Welcome to the second installment of the Kull of Atlantis sculpture blog. Last time we discussed how the sculpture came about and ended with the very basic thumbnail sculpture ideas I submitted to Paradox.
We discussed the various looks with Paradox and eliminated one of the pose ideas. We narrowed it down to 2 looks: the more regal and relaxed pose and one of the more active, arm raised “victorious” poses. I’ll say at this point that while I liked them both and felt that either would work, I did feel that the pose of Kull simply standing worked for me the best. While Kull has been known to yell out “I am Kull!” at times, he is generally described as stoic of mien and even introspective at times. I felt that a more relaxed pose that reflected this and the innate confidence and character of the man beneath the barbaric veneer was the approach I wanted for the piece.
The next step was to sculpt another set of thumbnails, but this round would be more detailed in costume and anatomy to give the good folks at Paradox more information to make their decision. The two thumbnails are only 7 inches tall or so, which is a size that allows me to reflect the effectiveness of the pose without it taking too long to execute.
As I re-examined the written material, I realized that Kull had been an outlaw adventurer and gladiator after arriving in Valusia and had been a galley slave before that. I felt that just sculpting him in a galley slave loincloth wouldn’t be interesting to me and would be even less so to Paradox and Kull fans. So this was going to be a Kull before he is king during his days before becoming a general in the Valusian army.
Kull is described by Robert E. Howard (REH) as having more of a “pantherish” physique. He is described as tall and lean with broad shoulders and a tigerish look. He’s described in feline terms several times throughout the stories. I see him narrower of torso than Conan and possibly taller, though both are huge, powerful men.
Kull has been done in artwork very well by a number of artists, but I always felt that Roy Krenkel captured Kull the best on the cover of King Kull by Lancer Publications. It always seemed to me that Roy Krenkel, who is one of my favorite artists, must have read the stories carefully because he gave Kull that tall, but lean, look with broad shoulders and a narrow face. Roy Krenkel’s work is wonderful and there are at least a couple of excellent books on his work that are worth finding for any fan of fantasy, illustration or art in general.
Well, I wanted to reflect that panther-like build in the Kull sculpture, so I needed to convey that in the next set of roughs for Paradox to approve.
I saw the costume as not strictly barbarian, but showing some armor elements, also. I removed the shield from his arm and put it on the base. For these poses, it seemed a bit distracting on his arm. He is described as wearing a girdle or a broad belt and this is a common clothing element found in our true history, as well. I wanted the piece to represent Kull in garb that reflected his adventures up to that point and a base that reflected his future as King of Valusia.
In the simpler, standing pose, he has just topped a mountain and Valusia and his future are spread before him. The base is symbolic of his future: kingly helmet with crown element attached, war shield, demonic skull, etc. A magical/mystic element or two is essential to the effect; possibly a serpent head of some kind would be appropriate. I also added an axe because of the importance of the story “By This Axe I Rule”, which is generally accepted as the most famous of the Kull stories.
The title plaque will be a scroll that will read: “Kull of Atlantis.” I have only occasionally titled pieces, but in this case it seemed appropriate.
I sculpted the one symbolic base thumbnail, but only the rocks for the second, although the plan was to have the symbolic base for whichever look was decided on.
I approached the costumes in both poses similarly. He is in the gear of a warrior: broad belt, some armor elements, layered leather armor strips, dagger and sword. My take on his costume was to sculpt an outfit that is reflective of the REH material using historical reference for the construction details such as clasps, buckles, hooks, etc. I also would have to be influenced by years of study of all the great fantasy artists whose work has thrilled and amazed me since I was a small boy, but we’ll talk more about that when we get into the costume detail on the full sized piece.
REH describes an epoch before ours, but clearly developed in places to a medieval level. It is also true that fighting men have always had customized gear in their outfits that were personal to them unless they were required to wear a particular uniform. Celtic warriors and Vikings wore highly personalized costumes, for example. Kull might have some armor as part of his gear, but also continued (in his adventurous days) to wear some fur pieces and some decoration as part of his kit that would remind him of his roots. I felt that some fur elements would add a layered look that would add to the effectiveness of the piece visually and would have been practical for his garment.
In the thumbnails, I gave him long hair because in the stories it is mentioned that as a king he wears his hair shorter, and no longer with the lion-like mane he used to wear. It works better for the look and flow of the piece, as well, so from a sculpture standpoint I was glad to have the rationale to give him longer hair.
The second pose is a more obvious look representing strength, victory, unassailable spirit and indomitable will. It is a more symbolic piece than pose one and after discussing the matter, Paradox decided that the first pose was more appropriate to the character and stories of Kull. I was pleased with the decision because, as I mentioned above, that was the pose I preferred for this piece.
I had described my reasoning in the costume decisions and Paradox agreed with some input that was helpful and insightful.
Next week I’ll show the beginnings of the full size sculpture and we’ll discuss the “Big Belt” controversy.