40 Drawings in 40 Days – #33 – Perseus

Perseus is one of the major heroes in Greek mythology.  He’s yet another one of Zeus’ offspring which makes him a demi-god.  Perseus’ grandfather, Acrisius, had been told a prophecy that his daughter’s child would kill him so Acrisius did what any reasonable bloke would do and he imprisoned his daughter, Danae, in a chamber.  That failed to stop randy old Zeus, however, who transformed himself into a shower of gold and somehow managed to get Danae pregnant that way.  Not to be thwarted, Acrisius cast Danae and baby Perseus adrift at sea in a wooden box.  Perseus survived, of course, and it transpired that he did kill Acrisius.  Which kind of serves nasty old Grandad right.

It was Perseus who defeated the Gorgon Medusa.  With guidance from Athena and weapons from the Hesperides and from various gods, Perseus was able to exploit a loophole by only viewing Medusa as a reflection and so avoided being petrified.  Perseus’ other most notable act of heroics was his rescue of Andromeda.  She had been chained to a rock ready to be sacrificed to the sea monster Cetus in order to appease Poseidon, who Andromeda’s mother had insulted.  Perseus then married Andromeda, turning a love rival to stone using Medusa’s head.  I like to imagine that Perseus kept his kids disciplined by threatening to whip out Medusa’s head every time they were naughty.  I wish I had a gorgon head in a bag for just that reason.

As exciting as being a hero is, I was not feeling especially inspired by Perseus.  Maybe today my creative mojo is simply in short supply.  It’s my second son’s birthday today so probably my mind if just elsewhere.  I decided to not draw Perseus engaged in any derring do and just keep it to a simple portrait.  In my drawing, he looks somewhat bedraggled and exhausted, the sword weighing heavily in his hand rather than being courageously wielded, battle weary rather than eager to seek out the next thrilling escapade.  Maybe his weariness is my own.  Producing a complete drawing every day is more taxing than you might think.

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40 Drawings in 40 Days – #23 – Orpheus

Orpheus was a revered musician in Greek mythology.  He was given the golden lyre by Apollo who also taught him how to play it.  He was said to be so gifted that he could charm even non-living things with his lute playing and singing.

As a hero, Orpheus travelled with the Argonauts on their quest to obtain the Golden Fleece.  He saved his fellow crew members from the sirens by playing music that drowned out their deadly singing.  The most famous story about Orpheus, however, concerns his descent into the Underworld.  His wife, Eurydice, was killed by a snake on their wedding day.  Orpheus, bereft, travelled to the Underworld and used his musical talent to charm Hades and Persephone into promising to return Eurydice to the land of the living.  The catch was that he was to ascend in front of her and not look back.  Unfortunately, anxiety, impatience and impulsiveness got the better of Orpheus and he turned around upon reaching the surface forgetting that both he and his beloved had to have reached the world of the living.  Eurydice was instantly returned to the Underworld.  Orpheus’ own death was rather unpleasant.  A gang of zealous female followers of Dionysus tried to beat him to death with stones and sticks but the inanimate objects refused to strike him because of the beauty of his music.  Still enraged, the women set about ripping Orpheus to pieces using their bare hands.

Thinking of a musician who had immense and boundless charisma, who was incredibly talented, who inspired devotion and fervor among his fans, the inspiration for my drawing was immediately obvious: Elvis.  I would not describe myself as a big Elvis fan – though I have been to both his birthplace in Tupelo and to Graceland – though I do enjoy his music.  My 7 year old is, however, a massive fan of The King so I knew my drawing would appeal to him.  I chose to base my Orpheus drawing on Las Vegas era Elvis because to my mind at least that was the peak of his showmanship.  ‘Suspicious Minds’ is my favourite Elvis song so I had that playing in my head as I sketched out my drawing and the white flared jumpsuit with the deep V collar just drew itself.  I like that it provided the drawing with a strong graphic shape.  I had to raid google images to get a reference for the lyre but at least this time my gold ink was compliant and was easy to work with.

23b - Orpheus

40 Drawings in 40 Days – #15 – Odysseus

The Odyssey was one of my favourite stories as a child, even before I understood just how old it was.  The adventure of this hero as he struggles to make it home, getting caught up in many a pickle, was full of cliffhangers and possibilities.  How would Odysseus possibly get out of that scrape?  What would he do next to stuff up and bring about another challenge?  What weird and wonderful things would they encounter next?  Would he ever make it home?  It’s brilliant stuff.  Even now, as I sit typing this, I am dumbstruck by the fact that, as far as I am aware, no production company has made a movie or television series of the Odyssey.  There was a storytelling TV show version when I was young, with Tony Robinson narrating, which I loved but I mean a version with actors and special effects.  They are surely missing a trick.

Anyway, despite the fact of the Odyssey being my favourite classical text, I had been somewhat dreading Odysseus (or Ulysses as the Romans called him) turning up in my drawing challenge.  His is such an overwhelming narrative and his character so complex that trying to pare it down to a single small drawing was bound to be really difficult.  However, the fact I suspected this one was going to crop up meant I had been mulling it over in advance.

There was no way I could even begin to suggest all the components of Odysseus’ epic journey home with so little time and space so I needed to settle on just one.  That was the solution.  However, deciding upon which one to depict was hard.  The front-runner for quite a while was the idea of showing Odysseus dressed up as a beggar in his own palace, ready to prove his identity in a show of archery, probably because it was the end-point to his story rather than being a part of his relentless journey.  But the disguise element troubled me so I ditched that plan.

What I, therefore, decided to do was show Odysseus trapped on Circe’s island.  I always liked that episode because of what it conveys about Odysseus’ character.  He is motivated to depart the island and crack on with getting back to Ithaca and his beloved wife and son and, therefore, convinces the witch Circe to release his men, who she has turned into pigs.  But the way he convinces her is by being unfaithful to the very wife he is desperate to get back to.  And not only is this hero disloyal for what could be argued to be pragmatic reasons but he then decides to malinger on the island for a year, enjoying the wine, women and song as if he is on a laddish beach holiday.  But that is the thing about Odysseus: he is a hero who is deeply flawed and that complexity in his character is what makes him one of the more interesting ones in Greek Mythology.  For all of his determination and endurance, he is also tempted by laziness and the easy life; for all that he is quick-witted and wily, he also lacks wisdom and judgment and often ends up complicating the already difficult circumstances he is in.

My drawing, therefore, shows Odysseus sitting in the lotus position with his porcine crewmen nuzzling up against him.  I tried to convey a sense that he was thoroughly fed up, caught in stasis yet again, frustrated and thwarted by his own daft decisions.  In reference to my initial idea for the drawing – the archery contest that restores Odysseus to his throne –  I decorated his tunic with a fringe of little arrows.

15b - Odysseus

Odysseus and piggy pals

Which Greek myth is your favourite?



PS  Time constraints mean I am, alas, still taking photos of my drawings using my phone.  The colours, therefore, are not being properly captured in the photographs.  It’s annoying.  Maybe when I conclude the whole challenge, I will create a gallery of all 40 drawings in photos taken on my DSLR.  Meanwhile I apologise for the patchy quality of the photography.

40 Drawings in 40 Days – #14 – Heracles

My sons love reading a book they own all about the Twelve Tasks of Heracles so I am actually surprised it took this long for him to appear on their list.  Heracles (or Hercules to give him his better-known, Roman name) is probably the most famous of the Greek heroes and a symbol of machismo.  One of the most incredible statues I have ever seen in real life is the copy of the Farnese Hercules in Naples.  The sculpting of his bulging muscles, the wonderfully implied weight in his stance, the perfection of the composition are just breath-taking.  He also has a rather lovely bum and I am quite a fan of aesthetically pleasing rumps.  There was no way I was even going to attempt that sort of version of Heracles.

As a fan of the Disney movie ‘Hercules’, I could have taken the same route as those script writers and animators and made Heracles clumsy in his strength, uncertain of his heroic status, awkward in his role, sweet but naïve, a thoroughly decent bloke.  However, what I decided to do was depict him as being a muscle-bound braggart, all swagger and no substance, more braun than brain.

So I drew Heracles with upraised arms, showing off “the guns”.  He has a lantern jaw complete with manly chin-bum and a smirking smile of superciliousness.  Then there is the priapic quiff hairdo to add to the sense of him being a man’s man, ladykiller macho guy.  And then I undermined it all by dressing him up in a leotard and gymslip, like a cheerleader’s uniform that shrunk in the wash.

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Macho Man Heracles

40 Drawings in 40 Days – #7 – Jason

My kids actually stated that I was to draw Jason and the Argonauts.  Eh….No.  It would take me at least a week to produce a drawing of a whole crew of Greek heroes and I am rubbish at drawing boats.  Not happening.  So I ignored their brief and decided to draw just Jason on his own.

Jason was the hero who led a bunch of other heroes on a quest to the island of Colchis to obtain the Golden Fleece.  They travelled on the ship ‘Argo’, hence the moniker Argonauts.  It was a vessel heady with testosterone.  And probably body hair.  The expedition involved encounters with six-armed giants, voracious women, clashing rocks and harpies until finally they reached Colchis.  That was not the end of Jason’s tribulations, however.  On Colchis (modern day Georgia) he had to plough a field with fire-breathing oxen, battle soldiers who grew from dragon’s teeth and then kill the dragon that was guarding the Golden Fleece.  There were then more travails after the fleece was secured but, let’s face it, the crux of Jason’s story is the whole Golden Fleece shebang.

The Golden Fleece, therefore, was the key element that would signify that my drawing depicted Jason.  Sadly, in my sketch, this all powerful sheep hide looked more like a deflated Shaun the Sheep.  An ovine version of Davy Crockett’s raccoon bonnet.  Not very rugged or heroic looking.

I was thinking about the old ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ movie and all those classic “sword and sandals” movies as I drew Jason and I think that informed my decision to give him a pretty 1960s beard and a manly chin-bum.  Still that Golden Fleece was giving me trouble.  I increased the scale of it to make it look less like a woolly cap but there was definitely still more than a little Shaun the Sheep going on with the head.  The whole thing was starting to resemble a Judge’s wig.  I ploughed on.  The gold ink gave me hassle again but I enjoyed creating all the swirling patterns to represent the fleece.  At least my comedy sheep was very much golden.

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Dead Sheep Bunnet

PS  Apologies for the shadow casting across the finished drawing.  The photo was taken late at night with my phone.