It's been a while since I've sketched something from the heroic Anglo-Saxon story of Beowulf. Primarily inspired by the layout and illustrations of the great Drew Struzan and the amazing inkwork of Frank Cho I finally managed to get some concepts that had been collecting dust onto paper. I've always wanted to try the poster-like look that Struzan masterfully achieves and I'm sure there wil be many more, but this allowed me to play with some ideas and it didn't turn out too badly.
From left to right is a selection of highlights of Beowulf's life - a montage if you will. First the hero sets sail from Geatland to assist the Danes. Viking longboats are some of the coolest looking vessels you'll ever find and I couldn't resist designing one for the Geatish warrior. The sea monsters are probably the same ones he encountered with Breca years before in their swimming match. I wanted the creatures to look like a cross between a prehistoric eel and the popular conception of the Loch Ness Monster.
In the center Beowulf triumphantly brandishes the arm of Grendel in the halls of Heorot. Meanwhile the threat of Grendel's mother, the swamp-hag from hell, looms over the festivities in the mead-hall. In my mind she is more spindly and nasty than her son, (seen here) overgrown with fungus and algae matted throughout her hair and body in her old age.
Finally, the warrior in all his proud glory. Norse and Icelandic armor is so fun for me to draw. There is a distinctive look to it that evokes real strength and nobility while never being confined to one particular or set design and pattern. The sword Naegling helps tie the whole piece together and lend an historic and archaic feel to the illustration. The Beowulf script is meant to resemble the Futhorc Anglo-Saxon runes. Plus I had to include the dragon. As J.R.R.Tolkien once said, " It’s simply not an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons."
The poem of Beowulf is so visually strong with it's landscapes and spectacular in it's set pieces and creatures that I'm a little surprised that more artists haven't delved into its rich texts as a resource for creativity.