Nightwish project update

Posted by nightphoenix on February 18, 2013 in Art, Input, Music, Output |

Well, I sort of changed my mind about having a separate page for the project…I can just post updates in the regular blog and tag them. Also, FYI, this is a longish post.

I finished Storytime at last, and have been working on Turn Loose the Mermaids. Storytime turned out really, really good…I’m quite proud of it:


(If you want a close-up look, I also have it over on deviantART.)

On the left side (bottom to top, not including the gal holding the frame) there’s Polgara the Sorceress from the Belgariad, Roland the gunslinger from Stephan King’s Dark Tower (I finally got around to reading the first book), the Pagemaster, Morgaine le Fey carrying Excalibur, Hook’s pirate ship, Wendy, John and Michael flying across the moon, and Falcor and Bastian from the Neverending Story. The tower in the left-hand corner is the Dark Tower.

Up the center we have Alice and the Cheshire Cat, Lucy/Tumnus and the Narnian lamppost, the Ivory Tower in the background, Totoro in his tree, and of course the Pan himself. On the right there is the “limitless chest of tales” (upon which rests the One Ring and an Aes Sedai ring, and the lions could reference Aslan), Anette in her Snow White from Hell getup, Nighteyes the wolf, Fitzchivalry Farseer and the Fool, the alethiometer from the Golden Compass, the “painter on the shore”, Gimli and Legolas, and Raistlin Majere.

The only character I meant to include and just forgot is Kvothe from The Name of the Wind (which is a shame, since that has become one of my favorite books).

Imaginaerum has, rather inadvertently, become the tone-setter for this project…which is sort of backwards given that it’s the last album (and also, I’m discovering, the weirdest one, thematically). I feel that my pen work has improved dramatically just in the course of the last few drawings (to the point where I’m considering going back and tweaking some of the earlier ones, like Ghost River). I’m trying to get all the Imaginaerum songs finished before I see the movie (which isn’t going to happen until the DVD is released and migrates its way across the Atlantic…it’s gonna be a while 😛 ). I don’t want the visuals from the movie influencing how I do the last few songs, even subconsciously…because the movie, in my mind, is something different (with its own soundtrack, no less).

Otherwise, I’m doing the songs in no particular order. I hope that will keep me from getting bored. The only exception is the last song. I felt I should end this with the band’s namesake song: Nightwish.

Meanwhile I’ve done a lot of “meta” work on this project as a whole. I made a schedule in Excel and figured out exactly how fast I’d have to work to get this done by mid-2016. Two drawings a month is the minimum, it turns out…to actually finish by August 2016, I’ll have to step it up to three during the summer months. I’d actually be working on three per month anyway, technically, because I’ve taken all the “epic” songs (Poet and the Pendulum, Ghost Love Score, FantasMic, etc), and scheduled them out so that I have several months to work on each.

Difficult, but feasible. In all honesty, though, I’m working from pure speculation based on what the band has said they’re planning to do. NW albums and tours have this habit of getting pushed back several months from when they were scheduled…and I am, for once, counting on it. I’m going to work as though they’ll be touring the US in late 2016…but I’m keeping one ear to the rumor mill, all the same. If I have more time, I’m going to use it.

I’ve created the master layout in Illustrator, which is probably what I’ll be taking to the printers in the end. I’ve decided to make this an 8×8 book, which means all my images will get printed a little smaller. (I could have done 11×11, but as many drawings as there will be, I was afraid it would be too hefty). The advantage of the square format is that I can make the vertical and horizontal images the same size, and place them so that each page has a strip of extra space. That extra space is where the “meta” themes are going to be, images that will run from page to page and tell some of the bigger story. These I’ll probably do as silhouettes (so they won’t compete with the song drawings, and because silhouettes are easy).

I’ve decided to do the epic songs as two connected pages, and both panels will fill the whole space (instead of leaving a slice of room like the others do). It gives me the room I need to include everything in the bigger songs, and it makes my page count nice and even. However, that means I will have to redraw Song of Myself. I was hoping to not have to redo anything, but on the other hand, now that I really know what I’m doing, I can make it a whole lot better.

(And I’ll still have my signed original. 😀 )

Last night I started the process of discovering which symbols appear in NW’s music over and over again, and how often. I actually have a Scrivener file for this project, which I’m using to track which symbols are in which songs, and linking to every other song in which the same symbol appears. This helps me find patterns across albums, find songs that are thematically similar, find songs that act as sequels and foils and inversions of other songs. That way, when I go to create the drawing guide for each song, I already have a toolbox of images to start from.

Of course the first thing I had to do was hunt down the lyrics to each song, and do some copying and pasting.

What, you say? You mean you don’t know the words to every Nightwish song?

Um…no. Not even close. The ones I don’t particularly like, for instance, like Devil & the Deep Dark Ocean. The ones where between Tarja’s accent and Tuomas’ habit of cramming a hundred words and a dozen obscure literary references into EVERY SINGLE SENTENCE (*coughOceanborncough*) means I can’t even decipher the lyrics without looking them up. I only got Angels Fall First about a month ago, and there are even a half dozen extra NW songs I haven’t even heard yet.

But well. That what darklyrics.com is for.

I am, however, familiar enough with the music to know the common themes, and from there it was a matter of using the “find” function.

The most referenced character is the Child, followed closely by the Dead Boy. They are a strange pair: sometimes the Child and the Dead Boy appear to be one and the same, and sometimes it feels like they are different. Neither of them really show up until late Oceanborn, and up until Century Child any reference to the Child seems to be pointing to the Dead Boy. In Century Child something happens though…it’s either where the Dead Boy actually dies, or where he comes to realize that he isn’t the Child anymore. In my own head-canon, this is the point at which the Child becomes the Century Child, starts to become her own person…someone the Dead Boy remembers being like, someone he wants to protect. After that the Dead Boy and the Child flit through the story together, sometimes playing against one another.

In my head-canon story, the female voice up until Dark Passion Play was that of a goddess, singing for the Dead Boy, heralding the Child. Beautiful and passionate, but always a little cold and distant. But in time the goddess moved on, as they do, as they must, and the Dead Boy was left without a voice for his pain. That’s when the Child herself, having waited, having been the subject of so many songs, gained a voice of her own. She took it upon herself to play Christine to the Phantom despite her innocence.

In DPP the Child was 100% on the Dead Boy’s side, but in Imaginaerum things get a little weird. I interpret it as the Child challenging the Dead Boy, trying to tease out his darkness. In turn he resists, and in resisting they dredge up some pretty crazy dark stuff between them. She’s still his voice but there’s an edginess between them. The Imaginaerum changed them both, and as of yet, we don’t know what either will sound like on the other side.

(Again, this is me stringing together what I personally hear in the music into something coherent. I don’t have any special insight into Tuomas’ mind and I don’t think I’ve stumbled onto any “one true story”…heck, maybe nobody except me hears it this way. But as a writer, this is how I like to see it.)

As far as other symbols go, here’s some trivia. The Virgin pops up here and there, alternatively as an object of innocent desire or as a temptress. The Beast actually isn’t as prevalent as I would have thought…he has a run through AFF, disappears for a while, crops back up in Century Child, but mostly vanishes for good after Once. (Songs like Master Passion Greed, Whoever Brings the Night, Ghost River, and Scaretale make me wonder if the Dead Boy hasn’t made an unholy kind of peace with the Beast). Sirens are slightly more prevalent than mermaids, but angels are more common than both. God (or gods) are referenced more often than Satan/demons/hell.

Wolves are the most common animal (duh), and the ocean is by far the most repeated theme (again, duh). Snow and winter appear as themes about as often as paths/roads. Rape is mentioned exactly four times in the whole discography, in the four darkest songs (Slaying the Dreamer, Beauty of the Beast, The Poet and the Pendulum, Ghost River). Two common themes, death and the heart, I didn’t bother tagging because those aren’t exactly things that I can draw. (Graves and tears, however, I have tracked. Not as many explicit grave references as I thought).

Lappi and Creek Mary’s Blood are the only two songs to mention both bears and eagles, and they are the only songs that reference either. The phrase “mirrors of a wolf” appears twice, in two different songs, and I’m still not sure what it means. “Wind in the wheat” also appears twice. And as often as the ocean is mentioned, dolphins only appear in three songs and whales in one.

And but so, the point of all this is to give me a starting place for each song, and a sort of meta-story that connects it all together. After this is all over, I’ll probably be more familiar with NW’s discography than the band itself, ha!


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