Starting a new project using the same techniques seemed like at first it would become something I wouldn’t enjoy, much like how it seemed when I had started the ‘Personification’ project. However, over the course of this project I realized that it had given me a much better perspective of story-telling.
At first, to help me understand the general layout of a WWI battle-field and trench, a small model was built, and instead of using little soldiers (following the guidelines of the project, using nothing resembling human form), Plastic cafeteria forks, coffee stirrers, a knife and a spoon were used to illustrate the soldiers (forks), the CO (the knife), a Medic (the spoon), and their rifles (the coffee stirrers). Each piece was modeled to fit into a little role I had planned out for it, such as some of the forks crouched behind the trench wall, whilst other casualties lay in craters or poly-filler upon the battlefield. Pieces of the forks and spare spoons were broken down to resemble battle-casualties, while extra coffee stirrers, tacks, staples and drawing pins were used to represent shattered and broken rifles, machines, ammo casings or empty mortar shells. Some of the forks were burned to resemble victims of a gas attack, a process that I found rather chilling to fulfill.
Based on the model of the battle-field, a general storyboard was laid out, after studying the WWI poem: “Dulce et Decorum est”. Each thumbnail was then matched to crucial points in the poem, like the men marching, the scenery of the battlefield, a close-up on the men then of one man, the incoming gas, the unfortunates who were caught in it, the officer staring over their corpses, and a close up of the officer as if to symbolize a realization of “the old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est, Pro patria mori”. In Latin this translates into: “It is sweet and right, to die for one’s country”.
First the materials were decided upon, Black ink, brush pen with water-brush effects layered over, charcoal and a slight use of pencil and graphite to start each individual piece. I chose these materials because if their messiness. WWI was messy, judging from Wilfred Owen’s imagery used in the poem “Dulce et decorum est”, which these pages are based upon. The detailed and vivid language expressed paints a picture of horror and twisted destruction that could only be best described by one who had seen it for themselves, as Wilfred Owen had done, serving on the front as a CO for a short time.
The stages of creating the pages primarily involved layering of different media to achieve a blended and detailed landscape, without forgetting the messy remains of the battlefield corpses that lay strewn about on the various settings of each picture.
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep.
All went lame; all blind
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea,
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of skin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
The Project itself was, in my opinion very straightforward, but only once I had realized in which direction I was going to go with it. I could’ve taken on a completely different approach to the illustration process of this piece, yet Instead of going off on a completely different tangent, I wanted to maintain the gravity of the poetic imagery within the work itself. Dark, dirty, chaotic with the smoke clearing to reveal a ravaged scene of destruction and devastation that only the Great War could’ve brought on.