BSC Artwork – Sword

November 18th, 2008

Burned and spattered papers, such as the ones on the First Law covers, are pretty much universal, but a sword has to hit the right note, especially since it’s meant to be the one the main character uses in the book. So it has to be the right era, and have the right feel. Since the feel for the book is kind of renaissance Italy-ish, more baroque than medieval, the brief we gave to Didier Graffet, a French artist who specialises in weaponry, was something roughly along these lines (and no doubt those of you interested by historical weaponry, which is, let’s face it, pretty much all of you, will now spend some time exploring that site), but possibly with a bit more heft to the blade. So it needed to look beautiful, but functional, without any fantastical flourishes. Steely, not gilded. It needed to look dangerous.

This was the first sketch we got back:

Which was already looking pretty good. We messed about with it a bit, shortened bits, lengthened bits, talked ricasso, knuckle-bow, quillons, and fore-ring, cause, you know, I talk fluent sword, and ended up with something actually pretty close to the original, though somewhat weightier and shorter in the blade, a bit less graceful and a bit more brutal:
Happy with that, it went back to be coloured, and damned if it didn’t turn up but a few hours later looking bloody brilliant:

Click on it. You know you want to. CLICK ON IT. Possibly you can’t entirely see it on this version, but the detail is amazing. It has that quality of accentuated reality that great graphic novel art has. Real, only more so. So my thanks to Didier Graffet. If you ever need a sword painted, I might just know a guy…

Posted in artwork, process by Joe Abercrombie on November 18th, 2008.

7 comments so far

  • Elena says:

    damn that’s awesome. thanks for the website, too! you know your audience well…

  • Erik says:

    sweeet! I sooo clicked that 😛

    I got my timeline a bit wrong though. I imagined the fencing irons to be less rapier-ish; less 16th century. Always a problem with showing pictures, I guess.
    Still, great pics ofc 🙂 must be great to have people with such skill expanding your universe.

    I’ll dream of a map for the First Law tonight, just so you know 😛

  • elena,
    I just assume my audience is pretty much like me, and that seems to work…

    Interesting point that, the cramping of the reader’s imagination. It’s one reason why I generally find literal cover art – depictions of the characters and so on, a problem. I also tend to keep the descriptions of character’s clothes and yes, swords, relatively general, in the hope that people can fill in their own blanks, and set the story anywhere from medieval to napoleonic depending on their taste…

  • Erik says:

    Yea I realise now, looking back, that your setting is possibly much broader timewise. Allthough, I don’t recall much mention of plate armour. Mostly chain, right? And since full suits of plate are 16th century or smt I think that set my mind to an early HRE-esque setting.

    Anywho, these blogposts are brilliant Joe! I hope we’ll see more until (and after) the release of BSC.
    oh and gief moer piccas plx

  • Gabriele C. says:

    That’s a beautiful weapon.

    I’ve always imagined Glokta fighting with a sword like that when he still could.

    But pretty as this is, they sometimes come bigger. Much bigger. 🙂

  • Juan Ruiz says:

    As a sport fencer, I would like to show in a competition with a rapier like that, blood incl. just to see the fear in the eyes of the last two teenegers that won me in the spanish championship this year…

    Anyway, it is very enlighteing to see all the process in creating a book the way you describe, Joe.

    And do you think that there are differences between the concept of cover art in England and USA… the british cover for the farseer trilogy by robin hobbare simply amazing, but, the american ones… ufff.

    I think you’ve been lucky, because yours have been respected (as it was in Spain), but that can be the case of no finding a way to do ir better.

    In any case, that art of yours (and Gollanz’s) is simply awesome.

    Good work, Joe

  • Erik,
    The Northmen wear a lot of chainmail, they’re more in a late medieval kind of state. The Union are generally described as having full armour. There’s a scene where the Dogman looks at it and thinks you’d need a pick-axe.

    Gabriele C,
    My, my, that is a BIG one.

    It’s an interesting area, this one of US vs UK covers. People often say the UK is more adventurous, the US much more generic, but I think it depends on the publisher and on the book. I certainly think it’s more about publishing choices than that American readers somehow have a more conservative taste. Pyr, for example, do some great covers in the states. Traditional art, on the whole, but traditional art updated and done very well. I think perhaps some of the big American imprints have done well over the years with conservative generic art, and so they tend to have become a bit stuck in their ways, maybe?

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