Michael Howe: Bringing Chivalry Back into Fantasy

A self-portrait drawn by Michael Howe

Twenty-four year old DeviantART artist Michael Howe encapsulates the epic moments of knighthood and heroes within his illustrations through dramatic lighting and climactic poses. However, his art isn’t the only place you’ll find the subtle echoes of medieval lore. As a confessed romantic and idealist, Howe dons a personality that revives the chivalric nature of ancient knights through his faith as well as his passion for the history of Middle Ages.

Elli: You have a beautifully unique style, and your art immediately makes me think of King Arthur meets Tolkein-esque fantasy. Tell me about how you started drawing and painting.
Michael Howe: Thank you! I am really glad to hear my art makes you think of those topics, both of which I love! Oh, I’ve been drawing since age 2 or 3 so I honestly can’t say what made me start! I would tend to draw various things, either sci-fi or stuff based on movies. I’ve also liked comics for much of my life. My desire to make them, along with my friendship with another artist and wanting to make the most of the gifts I’ve been given, have been my motivations for continuing. Plus, it’s fun!

E: Are you a professional artist, or a hobbyist?
MH: At this point, hobbyist, though I do want to become professional.

E: I’ve always been a firm believer that artists, like authors, are storytellers. Are there any particular pieces of yours that you feel tell an interesting story? If so, will you share it with us?
MH: Let’s see… I think several HINT that there is a story without fully telling it (often I didn’t know the full story). “Missing Maiden” shows a princess that got lost in the mountains, and has just stumbled into a dragon’s cave when the search party finds her. “Aftermath” also hints at a story.

E: On DeviantART there’s a photo of you in knight’s armor, and you post under the name “Unicorn-Knight”. Is this a personal character of yours? What can you tell us about this persona?
MH: It’s sort of a personal symbol. I have loved medieval history and knights my whole life. In my teens, the idea of being a noble, pure knight was inspiring to me. Unicorns were noble, pure creatures who could only be caught by a virgin girl sitting in the forest. The unicorn would come up and lay it’s head in the girl’s lap. So I took the unicorn as a symbol. I have used it for characters as well.

E: While we’re on the topic: What are your thoughts on chivalry, Good Sir Knight?

The Royal Rogue Cover by Michael Howe

Michael Howe's entry to The Royal Rogue book cover contest.

MH: Chivalry is very appealing to me, both historically and personally. Obviously, it is no longer the ideal conduct of the warrior class, but a (not the only) description of good behavior. The combat aspects of chivalry are not as important anymore in most of modern society, but the honoring of and being courteous to all, especially women, and protecting those weaker than yourself, and just all around doing what is right are still vital.

E: Like the knights of medieval times, do you live by a code of your own?
MH: I love codes of chivalry! There are so many cool ones to be found in fiction! At one point, I did write one for an order of modern-day knights I imagined forming (the Unicorns, actually)! I don’t have a personal “code” at this point, though I try to do what is right, and be chivalrous and gentlemanly.

E: What spurred you to enter The Royal Rogue book cover contest?
MH: After hearing about it from Saiman‘s journal entry, I had been occasionally looking at the entries. None of them (at that time) were really ones that I thought would be good for a book cover. I wanted to give you another option closer to what I would have wanted to choose from, so you could hopefully get one you really liked. To that end, I also told a couple artist friends, and shared the contest at another art site for other artists to find.

E: What aspects of the contest did you enjoy?
MH: Oh, hmmm… working on an “actual” project for someone, the idea that my picture could be on a cover(!), getting positive feedback from you when I posted updates so I knew I was doing a good job. It was pushing me to try just a little bit harder, so my entries were (at least in certain areas) some of my best stuff up to that point.

E: Are you available for commission?
Yes! People can send me a note on my DeviantART account, or email me at Michael@colohowes.org.

E: What are your aspirations, as an artist and a person?
MH: To create quality art, stories, and comics; and to be a good and godly man.

E: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
MH: Draw what you like. Use references. Look at good art. Find tutorials on YouTube and books that really help you improve (often a matter of personal tastes and understanding). Move on to drawing stuff you might not like, but would be useful to know to help the stuff you DO like (an example: if you want to draw fantasy characters in heroic poses, but don’t care much for forests or castles or towns, it would still help you draw good fantasy pictures to learn to draw those others as well)
But most importantly, at the risk of sounding like MANY others: DRAW! Draw a lot! Practice and sketch! Keep at it, even when it isn’t fun. Still, try to have fun.

You can learn more about Michael Howe and his art through his gallery at http://unicorn-knight.deviantart.com/.


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