Aug 9, 2010

Caged: How the Wizard Jack O'Kent Imprisonned the Devil


Well, I have this theory.
The theory of threes.

It's an illustration theory where I suggest that a good illustration, to keep our interest, must reward further scrutiny.
Basically it means that, in an illustration we need more than two main elements..

As an example of two main elements :  we could have a boy on a bike (one element) and a girl and her friends watching him (the other element). In the case of the above illustrations in this post we have a "wizard" sitting on a chair holding a wand  (one element). The other element is the devil in the cage. NB: The temple walls and furniture are not elements. They are there to set the mood and to give us a background.

The third element in any good illustration (according to the "theory of threes") must be more subtle and not catch our eye at first. This third 'thing' is what rewards our curiosity and enhances our pleasure (the pleasure of discovery).

There can be more than one 'third element 'of course -as there is in the above illustrations. But ideally one of them is a dominant. It might be dominant for lots of reasons. It might be phyiscally separated from the main element grouping, it can represent a different action, or even be a different colour.

Confused? Yes? Well so am I. But that's okay.

I was  trained in a scientific regime. Consequently I like to kill imaginary butterflies and pin them in imaginary boxes so I can analyse them and give them imaginary names. I also like to analyse illustrations. (Maybe I should get a job?)

Meanwhile  - recently I have discovered through Roberta Baird's work that that 'third element" is even better if it contains a sub-plot. Ideally the subplot will underline the main plot.

Plot? Plot? Arrgh.
Well, consider it this way.

Consider that, in any image with two main illustration elements, the realtion between those elements make the main plot (how they interact, what is their relationship, who is dominant, what is their body posture etc).

Yet the third (or more) element provides a subplot - (in Roberta's illustration we have a cat and a 'dead' mouse).
A good suplot gives us 'thickness', it adds character and it adds backstory. A good subplot puts the parsely on the salad, the thyme in the sauce, the sparkley coriander seed thingos on the illustration icing. It also mimics or underlines the main plot.

But  wait! That's not all!

A subplot (and plot) indicates a temporal presence to the illustration - that is, it suggests a 'before' and 'after' to the instant frozen by the illustration - much like Degas' cut off figures indicate a world beyond the picture frame.

"What?" I hear you whisper.
Plot? Subplot? It's not Shakespeare .... it's just an illustration.
Am I mad?
Yes of course.
Is anyone still reading?
Buts it worth thinking about?
Yes I think it is.
Especially if you subscribe to the theory that an illustration, by definition, illuminates a text; and that a plot is, according to E.M. Forster (Passage To India), a series of causal events.
And if you need further evidence, seek out Bosch's work, or Breughel's. Look for the main plot (eg Good Verus Evil), then seek out the subplots. You'll find them aplenty.

So what's this have to do with my illustration for this week's Illustration Friday Prompt "Caged."?
Good question. But we'll get to that.

I was out in the surf today thinking about this theory of threes and realised that 'threes' pop up in all sorts of places.

Humans like to think in threes. We like to sort chaos into threes. Three is an easy number to grasp. It rolls off the tongue better than 'seven' - the other popular number (eg seven ways to get fit by not doing any exercise)

Yet 'threes' can also be difficult.
In Christianity we have the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit/Ghost - which sort of confuses laymen, little children and most other people.
With women we have the conflicting concept of Harlot, Mother, Virgin - which confuses most men (bless our souls) and some women.
With men we have the Renassiance man, the Warmongerer, the Thief.

And, stepping up to the next level, in 'mankind' collectively we have another the concept of three. That of Beast, Human, and Spiritual.
That is, we have all three things within us.

All within us. Yet most of the time we supress the Beast animal - well at least I do.
Animal is pagan. Animal is dirty. Animal gets you arrested.

As human beings we try to hide the fact that our food goes in one end, and out the other. As humans we cloth ourselves, we act civilised and do not covet our neighbour's wives - not in public anyway.
As spiritual beings we tell oursevles not to worry that our animal body dies, because our souls will live on. As spiritual beings we believe in God because God creates order out of chaos. God gives us a beginning. He gives us and end. And if we are lucky he gives us other things.

When I taught Sunday School we had a litle ditty. It went something like "Envy, jealousy, malice and pride. These must never in our hearts abide." Which of course, at its most base means - forget you are Beast, keep your emotions intact and be good. (And I admit, as a good Christian, to have suffered from none of these things - even when the bitch across the road bought a brand new Red Austin Martin two door with doube cam exhausts and a rear muffler.....)

Ahem. Where was I?

And so finally we come to the illustrations.
The caged devil, is of course metaphorically Pan, a Greek God famed not only for his sexual process, but his ... err sexual prowess. His prowess was such that he was said to be even able to impregnate Male Goats.... ahem again, very handy I am sure on those cold Mediterranean nights.
Pan, as well as having his pan flute in hand, is often depicted with a 'phallus', just in case the observer didn't know who he was. His friends were Satyrs, Satyresses, Faunesses and Bachinesses. Which in the case of the latter three (and possibly the first) made the aforementioned phallus a handy addition to his wardrobe.

So, Pan or no Pan, phallus or no phallus, what is the illustration actually about?

Well you know who the Devil in the cage is, even though I have taken the civilised Human way out, and not shown him up to 'advantage'.

The chap on the left, you might not recognise as the Wizard Jack O’Kent, who, in the fifteenth century was featured in many folktales in Herefordshire and Gwent (England) for his ability to outwit the Devil.
So Jack O'Kent is depicted here as having caged the Devil.

Yet there is something afoot.

The cage is full of holes, the devil does not seemd worried (he seems gleeful in fact), and Jack O"Kent, poor fellow, doesn't realise that the whole Cage is in fact a metaphor, in that the Devil Demon Pan represents the animal side that he (Jack) is trying to surpress.

Animal supression? Sure why not? But Jack, like most human beings, doesn't realise that it will never work.

The moment Jack's back is turned Pan will leap demonically from his cage to wreak his wicked will upon young ladies, sheperdess, shepards, goats, satyresses and any other poor creature that happens to stray into his path.
Not that I am saying that Jack O'Kent had those tendencies. I'm led to believe he was a fine upstanding wizard who seduced only the wives of rich people, poor people and middling people (just kidding Jack!)

Oh? And the subplot?
Well it would be unfair of me to tell you, because you wouldn'y have the joy of discovering it yourself.
Mind you, I might have forgotten to put one in.
Thankyou for clicking for big!

I'm sorry this post is so long. I was going to tell you why the Devil has horns. But that will have to wait for another time.
Thank you to everyone who commented on my last work. I'll be back tomorrow and thank you properly.


  1. Wonderful, as always Andrew!!
    I admire your ability to work!

  2. How many hours does each day in Australia?
    Someone told me that the day has 32 hours, OK?

  3. Super !!!

    Maravilloso !!!!

    Wonderful work !!!!!!

  4. very informative post Andrew, I think I agree with your principle of three's, when I was able to work in my yard (I live on a wooded hill now), I always planted in groupings of three, it's just more pleasing to the eye and holds your interest. I try to adhere to principles when planning a piece, rules etc. but most of the time I go with the flow and just paint what is pleasing to me. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't... it's an area of weakness for me I guess. I just don't like to get bogged down in thinking too much about it. Very nice work, as always. You must have longer days, because you get so much done, that or maybe you don't ever sleep?

  5. Wow, what an incredible illustration, so many details to enjoy!

    Wow, such an awesome story to depict for 'caged'!

    Wow, so much useful information to ponder!

    ...a three wow review

  6. how cool is this!I love how you work the light and colour in this one. I used to read about greek mythology as a child because I thought they were similar to fairy tales with all the gods and fantastic creatures. Pan is so great here, you have captured the essence of the god inside that cage.
    His look on the last picture is fantastic (love his eyes going directly to the light like looking for his lost freedom through the window).
    Don't worry about making the post too long, it's interesting to read.

  7. Hey Roberto

    Oh in Australia we have each day nineteen hours of sunshine. Seven of that is to go surfing, two of that is to go to work, ten hours is to have fun, and the remaining five hours is for drinking beer.


    Oh what I do is not work. It's fun and meditative. It's like gestating children without waiting nine months.

    Except the illustrations are like me. They never grow up!

    Glad you are feeling better.

  8. Liliana thank you! Did I ever tell you how much I covet your artwork? there's just so much of interest in all your pieces. And how you have bought out the soul in those sea rocks!

  9. Karen hi! Oh the three stuff, it's just something that comes to mind when I am adding more elements to the images. I never think about it at the the beginning because then it becomes not art :)

    Yes planting trees is good. I used to go out in the yard and throw a handful of large rocks. Where they fell I would plant. Most of the trees survived.

    Remind me to tell you about the red Rose Girls and the famous visiting German painter who lectured one of them on the golden mean!

  10. Hey Heidi! Thank you for reading my post. Whenever I see your name I think of a giant Hobo for some reason :) Or a solitary wooden leg leaning against a wall.

    Strange :)

  11. Thankyou Ana that is very kind!! Maybe he will escape like your bird/souls. The internet is amazing isn't it? The different cultures showing different approaches to the same topics.

    yes I used to read Greek Mythology when I was a kid. It was enthralling.

    And still is.!

    see you!

  12. Andrew, I loved!
    this illustration is awesome!
    the expression of Pan shows his power.
    and as always, the wealth of details
    often fit 'the theory of threes' ...

  13. Hi Denise thank you very much. I have a book of devils at home. Well a cupboard full of them at least!

    I modelled Pan on this drawing of a Satyr by Da Vinci$27s-Head.jpg

    cheers !!!

  14. Wow Andrew! I have to say that I am awed by your work. Your illustrations are magnificent. I can see why they scare little children, they scare me a bit too!
    I also, however, saw your paintings...though a bit hard to navigate, they were worth the effort.

  15. Hi, I am reminding you to tell me about he red Rose girls, the German painter and the golden mean. Send me an email! My son also wants me to ask you about a strange sea slug in Australia. I can't remember what it is called, but I have a picture. You have such a plethora of information in that head of yours that he is sure that you will be able to tell us all about it. Actually, I think he really wants to know if you have ever seen one, they are quite strange looking.

  16. I have a severe headache.

    I suppose that's what you get from befriending giant clowns who study ophthalmology for fun, with eager interests on mythology, literature, witchcraft, and apparently occult symbolism too?

    No wonder you grow a beard. Heheh. :))

    Well, I will restrain myself from analyzing too much, but I did ponder a bit on the pyramid form of children-like statue. I don't know if you meant anything by it, but I can see how it relates to civilization in general, since it does represent the development of humankind, yes? Though I sincerely hope that 'suppressing' the animal in man wouldn't act as a ticking time bomb. BOOM! and the pyramid would come tumbling down. Very ugly, don't you think?

  17. I thought the theory of threes was: three posts with the character Jack in them ;O) The lighting in your work is so enticing. It has me searching the depths of each work looking in dark corners and squinting to see if I am seeing what I think I'm seeing. As always Andrew.. Your work amazes and intrigues me. I just had to give my hamster a fitting name :o) His middle initial is "B" . What a strange coincidence! Thanks for stopping by my friend! Always love a good comment from down under. No worries!

  18. ...Hhm. My fingers are still itching. Well, you did say that I never type too much? So I am tempted to go on. Hahahaa...

    You know, I think this is probably one of your darkest piece I've seen yet. Don't know about you, but the sight of pentagrams always give me the chills. And all the dark animal symbols seem to be present too. So the wizard is trying to drain out all of evil in Pan? Well, I hope he doesn't muck it up and reverse the mantra! Now, that, would turn the pyramid to ashes, no doubt! :D :D

    Well, exhausted I am, but very pleased to have witnessed your thoroughly searched and well thought work! (oops, I mean product of meditation). :))

    Have a good day, Monsieur!

    PS: I think I prefer to balance rather than to suppress. :))

  19. Your imagination is running wild and is on fire for sure. WOWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hey not all the characters I draw are happy he he he he he he! Hugs to you.

  20. Hola! He visto tu trabajo y es realmente precioso, delicado y estudiado, me gusta muchísimo, tienes mucho talento!

    Saludos desde Tenerife! :)

  21. hello!
    the only thing i know about theory and the number of 3 is The Rule of Three (some theory of Wiccans) :D hahaha but thank you anyway for the information.
    Oh but the horned Greek goat-god, Pan, is one of the most important entities of Witchcraft.

    "But wait! That's not all!"
    i am waiting. You must know that i spend my time waiting. Poor me, no one cares.

    ""What?" I hear you whisper."
    i dont whisper...

    This post is interesting and pretty much amazing because i see the devil everywhere. It's good for my body, mind, and soul, so thank you :D

    All Princes of Darkness, Satan; Lucifer; Belial; and even Leviathan the Raging Sea have been described with horns, i dunno why.. (oh well of course i KNOW the answer but im afraid people will judge me you know, heheh...)

  22. i just saw your new pic profile :D
    so you are now the devil?
    good because i have sympathy for the devil xD

  23. oh i forgot something.
    The Pentagram? gooooood stuff!!!! xD
    The ordinary pentagram is the symbol of witches and Wiccans whereas the inverted/point-down pentagram is the symbol of Satanism.

    i am blabbering.
    see you in two years?

  24. wow, how long does it take you to do the final piece? It seems like so much work goes into what you do. Nice. Very nice.

  25. hi, thanks for comment on my blog, my animals are not so different in caracther..., i think they have a good mask.
    i love tales and i didn't grow up too, your world and work, make fly my imagination and as i'm waiting my son/daughter who will come from china, one of this years..., and you'll see how many tales grow up in my brain following your works, and seeing your illustrations, thanks.
    Ernesto loves animation too, but he don't work as a professional,he made animation-home-works,... and loves computer as well; we've a lot of pictures of animation at home.
    Well, i'm very happy to know you and your world.
    I'll come back.

  26. 25 comments! Wow! You´ve got a lot of friends! Either that or you´re extremely talented! Probably both...
    I haven´t seen a faun since I worked with Narnia. I don´t understand wizards, I have to admit, I think the little kid/dwarf with the tail, looks like he should be in a cage too...
    There are so many details here! It´s great!

  27. Brilliant! The best yet. Andrew you are a wizard!:)))

  28. Andrew, forgive me for the question ... but .... you know that the Princess? ... She is trustworthy? Take care please

  29. Well... I'm honored to have been mentioned in your post Andrew!
    Each time I visit your blog, I find myself wandering completely enchanted by your illustration skills and your perceptive writing!

    Here's to parsely on the salad, thyme in the sauce, and the sparkley things on the illustration icing!!!!


  30. Andrew, I like to know what inspired you to do the Pan; actually this satyr head of Da Vinci is very motivating and wonderful!
    a hug

  31. Denise thank you! Ah yes the theory of threes. It's easy when you look at something and go "Now what theory can I invent which describes this?"


    Da Vinci was a marvel. Unique. It's good he lived so long. he made more work and developed his ideas for longer that way!

  32. Dana, that's very kind of you to look at my work. I must admit when I look at your paintings I realise how much I need to learn!

    cheers :)

  33. Karen! Well I searched for the quote on the net but couldn't find it.

    Do you know the Red Rose Girls? Just wonderful is their work! The story goes that one of the girls went to a lecture in (choose big city). the lecturere was a famous German Impressionist. He lectured about this and about that and about the Golden mean (you have to imagine a silly made up German accent).

    At question time a woman in the audience asked him did he plan all his paintings along the lines of the Golden Mean.

    He said something like: "No not really Fraulein. But ven I have finished a painting and look at it and I zee that it is goot, I measure it up and, sure enough, all of the lines match up with the Golden Mean."

    It's a silly tale, but suits the idea that you can make something without any theories at all and it will be just as good (or better!).

    Sure I have seen the slugs. The are greyish brown and hang around at the bottom of rock pools and in the ocean and you don't even notice them. I've been tempted to put them in soup but i think they would be rubbery!! Plus I'd have to close my eyes while I ate them...



  34. Hya Amalia, oh the Children standing on each other shoulders. That was just for fun, getting the three in there, it's also that great graphical device of the triangle - maybe mimicking the triangle of the short devil, the wizard and the big devil in the cage? :)

    I like your idea better, but you credit me with too much intelligence I am afraid.!!

  35. haha Jack, you know buried in the first post about Jack jumping over the candletick there is an apology to you that I had chosen to illustrate Jacks.

    You know Jack is a fine name. I know it is not as fine as the name "Andrew", but it is close! Of course I was named after .... um. Maybe one of the disciples?

    I hope I don't offend you with my posts. None of them are meant to sacrilegious though they may come across that way.

    Of course sometimes I might poke fun at Catholicism and my religion of Christianity - but never at God himself.

  36. Oh I forgot to thank you for naming a hamster after me :)

  37. Amalia nicely said. You prefer balance rather than surpress. You are lucky. I'm all or nothing - which is why I do so many of these images. I become obssesed withj soemthing then do it till burnt out.

    Next week I am planning to take up speed knitting. There is an expressway around here which gets cold in winter and I am planning to encase it ina giant open ended sock made of thirty percent nylon, 70 percent wool.

    A la Christo

  38. Hey Vanessa thank you! Oh all your characters make me smile so I thought they were happy. Imagination? It's not really imagination, just free association! :) :) What else would we put in a cage but our darkest desires... actually i klnow an architect who needs to be in this picture....

    ahem :)

  39. Aurea wow, well I just looked at your work. Superb! Love that temple and the reflection. And Tenerife. Off the coast of Africa? So there is surf there I here? Thank you for your kind comment too!

    Aurea guau, acabo de mirar bien su trabajo. ¡Magnífico! Ame ese templo y la reflexión. Y Tenerife. ¿De la costa de África? ¿Tan allí está la resaca allí yo aquí? ¡Gracias por su comentario muy bueno también! ¡Saludos de Australia, abajo debajo!

    hope that makes sense?

  40. Mita, heh. So "It states that whatever energy a person puts out into the world, be it positive or negative, will be returned to that person three times."

    Well I think that you might have your energy returned five times, so be careful! :)

    You know, Pan might have put there as bait? I wonder who by. Originally in the cage was a large bird, a cross between an owl and a raven but with the claws of a lion and long teeth. But when the image was developed the bird had been replaced...

    i'm interested in the horns. Maybe a post on your site? I would like to read it - so would many. :)

  41. Oh Princess of Darkness? I forgot that you had Sympathy for the devil! I would have made the new icon sooner. And the pentagram. I see the wizard has his legs over it and so does the lizard. I wonder if this means anything?

  42. Maria hi! Oh how long. Not long. I have a low attention span and am greedy, so I want things and I want it before I start.

    So this piece has taken four and a half years of learning my tools on top of what I learnt over the last 30 years studying art and stuff. So addede to the five hours of fun I had making this, it took 34 and a half years and five hours.

    But seriously, what I do is puppetcraft, photoshopping, dressmaking, lighting, casting, morphing, photography.

    It just looks like an illustration in the end if I am lucky.!!

    By the way, I admire your oevre.

  43. Felisa, well i just watched Adventures of A Red Thread. I am very moved by the story. It's a wonderful piece. The elephant is beautifully made, and the whole concept is so well balanced. I hope your children come from china soon!

  44. Janne :) Well you worked on Narnia? Why am I not surprised.!!! Oh the little devil? That's me of course! Belong in a cage :) Me? Little innocent me? Heh. I hear we have a small intake of Norwegians this year, might be a little cold here though. After a few hours of sitting on the beach we have to dive into the ocean to warm up...

  45. LDahl. Than kyo so much. I was beginning to get worried about you. You know there is a new Bryce out. They even have a PLE which is free! See Daz forums. I don't know much about it though sorry.

  46. Hi Roberta, well thanks for giving me the insight! I appreciate it muchly :)

  47. Hi, Andrew !
    I'm amazed at the richness of your blog and your truly amazing works ! It's like I just watched a whole movie =)
    Thanks for dropping by and for your lovey comment on my blog !
    3... my favorite number, too..
    Good things always come in 3... but I've seen bad things happen in 3 as well.. =)
    I'll drop by often ! Cheers !

  48. I keep expecting a small child to sneak in and let the devil out while the wizard is asleep.

    Great scene.

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Hya! Thank you so much for leaving a comment. I appreciate your time and thoughts.