Pastor John Parris is the junior of my two point of view villains in The Darkening Dream. Given the kind of occult woodblock look I’ve been developing I tend to focus on the character’s magical nature to develop their icon.
With Parris I got off to a false start, drawn in by this classic image of Baphomet. It has strong associations with the occult, witchcraft, and demonology. All good stuff that Parris likes to keep close at hand, wrapped in black silk coverings. Or perhaps in a human-skin pouch.
I even had my artists do this rendition (above). But this was a red herring. Truthfully, Baphomet is a nineteenth century rendering, a reinvention of such things in light of 1800s eclecticism. It’s more akin to the effect this image has for us moderns, being cool, exotic, and devilishly naughty. Parris comes from a school of magic that is much more about really believing in fire and brimstone.
So I did a ghetto version for my artists (above), using Photoshop to strip away some of the excess and they came back with below, which was about perfect. This shows the tools of Parris’ trade: the candle, the powder horn, bowls for mixing, blades for bloodletting.
I’m very busy right now with different stages of both my novels. I’m line editing Untimed and trying to get my first, The Darkening Dream, ready for publication. One of the more fun parts of this is the art design. The book has seven points of view and each chapter is written from one perspectives. To help subliminally differentiate them, I thought it would be cool to commission chapter heading engravings specific to each character.
The book is set in 1913 and packed with occult workings based on extensive research into real religious, pseudo-religious, and just plain magical belief systems. By real, I mean that people before 1913 believed and wrote about them. But in the book, they’re really real. This is a world consistant with ours, but where the creepy sordid and supernatural crawls just beneath the surface. And truth is stranger than fiction.
Given that the images needed to be black and white, I thought a style reminiscent of classical occult engravings of the fifteenth through eighteenth centuries would be perfect. Iconography of demons, witches, and magic from creators who actually believed in them!
Below are historical engravings I dug up (google for the win!). I provided them to my artist to illustrate the mood and style I wanted for my original pieces.
The above examples are for STYLE, not for content. I like to think of these as reflecting the “occult engraving” style I want to emulate. They are engraved with a naive sensibility, hatched shading, awkward proportions, and western occult symbolic motifs. As a stickler for detail, I must confess that some of the above images are actually nineteenth century, such as the demon Baphomet (the goat headed one with one arm up and one arm down). Although these are cool I decided to target my style to the older wood block type (these later ones are probably copper plate) as the nineteenth century artist probably crafted the images more out of a sense of exotic and less out of true belief like the earlier more hysterical age that was prone to burning at the stake.
Unless you’re lucky enough to work with an artist who is willing to immerse themselves in your book and related materials, it’s essential to provide a clear direction, usually illustrated with a group images hinting at the style you want. Without reading your book and knowing as much as you do (fat chance) it’s unlikely that they are going to spontaneously generate a style that is consistent with the feel of your work. In future posts, I’ll show the examples I used to art direct my specific character images, and the results these produced.
Find out more about the writing of The Darkening Dream here.
Or specific articles on the look for: al-Nasir or Parris.