Sunday, September 21, 2008

Swords: An Artist's Devotion

I have a 17-month-old son, and one of the observations I often hear from other parents is, "Oh, a boy... anything you give them, they turn it into a weapon." This usually accompanies one of two unreconcilable pieces of advice: 1) "so it's even more important that you never give them toy guns and swords!" or 2) "so don't even bother trying to keep them away from toy guns and swords, because it doesn't matter."

I won't pretend to analyze whether that's nature or nurture, or whether it's even true. But I gave my son a big stalk of celery last week, and within about 30 seconds he was chasing the cats, bellowing and swinging it around like a claymore.

Like a lot of my friends growing up--and, frankly, to this day--my reading definitely has included books about swords (and guns, and Civil War battle tactics, and the historical evolution of polearms and tanks and... hmmm, maybe there's a pattern here). So when I got my hands on Swords: An Artist's Devotion, I couldn't put it down. And then I only parted with it because a couple friends who were reading over my shoulder (yes, both guys) kept bugging me for it.

Swords is technically "suitable for ages 9 and up," but Ben Boos (the author and artist behind it) has said he intended the book for all ages--especially gamers and anyone else who thinks that swords are as cool as he does.

Boos quit his job as a video-game artist (working on a few different titles in the Diablo series for Blizzard) to write and illustrate Swords. If you compare the art in, say, Diablo or WoW to the art in the magazine or banner ads promoting those games, you can imagine that working within the tiny, pixel-by-pixel constraints of an actual game can be kind of limiting. So Boos wanted to cut loose with a whole new level of detail--and that's what you get in this, what's essentially a really beautiful art book.

The dozens of almost absurdly detailed sword illustrations (along with tons of sketches) are the star of the show here, but Boos adds a bunch of cool historical details, too--everything from an excerpt from Beowulf (with an accompanying sketch of Hrunting!) to explanations of Damascus steel, Korea's Silla knights, and the favored weapon of the landsknecht mercenaries (that would of course be the Katzbalger, which means both "cat gutter" and "suitable for the fight").


Anonymous said...

So cool. I know several grown male gamers who will want this for Christmas or Chanukah or, well, Friday.

And the phrase "swinging it around like a claymore" totally cracked me up.

Paul Hughes said...

Thanks! Yeah, it was no exaggeration. He was like a miniature Liam Neeson from Rob Roy.

And you've got to see the book. The spreads are so pretty. I wish I could have found some higher-res images.

Anonymous said...

I can tell from the images you have here that the pictures are beautiful, and I'm not weapons person. My 13 yr old loves the swords, and wants to draw them.

We saw on PBS specials about Samurai and Damascus swords. I would not have believed how cool they were if we hadn't seen the special.

And I agree boys will make a weapon out of anything, even if you avoid them. My boys play foam fencing with pipe insulators. We finely gave in with my oldest and allowed things like squirt guns. But nothing resembling real guns and no store bought swords. If they want to use their imaginations, whatever, so long as they understand about weapons/killing.

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