In the American Civil War being in combat was sometimes referred to as \'Seeing the Elephant\'. The reason given was that battle, like an Elephant, was hard to describe, but you knew it when you saw it.
I thought I knew an Elephant too. As an illustrator, they\'d come up from time to time,  I had a favourite reference  book or two and I could nick a pose from a photograph when I needed it. When the New Vanguard title \'War Elephants\' appeared on my radar though, I knew it was time to up my elephantine game.

My first thought was to increase my Elephant herd. Schleich toy elephants that is.


Their cattle and horses have long supplied my reference needs. They\'re a bit chunky, but it\'s great to have the freedom of being able to see them from any angle. Photographs are good, but you have to build your entire composition around the single pose, and when you\'ve got many animals in the same picture, you\'re in trouble. 

My well-thumbed copy of Muybridge\'s early photographic study \'Animals in motion\' came up trumps (geddit?). He has a page of an Indian Elephant bumbling along taken from the side, and that was to provide the basis of most of the information tank-type plates.

It wasn\'t until I started to draw though that the shortcomings of my plastic pachyderms slowly appeared. I was completely convinced, not to say charmed by them, but the more I compared them with the photographs the more I realised they weren\'t quite right. The Indians especially, were too short in the leg, and their facial anatomy didn\'t look like the ones in the pictures. The real ones looked bafflingly varied too, in size and conformation. I was learning through the whole set of plates that if I thought I had seen the Elephant, I was kidding myself.

The double page spread was to be a battle in Thailand. Konstantin Nossov, the author, had supplied a lot of film stills as the picture reference part of his brief. The central event was a Princess on her animal crossing pole-arms with the besieger of her husband\'s fortress, on his, just outside the walls.  Her personal bodyguard, on foot around her Elephant and guarding its legs from hamstringers, was female.The film stills showed them in a sort of boob-tube, but there was a nice little Ian Heath drawing in one of the excellent Foundry books of such a female warrior with bare breasts. Was the film censoring the truth for the delicate sensibilities of the South-East Asian audience? Was this my chance to increase the Osprey nipple-count from zero, as far as I knew, to perhaps four?

No it wasn\'t. Konstantin said fighting topless was\' inconvenient\' ( How could he know?I\'ll bet it is in Russia where he lives, but Burma?) Kate the editor didn\'t encourage my mammary ambitions either, so there we are. I\'m sorry, I\'m only the illustrator., I do as I\'m told. God knows what Ospreys would look like if we were in charge.

I meant to take a lot more shots than I did of the growing artwork, but I got rather carried away and forgot. I won\'t bore you with a commentary on how it all came together.




I include a final shot of the amended piece though to offer an insight into the sort of corrections that are sometimes made. Konstantin decided the mix of weapons in the scene was less than perfect and I tried to fit in with his wishes where possible. Spot the difference.


It\'s a bit easier to spot in these two images of the Field of Glory cover for \'Storm of Arrows\'.


When the artwork was finished it was decided by a higher power that the stakes were anachronistic. Illustrators love it when this happens.  I wasn\'t sure such a complicated correction was possible, and it stuffed the composition, but between 4am and 7am the next morning after a troubled night I set to and vanished them and cleared my mind - and the stakes, before breakfast.


Thus I was able to ungrit my teeth and eat. What a life.