Much of Sorcery: Contested Realm's design direction is rooted in the principles of alchemy.
Alchemy is the "science of the soul", an ancient discipline which seeks to turn lead into gold. This is further explored in the historical context of "Philosopher's Stone".
According to Alchemy, everything in existence comprises of 4 archetypal elements: Fire, Earth, Water and Air. These four elements combine in a myriad of ways to constitute all things, both physical and non-physical. It was believed by philosophers that understanding these four elements is the key to fathoming our own minds, and knowing how to transmute one element into another is the foundation for personal development. The balance of the four elements in each of us reveals our highest nature.
In Sorcery: Contested Realm, the four elements are integral to the game design. Players use the Earth, Fire, Water, and Wind Avatars as the conduit to summon mythical minions, conjure ancient relics, and cast spells to control, disrupt, and destroy their opponent.
There is no better artist to capture the essence of the four elements than French illustrator and painter, Séverine Pineaux.
Séverine refers to her artistic style as follow:
My painting is based on fusion: a mixture between man and trees, animals and plants. When I was young, I was very impressed by H.R. Giger (Alien) and his images of biomechanical creatures. But my vision is more ecological and this interpenetration with the plant kingdom as well as with technological artifacts sketches a possibility of reconciliation between humanity and nature.
Séverine's "Ysambre" series, composed of two volumes, "Le monde-arbre" and "La femme-graine", and her book "Gothic Faêrie" are two beautiful artwork collections that demonstrate her masterful ability to capture the concept of fusion between humanity and nature. Below are several examples from those books:
With the elemental avatars, Séverine draws inspiration from her prior works and masterfully captures the essence of each element.
Séverine commented that when she was painting these avatars, she imagined that the oldest one was Earth, then Wind, Fire, and Water as the youngest.
Séverine's Earth illustration is personified as the eldest of the four elemental avatars. In each of the elemental avatar illustrations, Séverine beautifully explores an ecological interpretation that merges the human form with natural elements. She also captures the temperament of each figure, as described in ancient Greek philosophy.
Earth - Melancholy (a feeling of pensive sadness, typically with no obvious cause)
Wind - Sanguine (optimistic or positive, especially in an apparently bad or difficult situation)
Fire - Choleric (bad-tempered or irritable)
Water - Phlegmatic (an unemotional and stolidly calm disposition)
Aristotle labeled Earth as cold and dry. Earth can represent physical movements and sensations, and it is associated with the colors green and brown. These are the colors that largely compose this art composition. The woman is represented as an integrated component of the earth itself, sharing the environment with natural vegetation, insects, and reptiles.
Another interesting nuance and compositional choice common to each of the four avatars is the shoulder of the human figure; in this case the snail shell, creating the inseparable union of humanity and nature.
Next in the avatar lineage is the Wind elemental; or more commonly referred to in ancient Greek history as "air".
Aristotle stated that air represented heat and wetness (the wetness is from water vapor, which was thought to be part of air). The air symbol in alchemy can also represent a life-giving force, and it is associated with the colors white and blue.
In Séverine's illustration we see the prevalence of white and blue as the primary color composition. The woman beautifully integrated into the clouds, blending her hair with the clouds overhead, and her shoulders and figure with those below. Once again, the seamlessly blended and inseparable union of human and nature; this time majestically accented by colorful birds and butterflies to reprent the 'lightness' of air and wind.
In alchemy, fire represents emotions such as passion, love, anger, and hate, which are sometimes referred to as “fiery” emotions. Aristotle labeled it as hot and dry, and it is represented by the colors red and orange.
As we would expect from its historical context, Séverine's illustration for the Fire Avatar leans heavily on the colors of red and orange, in the ember glow of the fiery embers and sun elements that adorn the figure's ears, neck and shoulders.
Aristotle labeled water as cold and wet. It is associated with intuition as well as the color blue, and is often linked to the alchemy symbol of mercury (as both are seen as feminine symbols). The Greek philosopher Thales believed water was the first substance created in the world.
In Séverine's Water Avatar illustration, we once again see the beautiful young woman elegantly woven into the fabric of the aquatic scene. Her shoulders are anchored by bubbles on either side; the formation and structure of her chest composed of fish in the sea; octopus tentacles delicately strewn across her shoulders (akin to the reptiles in 'Earth' and 'Fire'); and her head nestled in a large crashing wave.
The pairing of the woman's head amongst the crashing wave is creatively symbolic in this piece, hearkening back to the tenant of Ancient Greek philosophy that associates water with a phlegmatic (unemotional and calm) disposition.
It is fitting to close the piece with a montage of Séverine's exquisite sketches of the four elemental Avatars. Each magnificently explores the various elements described throughout this piece, from historical alchemical and Ancient Greek philosophy, the emotion and dispositions associated with each element, and Séverine's incomparable ability to bring into perfect harmony the qualities of humanity and nature....