The Oath has been awakened…

Finished piece (here’s the process). The post was becoming so long that I decided not to hide the finished image at the bottom!

Click to enlarge!

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‘A Silmaril of Fëanor burns again in the woods of Doriath’; and the oath of the sons of Fëanor was waked again from sleep. For while Lúthien wore the Necklace of the Dwarves no Elf would dare to assail her; but now hearing of the renewal of Doriath and of Dior’s pride, the seven gathered again from wandering…

Detail shots (click to enlarge):

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The Oath has been awakened – painting

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In painting this one, I was facing the challenge to have a lot of reds, even in the sky, and horses – which sometimes leads to dangerously girly-calendary motifs.

So far, I seem to have succeeded in not falling over on that side of the fence. I know that because my daughter, a great fan of horses and pink, keeps looking at the picture on my desk and walking away without saying a word. That’s her way of saying, “Really, mum, such lovely horseys, and such ugly colours. I’d tell you so but I’m afraid of hurting your feelings.”

Yay!

Note: The colours on the photographs deviate really far from the actual ones at times. When I used the flash, they’re too yellow; when I didn’t, my daylight lamp resulted in too bluish tones. The entire pic is too large to be properly photographed with the means I have.

The lineart is, again, pencil, scanned, tinted and photocopied onto watercolour paper. See here if you have any questions.

My daughter would have loved the first stage. I overlaid the whole pic with a warm light red wash composed of Madder red and Ochre, dabbing some paint off the horses and figures, particularly the upper parts, allowing all those twenty-eight horse legs to blend into the rest.

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Then, I added streaks of more red into the sky, and blotches of Chromoxide Green, Madder red mixed with Ultramarine, and Burnt Sienna into the ground, for the colours of heather.

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Next, some Ochre, Sepia, but my violet mix from above for the stones. Later, they’ll be lighter than the rest.

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Next, I proceed to paint more heather. I mix more Madder Red with Ultramarine, and paint the upper edges of patches of heather…

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While the paint is still wet, I rinse my brush in the orange-y dirty water in my water container, and drag the paint down with it. The jagged top edge remains unaffected, the rest…

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… is blurred and diluted.

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Patches of heather:

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I proceed to muddy the sky (and frustrate my daughter), and add a dirty wash of Burnt Sienna and Ochre to the top margin of the painting, drawing it down with more dirty water.

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The ground now gets a second wash of my violet mix with Burnt Sienna, darkening it and softening the edges of heather.

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I allow it to bleed into the horses’ legs, to merge them with the ground. A while ago, I used to cleanly separate every element of the image, and sometimes, that would result in cut-and-paste looking picture elements.

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This is a sort of middle stage, from which I can start to add layers. It’s also the sort of stage that’s already starting to look good, and which I can safely leave on my desk without cringing whenever I walk past it…

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After a good night’s sleep, I decide that the ground is too light, and add another darker layer, effectively killing my detailed heather. Which isn’t so bad. It’s still there in a blurry way, and will look very organic when I’m done.

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Now, for the sky. I rewet the upper portion of the picture, mix some dramatic dark violet (with Madder Red, Ultramarine, Indigo, Sepia, and Burnt Sienna) and paint streaks into the wet areas, allowing them to run.

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The ground is dry at this point, and I start to paint the orange shrubbery around the stones. For this, I use gouache – watercolour wouldn’t have been visible. I also redo my heather in the same way I did above.

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I then add some highlights, again with gouache, to the shrubs and stones, and paint a few stray patches of wild wheat.

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Then I go as daring as I get and use green to paint the sallow thorn and the far hills, adding a few berries into the branches.

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Now, finally, the figures. I start with some reds and ochres to see how it looks. Yup – looks good!

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I paint the figures and horses with a fair deal of island hopping, working on whatever spot begs my attention (and is dry), mostly sticking to one colour at a time, more or less.

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More detailing.

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Just to show you how small some of the bits and pieces here are… The entire piece is 65 x 32 cm. … That’s one cent, btw.

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Some final touches with white gouache to spearpoints, hair, fur.

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Finished piece and detail shots: https://goldseven.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/the-oath-has-been-awakened/

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!”

The Drawing of the Sword

(Drawing the Drawing of the sword always results in semantic weirdness.)

It was in early 1994 that I realised this scene was one tough cookie. Two Elves, one at an arm’s and a sword’s length from the other? That means a bit of Elf at the margins of a picture and rather a lot of nothing in the middle.  I realised that this was an iconic scene from the Silmarillion, but I abandoned the project after this quick sketch.

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(Yes, I was under the impression that Fingolfin was blond.)

One and a half years later, I was doing my first ever watercolours, and I had found out that Fingolfin was dark-haired. I also found that a wider shot would solve part of the problem. I probably realised, theoretically, that foreshortening was called for, but this is 1995 we’re talking. No foreshortening in 1995, no, sir.

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So, this year, I took on a commission of this precise scene and knew I would have to deal with foreshortening and some clever positioning.

In the first sketch, I still had to resort to a carefully draped cloak in order to cover up my foreshortcomings. Then I got some terrific help from the guys at comicforum.de, and managed to pull the pose off sufficiently for me to go with.

A progress shot from the lineart proper: Underneath, you see the sketch printed out in pale yellow, so I can filter it out later.

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Second progress shot.

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Final version of the lineart (plus some parchment texture):

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Left to right: Finwë, Fingolfin, Fingon, Turgon, Argon, Fëanor, Maedhros, Maglor, Celegorm, Curufin.

Now for the Painting of the Sword!

… or, how to avoid cluttering up mass scenes. On your second attempt.

In this painting, I have such an amount of detail in the lineart that I have to be careful not to kill the picture with it.Let me give you a fun example of how *not* to do it, from exactly ten years ago when I still signed my pictures with PJ: Messy goblin battle

Why is the colour job in that one such a train wreck? Because I didn’t know yet that the sharpest contrast of an image goes where you want the viewer’s eye to dwell. And only there. Contrast draws the eye. And light and dark contrast draws the eye most. Dark and light contrast across the whole of a picture draws the eye in a sort of crazy polka from which it will want to break as soon as possible and leave the dancefloor. Permanently.

There are loads of ways to avoid this; here is one that works really well with any medium, but requires a bit of planning beforehand. In fact, I had planned this even before I drew the lineart. In even more fact, this only worked to full satisfaction on the second attempt.

My first stage is nothing unusual if you know my workflow: An even layer of a single colour covering everything, to tie the eventual colour scheme together and avoid glaring white highlights that tear the finished image apart. I choose a mix between Yellow Ochre and Sepia with a bit of Cadmium Yellow.

While the paint is still wet (rule of thumb: wet enough to glisten on the paper, not so wet as to form puddles), I go in with a tissue and dab off the paint from the areas that’ll need to stand out later, like Fëanor’s and Fingolfin’s faces, and, most definitely, the sword.

Please note: Sometimes, the colours in the photos here are pretty far away from the actual ones, especially the later images. Too much distraction and not enough light for my silly old digicam.

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This is the finished first layer with the faces dabbed lighter:

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I want the statues to be lighter than the background, to look like alabaster (and discourage any go-go-girl connotations). Therefore, I paint the background behind everybody slightly darker, but still translucent.

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Now I’m going to make sure that all the detail in the background, while still being noticeable, will not distract too much from the foreground.

To that end, I mix a duller colour with more brown, and paint the background figures and arcs with a uniform layer that only leaves out the alabaster statues and the foreground figures.

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So we’ll cleanly separate the different grounds – fore, middle, and back. I also add some handsome splashing to the bottom of my darker figure layer, which will stay even when all the rendering is done, to serve as “lost edges”. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of lost edges, read what the great Mattias Snygg has to say about it.

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Now, the detail is still there, and we have an image that is well readable and ready for the next stage – colour.

I then made a mistake. Th idea was to force myself to stay light in the background, so I went against watercolouring etiquette and started with the darkest part of the background figures – their hair. That way, I had something to check every other colour against – nothing must get darker than the hair. The idea was good, but the choice of material was not. I used liquid watercolours, as I have for months now – and they tend to cake up, and lose all of the lightness and transparency that a watercolour should have. And that’s what happened here.

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After the stage above, I added a second layer of detailing to the background figures – which killed the piece. Beyond redemption. No matter how lightly you apply liquid watercolours, they always come out more opaque that watercolours from tubes or pans. With my latest pictures, that never bothered me enough to actually scrap a painting, but here, it was inevitable. The second background layer became too dark, killing the detail, clogging up the lineart, and making it almost impossible for me to get the foreground darker and still more detailed than the background.

Before I started painting Fingolfin’s tunic and hair below, I already realised the painting was lost. The foreground didn’t stand out against the background figures any more – they already were too dark.

Lesson learnt: play to the strengths of your materials. Use tubes where you want light and feathery colours. Use liquids where you want it dark and don’t mind opaqueness.

When you arrive at a stage where nothing will save your painting, you take it between two thumbs and forefingers and close your eyes, and only open them again after you’ve heard that RAAAAtttttsch! sound. Makes it easier. Good thing I still had the lineart.

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I started anew and went back to this stage above. I used only watercolours from tubes this time, which really avoided that caked look.

This way, instead of doing the light background first and then forcing me to go ever darker in the thing that was more important in the painting, I started with the foreground – so Fëanor and Fingolfin would determine how light the background would have to be. A terminus post quem non, so to speak.

I started with Fingolfin’s tunic, with a wash of Ultramarine damped down by a touch of Indigo and Madder red, leaving lighter some edges to the right, where the light hits. I then mixed some Sepia with Indigo, Burnt Sienna and Madder and started on Fingolfin’s hair, still using only tube-paint.

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The picture below shows the second, darker, detailing hair layer.

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Then comes a part that’s both very laborious but still rather meditative. People are often amazed how I can have so much patience with patterns. Well, I could never understand why people paint Mandalas! But I suppose it’s much the same.

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After the mandala, sorry, tunic-pattern painting. You’ll see I’ve also added some light skin tones (Burnt Sienna with Madder), and started detailing the beads in Fingolfin’s hair.

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You’ll notice when painting around the patterns with darker colours I didn’t pay much attention to light and dark, leaving the tunic more flat-looking than in the first stage. So, more shadows are in order. For that, I now use some liquid watercolours, to make the colour more solid and dark. Rendering is easier with liquid watercolours, I find. I add quite a lot of purple to the mix, and start at Fingolfin’s right arm.

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And this is what the finished tunic looks like:

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I then mix in some darker brown and purple and give the hair the same darker treatment, adding depth and shadow with liquid watercolour:

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Then, some detailing on the belt, with Sienna and Ultramarine.

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Fingolfin is finished. Time to tackle Fëanor. The overall colour scheme will be blue for the Fingofinians, and red for Fëanoreans, so I start with an oxblood colour on Fëanor’s tunic, mixed from Madder red with some Indigo and Sepia. Tube paints, of course, for transparency.

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I then mix much the same colour, plus some darker purple, for the shading – in liquid watercolours for rendering:

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Some detail work that I tend to get lost in – hence, no in-progress shots for the metal parts and plumes on his helm. The paint dries so fast that I can work on the next layer almost immediately after painting the first, so I rarely take photos in between. All the colours below are again tube ones.

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Some more work on this clothes. I’m undecided with the cloak at this point; I want to make it very light to have Fëanor stand out even more, but for that, I have to check back with the client, so I leave it for the time being. I just add some very delicate gouache to lighter bits on his greaves and other shiny details:

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So the foreground figures are as finished as I can make them for the time being, and this is the overall result:

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With just a hint of Bunt Sienna and Madder red (tubes, of course, for transparency), I then do the faces in the background, leaving out areas where the light hits. They won’t get a shadow layer at this point. Just a single colour/rendering layer. I can always get darker later if I think the pic can handle it, but I can’t get lighter, as I found out the hard way on the first attempt.

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After the faces are painted, I use an extremely light (tube!) layer of Sepia for the hair. And some Burnt Sienna for Maedhros, and some unidentifiable mix for Celegorm, so everybody can pick out a hair colour for him and be happy…

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Next, the sons.

I’ve just bought a very nice tube of Cobalt Turquoise, which is blue enough to qualify as “Fingolfinian” but still very different from what Fingolfin wears, and I use it gratuitously on Fingon, Turgon, and Argon, adding a hint of gold here and there to keep them from becoming too monochromatic.

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The Fëanoreans get a similar treatment with Madder Red and Burnt Sienna, with a touch of purple and gold here and there. Mainly water on the brush, with just a spot of paint, avoiding the mistakes from the first attempt. And all tube paints, of course.

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Next, I do the statues with a very dull mix of Sepia, Madder Red, and a touch of Ultramarine, only painting very light shadows.

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Next, I splash around with rather a lot of purple tones on Finwë. Some redder, some bluer, to show how torn he is between the followings of his sons.

In the end, Fëanor is given a pale gold cloak, and some minor touchups to shadows and such follow… and we’re done! Please click for full view. :)

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Ahem… and as I frequently do when a new year begins, I changed my signature. People keep telling me to include “Dolfen” somewhere; and I keep finding that my previous “Jenny+Year” was fine for pencil but difficult to do with brushes.

Detail shots:

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So, I wish you all a Happy New Year! Drawing Runes this New Year’s Eve brought me Isa, Ice, the Rune of Stagnation. I suppose there can be worse things than stagnating on the level I’ve reached last year (brought to you by Inguz, Rune of Fertility, drawn a year ago). Better than the Rune of Bottomless Plummet or something.

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Loads of leisure at school to scribble stuff in between lessons!

Maedhros trudging back to his own people after his rescue and recovery;

Maedhros being welcomed by his brothers with what borders on exuberance (for guilt-ridden Fëanoreans),

Fëanor in full armour. And a horse. No, I don’t know what it’s doing there. Except maybe demonstrating that a horse without a head is indeed a perfect square.

The Oath of Fëanor – painting steps

As always, my lineart is drawn in pencil on Bristol board, scanned, and printed out on watercolour paper. (For any questions on that process, see my FAQ above!)

This one proved to be the toughest watercolour I’ve ever done.  I actually did a watercolour thumbnail before painting, trying to work out how much paint to put where. I still started over more often than I’ve ever done with any pic of mine, but I wanted this to be as close to perfect as I could make it, and the background was a beast to work with, because of the flame effect I wanted to achieve.

I went through several attempts with different paints or paper – gouache proved too blotchy and not bright enough, while Arches paper yielded great results for bright fire but then refused to get any darker than pale purple for the figures – and returned finally to my trusty old Schmincke watercolours and Hahnemühle Veneto Torchon paper.

To get there, the first stage was a bright Cadmium Yellow wash over the entire pic, mostly in a horizontal strip where their faces are. And it couldn’t be yellow enough. I found that out the hard way again with one or two earlier attempts; the second red wash swallows all the yellow.

Note: The next three images were not taken of the “final” painting, but of one discarded in between because the lineart was wonky in places. That’s why there’s a slight break between “tut_oath3” and “tut_oath4”.

Then, when the yellow was almost dry, I mixed Madder Red with some Burnt Sienna for the red wash. I use Madder because of its glazing qualities. It dries almost transparent even if applied rather thick. And I needed thick here. No pink this time, please.

I started at the bottom and drew up the red in layers; making it almost pure water in my yellow strip and then getting redder again towards the top.

Now came the trickiest part. I wanted the red to stream up in fiery streaks – blurry around the edges, but not too wet. So I had to get them in at exactly the right time, when the paint was still moist, but not wet. (When you take off very wet paint, it just flows back in, only thinner and paler).

I used a dry, thick (size 12) sable mix brush to take off the paint in the shape of flames leaping up towards Fëanor.

I then went in again and painted more deep reds into the spaces, to augment the effect and counteract the thinning of colour you always get when you take off paint.

So I’ve arrived at this.

I let this stage dry completely and then apply a dark wash that represents the dark sky. My previous approaches had lots of Indigo in it, which resulted in a rather clogged-up feel – Indigo is as opaque as watercolour gets. So this time, I opted for Ultramarine, Madder Red, and some Burnt Sienna to dull down the blue – the result was rather close to Indigo but much more transparent.

Applying that wash was tricky, as I had to paint around the swords and arms. (Did I mention that masking fluid hates me and does not cooperate no matter what?) So I have some wonky bits especially on Curufin’s sword, but I’ll sort those out with the highlights.

Having to paint around small details never makes for a particularly smooth look, but it was okay here. I made sure to have any irregularities running in the same direction as my flame-lines, and that worked pretty well.

So, the background is finished – on to the foreground work.

I start by putting a lilac wash over all the foreground figures, so assure that the underlying colour scheme in the foreground will be both consistent and shadowy. I leave some areas unshaded where the light hits.

After doing this for the whole foreground, we’re left with this.

Next, I tried how much more colour diversity the foreground could take. It *needed* to take some Burnt Sienna for Maedhros’ hair.

Yup. Let’s go ahead and paint clothes.

This still isn’t the full colouring job – the four figures on the left are still missing, and I’ll be adding another darker wash to the clothes later, too.

You see me working from right to left. This is a smart thing to do if you’re left-handed.

Not a smart thing to do whether you’re right-handed or left-handed are wide sleeves. At least not while you paint.

These are the sort of things that make you want to thank God for Photoshop.

So, barring accidents, or glowering at unshaven Curufins if accidents did indeed happen, the nearly-final image is this.

The last thing that needs to be done is something I’ve never actually done before – adding gouache to a finished watercolour painting for highlights. But hey, there’s a first time for everything.

I mixed white gouache with yellow and just a hint of red and set to work. My gouache palettes, incidentally, are the lids of Chipsletten crisps.

I paint in highlights with a very thin brush – a 0/5, which was barely thin enough – and I’m done!

Click to enlarge, please. :)

The Oath of Fëanor – early stages

Then Fëanor swore a terrible oath. His seven sons leapt straightway to his side and took the selfsame vow together, and red as blood shone their drawn swords in the glare of the torches.

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion, Chapter 9: Of the Flight of the Noldor

What artist can read these lines without jumping up from the book and darting for the drawing table? I’ve never seen one that really captured what I thought it to look like. As you can imagine, I wanted to show the sons individually, and get a glimpse of what some of them thought about the Oath. Can you image Maglor taking the Oath without the slightest hint of unease? Neither can I.

In 1995, I thought I could pull it off. Hey, I was the greatest artist in the world! All shall love me and despair!

Let us be glad there was no Internet in 1995. Or I’d have found more despair than love. Especially for Maedhros’ mint-green tights. And I would have earned every jot of it.

(There was also no “Peoples of Middle-earth”, so I still thought Amras and Amrod had dark hair.)

After that, I didn’t try again. I’d decided that this scene, as visually compelling as it was, was unpaintable. Mostly because of the question how to get eight people and their drawn swords into one picture without ending up with… that. Over the years, there was this itch to try again… quickly evaporating every time I actually doodled some sketches and hit the same old road blocks.

The next attempt came last autumn, when my first approach was something like this.

Then a user from Comicforum.de convinced me that worm’s eye view was the way to go on this. Which scared me stiff, to say the least. I’m very severely perspectively challenged. Ask my parking skills.

I hit another road block then – I couldn’t get the perspective to work at all. I just couldn’t see it.

Then came our school fair… then came our move to the new house… then came just too much to take care of… the Oath slept again. (Just as in real life. Wait, did I just say that?)

So, over Carnival, I finally dug it out again.

(Carnival, for the non-Germans among you, is a time when Germans mostly along the Rhine suddenly dress up as clowns and cowgirls, spend Thursday to Tuesday in a drunken stupor which nonetheless still allows them to bawl songs with lyrics about coughing earthworms and red horses, and sit in “sessions” where overweight old men in ridiculous hats read out speeches in their local dialects, which aren’t even funny if you actually understand what they say. The only good thing is that it would be absolutely irresponsible to open the schools for those days, so we get a week off, which I usually spend locking and barricading myself inside and drawing for four days non-stop.)

I played around with the previous one unsuccesfully – and finally ended up making reference photos.

Many reference photos.

Loads of reference photos.

These are actually not even half of them.

The artist must be both an actor… and absolutely devoid of all vanity. Now who’d have thought that something that looked so Dancing Queen would be fitting for the Oath of Fëanor?

The room did the trick. Even though my picture has no walls, I could now envision them in relation.

I’m endeavouring to do this one in watercolour, possibly with gouache. Somewhat more solid and a lot more dramatic than what I usually do. If I pull this off, I can’t tell you how happy that’ll make me.

Wish me luck!

Sealing Maedhros’ fate – walkthrough

I’ve split the previous post, so that it now contains only the thoughts about the picture. Now here’s the creation process for the image “Sealing Maedhros’ fate”.

The sketch was made in Photoshop. I like sketching digitally; it allows me to move around people or groups of people, flip images to check the averse effect, and anatomy errors are corrected far more easily. I’d actually moved to Photoshop with this piece after trying to sketch on the pastel paper directly, but that’s some unforgiving paper. It turned out such a large mass of people was too ambitious a project to do on pastel paper directly. So I decided to do the lineart on normal drawing board and print it onto pastel paper later. (I have an A3 printer I couldn’t do without anymore!)

The next stage was a clean lineart. As usual, I printed out the digital sketch above on A4 drawing board – faintly in pink – and then drew the lineart over it. The lineart is later scanned, and the pinkish sketch filtered out in Photoshop using Ctrl+U.

In the process, Curufin got the best redesign this character has ever had – actually, a side effect of a redesign of Fëanor I’d been planning all along. It was time to move away from the Prince Valiant haircut. I allowed the Twins to keep that.(Interestingly, the two “recent” Curufin pics – a commission and a collab with Anke Kathrin Eißmann – had Curufin long haired because we’d agreed on that.)

This new look is inspired by British actor Stephen Billington – he had a minor role in Braveheart (famed for being thrown out of a window by Edward the First) and he looked perfect.

Curufin narrowly avoided another redesign, when my four-year-old daughter looked over my shoulder while  was drawing, wanting to know who everyone was and what they were doing. I was just drawing Curufin’s sleeve when I asked her. “Any idea for a pattern I could use there?”

She thought for a moment, then, “Rabbits.”

I did debate putting in some rabbits as a joke, but then decided that it would effectively have ruined the image. XD

Doing the lineart on drawing board rather than pastel paper has another nice effect – the lines are far smoother and the detail works much, much better. The shading, on the other hand, looks much nicer on the rougher paper, so I then printed out my lineart to some A3 size pastel paper, and started shading.

And what a wonderful excuse to go overboard again with Elven clothing designs.

Here you see the finished Amras and Celegorm on the right, and a half-shaded Maglor on the left

Here’s the shaded picture.

That dark blotch over Curufin’s head is hairspray. The best fixative there is. Usually. Maybe I just scanned too soon.

For the finished pic, I used the gouache mainly and most strongly on Maglor (the front figure), to avoid having too many brights tearing the picture apart. Finished image is at the top of this post. :)

Those missing moments

I’m re-reading the Silmarillion again (for the first time in fifteen years, cover to cover) and find myself delightfully stumbling over those little scenes in between that aren’t there – and yet are. One of the reasons why I can’t listen to the audiobook. I want to pause it after every other sentence, to give the words time to settle, and to give the forgotten images time to form. The audiobook just races through it all too quickly.

One of the scenes that caught was:

[B]ut Morgoth held Maedhros as hostage, and sent word that he would not release him unless the Noldor would forsake their war, returning into the West, or else departing far from Beleriand into the South of the world. But the sons of Fëanor knew that Morgoth would betray them, and would not release Maedhros, whatsoever they might do; and they were constrained also by their oath, and might not for any cause forsake the war against their Enemy.

The Silmarillion: Of the Return of the Noldor

The remaining sons of Fëanor were much too diverse to just comply like that. Now the funny thing with those missing moments is that they unfold so easily. I could just hear what they would say when they debated the fate of Maedhros.

Caranthir, Curufin, Maglor, Celegorm, Amrod

Amras: “But surely we will consider these terms? If our brother is given back to us, can we not then resume the war?”

Celegorm: “Morgoth will never return Maedhros to us, whatever we may do. And let us not forget that we have but Morgoth’s word in this. It is well possible that Maedhros is long slain, while he would still use him against us.”

Caranthir: “Shall the sons of Fëanor then be remembered for sitting idle, and neither trying to avenge their father nor to free their brother?”

Curufin: ”Have these past dealings with Morgoth taught you naught? Our father was slain because we took too lightly the strength of Angband. Our brother was taken because we took too lightly the cunning of our Enemy. Nothing can we do, but learn from our folly.”

Amras: “Maglor, thou hast not spoken. What sayest thou?”

Maglor: “My heart is with Amras, and with Caranthir. And yet, I know to be true what Curufin and Celegorm have said. In Hithlum we will remain, and regain our strength, and not yield to the terms of Morgoth.

And my heart prays that this also is true – that Maedhros is indeed dead.”

(My text.)

Amras, after just having lost his twin (according to the version where Amrod is accidentally burned with the ships (1), would probably be the only one to sincerely argue for meeting Morgoth’s terms to win Maedhros’ freedom. He strikes me as rather indifferent to politics, and would probably have been one of the last to realise what exactly the Noldor were up against.

Celegorm would have been deeply uncomfortable when faced with a conflict that could not be solved with a sword or a sneer. The most constructive he’d have to contribute would have been to point out that none of all this might ever work, and convincing himself (and finally, also Maglor) that this was the truth.

Caranthir I expect to be the only one to come up with a daring rescue mission – he’s the most impetuous, and the least subtle. Later Fingon would arrive at the same decisions – for all the right reasons, as opposed to all the wrong ones.

Curufin, on the other hand, would be the first to grasp the scope of what war against Morgoth meant, and that neither treaty nor rescue mission was an option. Cruelty and cunning came to him so easily in the later course of the war that he must have been quick to understand the mind of the Enemy.

And Maglor… Maglor, thrust into a position he never wanted, suddenly found himself up to his ears in a decision he never wanted to make, always having been more suited to following than to leading. After the sudden loss of his grandfather, father, and eldest brother, I can see him all but immobilised with shock, unwilling to make any decision that might go horribly wrong. I always thought he had successfully convinced himself that Maedhros was dead, and tried not to think about an alternative.

He’s dead, Jim. Or: Groping towards an image

I suppose you could say this latest picture came into this world in 1995.

I was in my second semester of English at the University of Cologne,  drew more than I studied, was completely engrossed in the Silmarillion, already liked twisted trees and crows, but had not yet developed my aversion to green.

I was already delving deep into those “missing moments” of which the Silmarillion has so many.
This miniseries depicts Maglor and Celegorm trying to find out what happened to their brother Maedhros after he had ridden to meet Morgoth’s embassy.

They find a lot of bodies (which, apparently, I didn’t dare draw up close) as well as Maedhros’ blackened and broken gear.

I have no idea why I thought Huan was a Deutscher Schäferhund.

I’d always liked the idea of this scene – the brothers realising that war against Morgoth does not mean either to win or be slain, but there being a lot of messy in-betweens.

So this year, I found myself doodling a scene like this into my sketchbook.

And chickened out with the bodies again.

I really liked the outset and decided to do more with it… after term and commissions.

So after commissions, I started scribbling some to capture this scene, moving around Maglor’s and Celegorm’s positions. And this time, I googled for “pile of bodies”. Not recommended, by the way. I left the images zoomed out and just took over some general ideas.

Incidentally, other Silmarillion art-related image searches that I do not recommend are “severed hand” and “arm stump”, as well as anything that has Fingon and Maedhros together.

In the scribble, Celegorm looked quite the mean bastard that he is, but I figured he might show some concern here. Otherwise, someone not familiar with the story might have thought he was about to attack Maglor.

I went for the soft pencil look I’d already used in “Fingon’s Decision” and which is really fun. I already knew then that any colouring job on this one would have to be really light, hardly any colouring at all. So I went with just two light watercolour washes and some spatters of paint.