The new year began with two more paintings. These were done in four days: the first on January 1-2, and the second on January 3-4.
So here we go. The first is called The Hungry Hills.
Fairly bizarre, huh? As with stories, I often don’t know how a painting is going to end when I start it. I would even say usually there’s something I discover along the way that gives the picture its real focus. With this one, I set out to paint a fantasy landscape. I knew I wanted it to have caves, stairs, and a central chasm (because I liked those parts of the Balrog painting — see previous post).
As I worked, I wasn’t happy with the painting at all. It had no theme, no central focus, nothing that interested me, and it didn’t even seem to be underground as I’d intended. Then I thought, “Hey! Those caves with their white stalactites look like mouths with teeth!”
In this one, although you still can’t see quite to the bottom of the canvas, you can glimpse the stairway inside the mouth of the very lowest figure.
So then I realized that the cave areas should be faces, and they should have eyes and, in some cases, noses. At that point, I started liking the painting.
The face in the top right corner looks fish-like to me. I’m reminded of Dagon, who appears in the Old Testament as a god of the Philistines, and who may have been a god of the sea. He is also featured in the horror tales of H.P. Lovecraft.
The cavern beneath him, with the red eyes, looks just plain evil. If the top figure is Dagon, I would name this red-eyed fellow “Malev.”
Did you notice the winding stairway on that tower in the top center?
The top left figure has no eyes. He’s a blind hungry hill. The tree-faced tower next to him is wild-eyed, howling and mad, but probably not as dangerous as most of the other caverns.
The cavern beneath them on the left I call “Bomarzo.” Who or what is the gargoyle-like figure who seems to be gazing down at our heroine? Are his intentions good or ill?
Would you believe that putting in our heroine was a last-minute inspiration? It seemed to me that the hungry hills were all watching, waiting . . . their attention seemed focused inward on someone journeying among them. Then it hit me — of course! Someone is on that stairway! Someone is alone, and courageous, venturing into these hills on a quest!
I don’t have a name for the deep green one in the abyss, though he’s the one whose gaze told me exactly where our heroine was.
The face with a stairway where his ear should be looks Mayan to me, or maybe like a Kachina doll of the Hopis. He has two stairways in his gullet, climbing in two directions. The figure above him looks very cobra-like. I guess that’s Nagaina (remember Riki-Tiki-Tavi?).
Over here on the right are Nag and beneath him Lamia. Do you see the face on the wall of the chasm? It’s the only figure with a closed mouth. I think that because of its position, no one can possibly pass into it; no path leads there. So this hungry face has to draw its nourishment from the entire hill country of which it is a part. It’s a bored, resigned, frustrated face.
And our heroine, she who journeys above the hungry gorge . . . this may well be Dragonfly, or someone very much like her. Her coloring is certainly like Dragonfly’s. Maybe this is an illustration for that Dragonfly sequel, the very first manifestation of the yet-unwritten story! Certainly I love the title “The Hungry Hills,” which may be a chapter! The atmosphere of this painting truly captures the spirit of Dragonfly, doesn’t it? She carries the sword in her left hand. Does that mean she’s left-handed, or that she thinks she’ll need the lantern more than the sword? I like the fact that she wears a skirt: the best heroines are courageous, strong, capable, and feminine — just as the best heroes are courageous, strong, capable, and yet sensitive and gentle in their masculinity.
A final thought on this: in the media of the near future, wouldn’t it be interesting to design an on-line storytelling format in which you’d have a picture like this, and you could click on each cave, each section of the image, and you would be ushered to a different story? A collection accessed through a single painting! Something like an Advent calendar, with wonders hidden behind each window waiting to be opened!
Our second painting is simpler: Three Princesses.
It’s a comedic image, a play on “Rapunzel.” Here, the prince is imprisoned by some sorcery in the tower deep in the forest. By the look of the plant life, he’s been in there for years, though he never ages. Three princesses have come to rescue him, but they’re engaged in a heated argument. The prince is unhappy, and the quest is at a standstill.
What is the nature of their altercation? Is the prince not quite so charming as they were led to believe? Or is he charming enough, but the three (who pooled their resources and skills to have made it this far) are now realizing that there’s one of him and three of them? Or does the argument concern whose responsibility it was to have brought a rope, or a ladder, or the spell to enter the doorless tower?
High above the characters’ heads, quite remote from them, perches an owl, who appears at a loss. My theory is that the owl represents wisdom. The meaning is that wisdom is all too often lacking in human endeavor.
I love the color called “country tan,” which I used for the lighter backpack, the blonde girl’s pants, and the middle girl’s moccasins. It goes smoothly onto the canvas and dries with a wonderful soft quality.
This painting was a lot of fun. I love doing dark forests with no sky visible, but those stones in the tower wall were a pain.
When I was younger, I was embarrassed to draw women that were shaped like women. On these princesses, I pulled out the stops and made them as feminine as my abilities allowed.
If anyone wants to, why not try writing us a very short story to go with either painting? Just a paragraph or two would be enough! What quest brings our heroine into the hungry hills? What are the princesses arguing about, and what will the outcome be?