Mare is the most powerful voice of resilience and independence in DAWN RISING, my epic fantasy novel. She is by far the toughest character, who has been through the worst childhood imaginable- her parents were beaten to death in the street by drug-money collectors and she was sold into body-slavery, where mogrifers cut out the left side of her brain and threw her back into the slums of Indura expecting her to die.
But she didn’t die. She pulled herself together and taught herself to survive in the filth and rot of the world. As a result she relies on nobody, trusts nobody, and manipulates every situation to her best advantage.
Here Mare shows her assets in the plague-ridden slums of Indura:
This is the third artwork I’ve commissioned from the world of DAWN RISING. You can see the first two of the main character Dawn here and here. Again I commissioned with Bryan Fowler, who produced the image of Dawn I was so totally happy with last time.
We started with a number of study images- aspects I hoped he could incorporate into the finished painting, ideas that evolved as we went back and forth on various drafts. First was the backdrop- Indura is a disgusting urban swamp filled with warped trees bent into structures.? I sent this image of a swamp:
Next were some thoughts on Mare. Her defining feature is the concave depression in her head, where Shoalmite mogrifers took out the left side of her brain for their experimentation. I sent this image to get an idea of how that would look. It’s a bit unpleasant though.
From those basic images, and with a bit more background, Bryan knocked up this pencil sketch:
I liked it a whole lot, though one problem was that it felt quite provincial, lots of nature, not as dark and smoggy as I wanted. Also I wasn’t too sure about the girl’s face, I had in mind more of a yomamba style girl, like a black magic gypsy queen, and tried to express that to Bryan. The next sketch tried to go more down that route, with a more urban setting:
I realized on seeing this that I’d steered Bryan in the wrong direction, and that his original vision was really much better and more original. Her holding her skirts out works, standing in a twisty nature environment is better than the regular lines of this medieval city street. So with hat in hand I asked Bryan to back-track, which he was actually happy to do- win all round.
I sent an image from the new Pirates movie to give an idea of the look I had in mind:
He fleshed out the original sketch with that in mind, giving Mare rasta-ish braids and a big ragged skirt. He also changed the village homes for twisty tree-huts:
I loved it, but the rocks at left made me feel it was still too provincial. It could be a lovely forest glen. So I suggested swapping in a cart of dead pigs.
Now that’s more like it! I was ready to go to color with this image, but Bryan saw an opportunity to take it one step further. He wanted to paint the work in oils, on canvas. I could only say ‘YEAH’ because I knew he’d be putting even more time in, making the image as good as it could be.
Alright, so, here was the first sketch:
Yes, it looks great. I like her more swarthy face now. She seems more bad-ass, which Mare should be.
Mare on the easel, as slowly her background comes to life.
Full detail. I loved it. Kept badgering Bryan to paint it because I could barely wait to see it done. Next came a first wash of oils.
Excellent, like the sickly color. Not a fan of the green leaves though- too healthy-looking.They got mostly culled for the next, and final version.Wait for it.
At first I was a little torn. I had no doubts that it was an amazing piece of work, and I was really pleased that Bryan had put so much time and care into it. Mare looked just right, the twisty tree-huts were there, but I felt uneasy about how bright and cheery it seemed. Though her head is deformed and the pigs are dead by her side, and her pants are rags, the colors are quite bright and happy.
I sent Bryan an email asking if he would be bothered by me changing the colors, darkening it up a bit. He relieved all my concerns and said sure, no problem. So I cracked it open in photoshop and darkened it up.
All that said, the image as is has really grown on me. I love it, and am proud of the small role I had in concocting it. Thank you Bryan!
Here’s the darker version:
Because of the number of changes to be made, and the switch to oil paintings, the work took a few months longer than expected. In that time I worked feverishly on my rewrite of the first book in the series- DAWN RISING. Then I churned out a few short stories, sent them off to fiction magazines, and am now back onto the novel. When will it be done? Hopefully, soon. And what changes am I making, that require this much backwards and forwardsing?
– I had comments from readers that the book as it was didn’t have an ending. That’s a problem, one I caused myself when I cut the first book into thirds, each of which was to be a stand-alone book. Obviously they didn’t stand alone though, so now I’m working on re-integrating them, or at least the first two parts, into a book with a kick-ass ending.
– To make that ending feel more electric, I’ve gone back to the beginning and changed what was a fairly genteel introduction into something that crackles with pace and energy. It means cutting, rewriting, and suturing together old bits and new bits. Some character motivations have changed, so I have to go through and make everything fall into line.
– I’m still a little torn about what end point to choose for the book- one ends at 130,000 words, a good but normal-ish book length, the other at 190,000, which is about as long as The Fellowship of the Ring. The shorter one would presumably have a better chance of selling, but the longer one kicks a lot more butt. Well, I’ll figure it out soon enough.
Bryan will be rendering more of the characters from DAWN RISING over the coming weeks and months- next up is GELLICK, the Balast Rockman. I’m looking forward to it.
See more of Bryan’s work on his website here.
See more art from DAWN RISING here.
See all my published short stories in the bibliography.