Happy Cthulhumas. I found the time over the past couple of weeks to finish a piece of art begun in September 2008, something I’d half-completed then abandoned due to pressure of other work. I’d quite forgotten about this until I discovered the files when going through some archive discs. What began as a pencil outline is now a lavish piece of vector art which I’ll shortly be making available as a poster design.
I’ve enjoyed creating vector pictures recently, it’s a different discipline to using Photoshop (although the initial art often starts in the sister application), and the hard lines and flat shapes remind me of the similar effects I used to get when I was painting with gouache. Some areas of this piece remain a little too flat but I didn’t want to start shading everything using gradient meshes; if you start down that road you may as well do the whole thing as a Photoshop painting—or a real painting, for that matter. That said, I wouldn’t mind giving this the hyper-realist treatment at a later date.
The original idea was to do a kind of “Cthulhu Buddha”, something like the above variation only coloured with more finesse. I kept thinking this was an original idea only to belatedly realise when I set the figure against a temple background that I’d been imitating the kind of massive Lovecraftian idols that populate the comic strips of Philippe Druillet. The one below is a good example.
Urm le fou (1975) by Philippe Druillet.
At the Mountains of Madness (1974).
My piece also nods slightly to Ian Miller‘s Lovecraft cover art of the 1970s. I always enjoyed the tiny human figures in the lower left of this illustration, a detail that makes the viewer realise with a start that the rampaging monstrosity in the foreground is enormous. Needless to say, Druillet favours a similar Piranesian effect.
Despite having announced at various times that I’m done with illustrating Lovecraft, it’s become apparent that Cthulhu is a convenient riff to use when exploring different styles of art, like the cosmic horror equivalent of a jazz standard. It’s a creature with a high recognition factor yet Lovecraft never went too far beyond his shorthand description of a “squid dragon” outline to fix the shape of the thing. At the end of The Call of Cthulhu we discover that Cthulhu has a corporeality sufficiently fluid to reassemble itself after being struck by a steamship. That’s always suggested to me that the artist has licence to interpret the squid dragon formula in a variety of ways.
As stated above, I’ll be making this picture available shortly at CafePress and another online sales outlet I was recently asked to join, I just need to find the time to jump through the various uploading hoops. More about that later.