There had been too much death on this hill.

April 30, 2010 at 3:55 pm 6 comments

Posted by: Kali Ciesemier
Book: Sabriel
(purchase on Amazon)

“Thralk had been pleased to find the Charter Mage’s spirit wandering and a broken diamond of protection. The sword had worried him a little, but it was frosted over and his shriveled eyes couldn’t see the Charter marks that danced beneath the rime. Similarly, the bell in Sabriel’s left hand looked like a lump of ice or snow, as if she’d caught a snowball. All in all, Thralk felt very fortunate, particularly as the life that blazed within this still victim was particularly young and strong.”

Sabriel ventures into the Old Kingdom to figure out the fate of her father and find some end to the influx of undead. I wanted to do a scene on Cloven Crest–the site of Sabriel’s first encounter with an undead being and a glimpse at the dangers of the Old Kingdom. It’s a moment that shows both her inexperience and her power, and it’s exciting to see her deal with the challenge.

The bell bandolier might look strange, but the bells and the sword were passed on to her from her father (along with her oversize coat!). Bells are the weapons of the Abhorsen (and necromancers) –each of the bells has particular powers that relate to the dead and must be rung in specific ways. The blade is also specially spelled to aid the Abhorsen against dead creatures. Sabriel is able to dispose of Thralk, but the situation escalates quickly from there!

I started out with the sketches I did last month which incorporated the actual broken charter stone that gives Cloven Crest its name, but they just felt too stiff and disconnected. I’ve been thinking about silhouette and N.C. Wyeth, and you can probably see the connection to that in this piece. πŸ™‚ I’ve also been having a lot of fun with textures and layer modes and ended up doing a little more digital painting in this one than my usual flat colors.

You can check out my process post and some closeups at!

Entry filed under: Sabriel.

“Have you ever been to the Glass House?” The mad whirl of the Death Dance

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Madeline F  |  April 30, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    This is fantastic! I love the style of shading on her pants, with blocks of color laying out the form of it all. Around her eye, again with the simple look that could be on a war poster in the 40s… I hope you take that as the compliment it’s meant to be. πŸ™‚

    The coat does look appropriately too big; she’s pretty but it’s not the main thing she is; the composition of the piece is well done with the layers of focus and levels up to the stars above… I may just really like your style, but I think this is great even beyond that.

  • 2. Sarah W  |  May 1, 2010 at 4:59 am

    This is absolutely lovely. This is how I’ve pictured Sabriel in my head for years now and the bandolier–especially seeing sketches on your personal blog–is exactly right.

    These are lovely and I am greatly looking forward to more pictures!

  • 3. kaliciesemier  |  May 2, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Thanks ladies! I appreciate the comments!
    Madeline– Of course, thank you! I love graphic approaches and vintage posters. It’s fun working on these Sabriel pieces because I get to play around with atmosphere and lighting/shading a little more than I do with my editorial work. It’s a more epic sort of subject matter, which I think leads to interesting pieces. πŸ™‚

    Sarah- I’m so glad! Haha, it’s fun to puzzle out how those things work, right? I’m happy you think I did a good job with it, although I just realized her bell is supposed to be in her left hand…whoops! Now I just gotta figure out how her blue surcoat is supposed to look like– next project!

  • 4. andreakalfas  |  May 2, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    gorgeous, kali! that skeleton ghosty guy is amaaaaaaazing. he’s jimmy’s favorite part, which is a big surprise, right?

  • 5. jean c.  |  May 9, 2010 at 1:54 am

    this is the baddest-assest thing I have seen in possibly forever. I can BARELY LOOK AT IT it is such an amazing image. nb. I am totally serious: I find myself scrolling up & down & catching glimpses of it but not quite daring to look at it completely.

    my 12-year-old self would have killed to be able to draw like this.

  • 6. Courtney  |  May 24, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Sabriel is my all-time favorite book and you do it justice. Could you do a picture of when Sabriel crosses into death, or with her armor in a paperwing?


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