Today I am going to share my process for creating the illustration "Hon El the Dancer" for Moon Design Publications's up coming "Guide to Glorantha".
To preface this article, I'd like to explain that the world of Glorantha was created over 40 years ago and is probably the most richly detailed and complex setting that I have ever worked in. I've worked on over 20 illustrations for Moon Design Publications and pretty much all of them come with very specific and detailed art direction like the following document.
OK, this is an "In-Gloranthan" piece that decorates the wall of the Temple of Hon-Eel in the city of Furthest (where the goddess Hon-Eel founded the ruling dynasty). It depicts the goddess Hon-Eel the Dancer overcoming the horse barbarians and enthralling the storm barbarians, bringing both the Lunar Way. Stylistically, this should be a cross between the color and dynamism of Etruscan tomb paintings (http://www.anatomyofnorbiton.org/images/Etruscan-monsters-fs.png) and the movement and grace of ancient Hindu-Buddhist devotional art.
I've attached a picture by another artist of scene from this culture, just to help with the feel.
Background: The goddess Hon-Eel is the daughter of the Red Emperor (the god-king of the Lunar Empire that is like an ancient Assyria ruled by a Greco-Buddhist mystery cult). The Lunar Empire was desolated by horse barbarian attacks in its early years. After the barbarians were defeated, Hon-eel appeared and renewed the empire. She restored provincial lands which had drifted from Lunar rule as a result of the barbarian attacks, settled new lands, drove the last of the horsemen off, and discovered a new food grain, maize, for Peloria. Hon-Eel brought the Lunar Way to the storm barbarians and founded a mighty royal dynasty. Hon-eel danced her way to the end of the universe and brought back rich blessings of fertility for all who were wise enough to call on her.
Picture: This picture is a color fresco, based on the attached sketch (Hon-Eel.jpg):
A. Hon-Eel the Dancer. Hon-Eel is a graceful, beautiful woman. She is dancing, balanced on her right foot (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Apasara_Img445.jpg). Her left foot is on her right knee, and she holds forth a bundle of maize. She wears golden bracelets, armlets, anklets, and necklaces (like http://www.inst.at/trans/16Nr/05_1/sengupta_08.jpg). She wears a beaded skirt (like http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Apsara_441.jpg or http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WLA_lacma_Celestial_Nymph_ca_1450_Rajasthan.jpg.)
Her skin is golden-brown and her hair red. Hon-Eel's eyes are green. She is not tattooed.
Behind her head is an ornate halo like http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Apsara_441.jpg, but glowing red.
In her left arm she holds a bundle of maize. In her right hand she carries a bronze sickle that is dripping blood.
Hon-Eel is flanked by two ripe maize plants.
B. Red Goddess. Above Hon-Eel is her grandmother, the Red Moon Goddess. She is seated in a lotus position and making a gesture of peace (the Abhaya Mudra, see http://www.cambosastra.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Mudra.jpg). Her skin is red and she is surrounded by a glowing red halo like Hon-Eel. She is either naked or wears a gown covered with stars (see plate01final.jpg).
C. Red Emperor. Watching Hon-Eel, and giving his blessing is the Solar Emperor (who in various incarnations is the Sun God, the son of the Red Moon, the father of Hon-Eel, and her lover). He is based on the Emperor Yelm.jpg, His garments are golden, as are the wings, but the disk is red like the moon.
D. Dead Orlanthi King. Hon-Eel dances atop the corpse of a dead Orlanthi king (like Kali does with Shiva, see http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/08/Kali_1800-1825_Kangra._The_Walters_Art_Museum..jpg, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Goddess_Bhadrakali_Worshipped_by_the_Gods-_from_a_tantric_Devi_series_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg or http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kali_lithograph.jpg). The king is bearded and wears a crown, a golden neck ring or torc, and golden spiral arm ring. He has a bronze sword (symbolizing his violent nature). He is tattooed with Air, Movement, and Mastery. Bonus points if he has the same tribal tattoo as Arim the Pauper did in the previous commission - this is Arim's distant heir, King Pyjeemsab. Pyjeemsab was entranced by Hon-Eel's beauty. He was killed after the marital conjugation (perhaps during it), but nine months later, Hon-Eel gave birth to his son and heir, who became the new king of a new dynasty (that worships Hon-Eel as a goddess).
E. Defeated Horse Queen. This is the Queen of the Horse Tribes. She's much smaller because she is a barbarian. She is riding a horse and wears an ornate costume like that of the Scythians (eg http://www.cais-soas.com/CAIS/Images2/General/Iranian_Women_Warriors.JPG or http://realtruth.org/images/scythian-ashz-120523.jpg (on the left)). She has her hands up in worship of Hon-Eel.
F. Worshipful Storm Barbarian. This is a bearded Orlanthi barbarian (one of Arim's people). He carries a sword but has his hands up in worship of Hon-Eel.
The art direction was very specific so I put together 2 Comps for the AD to look at with my preliminary ideas.
Next I completed 4 more rough sketches incorporating my ideas and all of the various symbology.
Once we settled on the various compositional elements that we liked, I set out to incorporate all of them into the image as well as some Mucha inspired design elements. These next 3 images depict the various stages in the evolution of the final drawing.
I hope that you found this article informative and if you have any questions or comments, I'd be happy to hear from you.