Knotwork Dragon

dragonflame3One of my goals for the year is to bring a more organic feel to my art. That’s not the easiest thing to do considering most of my art is created in vector programs. So I have been lugging a sketchbook around with me and trying to draw more during my lunch breaks. I have been drawing a lot of dragons lately and trying to model them after some of the animals in old Norse knotwork. (I can also see some Aztec/Mayan influence in there as well.) I did a quick color and ink job on one of the sketches and wanted to share it with you all. It is rough but I think I am heading in the right direction.

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Book Review: The Normans by Lars Brownworth

NormansI just finished reading The Normans: From Raiders to Kings (Full disclosure, I received a free review copy from Crux Publishing via Librarything.com) and I can heartily recommend this book. Most people probably have a very limited idea of who the Normans were, their knowledge not going beyond “those were the guys in the Bayeax Tapestry.”

Lars Brownworth‘s book fills in the gaps, and provides a detailed history of the Normans were. He also sets forth a convincing argument for how the Normans helped lead Western Europe out of the Dark Ages and into a place of prominence in the world.

The majority of the book revolves around the Hauteville family. This one family, descended from Vikings: conquered Sicily and Southern Italy; influenced events in Europe, Asia and Africa; and participated in the Norman conquest of England. You get separate chapters on each of the major family members, covering the high points of their lives in thorough detail. That leads to one of the quibbles I have with this book. When you give us a thorough telling of the life of say, Tancred of Hauteville and then follow it with a chapter covering the life of Tancred’s son William Iron-Arm  there is bound to be repetition. Tancred had three sons that became legendary figures in their own right so this happens more than once in the book.

That is a minor thing though, especially when you consider that Brownworth has a very readable voice. The Normans conveys a lot of information but it always feels like it is telling you a stirring adventure – not lecturing you. Too many history books are dry and boring. This one feels very vibrant and exciting. It is an informative, excellent read and I recommend checking it out.

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Answers to the Superhero Silhouette Quiz

SilhouetteAnswersLast week I posted a series of silhouettes and asked you to try and identify the hero or villain. This week we have the answers. Here they are from left to right:

Top row: Wolverine, Galactus, Mr. Freeze, Harley Quinn, Havok
Second Row: Hellboy, Beast, Big Barda, Savage Dragon, Flash
Third row: Mysterio, Black Bolt, Hawkman, Electro, Scarlket Witch
Fourth row: Captain America, Catwoman, Judge Dredd, High Evolutionary, Thor

How many of them did you get right?

I will be honest that this probably was a lot harder than the emblem quiz. I ran it by a couple of my friends and none of them got 100%. The problem is that there are a number of characters that could easily pass for each other in silhouette form. There are some of the obvious cases where two characters wear a variation of the same uniform – think Captain America and US Agent or are intentionally meant to look almost the same like the Flash and Professor Zoom. But there are other characters who just kind of look the same. In silhouette Mr. Fantastic and the Elongated Man are practically indistinguishable.

How about the original Marvel Girl of the X-Men and the Scarlet Witch? That doesn’t even get into how hard it is to find a female hero who isn’t just a variation on a domino mask and long flowing hair. Is this a bad thing? Let’s face it, Havok and Electro have very distinctive profiles but they do look a little silly. What are your thoughts?

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Viking Valentines

ValkyrieValentineAlright, this is not accurate, let’s just get that out of the way from the start. Vikings didn’t go in for the whole winged helmet thing. I know that but the artist in me keeps pushing the researcher out of the way. However, this was a lot of fun to make  and I wanted to share it with you all because of that.

Click on the image to the left for a larger version. If you scroll down you’ll find a black & white version in case you prefer to color it yourself. There is also one pre- sized for printing and folding so you can make your own card and give it to someone you love.

If you are looking for something a little more historical I would suggest reading this post about a 900 year old runic inscription that translates to “kiss me.” It is pretty cool and the pdf article that explains how they decoded the runes is fascinating as well. You could also check out the Valentine’s post I did in 2013.

Have a fun holiday. I hope everyone is keeping warm and safe as yet another winter storm stomps through the Eastern US. We got about 8 inches of snow with a nice layer of ice to top it off. Luckily we still have power, though. I really feel for the thousands of people having to face this in the dark and cold.

ValkyrieValentineBW

ValkyrieValentineCard

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Another Superhero Quiz

SilhouetteQuiz Since my superhero quiz continues to be wildly popular I decided to make another one. I built this one a little differently, though. Instead of looking at logos and trying to decide who they belong to, this time around I have a series of silhouettes and you try to guess the hero or villain. I tried to go with some of the more distinctive silhouettes out there. (It wouldn’t be any fun trying to guess between Mr. Fantastic and The Elongated Man for instance.) I have characters from a number of different companies and there are even some women in the mix. Some of these are fairly simple, but you will need to be pretty good to get them all.

Have at it and see if you can guess all of them before I put the answers up next week!

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Book Review: A History of Weapons

I recently finished reading the Kindle version of A History of Weapons: Crossbows, Caltrops, Catapults & Lots of Other Things that Can Seriously Mess You Up by John O’Bryan. I have mixed feelings about this book – which is odd. I jump at the opportunity to read about different ancient weapons. I have lots of books about medieval knights, Vikings, obscure Chinese throwing weapons,  Indonesian and Filipino martial weapons. I even have catalogs from museum arms and armor exhibits. A book like this should be right up my alley – but it isn’t.

I can’t recommend this book because of O’Bryan’s language. He is going for a humorous approach. The subtitle drops a not so subtle hint. Any time you see a subtitle that contains the phrase “seriously mess you up” you can assume it is not going to be a dry, scholarly work, right? There is nothing wrong with that – if you want to have fun with your subject then go right ahead and have some fun. Unfortunately, O’Bryan’s idea of fun is to use the f-word over and over again to the point where it becomes tiresome. It strikes me as a young kid trying to prove how cool he is by cursing as often as he can. That is a shame because there are some funny lines that don’t contain any profanity elsewhere in the book. I’m not saying that people can’t curse. It’s just that O’Bryan’s use of curses seems needless and, ultimately, repetitive. That’s a shame because without the profanity this would have been a great book for younger kids interested in the subject.

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Vikings on Pinterest

Viking longship by Flickr user Jomme

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Pinterest. It is a social networking site that focuses on sharing cool images with other users. When you find an image or article that you like you can pin it – kind of like making a bookmark for it. The nice thing about Pinterest is you can then organize boards that collect together your pins based around a particular theme. Other people can then follow those boards and see what you’re up to.

As you can probably guess, I follow a lot of boards that feature Viking themes and Valkyrie artwork. There are some really stunning images out there that I would not have run across if I wasn’t on Pinterest. (Like the awesome picture I’m using for this post.)

My own boards feature my artwork or neat images I’ve found. I also like to start a board for whatever book project I am involved in (or just thinking about.) I pin stuff that I find inspirational or might want to use for reference at a later date.

Here are a few boards that I think you should check out:

Modern Viking Crafts – modern day interpretations of traditional Viking work

Norse - a nice mix of new and old Viking-related items from tools to posters and funny images

Viking – Anglo-Saxons – lots of great illustrations and really good photos of people in authentic dress from these two ancient cultures

Go on and check them out. If you have any favorite boards, show them some love by posting a link in the comments.

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