Sunday, June 5, 2011

Lords of Dyscrasia: Video Trailer


Sequence:
  1. Lords of Dyscrasia S.E. Lindberg
  2. Graphic Sword and Sorcery >50 Illustrations
  3. Dyscrasia (kills): a blood disease shared between man and god
  4. As Picti and Elders die, Lord Lysis must choose:
  5. Heal The Gods...or...Take Their Place
  6. So begins a WAR over magic blood
  7. Animated Graphic 1 caption: Lord Lysis...Undead Hero
  8. Animated Graphic 2 caption: Dyscrasia Kills
  9. Animated Graphic 3 caption: Heal...or...Kill
  10. Animated Graphic 4 caption: War...in Hell
  11. Lords of Dyscrasia S.E.Lindberg.com





This animation I post individually without audio, since it is weird enough for a closer look.  It is a blend of Photshop, Flash, and AfterEffects.  You will note the inspiration from my entry re: tentacled creatures: Creepy Myelins.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Flash XML: Interactive Maps

An interactive map explorer on S E Lindberg.com  allows you to correlate the events, characters, and geographies of Lords of Dyscrasia.  The Flash widget was originally designed to explore conventional maps of cities, but was easily adapted for the Land and Underworld of Lords of Dyscrasia; a magnifier and navigation bars allow for easy zooming and panning; the flashing dots are locations with pop-up descriptions and images--> just click on these to show a pop-up image and description.


Here is a live demonstration:


Another Flash widget enables the Dyscrasia Museum browser:  Once there, just click on the square "Folder" icons and get a pop-up of images and details for each character:
Gallery browser
Pop-up for Doctor Grave's Info
Flash Widget Market
To HTML5 radicals (Flash-nay-sayers?), please note that the text content and images are (1) searchable by search engines and (2) easy-to-update outside of Flash since all content is external to the SWF file and is referenced via a simple XML file.  The process is easy: locate a SWF interface you like from online markets, spend ~$5 - $15 for a royalty-free version (generally), and update the XML text and supply your images.  You'll get a cool web interface with little coding.  If desired, most widgets come with the original Flash files, so you can custom them if needed (and you own Flash); otherwise, most can just insert the SWF widget into their HTML, WIKI site, etc.

I went to Activeden.net  (formerly Flashden.net), one of Envato.com's marketplaces: Audiojungle.net has royalty-free sound effects and music for sale....and other markets cover motion effects, web and blog templates, tutorials, and more.  Thanks to web guru Martin Nieuwoudt who mentored me on web strategies!     

Microscopists by day- Illustrators by night

UPDATE: 2013 - Robotslayer Paperback and iOS app have since become available!

Interview with fellow microscopist/illustrator, Vince Kamp

I begin with a call-out to the world-renowned microscope stage developers: Linkam Scientific.  Many industries require the ability to accurately perturb material or biological specimens with temperature, shear, tensile stress, exposure to radiation, humidity, etc.; and the Linkam crew enables viewing of microstructure via optical microscopy and many spectroscopic methods while doing so.  Rheologists and biologists alike adore their fine craftsmanship.  Linkam's products are available in the U.S. from many dealers including the McCrone Research Center (Walter McCrone was a famous "chemical microscopist" responsible for analyzing the pigments within the Shroud of Turin). Check out the Linkam online TV channel for more: 
LinkamTV
Turns out, although I have been interacting with Linkam since the late 90's, I did not know until recently that Operations Director Vince Kamp has been churning away on his own illustrated children's book. I was delighted to learn that he has a similar workflow: (1) sketch by hand onto paper, (2) scan, (3) color/texturize digitally.  His style is natural; it looks naturally painted with oil paints. So here goes my informal interview with him:


SEL: Vince, how do you construct your paintings? 
VK: As far as my process is concerned, well I sketch everything in pencil and then scan and import into PS.  I block in background colour and then block in my characters, I work from dark to light and use only one brush, a sort of splatter brush that mimics a traditional brush, set to 90% opacity and use pressure sensitivity on my tablet (wacom cintiq, 12") [SEL: Cripes!  I want one of those!].  I have messed around with water based colouring pencils and oil pastels but not for my online stuff.

Side bar:  This mixed media approach of (1) sketching, (2) scaning, (3) digitally coloring is getting popular. 
So here goes another call out to the friendly Brits.  They have an entire professional magazine dedicated to like artists; and it's rooted in fnatasy and sci-fi art.  Check out the ImagineFX website (their magazines are distributed in Barnes & Noble too).
ImagineFX Tutorial

SEL: You are too humble for words, and your sarcasm is thick...but delivery dry (especially via email).  Please clarify how you get your digital colors to look like real paint.
VK: I'm heavily influenced by traditional painting techniques and though I'm completely untrained and don't know what I'm doing [SEL: UK humor?], the books I study almost exclusively focus on light and colour in oil painting.  So I guess I'm saying my pics may not look so digital because I try to paint in a traditional way of using layers of paint and blending.  I almost never use all the various tweaking filters in PS as I would love to one day have the time to paint properly on canvas. I don't want to rely on digital tools to get the look I want.  If I ever get round to being able to create a beautiful oil painting I think I would feel like I could really exploit everything in PS to produce much better pictures, but I would like to earn that right by studying all the fundamentals first.  Understanding colour and light is just so fascinating and I don't believe I've even scratched the surface, it's insanely frustrating.

SEL: Your style is perfect for a kid's book, I can't wait to see how Leo the Robot Slayer emerges.  Does any work inspire this style? 
VK: Even though my pics are all cartooney I love Vermeer and Rembrandt and many of the more obscure post renaissance painters from in and around my Dad's village in Holland.  I know I'm waffling but I thought I would give you an idea of how I think when I'm colouring my pics as the process itself is really very simple.  One brush, 90% opacity.  If you haven't already, check out James Gurney's light and color http://www.amazon.co.uk/Color-Light-Guide-Realist-Painter/dp/0740797719. By the way, the comment that my pictures don't look digital is probably the greatest compliment I have received so far, as that is ultimately what I'm desperately trying to achieve.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Making and Mixing Paints - Medieval vs Digital Technology

 Tablet Technology is Revolutionizing Painting!

Finally, artisits can "draw" directly on digital screens: on the go, with unlimited color selection....and the ability to work on layers, literally mix colors within a layer, and "undo/redo" multiple edits...and instantly dry/rewet paints...it's crazy!  Some iPad Drawing Applications with mixing abilities include Art Rage and Layers. Technology for traditional computers include premium Digital Tablets from Wacom (the Cintiq), All-in-One Tablet PC's like Dell's Inspiron,  and Adobe's Photoshop CS5.5 Mixer Brush and Bristle Tips that allow for rotational control of asymmetric "fan" brushes in addition to the awesome, pressure sensitivity.

How did Medieval Artists live without these? 

Early painters could not go to Walmart or Amazon to purchase "traditional" paints or sketch pads. The industrial production of paints did not emerge until the late 18th century (ref: Colors: The Story of Dyes and Pigments by Francois Delamare and Bernard Guineau).  So in addition to learning how to produce art, early artists also had to learn where to find the base materials (minerals for pigments, extracts for dyes, skin for canvases, etc.) and how to cook them into paint.  They had to procure their own minerals to grind, plants to extract dyes from, etc.;  they often mingled with their compatriot shoppers of Apothecaries, the physicians and herbalists.  It was only a century ago that industrial demands for color took over the responsibility for making paints away from the painter: 
"Many of the functions of medieval art have been usurped in modern times by the machine.  The two most extensive fields of medieval art production--books and textiles--have been taken over almost entirely nowadays by the forces of mechanical production.  We need not raise the question here of whether there is any loss for us in that..."; Daniel V Thompson (The materials and techniques of medieval painting Dover 1956)
Victoria Finlay literally traveled the world to reveal the origins of pigment production, and she reminds us that there were challenges to storing paints too.  Her book "Colors" directly ties the natural sourcing of pigments and the cultures that are intimately tied to them; "Colors" amplifies the historic cultural, and spiritual, connections between pigments and the artists who harvested them:
"For centuries, artists had stored their paints in pigs' bladders.  It was a pain staking process: they, or their apprentices, would carefully cut the thin skin into squares.   Then they would spoon a nugget of wet paint into each square, and tie up the little parcels at the top with string.  When they wanted to paint, they would pierce the skin with a tack, squeeze the color onto their palette and then mend the puncture.  It was messy, especially when the bladders burst, but it was also wasteful, as the paint would dry out quickly.  Then in 1841 a fashionable American portrait painter call John Goffe Rand devised the first collapsible tube..."(p19 of Victoria Finlay's Color - A Natural History of the Palette 2004 Random House)
The process of preparing one's own materials was, and still can be, a meaningful part of the creative process. 
It was once an expectation that artists were also scientists, sourcing their own materials and working them from the earth, such that their material gathering affected their style. One of the first "technology" books that evolved from compilations of secretive recipes and pseudo-legitimate alchemy was the Mappae clavicula;: A little key to the world of medieval techniques.  It is a compilation of compilations which maintains a sense of poetry and naive embellishment; translated and reprinted by the American Philosophical Society in 1974 in the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society; original illuminations available as a virtual book on the Corning Museum website.
"We forget that throughout the history of medieval art there were no prepared packaged paints, inks, or parchments leaves.  The locating of particular pigments required a familiarity with nature which was so intimate as to be incomprehensible to us today.  It required a knowledge of not only the unchanging elements of nature, but of those that vary with climate, with geography, with the time of year.  The eggs of a specific insect, at a specific time in its life, would yield a particular pigment. At other times, the eggs would be useless. " (p22 of 1974 Mappae Clavicula: A little key to the world of medieval technique)
Magic Paint 
Cyril Stanley Smith and John G. Hawthorne put into perspective how the technology of paint making was obscured with early chemistry (alchemy).  Artisans were largely ignorant of their science; and/or they were not rewarded for determining/revealing the truth:
"When there were no purified chemicals in labeled bottles and no general theory to guide him, the artisan would not lightly change his practice.  Moreover, the more spectacular recipes are the least likely to be omitted by a compiler: feeding a virgin goat with ivy and using his mixed blood and urine to carve crystal will impress the layman more than the suggestion simply to dip in turpentine." (p18 of 1974 Mappae Clavicula: A little key to the world of medieval technique)

Note, Smith and Hawthorne, translators of the Mappae Clavicula, also translated Theophilis'12th century On Divers Arts , a treatise on arts written by practicing artist. Pigments, glass blowing, stained glass, gold and silver work.  They highlight that many of the ingredients of these medieval recipes are identified by their geographic origin (location) since natural "chemicals" were not purified then and compositional heterogeneity across regions affected color.
 

This is reinforced in the 15th century work The Craftsman's Handbook "Il Libro dell'Arte" by Cennino d'Andrea Cennini (translated by D.V.Thompson). Cennini describes how his father introduced him to the sources of various pigments and plants by walking the countryside.  His spiritual experiences with being an artisan radiates throughout his detailed handbook:
"To approach the glory of the profession step by step, let us come to the working up of the colors, informing you which are the choicest colors, and the coarsest, and the most fastidious; which one needs to be worked up or ground but little, which requires another; and just as they differ in their colors, so do they also in the characters of their temperas and their working up."
Action Steps

1) Digital Painting: While playing with our new Dell Inspiron tablet/all-in-one and iPad (Adobe's mixer brush and Layer's App) ... dream about purchasing an Wacom Cintiq tablet.

2) Medieval Technology: Planting dyer's garden now with help from my wife; the goal is to harvest these materials this year/next and then begin experimenting. I will be attending this year's Monticello Natural Dye Workshop to get bootstrapped. Note to self: use glass jars to store the paints, as reinventing "pig bladder tube technology" lowers the return-on-investment.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Character Design: Cirque du Soleil OVO and the Dark Crystal

The Awesome Performance & Character Design in Ovo
Evokes Memories of Awe from Dark Crystal Experience

Creatures are a key element of Fantasy works.  They are usually represented on a colossal scale (dragons, the Star Wars Rancor, etc.) or on a humanoid scale (like the mythogical Minotaur...or the orc armies of Tolkien's Middle Earth).  To be surprising and scary, creators of new monsters are motivated to be unique (familiar creatures inherently have lost their sense of strangeness that makes them fantastical in the first place).  Creating novel things becomes increasingly difficult as the historic pool of creatures accumulates; this May, I was inspired to see how the Cirque du Soleil reinvented their offerings with "Ovo", a theatrical fantasy based on an imaginary insect world whose unique richness stems from its character/creature design (this was my first experience, though it is the 25th show design in as many years for the Montreal based entertainment group).

Ovo - Cricket Costume

It seems Cirque du Soleil needed a new excuse to allow their talented performers to show off, and they hit the mark really well.  All the designs meshed as an integrated world: the sets, the costumes, the choreography, music...somehow the entire event appeared as one place.  Designing costumes that not only look insectan, but allow performers to perform athletic feats without distraction had to be challenging for designer Liz Vandal

Was there a story?  Not really...though it wasn't needed.  The performance was entirely eye-candy.  Was there conflict?  Almost no conflict existed in the storyline, with some minor comedy coming from the Foreigner character trying to woo the Ladybug (of course, there was the ever present man-vs-nature conflict with the contortionists, acrobats, etc. continually snubbing their noses at gravity and muscle contractions).  Except for a few moments that I cannot explain....


A Fleeting Battle Brought Mysterious Conflict!
Mysterious walking sticks brought tension to the stage. These stilt walking bad guys tried to approach the Foreigner, but the Ladybug fought them off. Were these Walking Sticks?  Or Jim Hensen's Landstriders? I cannot identify these creatures by name since they were not represented in the program or online (by deduction, they were not "fleas", "roaches", or"mosquitoes").  I share a snapshot of the Official OVO Program booklet since I was unable to locate an image online to reference. To highlight the Walking Sticks I desaturated the surrounding set (below image).
These instantly evoked the awesome "Land Striders" from the 1982 Dark Crystal Movie.  Of course, the Land Striders were literally big puppets, powered by stilt-walking puppeteers...though I recall them being the "good" type of creature.


Dark Crystal Land Striders


Ovo - Walking Sticks?



Dark Crystal Sequel Brewing
Dark Crystal Skeksis
Now I remember...the Land Striders were largely dismembered by the evil Garthim beetles (allies of the bird-like Skeksis).  Looking for inspiration on designing creatures?  I recommend procuring the The Dark Crystal (25th Anniversary Edition) which provides featurettes revealing behind-the-scenes designs, including commentary by the Dark Crystal's conceptual designer, the acclaimed Fairy artist Brian Froud.




Froud has a distinctive style that seems to bring real-life to his fairies--even take life away to preserve their real-forms...as in Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book : 10 3/4 Anniversary Edition; In addition to sketches, the book was designed to preserve (to a squished degree) real fairies. 

Froud's Pressed Fairy

Froud's  Fairy















It is interesting that even in 1982 (before ATM's and microwave ovens really hit their strides...let alone computers as we know them), Jim Hensen was inspired to bring "life" to the movies that the new band-wagon of special effects could not (Star Wars was rocking the movie world then).  Over three decades later, there is still a reliance on technologies that do not necessarily impart a sense of real-life in our characters.  The Dark Crystal's Garthim beetles were as real as the Scarabs in the live performance of Ovo, and arguable more real-feeling than many of today's digitized creatures.  The challenge for artists is figuring out how to really animate our fantasy characters with pen and paper (Ovo has done it for the stage).   

Well, like many other promising movies in the 2011 Sword and Sorcery film queue, there is a sequel brewing that may reinvigorate the awe of the Dark Crystal for another generation (see below links). 


Dark Crystal Garthim

Friday, May 6, 2011

Images Have Skeletons Too

 Scientific Image Analysis 
can be a great tool to learn about composition
Key Points:
  1. Images have real backbones ("structure" or "composition")
  2. Viewers eyes gravitate toward edge detection; as an artisit, you must use composition to lead your viewer through your landscape
  3. It is fun, although excessive, to reveal composition with scientific algorithms.

Art Analysis

Frazetta's Tanar
An inspirational side bar: I stumbled across a cool blog @ Ideas Made of Light that dissects the composition of fantasy art (and others), including Frazetta's "Tanar of Pellucidar", M.C. Escher's "Relativity", and Dali's "Gala Contemplating...Abraham Lincoln".

This is a fantastic website for lovers of Art & Science, since it comprehensively reveals compositional design concepts with easy-to-understand visuals.  If you want to understand art better, or be a more deliberate designer, check these case studies out ... then apply what you learn.





Russ's Image Analysis Book
Image Analysis

I am a huge fan of John Russ, a retired North Carolina State Professor and image analysis/metallurgist expert.  The analysis methods he often applied to solid state matter are also used to quantify microstructures within soft matter mixtures (i.e. paints and consumer products like cosmetics, toothpaste, and conditioners :) ).  His Image Analysis Processing handbook-6th edition is just being released.  Image Analysis can also be used to analyze Sword & Sorcery cover art to reveal compositional design!  Woo-hoo! 



Shape Analysis of Positive / Negative Space

Let's apply some John Russ's image analysis (employable via the Photoshop interface as "filters") to reveal the composition within the proposed my Lords of Dyscrasia cover art.  I shared a draft of this entry to John and his son Chris (who leads Reindeer Graphics and collaborates with his father authoring books and code), and they rightly clarify that, in artistic terms, the below procedure "is a shape analysis of positive or negative space."

Here is what we'll get:

(1) a skeleton of features within the primary focus, the "Intensity Skeleton"
and (2) a demarcation of the primary "Contrast Interfaces" that lead the viewer's eyes about the image


To do this, we'll apply a series of operations to our color image.
1) First, we'll isolate the intensity levels by transforming the RGB (red, green, blue) image into HSI (hue, saturation, intensity) map; we'll disregard the hue and saturation for this work and focus on the intensity.
2) Next, we'll apply a median filter to remove the high frequency details since we aim to look at the gross composition (a Gaussian blur).
3) Thirdly, we'll transform the grayscale image (256 gray levels) into a binary image (2 levels, black and white) by common thresholding (we choose a critical gray level that turns all lower to black and all higher to white).
4) Finally, we'll fill-in-holes via a morphology filter.
This prework enables us to derive our skeletons. To mark out the features within the primary focus (figures and fire), we...
5) Recolor our binarized image with a Euclidean Distance Map.  This will re-shade all black regions with a new intensity dependent on the proximity to the white area. This effectively will make a landscape in which the peaks (the skeleton) can be isolated
6) To isolate the backbones, we threshold our distance map and select values that contain only the peaks.
7) To visualize the backbone of this internal structure within the focus area, we overlay the skeleton atop a version of the original.


Okay, we are also interested in contrast (contrast mechanisms differentiate the many imaging modes used in microscopy). In common terms we are looking for the edges, or interfaces, between key regions.   
5b) We'll still need our distance map.  We'll go back to image 4 and take a different path. 
6b) This time we'll isolate the edges by thresholding and coloring the opposite peaks (in this case the lightest shades of grey).
7b) We'll overlay them atop a version of the original
8b) And compare these heavy-duty mathematically derived drawings to a simple free-hand estimate (an ellipse).

Hopefully this supports the design I worked in up-front.   The idea was to draw the viewer's eye toward the skeletal hero (the undead, anti-hero Endenken Lysis).




Sunday, April 17, 2011

Dark Muses II: Creative Forces Driving Science and Art

Note this is Part of a series:

#1) Dark Muses I: The undercurrent of "Art" in Weird literature

#2: Dark Muses II: Creative Forces Driving Science and Art (you are here) 

#3:  Historical Anatomy: Composing Bodies and Representing the Invisible Soul 

#4) Weird, Dark Art Design: Implicit vs. Explicit Gore and Horror
__________________

Scientists and artists have long had inherent faith in their creative processes and the muses that motivate them. Scientists cannot a priori predict their theories for they begin only as mere hypotheses, like unadulterated marble blocks waiting to be carved.  Likewise, art cannot be described genuinely before its creation.  By testing hypotheses, theories emerge; by sculpting marble blocks, statues are birthed.  Artists are guided by creative forces; ultimately, art (not the artist) must reveal and represent itself.  As one works paint on a canvas, muses participate, the artist becoming an instrument and medium of sorts.

Although the Red Muse of Lords of Dyscrasia is fictional, I do rely on real muses for inspiration.  I generally subscribe to the philosophy of agnosticism, a term coined in 1869 by Thomas Henry Huxley who was an ardent supporter of his contemporary's theory of evolution (Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, 1859).   In his primer book on science, Huxley expounded on nature's inherent sourcing of man's art:

Thomas Huxley (1825-1895)
Although this distinction between nature and art, between natural and artificial things, is very easily made and very convenient, it is needful top remember that, in the long run, we owe everything to nature; that even those artificial objects which we commonly say are made by men, are only natural objects shaped and moved by men; and that, in the sense of creating, that is to say of causing something to exist which did not exist in some other shape before, man can make nothing whatever...Carpenters, builders, shoemakers, and all other artisans and artists, are persons who have learned so much of the powers and properties of certain natural objects, and of the chain of causes and effects in nature, as enables them to shape and put together those natural objects, so as to be useful to man (Huxley 1888) i
The difference between artist and scientist was once more obscure than today.  The processes of exploring the unknown via art or science are different but the methodologies share the same motivating source and subject.   For me, scientific and artistic muses connect the naturally divine to the artificially materialistic; practicing creative processes brings comfort, satisfaction, and revelation of life's mysteries; following creative muses is enlightening.  Along these lines, I have long been a resolute agnostic, refusing to arbitrarily ascribe a name, face, or religion to all that is incomprehensible (read god), but as scientist and artist, I do have a faith using creative processes to connect with the ineffable.   

The creative Muse assumed an essential role in Lords of Dyscrasia, albeit a broader inspiration than that revealed in Greek mythology; as the Muse's primary curator, Grave does echo the role of Hephaestus the smith and Endenken Lysis assumes the role of Prometheus, antagonizing the gods and procuring their fire; and Maeve is not unlike Pandora, a beautiful harbinger of pain and pawn of the gods, crafted out of earthly elements by the smith Hephaestus.  So it is appropriate to investigate the inspiration behind the gothic classic The Modern Prometheus (1818) in which Mary Bryce Shelly, guided by muses, grappled with the themes of Science, Art, and Spirit.   Her character Victor Frankenstein, the infamous artist and scientist, pieced together materials from cemeteries to create life via alchemy.  In her prologue, she described how her muse worked though her:


My imagination, unbidden, possessed and guided me, gifting the successive images that arose in my mind with a vividness far beyond the usual bounds of reverie. I saw-with shut eyes, but acute mental vision-I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together.  I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion.   Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavor to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.  His success would terrify the artist...ii
In a correspondence to his friend and contemporary author, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Ervin Howard (1906-1936) explained his interaction with the muse that inspired his Conan yarns.  Howard is often credited with being the originator of today's Sword & Sorcery genre with his characters: Conan the Barbarian, King Kull, Solomon Kane, and Bran Mak Morn.  In December 1933, Howard wrote to Smith about his Conan muse:
 
Gary Gianni's Looming Dark Man (Muse, Bran Mak Morn)
 'While I don't go so far as to believe that stories are inspired by actually existing spirits or powers, though I am rather opposed to flatly denying anything, I have sometimes wondered if it were possible that unrecognized forces of the past or present--or even the future--work through the thought and actions of living men.

'This occurred to me when I was writing the first stories of the Conan series especially. I know that for months I had been absolutely barren of ideas, completely unable to work up anything sellable. Then the man Conan seemed to grow up in my mind without much labor on my part and immediately a stream of stories flowed off my pen--or rather off my typewriter--almost without effort on my part. I did not seem to be creating, but rather relating events that had occurred. Episode crowded upon episode so fast that I could scarcely keep up with them.
'For weeks I did nothing but write of the adventures of Conan. The character took complete possession of my mind and crowded out everything else in the way of story-writing. When I deliberately tried to write something else, I couldn't do it.
'I do not attempt to explain this by esoteric or occult means, but the facts remain. I still write of Conan more powerfully and with more understanding than any of my other characters. But the time will probably come when I will suddenly find myself unable to write convincingly of him at all. This has happened in the past with nearly all my rather numerous characters; suddenly I find myself out of contact with the conception, as if the man himself had been standing at my shoulder directing my efforts, and had suddenly turned and gone away, leaving me to search for another character.' iii
So where do muses lead us?  In fairy tales, the ignis fatuous (a.k.a. will-o'-the-wisp, fool's fire, jack-o-lantern, or corpse candle) is a  luminous, nondescript light that hovers over wetlands and obscures forest paths.  These lights are thought to trick people into hellish traps or endless, foolish journeys.   In Lords of Dyscrasia, I liken the role of the ignis fatuous to that of fiery muses rather than evil temptations.  I acknowledge a longstanding fascination with Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydian and his deathless, zombie soldiers the Cauldron Born who served Arawn Death-Lord.  The Cauldron Born zombies were based from the magical Cauldron of Arawn mentioned within the Welsh medieval manuscripts the Mabinogion; therein, fallen soldiers could be cast into the pot to be fully rejuvenated.

The idea of cooking with souls and men, giving life back to the dead (whether fully sentient or zombie like) builds on the themes of alchemy and the link between body, soul.  This recipe for resurrection transmutes the soul from the unreachable chaos back into earthly elements.  For Lords of Dyscrasia, the Forge assumed the role of a magical cauldron but with a more direct link to artistry; the notion that the magical fire responsible for the forge's power may be a mobile fire was very exciting to me; a dead man could be placed into a forge, be rejuvenated by its fire, and then leave the vessel an undead man with the magical fire still burning him!  This symbolism has roots in mysticism, as the divine fifth element as been described as an astral fire, with roots in alchemy; here Alexander Roob summarizes this in his Alchemy and Mysticism:
It is said of the philosopher and thaumaturge Empedocles that he claimed the existence of two suns.  The hermetic doctrines also include a double sun, and distinguish between a bright spirit-sun, the philosophical gold, and the dark natural sun, corresponding to material gold.  The former consists of the essential fire that is conjoined with the ether of the 'glowing air'.  The idea of the vivifying fire - Heraclitus (6th century B.C.) calls it 'artistic' fire running through all things - is a legacy of Persian magic.  Its invisible effect supposedly distinguishes the Work of the alchemists from that of the profane chemists.  The natural sun, however, consists of the known, consuming fire, whose precisely dosed use also determines the success of the enterprise.iv

i Huxley, T. H. (1888). Introductory, Science Primers. New York, D. Appleton and Company. p8-9
ii Shelley, M., Ed (1993). Frankenstein 1818 Text. Oxford World's Classics. New York, N.Y., Oxford University Press.
iii Lord, G. (1976). The Last Celt: A Bio-Bibliography of Robert Ervin Howard. Hampton Falls, NH, Donald M. Grant Publisher, Inc., p57
iv Roob, A. (2006). Alchemy & Mysticism. Los Angeles, C.A., Taschen Press. p25