For this week’s Piece of the Week, we’re visiting Loosedesign’s “Cyclops and Odysseus“. If you’re not up on your Greek myths here is a grossly simplified run down of Cyclops and Odysseus. If you studied the classics, please forgive me.
So after a decade of fighting against Troy, the Greek superlegend Odysseus — who was a military leader — decided to head home from battle. Odysseus was infamous for being smart, strong, brave, and all that. So Odysseus and his men jump in their ship to head back to Greece. They’re exhausted after ten years at war. After battling for so long, Odysseus seems to have gone off his rocker (or this is where the myth part of the story begins), and he decides to stop at an island that he came across. He decides to get off the boat — which ended up being a bad move, but hell, hindsight is always 20/20. The island is inhabited by the Cyclops, a race of giants with one huge eye in the middle of their heads. The Cyclops are grotty, lawless, barbaric, and eat humans (when they stupidly decided to get off their boats). To cut a long story short, the Cyclops tried to eat the adventurers, and Odysseus and his men found a sharp stick, heated it up over flames and impaled a Cyclops in the eyeball to blind him. There’s something in here about getting drunk for the first time, and tying men up to sheep, but the next morning Odysseus managed to let his men free and escape on his boat. Odysseus sails away yelling out his name and telling the Cyclops they are “no man” and tooting his own trumpet and handing out high fives. Man wins, the end.
In this artwork, Looselinedesign has re-created that pivotal moment where things escalated between the Cyclops and Odysseus; the rolling clouds and wind swept hair of Odysseus’s flowing mane indicate things are about to heat up. This is a fantastic illustration, in that its storytelling properties are the message of the artwork. We’re taken on a journey of apprehension and aggression through this work, as it creates tension with the foreshadowing scalding-hot-wood-barb-of-blindness.
Great illustration tells stories through subtle hints and foreshadowing. Scattering clues throughout an illustration is the key to coaxing us as viewers into the evolution of the characters’ stories. It shows instead of tells. “Cyclops and Odysseus” is littered with signals about what is about occur, it’s a great case study on how to show what’s about to happen. Anticipation is a powerful tool (for example, often before Shakespeare kills someone off in a play there’s a big lightning storm), and the moments of tension before drama can be equally, if not more suspenseful than fighting itself. Giving your viewers that moment of stillness before the mayhem is highly satisfying, and Looselindesign has this down.
I love Looselinedesign’s style here, the comical tiny head-eyeball of Cyclops and the oversized calf muscles of Odysseus. Exaggeration and embellishment add charm and character to this illustration without trying too hard at all.