Bryan and I started talking about the frontispiece for Castles Made Of Sand in December 01, and sending images back and forth. I had treasured memories of the illustrations in the Oxford Books of Irish and Welsh Myths and Legends, I wanted something that would recall the Joan Kiddell-Monroe's decorations for Celtic hero tales,

(27th November 01)Compadre,


Perhaps inevitably, these illustrations don't look as helpful in the flesh,as it were, as they did in my imagination, where they have lived for a long time -forty years!- and grown, (the picture of Cuhullin's death for some reason meant a great deal to me) & I can't export them from my head, alas. I think Rufus the giant is good (tho' not looking very Afro-Irish in features).

Will you draw Sage unmasked, the same as you did the other two?

Illustration by Joan Kiddell-Monroe from Welsh Legends and Folktales by
permission of Oxford University Press

Illustration by Joan Kiddell-Monroe from Irish Myths and Legends by
permission of Oxford University Press.

OUP's website:


The frontispiece, as you'll see, moved a long way from Joan Kiddell-Monroe. But what I really wanted was to see Sage unmasked, and that project kept us going for a couple of months.



(5th December 01) Gwyneth,

Here's character sketches of Unmasked Sage and Rufus for your comments. These are just to establish a look for each character. Bear in mind that apart from appearing much smaller in the frontispiece, unlike the first frontispiece, their faces will probably be at different angles and contorted with exertion (at least Sage's will be - if I'm correct Rufus will appear quite relaxed while wrestling: perhaps speaking to Sage).

But I was a difficult customer. I wanted my blue-eyed elemental, and the stunning but possibly grotesque effect led us around the changes, Bryan patiently fixing and re-fixing his original idea. A lot of what an aritist does is disconcertingly technical, not intuitive, the disposition of curves and lines; the mechanical tricks that evoke an emotional response in the viewer. Such as, the small pupils that make us feel a character is "cold"; the eyes sized a little larger than life for extra appeal. The portrait of Sage masked is drawn as if the viewer is looking up at the skull-mask from chest height, to give you an impression of a very big bloke... You can find out a lot more about this, and it's utterly fascinating, on Bryan's CDRom for "Heart Of Empire", or if you are lucky enough to catch the presentation Bryan does on the secrets of his own trade. Highly recommended. But meanwhile here's the story of Sage unmasked, with pictures-

10/12/01 GJ to BT

Getting there. More height to the brow and bigger eyes? While I was looking for suits I found a Sage model, except -here I go demanding far more again- this feller (I mean the one in the centre of course) doesn't look as if he has much of a sense of humour. But though he doesn't look very mischevious, he might otherwise be spot-on.

I hope I've got this in the right portable format, at least it seems to be well under 400K.

13/12/01 GJ to BT

Bryan, here's the suit I found, I'm just sending you a thumbnail to make it a small package. The URL is



The Three Sages,

11th December (Scary Sage)

18th December (Sultry Sage)

21st December, Sage with the lop-sided grin

Gwyneth, This is the one I'm happiest with so far - kept the things you liked, made
the eyes and chin smaller and added the lop-sided grin that I seem to
remember is mentioned a couple of times in BAL

But! My message of 18th, which crossed with the lop-sided grin, must have had the artist tearing his hair....






And Finally... the definitive Sage Unmasked, collected by hand on the occasion of Bryan's birthday, February 2002


I've been looking at the character sketches of Sage. I'd been thinking -first attack, first stroke, nearly always right. I find that so often. So I've looked at your first version again, and I think it looks much more like Sage, except that to agree with the text he should have "a close cropped fleece of yellow curls" and a ring in his nose, not his ear. And lighter brows, maybe.

I'm sorry.

When you decide to involve someone in your work, the way I involved Bryan in Bold As Love, you have to accept you've given them rights. I realised Bryan had a right to imagine his own Sage, and that I should be open to look at my character through someone else's eyes. Bryan's Sage is not so strange or so fierce as I imagined him, but yeah, I look at him, and this is Sage, my blue-eyed Parsifal, unmasked. It's a wrap.