Some characters from medieval romance

 

I have recently started a PhD, and now find myself catapulted into a world of fantastic stories. As I surround myself with ancient legends and far-off romances (the medieval kind), I find it difficult to ignore a childish sense of glee. I am reading and writing about the best kind of stories – stories about giants, trolls, kings and knights – and this is my day job.

After a term, just over two months, spent immersing myself in many Old Norse-Icelandic and Middle English romances, I have a few favourite characters. Here are three of them.

Sleeping Arthur

1. King Arthur

You are probably familiar with Britain´s legendary king. Hollywood has done a good job of perpetuating his image: recklessly brave, wise, incredibly handsome. Arthur is the king who will return to save England from the Saxons, the Normans, Brexit. But the Arthur of Middle English romance is quite different. In fact, his most famous characteristic is that he falls asleep a lot. In one story, Arthur bails on his own Christmas feast because he is feeling sleepy, and his knights continue the party while keeping watch outside his bedroom door.

 

 

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2. Surtr

This is by far the creepiest giant in Norse sagas. Surtr lives by the sea shore, somewhere far to the north, and hunts human beings. Even more terrifying, he catches them, salts their flesh, and keeps their bodies in huge storage pits which he has dug out of the beach. These pits are also filled with the flesh of whales, walruses, seals, polar bears, and fish. Meeting Surtr would be terrifying, and enough to put anyone off meat for life.

 

 

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3. Guinevere’s mother

I love the character of Guinevere’s mother because she is incredibly grisly. One day, while out hunting, Guinevere and Gawain stop by a lake, and a corpse rises out of it. Dripping wet, covered in pond slime and burned black by hell fire, the corpse of Guinevere´s mother speaks to the legendary queen, warning her to cease her sinful ways. Guinevere´s mother is terrifying. Her flesh has burned from her bones, and there are frogs living in her skull. This image must have been enough to terrify a medieval audience into behaving well.

 

 

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York River Art Market

41554401_291273618357660_7760193450678419456_nHello again!

It’s been a long summer, and I don’t think I’ve spent any of it on the beach (except for one lovely afternoon in Aldeburgh, on a detour to a fish-smoking hut). I’ve been working, moving house, and getting some serious art done. Among this serious art-ing was my first ever art market, the York River Art Market. This was a wonderful day spent in the sun (and a fair buffeting of that unique York wind), chatting to passersby about my monster prints and medieval mashup cards – all of which I took along to the riverside in an old cardboard suitcase.

The day was something of a success. For me, the challenge has always been getting my work to a standard where I feel comfortable showing it publicly. I viewed my stand, a makeshift affair of garden string and a little blue table, as my own outdoor gallery. As people passed by, they stopped and asked me about the prints – where had the ideas come from? what was the process behind making them? This feels like its own victory.

Almost a year of work went into getting those prints and cards ready. Coming up with the idea for a print series and making the drawings has only been half of it. This year, I’ve also had to learn how to digitally edit my work, how to present and market my work in a way that will stand out, and how to fight down that little voice telling me people are going to laugh at me for doing this. (Actually, some people did laugh, but, as all my art has a joke in it somewhere, I take this to be a very good sign.)

A year of work went into finally getting to the next step with my artwork, but it’s been four years since I started this blog. This blog was the first step: showing my art to the internet. If you scroll back through all these posts, you come to the first pen and ink drawings, done at a university desk and intended to amuse friends and family. What follows are the pages of sketchbooks, hauled across Europe throughout a year of travelling, and finally the medieval-inspired monsters I worked on alongside my MA.

Now, as I stare down the last week and a bit until I start a PhD in Medieval literature, I can’t wait to see where these “doodles” will go next. I have monster zines and graphic novels brewing in the back of my mind, illustrated field journals and thought journals to accompany my research. I’m morphing this blog, once again, to suit the way I am using drawing in my life: welcome to my illustrated journal. I can’t wait to share it with you.

 

Keep an eye out.

— Drake

 

Doodle 28.94.17

Good morning, my chums!

Today’s doodle is a little bit horrifying. If you have been following my posts for a while, you’ll know that I am a little bit fascinated by monsters, and also by unusually monstrous creatures in medieval manuscripts, the most terrifying of which are snails, or rabbits riding snails. This week it was Alien Day and, following the hype, I went to see Alien on the big screen. Watching that illogically amusing plastic monster scurrying about a spaceship got me thinking about how modern monsters are just as funny as medieval monsters. Therefore, I present to you the ultimate battle of the beasts: Snail versus Alien. Who do you think would win in a fight?

Pen and ink, and madness.

Sleep well.

Drake