Up in the trees squats an impatient Grendel-type beasty, with a large rock in his paws and a sinister-looking knife stuck in the branch by his side. He is waiting for some foolish soul to come along the path that leads past this little opening in the forest (the tiny figure coming up the path in the background). Our clueless traveller will see a bag of gold spilled out amongst the tree roots in the opening and, ignoring all the advice his parents ever gave him, nip in to collect this windfall treasure. It will be the last thing he ever does (witness the scull in the lower left foreground). The beast clobbers our unwitting fool with the rock and then hops down and finishes him off with the knife. Yeah, kind of gruesome, I guess.
Now I’m not making excuses (yes I am) but a lot of these paintings really do function better when viewed live, in the original version, so to speak. It helps to be able to say ‘what the hell is that’ and stick your nose right into them to see the hidden stuff, of which there can be quite a bit. Nevertheless – this all points to what I would call faulty or weak composition. Live and learn; that’s pretty much alpha and omega with illustration. So . . . in my later work I have tried to focus on stronger and less haphazard composition. Okay, class over for today.
By the way, there is a moral to this story. Or rather, this painting is supposed to illustrate a moral. That part you’ll have to figure out for yourself . . .