In the middle of last May’s “Éowyn and the Nazgûl” challenge at The Art Order, I was still playing around with alternate setups for the scene. I took two of these ideas to color comps, and I felt that they were interesting in their own ways – even if I ended up staying with my original setup:
My friend Annica kindly helped me by modeling in partial costume, including a real chain mail shirt, and a full cloak. I had bought several other props to help things along. The prop shield was real wood and metal, and was quite heavy. I think the true weight helped with the poses.
The first alternate approach was to portray the scene from Merry’s point of view. The more I re-read the scene, the more I came to believe that it was actually his scene. From the moment Merry and Éowyn are thrown from their horse, the entire scene is told from Merry’s point of view. Éowyn desires to die in battle, and is truly about to do so. It’s Merry’s brave act that saves her, and gives her the chance to defeat the Witch King (note that after the battle, Éowyn is still depressed that she survived). Without Merry’s finding of his courage, the whole thing would go pear-shaped.
With this in mind, I made a comp from Merry’s point of view, down on the grass of the field. Annica modeled two of these poses. There were some aspects of this setup that I really liked, but I kept thinking “Giant Hobbit threatens Gondor”, so ultimately I decided against using it.
The other alternate idea was to use a less unconventional composition and get up more in Éowyn’s face, and to only show the Witch King as a reflection in the boss of her shield. Again, an interesting approach, but it didn’t quite have the drama – or perhaps I didn’t know how to invest it with that drama. Several things I liked: the large swath of relatively empty space in the picture, and that I managed to get a feeling of weight to the chail mail. Having a model right there actually wearing a mail shirt really gave me a sense of how mail acts, how it drapes. It’s an example of how good reference material can really bolster a painting idea.
Finally, here’s a peek at one of the reference shots we did. I used bits and pieces from several shots, but this shows what we were up to. I don’t really have a proper setup to do this kind of thing, so we just made do with the conditions in the studio that afternoon and shot with an iPhone camera. I used these photos mainly to check things like the draping of fabrics. Annica was a lot of fun to work with, and had good ideas of her own.
I hope you enjoyed this look at some of the unseen work behind my challenge entry. I had a great time with the challenge, and want to thank Kate, Annica and Rasmus for their support, advice and help!