this one was loosely based on a couple 16th century illustrations of Death.. and like other artwork of the time, it has some details that could be symbolic sorts of things which are no longer understood... but really, nothing in this painting is a metaphore for anything else. I just made up some details that I thought people might wonder about and try to figure out - that white spot above the extended arm-stump is just some unpainted canvas. Though it was inspired by 16th century drawings of Death, shortly after I started working on it I decided that it's something else. I'm still not entirely sure what it is, but I think it could be an extreme close-up of the very tip of a candle or welding torch.
I tried to draw the fire in the same sort of style I've seen in stuff from back then, and same with the smoke too, and same inspiration for the skelital dude, though most of his structure I just made up.. part of the face and body position are similar to a drawing from the 1500's. This guy, and the smoke and fire, were originaly going to be part of a larger scene that I wanted to engrave/chisel/etch onto the front of a 16th century breastplate... but the death/devil/whatever-he-is were all I ever got around to sketching of the scene before deciding I didn't have time for a project like that.
the etching was going to have this guy in the center with his smoke and flames, and holding an hourglass where the blank spot is in the painting. lines of Landsknecht soldiers were going to be marching into one side of the fire and smoke,with lines of skelital and grotesque/bestial figures marching out on the other side of the skelital dude's fire and smoke. but like I said, between maille, stained glass, work, kayaking, and all the other stuff... not enough time for a project like that so I had this sketch sitting around in my notebook for a few months and thought it might make an interesting painting. I took the hourglass out of it because it only really had any meaning when put in context with the rest of the scene I was planning on... without the lines of soldiers marching through their doom the hour glass would have had as much meaning in the painting as a blank spot or any other random object.. the closeup of a welding torch idea was just something I thought of while trying to think of things this could be, but I like it and think I'll keep saying that thats what it is.