Darkness over Cannae

High time to make an official “Cannae” post! The book has been finished for about a month, and is available through the website.

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And of course, the question that everyone’s been asking: What next?

The short answer: I don’t know.

The long answer: I want to do something like this again. Wherein “something like this” is a loose way to put it. Right now, I am divided in totally equal parts between the crossing of the Alps, the fall of Carthage, the Numidian rebel Tacfarinas, and the story of Blodeuwedd and Llew Llyn Gaffes.

As I said… loosely put! ;) Time will tell. First, I need to get the “Cannae” booklet done; then we’ll know more…

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

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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Crossing the Alps

Across the wild alps

Across the wild alps

This piece really gave me a hard time, but it’s probably very fitting that, in mid-October, I struggle with a piece depicting Hannibal struggling with the Alps in mid-October. My losses were in paper and pencils rather than mules and men, but it seems crossing the Alps isn’t meant to be easy.

The lineart stage alone took me a week and four pieces of paper as I redrew this bit and that and put the pieces back together again. The colour was even tougher. I don’t think I’ve ever painted anything as complex as this. I’d say I mostly succeeded. Another parallel there.

Before I started, I made myself a greyscale sketch in Photoshop, so I knew where to get how dark in the final piece.

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Then I mixed some Phtalo Blue, Indigo and Shadow Violet in one compartment of my palette, some Ochre in another, and then some reddish brown from leftovers I had in my palette (probably mainly Burnt Sienna, Piemontite Red, and Sepia).  I sprayed my entire canvas with water and added a very light blue wash, then going into all the bits that are exposed to the light with extremely thin Ochre.

Then, when this had dried, I painte a rather uniform pale blue sky. The picture is going to be busy enough; when everything else is done, I’ll decide how many clouds this piece can handle.

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Next, I started painting the mountains in the back of the image. I used a pale Blue, mainly Phtalo, and painted the “negative space” around the snow. I mixed in some green to suggest a few trees further away.

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Then I went about detailing the rock-faces closer to us, with mixes of different blues (more Pthalo here, more Indigo and Shadow Violet there), intermingled in the shadows and rockier parts with different, toned-down browns I mixed above.

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I make sure never to get too dark, but more and more detailed towards the front.

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More details and deeper shadows to the rocky bits.

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I painted a thin brownish/bluish wash across the army and the space below them, to tie them in with the surroundings. The group of three men, immediately behind Hannibal and the soldier he’s pulling to his feet, is overlaid with a muddy wash so they won’t distract from the two later on.

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I then decided the empty triangle of sky could well use another mountain, plus a few bluer shadows on the other mountains, which I painted in with Phtalo and Indigo.

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Next, I set out to paint the mountainside to the left. It’s completely in shadow, and I mixed some more reddish tones into the blue.

Down there, you can already see me detailing out the rocks with a brownish wash. The colour consists of everything I have on my palette at this point. 
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Finished detailing. Not too much – I want the detail to be almost lost in the rock face later on, enough to look finished and non-monotonous, but nothing to distract from the figures.

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Next, some skin, bronze and leather.

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Outfitting Hannibal’s Libyans with warm winter clothes. Quiet there in the back, I’ll get to you eventually. The elephants go first.

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More detailing of the figures in back. Simultaneously, I determined how dark my darkest spots would be in this image – Hannibal’s hair – to set off the rest against it, and to have something to check the column against, to keep myself from getting too dark in the background.

And well, after fiddling with hundreds of little figures for hours that don’t look like anything, I needed something rewarding to paint.

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In this painting, my approach is very un-classical. Instead of going strictly from light to dark, I made sure to lay done some guidelines, shapes through the painting, forcing myself to keep an overview rather than getting lost in the details.

Like the fact that Hannibal’s sword is four inches long. >_<

So this is where the mixed media part comes in, and I mixed some dark burgundy with gouache and fixed that sword thing. Next, I added some bright colours (not gouache this time, still sticking mainly to the colours I’ve previously used) for Hannibal’s clothes. They’re too bright as of now, but I plan to make generous use of dark shadows and liquid watercolours to tone them down and add that extra punch that liquid watercolours excel at.

The shields of the men in the back have also been detailed with a mix of ochre/Burnt Sienna/violet mixes already in use. No new colours have been introduced here.

I also painted over the entire army in the back again with a good brushful of dirty water. That got rid of the little white flashes of unpainted whites everywhere, and tied them together neatly. I’ll go in later to pick out some bronze helmet highlights.

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Liquid watercolours in action, picking out shadows.
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Some gouache too, for lighter highlights, which I rarely do, but which are needed here.

The colours look off in the photograph; the original looks much better.

As gouache palettes, I always keep the plastic lids of Chipsletten crisps (Pringles-like,but Chipsletten taste better). They’re the perfect size and quality for palettes on an overcrowded desk like mine.

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The epiphany of the week came with the realisation that a watercolour that looks off is ruined, and a gouache painting that looks of may just not be done yet. That’s a concept I never really grasped. The next step will be to understand how to go on. I manage well enough with gouache in metal and clothes, but skin is not very successful yet. A part of me refuses to paint skin with anything opaque, which seems to be my problem.

Last details of the Celt’s helmet…

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And the clothes of the men in front.

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Watercolour, 2013

You need to get that treated

In spring of 217, the year after Hannibal’s arrival in Italy, two new consuls are closing off the Apennine passes to stop Hannibal from leaving the north of the country. Hannibal has chosen an unguarded road, but due to flooding of the area round the river Arnus in Tuscany, his army is having a hard time getting to drier ground. Hannibal himself suffers from ophthalmia. Maharbal (right), the chief commander of his cavalry, has just returned from an extensive scouting mission.

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Maharbal returned just before sundown. Despite the late hour, the men weren’t setting up camp, instead standing where they were, some sitting on their packs, trying to catch some rest until an officer walked by and shouted at them to get their gear out of the mud. Some were too tired to shout. The only dry places where a man might sleep were dead mules. Many of the remaining pack animals and horses were in a bad way, and the men weren’t looking any better.

He found Hannibal with Hanno and Mago at the rear of the column; the strategos wore a bandage around his head, covering the inflamed eye. He looked terrible, even the left eye reddened from lack of sleep. Syrus, the last surviving elephant, stood close by, looking almost unperturbed in all the misery around him, but his flanks were sunken, the small ears beating pointlessly at the flies and mosquitos.

“Ah, finally. How much further?” Hannibal asked as he saw Maharbal approach.

“Five to seven hours. Probably closer to seven,” Maharbal amended, dismounting.  “There’s a place called Faesulae ten miles ahead, but we found a few estates on dry ground close to the swamp. The town is small and far enough away not to bother us. My men are taking care of the estates. The barns are well-stocked, and there’s enough cattle to keep the army fed for a while. We ought to be able to rest there for a few days.” He cast Hannibal a beseeching look at these last words.

Hannibal nodded, apparently oblivious to the plea. “We’ll march in an hour. Mago, you stay with the rear. Hanno – ride up to the van and tell the men we’ll be on dry ground before dawn; that’s as much comfort as they’re going to get here. Take Sedoc with you, so he can tell the Celts as well. I’ll be coming after you on Syros.” He grimaced and rubbed his eye under the bandage, watching as his nephew mounted a bedraggled-looking horse and laboured his way up the column again. “You’ve been thorough?” Hannibal finally asked Maharbal, who was watching his friend with worry written across his face. “Any news on the consuls?”

“Thorough? You know me. – Hannibal, you need to get that treated.”

“I am getting that treated, but look around. – The consuls?”

Maharbal caught Mago’s look that said, How many times do you think I’ve told him that? “Servilius is still in Ariminum,” the cavalry commander reported at length. “A couple of men from Faesulae we captured yesterday are definite that Flaminius is still in Arretium – perched on the road to Rome like Iuppiter Stator in person and wondering when and where we’ll be crossing the Apennines.” He grinned. “Baal Hammon, I wish I could see his face when he finds us right in front of him.”

“Enemy scouts?” Hannibal wasn’t smiling, his voice clipped in pain.

“None. Not a horse’s tail in two days. It seems our friend Flaminius doesn’t believe in such Punic treachery as ambushes, or scouting. A fine, stout Roman. Bah.”

“Perfect. Servilius is completely out of touch and Flaminius isn’t expecting us. We need to make sure it stays that way. What have you found out about the terrain?”

“Bad terrain for cavalry. Hills and woods for at least twenty miles, beyond Arretium.”

“Bad for cavalry, but an ambush might work,” Mago said. “Especially against a commander who doesn’t do much scouting.”

Hannibal nodded. “We’ll see about that. Tell your scouts to keep their eyes open.” He cursed under his breath and vigorously rubbed at the bandage, his face contorting in pain.

“Once we’re out of here, a couple of days’ rest will fix that up.” Mago didn’t sound convinced in the slightest.

“I told you, I don’t have a couple of days,” Hannibal said, his voice raw. “You heard Maharbal. We know Flaminius is eager to meet us, and we want to draw him along before Servilius realises what’s happening. Flaminius will be happy to tackle us without his colleague – more laurels to him – but if Servilius gets wind of where we are, he’ll move. The terrain might allow us an ambush of one consular army, but not two. Any delay may well get us crushed between hammer and anvil. We can’t risk that. Not now. Not if we can take out one of them without much trouble.”

Maharbal exchanged a glance with Mago. Hannibal’s logic was impeccable, but the unspoken question was whether the defeat of Flaminius would come at the price of the strategos‘ eyesight. He didn’t dare to voice it.

Pencil version:

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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

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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Watercolour, 2013

Learn to follow before you can learn to lead

The commander's son

Under the watchful eyes of his father Hamilcar Barca, Hannibal is prepared for a life of leadership – and before he can lead, he must first learn to follow.

This paves the way for Hannibal’s later success as the commander of an army composed of Iberians, Africans, Numidians, Punics, Celts, Sicilians, Italics, and the occasional Greek – he gets no extra treatment, learns their languages, shares their hardships and has grown up as one of them, so that they follow him through mountains, swamps, and through years of a losing war without any sign of mutiny.

Schmincke and Daniel Smith watercolours on Stillman&Birn watercolour sketchbook, A4 size.

Watercolour, 2013

New sketchbook, new Hannibal

I love my new sketchbook! It’s a A4 watercolour sketchbook from Stillman&Birn, and the paper is almost too good to be true. It survives two dozen nose corrections with pencil and eraser and multiple layers of watercolour. Yay!

King Prusias of Bithynia. The man who sold Hannibal to the Romans (or would have, if the prize hadn’t committed suicide).

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Next, more elaborate illustration: “Letters from Qart Hadasht”. (Qart Hadasht, “Newtown”, is the Punic name for Carthage).

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Classical Antiquity is certainly broadening my colour choices.  But I need to rethink my standard skin tones… Burnt Sienna is great for Elves, but doesn’t cut it for Carthaginians.

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Concepts for Hasdrubal and Mago, the strategist’s brothers.

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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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