Illustrious Osprey illustrator Peter Dennis gives us a sneak-peek into the artwork evolution of upcoming series, Combat
'Osprey editors are endlessly inventive when it comes to finding new ways of packaging military history. I’ve been lucky enough to work on quite a few different series and each brings its opportunities and challenges for an illustrator. When Nick Reynolds told me about Combat – a sort of Duel series but with the focus on men rather than machines- it struck me that this could touch the nerve which lies at the heart of our fascination with battle. We ask ourselves, how did those men do it and could we overcome our own self-preservation instinct and do it ourselves? I think it’s going to be a great series.
The first title I’m working on deals with infantry combat in the American Civil War written by the brilliant Ron Field. The illustrations will consist of two front and back views of specific infantrymen – at Gettysburg in this instance – and two double page illustrations of other combats. One will be ‘split screen’ with a moment in the fight seen from both sides. We have an African-American Infantry unit attacking a Confederate trench line near Richmond towards the end of the war.
How to split the page though? Nick suggested simply putting the opposing views on opposite pages in the spread, but to me this subject needs a widescreen view and I prepared a quick thumbnail showing a horizontal split.
The other double pager is described as a traditional battlescene. The subject is a particular moment of contact between the NY Fire Zouaves and one of Jackson’s Virginian regiments on Henry House Hill at First Bull Run/First Manassas. Ron has written his usual highly detailed brief which seems to imply an elevated view of the action. I want to do something which is much more intimate and involving though. High views have their place of course, but this series calls for pictures which place the viewer directly in the action.
As I was thinking about this I wondered if it would be possible to produce something in which the viewer is definitely identified as being within the scene. Something like the screen of a computer game like Call of Duty where your own weapon is visible in front of you. I love 84 Charlie MoPic the Vietnam film where the whole thing was seen through the camera carried by one of the characters, who was making the documentary. I also remember an experimental film-noir from the ‘40s which had the viewer as the leading man. Characters would speak to the viewer, because in effect you were a member of the cast.
If you were in the illustration, an NCO might be shouting an instruction and your opponent may have his bayonet levelled at your guts. Could it work as a piece of Osprey artwork though?
I’ve made my pitch to the editors – let’s see what they say…'