Visualising Vance, Pt. 2

The Pelgrane

Here’s a painting that has been lurking in the back of my mind for several years. It’s a scene from one of the short stories in Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth (1950). The story is called T’sais, and here we see the titular character and a hooded man named Etarr on Modavna Moor at sunset, as they try to avoid being spotted by three saurian flying pelgrane. I took a first go at it last year, and while I think I got the sense of place right, the figures were barely there. There was mood, but no action:

At the end of this summer, I revisited it, and tried several new variations. I was trying get the hurried sense of Etarr suddenly pulling T’sais down into the furze as he spots the predator:

Although I love the pelgrane crop in this one, it’s not quite right as a whole, so try again:

This one felt like the figures in the foreground were passing by on their way to some other painting.

Finally, I get on the right track:

There was some good body language, and more connection between the whole group. I took this back to vertical format, and lightened everything up in the foreground. I was reading a lot of commentary from Harvey Dunn, so I was working with the figures first as silhouettes, and then tried to sculpt out detail with more and more value. I did a bit of self-posed photography to work out trickier bits on Etarr.

I was also inspired by a WWII-era illustration by Mead Schaeffer in how I handled the foreground/background. I’m glad I managed to get sense of true distance, and I was lucky enough to get a few sunsets with exactly this lighting effect outside our studio windows while I working on this.

Overall, I am pleased with this, and despite a few nitpick areas, I’m nearly ready to call it done. It’s not quite the vague, saturated red image I had in my head, but I think it works as a good illustration for the story. I could easily see it as a facing plate in an old hardbound edition, which is what I was after.

There’s another illustration coming from this same story – look for it here soon!