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AssasinMonkey's avatar

Rise and Fall of the Balk

"Amongst the first to rise, not the last."

Unlike usual, I'm keeping this backstory, short, ambiguous, unbiased (even though the image kinda appears biased hah) and with a broader meaning then might appear, for a change.
There's a reason for that, though.

Edit: Additional story information.
"This scene marks a beginning, not for one but for all. It doesn't just mark the future but also the past, the events that led to this point and all that come beyond. Even when such a moment can simply not be pinned to a single point in time. It represents the escalation of contact, the resistance against ideals, and the refusal to give in.
Pride to that what is known and fear for what is not."

With this I'm attempting to reinvigorate my First Contact War universe I had started but last worked on back in April.
That was too long ago, so I thought I'd bring it back big and with both sides. Much like the first piece where this entire universe started 2 years ago. ( )
Going by the time spend, it's amongst the biggest, hitting an approx of 30 hours with only 2 other pieces in my gallery along those lines.

The amount of characters this had, I knew it wasn't a small piece and I kept it to my Saturday Livestream. For those who might have noticed me upload the WIP last week. ( )
So I hope I delivered on the expectations that one brought. It was quite fun to make this, for different reasons.
The scene, the colours, the poses, action, amount of characters (I wanted to do a crowded piece again for a while) and all the puzzling.
Good fun, may it been an enjoyable one to watch being streamed, as well.

I'll be trying to make more FCW stuff in the future building upon the universe.
This piece has quite some things going for that, maybe I'll explain those later in a larger backstory quote.

Approx Time: 30+ hour?
Time Lapse: Pending
(slightly incomplete missing some hours, will have to check on this later)
Rise & Fall of the Balk [WIP] by AssasinMonkey

PS: Me and my title words
Image details
Image size
3840x2160px 8.6 MB
© 2014 - 2021 AssasinMonkey
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:star::star::star::star: Overall
:star::star::star::star::star-half: Vision
:star::star::star::star::star-empty: Originality
:star::star::star::star::star: Technique
:star::star::star::star::star-empty: Impact

- Vision –

-First large scale conflict/gryphon(or is it griffin... whatever) advancement-
It looks and feels like the first of many larger scale conflicts, or as though before this point there had only been skirmishes between scouting parties and possibly a few raids on outlying, rural, pony villages from gryphon raiding parties. I would also think that since ponies have a more peaceful nature that it would have been the gryphons to first engage in more aggressive and hostile behavior.

-The gryphons, militaristic society like Sparta-
One of the first things i noticed about the gryphons was that they all look like warriors/soldiers (They are all in armor and in general look more battle ready). As apposed to the ponies who look more like a militia rather than a standing army. I think this works for the gryphons because being a mostly carnivorous (Lions-carnivorous, Eagles-mostly fish so carnivorous) species they would have a more hostile and territorial nature.

- Originality – (Realistic never really gets old in my book)

I like that you gave every sentient being (what do i call them together?... Animals just doesn't seem right) clothing or armor. Personally i prefer the realism of it (As far as I'm concerned sentient beings would wear clothes for warmth/protection or at the least to prevent awkward situations).

- Technique –

-This is how i would draw . realistic, yet rich with serial/artistic liberties-
There's not much to say here other then ^^^"this"^^^ is my preferred art style. It's dynamic yet holds onto the realist aspect of things/life which appeals to my realistic/meticulous nature. So bonus points... i guess (or is it a personal bias... Nah it's skill).

The dull/flat colored dust cloud in the background does a good job of providing a contrasting backdrop to the colorful equines militia and the central crying mare. It goes especially well with her green mane.

Good job just keeping the gryphons off to the side, their mostly brown and tan features would get more easily lost in dust cloud and would likely end up a bit muddy.

- Impact –

-Crying front mare sells it, and the variety of pony characters goes a long way-
I've seen other battle/war scenes that don't really read as anything but a "battle or war" scene. This scene however, is sold by the pony expressions and the character behind them. Most of the ponies look determined/fierce (as to be expected in a major conflict) but here and there i spot a pony who's resigned to the conflict or even unsure about fighting. This lends it's self well to idea that gryphons are an invading force that the ponies weren't prepared for (maybe a surprise attack?), so with little or no soldiers to protect the city/town every able bodies adult was needed in order to create a militia for a hastily mounted defense (that will probably fail in the end), none send this point across better than central crying mare. She is no stranger(most experienced) to battle as she is the only pony in armor, and she is rallying her fellow equines around her at the front of the conflict. She knows what she's doing, but her tears hint that she either, knows they are all going to be massacred (and the supposed town razed) or that she herself is likely going to die.

(I would have given more stares here, but as well as the central idea is promoted it doesn't really tug at that heart string too much. Mostly because I'm probably reading way to far into this. If you just look at this picture it could easily just be a battle between a gryphon army and a less equipped/ready equine one (they're not defending anything that can be seen) with an emotional general or captain, or what ever the central crying mare it is supposed to be... I'm not really sure... she's rallying the pony side and is the most prepared fighter of the ponies, i can tell that much, but she doesn't have a badge of rank or anything that would elevate her above an average soldier or guard, unless that's what the cape is supposed to mean.)

P.S. I like that older blue bearded stallion just because.

- All in all -
When i first saw it I started to create backstory in my head (pieces that can tell a story are always better in my opinion), what i ended up with was that the equine town got attacked by an invading/advancing gryphon army on their way to a more important target and they figured they would just raze to town to hurt the equestrian nation. The town knowing that they can't out run or out maneuver them take up arms... or hooves against the deadly adversary (or maybe so the young and old could escape, or to buy time so a message could safely be sent to Cantorlot to warn of the aproching army, or both!)

It's safe to say I like it, but It's not the best piece I've seen, nor is it my favorite(of your artwork alone, but it did madk me want to wright a critique which most art doesn't realy inspire me to do... probably because i make them reeeeaaaaaly long) but I do like the vibe it gives (My hopeless city defense theory), plus it provides fuel for my own head cannon about what happens a thousand plus years before FIM takes place (I like the gryphon, equine war idea), but I'm a bit of a stickler/perfectionist so the little things stand out (are easy for me to spot) and the little oddities (things i consider odd or don't make sense by the picture) roll around in the back of my head and start to get to me, because I might personally have done them differently if i could draw. They aren't inherently wrong, their just unanswered questions I'm left with after observing the above piece.
(See below to see what I mean)

-----Other stuff/Personal thoughts----

-Why are the Gryphons on the ground?-
The gryphons can fly... this is a tremendous advantage over the mostly earth bound equines so why not swoop down and attack from above? If something is preventing them, they could at least drop boulders down on the ponies from the cloud layer or something like that.

-Wouldn't the pegasus be flying higher up?-
If for some reason the gryphons are grounded, couldn't the pegasus just use their own aerial combat techniques? and if the gryphons aren't grounded wouldn't there be a sky battle going on above this one?

-No weapons? especially ponies!-
Nobody has any weapons... this isn't so bad for the gryphons because they have presumably sharp beaks and claws, but the ponies don't have a single weapon in the entire army. The unicorns have magic so they don't really need weapons... but what are the rest going to do? punch/buck the gryphons to death? I'm not saying it wouldn't work, it just seems way less effective then the gryphon claws. Hrmm... maybe that's why the central mare is crying... the ponies are just hopelessly out gunned.
GrandMoffPony's avatar
:star::star::star::star::star: Overall
:star::star::star::star::star: Vision
:star::star::star::star::star: Originality
:star::star::star::star::star: Technique
:star::star::star::star::star: Impact

*Warning: I'm no art major, and I've never done a critique on DA before, so my apologies if this is not up to par with other folks*

Vision: The themes/ideas woven into this piece just scream at the reader. War, violence, anger, desperation, gallantry, honor, fear masked with courage, and so much more... All shown raw and uncut here. You immediately get the sense that an epic battle is about to be joined, and this one pony stands tall, in defiance of the incoming maelstrom.

Originality: I've seen many deep, multi-layered pieces in the MLP fandom, but rarely/if ever with this combination of scale and depth. The focus is on the singular character and the whole scene in equal measure, yet the eyes feel quite at home. Also, the griffon war is hardly ever touched on in the fandom, so that by itself boosts this piece.

Technique: I know nothing about technical aspects of art or techniques, but my eyes and mind tell me that this is a product of a highly skilled hand and a very, very beautiful imagination.

Impact: So many emotions tied up in this piece, each one of them a sledgehammer in its own right. Yet the artist has woven them together into a veritable symphony. I can almost hear the deep bass and percussion of a battle hymn in my ears as I soak this piece in.

Overall: One of this artist's greatest works, and one of THE best examples of MLP fanart I've ever laid eyes on. To be honest, you could enlarge this, frame it, and hang it in a top-tier art museum, next to scores of other grand depictions of battle. Bravo!!
Soulymans-real-self's avatar
:star::star::star::star::star: Overall
:star::star::star::star::star: Vision
:star::star::star::star::star: Originality
:star::star::star::star::star: Technique
:star::star::star::star::star: Impact

Beginning with the background, the large Nimbus looking clouds that overwhelm the sky look magnificent. They are commonly used as symbolic meaning, depicting a significant, upcoming struggle. It could have been a little more defined, but by the focus is on the near not far, so it is a feature that can only be 'nit-picked'.

The individual background characters is wonderful. The skill and patience that it would have taken to think out and individually draw each character is just astounding to say the least. Each has wonderful and defining features as well as a sense of time. By this I mean, we understand that this moment would have been caught during medieval times and not current or future times. Having the griffins and ponies separated into two factions clearly displays a battle and/or conflict between them. Once again, fabulous work on the individual accessories and characteristics.
The facial expressions of every being in this moment is incredible and unbelievably detailed. Especially our main mare in the centre of attention.

Turning our attention to said mare. It is clear that she plays a significant role in whatever background story this casts. This is defined by her armour (rather than normal, unproductive clothes as seen by background ponies) and deep emotion during this instance. As she cries, it causes us to think many questions about her and the situation she is caught up in. The best thing to do would be to keep in mind, "There are no extraordinary people, just ordinary people caught up in remarkable situations".

The broken foreground looks great, however a hint of what it may have once been would have been fun to show, (however very difficult).
It was interesting to see the... less than lively bodies of some griffins on the ground, signifying that this is not the beginning but a moments interlude between battles.

Overall, a very VERY well thought out and planned piece, it catches drama, emotion, loss, and conflict extremely well. Enough to write a story about. This does deserve every piece of gratitude and admiration it receives.

alexus0977's avatar
:star::star::star::star-half::star-empty: Overall
:star::star::star::star::star-empty: Vision
:star::star::star-half::star-empty::star-empty: Originality
:star::star::star::star::star-empty: Technique
:star::star::star::star::star-half: Impact

Personally I'm not a brony, however, when I see great art, I have to comment and critique.

This piece has definitely caught my eye and definitely needs recognition. The Vision is absolutely beautiful, the drama and all the emotion put together makes this a totally great piece. However, this isn't the most original at all. Many art pieces have this concept and I'd even go as far as saying they are the same. Nonetheless, striking and wonderful.

Technique, well I gotta hand it to you sir/ma'am, you certainly nailed this one. The technique is superb and the product is absolutely phenomenal. The impact goes along with the vision, dramatic, stunning and captures the glory and the drama of war.
Magic-Dream-Pony's avatar
:star::star::star::star::star-half: Overall
:star::star::star::star::star: Vision
:star::star::star::star::star-half: Originality
:star::star::star::star::star: Technique
:star::star::star::star::star: Impact

First I must say this is a spectacular picture.
Vision is great, pony battle is realy realistic. You've planed every piece of this.
Originality...Pony battle.Yes, I've been seen lots of pony battle drawings,but for amazing picture, high score.
Technique, no word that can describe how awesome it is.
Impact:epic pony battle, anger, fear, battle...
This is an awesome picture and keep going making more!
I see lots of hard work here, and it is so great to see that here.
Just keep going and wat is most important of all things, bee yourself.
And have fun when you are drawing!
Cromegas-Flare's avatar
:star::star::star::star::star-half: Overall
:star::star::star::star::star: Vision
:star::star::star::star::star: Originality
:star::star::star::star::star: Technique
:star::star::star::star::star-half: Impact

I'll explain what I see as what a normal person will see.

First Thoughts:
I see emotion, fear, hope, and loyalty. It was one of those things that held a classic feel to it that made me go right for the favorite button. The first thing I saw was the front pony standing center. This aloud my attention to go right to her, the way you made her stand out with frond and center, hoofs up and lighting. That was well done. Though I look at her face and can't tell if she is either sad, because the lines are tears, or if she is angry because the lines are scars.

Second Look Thoughts.

I then saw the griffons, I saw them before the ponies. The lack the look of rage, but are more in a hunt. That is what I see at first look. My attention then went to the ponies that the lead looks towards. I see a look of determination in them. It covers any fear or rage they have, and any who looks upon this piece should look at the faces of each individual face. Even the ones in shadow.

Art in Glory:

The detail in the piece is simply divine. From the feathers on the griffons, to the sand on the ground. Each pony and griffon is unique in design and color. AssasinMonkey did a wonderful job on this account. I am unaware of the universe this piece takes place in, but the classic feel in this piece will guide me to finding out more.

Art in the Dirt (Cons)

There is not much I can find to be picky on. Simply because I know I can not do better. There are not many question left in my head that leaves mystery other than wanting to find out more of this universe.

5 stars because I can tell that the artist got down what they wanted to. Giving the onlooker a masterpiece to gaze at.

5 Stars simply due to the fact that you can't find many works with this style and technique, and place such a good emotion to adsorb. In the MLP universe, I heard about the Griffon/Pony war... but never had I seen art to this level to help picture it. I love the fact that there are no weapons in the whole piece.

I'm no master on this topic, but even my eyes know good work done due to educated hands. 5 Stars


Takes a lot for me to hit the Favorite button. Like allot. Though I can't really speak a reason to give 5 stars, I'll cut close and give you 4.5

I'm excited to see what more this artist has to offer.
AssasinMonkey's avatar
It's great to see the steps you've taken to write this out. It's fun to read the initial thoughts and then a more thorough second look.

Catching not just the overall first impression but finding the smaller things scattered across that fill this. Which were fun to add and great to hear they're being seen.
What worked and what translated properly to the viewer.

Thanks :)
ilvbrownies's avatar
I really like this image, say, over the past year (give or take) I have been working on an audio dub project about the Great Pony/Griffon War and I saw your image and I wondered if it would be okay if I used it for part of my project, I would make sure to give due credit. you can give me your answer either here or via my email Hope to hear from you soon.
Can I use this image for a small MLP FIM forum image? It looks really cool tho.. 
FrozenAB's avatar
I left a comment... but then I expanded on it and made it a critique which made the comment kind of redundant... Euyup!
Biker-Dash's avatar
All I can say is... FREAKING AMAZING!!! This is some seriously incredible artwork!
BledAndZx's avatar
So. When are you becoming famous world-wide?
PoshPegasus's avatar
Take it easy! Your going to overload everyone on epicness!:happybounce: 
Maldrete's avatar
Usually, in crowded shots like this, all the characters look the same.

What you did, though, was give everyone an identity, giving all a voice! There is struggle. There is sadness. There is rage. And to top it all off, there is the detail to show this to an extraordinary degree!

To this, I say: job masterfully done.
mlpDreamer's avatar
So much detail! I love it!
Ashoof's avatar
whoa.. like WHOA! WOW! GOOD! whoa!
TomFraggle's avatar
This looks amazing!  Well done!
zombie21943's avatar
K4nK4n's avatar
midnitedew's avatar
Bearded pony ^^
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