Thursday, March 12, 2009

Daga and the Flying Troll of Sky Mountain

When I began thinking about the show before I had a theme or a name, I started with what I liked most to draw. I detailed this thought in an earlier post :

"When I originally began planning Grimm and Other Folk Tales, I looked for stories with three key elements -- princesses and monsters and birds. It may not be exactly that intellectually shallow but it's close. No, there are hopefully a few other themes in there that I am hoping to get across, but, for the visuals of the stories I looked for the princesses, the monsters, and the birds."

At first I was a little disappointed with lack of monsters in fairy tales, at least the old standards. Sure there are some but just not as many as you would think. You've got wolves and witches but those are not really monsters. I wanted monsters, big ones, legendary ones. But not giants, not humans, I wanted real honest-to-goodness monsters. What I was looking for were trolls.

I kept reading and looking into the stories but didn't quite come up with what I was looking for... didn't that is, until I stumbled across the work of John Bauer and folk tales from Sweden.

John Bauer is just one of those artists -- the moment I saw his work I instantly felt a connection with it. I was drawn to it to the same degree I'm drawn to Maurice Sendak's work, or Trina Schart Hyman's (especially her Peter Pan) It just gets me, I love it.



above, John Bauer

So when I read the Swedish folk tale, Daga and the Flying Troll of Sky Mountain I literally felt like I'd hit gold. Here, encapsulated in one story was what I was truly looking for, a princess, a troll, and not just a troll but the flying Troll of Sky Mountain. I felt like the earth cracked open and delivered up the greatest title for a story in the world.

Daga and her brother Dag live alone, their parents had died a couple years ago. Dag hunted and brought food, Daga cleaned and sewed. All this worked very well until Dag did not return from hunting one day. Distraught, Daga left the house and went looking for him (quietly followed by her tomte, a house elf or creature of sorts. A Tomte was believed to take care of a farmer's home and children and protect them from misfortune, in particular at night.)

Along the way searching for her brother Daga met a traveling prince. He instantly fell in love with her and wanted to marry her. He gave her a beautiful white dress, gold rings, and a gold crown. The prince told her that he would send out men to look for her brother and she agreed. That night she over heard the men saying that they believed her brother was dead and why should they risk their lives looking for him? She escaped the castle (followed by her tomte) and traveled through the woods at night.

Now here is where I have to break from the story to just interject something -- is this not the most beautiful sounding image? Daga wears a white dress, a crown, she's walking through the woods at night and there are trolls in the woods. This is the moment I chose to illustrate. In fact in the story there's mention of "two large trolls with 'firefly eyes' watching her and shuffling in the woods." Something (we know it was the tomte) scares them off.


The rough.


The color comp.


The pencil.

The next morning Daga changes back into her old clothes and hides the gifts from the prince. She meets an old troll woman and asks her if she knows anything about her brother. She says yes but she won't tell unless Daga will give her a white dress. This of course, is the fairy tale convention of the hasty promise. It's something I love -- it could be anyone, no matter how wicked they are they are bound by their word. Daga of course has a white dress and gives it to the old troll woman. Begrudgingly the old troll woman tells Daga that her brother was kidnapped by the Flying Troll of Sky Mountain.

Daga makes her way to Sky Mountain but can't find a way up. She meets a dwarf and says, "Little father can you tell me where to begin to climb the mountain?" The dwarf laughs and tells her that even if he did she'd fall and break her neck, but no, he won't tell unless she gives him something, say some gold rings. Again, the hasty promise and again Daga produces the gift. The dwarf shows her the stairs and she begins to climb. She climbs for days and into the clouds and finally finds her brother. He's trapped in a rock. Only his head is visible. He's weak and about to die. Daga weeps. He tells her to leave him but she refuses. She goes in to see the Flying Troll.

She makes her way into his hall and asks if he would free her brother. The Flying Troll laughs and laughs. All of his blacksmiths stop working join in the laughter. The Flying Troll makes her a promise, "I'll free your brother if you can give me a gold crown in two seconds. If not you will have to live here and work for me."

It's a beautiful moment when Daga pulls out the crown and holds it up and the Flying Trolls and all of his terrible blacksmiths are utterly thunderstruck. The Flying Troll, bound to his word lets Dag and Daga go. Meanwhile the prince had been searching for Daga. They are reunited and married. Happily ever after.

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This piece has been such a joy to work on. I finished it last night. I feel like the mood gets just what I wanted. I like that there's a small powerful thing (the tomte) that protects children and it's not a afraid of trolls at all. Everything came together in a good way for this piece. Daga, at night, trolls with "firefly eyes" the tomte, it all just feels right.

I can't wait to show you the finished piece.

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As always, none of the work I've posted yet is a finished, final piece. These are final drawings and final under-painting but they are all just steps in the process.

I'll be revealing the final work at the show opening.

In production news, I have completed all the work for Grimm and Other Folk Tales. I am going to let the pieces sit for a couple days and then give them a once over again. I've not been more proud of work I've been able to do. Mark your calendars, April 3rd, 2009. I hope to see you there!

Here is the official show poster with all the important information :

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Daga and the Trolls
from Dag and Daga, and the Flying Troll of Sky Mountain

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Next post : A guest post by Justin, or he's posting about the show Monday on his blog and I'm curious to see what he has to say.

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9 comments:

Jonathan Woodward said...

Hey Cory,

I'm wishing I was in the US so that I could visit the show.

As with Justin's Hobbit pieces, I've really enjoyed following your process with these pieces and can't wait to see the finished pieces.

The latest piece 'Daga and the Flying Troll of Sky Mountain' looks awesome and I can understand why you feel it has all come together perfectly on this piece as it is possibly my favourite (love the trolls).

Thanks again for the inspiration and education throughout your Grimm posts - awesome stuff.

Cheers,
Jonathan

Cory said...

Hey thank you Jonathan, I really appreciate your kind words.

I can't wait to show everyone these pieces. I had them all up tonight and looked through them all. I feel like they are leaps and bounds beyond anything I've done heretofore, I'm just really excited about them.

Thanks again man!

Anonymous said...

That color comp is sweet man. Love the eyes of the trolls but the overall lighting and mood is wonderful. This artwork is surely the next step for you, seems you have found what works and have made it even stronger. I envy your line quality in those drawings. peace.

Matthew Sheean said...

This is some great art you have! I honestly wish I had some money to part with for a copy of "Ticket." Maybe later!

Loren Eaton said...

Color comp is awesome.

jess smart smiley said...

That pencil drawing is beeeeautiful! I'm really taken by the story, too, and I'm going to spend some time looking through John Bauer's work. Thanks!

Indigene said...

Great post and it's wonderful seeing your process!

Koldo said...

John Bauer is one of my fav artists who also has a influenced my work quite a lot. It's really exciting to see how you're taking his world one step beyond. Aplauses!

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