I'm having a wonderful discussion with my friend Francesco Farabi, a great miniature painter from Italy who I'm sure you a lot about already. The discussion was regarding his last piece, the Last Stand of Nuln, modelled by Mariano Numitone (a great honour) and painted by himself. I'm also sure you have seen this one already, presented on the last Golden Demon Italy and awarded Gold in Diorama (I posted pics previously on the blog):
While the scene is just outstanding, I pictured out that the painting is too clean for a battle scene like this, I miss blood and dust and dirt in general. I couldn't see how the guys could be dying from arrows without choking in their own blood. Francesco answered:
About the question of dirt... yes you may be absolutely right, but there is a reason because I chose not to put a lot of dirt. It's because there is no close combat body fighting been done there, this is a "long distance attack, like some terrible enemy attacking the bastion of the castle and the soldiers go to the broken part to defend as a last stand, but a great swarm of arrows arrive and kill them all. If you look there are no soldiers with blade weapons, only guns, also the campion shouted with arrow in the neck tries to bring his guns, not a sword for example.
About blood... yes interesting in effect! Also because I am an habitual gory painter (i make a lot of blood effects in my miniatures) but we talked a lot with Numi about how much blood I wanted to put and therefore I studied that arrow shots don't create some blood spatter effect because it is very direct and quick, there's just a little quantity of blood exit from the wounds before you pull the arrow off from them.
My comment just started a great discussion around the use of explicit elements to achieve sensation which I wanted to share with all the readers of Volomir's Blog because I'm sure you will find it deeply interesting and maybe we can learn a lot together with it.
I had my own inner discussion about this when I painted my Last Stand of the Crimson Fists (which has also flaws because of lack of time and impatience, but that is another topic). I used the illustration as the main source (I very much copied it and tried to translate that into a 360º scene with 3d volumes) and in the drawing there is not much blood, or even dirt. There is weathering on the armours, yes, but not that kind of blood and dirty stuff that you would expect from a war scene. And I tried to be loyal to that concept because the drawing pours war and drama sensation from every brushstroke and I thought I could get that with my scene using the same resources. Some say that I got it, some say that I failed. I really can't be objective because it's my own creation and I have mixed feelings about it. Sometimes I think I got it, sometimes I don't. There is also a bit of regret in some decisions that I took during the process, specially because it took such a long time that now when I think that I could have done better it just freaks me out. But anyway, that is done and past and from that I learned a lot (at least is what I try to think) and next time, when I do something to try and achieve something dramatic I'll try to use my own resources instead of just copying, so for that I am happy.
Here is a great example of how to achieve drama sensation and battle without the use of a single drop of blood:
When I see this picture of the spanish civil war I don't see dirt, blood or anything gory (it is true that absence of colours is also very powerful and we are adding colours to the equation so that is really something we cannot forget). I see drama there mainly because of two reasons. The first one and the most important and evident is the dynamism. The pose of the soldier falling, the weapon in the air, the clothes inflated and the blurryness of the picture around the area of the feet clearly suggest that there is action going on, and you feel that he is falling. Second is the expression of the guy. If you just concentrate con his face and forget about everything else you'll feel like if he is sleeping, at least that's what I get from it. But in the context of dynamism and movement you feel as if he is dying. You see no pain, you see no grief or scare, but you see he is "leaving", he is passing out. And you get the feeling that he is being shot because of the pose and specially the weapon on his arm, which suggests he was fighting. But you see no blood, no dirt, not even the place where he has been shot. And still you get the feeling that he has just received a gunshot.
Doing this is very difficult in my opinion. I see what Francesco tried to do, and I think he did it very well but there is still a long way to go I think. What if you had to do what Francesco tried to do, how would yo do it? Now I'll tell you about an idea of mine that could work:
In a scene like this you don't use blood, you don't use dirt, but you still need to reflect action, war and suffering. Francesco used the right colours for a realistic ambience, greys and dark reds, desaturated. But it is the same greys and amount of saturation that you use when he painted the rocks. What if you transform the scenery, and make it more colourful, more saturated, specially the banner, the ground (maybe adding grass or flowers, I don't know) and the standard bearer, his face much more reddish and orange? Just saturating their colours, but leave the dead in a more grey ambience, the same way they are now so that you suggest death with the use of colours. I think it would be a very good idea. I think that if you don't use explicit objects like blood or dirt, the use of colours is the key, and you used the right greyish ambience to suugest that. But if you don't show a contrast so that the effect of the grey ambience just stands out, I think that the main purpose just doesn't show.
So, today I offer you this interesting debate to all of you fellow readers of Volomir's Blog. What do you think? Discussion will help you better understand this great piece of work and will for sure motivate you in your own personal creations!