Wednesday, May 14, 2008

No Graven Image

Thanks for the comments on my last post everyone. Since Sean and Chris brought it up again, I think I need to clarify a little why I'm not doing the pychedelic/abstract approach with my Cthulhu portraits. In this instance I'm not so much interested in illustrating what Lovecraft tries to convey in his stories. I've written elsewhere on this blog(*), and here I completely agree with you, that I see a great problem with finding imagery for the cosmic existential horror that is at the core of HPL's vision, exactly because it is meant to be indescribable. Portraying it only limits its scope and makes it something familiar. Kind of like there's a prohibition for likenesses of god in most monotheisms. I'm not saying it hasn't been done successfully btw; Aerons photoshop monstrosities are but one example.
But I'm taking the opposite route, starting with Lovecraft's description of a statuette -

A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings [...] It represented a monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind. This thing, which seemed instinct with a fearsome and unnatural malignancy, was of a somewhat bloated corpulence...

- and playing around with what the creature which is portrayed here, might look like. It may sound paradoxical, but the series as a whole is basically a comment on how none of the portraits actually can come close to the "real" thing. The series started off when I was playing around with an idea for a comic featuring Cthulhu (as a person, not a nameless horror) and made several sketches of him. The first ones were more or less the stereotypical images you find all over pop culture, so I tried to come up with as many anatomical permutations as possible. Of course, some of them are closer to the description and some of them are fairly different, but you could imagine humans making a statue of something they can't describe more "anthropoid", simply because they're humans themselves, misinterpret antennae as wings and so on.
I'm thinking of making a little book out of the whole series at some point, maybe silkscreen with an additional color or something.

* as far as I remember as a comment to Luke's post about Clark Ashton Smith, which I can't seem to find - was it deleted for some reason?


Anonymous said...

I enjoy seeing you explore the anatomical possibilities with these Cthulhu hybrids, which are endless. The book idea is really good. One of the things that really sparks the imagination regarding the text of Lovecraft is that it encourages you to imagine your own interpretation of the cosmic horrors. I'm looking forward to seeing more of these. I'd like to see you do some sort of living totem pole like creature. And I can't remember if I'd seen one of these like it or not but have you explored the idea of a spider or crab like Lovecraftian monstrosity?

- aeron

Luke P. said...

Exactly right, we're forced to render the indescribable in the only terms we really know. Good stuff.

SEAN said...

SO what you're saying is you're like those Danish cartoonists drawing Allah!? ha ha. But yes, okay. I suppose when i mention the need for non-representational representations of Cthulhu's love, i'm just putting it out there, because people love to draw the beast & i'd love for a new consensus on non-representation or at least abstract depictions of the things that shall not be named. Still, these have all been fantastic, no matter how heretical & physical they are.

Mostyn said...

See. this is what I wanted in my earlier posts. more insight to the process and thought. thanks alot. I gotta ask, why aren;t (or are) you designing for films? You would be great.