On art, history and the story, by Ian S

The second guest on the blog is Ian Storer.  All the pictures on the site that are not maps or photographs are his work (see the World, Books and SWM sections).  A visit to his website (scipio6.wix.com/scipio-designs) displays more of his artwork in drawing and wood-carving, as well as his own blog.  He was asked to write about his work and inspiration.

On Art, History and the Story.

I have always had a very visual mind – perhaps you could say a vivid imagination – and have loved drawing since I could first hold a pencil.  Art came naturally to me and I have always thought of my artistic ability as a gift, something given, an innate ability which I used to express my interest in the details of the world.  In an odd way it is therefore something I find very hard to blow-my-own-trumpet about, as I strongly feel my creative ability is something that comes from beyond me, and though I have fostered it through practice, it is just something I’ve always been able to do.

The first thing I can remember drawing is a Roman Soldier while at Infant school.  A Centurion complete with javelin, square shield with lightning bolts and the iconic armour – lorica segmentata: all quite clichéd with hindsight, but in some way it seemed to set the tone for much of my later work.  I was always drawn to both natural history and history as a child and (despite some feeling that I would most likely end up going to art-college) I was persuaded to get a degree, so I naturally settled on history.

Yet at the same time as I was studying Roman Britain and the Reign of Edward II in Staffordshire I was also producing Napoleonic Uniform illustration guides for Partizan Press, introduced to military illustration via my interest in military model making.  It was while I was at an East Midlands Model Show that I met the supremely talented (and sadly late) historical illustrator Rick Scollins, whose visceral, muddy and blood-spattered realism deeply inspired my own view of the past; his gritty detail resonated with my own desire to interpret history as is it really was.

Angus McBride (one of the key contributors to the Osprey Military and historical series of books – and also sadly no longer with us) is likewise one of my key influences as an illustrator.  His vivid style brings a host of periods to life, injecting a wit and charm reminiscent of J.R.R Tolkien’s characters into the past, each figure a living personality with their own story waiting to be told – not merely a coat hanger for chain mail or fatigues.

My other artistic influences are diverse and eclectic.  The astonishing realism of the sixteenth century artist Albrecht Durer; the Pre-Raphaelite painters – particularly Holman-Hunt – the military model maker Bill Horan, whose model soldier dioramas inject a life into the Nineteenth Century as vividly as Angus McBride’s, and the Marvel Comics illustrator Todd McFarlane, to name a few.

As a historian I have always been captivated by how diverse and interesting the past was, and how it was often far stranger and more engaging than fiction.  Historical fiction (often focussing on very narrow and over-used periods) often leaves me cold, but I must hold my hand up and say that I was very taken with Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe novels as a teenager and count him as an influence on my creativity also – I rate his Anglo-Saxon work quite highly!

From a literary perspective it would be wrong not to mention C.S Lewis, whose Narnia novels, read to me as a child, certainly influenced my creative thinking – as did the esteemed and abovementioned J.R.R. Tolkien.   To complete the list I would also have to mention Conan Doyle, Wilbur Smith, Robert Harris and Michael Crichton – I do like a ripping adventure.

It is when I illustrate the past (or dabble in writing fiction) that I feel I’m truly making sense of dry historical texts, forgotten dates and unimportant facts – and in some ways, I only feel I really understand the past when I have drawn it.  For me, the act of drawing somehow releases the atmosphere and drama of the period in a way which merely reading about it does not.  So whether it’s a Bronze Age Hill Fort, a Woolly Mammoth or a Napoleonic Lancer, I don’t think I’ll ever lose my childhood fascination with the detail of the past, nor completely forget the impulse to draw it.  I will keep on trying to tell the story.

Do explore Ian’s work further on his website (see above).  There will be now a short pause in the blog, but normal service should be resumed before the end of Feb.


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