

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Some detailing in the ground – mainly with Ultramarine and duller Indigo, but with the brush dipped into Chromoxide Green, Cobalt Turquoise, and Ochre here and there for colour variation.

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Detailing on the leaves, again with the whole range of greens and blues used above.

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The skin is done with Burnt Sienna, as usual, but thinned down beyond recognition with my dirty water, which is now a nice green-blue concoction, rather thick too, as it’s dried overnight. Comes in extremely useful for making any colour fit the mood of my painting.

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I use the same principle with the hair tone, which is Sepia with a lot of dirty green water. The shadows are done with a touch of Indigo, too.

(Give my camera a kick here, please. Thanks.)

On the image on the right below, I’ve re-drawn the eyes and brows slightly with a Sepia marker, as the lineart was starting to dull under the paint.

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Below left: Next, I put in the base tones, very light, of Maglor’s clothes. I choose a mix of Cobalt Turquoise, Ultramarine, and Chromoxide Green for his tunic, and a more Indigo-heavy tone for the cloak. The hose is just my dirty water at this point. ;)

Below right: First layer of rendering. I build the shadows up slowly, mostly with Indigo, to avoid getting too dark too soon, and adding another layer here and there to add depth.

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Below: detailing on the arm guards. (I love doing Maglor’s arm guards.)

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After darkening and shading, and detailing, we arrive at this.

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Final touches include painting the falling petals with white gouache.

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One little, two little, fifteen little Noldor

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I sat down yesterday for a reality check. Am I deluded? These all look different to me, even without their characteristic hair. So yes, they are all related (fathers and brothers and sons and daughters and cousins), so they are all immortal and ageless, and they are all beautiful in the same ethereal Elven way, and yes, there are some that are less characteristic than others. But to me, they look exactly as they should. Maybe I’ve become too much of a shepherd. Or, alternatively, it’s just that I don’t see Tolkien’s characters as wildly individual (bordering on cartoonish) as, for example, G. R. R. Martin’s.

‘What!’ cried Bilbo. ‘You can’t tell which parts were mine, and which were the Dúnadan’s?’
‘It is not easy for us to tell the difference between two mortals’ said the Elf.
‘Nonsense, Lindir,’ snorted Bilbo. ‘If you can’t distinguish between a Man and a Hobbit, your judgement is poorer than I imagined. They’re as different as peas and apples.’
‘Maybe. To sheep other sheep no doubt appear different,’ laughed Lindir. ‘Or to shepherds. But Mortals have not been our study. We have other business.'” — The Fellowship of the Ring, J. R. R. Tolkien

Or, in the words of the immortal Hiro Nakamura and Ando Masahashi: “They all look the same to me.” – “That’s racist!”