Post-Spectrum Updates: “Éowyn and the Witch King” Redux

Éowyn and the Witch King

Éowyn and the Witch King
Graphite with Digital Colour, 21cm x 30cm


Back in 2011, I entered The Art Order’s “Éowyn and the Nazgúl” challenge, and was deeply honoured to place fourth in the judging. Since that time, it’s been easily the most popular image I’ve ever published on the web – I often see it popping up on different Pinterest boards and Flickr streams. I’m pleased by that, obviously, but it also means I get reminded of the shortcomings of the image.

For instance, even with an after-the-fact model reference check, there were still some issues with Éowyn that I had essentially handled by hiding them in shadow. I also felt that I didn’t really articulate the Fell Beast as much as I could have. I didn’t want it to attract much attention, so I probably overcompensated by not doing much with it at all. I was very happy with the Witch King, but he was a bit too large in proportion to Éowyn (since he was once a man, after all).

I decided I was interested to see what I would do with this picture four years on, so once again I dressed up a very patient artist friend in chainmail and equipped her with a sword and shield. My friend is tall and slim, with long, slender limbs, and she wore the costume with a lot of grace. She provided so many great variations on the original pose that I had trouble picking which one I liked best!

I worked on understanding Éowyn’s relationship to the rise of ground she’s on, and I made sure that the Fell Beast’s carcass was given due attention as well. I also worked to balance the composition better in the overall space, and did my best to preserve the colour scheme of the original. I kept the Witch King very much as he was. Finally, because I really enjoy doing this, I incorporated some of Tolkien’s text in the image.

The final painting has its own new identity, I think, and I’m interested to see if a new panel of judges for this year’s Spectrum annual were willing to vote for it again. I hope you enjoy the new version of this scene, and hopefully it gets as popular as the original painting!

2 thoughts on “Post-Spectrum Updates: “Éowyn and the Witch King” Redux

  1. The original is of course excellent… but this is on a different level. There is so much more flow in the new piece: from Eowyn’s stance, through her waving cloak, and even the increased curve of the smoke cloud. The two figures seem more engaged with each other as well, with Eowyn holding her shield at a more defensive angle, and the Witch King gazing down with a more commanding presence. Eowyn has more expression, too. And the details in her garb and the fell-beast’s remains give the viewer a bit more to chew on.

    I do miss a couple of things from the original. Deepening the shadow on her shoulder and torso behind her shield just a bit would add a bit more dimension to her figure. (Although on consideration, I’m not sure about how worthwhile that comment is: the stylization as it is now works wonderfully.) And the burnish on her sword and the magenta touches in the sky of the original are both so beautiful…

    But the new piece is absolutely wonderful: the line-work is lovely, the subtle colors are gorgeous, and the entire composition is flawless. It
    clearly hearkens back to the days of classic illustration, with a perfect blend of innocence and grit. This would not be out of place next to a Rackham or a Dulac.

    • Thanks, Nick – it’s very interesting to hear someone else’s thoughts on this when I’ve spent so much time with it only in my own head. I actually didn’t change the Witch King much at all – the change in how he comes across is all down to adjusting Èowyn’s pose and interaction with him, which is a big lesson for me. I spent a *long* time working on the values throughout the image.

      I know what you mean about the flecks of magenta in the sky on the original. It was a result how I how I used to work on the iPad back then (in Brushes app), and although I quite liked the effect, it was totally accidental and not controllable at all. Sometimes I get hung up on serendipitous effects like that, and then get sort of hamstrung by them – from not wanting to change them. I decided with this version that everything would be a result of intention, and then I would assess how that worked out!

      Thanks also for the Rackham comment – I had several artists firmly in mind when I did this, and he was one of them (also: Hiroshi Yoshida, Rebecca Guay, Justin Gerard, Jean Giraud and Tolkien’s illustrations). My tendency to add text is definitely coming from looking at so much of Rackham’s work.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s