Canadian illustrator Peter Diamond explores the epic literature of Medieval Britain, the heroic songs and poems that birthed the legend of King Arthur. Diamond moves beyond the flat plain-speak of medieval artists to bring this body of folklore to the modern age.
Diamond’s piece In Penkawr’s Hall illustrates the tale of Culhwch and Olwen, where Culhwch, a knight in King Arthur’s court, approaches the giant Ysbaddaden Penkawr to ask for his daughter Olwen’s hand in marriage. Ysbaddaden, Chief of Giants, was so massive that he used giant prongs to hold open his eyes, and proposed a series of trials to Culhwch to win his approval. Diamond’s illustration focuses on a single challenge, to shave the giant’s beard.
In the tale, Ysbaddaden says, “I will need to soften my stubble before my shave. It will never soften unless you can get the blood of the Very Black Witch, daughter of the Very White Witch, from the Valley of Desolation in the Uplands of Hell.” Diamond dive bombs through the characters and depth of the narrative, spiraling in and out again, putting all corners of the tale in a single panel. It is a feat of skill and patience, of understanding and research. There is adoration of the legends in each of Diamond’s pieces. Nothing is tossed off as unimportant.
Diamond has learned from his Arthurian elders — his illustrations capture the visual depth of Gustave Doré, the romance and adventure of N.C. Wyeth, and the realism of John William Waterhouse. None of these attributes are lessened when he takes on the subjects of Fritz Lang’s films or the comic characters of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, he delivers equal gravity to each, and in turn has a portfolio rich with drama, adventure, and history.