Some Thing like this

Cthulhu sketch 1I drew this today. It’s not quite what I had in mind for Cthulhu, not yet, but it’s a start. Next steps: make it even more biochaotic. And stylize it. I deliberately avoided stylizing it the first time out, so I could concentrate on the biological forms. But taking it stepwise into the abstract is probably the right next move, both on the keep-Cthulhu-from-being-just-a-[insert terrestrial lifeform] front, and on the idols-are-usually-stylized front. See the previous Cthulhu posts and their comments (one, two) for more noodlings on those ideas.

Probably I should start from here and just keep iterating on stylized chaos until I’ve taken it too far.

But hey, why should I have all the fun? Go draw (or paint or sculpt or render) Cthulhu yourself. If you leave a link to the image in a comment, or send it to me, I’ll post it. Call it crowdsourced Cthulhu. Feel free to explain your design decisions–especially if they disagree with my own. I’m happy to be confronted with new, horrible ideas!

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17 Responses to Some Thing like this

  1. Pingback: Museum of Osteology: pathological rodent teeth. Also, Cthulhu. | Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week #AcademicSpring

  2. Heteromeles says:

    Crowdsourced Cthulhu? That way lies madness. Madness!

    Seriously, let’s put some rationality into it:
    –Cthulhu has to have manipulators, because his kind built some sort of city out of stone. Okay, I suppose they could be using 3-D printers, but you get the point. Those arms have a purpose.
    –Cthulhu is freaking huge, and apparently very weakly built (a steamship caused him to pop). Nothing wrong with building him like a blob, since he might as well be made out of aerogel or built like a zeppelin.
    –Cthulhu is an interstellar traveler. This actually goes with being lightly built (weight is the enemy of interstellar travel), but it’s not entirely stupid to assume that either Cthulhu in his current form or in or some earlier instar was designed for dealing the rigors of interstellar space. Actually, being able to break into pieces readily and quickly reassemble might be a major asset for a being traveling between stars, given that even a tiny bit of dust will explode like a bomb on collision.
    –Cthulhu is a long-term hibernator. For some strange reason, I tend to group Cthulhu with sea monkeys, except that they aestivate as eggs. Regardless, Cthulhu survives for geologic time in a crypt, only to rouse on occasion. This goes with being able to cross interstellar distances (which take a *long* time), but oddly, does not go with being lightly built. Ah well, these design anomalies.
    –HP Lovecraft was ignorant enough to think that beings flying between stars would carry tiny little stone images of themselves to give to whatever ignorant autochthones they happened to stumble over. I mean, seriously, if you were flying between the stars, would you carry a load of (proportionally) BB-sized images of yourself for them to worship? What’s up with that?

    Notice, I’m saying designed, not evolved. I tend to group with Stross on thinking of Cthulhu as the product of highly advanced technology, not a naturally evolved being.

    Still, it’s worth applying all that sauropod mojo to designing the dude. Come on, sauropodologists should be so down with the square-cube law and ecological tradeoffs that it will be trivial to figure out how to create something that can fit these constraints. Right?

  3. Pingback: Collect Call of Cthulhu, Part 1: John McKiernan’s squatting horror | Echo Station 5-7

  4. Matt Wedel says:

    Cthulhu is a long-term hibernator. For some strange reason, I tend to group Cthulhu with sea monkeys, except that they aestivate as eggs.

    That makes me think of tardigrades, which can go dormant essentially forever. But I’m kinda primed to think of tardigrades and Cthulhu together because Nick Derington included them in the folder of reference images for his Cthulhu idol build. He was interested in them just for their form, not for their habit of going dormant, but it’s interesting that tardigrades have so many Cthulhoid aspects. Maybe they are tiny star-spawn!

    if you were flying between the stars, would you carry a load of (proportionally) BB-sized images of yourself for them to worship? What’s up with that?

    Maybe they’re not just idols. Maybe they’re psionic tech, the C-Pod nanos of the Great Old Ones, through which they can control the activities of their cults at great distances while dreaming.

    Come on, sauropodologists should be so down with the square-cube law and ecological tradeoffs that it will be trivial to figure out how to create something that can fit these constraints. Right?

    Your faith in us is is touching, but probably misplaced. If there’s two things that the Mythos teaches us, they’re that faith is always misplaced, and that once you really understand what’s going on, you’re lost. What are you trying to do, drive us mad? 🙂

  5. Bryan Riolo says:

    Here’s the link.

    A pic of Cthulhu, not the idol. In my opinion, it best captures the essence of this monstrous being and follows a lot of your guidelines. It’s NOT mine! Wish it was!

  6. Matt Wedel says:

    Oh, that’s awesome. Many thanks for posting! Do you know who created it, by any chance?

  7. Heteromeles says:

    Nice! That would make for an interesting kaiju.

  8. Pingback: Interstellar Civilization and Cthulhu | Putting the life back in science fiction

  9. ScottE says:

    This going to be fun! I haven’t drawn anything mythos related in decades.

  10. I took this post as inspiration, and started a new painting which turned out considerably better than any previous attempts:

    (Maybe not as oozy as Mark’s painting, but still a bit of a Goothulhu anyhow.) Next, I’ll cobble together some sort of idol based on this. Hey, I’m painting again! This is a good thing!

  11. Matt Wedel says:

    Oh, very nice! (And I mean that in the most horrible way.) Do you mind if I repost it as part of the “Collect Call of Cthulhu” series? And if you’re game, would you like to send me a writeup about it (however short or long you want)?

  12. Sure! I’d like to cobble together a quick idol design based on this to fulfill the terms of your challenge, first, and then I’ll type something up.

    (Sorry I logged in two different ways. I’m the same person. Mostly.)

  13. Matt Wedel says:

    Sounds awesome. I like this version very much, and I am looking forward to seeing how you idol-ize it. I’ll be happy to big it up when it’s done.

  14. ScottE says:

    Here we go (feel free to edit for taste, length, and/or credibility; let me know when it’s up, if you can):

    I’ve tried to draw H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu a lot, but never really produced anything I would consider even remotely successful. I sort of came by the stories themselves in a confused manner, too, which didn’t help at all. My first exposure was probably through a collection of other short stories in one of the libraries I grew up in while I was a Navy brat (we moved every 18 months; so it’s hard to remember which library, honestly). It wasn’t even a dedicated Lovecraft collection, but an anthology filled with stories by other authors. Which? I can’t say, or even when, though I’m thinking it was when I lived in Japan, maybe in 1984. But my interest received a boost via roleplaying games, especially the Cthulhu mythos section (filled with marvelous Erol Otus art) of the original printing of Deities and Demigods by TSR, which was posted behind the librarian’s desk (with all the other AD&D books) at the Yokota library.

    I used to troll used and new bookstores looking for his work, finding very little (this was before popularity seems to have kicked off, but living on base in remote locations didn’t really help, either). For whatever reason, collections were rare as they tantalizing, and these influences may have starved and malformed my ideas on the subject.

    Until Matt posted about what he’d like to see in a Cthulhu Idol. Everyone knows what this thing looks like, especially if they’ve read the story. But it isn’t much help if you like a lot of good direction, since the description in the story is vague enough to allow for an infinite multitude of possibilities.

    Here’s one such, informed somewhat by Matt’s take.

    I’ve always loved simple illistrations made with limited color palettes, so I began there, as though this were one of the storybooks about dinosaurs or cryptozoology I grew up on.

    As a warm-up, I started with Cthulhu itself, drawn with as few preconceived notions as possible. Alien, monstrous, but resembling no earthly creature beyond superficial impressions. The fog helps make it appear even larger, by disrupting its silhouette. The eyes are numerous, but proportionally small, to support the sense of scale. The tentacles are numerous, writhing, and appear mighty (to me).

    And the mouth… an empty hole rimmed with many teeth. No beak, no lips, no mandibles, but thousands upon thousands of teeth. Anyone or anything that passes into it is lost forever. The wings, still folded or matted against the body, would soon inflate and exaggerate its proportions even further.

    Consider this an objective view of the Landlord of R’lyeh, one no sane human eyes should witness. But what about the idols, the handmade representations of the monster?

    It is different. Subjectivity obliges some variation, but their roots lie in the story itself.

    Cthulhu influences dreams, and as shapes appear in the minds of telepathic sensitives, the minds of sculptors and gravers might assert their own interpretations, possibly driven by their own motives and dark needs.

    Representing Cthulhu as a god of death, gaunt and skeletal, seems to fit. The eyes are larger here, to facilitate recognition and identification. A lack of eyes on the idol might increase its abstraction, but you might not feel as though it could be looking at you. The maw, fairly true to inspiration, magnifies its strangeness and menace.

    Cthulhu might be well unknowable in appearance to anyone unfortunate enough to witness it in person, but animals more terrestrial and familiar may influence the sculptor’s taste. Distortions in proportion complete the effect.

    The idol stands on a block, carved all of the same green material. On the block are the infamous undecipherable characters, depicting who knows what horrors.

    A lot of people who draw this seem to make stuff up and fill the space. Here I could not resist referring to a conlang project of mine which uses multiple sets of glyphs for the same sounds. Even without deciphering it, anyone can guess what’s written on the block.

    I chose a specific approach to the design of the idol and Cthulhu itself, for the idea that details can be used to enhance the alienness of a subject, similar to the way a masking effect can be had with simplification (cf. Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud for some great discussion of this effect).

  15. Matt Wedel says:

    Cool! I like your idol and the thoughts behind it, and I’ll be happy to “front-page” them as part of the CCoC series. Next up is Markus Buhler’s Kittelsen-esque Cthulhu, then either yours or Bryan Riolo’s. I’ll keep you posted. your stuff! I’m still talking with Markus and Bryan about what to post and how. I’m fairly drowning in awesome Cthulhu art, which is a nice problem to have.

    I’m going to hold off on saying any more for now, and save those thoughts for the actual post.

  16. Pingback: Cthulhu idylls | Echo Station 5-7

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