Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Along Elemental Lines of Thought

I'm currently enamored with Dominique's recent illustration of an Air Elemental, based on "Rewards", an Antaria story I posted last May. Frankly, it's a great rendition -- especially considering that Air Elementals (constructs with no real shape or appearance) aren't the easiest things to draw.

Dominique adds an interesting feature to the Air Elemental: a mask to give it a more-or-less visible expression. I personally like the idea, despite the fact that Antaria already has a personality whose character revolves primarily around masks (Gallos, Grandmaster of the Masquers).

On the other hand, the mask lends a bit more character to the setting. Do all air elementals wear masks, for example? If so, then what happens to the mask when the elemental isn't around? Does its Tempestite master carry it as a symbol of the power he wields?

That, incidentally, is an interesting idea. Perhaps the air-elementalist Tempestites do carry around the masks of their familiars. And perhaps they have a particular ritual that summons their elementals, a ritual which would obviously involve the mask in some way. (This would imply, of course, that other Tempestites summon their own elementals through other similar means.)

Now, stay with me here. Let's keep the line of thought going: Is it possible for the mask to define the elemental in some way? Could we, say, have a smiling mask that represents a playful and capricious wind spirit, and have a terrifying mask that represents an angry and snarling force of nature? Or does the elemental define its own face-plate, somehow making it shift form according to its inscrutable moods?

What happens when a human puts on an elemental mask? Has anyone ever done that in the history of Antaria? What happened to him or her? For that matter, does Gallos the Masquer -- arguably the greatest collector of masks in the land -- own one of these elemental masks? Better yet, how did he acquire it?

Come to think of it, what does an elemental mask look like? What contrasts it from a normal mask? What material is it made from? What colors do they come in? (I'd hate to see a wind elemental wearing a purple mask, for example. The color just wouldn't fit, in my opinion.) Could they be painted, perhaps? Who crafts or paints them?

The mask aspect, I think, would lend a greater dimensionality to the Tempestites. I've already imagined that some of the Tempestites are artists -- after all, if you can summon familiars of water or earth, then sooner or later you'd wonder if you could carve them into certain appearances. Why not masks, then? You certainly can't craft the form of an air elemental...

The mask would also imply the concept of heraldry in Antaria. Famous (or infamous) Tempestites, for one, would carry very distinctive and highly recognizable elemental masks. Masks can be passed down from generation to generation, along with the command of their respective air elementals. Tempestite families place unique crests or arms on their masks. Powerful elementalist mages mark their masks with one notch for every opponent bested in single combat.

I'm not sure if Dominique had all this in mind when he was searching for a way to give a wind elemental the sort of expression he needed, but I think that this opens up quite a bunch of possibilities. If anything, it testifies to the fact that a comprehensive setting and story will most likely be better fleshed out when more than one person is working on it. (Yes, I'm paying attention -- I learned this lesson way back during Anito development as well.)

With all that said, it's quite a nice piece of art, isn't it? Sadly, it can't actively show its inspired wealth of ideas on its own. But on the other hand, I suppose that that's what this article is for. :)


kat said...

I've always wondered what would be the best way to illustrate the elements if they should be in a tangible form. Ever notice that if a person is given a power of an element, his/her physical attributes (hair, clothes, etc), give you a hint of his/her element?

I love what he did with your Air Elemental. He's right, an impassive mask is terrifying in itself. ^_^

Sean said...

Kat: I think that it's all for the presentation, really. The appearance of certain aspects saves on quite a lot of description, and I think that it all depends on our stereotypical and associative thinking in order to fill in the blanks. It works especially well in visual media, I think. (That green guy on Justice League, for instance, is obviously an alien.) :)

Anonymous said...

What happens if someone takes the mask off the elemental?

Sean said...

Anonymous: I don't know, exactly. I've considered the possibility, but it hasn't quite entered my plotlines yet. It could be any one of the following, though:

1. The Elemental dissipates harmlessly, as it cannot exist in the physical world without a mask to lend it substance.

2. The Elemental wipes itself from existence in a massive explosion of arcane energy.

3. The Elemental goes wild, as the mask is its tether to what passes for sanity in the physical world.

4. The Elemental remains as it is; The mask is purely cosmetic. The tradition is more of a "fad" among socially-adept Tempestites.