Steve Argyle - Legend of the Five Rings release - #47
Test of Enlightenment Chuda Ruri (Experienced), card # 62/124
This is the third of seven cards Steve Argyle illustrated for the Test of Enlightenment complete factory set expansion for the Legend of the Five Rings CCG released in July 2006.
The art was also one of three images appearing on the official playmat for Magic: the Gathering’s Grand Prix Chicago 2012, which also had artwork from Mark Tedin and R.K. Post. All three of them were guest artists at the event.
The car photo is from an l5r.com post about seeing this car in California from January 18, 2010.
Here is a link to a wallpaper of the artwork.
Here is a time-lapse video Steve posted on March 25, 2008.
So far all of Steve’s illustrations for Test of Enlightenment have had a very “airbrush” sort of quality, and Ruri is no different. Steve has moved as far away from this look with his current work as is possible, but even given the limitations of the style used it is still amazing. The reasons have less to do with artistic style and more to do with good design and the understanding of some basic tropes.
Steve discussed some of his thoughts about what was successful and unsuccessful about this piece in an interview with L5RCHIVES that I’ve transcribed:
"Chuda Ruri. The very first one. That one seemed to put me on the map. And there are a lot of things that I like about it, like I felt like the light coming just across her eyes where she was in shadow… where her eyes were. But then you had those blood-red seductive lips… but it’s like she was in shadow and almost baiting you. And the almost prison-stripe beams on the wall behind her… I felt like that created a really nice mood. But some of the things I hate is like the hand she’s got on her chest. It doesn’t look quite right to me, like it’s lacking in detail. A little bit just clumsy how it feels like it was rendered."
[Where would you put that hand if you could go back?]
“I’d actually put it in the same place but it doesn’t look like a hand to me, the anatomy is off and it doesn’t feel as realistic or natural as some of the rest of the piece, so I feel like I could have done that better.” - Steve Argyle
Ruri’s story is one of a complicated and dangerous person. The basic concept is of a woman who uses whatever she must to get what she wants. Using one’s “feminine wiles” to succeed in her plans is a basic foundation to this kind of character, and Steve shows her as both dangerous and alluring quite successfully.
The skulls and the blood on her chest and fingers are just enough dangerous elements to keep you on guard, but not enough to completely cancel out the just-enough-sexually charged reclined position, slightly revealing clothing, and just about the best nailed “bedroom eyes” I’ve seen on a game card.
The design of the image has a darker and geometric background which make her brighter, curvilinear form jump forward to the viewer’s complete attention.
Now, the rendering itself is still quite successful, even if you feel it is somewhat dated by the stylistic choice. Actually, the light being thrown on her through the off-frame window breaks up the very smooth and perfect “ideal” shading that this style tends to give any curved surface. Mostly her clothing is lit a bit more naturally than the lighting on her skin, which is far more stylistically “ideal.”
This is one of Steve’s most popular pieces from this point in his career and continues to stand up to this day.