I did a thing! Well, I painted a thing — for my ATS bellydance troupe’s upcoming ritual of the Descent of Inanna, taking place this Sunday at Pantheacon. Woo!
This is my first time creating stuff for the stage, so I’m really quite pleased with how it all came out. The object in question is a moveable and reversible Ishtar Gate, with one side relatively true to the original and the other painted so as to be a gate to the Underworld. The husband of the troupe leader built the thing of lumber and canvas, then painted the background. It’s cleverly done, too — the pillars are on wheels, and the crenelated top is removable. It’s light enough, though also sturdy enough, that one person can push it around on their own (if necessary — it’s smoother with two folks) when the Gate is completely assembled.
If I understand correctly, the artwork was supposed to be done by the son of the troupe sister who is organizing this event/ritual. However, when I walked up and asked if I could help, he gladly accepted. I think the poor guy was just realizing how little time he had to get so much done, honestly… because over time I ended up doing all of the “Heaven” side and finishing the “Underworld” side.
As previously mentioned, our gate consists of two tall pillars with a crenelated top piece. The troupe leader and the ritual manager explained that they wanted an Assyrian dragon, a lion, and a bull on each pillar, much like there are on the original Ishtar Gate. Admittedly the lions are actually only on the walls that line the road to the Gate, but they too are lovely — so we added them as well. The Underworld side has the demon Pazuzu on it, which is a neat trick for a couple of reasons. First, in my research for visuals on him I discovered that whenever he’s depicted in a full-body pose (mostly in statuettes) he is invariably shown from the front — with one single exception that I know of, which has his lower body turned sideways like an Egyptian piece of art. Fortunately that one was enough for me to realize he had a scorpion’s tail along with the four wings, clawed hands, raptor feet, etc. Secondly, he’s a chronologically-later Assyrian demon rather than Sumerian like Inanna is. The reason for that is: “shut up!” she explained. :)
So I first sketched in the animals from some reference photos the young man had, using light-colored art pencils — while also discovering that painted canvas is very harsh on things like pencils, crayons, and Sharpies! No photos of that, alas… but I have a few shots of the animals blanked in with yellow paint. The perceptive will notice that the bulls are anatomically correct… but also that one bull’s, um, equipment is quite noticeably sized differently from the other’s! This is due to the fact that my dog, Goldie, walked up behind me and cheerfully stuck her cold wet nose in my ear as I was carefully adding that detail — so I guess that bull should be happy that he’s got anything at all. :)
After that beginning work was done I did the detailing work with Sharpie, and added a bunch of little touches like metallic gold paint on the horns of the bulls and the scale coats of the dragons, and red tongues on the dragons and the lions — that sort of thing. I think they all came out pretty darned well!
After that I had to finish the two pillars with Pazuzu on them. The young man had also sketched him out on both side pillars at the same time I’d done my sketches, and then later roughed in some paint — but that was all he had time to do. I was “voluntold” that I could finish it, right? I’m a sucker; I agreed. :) So I did some research on Pazuzu to see what he looked like, since the young man had only someone’s “artistic rendering” of the demon… then I started by blocking out the paint roughs more so they were smooth and had clean edges. After that I did more Sharpie work — all hail the glorious Sharpie, savior of brains and patience! Once that was completed, I added a touch of color in the eyes and teeth to make the figure “pop” a bit rather than appearing very visually flat… and then I was finally done!
It took me a little over 10 hours of work — the latter half of which was spent also struggling with a nasty cold. I am, therefore, inordinately proud of myself for managing to soldier through and get it done! Admittedly, I probably overdid it, considering most stage props are far enough away that it’s hard to make out details… but I really like the results, so I’m happy with it regardless.
So enough blathering! Here is our Ishtar Gate in its entirety and in its details. Enjoy, and tell me what you think! :)