War­rior queen

Kev Cross­ley re­veals the choices he makes when paint­ing the leg­endary Celtic ruler Boudica in an old-school, rough ‘n’ ready style

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Kev Cross­ley paints Boudica.

FJan­uary 2015 or this work­shop I’ll be pre­sent­ing an ex­am­ple of a stripped-down paint­ing tech­nique us­ing acrylics in a very loose way. A great pas­sion of mine is the great fan­tasy art of the 1940s through to the 70s, so I’m keen to em­u­late that wild en­ergy and ex­cite­ment those great painters man­aged to cap­ture.

I’ll also show in de­tail how the ini­tial de­sign and com­po­si­tion process de­vel­ops, from the rough­est thumb­nails to the fin­ished draw­ing. This part of the process is of­ten quickly glossed over, but I think th­ese pre­lim­i­nary stages are in­ter­est­ing to see, warts ‘n’ all! The sub­ject I’ve cho­sen was the his­tor­i­cal bane of the Ro­mans in Bri­tain: Boudica.

When think­ing of Boudica there are nu­mer­ous clichés that in­vari­ably come to mind. Pop­u­larised dur­ing the Vic­to­rian era, most of the images we now have of the fa­mous, flame-haired war­rior came from or were in­flu­enced by Vic­to­rian em­pir­i­cal think­ing. So, my first prob­lem is how to ap­proach it? Would I embrace the well-known de­pic­tions or seek a more his­tor­i­cally ac­cu­rate por­trayal? The ini­tial idea I have sim­ply to por­tray Boudica smash­ing into lines of Ro­mans with her war char­iot. Job done? Not quite…

A bit of re­search re­veals that war char­i­ots weren’t used in that way at the time, and there are other his­tor­i­cal facts to take into ac­count, too. The horses used to pull Icinian char­i­ots would have been lit­tle taller than ponies, and be­cause the his­tor­i­cal ac­counts of Boudica were all writ­ten by Ro­man chron­i­clers, there sim­ply isn’t any way of know­ing for sure what she looked like, how large her army was or what she did dur­ing her cam­paigns.

All this means, of course, that I’m free to do what­ever I like! So I de­cide to give the Ro­man sol­diers au­then­tic ar­mour, with a few vari­a­tions to keep things in­ter­est­ing, but for Boudica I opt for a less-his­tor­i­cally ac­cu­rate character. I want to treat her as I would any other hero in a fan­tasy paint­ing, but as a war­rior queen she had to be for­mi­da­ble: less fem­i­nine and de­fined by vi­o­lence.

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After 15 years de­sign­ing video games Kev turned free­lance, il­lus­trat­ing beasts and war­riors for gaming books be­fore cre­at­ing comic art for 2000 AD and var­i­ous pub­lish­ers in the US. www.kevcross­ley.com

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