Sunday, June 23, 2013

Dark and Primal Snow Queen Illustrations by ~a-hour

SNOWQUEEN by ~a-hour
Here's something I've been wanting to share ever since I first saw it. Now that Disney's direction for Frozen is a little clearer I thought those who were disappointed would be glad to know that HCA's The Snow Queen is still inspiring some of the most amazing illustration out there.

This is from deviantArt-ist ~a-hour who has been working on a personal Snow Queen project since early in 2013. The collection (of three so far) is darker than most illustrations you see based on the fairy tale but these definitely capture that spirit and maintain that fairy tale feel. I wasn't surprised to discover the artist is Russian (?*)  as the sensibilities are very much in keeping with other Russian artists work, including a very down-to-earth sense of the gravity of Winter and how perilous it can be.

Lauren Davis from iO9 made a great note on how ~a-hour chose to present various aspects of the story:
(The artist's) anthropomorphic approach gives the illustrations an ancient, mythical feel, and the mixture of the primal with the modern lend her "Snow Queen" images an otherworldliness often missing from recent interpretations of fairy tales.
Dtatil from SNOWQUEEN by ~a-hour
 I completely agree.

Although I would have to add a side note to mention that many modern interpretations DO possess that quality - they just don't always make it into the mainstream, aren't noticed and "memed" by pop-culture and so slip under the radar, aging alongside the garish and shallow work of their contemporaries but believe me - there are many artists and writers and, yes, even filmmakers, who  are able to capture some of that elusive "olde worlde fairy tale essence" in their work.

Interestingly, if you had been following the early concept art from Frozen, these images - as concept art - would have fit fairly well! Unfortunately I haven't seen anything that would indicate Disney has tapped into any of this. *goes and cries in a corner for a couple of minutes before continuing*

But back to the beautiful. (And I'm making this next one as huge as possible so you can take a good look - a really good look...)

Detail from SNOWQUEEN by ~a-hour
Check the details!

Take the Snow Queen character image (which is apparently still a work in progress, although it looks just fine to me!): the reindeer skull (Death) propping up the Queen's face, antlers that look almost like tortured hands reaching upward as they froze over, the North (& South?) Winds as tamed lions peeking out from her fur wrap, the shard-like and brittle-looking hands in opposite ices of frozen white and deathly black, the frosted ice crown that looks like mirror shards, the crescent moon scepter which might just double as a scythe, her cold and soulless eyes, the fading/dying wheat of the previous season reflecting the colors of the Aurora Borealis... I should stop. Heh.

(And yes - all this may be completely wrong, since the artist mentions nothing about any of these aspects in her posts, but it's what I see in there.)

"Crows" SNOWQUEEN by ~a-hour
This next piece at right, titled "Crows",  is also for ~a-hour's Snow Queen project and adds a different aspect to the usual tale. She writes:
This is the part of my personal project based on "Snow Queen", same as The Deer, and shows two crows, who helped Gegda to find Kai. They are ghosts of murdered lovers - Karl and Clara; their hearts are connected and they can't fly without each other.
Apparently there is more explanation to come and  I'm completely intrigued. (More please!)

I have to say, though, that this next one is my real favorite: "Deer".
"Deer" SNOWQUEEN - by ~a-hour

This is Gerda's reindeer friend but in a very different form.

The Autumnal section of Andersen's Snow Queen was always my favorite, with the robber girl and the reindeer. A favorite image - and sought-after illustration - from the Andersen tale for many is when Gerda rides the reindeer on the last leg of her journey to find Kai, into the land of Ice and Snow.

In this incarnation, though, we have a very formidable friend indeed, complete with clawed feet and holding... a motorcycle helmet. (It kind of makes me want to cheer!)

I'm really looking forward to seeing Gerda (which we've been promised will come next) and whatever comes after. It's just stunning. And chilling. And wonder-full.

 Sadly, Disney's  Frozen doesn't look like it will reflect any of the insight into the fairy tale shown here**, nor tap the earthy quality that makes the original story of Gerda, Kai and the Snow Queen so loved. But if people continue to be inspired the way this artist is there's a good chance The Snow Queen will have another season in which to tell her tale and we will fall in love all over again.

* Not entirely sure of the artist's nationality but they often post in Russian - or some variant - on deviantArt.
** Though almost all animation film marketing has been incredibly misleading the last few years and I almost missed some wonderful filmmaking as a result (!!) so I am holding out hope I will be pleasantly surprised - because I would love to love a Disney fairy tale again!

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