Saturday, 7 March 2015

Gods and Monsters: Developing an idea part 2

Flickr creative commons - by Mike Walker.
Imagine that you’re an ancient Egyptian, you really believe in the gods of old Egypt, and sadly you’re close to death.  The doctors have done all that is humanly possible for the time, and they’ve now consigned you to the priests so that they can give you the benefit of the correct rites, prayers and spells that will send you successfully on your way into the after life.

You’re drifting off, fading away from this world, and the world of the next life is visible in the hazy distance.  Only a little more journeying and that glorious paradise will be yours.  But then who should come galumphing over the horizon towards you but a big pointy-eared snouty-faced individual carrying a pair of scales.  Yes its Anubis, quite probably the most unpopular god you would ever wish to meet.

Anubis detail
And he’s here to weigh your heart against the truth.  The truth is symbolised by an ostrich feather.  Hearts (or souls for that’s what the heart represents) that weighed heavier than a feather were not worthy to go into the after life, and were instantly devoured by Ammit, a goddess spectacularly made from parts of a lion, a hippopotamus and a crocodile.  Of course you could always flash your ‘Pharaoh’s Express’ card at Anubis as a means of ensuring a place in the afterlife.  ‘That’ll do nicely sir’.

It must have been hard to like Anubis, especially if you’d been up to no good.  Hopefully my manic desire to depict him among other Egyptian gods for my Zazzle store won’t be deemed unworthy.  Last week I discussed the designs I did for the goddess Bast, a cat shaped divinity with protective powers, and this week I’ll discuss designs for Anubis.

I started sketches for these designs all together, trying out different characters and styles, and before I found the minimalist black fill blue outline look that I liked, I was open to a lot of different approaches.  Were the characters ‘cute’ or ‘cool’?  Here are a few of the scribbles I tried out to see what I needed. 
Cute, and  - not so cute.
 As you can see, it’s possible to vary the approach a great deal.  I dabbled with cute for a while, using a fennec fox as a model for the attempt on the left.  These little desert foxes have the big ears and tiny bodies that really are cute (though they’re quite ruthless predators) but they’re certainly not jackals or African dogs.  So I used those critters for the image on the left, still a cartoon, but with more truth about it.  After all, the early Egyptians originally chose the jackal as a god of the dead because they noted the prevalence of Jackals around gravesites.  The typical shallow graves of the period were an attraction to the animals that had no problem in disinterring corpses for food.  Maybe cuteness doesn’t fit.

Anubis needs that long dog snout, and his ribs showing.  He needs those glowing beady eyes and rough dust encrusted hide.  However I did want the designs to match, to fit together as a group so they all needed the same figure and stance, the same body.  The rough cartoon look of these scribbles doesn’t match with a clean line effect.

Those beady little eyes...
Some years ago I had tried to depict Anubis in a very slick minimalist style, less cartoon and with an emphasis on a glossy polished look, as if he were made from some highly polished dark stone or glass.   Here’s a detail.  It was okay, but I wasn’t happy at the time and didn’t completely finish it. 

Anubis detail

So I knew that the flat approach with no shading or paint effects and few lines was the way to go.  Head turned to the side, but what to do with the arms and hands?  Well, there's those scales I mentioned earlier, one in each hand.

So the finished article looks like this.
Anubis.  'Well, your heart goes in this one and...'

But I can take this all a few steps further by using the same approach to drawing the characters but using different positioning and colour work and getting a new and fresh result.


  1. No no, Anubus was one of the GOOD guys! I blame Hammer for all the bad PR ... :-)

  2. Hi madwippitt,

    He was good from the point of view of the gods, after all, we wouldn't want riff raff creeping into the afterlife would we? But accepting that most of us have something we'd rather the gods didn't know about, then Anubis comes out of it all looking a bit of a snitch! Nice pointy ears though.

  3. gan good job, this article is very interesting to note, cool deh,, of course we have new insights that we get after reading it, thanx yah :-)

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