[Art] Izvan, Pearl of Hlute, and The Lands of Midnight

This illustration was made for Izvan, a city nestled in a fjord amongst other islands collectively known as the Twelve Kingdoms, to be published in the upcoming Echoes from Fomalhaut #09. I’m currently running a campaign in Erillion, so these northwestern lands were already on my mind. As for my current party, they’re on the southeast coast of the island, sailing back to Gont after plundering an abandoned manor house right underneath the Forest of Doom- so quite far from these waters.

A merchant walks along thinking of their wares; meanwhile, a sailor learns of Izvan’s customs.

Izvan is an ancient city nestled deeply in a fjord. The Palace of Knossos and the abbot’s designs in The Secret of Kells were an inspiration, Moebius was cited for the dress of the priest, and NC Wyeth for the stout sailor mercenary holding a torc. For the giant statue, the statue of King Menkaure was used; he’s got a subdued and assertive “eternal foot forward” stance that I think is mysterious.

I squished the layout of the map, doubled the layers, and then “stacking” them, made sense of their structure vertically. I traced it two or three times to get some distinct tiers of elevation. Once I was satisfied with the composition, I moved on to figuring out the foreground.

There was a bunch of fiddling to make sure the interesting bits didn’t overlap each other. With the figures sketched out, I began fiddling around with bands of shadows for added drama, and to visually isolate the two pairs of people. One one side, we have a well-lit priest conversing with a man in the shadows; on the other side, mixed company in mixed shadows. I like making light games of visual distinction like this as I work through a picture. I believe it adds atmosphere and coherence, if that makes sense.

Lastly, I went in for the details: for the background, a very static kind of hatching for the hazy city and fjord walls. For the foreground I used a horizontal ruled line hatching for the shadows, like Hogarth would have done, and many other engravers of his time.

Bonus Art: The Lands of Midnight

While preparing for this illustration, I was pointed to Mike Singleton’s The Lords of Midnight, a 1984 Commodore 64 (ZX Spectrum in Europe) game with a look that is very picturesque. It made me wonder: when did (moving) pictures begin to be called (motion) graphics? Anyways, this game is a lot of fun. Go check it out.

Here, with an almost-countable number of pixels, the clarity of shapes and their arrangement are crucial to the readability of the image. “8-bit” pictures have that quality about them, and it’s stunning that the Lords of Midnight can do what it does with less than a megabyte of code. I shamelessly stole a few pieces from the game. Look at that dragon! I added a wing and another foot to fill it out a bit, but left it be.