Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Caught Between Darkness and Light

Anton Gorodetsky works for the Moscow Night Watch. He's an IT programmer, does his job, tries to keep out of the boss's way, and likes his vodka. He's an average joe. Or he would be, if the Night Watch weren't populated by sorcerers, shapeshifters, and many other supernatural beings. By their standards, he's still a pretty average joe.

Night Watch is the first book in a tetralogy of fantasy fiction imported from Russia, written by Sergei Lukyanekno. The books tell the story of the Night Watch, a group dedicated to the Light, who oppose and guard against the Day Watch, those supernatural beings sworn to the Dark. Both Light and Dark are called the Others- those who are other than human: wizards, witches, vampires, werewolves. They exist in an uneasy truce, held in check by the Inquisition, who seek to maintain a balance between Light and Darkness, watching each side engage labyrinthine plots to obtain the smallest advantage over their opponents- until one side can wipe out the other completely. It's the Cold War all over again, but one that's been in check for centuries. One other thing- each side can move through the Twilight- realms below, between, and all around us, accessible only to Others, and only by stepping into their own shadows...

The Night Watch series has been one of my favorite book series in recent memory. The first three books (with a fourth one due next year) are just amazing... They introduce us to the world of the Others through Anton, himself relatively new to the world, and expand to include a host of characters, both Light and Dark. There are wheels within wheels in the plotting, one thing leading to another leading to something completely unexpected. One of the highlights for me is watching Anton figure out what's really happening. And there's a LOT of that. It's very rare when what you see is what you get, in the Night Watch books. They also manage to bring up some pretty interesting questions about people, and governments, and good stuff like that- things you don't always get out of a fantasy book. In case you haven't figured it out, I highly recommend the series. There are also two movies out based on the series- if you've read the books, think of the movies as an alternate reality version of the books. Also, the movies are completely cracked. And very fun.

Oh yeah- the picture. It's Anton, taking one of his first trips into the Twilight (or Gloom, as it's also translated)- at least, it's how I imagine his trip. This started out as a pretty basic sketch- I had the image of Anton essentially falling into the ground, with a very stylized shadow stretching out behind him. However, as I thought about it, I decided I'd rather do a more literal representation of his travel to the Twilight. Instead of drawing the background (which would have taken forever, and not looked nearly so good), I surfed until I found a decent background, then went to work. Judicious applications of layers and image manipulation left me with the two shadows (representing the Light and Dark), and some work with Masking and other filters let me tweak the background. A lot of trial and error with the coloring let me flesh out Anton, so to speak. A few hours' work, and there you go. I'm pretty happy with how this turned out, but I keep coming up with more things to tweak. (there, another 15 minutes to fix some more stuff) I also have a couple other settings for Anton, but this is the only one I took to completion. For what it's worth, I didn't try for an exact likeness of Konstantin Khabensky, the Russian actor who plays Anton in the books, but he certainly informed the drawing. If nothing else, hopefully my sketch of Anton looks vaguely European- or at least, not from around here...

So there you go- Night Watch- go read it!

In other news, I'm still sick, only now it's progressed to making me hack up my lungs at night. Lucky for me, the cats don't seem to mind. Little heat leeches...

Music: "The Dark is Rising" - Mercury Rev

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