The musings of a fantasy illustrator. Artwork, art-talk, and randomness.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Gray Mouser

"You are more tempted by the hot lips of black magic than the chaste slim fingers of white, no matter to how pretty a misling the latter belong--no, do not deny it! You are more drawn to the beguiling sinuosities of the left-hand path than the straight deep road of the right. I fear me you will never be mouse in the end but mouser. And never white but gray--oh well, that's better than black." --Fritz Leiber, "The Unholy Grail"

When I began reading Leiber's classic series of sword-and-sorcery earlier this year, it was with an eye towards finding something to paint. There hasn't been a lot of attention devoted to Lankhmar these past few years, and I prefer to play in quiet corners. This description, from The Gray Mouser's introduction story, was perfect. In that story, some of his past was discussed which left a lot of hope that some of the psychological turmoil of trying to ride between dark and light would be a feature of the stories as they went on. It became the basis of designing this illustration, supplementing it with other details from the first two books.

Nevertheless, it was with disappointment that I found that after this story, Mouser simply appears as a fairly standard rogue character. This was of course hinted in the same paragraph as above: "You are a middling dutiful scholar, but secretly you favor swords over wands." Still, I'm surprised Leiber left such fertile ground behind. Perhaps Mouser picks up magic again later? I don't know, and I'll probably move on to other things and maybe never find out.

This was the piece I worked on while at the Racebrook Retreat a few weeks back (you can see me working on it). The study was previously posted here,  as well. It's rather large, as my work goes, at 24x30". Once a figure gets to about 50% life-scale, I find it very enjoyable to paint, requiring different brushes and approach. Though I basically use the same methods, there's just a little more room to play.

By the end of the week (Mon-Thursday, really--Friday wasn't really a work day for me), I had gotten this far, which may be educational to see, in terms of seeing how fast/slow I work. This was with 4 fairly long workdays:

At this point his belt/bag, tunic, and flesh were basically done. I touched up the head and hands a bit more, but everything else still had work to do. I glazed and then textured his cloak, finished his dagger/sword, and added in the "beguiling sinuosities" again at the end.

Larger view and image information is available over here.