Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Victorian Fantasy

No wannabe-witty title today, just art.
Did some race portraits for the Victoriana RPG by Cubicle 7:

The Giant one was my favourite to paint. Much fun was had with this character.

The Karakon are some kind of Central Asian gnome people.

The Oni are a race of Japanese ogres.

An orc lady, what a great concept to paint!

The steppe goblins are some kind of russian magicians, machine craftsmen and overall weird types.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pract Ical vs. S'Wag

Long time no post!

This one will be a (not so) short meditation on the practicalness of ancient and medieval armour.
(there's art at the end too)

Some time ago this Tumblr post was put together as a reaction to the "Women in Reasonable Armour" thing. I don't understand Tumblr, so I have no idea who actually wrote it, sorry.


As the author states, this "counter-point" was meant to show that:

"... practicality isn’t the end-all and be-all of military costume. In some cases though, you have to wonder if it was given any thought at all."

Do the sample images support this wild hypothesis? Leeeeeeet's FIND OUT! Raise the gates!

1.) First image are the La Tene Gallic warriors masterfully illustrated by Angus McBride. What is the weird impractical element here?
  • The eagle helmet?   - as much as I respect McBride, he made the helmet look much heavier than the original piece suggests. We have no idea if it was a real helmet meant for battle, or if it was a ceremonial object. If it was used in battle, it probably wasn't as obstructive as we may think.
  • The naked guy?   - a more likely complaint. Did celts fight naked? Period sources suggest some of them might have. Why on Earth would anyone do that? There are many theories. It might've been a religious thing, for morale improvement, or it simply felt better for the warriors to fight without clothing constraining their manly bodies. There is a relevant anecdote by a Roman writer (whose name escapes me now) describing how units of naked warriors suffered considerably larger casualties in a missile skirmish than their clothed allies. A simple cloak apparently makes a difference. So why didn't they wear more armour? Mail was incredibly rare and expensive in this period, leather armour would've been much more common. It's not exactly clear how widespread and how commonly used armour was. Organic armour has the unfortunate tendency of disappearing completely without a trace. How common were these naked "barbarians"? We don't know. 
2.) Celtiberians! So what's so wacky about these guys?
  • The helmet crests? Helmet crests seem to have been rather popular through human history. The exact purpose we can't be sure of, but it's probably something to do with recognizing your allies by the colours and shapes of their silhouette. That's very importand on the battlefield. Sure, the impractical reason would be to show off how much of a cock you are. (you know, how birds have these colourful crests)  Were they so obstructive that it became impractical? Maybe. Would they have been used if they were that impractical? No. Ancient people weren't stupid.
  • The lack of metal armour? See answer above. Armour was rare, difficult to make. Hence the large shields. This type of attire also allowed for unrestricted mobility and no doubt allowed them to fight easier in warm climate. We also have to keep in mind that these are reconstructions mainly done from vase paintings. It's the artists job to make them look interesting, it's an illustration. A thing odd to our eye and sense of "normality" is not necessarily impractical.
3.)  A Libyan. He DOES look weird, right? RIGHT?
  • Does he though? If you go through historical and archaeological sources, armour in general wasn't a big thing in 13th century BC. Just like any other human invention armour underwent an evolutionary process. We can't point fingers at Libyans who lived 3300 years ago and laugh at them for not wearing something more reasonable. Hey Libyans, why don't you just use machine guns?! I'm sure a cloak of thick hide was quite the shit 1300 BC.
4.) and 5.) Spartans.
  • Not much to be added here. Crests - check. Half-naked with large shields - check. Metal breastplates and greaves though! Really, no impracticalness here. And they're not wearing pants? So what? Trousers were considered weak and womanly by the Greeks. Take that, feminism!
6.) The Maya. Oh yes, we're definitely getting into the wacky territory.
  • I think the correctness of the reconstruction is the most crucial issue here. We're using rock carvings of mythical heroes and gods to reconstruct what real warriors used. Is it a wrong approach? Not necessarily. We can be quite sure that many things in these reconstructions are wrong though.
  • I think the Maya and other American cultures' battle gear like them are a product of isolation and lack of metals. A ritual nature of battles probably also played a role. These Mayans aren't all that different to the half naked Libyan archer up there, except for all the jewelry and feather plumes. Were those really used in battle? I don't think we can say either way for sure.
 7.) IIRC this is an Aztec warrior.
  • All of the above written about the Maya applies here as well.
  • We can't underestimate the effect such gear had on the opponents visually. Similarly to the winged Polish hussars, it may have been quite intimidating for the people at that time. (which is certainly practical)
 8.) Persian soldiers.
  • I don't see anything impractical here. Yes, they're colourful, but they're not guerilla warriors who need to hide. They're soldiers of the largest empire of its time, they're displaying the wealth and power of their faction. And they wear pants.
9.) Egyptians
  • See the Libyan above, all that applies here as well. 
10.) Thracian peltast.
  • I have no idea what the impractical parts of his gear were supposed to be. He's lightly armed and armoured, because he's supposed to be a light infantryman, a mobile skirmisher.


I'm not a fan of generalizations. Quite obviously, saying that all battle gear was always practical is wrong. I don't think the Tumblr post tried to be controversial, but something about that "In some cases though, you have to wonder if it was given any thought at all." sentence rubbed me the wrong way.

Of course it was given thought. A lot of thought, no doubt. Ancient people weren't stupid. They didn't want to die. They protected themselves as well as they could.

Not to be all boring and historical, here's a recent cover painting I did! \o/ Details are on my DeviantArt gallery.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Singing Sword cover

What sorcery is this?! A post with art? In colour? Your eyes do not decieve you. I have indeed picked up the virtual brush and put more than just black and white on my virtual palette.

This painting is a cover for a book called "The Singing Sword - Tea Dragon and Cat Demon". (written by Zbyněk Holub)

It's a fantasy novel about tea faeries. I don't know much more than that. Tea is important and so are the dragon and the panther - they're characters in the book and good friends.

(ArtRage as always)

(only now I realized I painted the foliage a bit like the leaves of green tea I've been drinking lately. Well, it fits. :))

Which singing sword do you like better? The one in the knightly Bugs Bunny episode? Or maybe Lilarcor in Baldur's Gate? :)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Healthy artist is a happy artist

(this one will be long, I apologize for that. It's been long coming.)

This post was originally supposed to be about proper ways to sit in front of a computer, about specific exercises you can do to stretch and strenghten your back. That was when I thought I had simple back problems. (most likely I will do such a post in the future)

Last spring I started noticing small health problems. My hearing and sight were getting worse, my skin would tingle and itch or burn in places, sometimes my fingers went numb. Small muscle spasms were getting quite frequent.
And my back would hurt in one spot, not a huge annoyance, but sitting was getting a bit difficult.

So I went to see the doctor - an orthopedist, because I thought I might have had a herniated spine disc.


He didn't think so, because I could bend over easily and except for those neurological symptoms, I felt quite alright.
He did suggest I had blood drawn and tested for Lyme disease.
Knowing only very vaguely what Lyme disease was I agreed and had my blood tested in a couple of weeks, since I had a lot of work and exams to study for.

Somehow, studying was quite difficult this time. I could not concentrate, I'd have to read a slide three times and I'd still forget the contents a few seconds after. I felt like my days went by in a haze, I was constantly tired, I was waking up tired already. I couldn't understand what people say, what the words mean. Reading was difficult and annoying, even seeing, recognizing faces I had to focus on fully.

I attributed this to fatigue, exam stress.
Then, suddenly, I got the test results on the phone - the Lyme test was positive.

I've read up on Lyme a bit. It's a disease caused by bacteriae with a rather extensive list of possible symptoms.


I remembered that I may have had a red patch like the erythrema migrans, which I thought was a large mosquito bite. I wasn't sure when/if I had that though. I also remembered a strange flu-like thing I had last winter, with cold/hot shivers, but which only lasted three days and from which I recovered surprisingly quickly.

The doctor assured me this was treatable with antibiotics, that'd I'd be just fine in three weeks.
Then doubt kicked in.

1) My normal doctor continued sending me to specialists for all kinds of checks and tests, but he wouldn't treat me despite having two positive Borelia tests. (his reason - it's summer and you'd get sunburns from the antibiotics)
2) I read on Lyme some more.


Turns out that most doctors in most countries will tell you this:

"Lyme is easy to treat, especially if we catch it early. 3 weeks of antibiotics and you'll be fine."

Except there are people who don't get fine. And they're hardly a minority. In the few months I've known about being sick, I ran into quite a few people who either had the disease in the past and problems persisted, or contracted it recently and recieved the same 3 week treatment.

I trust doctors. They're trained to do their job. There's science behind what they do.


For strange reasons I can't quite understand, this whole Lyme disease issue is hugely politicized. I won't try to convince you of a global conspiracy against Lyme patients.
One does really sound like a nutter talking about this weird disease he has. He seems fine on the outside, he must be crazy. Even my friends think so, a bit. Maybe my family too.
A very common treatment of chronic Lyme are antidepressives and psychiatric therapy. Does it work? (you can guess)

Why am I writing this? What do I want from you?

Because it took one tiny tick and my life changed considerably. If I didn't research myself, if I didn't trust my logic more than my doctor's training, I might've ended up considerably worse. Because I don't want you to end up like me. 
Please, read up on the symptoms. Remember them. Also remember these important things about Lyme:

1.) It's treatable the best in the early stage. If you find a suspicious bullseye after being bitten by a tick, go to your doctor. Show him the ILADS guidelines, get tested AND treated with high doses of antibiotics immediately after having blood drawn, for at least 4 weeks. Insist on getting treated!

2.) The current tests for Lyme are RUBBISH! The probability of a false positive/negative is incredibly high, but the doctors WON'T TELL YOU. You can easily read up on this, all the info on these ELISA/WB tests is on the internet. Still get tested, but learn what the results mean, don't let the doctor tell you simply "it's positive/negative". Many doctors can't read these tests properly!

3.) Even in the later stage it's possibly treatable, but it's unclear if it's curable completely. You can get better though. The best chance is a combination of antibiotics/antimicrobics. It takes a LONG time.

4.) Testing negative for Lyme does not mean you don't have it. Doctors will tell you it does, but it's simple logic. What the test does - it looks for specific antibodies, which the body's immune system makes to battle the disease. Their logic is - if you don't have antibodies, there are no bacteria. Except Lyme attacks the immune system and often tests are done while you're on antibiotics, which also messes with the IS. There are people who have a proven Lyme infection, with living bacteria found in their bodies, who do not produce the antibodies and test negative. Lyme experts advise to diagnose Lyme from symptoms, not simply base the diagnosis on unreliable tests. Remember that. If you feel like shit, if you joints hurt and swell, if your head hurts constantly, if your heart beats really fast, if your vision is bad, if your skin crawls and tingles all over, if you start losing feeling in your fingers or toes...etc. etc.  You still may have Lyme, even if you test negative.

5.) Antibiotics are your best bet. Read up on herbal treatment, read up on zapper machines. I think herbs may help, but I'd still take them together with antibiotics. Zappers I think are bullshit.

6.) Most importantly - DON'T TAKE LYME LIGHTLY! It's not quite the minor three week annoyance it's made out to be.

Also, watch this documentary. It's very emotional, it's quite subjective. But it should be. It's heartbreaking, but watch it still.

(not sure if the link works, here's the trailer : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxWgS0XLVqw)


So, what about me?

I've been tested positive for Lyme right before last summer. Since then I took the standard three week antibiotic treatment. And while that helped a bit, I still felt almost the same after. I didn't give up and found support in my family. I've been on a combination ATB treatment since then. 

Yes, I've been taking antibiotics for more than two months.
Recently I've been really getting back to normal. Some problems still persist, I discovered a mild case of carpal tunnel syndrome in both my hands, but overall I got much much better.
I still have some time to go on the treatment we planned. We'll see if it returns after I go off the meds. Maybe I'll continue with something else.

Please, don't think me crazy. I simply did what I thought was logical, what made sense. Not what I was told to do.

If you've read past here, I can't believe you did, wow. :D Thank you so much. 
If I got the warning across, that's awesome. 

Next time it'll be either swords, armour, or some art, I promise. :)

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Dračí Doupě Lite will be released soon and we're calling it "the Pirate version". Therefore I had to paint a few pirate/ship/river related illustrations. All rather quickly. It was fun though!

(painted in ArtRage as usual)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Draci Doupe 2nd edition with cream, DONE!

Dračí Doupě 2 ("dragon's lair", no relation to the cartoony PC games of old) is finally done and will be properly christened with champaigne (ok, Bohemia sekt is more likely :D) on Saturday.

Here's a full lineup of art I've done for the book. I'm told the first books arrived from the printers and that they look amazing. You may notice (if you follow me that closely, I should probably consider a restraining order!) I revisited some of the older pieces.

Alchemist - a creator of artificial beings, explosives and miraculous potions.
Fighter - a breaker of bones, a crusher of livers, a jolly good chap all in all.

Wizard - a master of flames and winds, tamer of salamanders.

Druid - a friend to nature, shaper of plants, water and earth.

Ranger - a hunter of monsters, maker of traps, protector of men.
Hrun the Barbarian - wounded and grumpy.

Tumbler - a master of disguise, trickery, juggling and good judge of character.

Hunter - a...ehm, hunter. Hunts stuff, befriends dogs.

Thief - another quite self-explanatory one. ;)

Mage - a master over the minds of feeble mortals, weaver of illusions.

Medicus - a brewer of smelly potions, healer and a negotiator.

Equipment load - three categories of stuff you can carry.

Shaman - a dream world walker, drug user and overall a pretty weird guy.

Warrior - a tactician, horse rider and overall a kick ass dude.

Witcher - what do you call a female witcher? :D (she fights the undead btw)

Conjurer - a wild mage, possessor of talents, sage of the weird and magical.

Zhira - a badass spy lady.

Scout - a horse archer, master of traps, admiral Ackbar's worst nightmare.

And that's all. :) All of these were painted entirely in ArtRage Studio Pro.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Couldn't think of any Aztec puns

An art post?! What?!    Yes. I know, it's a surprise. I still paint though.

These three pieces I did for the Aztec Empire book by Paradigm Concepts. (which has been released at Origins) They were painted a bit faster than I'm used to and through a few sleepless nights. Normally they'd be better planned, but I kinda like the spontaneous feel, where I just didn't have time to fiddle.
Also I finally got to paint a character wearing a human skin-suit. \o/

(all ArtRage as usual.)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

For a Few Sword Myths More

Because my sword related posts seem to be more popular than the rest of my rambling, here's a new one! ;)

Especially popular was my list of sword mistakes artists quite often make, so this is a bit of a sequel to that. Today we'll be talking about one general art issue and two specific fun bits from my favourite movies.

1) Cracked and chipped blades

Ryan A. Span suggested this and I thank him for that - it's a good one. While I couldn't find a good representative example of this issue right now, I'm sure you've all seen this a lot. Maybe you've even drawn this way? I know I used to. ;P

Nicks and cracks are painted or drawn on sword blades to make them look used, as real objects. To make the blades seem less boring and artificial.
I would suggest learning more about how real swords change with use in the hands of a person who cares about his tools, how they're sharpened and polished. (and what else you can do to your drawing of a sword to make the boring parts more interesting)

Nicks will happen even if you're careful, but one usually tries to grind them out if they're small enough. Cracks are not good, you do not use a cracked sword. Scratches happen too and while you could polish them out, they don't really hurt the blade much.
Any reenactor, or a sword enthusiast will tell you one thing - if a sword blade has a crack in it, or a large chunk chipped off, YOU SHOULD NOT USE IT. It is most likely going to break and even if the blade bits don't hurt you while flying off, you'll end up with a broken (useless) sword.

2) Conan the Barbarian - casting of the sword.

(roughly from 1:20)

(sorry, Blogger won't let me embedd this as a video.)

It's a well known scene - Conan's father makes a sword while Conan and his mother watch. First he casts the iron in a mould cut in a stone block. Then he beats it on an anvil and reheats it a couple of times. (Mysteriously, the engraving on the blade appears before one of these reheats, but we'll not talk about that.)

Can you in fact cast an iron sword?  The answer is complicated, as always with swords.
Yes, you could do it, but it wouldn't be a good sword, if you could use it at all.

Now we see the blade is getting some treatment after the casting, so that would be ok, that would produce a sword like object indeed.

The funny bit is the casting itself.
If we agree that what was used in history was something that was proven possible and useful at the time, we should conclude that casting iron swords is unrealistic.
I'm told that casting certain parts of swords can be done - crosspieces and pommels for example.
The problem with casting iron is the temperature. Iron's melting point ranges from 1200 to 1500 degrees Celsius, depending on the amount of other metals in the alloy.

("WAIT!", I hear you say, "iron is not an alloy!" Well, yes, but a swordmaker would not usually have a chunk of pure iron to work with, nor would he want to. We could call it steel, but that's another can of worms I'm not yet ready to open)

Achieving this kind of temperature for successful casting seems to be rather difficult (for the smiths of old, of course we do cast iron nowadays).

Here's an insteresting discussion on this topic:


edit: As pointed out in the discussion - beside the temperature, other problems arise while casting iron swords. Iron swords tend to be longer and thinner - you'd need to achieve such casting technology that you'd avoid bubbles/porosity and other casting artifacts. You would also figure out a way to cast iron so that it doesn't pick up a lot of carbon. 

Bronze for example melts at about 800 degrees Celsius, depending on the tin-to-copper ratio. (copper has a higher melting point than tin)
That is why bronze swords were indeed made by casting into clay moulds.

Smiths have always had a specific status in the society - very similar to shamans and mages. Alchemy itself arose from the practice of smithing. A smith, a metal worker is able to do transmutation - to change one substance into another. To speed up a process which was believed to happen over thousands of years in the vomb of mother Earth - the purification of metals.  (the common belief from antiquity to medieval times was that metals grow in the ground - from low metals like lead into perfect metals like gold)
What else do you call someone who takes a pile of rocks, puts them in a fire, performs a lot of strange actions and transforms these rocks into a shiny sword? He's a magician.

Steel/iron swords are not usually made by casting. (I'm not aware of any instances of that, please correct me if I'm wrong in thinking this.)

Then again, it'd be kinda bogus if Conan's dad taught him the "Riddle of bronze", wouldn't it? ;P

3) 13th Warrior - The Scimitar Grinding

I love the 13th Warrior. It's one of my favourite movies ever. And I love this scene - it's funny, but it also shows Antonio Banderas' character getting some respect from his viking companions.

(from about 1:20)

(again, can't embed this video. Sorry!)

Sadly, as with the rest of the film, it's not very historically accurate.

A) He grinds the sword into something resembling a shamshir/scimitar - a curved sword we westerners associate with islamic warriors. BUT, by this time and a few hundred years later - Arabs were using straight swords - very similar to their western counterparts.

The dimensions of the sword were fantastical to begin with, real viking swords of this time were rather smallish.

B) Grinding is a useful technique which has been used in sword making and which is in fact prevalent in sword making today!

But considering the construction of viking swords of that time, grinding it down to this shape would mostly likely ruin the blade and make it near useless as a sword.

Pattern welding (often wrongly called Damascus steel) is a huge topic which could easily take a whole post to explain at least roughly, so here's a link that explains it rather well:


If you ground off the hard steel edges, you'd end up cutting with the twisted core. While I'm not sure what the exact result would be, it wouldn't be pretty I think.

That's it for today. If you have any questions, if you think I'm wrong and want me to know - the comments are right below. :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

WIT - The Source Code

How disappointing is it when a movie highlights its own plotpoints? How contraproductive when it shows how dumb a supposedly genius character is?

I've watched The Source Code and I'm sad to say I predicted my disappointment right from the trailers.

Now, I quite liked the idea of having 8 minutes to find something out in someone else's body. But bits here and there suggested the parallel worlds idea won't be convincing. And it isn't.

My main problem with the film lies in the character of the crutch-using scientist.

He constructed a device that supposedly allows a brain damaged person access to another dead person's brain and its 8 minutes of short term memory. Words like "quantum physics" were thrown around a lot, but what on earth does it have to do with that? What does this device actually do? There are two possibilities presented and I believe both of them are ridiculous:

a) It allows access to the memory of the deceased person.   If so, the dreamer should not be able to do anything else than what the dead person did - from what we know of brains, any other action would be in fact dreaming - interpolation between bits of information stored in the memory.

A person familiar with door handles would know he can pull a door handle, but if the dead person didn't know what was behind a door, the dreamer wouldn't know it either.

Depending on the interpretation of this "science", the dreamer could see absolutely nothing, he could be prevented from opening the door, or he would make up something that would make sense to be in behind the door. But it wouldn't reflect the exact reality - the dead person's brain doesn't have the knowledge.

Now the movie itself acknowledges that this is not in fact what is happening. I ask - how dumb is the scientist who built this device then? His credibility as a character drops to zero the moment he implies it might have something to do with alternative universes, but still insists that it's simply a memory we can access. These two are exclusive.
Even if we accept this technology exists, it doesn't make a lick of sense.

b) It allows access to a parallel universe some time ago, it's real.    If so, HOW?! I'm sorry, but saying "it's very complicated" doesn't cut it. I don't require techno babble and explanations for everything in movies, I'm perfectly fine with Inception's "yeah, we have this technology, it works".

But if you're going through the trouble of explaining the stuff with the brains, why not follow through with this too? The technology is constantly described as a brain link, a simulation - hence the idiotic name "Source Code" (which is dumb, because a source code is something you need to compile for the program to run, it's just a lame name picked to sound IT-ish)

The parallel universe aspect is completely missing and it's an incredibly stupid idea - if we establish the fact there are parallel universes, the universe where Jake Gylenhall saves the train ALREADY EXISTS SOMEWHERE!!! Him "going back" and "saving the girl" does exactly nothing. I'm no physicist, but if anything, he simply jumped from one universe in which he doesn't save the girl to another, where he does. Nothing is accomplished - congratulations! (except for him "getting that kiss" (oh Holywood) and LIVING ON, which also happens in an infinite number of universes beside the one we see in the movie) And he gets to stay in this poor guy's body after Jake dies? Wow, because we couldn't let the film end on a bit of a downer, right? How is Jake going to teach history anyway?
"Do you believe in fate?"  Yeah. Screw science. It was fate.

I suppose we are to be astonished by the fact the army lady reads Jake's message, that it all happened. But if we're still going with the parallel universes hypothesis, ALL OF THAT ALREADY HAPPENED IN A PARALLEL UNIVERSE!

The army lady is not the same one we've been seeing through the movie, it doesn't matter that she thinks the device works - she still cannot change anything in her own universe. And all the changes she might want to make in the other universes have always been done in an infinite number of these universes. That's the bloody point of the multiverse theory.
The ending scene changed nothing and is, as the whole film, pointless.

It's a mediocre film and I'm sure everyone with a basic knowledge of physics, brain biology and logic will see the gaping holes in its plot and characters. It doesn't deserve to be praised.
The actors weren't bad though.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sword bashing, again

I really like Game of Thrones. Even though i criticized the designs in the show, I think it's a success and I'm enjoying it greatly.

It was suggested to me that I should write another GoT post, this time about swords and swordfighting, since we've seen a few fights already.

Before I start, here's a tiny bit of quick art I did today for The Last Days' mod screen.


Swords are an extremely interesting subject, one that I'm never bored with. If I get to talk about swords, it's difficult to stop me. But I'm just a reasonably self-educated layman. (By this I'd like to apologize to any true experts who might stumble upon this and be horrified or angered. Sorry!)

What do I think about the swords on this show? In short - I like them.

It's not Lord of the Rings I must admit, the sword design is much less original, but perhaps that fits better into Westeros.

I recommend watching this short artisan video interview with the show's swordmaker:

You can see quite a few of the swords in there. 

The Swords
The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.
- the arakhs of the Dothraki look interesting. Very cool sickle blades, even if much heavier than I imagined them while reading the book. 
- most of the swords you see on minor characters (Theon, Robb, various soldiers of the great houses, Jorah Mormont, the longsword Ned wears that's not Ice etc.) are very nice. Very historical looking, nothing odd about them, looking "right". A good mix of arming swords and longswords.
- Joffrey's sword isn't on screen much, but it's a good looking prince-sword. Very ornate. It may be Joff's size, but it seems it may be a bit big for him, the pommel is quite large.
- Jaime's sword is quite similar to Joff's. Fits well with the character, the blade has a nice shape, but something about the button-like ends of the guard I find unpleasant.
- The Ice is interesting. I couldn't quite imagine the blade being as wide as Martin describes it in the book - wide as man's palm. But it works, it looks like a sword. The Ice and sword of Gregor Clegane share one detail I find a bit puzzling - the place where the guard meets the handle. I don't think this is a real historical detail, this prolonged tube coming out of the crosspiece. It's not wrong, I can imagine a sword being assembled like this, it's just unusual.
- Sword of The Mountain is a bloody beast. It's definitely much closer to real great swords than to a longsword.
- The Needle is pretty. Quite similar to how I imagined it. Although in context with the other sword styles it's a bit questionable. But hey, it's fantasy.

The effect of swords
All men are made of water. Do you know this? If you pierce them, the water leaks out. And they die.

I like that they use sharp swords in detail shots (when Joff cuts Mycah) - so many films only use "battle ready" swords with edges like ice skates. 
I really liked the little talk between Jorah Mormont and the Dothraki companion cavalryman about different uses of the sword and advantages of armour. What I didn't like though was Jorah's remark that broadswords are better against armour, because they allow you to pierce plate. This is simply not true. If he said "pierce armour", I'd nod, because you can pierce mail. This was a minor detail that only the geeks will catch I guess.

The show sadly didn't avoid this issue in other instances as well - Ned's guardsmen are killed by thrown spears that apparently pierce their mail shirts, padded armour underneath and a leather coat of plates over the mail. Wow, Lannister guards must be strong as bulls.
During the hillmen ambush the old master of arms from Winterfell gets slashed (or sliced rather) across the back, and it somehow hurts him. Do Stark armours have only leather vests with mail sleeves? If yes, that's dumb. If there's mail underneath, that attack would've mildly irritated him at most.

In another case, they managed to handle this well though. (which is puzzling) In the fight with the Lannister guards, ser Jory and Ned Stark both aim at unprotected necks (TOLD YOU, LANNISTERS!  Totally called it in the last blog posts! HA!) and between the breastplates and the plates skirts, which I found very nice.

The use of Swords
That is a grip. You are not holding a battleaxe!

I've read quite harsh criticism of swordfighting in the show, by both casual watchers and fencers.
And while I find it mostly unfair, there are certain points where I agree with the critics.

Firstly, I'll post videos I find relevant:

- interview with Buster Reeves - the fight choreographer:

Essentially he's right. It's difficult to do an original fight, people recognize moves they've seen before even if they're not fighters themselves. Still, I think more realistic fights would look original, because most of what we've been seeing in movies is crap.
He did manage to put a lot of character into each person's fighting style, something film people often talk about, but rarely actually do.

Now for the fights:

Jon "trains" - while not realistic swordfighting, it's effective for the scene. There's too much unnecessary sword clashing and smacking, but we do get the idea Jon is showing off, teaching these peasants a lesson. Showing them how bad and inappropriate their reflexes are, that they cannot counterattack, or do anything past the first strike.

Hill clansmen ambush - a good show of movie fighting. I LOVE that the hillmen use slingers! I'm also going to like Bronn. He's no fancy swordmaster, his fighting skill is obviously gained from battles, streetfights and skirmishes. Anything goes, but he's cocky enough to do that rather unusual artery slice on the first guy. The old master of arms is slightly disappointing, but the editing grants him more mobility and speed than he actually has.

Arya trains with Syrio - I love this scene. I must warn you, what they do can hardly be called swordfighting. Too much swirling and turning and unnecessary movement. But Syrio is showing off and Arya is an untrained kid, so they can be excused. The actor playing Syrio has apparently been training with William Hobbs, a choreographer responsible for the fights in Rob Roy and The Duellists. Sadly, it's not showing yet. I have hopes though.
Still, despite my nitpicks, the scene works almost miraculously well. I like the actors, the music, the pacing, the dialog...it's great.

The Cleganes fight it out - probably my least favourite fight of the show so far. I understand what they wanted to do here, it's obvious Sandor isn't really attacking, he's pushing his sword onto Gregor's close to Gregor's body, thus trying to prevent him swinging it. But Mountain's sword is too heavy, or the armour restrained their movement too much. It's slow, the shots are awkwardly cut together and it doesn't look very good. I like the ending with the kneeling, that's neat.

Starks vs. Lannisters - a great fight in my opinion. I mentioned it before, Jory and Ned slaying those guards are perfect. Jory is confident and capable, it's a great shame he had to go like this. I would've edited the eye stabbing a bit quicker, he seems too helpless.

The duel between Ned and Jaime is also very good. I've read people talk about spinning and pushing, disliking it. I think it's maybe the most realistic fight in the show. 
I like that they don't use rigid edge blocks, most attacks seem to be caught on the flat, deflected, or pushed aside by cutting into the flat. There's a lot of character from both fighters - Jaime is flamboyant and cocky, playing with Ned most of the time. Ned is hunched, almost like a brawler, very intensive.
Yes, the distance is a bit iffy at times, to allow for a lot of movement around each other that looks good on camera. But they thrust, they cut in nice controlled arches - in the end I only wished they started to wrestle, or halfsword instead of separating again.

I'm not sure how much more fighting we're going to get, but I'm not disappointed, not entirely. So far.

Next time, I think I could post a few links for people who'd like to know how swords were really made and used. 
(and leave the explaining to people more fit for the task than I am.)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Nicking swords

It seems my swords and armour posts are somewhat popular, so here's another one. ;) (sorry it's shortish, I has a busy.)

How do you know your design is good? A hint may be seeing it used by other designers. :P
I've mentioned the LOTR movies as examples of very successful fantasy/historical swords and armour designs.

We should all be grateful for their influence, though I'd hope we'd learn the lesson we're being offered - always study what you're designing, know your history, know your competition, know what works, why and how.

So, remember Narsil and the reforged Andúril, Flame of the West?

 John Howe talks about the design a lot on the LOTR DVDs and he's quite pleased about the fact the pommel is hollow. (A unique feature for a movie sword according to him. I'm sure he's right.) Notice that the ends of the crossguard mimic this design) Also note the specific way only the upper half of the handle is wrapped in leather.


Notice anything similar about the iron sword from the first Witcher game? :)

By the way, I'm super excited about the Witcher sequel - the armour, clothes and weapons look super nice!

(notice the very historical looking longsword here!)

Michael Komarck's Dragnipúr has a curved guard, but the shape of the pommel and the guard ends also suggests an Andúril inspiration.

Here's his previous take on the subject:
 (I'd say the new one is definitely an improvement sword-wise. He's a great painter btw, be sure to check out his Game of Thrones stuff and also the paintings he did for Steven Erikson's books.)

EDIT: This image seems to be an earlier version, maybe a WIP. Here's the final image and the sword is much much much better!

I'm sure we've all seen the rather numerous spinoffs of the curved elven swords, right? Do you have any favourite ones?
Or just favourite sword designs you really like (and/or take inspiration from)? 

Please, do share them in the comments!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bits of Hob

If you're a Tolkien fan, you've probably watched the Production Vlog 1 that Peter Jackson posted today on his Facebook page.

Here's a little analysis of the video shot by shot, picking out things that interest me.
I've focused on costume, armour and weapon design.

Comment:  This is a snapshot from the hatmaker's room, behind Gandalf's hat (and a funny "peasant" hat) you can see a bunch of photos pinned possibly for reference. The men in them appear to be Asian. Any experts on Asian clothing here? They look Siberian to me, but I know very little about this. Who could they be reference for? I doubt we'll get to see any Easterlings. Will the dwarven hats be this interestingly inspired?!

Comment:  Weapons. Oh boy.

1. Axes. Look very axe like. And large. But hey, it's dwarves.
2. I was afraid this might happen. *sigh* Somehow dwarves must always use mauls.
3. Bow looks nice. I wonder if it's the "bow of horn" Thorin uses in the book.
4. What this thing is I don't even...I call it the "cleaver" for now. Looking at the blocky angular design, it's probably dwarven. Like an axe sword, maybe a "fun" play on the curved elven two handed swords from LOTR. The handle is long, so it's almost like a polearm. Eh, not a big fan of it yet.

Could I have some nice shorter swords for my dwarves, please?! :(

 Comment:   Beards. Hair. Curly! Braided! I like the variety.

Comment:  This is interesting! Is it a goblin? A troll? It seems more beastlike than the LOTR orcs. And it has an animatronic face! O_O Weird stuff. Any ideas?

Comment:  A dwarven shirt I presume. Nice design.

Comment:  What I like about the dwarves (what we've seen so far) is that they're colourful (as described in the book) and I'm getting the vague jewish vibe Tolkien hinted at. (also check out Donato Giancola's painting of the dwarves, they're quite similar) Notice the earring!
The only concern is the hair! What?! I like braids on my dwarves, but why so...knotted? Remember the hairdo Elrond had in his hair tests, that they had to change, because it looked incredibly girly? This is a lot like that! I hope it's just put up to allow for quick costume changes. :/

Comment:  Here we can see Fili walking around with two swords during the "scene blocking". Yup, dualwielding weeaboos will be pleased I guess.  -_-

 That's it for now. WANT MOAR!