• Preston Cram

The Plague King (Part 2 of 2)

I wrapped up the color art on The Plague King and I'm feeling good about it, definitely excited about this as a starting point for more politically themed dark fantasy art moving forward.



As acknowledged in the pen and ink version of The Plague King back in Part 1, this image isn't exactly timely, though as the starting point for a new creative direction I felt it was worth finishing and talking through it a bit.


Incidentally, the news stories that inspired it are actually a little nostalgic for me already since Trump has nearly vanished from the public eye this year. (Sort of like a song you hear every day and then don't hear for months or years -- when you hear it again it zaps you right back to the place in life when you had it on repeat.) With that in mind, I want to dive into a little bit of the symbolism and imagery here and where it's coming from.


It's no secret that Covid-19 has been politically polarized within the US, with liberals operating under the assumption that's an extremely deadly virus with long-term repercussions for people's health and conservatives operating under the assumption that the virus isn't a big deal and generally carrying on with life as usual.


Each party's respective news organizations have of course seized on every opportunity to lambast the opposing party for either following or not following safety protocols, and the outrage from the left reached a hysterical pitch late last year as Trump continued to downplay the virus, and then, in the least surprising shock of 2020, caught it himself.


Left-leaning news outlets blew up with vividly detailed accounts of Trump's maskless Rose Garden party -- where Trump caught it -- even creating interactive articles to visually pinpoint each partygoer who was confirmed to have been infected at the event. (Scroll down on this Washington Post article and marvel at the dedication to voyeuristic journalism.)


After Trump was hospitalized, a new round of hysteria unfolded when the president insisted on taking a car ride out of the hospital to wave at supporters, potentially spreading the virus to his secret service agents, and again after triumphantly removing his mask outside the White House and suggesting the virus wasn't dangerous, despite just being released from the hospital.


Months worth of news articles villainizing Trump for his resistance to lockdown measures, his repeated denigration of masks and mask wearers, his maskless indoor parties, and his reluctance to quarantine while infected began to paint a picture of a monstrous creature, a superspreader insistent on infecting as many people as possible, both directly in person and broadly with his governing policies -- and so the idea for The Plague King was born.



Some specific symbolism to touch on here: liberal news outlets persistently portray Trump as an aspiring autocratic monarch, so in this image he holds the sceptre and the orb, icons of the monarchy in the UK. The Qanon "Q" logo appears on the orb to represent Trump's reported support of Qanon and the central role he plays in its belief system. And of course, coronavirus spikes protrude from the head of the sceptre.


Trump also has a giant dollar sign in the mesh-like flesh of his forehead.


Trump's fellow Republicans who supported his relaxed policies toward covid and attended maskless events were equally villainized as superspreaders, and so they are represented here as rats -- infamous vectors of disease. Their leather armor is a beige-brown and they wear red armbands similar to Nazi soldiers, to which modern republicans are frequently compared. And of course, the red has a double significance here as the Republican party is branded with the same color.



Again, this piece is far from timely, largely due to the fact I waffled on this overall direction of integrating politics until I could think through some long-term aspects, but I had an absolute blast working on this and it helped me get my mind in the right place for future pieces.


Next week's article will expand and dive deeper into the specific concept for the art I'm making and work out a formal artist statement, and the week after that I'll share the pen and ink version of a new drawing featuring my favorite politician, the mercurial Mitch McConnell.


Stick around!