We feel extremely fortunate to have worked with a young artist from Utah, Nick Bowen, who digitally painted some key scenes in our retelling of Sinxay. Anyone who has looked through our book, or better yet has a copy, can see how richly illustrated our book is, in fact it has been described by some has having that coffee table quality where it can be enjoyed just for its illustrations. In our retelling we also use illustrations drawn by two Lao illustrators, Khamla Phanyasith and Bounseng Thiepphongthan. In addition we include mural details from Wat Chaisi, Wat Sanuan Wari and Wat Photaram that have either been retouched by ourselves, or redrawn by Nick Bowen.
We contacted Nick, and actually evaluated the work of a number of illustrators before deciding on Nick, looking for someone who could provide the wide scope and depth we we looking for in the scene where Sinxay stands looking out at his main antagonist, Nyak Koumphan, mounted on a large elephant a wide assortment of his nyak army surrounding him The numbers of soldiers is said to be countless, or in the millions. Nick was the only one who perfectly captured what we imagined the scene might have looked like, and we loved his final illustration so much that we had him adapt it to being the cover of our book. Astute readers can see the he incorporated the karst mountain we provide a photograph of in Chapter 4 on Laos, as the location where Koumphan’s palace stands.
In the course of working with Nick over a year’s time, we had him draw five additional scenes. 1) The Wishing Tree 2) Soumountha in the Palace Gardens 3) Soumountha tending to the dying Koumphan 4) The Triumphant Return of Sinxay to Muang Pengchan and 5) Sinxay when he is ordained as the king by sitting under a hanglin with his father, Phanya Kousarat, pouring in a bowl of sacred water that travels through the saga’s wooden body and washes over the top of Sinxay.
All these scenes are difficult to illustrate because there aren’t many older similar representational drawings or paintings to reference. I think the one Nick did of Soumountha in the Palace gardens is especially beautiful. In drawing this illustration we were in continuous contact through email and Nick would send updates to drawings on a regular basis after receiving our feedback. These are illustrations worth taking your time to look at. If you look closely you can see fairly detailed musicians playing in the pavilion at the end of the path, with the larger pavilion in the background. As in Laos, there are dok champa trees and the young ladies making necklaces from the flowers is a time-honored tradition in Laos. It was a carefree time for Soumountha and she reveled in watching her retinue dancing to the music and enjoying laughing conversations, while all admired Soumountha sitting regally on the bench. Compositionally the illustration is quite strong and shows the depth of Nick’s art background, graduating recently with a BFA. We’ll discuss the other paintings in later posts, but we urge readers to savor each the magic and wonder of each illustration.