Friday, February 17, 2017

Little Known Tales

In 2015 I had the chance to work on two volumes called "Tales of Tamriel" by Titan Books, from the series based on Bethesda's "The Elder Scrolls" videogames. (The Elder Scrolls Online, specifically)

I've been a fan of these games for a long time now and it seemed like a dream job. Thanks to some misalignment of schedules, I ended up doing a lot of the art in a fairly short amount of time. Nobody's fault really, sometimes both sides just end up waiting on something and the delay grows unexpectedly long.
I knew the final result was solid, but it wasn't my best work. I sent it off, because that's what you do. But if I could, I would've done a lot of it differently and better.

I filed the drawings in a "done" folder and happily forgot about them. Recently I found them again and they aren't as "awful" as I remembered. I still see what I could've done better, but I think I'm now ok with showing the better pieces online. ;)
Hey, it wasn't all I dreamed it could be, but I still got to work on on a TES-related job. That's pretty cool.

(I did more than these, and some of them weren't even used in the books, as I found out when my copies arrived. These are the ones I kind of like.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Got My Sword Nicked by a Shark

Update 2017: After some delays, I finally heard the final word from Fat Shark. They completely deny any inspiration, or even similarity between my design and their 3D asset. Apparently, that asset was inspired by "celtic swords".
Well, good to know. Here I was, thinking they just blatantly copied my drawing. 
Yeah, I'm not gonna go to court for 150-ish USD, which they of course know.
Still, I'll leave the blog up, as a reminder of their shameful display.
Shame! Boo! Thieves! 

(original post follows below:)
In October I got my friends a game on Steam, which I wanted to play with them.
It's called End Times: Vermintide and it's set in the Warhammer universe.
It's developed by Fatshark.

We had a good time, each playing a different character. After one session, I noticed the elven ranger Kerillian (played by my flatmate) used a dagger with a design which was somehow familiar.

///Edit: The post was edited to focus on the one specific sword design, the rest was confusing.

Eventually I realized it reminded me of a drawing I did in 2009: (2nd from the left)

This is what the weapon looks like in the game:

The thing is nearly identical.  

The way the crossguard is composed of two levels of curls (each curling in the opposite direction), the shape of the blade, even the pommel is heart shaped with inward curled edges.

Here's a comparison (thanks to Hessper), so you can see the designs together :

At first I thought it was funny, a big videogame company using designs from bloody DeviantArt.
Then I thought it was a bit lame. This game is a commercial product, they continue to make money on it, as it's still being sold and played by thousands of people every day.
I thought I should say something, because this should not happen.

It's especially baffling to me, since the game is based in the Warhammer universe, and has loads and loads of existing art under that license, any of which they could've easily use for inspiration.

So I decided to contact them, looking for an explanation rather than big bucks. (don't get me wrong though, I still asked them about a licensing fee)
I wrote them an email through their official contact and waited.
This was in October and I'm still waiting for any kind of reply whatsoever.

To sum up - Fatshark, if someone at the company reads this - I would still love to hear from You and find out how this happened. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

How to Get on Your High Horse

Just a quick thing I noticed one day, reading one of the many books on the Scytho-Siberian cultures: (both "Amazons" by Adrienne Mayor and "World of the Scythians" by Renate Rolle mention this)
How does one mount a horse if he's not using stirrups?
Something I didn't know - that the ancient Greeks mounted their horses by clutching at the mane and swinging, or using a lance as a pole. (this is according to Xenophon's detailed instructions)
Scythians (as we know via Herodotus) trained their horses to kneel on command.

We even have lovely depictions (probably) of horse training from the Chertomlyk mound:


Reading about this, I remembered the "Alexander" movie. See, his horse Bucephalus was said to be of a Scythian breed. And there's something interesting, if you watch two different scenes of Alexander mounting Bucephalus:
Young Alexander hops on the Greek way: (around 2:54)

While older Alexander riding to the battle of Gaugamela mounts the Scythian way: (from 0:45)

It could well be a coincidence, but I like it nonetheless.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Wondrous Women With Swords

Just a quick one today. Yesterday we got a trailer for the Wonder Woman movie:

I've never read any WW comics, I'm not a fan, but it looks surprisingly entertaining.
One thing that caught my eye was the sword she wields.

Now, during her first movie appearance in Batman vs. Superman, WW had a different sword, which I didn't like a lot:

It looks vaguely late-medieval or early renaissance, maybe inspired by the cinquedea:
Why would Wonder Woman have a sword like that, what historical sense does it make? Of course, the handle is WAY too long and looks pretty stupid.

Her new sword looks like this:

Now, by itself it's not mindblowing, but a few things about it intrigue me. Firstly, the shape of the guard reminds me of this sword from grave Delta in Grave Circle B at Mycenae: 

The handle and pommel are more reminiscent of (mostly fantasy invented) twisted "celtic" hilts, but the general shape isn't too far from some Scytho-Siberian swords. 
Now, Wonder Woman is an Amazon, so some Scythian influence would be appropriate. 
Looking closer at the guard's dragon heads, they really do remind me quite a bit of these Scythian dragons from Central Asia:

Here's a close comparison:

If that's intentional, that's quite neat. Good to see Holywood designers take inspiration from historical designs. (Honestly, I wish someone did WW entirely dressed in this style, not the comicbook nonsensical "armour". But I fully understand why they went with the established style.)

Friday, July 8, 2016

Swords and Orcs

It's been a while! Months even. I'm still working on Six Ages, so I don't have anything not under the death spell of an NDA I could show.
That said, two supplements for The One Ring RPG have been released fairly recently (Horse Lords of Rohan and Erebor) and I did a few pieces for them:

(goblin man and half-orc)

(Angrenithil - "Moon Iron", a sword made by both dwarven and elven smiths)

(a dwarven masked helmet)

(a war horn made of a drake's skull)

© 2016 Sophisticated Games and Cubicle 7 Entertainment Middle-earth, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and the characters, items, events and places therein are trademarks or registered trademarks of The Saul Zaentz Company d/b/a Middle-earth Enterprises and are used under license by Sophisticated Games Ltd and their respective licensees.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Throwback Inktober

I'd love to participate in Inktober, but it's hard to find time, as always.
I do lots of inking for Six Ages, but of course can't show any of it. :))
So here's something I did last year, for HeroQuest Glorantha.

And a bonus color painting I did for 13th Age: Glorantha.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Herakles-Nergal, meet Herakles-Kanishka!

Two swords

This morning I was thumbing through my copy of Costume of the Ancient Eurasia by Sergei A. Yatsenko and a certain piece of sculpture caught my eye:

This is identified as "Nergal from Hatra". 

Found in Iraq, obviously Parthian, it immediately reminded me of a statue in the Government Museum of India, from the Mathura school:

This is usually recognized as a statue of Kanishka, the great king of the Kushan empire.

Now, they might not look that similar at first. What stood out to me especially was the sword! Why? It's a Central Asian type of sword, sometimes called Sarmatian type 1, believed to be derived from Chinese western Han dynasty swords of an earlier period. (often found in Sarmatian graves, typically with jade fittings - disc pommel, chunky box-like crosspiece, a scabbard slide and another piece for the bottom of the scabbard)

The scabbard slide isn't apparent in the Hatra sculpture, perhaps due to poorer ability of the sculptor (it's definitely less realistic and finely carved), but otherwise the form is very close. Especially the pommel, which in both cases ISN'T a disc (as is typical for the Sarmatian/Han swords), but some kind of curved shape, sometimes interpreted as an animal (snake or bird) head.

The basic form of the costume is similar, but that's not surprising between two cultures with a nomadic tradition.

I'm not the first one to point out the similarities either, John M. Rosenfield in The Dynastic Arts of the Kushans draws a comparison between Kanishka and this statue of a Parthian officer (also from Hatra), emphasizing the importance of the sword being displayed:

Same could be said for king Uthal's statue:

Nergal? Herakles? What?

I tried to find out more about why this relief is thought to be depicting Nergal. The other important thing I noticed about the figure - he also carried an axe.

In her paper titled "My Lord With His Dogs", Lucinda Dirven says:
A great many of these shrines are centred around the cult of a Herakles-figure, who was worshipped in Hatra under the name of Nergal.
Now, Nergal is usually worshipped like so:
 Portrayed in hymns and myths as a god of war and pestilence, Nergal seems to represent the sun of noontime and of the summer solstice that brings destruction, high summer being the dead season in the Mesopotamian annual cycle. He has also been called "the king of sunset". Nergal evolved from a war god to a god of the underworld. In the mythology, this occurred when Enlil and Ninlil gave him the underworld.

I've not heard of a pestilence aspect associated with Herakles before. Wiki says there was a solar aspect of him as well, which I'll have to believe. Still, nothing that would suggest an axe attribute to me. (axes, clubs or maces are typically attributes of thunder gods, or the non-thunderous serpent slayers. This would make sense for a Heraklean aspect, not so much for Nergal.)
The pronaos of the shrine yielded a plain bronze plate with the inscription nrgl klbʾ. 23 The cover of an offering box representing a dog in relief was, according to the fragmentary inscription, made for Nergal.24 The base of a statuette of which only the bare feet, lion skin and club remain, has an inscription that dedicates the object to nrgl klbʾ. 25 In the same shrine, an alabaster statuette of a dog was found, with an inscription on the plinth mentioning three dogs (fig. 1).26 Although Nergal is not mentioned in this text, it is probable that the dog refers to his cult. The same holds true for a small altar with a representation on the front of a male figure raising an axe.2
Lion skin and a club sound appropriately Heraklean. Perhaps it was through the lion skin that the connection to Nergal was made? (Nergal being depicted as a lion)

Dirven then follows with:
The dogs have a snake for a tail, and from the collar around their neck hangs a bell. In addition to the dogs, the god is associated with snakes and scorpions. Of special note are the two snakes that rise like a crescent from the god’s shoulders.
I'm most likely reaching, but various thundergods are associated with serpents (for obvious reasons) and snakes (and Heraklés of course killed two snakes while he was still a baby in a crib. An image, by the way, I've always found curiously similar to the Master of Animals motif...), some even with scorpions. (Frex: A Czech "weather saying":  "Na sv. Jiří vylézají hadi a štíři." = On st. George's day the snakes and scorpions crawl out.)

And what of Kanishka and his massive mace?  I see both the axe and mace as divine weapons (swords representing the earthly warrior weapon). The mace is described by Rosenfield (p.179) as a "makara", referring to the carved metal head, depicting a monster.
The Makara possessed a dual nature in early Indian art. On one hand, it was the emblem of the fructifying principle inherent in moisture - a king of water demons, on the other it was the emblem of passion and death.
Rosenfield then lists several examples of Makara bringing destruction, as well as another aspect of the club being a symbol of justice. (held by the ruler)

Again, I might be reaching, but I'm reminded of the duality of Thunder Gods' axes, hammers and maces in various IE cultures - beside the destructive thunderous use of the weapon, the other end of it often had other effects:
- The Balts would throw axes in the fields, put them in the path of newlyweds and under their bed before their first night together. (all to increase fertility)
- In the Voroněž region, Slavs would throw an axe over their herd and into a fire, to ensure fertility of cows and also their safety.
- In the Ukraine, axes were used in birthing rituals and later put into newborn's cradles.

And let's not forget that Thór's hammer Mjölnir and Irish Dagda's club could also raise the dead!
(all examples from Perun the Thundergod by Mgr. Michal Téra Phd.)

Where am I going with this?

It would be quite interesting if Kanishka, famous for his efforts in spreading of Buddhism, had himself sculpted as a thunder deity.

Then again, we know Héraklés made it into the Buddhist pantheon as Vajrapani, guardian of Buddha himself!

This depiction is Gandharan, from the 2nd century AD. So perhaps it's not that much of a reach.

In summary: I noticed two swords looked kinda similar. Turns out I wasn't seeing things and that while we might end up with a bit of a divine goulash, looking for these connections is fun.