Saturday, 10 May 2008

Watercolour in Gaul

Last weekend I had great fun messing around with my watercolours. I have rather come to adore them, even if the results don't always live up to my enthusiasm :P. It suddenly occurred to me that I have bought two Moleskine watercolour notebooks, but that I have been nervous about using them. It's always like that with me: I am addicted to notebooks, but somehow I have the idiotic notion that I shouldn't use them unless I am going to produce a masterpiece. But why on earth shouldn't I use them to doodle and experiment? *shakes head at self* At least it would mean I have my pictures (good and bad ones alike) together in bundles instead of on loose bits of paper that lie around or get lost and/or damaged. So I gathered my courage and started painting furiously. The six little pictures/portraits that resulted are of various quality and can be found below.

My War in Gaul story is developing very slowly. I have a large cast, I think, but recently I realised that in fact it is still too small. That is, there are many more characters surrounding my main ones who need to have a personality and a history (even if those are never made explicit or treated at length) if the story is to work. Also, for one thing, canon (hee hee, I find a silly glee in applying that term to Caesar's writings) has it that Ambiorix flees with four of his warriors - those people have to be real, because he's going to be spending a considerable amount of time with them. So far I have only got one with a personality; a second one has a name and an occupation. The other two - no idea yet. But they'll come along.

I am also happy to say that as of a few days ago, dear Comm has three wives. Their names are Verctissa, Momora and Cunovinda. As of today, Verctissa has a story. I love her :-). Expect a portrait soon...

The paintings. As you may remember (but probably don't), I had given Ambiorix four sisters - two are older than he, and two are younger. They are gradually acquiring distinct personalities, and I amused myself last Sunday by painting little portraits. The thing is that the four women and their brother all look very much alike, but that they should be readily distinguishable from each other nevertheless. I have so far experienced a bit of difficulty with that :/. I am rather happy with how they turned out in the pictures, even though some of the pictures aren't particularly good as pictures.


I painted this one last, but I am putting it first because Avitoriga is the eldest of the siblings. She is probably closest to her brother in terms of character; he learned a lot of his cunning ways from her.

Avitoriga is married to Wulfilas, a Germanic noble. Originally I thought of him as king of the Chatti, but I have decided it would be more fun if he were a Cheruscan king. After all, he is supposed to take Ambiorix & friends in when Caesar has destroyed their land for the second time. The Cherusci receive a short mention in De Bello Gallico. In 9 AD, the Romans will suffer a crushing defeat at the hands of the Cheruscan prince Irmin/Arminius in the Teutoburgerwald. It's just too tempting to forge a connection between Ambiorix and Irmin, though I'm not sure yet how it is all going to work. I may at one point have to change Wulfilas' name into Segimerus (or Sigmar; Sigmar sounds extremely German, but if you ask me, Segimerus could as easily be made to sound more Celtic - as far as I am concerned it is pretty close to a name like Segomaros...)*. Another fun detail is that the Cherusci are thought to have been at least partly Celtic, so it all seems to fit marvellously well.

Drawback: Enrico Marini is currently making a comic about Arminius, Les Aigles de Rome. The linkie takes you to a site that offers a few page previews, demonstrating some of Marini's brilliance. One does not, as a pitiful amateur, wish one's readers to think of Marini's gorgeous watercolours when perusing one's own feeble attempts at the art of the comic ^_^; ...

*The mix-up between Celts and Germanic peoples is fascinating. Look at the name of king Marbod of the Marcomanni. The Marcomanni are supposed to be a Germanic tribe. But Marbod is apparently a kind of mangled form of Maroboduus. Now, "boduos" means "raven" in Celtic and is found in Celtic names like Catuboduos, Boduogena, Boduognatos and Boduocos. Maro - well, plenty of maros and maras in Celtic names too: Britomaros, Segomaros, Coviomaros, Dannumara. And then the name of the nobleman he exiled: Catualda. Catualda! "Catu" is Celtic for "battle", as in Catuvolcos, Catumandos, ... Catual, Cadafael Cadomedd, Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon, anyone? It doesn't get more Celtic than that :D! Though I must admit the "-lda" part sounds pretty Germanic. I dunno. It seems to me we are just a little too keen to divide these people into different ethnies when they were actually rather alike.

But I digress :P. Back to the matter at hand. I like the colours of this picture, especially the green and burgundy. They are the kind of tints I have long been wanting to mix, but I had no idea how, and finally stumbled upon them by accident.

Allicia & Visurix

This lady who is far too pink/reddish in the face is Ambiorix's second sister, Allicia. Her husband (not looking too good here, sorry) is Visurix (a cool mix of Germanic and Celtic too, that name: Germanic "wise" and Celtic "king", and I didn't make it up), whom I have made king of the Menapians. He lives on the hill of Blandinion, which happens to be the Hill I am currently Under :P. Canon says that the Menapians were Ambiorix's allies; that is why Caesar came to hunt them down in their marshes and handed the command of the tribe over to Commios.

Visurix is a lucky man. Allicia is the sweetest of women.


Abesa is Ambiorix's younger sister, and the drop-dead-gorgeous one. She's a bit of a pain, though, which I trust will lead to some sparks in the plot and the dialogue ;). I have thought of a few nice twists for her, but I can't reveal them yet.


This is Albiriga - Aia for short - the youngest of the siblings. The painting looks better in reality than it does on the scan, but it's still not very good; the dark shadow is basically my clumsy attempt at hiding the fact that I did the skin tones as badly as I did them for Allicia :/.

Aia is a bright and cheerful girl and possibly Ambiorix's favourite. He likes to think he has to protect her, but actually she protects him :). She deserved a better portrait.

Finally, there are the first two pictures I painted - last Saturday that was. This is a character I invented only last week: Andecamulos, Ambiorix's best friend. (He really needed one.)



If I said that he's my Obelix, I would probably be giving the wrong impression. I just find Asterix rather inescapable when cooking up my own Gaulish universe, even if the comical and parodical tone of that series is completely inappropriate to my story. But it seems obvious that whenever a bard is mentioned, lots of people will think of Assurancetourix/Cacofonix, and when you read about druids anywhere, a spontaneous association with Panoramix/Getafix comes up. That happens to me all the time, in any case. I'm not entirely sure why, when I thought of Ambiorix's best friend, I immediately conjured up someone heavy-set, physically strong, and obsessed with good food. It just happened. Then it struck me that sounded rather like Obelix. So to differentiate clearly (*g*), I have made Andecamulos a druid - or at least an aspiring druid, because he is too young to have finished his studies.

Andecamulos is a darling; you'll see. I'm afraid he can't stand Rigantona, but I forgive him :).

BTW, I have been looking for a solution to my problem with the length of all those Celtic names. I think it is probably best to use nicknames for the main characters, and to that end to split those long names into their constituent parts. That means that Ambiorix and Andecamulos can call each other Ambios and Camulos, and Rigantona might address her brother Vercingetorix (try fitting that in a word balloon when you have some dialogue to report too!) with a tender "Cingetos" (whoo! that's only three syllables instead of five!). I'm so relieved that one of my blokes is called simply Comm. I'm not sure what to do about Catutigirnios. I have been calling his father "Catu" in my head, and two Catus would be confusing. Maybe I should switch to Volcos.

Incidentally, in another instance of the Great Celtic Confusion I have read a translation of "volcos" as "wolf" (and it's the premier Celtologist Venceslas Kruta who says so). Previously I have encountered it everywhere as meaning "falcon". Rah. So is Volca now called She-wolf, and her father Battle-wolf? I wonder.


Cecilia said...

The last three images won't open, and it's the third time I try ti make this page load completely. What's going on with blogspot? Even commenting the previous post was really difficult.
I can see you have improved a lot in a small time! Eheh, I was sure of it ^^ I especially like the first illustration, it's smooth and I like the colours.

Names, names... I am currently defining the regions of my invented continent Enderland (for the Asanor story), and I am deciding their shapes, vastity and geographical conformation. It's fun but it's also confusing. Reading A Song of Ice and Fire I realized many things in the concept of a fantasy world I'd never thought of before. That every castle needs his lord, that every lord has his vassals, guards and servants, and that they all need names and surnames... lol

ampersand said...

Oh yes, I completely understand what you are saying! It takes so much to make an alien world come to life. Stories that take place in the here and now have so many elements that are straightforward and evident and don't need explaining, but history or fantasy - that's a different thing altogether :).

Ergh - Blogspot, troublesome? I haven't noticed any of it myself... Maybe the problem with the pictures is because I didn't upload them to Blogspot itself, but imported them from Photobucket. Let me see if I can mend them... They are here too, in any case. I don't usually crosspost to LJ, but in this case I did.

Cecilia said...

After writing the comment before I passed to visit your lj, and I saw the complete images there. And when I came back here, the images were visible also here :) Mysteries of technology. We have three computers in my house, a pc and two laptops, and the pc is the only one that apparently doesn't have problems in showing blogspot. The two laptops fail to upload it completely. I can't tell you why *shudders*

Marian said...

I have the same problem with buying moleskine sketchbooks (or being given them by well-meaning friends) and never drawing in them, because the fact you can't rip a page out gives me panic attacks. Anyway, I should really take your attitude and draw in them regardless - your watercolours are beautiful. You use the medium very well, and I love your sense of colour.

ampersand said...

Thank you :D! Watercolours are great fun, especially since I found out how to mix them properly ;)...

It's a strange thing with Moleskine notebooks: the softcover ones do have pages you can tear out. I have no idea why the hardcover ones don't. Although - I guess they are marketed as books, and that we have to learn to deal with the fact that all our doodles and failed pictures and good pictures will be sewn together. In a way, it's an advantage. It's a kind of portfolio. - As you can see, I'm steeling myself :P.

Thanks a lot for reading and commenting!