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Illustrating the Poems of Rumi: Keep your Dragon in the snow


Anyone here enjoy…the Poems of Rumi? ūüôā

Sufi Studios is buzzing with creative and spiritual inspiration, in its journey of it’s next book, titled, “Sufi Comics: Rumi”!

So far, 7 pencils and inks have been completed, and more than 30 thumbnails.

One story that’s stood out for me, is¬†the intriguing: “Keep your Dragon in the snow”. ¬†These verses take us on an incredible journey of self-awareness; a universal¬†lesson of how to tame our Dragon.

It’s powerful, thought provoking and visually exciting.

Here’s an excerpt from the poem:

A self-styled “dragon hunter” went into the mountains to trap a dragon.

He searched all over the mountain,

And at last discovered the frozen body of an enormous dragon in a cave high up
on one of the tallest peak.

The hunter brought the body to Baghdad.

He claimed that he had slaughtered it single-handedly & exhibited it on the
banks of Euphrates.

Thousands of people turned out to see the dragon.

The heat of the Baghdad sun started to warm up the dragons body and it began to
stir, slowly awakening from its winter hibernation…”

Before Rahil sketches out the poem, he creates a storyboard in thumbnails.  Sometimes there are changes to the storyboard.  Many times the storyboard is approved as is.  Then Rahil gets down to drawing the final pencils and then inks.

Have a look at the complete thumbnails of “Keep your Dragon in the snow.”

[Rumi] Keep your Dragon in the snow
[Rumi] Keep your Dragon in the snow

[Rumi] Keep your Dragon in the snow
[Rumi] Keep your Dragon in the snow

As with the signature¬†Sufi Comics¬†tone and style, the story ends with lasting impact and food for thought.¬†Arif has ¬†described the comic as: “artistically one of the best so far”.

I wanted to¬†find out more about¬†why and how¬†the¬†Poems of Rumi¬†were¬†selected, and get an insight into the¬†illustrations. So I had a chat with¬†Arif about the¬†process of¬†selecting the comics, and our artist Rahil on the illustrations. Here’s what they said:

Illustrating:

Your thumbnails of the comics are very impressive. How did you come up with the ideas and what would work best?

(Rahil) “Most of the ideas for the comics were the residue material of the amazing stories I’d listen to as a child, which over a period of time firmly clinged to my sub-conscience.

Each week when I’d work on a particular comic or a poem I’d revisit these stories and with a few modifications I’d come up with something completely new.

While I safely navigated through most of the poems in this way, the other poems which were less direct and more allegorical in nature required a lot of effort, high caffeine shots and not to forget long walks with the script in my hand revisiting it multiple times.

I’d read and re read the poem so many times until I‚Äôd finally get a raw idea, sometimes the ‘raw’ idea is enough to come up with a proper storyboard. There were a few poems where the raw idea wouldn’t translate well on paper and that’s when I‚Äôd take the baby to Arif bhai who’d help me fine-tune the concept. After long discussions we’d finalize the story. So far this approach works best for us.”

Artistically, this comic has been described as one of the best so far! Did you face any challenges with illustrating this story? What did you enjoy about this process?

(Rahil) “I am not sure if it‚Äôs really the ‘best’ but it sure is the most ‘interesting’ of the lot . This was, however, one of those poems which really struck a chord with me…

When I first read the story ‘Keep your Dragon in the snow’, without a moment’s hesitation I set out to relive one of my most cherished childhood dreams. Since I already had an ‘expertise’ in creating monsters (at least that’s what I thought) I started making a dragon.

However, I soon realised that the dragons I‚Äôd been drawing were of ‘roman’ or ‘greek’ origin (which was in no way blending in with the other characters in the story) and the look required for the dragon in this story was of a Middle Eastern blood thirsty monster. Thus started my pursuit for a Middle Eastern monster!

I went through a lot of Turkish miniature paintings for the right look until I happened upon a painting of a serpentine azi dahaka. A few modifications to the dragon and eureka I was done!

Yes! To answer your question, I‚Äôd an amazing time working on this particular comic and the only challenge I faced was giving the dragon a middle eastern look.”

Here¬†is a sneak¬†preview of the Dragon…

[Rumi] Keep your Dragon in the snow
[Rumi] Keep your Dragon in the snow

Selecting the comics:

What was the process of selecting which comics to shortlist? What did you like about this story/ comic in particular?

(Arif) “Hmm..difficult question.  There was no formula or checklist when selecting the poems or stories of Rumi.  It was just the story or poem that touched us most, the ones that had the most impact, were selected.

Of course in the back of our minds we were also considering how feasible would it be to sketch out a storyboard from it.  As some verses of Rumi are simple to understand, yet difficult to make a story out of.

With regards to “Keep your dragon in the snow”, what a beautiful story.¬† I connected with this story at multiple levels.¬† I personally experience bouts of over confidence, in my work, personal and spiritual life.¬† Then after strutting for some time in my glory, it doesn’t take me long to fall down and see my true worth.¬† Just like the dragon hunter in the story.

What other kinds of poems/stories can our readers look out for? Why should readers stay tuned?

(Arif)¬†“Our stories have been mostly short-listed from Andrew Harvey’s book, Teachings of Rumi. Andrew has beautifully categorised his poems in the four stages of spiritual growth.

1. The Call (Hearing the call of your Lord)

2. Be a Lover (To become close to your Lord)

3. Ordeal (Go through trial to prove yourself worthy of love)

4. Union (Passing the trials and being one with your Lord).

Though the poems are not categorised this way, the poems selected follow the four themes.”

Sufi Comic: Rumi, is a really passionate project for us. We have some interesting updates and sneak-peeks till our release. So do watch this space for more.


Tamanna Ali

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