Thanks to a good artist friend (I blame you, Tara Larsen Chang) I bit the financial bullet and signed up for this year’s IMC. It starts June 9 and goes until the 15. I also had to clear it with the husband since our wedding anniversary is June 10th. He assured me he would survive and I should go.
In the beginning of May we received our assignment options via email. There were 6 choices of books and I chose the classic “Tristan and Isolde.” I found a 1900 version in its entirety on-line, which was a good thing since neither the local library nor the closest book store had the recent book available. It took several days to slog through the manuscript which though written in prose was as difficult to grasp as any Shakespearean play.
Although the recent movie portrayed the tale as a love story, the old version of the story I read was very dark. So, came my first decision. Instead of illustrating a child-friendly picture book style image, I decided to go entirely Art Nouveau in my approach and stick with adult art.
My next thought was to avoid the cliché scenes such as the kiss, the dragon and the crossing of the river. During the time that Tristan and Isolde spent hiding in the woods after escaping their death sentences, she had a dream.
Then the King cast his cloak with its fine buckle of gold and drew his sword from its sheath and said again in his heart that they or he should die. And he signed to the woodman to be gone.
He came alone into the hut, sword bare, and watched them as they lay: but he saw that they were apart, and he wondered because between them was the naked blade.
Then he said to himself: “My God, I may not kill them. For all the time they have lived together in this wood, these two lovers, yet is the sword here between them, and throughout Christendom men know that sign. Therefore I will not slay, for that would be treason and wrong, but I will do so that when they wake they may know that I found them here, asleep, and spared them and that God had pity on them both.”
And still the sunbeam fell upon the white face of Iseult, and the King took his ermined gloves and put them up against the crevice whence it shone.
Then in her sleep a vision came to Iseult. She seemed to be in a great wood and two lions near her fought for her, and she gave a cry and woke, and the gloves fell upon her breast; and at the cry Tristan woke, and made to seize his sword, and saw by the golden hilt that it was the King’s. And the Queen saw on her finger the King’s ring, and she cried:
“O, my lord, the King has found us here!”
And Tristan said:
“He has taken my sword; he was alone, but he will return, and will burn us before the people. Let us fly.”
This dream is the scene I chose to illustrate.
Here is my first rough:
This was an okay start, but the lions looked static and I thought I should include Tristan somehow as well. The next sketch was this.
The Art Nouveau framing is obvious, but the lions still aren’t fluid enough and the foreshortening on the human figures was breaking the flow of the image. I decided I needed to draw Isolde in a more active role in her own dream and this is the next sketch.
I stopped working on this one before getting to the Art Nouveau border art. While I am happier with the humans, the top lion now look as if he’s being impaled by the sword. The whole scene isn’t quite dreamy enough either, but it’s moving in the right direction.