Sunday, 18 November 2007

Costume - a few sketches

In a previous post I mentioned the problem of having to convey lots of information without taking too much recourse to text. One specific element I will be dealing with in War in Gaul is that the Gauls were divided into many different peoples; in fact we are not even sure that they called themselves Gauls or even Celts.

According to Caesar, the Belgae differed from the other continental Celts by their descent from Germanic peoples. There is quite some debate among historians as to whether the Belgae spoke a Celtic or a Germanic language. Unfortunately these discussions are often frought with politics. Those people who argue vigorously that the Belgae spoke a Germanic dialect are sometimes prone to using their theory in order to emphasise, say, the difference between the Flemish and the Walloons in Belgium; consequently I find it difficult to know whether I am reading propaganda or honest historical research. Moreover, in wishing to distinguish between 'Celtic' and 'Germanic', historians are pulling a Caesar: they force some kind of order and distinction on a culture that does not actually seem to have cared much about this kind of deliniations. The Celts did, however, make distinctions among themselves: they seem to have been forever picking fights with their equally Celtic neighbours. That appears to have been one problem the Romans solved...

I would like to keep 'my' Celts' ethnic identity fluid. It might be nice to go with the Germanic thing to some extent. For one thing, it would make my Eburones and other Belgae extra annoying in Caesar's eyes because they are impossible to categorise. As a bonus, it would give me the opportunity to throw in a few Germanic names, which are easier to come by than Celtic ones :P.

In terms of costumes, I was thinking that I might show the sliding differences between northern and southern peoples by the men's trousers. Apparently it is a typically Germanic thing to strap leather laces around the leg up to the knee; the Celts usually strapped their trousers at the ankles. So I'm going to play with straps, and with the width of the trouser legs - narrow in the south, wide in the north. Now Catuvolcos and Ambiorix look as if they are wearing a kind of ancient plus-fours :D...

Here is old Catuvolcos, leaning on his spear. I didn't give him a shirt; I wonder whether I should change that. As I said in a previous entry, I imagine him as an old-fashioned warrior king, so he has to look sort of hardy, even if he is getting on in age. Shirts are for sissies like Ambiorix ;-).

For some reason I like to picture Catuvolcos in a cloak with a fur collar - does that give him a heroic, royal air, or is it just me?

The armlets are ... Well, armlets are archeologically attested, but not exactly in high numbers. They are more of a pictorial tradition than anything else, but I like them, so my kings wear armlets. Let's say we haven't found many because Caesar confiscated them and melted them all into sestertii, all right? ;-)

Here is Ambiorix, in full regalia, or almost. I need to sort a few things out, like for example the way the cloak is worn; I am having a bit of trouble drawing cloaks properly, and I need to copy a few fibulae for inspiration too.

The basic clothing consists of trousers, a shirt, a tunic with belt, and a cloak. I am wondering whether I can make my Celts wear shirts that are open at the front - kind of like the modern versions but without the buttons. I have read a description from which I understand that they may have had such shirts, but I am not sure whether I interpreted the passage the right way :/.

Ambiorix wears his sword on his right, not because he is left-handed, but because the Celts just happened to wear their swords that way. Seeing how they loved to show off, I bet they did it because when you draw a long Celtic sword from your right with your right hand, you have to make a long, sweeping movement - quite impressive-looking, that *g*.

Here is Commios. He lives a bit more to the south, on the border between what Caesar calls Gallia Belgica and Gallia Celtica, so I gave him different trousers, shorter straps, and a tunic but no long-sleeved shirt. I guess the main reason why I am inclined to give him short sleeves is because I picture him as rather muscular and so I want to show his arms. Only, well, at the moment I am still learning about muscles, and so far his arms merely look beefy :P. To Be Fixed.

I am still playing around with costume ideas; as you can see this drawing is on the whole less well-defined than the previous two. My Eburones are taking shape more quickly than the rest, and I still draw a complete blank on the Romans. It's not really a problem; I will get there in time. As a character, Comm is shaping up nicely. He has a daughter now, and a lovely little plot that will take him to Ambiorix. I was rather relieved when that idea popped into my head, even though it means I have a new cast member... Her name is Dannumara, by the way - Mara for short.

I am still trying out for Volca - her face isn't quite stable yet, but at least I had a lot of fun with my graphite pencils :-). One important job is to invent nice hairdos for my Celtic ladies; the one with all the braids was a first try, and I think it could have looked worse. I need some more training though, and I am looking for reference material too, but so far I have not found a lot of useful photos.

I need to think the ladies' wardrobes through, too. It is not immediately obvious to me how I am going to bring variation to it in the way that I did with the men and their trousers. Sleeves? Girdles? Stoles? Necklines? I have to try a few things out. I also need to look into making peplos-like dresses more elegant. Maybe I should watch a few peplos films for inspiration?


the comics expert said...

Wonderful designwork. Try not to get TOO bogged down by the historical correctness of the details, though I think you're doing OK.
By the bys: Your 'chou' is doing a Roman-era book as well. Similar era (my uninformed self believes) though very much different. Hope you're not intimidated now!
Keep going!

ampersand said...

Yes, I saw Les aigles de Rome; I didn't buy it immediately, but I think I will soon. Marini IS intimidating, but inspiring also - that's how most artists I admire work for me :-).

I have more or less decided to let go of the idea that everything should be really correct, because if I adopt a strictly archaeological approach, there won't be much room for my imagination and things will probably look a bit boring. But I do want my imaginative contribution to be at least a little plausible, so I like to base it on real Celtic finds...

I'm working with Bammes now, BTW. It feels odd to be working on anatomy, but it is very useful :-). The book about animal anatomy is on its way to me now - I promised myself to buy it after I'd handed in.

the comics expert said...

I bet that was one of the easiest promises to keep yourself, lol!