Beowulf and the Dragon si the last of the three epic battles in Beowulf’s saga, and the last of the illustrations I made for this project.
What I LOVED about working on this set of illustrations is that in each one Beowulf is in a completely different situation or moment of his life, so I had to account for that in the design.
In the first battle Beowulf is in his prime: when he faces Grendel he is young, bold and cocky, and he goes as far as engaging him without weapons and armour, because, you know, he is too cool for those.
In the second battle, soon after he has defeated Grendel, he is obviously still young, but he is now all geared up, as Grendel’s mother is not an enemy to underestimate.
In this last battle he is an old man, so I obviously had to paint a different version of his face.
He has reigned as a wise king, regarded by everyone as a great hero, so I wanted to convey some degree of solemnity in his figure.
At this point in his life he knows he is too weak to defeat the dragon, nonetheless he dons his armour, gathers his trusted warriors and walks towards his doom as if it were just another Tuesday.
It will be his best warrior to finish off the dragon, eventually.
However, even though an old man, Beowulf is still cool enough to pull this kind of tricks.
Now, there was a funny exchange of emails with Tanner of Legends, Myths and Whiskey when I delivered the final illustration.
His feedback was pretty much “It’s cool! But it’s wrong! Beowulf and the Dragon face each other in the Dragon’s lair”.
And mine was “No! YOU are wrong! I read the book! The battle happens outside the lair, in the forest!”
So we sent each other quotes from whatever our sources were, and we soon came to the conclusion that we were using two different translations, one of which was quite blurry about the location of the battle.
So, we eventually decided to leave the background as it was.
I had messed up with his gear though, as in the first version I had painted an wooden shield, whereas in both translations it’s quite clear that Beowulf chooses his best iron shield before he leaves his hall to face the dragon.
For the literature lovers I’m pasting the passage that the illustration refers to.
Mine, by Strafford Riggs, 1933:
I go alone to engage this dragon. You shall remain here at the clearing’s edge in readiness to stand by me in case I fail. For I am an old man now, and it comes to me, as in a dream, that this will be my last adventure, my final fight.
For a moment there was a death-like stillness in the night. No sound came from the cave, and no steamy breath, and no dull glare of fire. Then with sudden roaring that caused the night to splinter and the earth to quiver in horrified response, the lordliest dragon in all the world rushed from its lair.
Tanner’s, by Ernest Kirtlan (1913?):
Then in a fury the Prince of the Weder-Geats
let a torrent of words escape from
his breast and the stout-hearted one
stormed. And his war-clear voice re-
sounded under the hoar cliffs. And
hatred was stirred, for the guardian of
the hoard recognized well the voice of
Beowulf. And that was no time to be
seeking friendship. And the breath of
the monster, the hot battle-sweat, came
forth from the rock at the first and the
earth resounded. The warrior, the Lord
of the Geats, raised his shield under the
barrow against the terrible sprite.
Funny how things can change from one translator to another.
After all, even Tolkien wrote an essay on how difficult an undertaking it was to translate something like Beowulf.
by Paolo Puggioni
Ok, I will admit that “Beowulf and Grendel’s Mother” is not that catchy as a title.
It is, however, the official name by which this specific event in Beowulf’s saga goes by, so I’ll stick with it.
As a matter of fact, her name isn’t mentioned in the poem, and I did check:)
She’s just Grendel’s Mother, so there you go.
So, this is the second of the three illustrations I made for Legend’s Myths and Whiskey’s upcoming album.
In the story, after having defeated Grendel, Beowulf and his party of warriors pursuit the monster’s mother, who had come out of her lair to avenge the death of her son, and already wreaked havoc around the countryside.
Grendel’s mother also makes the mistake of killing one of Beowulf’s friends and chopping his head off, which gets Beowulf REALLY pissed off.
Following her to her lair under a murky lake, Beowulf and Grendel’s mother finally engage in a mighty battle. She, however, can’t pierce Beowulf’s armor with her claws, while it appears that Beowulf’s weapons have no effect on her though skin.
Luckily, Beowulf will find a magic short sword in the monster’s hoard, and wielding the relic he will eventually cut her head off.
’MID the battle-gear saw he a blade triumphant,
old-sword of Eotens, with edge of proof,
warriors’ heirloom, weapon unmatched,
— save only ’twas more than other men
to bandy-of-battle could bear at all —
as the giants had wrought it, ready and keen.
Seized then its chain-hilt the Scyldings’ chieftain,
bold and battle-grim, brandished the sword,
reckless of life, and so wrathfully smote
that it gripped her neck and grasped her hard,
her bone-rings breaking: the blade pierced through
that fated-one’s flesh: to floor she sank.
The bit I depicted is right after he has grabbed the magic sword and leaps to finish off the monster.
There’s also a passage that tells how the floor had caught fire during the battle, which gave me the chance to add some red glow from below.
Thanks, viking storytellers, that was a nice touch.
Anyway, Beowulf and Grendel’s Mother was the last epic battle of the hero’s prime.
For the rest of his life he will reign on his people as a powerful and wise king.
Until, as an old man, he will pick up his weapons again for a last battle with a giant dragon, which I’ll post about next week.
by paolo Puggioni
I recently had the pleasure of illustrating Beowulf and Grendel, which is part of a great classic of ancient Anglo-Saxon poetry and an all round kick-ass epic story.
Once again this is for the fine people at Legends, Myths and Whiskey, who are always a pleasure to work with.
This time however, LMAW is releasing their beautifully narrated stories (together with a bunch of art I made for the project) as an album.
You can find more information here.
And if this doesn’t quench your curiosity, you can read a well made review here.
Now, as far as the story goes, this is the first of the three epic battles that make up Beowulf’s saga.
Long story short (straight from Wikipedia):
Beowulf begins with the story of Hrothgar, who constructed the great hall Heorot for himself and his warriors. In it he, his wife Wealhtheow, and his warriors spend their time singing and celebrating.
Grendel, a troll-like monster said to be descended from the biblical Cain, is pained by the sounds of a joy he cannot share, attacks the hall, and kills and devours many of Hrothgar’s warriors while they sleep. Hrothgar and his people, helpless against Grendel, abandon Heorot.
Beowulf, a young warrior from Geatland, hears of Hrothgar’s troubles and with his king’s permission leaves his homeland to assist Hrothgar.
Beowulf and his men spend the night in Heorot. Beowulf refuses to use any weapon because he holds himself to be the equal of Grendel.When Grendel enters the hall, Beowulf, who has been feigning sleep, leaps up to clench Grendel’s hand. Grendel and Beowulf battle each other violently.
Beowulf’s retainers draw their swords and rush to his aid, but their blades cannot pierce Grendel’s skin. Finally, Beowulf tears Grendel’s arm from his body at the shoulder and Grendel runs to his home in the marshes where he dies.
Now, I had different options for a battle match between Beowulf and Grendel.
Beowulf is so cocky that he wants to kill the monster by just using his hands, so I guessed it made sense for him to be bare chested, like a proper wrestling match.
I could have made a much more dynamic scene, having the chareacters punching heach other, tables flying, fire and so on.
I chose insted the moment right before Beowulf rips Grendel’s arm off, so in this case I emphasized both Grendel’s struggle and Beowulf “I’m not even sweating” espression.
We did debate a bit over this, and discussed whether it would have been better to depict Beowulf as if he were struggling a little bit more.
In the end we kept the face I painted in the first pass. I think it gives the composition a more “Renaissance” flavour, with characters always with plain expressions.
I figured it fits with the ancient epic poem.
Anyway, I depicted all of Beowulf’s three battles, so next time I’ll post the illustration I made for Beowulf’s and Grendel’s Mother.
by Paolo Puggioni
Aaand back to spaceships.
Honestly, browsing my gallery the other day I realized that the number of spaceships in my portfolio is shamefully close to “no spaceships”, so I tried to put a remedy to that.
After a looong hiatus from ZBrush I eventually managed to clumsily put together a mesh to render and eventually paint over.
The endeavor was a confirmation of how terrible my memory is.
I hadn’t touched ZBrush in about a year, and all my recollections of shortcuts, menus and commands were gone.
Muscle memory, gone.
Tricks and slightly more uncommon procedures, gone.
Sure, I kind of knew what I had to do, fortunately that was well settled.
I just couldn’t remember how to do it.
So, well, the sculpting phase took about a dozen lunch breaks or so, as I had to re-learn a whole bunch of things.
Hopefully next time it won’t be as hard. I’ll just have to make sure I can do it again in less than a year.
As an exercise, I tried to stick with a very simple shape – pretty much a box – and see if I could make it interesting anyway.
As always, all my digital painting now happens with the help of Krita.
For this illustration I had to make a whole bunch of brush presets (lasers, scattered stars, noise etc), which I’ll make available for download shortly.
Sure, the most of this drawing comes from the occlusion shadows exported from ZBrush, but still, I’m quite happy with the confidence I’m gaining with the new tools.
Mostly though, regardless of the result, I’m content I managed to get something done with ZBrush.
So much saw that I rendered the turntable animation.
Look at her spin!
AH! The beauty of a spaceship spinning over and over again.
It reminds me of EVE Online.
by Paolo Puggioni
After long thought, I ended up renaming what had been “New_Document1.psd” for more than a year, into the much catchier “Pyromancer”.
I was very happy about the new name.
I mean, it is very clever if you think about it.
I had discarded “Fire Queen”, “Fire Sorceress”, “Fireballs Juggler” and all the variations of those, when the genius finally struck me.
PYRO! Like, you now, FIRE. And MANCER! Like a Necromancer, but with flames!
PYROMANCER! I’m so brainy! It’s a new word! I made up a new word, and it’s not even my first language!
Then I checked on Google, and it looks like every game with even a little bit of Fantasy spin has a character called Pyromancer.
There are also several books with a pyromancer in it.
Hell, there’s an actual word in ancient Greek for it: Pyromancy – the art of divination by fire.
I’m sure there must be Zippo pyromancer-shaped lighters too.
Oh yes, and of course let’s not forget about Melisandre.
So well, I made up a word that’s been there for almost three thousands years.
Just, all by myself.
So there you go, behold what, unbeknownst to me, is one of the most overused cliches of Fantasy Art in general.
I just care to point out this is not a Darksouls, or a Heartstone or a Skyrim piece of fan art.
It’s just me being unimaginative.
Now, on top of that, I also have to say that this illustration has been a massive thorn in my side for more than a year and a half.
I had started it as a lunchbreak time-filler back when I was at Jagex.
I remember thinking that I could have tried making something nice and polished, for a change.
Something I had actually spent time on.
The days passed, the season changed, and I would work like 5 minutes at a time on this lunch-break project, between a peak at reddit and a bite at a sandwich.
Then I moved to another company, and to a new house, and a new town, and every now and then I would come across this 80% finished illustration and think “aw, I should finish this”, and I would add maybe another 1% to the final result.
Then I changed computer, worked on freelance assignments, start and finish several things, and still every now and then this thing would pop up, demanding a few minutes of my attention.
Long story short, this pyromancer has been sitting in my WIP folder for longer than I care to remember, so yesterday I thought “fuck it, I now declare you finished” and finally sent her on her way.
by Paolo Puggioni
Before I finished off the cyberpunk lady I posted last week, I had started a few sketches for the same theme.
Just rough ideas, really.
I was caressing the idea of drawing a whole bunch of cyberpunk concepts, maybe tying them together in a consistent setting.
Then I immediately got distracted by something shinier that I’d like to work on, so I guess I’ll pause the cyberpunk thing and get back to it later.
That’s the beauty of personal projects after all.
You can have twenty of them going on at the same time and no one can say a thing about it.
So, here’s a sketch of some random cyberpunk people (ok this is not rough, I actually polished it a lot more than I should have).
As always, done in Krita!
The cyberpunk setting I had in mind wasn’t set like a million years in the future.
Let’s rather say a hundred years or so.
So I was thinking that in that case, most elements of our own culture and techology should still be recognizable.
The leg implants of the girl on the left are quite similar to today’s prosthetics, for example.
I took a few of the components of the winged lady from Shimano byke parts.
The old creepy guy works instead under the assumption that, in this setting, people’s life span can be increased almost indefinitely by plugging medical equipment into one’s body.
Impractical, maybe, and creepy, but better than being dead I guess.
Anyway, there’s actually another cyberpunk concept I had started working on, this time in ZBrush.
Since I’m slow as hell in ZBrush (I use it so rarely that I forget everything from one time to the other), I’m afraid that you shouldn’t hold your breath for that.
by Paolo Puggioni
The Witcher 3 was one of my favourite games ever, so I have to assume their new franchise will kick ass just as much.
Seeing their teaser trailer brought back my ancient love for everything Cyberpunk, together with memories of the throng of comics and books I read about it.
I even found an old link saved in one of my bookmarks folders, which led to the complete series of BLAME! (the exclamation mark is not mine, it’s in the title).
For those who don’t know about it, do yourselves a favour and give it a quick read.
The environments and the cyborgs in it are among the most imaginative pieces of art I’ve ever seen.
The mood and sense of scale of the entire comic are just superb.
Riding the wave of this newfound love for everything Cyberpunk, I started sketching something, and this is what came out of it.
Now, with cyberpunk you can go crazy in a lot of different ways.
With this one I meant to be conservative and focus on mood more than anything else.
Instead of tubes and cyber-augmentations and body modifications, I preferred to convey something different and through other means.
For example, the clothes indicate some sort of urban environment (as opposed to what happens here, where everything seems put together from a post-apocalyptic junkyard).
The snazzy glasses are obviously from a high-tech environment, whereas the old-style, vaguely ethnic bling is supposed to suggest another layer to the background.
Maybe a fashion coming from a society that contains elements from what are now developing countries, and that in the future might have a more prominent influence on world’s culture.
I’m quite happy with the level of finish (although I left the hair very much unfinished to leave focus on her face).
I’m still not 100% proficient with Krita, and I had to see if I could do something a bit more polished than what I’ve done so far.
Good God Krita is amazing.
Anyway, I have a couple more cyberpunk sketches to finish off, I’ll post them next week.
by Paolo Puggioni
The dragon and the Prince is the last podcast I illustrated for Legends Myths and Whiskey.
It went out in April but I actually forgot to post this:(
We’re having a pause with the illustrations by the way, but the podcasts are still going on as usual.
Anyway, this story is about the three sons of an Emperor.
The first two sons had the misadventure of running into a nasty dragon while hunting in the forest.
The third, youngest brother then decides to investigate their disappearance and leaves home to find clues.
He follows the steps of his brothers to a mill, by which is sitting an old woman.
She reveals that the prince’s brothers have been eaten by the dragon, and that she herself is being held captive, with no way to escape.
The prince offers his help to the woman, and they agree she will try and trick the dragon into revealing his weaknesses, so that the prince could try and ride the land of it for good.
As it turns out, the source of the dragon’s strength is a long way off, in another kingdom.
In that kingdom there is a lake, and in the lake a dragon, in the dragon a boar, in the boar a pigeon, and in the pigeon the dragon’s strength.
The next day the old woman tells the prince the dragon’s secret, so the young man leaves immediately in search of the lake.
He disguises himself as a shepherd, and after much roaming he finally reaches the far-away kingdom.
He speaks to the emperor asking for work, and the emperor agrees to give him some sheep to
keep, warning him not to let them wander around the lake, for no one ever returned from the fields around it.
The prince understands that’s where the dragon strength is, so he buys two hounds and a falcon, gathers the sheep and leaves for the pastures around the lake.
Once there he shouts at the waters, challenging the dragon to a wrestling match.
The dragon bursts out of the water and accepts the challenge.
For an entire day they wrestle, their skills evenly matched, until the dragon withdraws under
the waters to rest.
The illustration obviously depicts the struggle and, obviously, it was made in Krita.
Two more times the two face each other, but since this is turning into a big wall of text I have to cut it short!
You can listen to the whole story narrated properly here.
by Paolo Puggioni
It’s actually The Woodcutter and the Eight Heavenly Maidens, but I hate it when Google shortens my titles:)
Anyway, yesterday it was the 10th of the month and as I said last time, it’s story time again.
This weeks’ story at Legends Myths and Whiskey features a North Korean myth about a young woodcutter in search for a wife.
The young man was always very industrious and honest, and still he was one of the few in his village without a wife.
One day he saved a deer from a hunter, so as a sign of gratitude the deer told him the secret of a long and happy life (the story doesn’t mention the woodcutter gasping in amazement at a deer who could talk like people. Anyway).
All the young man had to do was to climb the Diamond Mountain, hide behind a bush and wait for the Heavenly Maidens to descend to have their bath. Then he should steal one of the Maidens’ clothes, and by doing so she would bound to Earth and be his wife forever.
AS LONG AS HE DOESN’T GIVE HER HER CLOTHES BACK.
By the way, this is very interesting, as I’ve read this in many other stories from other countries.
I mean the fact that supernatural creatures are bound to Earth if you steal their clothes.
The woodcutter climbed the mountain, hid behind a bush, waited, stole some random clothes, one of the Maidens remained on Earth, he married him and gave him three children.
They lived happily together for several years, until the woodcutter gave up to his wife’s insistence and eventually gave her back her clothes.
As a gesture of trust.
The second she put them on she fled to heaven with the kids.
The rest of the story – which you can find here – is about the woodcutter making one mistake after another, but I’ll leave you to the proper narration.
Now, I took a lot of liberties with this image, as the squared frame made it impossible for me to draw the entirety of the waterfall, plus the mountain and the maidens.
I guess it conveys the idea though.
I realized the woodcutter is a bit too dark and with a bit too much contrast.
I’ll fix it soon.
Next story is on the 20th, go check the other podcasts in the meantime!
by Paolo Puggioni
Hey, I’ve found the coloured version of the reaper I posted last week.
Not the you were holding your breath, but as the saying goes, OP must deliver.
So here it is.
It wasn’t actually necessary to render it in, but as I said, I kind of fell in love with the whole thing, so I made this over the course of a couple of lunch breaks back at my last job.
To be fair, even if the corp is no more, I might still get a tattoo of this at some point.
If and when I get the chance.
by Paolo Puggioni