Steerpike, one of the major protagonists of Mervyn Peake’s novel Gormenghast, is locked in an upper room of Gormengast Castle and escapes by courageously climbing out of the window, up twenty feet of crumbling wall to a dead vine, and up that vine to the roof. Exhausted by the arduous, dangerous climb he collapses and sleeps through the night.
Awakening in the morning he climbs a parapet and beholds the endless, broken, barren, vista of the castle’s rooftops expanding out to fill the horizon.
I had wanted to depict that scene for over fifteen years. Inspiration finally hit when I climbed to the top of the Moorish tower La Giralda, which stands next to the Cathedral of Seville. Before me was a landscape of gargoyles and flying buttresses.
I started working on preliminary drawings that day. With each succeeding revision I added more stone gargoyles and statues and with each revision they became more animated and expressive and finally...alive!