Saturday, 28 March 2015

Gigantic proportions.

Over the last few weeks these blogs have been very ancient Egyptian –centric and so today we will finally be leaving Egypt behind and moving on to new territory.  A bit of a relief actually, I’ve been coughing up mummy dust and tripping over sarcophagi for weeks.  There’s old bandages everywhere!  This time round, I’ll be saying a bit about a project I’m working on that has Nuremberg style medieval buildings, flying machines and curious literate giants.

I did this particular design a while back of two curious giant characters examining a storybook medieval castle.  Using those old buildings you see in Germany, Austria and Belgium as a starting point, with their high sloping roofs and patterned tiles I designed a pleasing and compact little fortification to sit in the middle of the picture.

'You blow down one of the chimneys, and when he pops out of this door I'll whack him!'

What are they looking for?  Is the castle an elaborate model they’ve constructed?   Or is it real  and they’re waiting for those inside to come out so they can either negotiate some business, or flatten them with the smack of a giant palm.  Or maybe they could just stamp the castle to rubble.  The drawing is simple and I think effective, and the colour is minimal, a little shading but mostly blocks of solid colour.  It’s essentially a child’s picture book image, but the inspiration for it and others in this blog is a little more adult. 

 I got to thinking about giants after remembering reading H. G. Well’s 1904 novel ‘The Food of the Gods’, a superb read very badly served by film and media in general.  It starts cleverly as a lighthearted fantasy-comedy, and develops along more serious lines until it ends as a high-flown drama about the limits of human endeavour.  Try doing that successfully in the average sized novel.  However Wells pulls it off without a hitch.

H. G. Wells. (1866 - 1946)

The main premise is that two scientists develop a powder like chemical food that they hope will help nourish the world and make people develop as strong healthy individuals, however the food produces gigantism.  Part of the theme is the ‘genie in the bottle’, (think global warming); when released the problem causes vast change and upheavals – giant changes in fact, but its nature is such that you can never return it to the bottle.  So you are forced to learn to live with it, to wholeheartedly take up the challenge and go forward no matter what, even when going further hurts you even more.  The little people are forced to learn to live with the new giant world, and the newly grown giants have to learn to fight the prejudice they receive for their size, the numerous laws suddenly brought into being to hedge them in and limit their lives, but at the same time also begin to realise the huge strength potential they now wield over everyone else.

Reading giant sketch.
One of the most striking characters in the novel was the spark for this next image.  In the novel a number of children from different backgrounds are given courses of this new chemical food named Herakleophorbia III (the ‘Food of the Gods’ of the title).  This substance has the ability to make plants and animals grow to gigantic sizes, if they are fed with it from birth.  A number of middle class children are given the food on purpose, but through a lack of care and planning, a baby from a poor farm family also gets regular doses. The middle class giants have very committed parents (one of them is part of the team who invented the food) they have a good education with special school rooms built for them, they learn about science and art, all the things we would expect from a decent education.  The farm boy however is left to rot with his ignorant family, distrusted by everybody, curious and wanting to know about the world, but merely succeeding in irritating and angering everybody he meets.  He is put to work in a quarry under the stewardship of the local gentry, who use him as cheap labour and scold him from time to time when they think he needs it.  Which is all the time.

But this boy has a brain and is curious by nature, he decides at last after being told what he can and cannot do just once too often, to leave the quarry and go to London, because he’s heard all about the city and wants to see it for himself.  So he goes, but doesn’t know there are laws controlling giant access in the city.  He walks to the city, slowing traffic along the roads, which begins to back up chaotically as he approaches the centre of the metropolis.  Being about thirty feet tall he brings London to a standstill.  Eventually the little people panic at the problem he’s causing and send in the army, and the boy is shot dead.

Bookish giant.
My simple picture represents the giant with a book, a way out of his problems.  He’s more of a traditional storybook giant, but he’s still being badgered by the little people who are in the airship floating nearby, but this giant is calmer, cooler, better informed and like his middleclass contemporaries can take it all in his stride.

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