A week ago I bought a CD collection named The complete Works of Johann Sebastian Bach ( 1685 – 1750). The 172 CD collection presents the entire oeuvre of this genial German composer, generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time. However, while reading through the booklet included in this marvelous music collection, I came upon the following lines:
“ Every generation, every epoch played “its own Bach” to the best of their knowledge, belief, taste and their mental and esthetic horizon, standards which we today should not disparage merely because we boast a broader knowledge. Nor can we expect this plurality, which from a chronological point of view is developing horizontally and dynamically, to come to an end in the future. Hence there never will nor ever can be one solely, eternally valid interpretation of Bach.”
|Johann Sebastian Bach |
Well, it is not my intention to talk about the music, although it is a very important part of my daily working routine, but I would like to say something about interpretation. I have repeatedly heard people saying – all the essential things, things that really matter in life, have already been invented. The podium has already been, more or less, set up - only the props change and develop…
Anyway, whether we agree with this statement or not, when it comes to the illustration art, and depicting / illustrating already existing books, stories or famous characters, we are inevitably dealing with the interpretation.
Interpretation is a necessity, especially when we take in consideration the stories (the classics) that have properly and vividly articulated a certain phenomenon, or a situation that contains the universal, timeless character. All that is asked from the artist in that particular case is to retold the story by using a symbolic pictorial language that would appeal to the contemporary public and therefore help them to understand the message that is being communicated. In other words, this contemporary pictorial language has to make the connection between the old spectacle and the new spectator possible – to reconnect them.
Besides, an artist is allowed to emphasize a certain aspect of the story, while at the same time neglecting to a certain degree the other aspects (we call it the artistic freedom (don’t mention it to the art directors…)). His intention to accentuate the elements of the story that are, according to his feeling, closely connected to the essence of the whole, justifies the use of this freedom.
While working on the Gandalf painting (see the previous post), the thoughts like, whether Gandalf should wear a gray, a white or a brown and red clothes , were irrelevant because my primary aim was to depict the essence of the wizard's character and his function in the book. I gave Gandalf the red sleeves because he is a dynamic, flamboyant defender of Good, and I thought that a bit of red color would properly stress that side of his character. At the same time, through the use of red color I wanted to bring even more drama and energy into this dynamic composition.
But, not everyone is able to appreciate the notion of the artistic freedom, when it comes to interpreting the widely known story. For instance, a few years ago a group of Tolkien fans approached me demanding from me to clarify the true character of the creature Gandalf is fighting with on my painting. Was it a Balrog, or was it the creature from the dark waters of the lake in front of the gates of Moria? Somehow I got the feeling that they were not quite happy with my plea for the artistic freedom and the necessity of interpretation.
At the time I was working on Gandalf, I was also being busy with another picture inspired by The Lord of the Rings book, titled Shadow comes. I still can remember that summer day back in 1999, when I got the inspiration “punch” while sitting with my wife on the terrace near one of the Amsterdam’s famous channels and sipping a glass of refreshing drink. I asked my wife for a piece of paper, for she always carried with her a small notebook and a pen, and quickly sketched the rough outlines of the future composition.
Back in my studio, I made a series of sketches, and eventually a developed preliminary drawing came into being. I used this drawing as a guideline for the photo session with one of my best Orc-models, who was always ready to pose for me when the Dark Side had to be depicted.
Shadow comes does not depict any particular moment from the book. It is rather an interpretation of the crucial aspect of the story, the rising of Sauron and coming of the Shadow. From the approaching Shadow the Orcs are launching their attack on the Light, and whatever is in the light, representing it and protecting it.
|Shadow Comes, 50 x 70 cm, oil on Masonite, 1999|
At the end of the nineties I used quite often the modeling pasta and the painting pasta in the painting process. The modeling pasta was mostly used in order to create the rough, rich structure of the stones and rocks. When the surface was dry I applied the subsequent layers of paint and tiny glazes of different color on the top of it.
I used the painting pasta to make the paint more transparent. The shadow parts on both of the paintings were created with the help of the painting pasta. Nowadays I do not use that stuff anymore. Why? - Well, I do not use the modeling pasta because I feel that it makes the painting process a bit too orchestrated, that it takes the aspect of unpredictability, the “chivalrousness” out of the creative process.
As for the painting pasta – in the mean time I learned how to deal with the transparent colors, so the need for the painting pasta gradually “evaporated”.
The Shadow Comes original painting was purchased by an American collector. After he received and framed the picture, I asked him to supply me with a photo of the framed painting. He generously sent me the photo from below. On the left side you can see a painting done by the master Rick Berry - in the middle hangs a brilliantly executed painting of another master, John Jude Palancar. The Shadow comes painting is to the right.