Friday, April 29, 2011

Boy, artists talk funny! What on earth is a triptych? And why does my artist think I'd want one?

Part 1
by Aidana WillowRaven

Understanding what your artist is talking about when you are going over plans on how to represent your book, not only the cover art, but promotional media, too, avoids a lot of confusion. Unfortunately, more often than not, an artist needs to rephrase what they visualize to an author/publisher/editor, because the lingo she learned in art school, and the vocabulary an author/publisher/editor learned in school, can at times seem like two different languages.

So, today's first question: What on earth is a triptych? According to merriam-webster ...

triptych  noun  \'trip-(,)tip\ 
1 :an ancient Roman writing tablet with three waxed leaves hinged together

2 a :a picture (as an alter piece) or carving in three panels side by side                                           
   b :something composed or presented in three parts or sections; especially : TRILOGY

The second definition is what your artist is most likely referring to, a picture (such as a painting, drawing, sculpture, or rendering) that has three panels or parts placed next to each other, or is designed to compliment, and be presented together, telling a full 'story'.


 If done right, each individual piece is a complete composition, in and of itself. Much like each book in a series has to be able to stand alone, so does each part of a triptych.

Traditionally, all three pieces are the same size. But, many times throughout history, the two 'side' pieces, were shorter/or smaller, with a central focus piece.

Early Christian art made the use of art triptychs very popular. From the middle ages onward, triptych art works graced alters as a standard format from  the eastern Byzantine churches to the English Celtic churches in the west.

Today, themes can range far and wide. I've seen everything from religiously inspired pieces to fantasy epics. Even family or wedding portraits can be presented as triptychs.

Oh, and the second question for today's post ... And why does my artist think I'd want one? 

What I've been showing above is a promotional triptych I recently finished for Harry Gilleland's book Alric & Anneliese (a 4RV Publishing release). Originally meant to be a pair of illustrations for use in the book's trailer (since the book isn't illustrated and the cover art is abstract, not making it very story-telling friendly, but more representational), a third piece was needed to tie everything together. And what's a love story (that surrounds knights, barbarians, kings, and ladies) without a good ole battle scene. And my first professional triptych was born. To learn more about triptychs, Wikipedia has a really good write up:

The trailer the above illos were created for will be posted here on the 4RV news blog Saturday, May 7. Be sure to check it out.

Aidana WillowRaven

Art Director & VP of Operations
4RV Publishing

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