For this double spread illustration of Sinxay facing Koumphan and all his ogre (nyak) warriors, our main concern was to find an artist that could capture the scope of the countless number of ogres that Sinxay had to battle in his quest to free Soumountha. Capturing this concept of scope is not easy and we worked with several artists who weren’t able to create the scene as we visualized it. Thankfully we began working with Nick who eagerly took on the challenge. In this illustration we needed to capture certain key elements. The almost limitless number of ogre warriors, a compelling portrait of Nyak Koumphan and an equally compelling portrait of Sinxay standing alone facing the seemingly endless number of evil-doers (thanks #43!). When working with an illustrator you have to take on a certain mind set of being able to look at sketches and fill in the detail as you would want the illustrator to do. It takes a lot of imagination and gradually we saw our trust built up that the sketches indeed would be brought to life. With Nick it all worked out well. In this scene of Sinxay facing Nyak Koumphan we wanted Nick to vividly portray the David vs. Goliath matchup. This scene captures the moment after Nyak Koumphan has taken control of his army after they suffered immense casualties fighting Sinxay on their own. Koumphan is furious and we think Nick does a great job in capturing that rage that is one of the driving forces of Nyak Koumphan, contrasting superbly with the calmness of Sinxay standing there alone. We had to work a lot with Nick to capture the right positioning of Sinxay so the viewer could see enough of his face to identify with Sinxay. We didn’t want Sinxay to appear angry, just the opposite, he was supremely confident in his abilities and realized his extraordinary powers could not be overcome by the three poisons of hate, delusion and greed that enslaved Koumphan’s mind.
In the background you can see Koumphan’s palace and we had Nick actually create mountains that are similar to real karsts in Muang Fuang district in Vientiane Province where local people believe his palace was located.
We also like the wide variety of ogres. The ogres (nyak) all have limited supernatural powers and could take on a variety of shapes and guises which Nick captures well. Of course it’s only possible to create a number of detailed ogres, while the rest become more blurred as they fade out toward the horizon.
We discuss in the chapter on Buddhism how this scene is reminiscent of Siddhartha facing the demons of Mara while meditating and before reaching enlightenment. In the Muan Sadok included with Sang Sinxay, Pangkham writes that Nyak Koumphan is Mara, though there are other interpretations of course.