The Irish Independent asked me to produce a portrait of Brian Boru for a special supplement marking the thousandth anniversary of his victory at the Battle of Clontarf.
In the words of commissioning editor Ciaran Byrne, 'Basically, nobody knows what the f**k he looked like - so that's good!'
This got me thinking about the usual depictions of Brian Boru as a sort of Celtic Chuck Norris. I wanted to show him as a real person. Legend has it that he was 88 years old by the time he broke the power of the Vikings in 1014. Doubtless some exaggeration there, but I pictured a battered old campaigner who had been round the block many times. Naturally the first person who came to mind was Iggy Pop...
Above is the initial sketch, and some of the references I dug up...
This is an inside spread of the Battle of Clontarf.
The battle is often depicted as a struggle between indigenous Celtic forces and the Viking settlers who founded the city of Dublin. The truth was of course a great deal more tangled - long-running fueds between Irish clans culminated in a fight for the High Kingship of Ireland, and a complex network of alliances meant that Vikings fought on both sides.
Here's the intial outline drawing for the battle.
Colour was added digitally, but first it was necessary introduce depth by dividing the image into layers. I used flat colours to assign figures to each layer.