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…

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It’s a GO! Darkness over Cannae on Indiegogo!

Now’s the time! Help me get this book out there! Head over to Indiegogo and preorder the book, support the campaign, be part of the project!

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Darkness over Cannae – Tie-in website now online!

Head over to DarknessOverCannae.com to see the website I’ve put together for the new project! It’s like a tie-in appendix for the upcoming novel, with loads of goodies, artwork (more to come), and all sorts of thoughts concerning the Battle of Cannae.

If you know anyone who might be interested in the project, please share it! :)

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Also on Facebook!

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

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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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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