Wednesday, January 12, 2011

HCSBSB: Babylonian Invasion

One of the items on the list of illustrations that Holman wanted me to do for the HCSB Study Bible was some sort of depiction of the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians which occurred in the sixth century B.C. This could have gone in any number of directions: a battle scene, a view from behind the city walls looking out over the surrounding armies, another long view from above showing the layout of the city and estimated positions of the Babylonian forces, etc. However, upon considering the various options I felt strongly that, since most of the other illustrations highlighted architecture, it would be nice to do one in which people took center stage. After hashing this out with the publisher, it was decided that a depiction of the defeated captives leaving the destroyed city of Jerusalem on their way to exile in Babylon would be a fitting theme.

I wanted to convey not only the sorrow and despair but also the horror and brutality that no doubt attended such an event. The initial sketch above assumes a viewpoint somewhere close to the foot of the Mount of Olives looking back across the Kidron Valley toward the Temple Mount and the city of Jerusalem, with multiple columns of smoke rising ominously into the sky. Haggard, emaciated and stunned captives file by in a long column, past the dead and mutilated bodies of victims, with threatening—tormenting, even—Babylonian soldiers lining the way. Siege engines are visible beside the breached city walls above and the landscape bears the typical scars of war: sparse vegetation and the twisted and splintered stumps of hewn-down trees.

Not utterly to my surprise, my initial sketch pushed the envelope a bit too far. I was asked to refrain from showing dead bodies and any actual brutalization on the part of the Babylonian soldiers. I needed some good photographic reference of folks of all ages for this one, so every member of my family got to help out with modeling. (My kids love this part, and my wife—she REALLY loves it. The neighbors no doubt find it amusing as well. Oh yeah, and while I’m at it, I might just as will head any potentially snide comments off at the pass by acknowledging that the shirtless guy in the foreground of the above photo collage doesn’t exactly look “emaciated”. If this means a few blows to my vanity then hopefully it ratchets up respect for my skills as an illustrator to a commensurate degree.) The results of our back yard photo shoot are assembled in Photoshop®, and this serves as the basis for a revised, tight sketch. This second sketch is approved without further changes and so I move onto the final, which is executed on an 8"x10" piece of Claybord®, with color applied digitally after scanning.

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