The Masks of the Masque of the Silmarils

Way back in the “Dark Ages” — okay, the mid-1980s — I had been thinking about J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, and the various fates of the gem stones in the story. Thinking about it to the degree of considering writing a paper on the matter for Mythcon and possible publication in the journal Mythlore. But the more I got into the matter, the more my ideas wanted to take on the shape of a short play and not an academic analysis. That happens sometimes for me.

I held off a little bit because I didn’t want to trespass on Tolkien’s personal territory. And then I remembered reading somewhere that he had said he hoped his subcreation would indeed inspire other creators to give added expression to his work. I always get wary of fanfiction. But I wasn’t adding anything new to his Middle-earth, but rather giving a new sub-form to one of his tales.

In any case, I happened to be chairing the 1986 Mythcon, and used “rank hath its privileges” to put a performance of the Masque on the program. There had been a table reading of the play the previous year at the Wheaton Mythcon. But this would be the first official performance. (There was supposedly a second performance in Utah a few years ago at a conference at which Paul Nolan Hyde – a member of the original cast – was guest of honor. Unfortunately, I know no more about it other than that conference’s committee asked permission to perform it.)

Anyway, for the original performance, I wanted to make sure that the Valar in the story were distinctive. It seemed appropriate that to create the impression of their majesty, they should have dazzling masks. So I made them.

Manwe and Varda are the principle characters, present in each of the four scenes.

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Manwe – the Sky Face

I called this Mask the Sky Face – it seemed appropriate for his character. (I later realized that the design of the mask was also affected by one of my own creations – Adonel and his myth.)

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Varda Star Face

Varda Star Face reflects on her connection of the stars of the sky. It seemed more appropriate to call her by that name than Elbereth, at least in these circumstances.

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Yavanna

Yavanna was actually my favorite of the masks. It was fun to think of her hair being made of “evergreen” leaves.

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Vaire Dream-Face

Vaire enters the story in connection with dream visions, so I wanted to convey something of that dreamy quality in this mask. Each of the masks was painted with acrylic paints, and then glitter flourishes were added. I happened to have an iridescent white paint that I mixed with the pinks and lavenders to give it a special luster.

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Nienna

For Nienna, I again used some of the iridescent paint, to add to the watery, weepy nature of her presentation.

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Mandos

Mandos was a challenge to make an image of. How do you portray the keeper of the Halls of the Dead, without making him creepy and scary. Yes, he must be stern, but he is not an enemy, not a “devil.” I was pleased with how this came out.

(In the play itself, the key scene he appears in concerns Luthien and Beren, and Luthien’s choice of a mortal life. The scene turned out to have a comedic tone to it, because although Mandos is very ominous about the whole matter, Luthien and Beren are so fixated on their love for each other they almost ignore the Valar. I promise you – I didn’t intend it to go that way, but the story just ran that way.)

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Eonwe the Herald of the Valar

Eonwe was a similar artistic challenge as Mandos. What sort of look would create the impression of a herald right away. It had to be striking. So I went with a look that gives the impression of a burning face, something that would “light the way” whether it was night or day.

The masks were created on flat cardboard with a bit of papier mache to give definition to lips, nose, brows, and some of the side effects in place of hair. They were then painted, and further definition with glitter was added to make them more gem-like under lights. (The mortals and elves in the story were played by actors without masks.) They were then mounted on long rods painted black, because … well, it just felt right, stylistically.

Given their construction, they were very delicate.

THE FATES OF THE MASKS

At the time of the Mythcon when the Masque was performed, there was also an art show and auction at the conference. The Manwe mask was purchased by a friend of mine, and I’m not sure she still has it. The Yavanna mask I gave to Lynn Maudlin (who played the part in the performance), as thanks for several bits of assistance she gave me in preparing the conference. I’m not sure of the fate of that mask.

The other five have lived on my wall for most of the time since that conference. But I have gone through some shifting around in recent years, and the masks have not endured the experience well. Unfortunately, they have been destroyed.

I took the photos of the five that I had shortly before they were destroyed. I thought I would not have pictures of Manwe and Yavanna. Back in 1986, Bonnie GoodKnight Callahan had taken pictures of all seven of the masks, but I thought I’d lost those photos. But they turned up recently (which is why the backgrounds of those images do not match the other five). So now there is a complete record of these creations.

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Artwork Released From Storage

For the last several years, most of my artwork has been in storage. Although I had taken photos or scans of some pieces before putting them in storage, there are still several things to get images of. So it is satisfying to have access to the things themselves again.

Both these pieces are done in acrylic.

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This seascape was done from a photo I ran across in a magazine somewhere. The strange coloration and lighting was part of the original, and it made an intriguing challenge to me.

scribblerworks-singular-sensation-copyThe second painting is one of Mikhail Baryshnikov from a television special he’d done in 1980, Baryshnikov on BroadwayThe show has Baryshnikov doing dance numbers from several musicals. The painting is from the number from A Chorus Line. I call the painting “The Singular Sensation.” I’ve always been fond of this one. I’ve also wanted to do another painting from that special from the Guys and Dolls number, but I’ve never had a chance to do it. Maybe in the not-so-distant future.

As I continue sorting through things and settling into my new life in Las Vegas, I may be posting other pieces of older artwork.

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Illustrating a Memory

In updating my website, I’m trying to make sure all posts (or at least most of them) have images attached to them. That’s because Google likes to find images with posts.

So today, I created a piece of digital artwork for an old blog post. Because it involved converting a drawing done in saturated colors into a pastel version (on a larger scale), I needed to do a piece of saturated colors first, and then add a layer that would take the saturation tone down. 

I admit, I was not focusing on making a dazzling piece of art, just something to suit the post. But when I got done with the saturated version, I rather liked it. So I decided both versions were worth noting here on the graphics blog. 

The first version (saturated) I call “Spectrum Pinwheel”.

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I then had to add a transparent layer to illustrate the experience described in the blog post. That version is called “Pastel Blasphemy #2”.

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It’s interesting how things turn out. I didn’t expect to like the saturated version as much as I do.

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Live Sketching at CAPS – April 2017

CAPS (the Comic Art Professional Society) had its April meeting yesterday, and we had a live model sketch night. I should have taken a photo of our model, just for comparison. For me, such evenings are great, because I don’t often get the opportunity for drawing, especially not from life. It always makes me feel a bit insecure, because I don’t spend as much time practicing with artwork.

First we did a series of one minute sketches.

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It was good to be stretched doing sketches.

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This one above, I wanted to get a better rendition of her eyes. Not sure I got what I wanted.

We had more time with the remaining sketches.

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The lower right corner on this sketch was me trying to work out the way her curls worked. She had rolled her hair in a unique fashion, so they were a little challenging to capture just right.

The last sketch of the evening was a five minute sketch. Below is the result. I didn’t want to fuss with it more because it felt right just as it was.

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Christmas Past Remembered

With Christmas coming in a few days, I recalled this cartoon I had done while I was in graduate school. I did it on a whim, hence the very rough nature of it.

When we were little, back in Michigan, our house was a two story building where our parents’ bedroom stood at the top of the stairs, while the other bedrooms were down the hall. Our family tradition was that early on Christmas morning, my sister Joan and myself were allowed to go downstairs and get our Christmas stockings and one present to bring back upstairs. Thus, we could entertain ourselves until the rest of the family were actually ready to get up.

Yet, like the eager children that we were, we wanted to go down as soon as we could. However, our parents, by that parental magic the elders possess, would catch us trying to sneak down the stairs. “It’s not Christmas yet!”

So, Joan and I would sit at the top of the stairs, waiting. And every so often I would ask “Is it Christmas yet?”

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The details are clear from memory. Our father was our hairdresser at this point, giving us a very standard page-boy cut. Our pajamas were very comfortable fleece ones, mine having a floral pattern all over them like popcorn, while Joan’s were striped.  One Christmas at least, she fell asleep against me as we waited for the word that it was finally Christmas. Even the bit about curling my big toe over the edge of the step is something I remember from sitting there.

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Black With a Dash of Color

Once again I’m falling behind on getting the Inktober pieces posted. I’m just posting Number 20 today, but this is more due to technical matters, not artwork stuff.

Today, I got my flatbed scanner out of storage (with the assistance of a friend). So I’ve been refamiliarizing myself with the beastie, and then getting the current art cards all scanned in. I’m pleased with that.

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This piece is another mountain reflection on water. This one is based on a photo of Mount Hood. I wanted it to be mostly black & white with touches of color to it. Some of it is in stippling – I do tend to fall back to that often.

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Black & White Inktober

scribblerworks-2016-inktober-18I opted to go to black and white ink again with Number 18. I wanted to try a bit of working from negative space. I had a photo of a fashionable model. Again, working freehand with no preliminary penciling involved.

Unfortunately, I’m not happy with some of the details. The mouth is too large, the nose too high on the face, and the eyes too small. But then, it is freehand — and I am very nit-picky.

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scribblerworks-2016-inktober-19For Number 19, I wanted to try drawing a panther. A friend had posted the photo on his Facebook page and I liked it. Since I was on the black and white kick, the panther had an appeal. The challenge was doing it totally in black and white, because I didn’t have any greys to use. I opted for cross-hatch for the parts I wanted to be that slight grey. He’s a very slinky creature, this panther.

 

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Further With Inktober

scribblerworks-2016-inktober-13So, yet again I’m posting multiple days’ worth of work.

With Number 13, I wanted to see what I could do with straight lines and color. Of course, the limited number of colors I have to work with affects the result. I might have liked a darker background. And I think I made the wrong decision on how to handle the lower part of it, with the swirl of color around the arm.

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scribblerworks-2016-inktober-14For Number 14, I opted for a monochrome approach, using solid blocks of space. I’m trying to look for different ways of looking at things. This is something bolder than I often use.

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scribblerworks-2016-inktober-15I decided to go more abstract with Number 15. I’m back to my stippling. Here I decided to play with the spectrum sequence. The basic background thought was of flame. So the yellow bands went down first. Then, still thinking “flame,” I added orange and then red. However at that point, before I moved from red into the pink to purple range, I decided to work the other edge of the yellow: green. I didn’t want to go over-board with that, since the aim was to have most of the remaining space (negative space) be the blue-purple background. So a little bit of green, then the lighter blue, and then the blue-purple filler.

I ended up pretty happy with the results.

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scribblerworks-2016-inktober-16When it came time to do Number 16, I decided to do some practice in contour drawing. I haven’t done such in ages. Technically speaking, I fudged it a little, since the point is to do the whole thing without lifting the pen from the paper or crossing lines. I did restart lines in this, but for being out of practice with it, it turned out okay.

I was working from a photo of dancer Ruth St. Denis in the garb of a Siamese folk dancer.

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The last of this particular set, Number 17, I went for black and white and an angular rendering of a tree with bare branches. Adding the slender branches and twigs is always an ify thing in my mind, though I’m not sure why. Perhaps because they can’t quite “go anywhere”, but instead have to make some sort of sense in their placement.

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Playing in Ink

Another two days of Inktober pieces.

scribblerworks-2016-inktober-11In Inktober #11, I want for black and white and drama. I wanted to create a sense of a hand breaking through a wall. It doesn’t quite feel like that in the end. But I like it anyway. I certainly got the drama.

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scribblerworks-2016-inktober-12For Inktober #12 I went back to the Op Art inspired styles. This time a sunburst over water. At least, that’s what I was aiming for.

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Catching Up on Inktober Images

Even though I have been doing the daily drawings, I haven’t gotten everything posted. So today, I’m posting several drawings at once – and they are all sorts of styles.

First up is Inktober #5 — a stylized running horse. I’m not really practiced enough drawing animals of any sort. I need to do more animal studies, and doing this drawing just reminded me of that.

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scribblerworks 2016 inktober 6Inktober #6 is another crosshatching portrait. It’s another character from my fantasy world, Arveniem. This is a preliminary sketch for the character of Gwyric, which may change in the future. I’m not sure if he’ll stay looking like this.

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scribblerworks 2016 inktober 7With Inktober #7, I decided to try a very blunt inking style with the marker, also sticking to a flat black. If I were using color, this type of boat-on-reflecting-water thing would be a breeze for me. I like doing those. But when I only have black to work with and a broad, blunt style, it really is a challenge. But I’m pretty well satisfied with these results.

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scribblerworks 2016 inktober 8With Inktober #8, we get a dragon. How can I not have a dragon in this collection of drawings? Would it be me without a dragon?

Of course, as I worked on it, I once again felt my lack of practice in drawing animals, as I’m not at all satisfied by my structuring of the dragon wing. If nothing else, this Inktober exercise is showing me where I really need to focus on practicing, and doing basic structural studies. And that’s a good thing.

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scribblerworks-2016-inktober-9With Inktober #9, I turned to my enjoyment of sequencing of the spectrum. I decided to be stylized about it here with autumn leaves. Experimenting again. I’m not so sure about the results here. The color limitations of the set of markers I’ve been using were a little frustrating. But I sort of decided at the start of the month that I would stay with the set of 12 markers, even though I have other markers with greater variation in colors.

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With Inktober #10, I opted for an entirely abstract piece in red. I’d always been interested in things that came out of Op Art, and these kinds of swirling are one of those. But this time, instead of filling the whole space with the lines, I just went for a more suggestive approach. I may pursue more of this sort of thing down the road, as I liked this result.

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