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No Turning Back...
By redwattlebird   |   Watch
6 14 577 (1 Today)
Published: June 30, 2010
© 2010 - 2019 redwattlebird
Aaargh this took like two weeks. In the end I just got sick of looking at it for so long so I finished it up and here we are. That's the good thing about working with a painterly style I guess... it looks rough no matter what stage you stop.

Anyway, this is the scene from the Aeneid book VI where Aeneas (the Roman dude) crosses the Styx, with the aid of the Sibyl (the lady carrying his Goden Bough) and the god Charon (old guy). It's a point of no return, a river that can't be crossed back, so if he looks a bit anxious, it's with good reason.

Hrmm, there were supposed to be more reeds in this picture, as the text specifically says they land in mud and grey reeds, but mangrove trees looked more dramatic and reeds just clogged up my view of the water and foam.

But I do love the water and foam. <3 It's one of those subjects that can engross you in the process of painting it.

What interested me in this concept was picturing how different the Romans envisaged "Hell" in comparison to the fire and brimstone of medieval christian Hell. To the Romans, death and misery is blue. Seriously, out of all the colours, blue was their least favourite... boys with blue eyes would get teased as they grew up. It was barbaric and primordial and the colour of the frightening ocean depths and of rotting flesh. And so you see, Hell was blue.

Heh and Charon has to be the least prettiest god in the whole pantheon. Unkempt, dirty, with his toga tied in a knot.. the antithesis of "stylish". I kind of imagined his boat of stitched skins to be like some kind of bluish primitive canoe, but then I remember it's supposed to ferry scores of ghosts at once and this one seems to only be able to seat about half a dozen. Ah well I don't know boats. Vergil's general intent of it is here. :P
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anonymous's avatar
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aquanut's avatar
aquanutHobbyist Digital Artist
I like the lighting on the boat and the detail you've put into the water. I really get a sense of the trepidation they're experiencing at this eerie crossing. :D I need to read that book; my knowledge of mythology mainly comes from Homer's stories, but I really enjoyed those.

(Also, I totally haven't forgotten about your art request and will get around to doing it soon, I swear!)
redwattlebird's avatar
redwattlebirdHobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks, Nut! I'm happy you liked the eerie mood, I guess with all the glistening blues it gets a little creepy in the underworld. ;)

(And don't feel guilty about taking a while to get around to that request. I know the feeling. Just do it when you feel happy to do it! =D)
hubadawaha's avatar
hubadawahaHobbyist Digital Artist
Oddly, I always kind of liked Charon.
redwattlebird's avatar
redwattlebirdHobbyist Digital Artist
He has that kind of rugged, frank, "what you doin' here trying to cross mah river, think you're some kind of hero or what" quality about him. =D
hubadawaha's avatar
hubadawahaHobbyist Digital Artist
lol Yeah.
fish-puddle's avatar
As a person with the misfortune of reading the book twice (once in Latin ;_;), you've done a lovely job illustrating the scene. Also, the sea foam's particularly lovely. I could see you really liked doing that. :3
redwattlebird's avatar
redwattlebirdHobbyist Digital Artist
The Latin in the Aeneid is pretty, but very poetic and riddled with translation traps for the unwary. xD It's really cool to hear you read this book in its Latin version too. And yes, the sea foam seemed to take a direction of its own when it got down to going in there and frothing up the details, which was very enjoyable to paint ;D
fish-puddle's avatar
Exactly! It was tough (and I mean tough), but there's definitely a certain beauty when you read something in the original language. Vergil's word pictures were very, very intricate- an often confusing- but it was still quite an experience. Have you been taking Latin for a while?
redwattlebird's avatar
redwattlebirdHobbyist Digital Artist
Ooh, I started Latin in year 8, so I guess this would be my fifth year studying it =D My favourite part is always the translation of Latin into English, especially when the passage is as exquisite as Vergil or Ovid's stuff. You're right, there really is a kind of beauty reading these poems in their original language, although poetry is the most difficult to translate. And Latin, because you tend to learn it when you're slightly older than when spoken languages are taught, has this kind of connecting power that even though you haven't known it nearly as long as your native tongue, you can still consciously appreciate the masterpieces of time gone by.
Icon109's avatar
This is awesome! Lovely work.

Apparently some artists display Charon as a skeleton, but this guy looks cooler. :D

Great job!
redwattlebird's avatar
redwattlebirdHobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you =D Yeah, I think Disney's "Hercules" had Charon as a skeleton boatman. They probably didn't want to detract the attention away from Hades, who looked awesome. I was basically working off a passage of Vergil that I had to recite for a Latin Speaking competition last year, and it was all about describing Charon and his boatman duties, the gist of it being he was an unkempt old man who (as a god) was nevertheless strong and tough rather than frail.
Icon109's avatar
Disney's interpretation of Charon is a great example of him as a Skeleton, along with plenty of other examples which I'm too lazy to look up at the moment. XD
And that seems like a cool passage. Some of the Greek gods get really underrated.
Black-Pteri's avatar
Niiiice :D
I like the water hitting the shore, I can never be bothered drawing water, guess I'd better get some practice in sometime :P
Also that's some pretty cool facts, no wonder you never see pictures of Romans wearing blue :D
redwattlebird's avatar
redwattlebirdHobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks Amber! <3 Yeah water is one of those things that I could return to over and over and over, and never get quite the same result each time. I'm a lot more confident with doing large scale water in ocean-like scenes than smaller pools of water, though...
anonymous's avatar
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