Friday, February 3, 2012

Mistress of the Copper Mountain

Pavel Bazhov (1879-1950), a Russian writer, wrote a collection of fairy tales based on the Ural mountain region folklore. The book is called "Mistress of the Copper Mountain and other Tales", I believe. I grew up reading it and it still brings up warm memories.

The Mistress is a mysterious being that inhabits the mountain region, and the owner and keeper of that land's wealth. She can appear in the guise of a striking young maiden or a green lizard with a gold crown. She knows where all metal veins and precious gems are, and depending on whether or not you are 'worthy', either reveals the locations of her treasures and helps you in other ways, or punishes you for your sins, mainly boundless avarice. Her main treasure is the so-called Stone Flower, which, if memory serves me right, is a poetic amalgamation of precious gem and living plant - a magical artifact of inhuman beauty and a font of unimaginable inspiration for the local stone carving craftsmen. Gazing upon it supposedly gives you creative superpowers... basically it's the Holy Grail of gem cutting/stone carving.

So anyway, in one of the stories, this orphan, Danila, gets raised by the local carving master. He picks up his caretaker's trade and strives to take it a step above, make it true art, putting his whole heart and soul into it. But, as it happens too often with us artists, he is frustrated with his stunning creations - they do not live up to his expectations... indeed, his main goal is to make the stone look alive and bring the beauty of nature into it. He grows increasingly dissatisfied, as his hands fail to make what his heart yearns for, and, all depressed and bitter, he learns about the Mistress and her Stone Flower. Young and rash, eyeballs deep in artistic fervour, he goes walking in the mountains, seeking a meeting with the Mistress. Eventually he meets her, and begs to see the Stone Flower. She's reluctant at first, but ends up striking a deal with him where he will gaze upon her magical treasure - in exchange, he must give up the human world and go live inside the mountain and work for her in the workshops.

Wee Danila agrees, and disappears from his village.

Now, the poor halfwit left a fiancé - as part of helping him through his art depression, the local community introduced a lovely lass to him, and they were soon to be wed... clearly they weren't artists, because as we know, passions of the flesh pale in comparison with the deranged mania of one's soul. ...moooooving on. Katerina, the fiancé, gets understandably traumatised after Danila vanishes without a trace. Eventually she moves in with Danila's caretaker, who's older than dirt by this point, and takes care of him, while picking up a bit of the stone carving craft on the side. She becomes quite decent at it, actually.

One day she's up in the mountains, looking for raw materials. She gets tired, sits down somewhere to rest for a while, and has a vision - the mountainside becomes transparent, and Katerina is able to peer inside to see her dear Danila, bent over, carving something out. She quickly puts two and two together, and realises that the Mistress has taken him... and decides to get him back. After having the vision, Katerina keeps coming back to that area, hoping to meet the Mistress and give her a piece of her mind. Eventually, the Mistress appears to her, annoyed by the visitations. She basically tells her, "have any precious stone or gem you want and gtfo". Katerina is scared at first, but then musters up the courage to say "NO U, and how about giving me my fiancé back". The Mistress calls up Danila and asks him if he wants to go back, because surely he's forgotten humanity by this point. Turns out, no, the lad still thinks about his precious Katerina every day and longs to see her again. The Mistress warns him that if he decides to go back, he'll forget everything he's learned inside the Copper Mountain, and go back to being the frustrated artist that he was before. Danila's fine with that, if it means he's reunited with Katerina. Anyway, the whole tale ends in an unreasonably happy way - the Mistress lets them both go and lets Danila keep the knowledge he gained in her workshops.

I illustrated a moment not present in the tale - I imagine Danila would try to get out of his deal with the Mistress to escape back to humanity and Katerina. I picture him trying to smash his hand up so he becomes useless - in hopes that the Mistress will kick him out. Instead, I see her healing him magically. On the one hand, I want her to genuinely care for his well-being, which is why she's gingerly bandaging him up. On the other, a deal's a deal, and she can see through his ruse, and doesn't really care to pander to his dreams of freedom - I didn't want her to come across as completely heartless, just... maybe functioning by rules we don't fully understand. Danila is crushed, seeing that there's no escape, and he would much rather feel the pain of a broken hand a thousand times over than experience the storm of hopelessness that is consuming him.

TL;DR: No, go back up and read the whole thing, six paragraphs won't break you.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011

The boy and his dragon

Quick doodle inspired by a dream I had. Loosely inspired - I only dreamt about dragons, and they were huge, the size of a good stadium huge, I mean.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Burning viking

Just a doodle. Trying to figure out why painting in Photoshop is an impossible task.
Also, not sure why he's dual wielding shields...

Monday, October 31, 2011


Bible and Irene... the latter freaking out over something huge explosion, the former putting up a magical barrier so they won't get crushed by the debris. That's right, the s is NOT silent.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Magical cave

Wow I probably spent too long on this damn exercise.

Painter 12, again.