Friday, May 18, 2012

Four Sketches in Movement and Symbolism

   Last night at 11 o'clock I found myself caught in the throws of inspiration and started sketching! What inspired me? I was looking at a book collection of beautiful prints by Yoshitaka Amano that I have on my shelf. I decided to take a longer perusal through the pages of artwork to really enjoy every detail and found myself enthralled once again by the exquisite lines, movement, and conceptual scope of each image. Amano is a Japanese artist who is most notably the artist for Final Fantasy, but following in a close second, the illustrator and visual instigator of the Japanese novel series Vampire Hunter D by Hideyuki Kikuch. The series is set thousands of years in the future where a vampire kingdom had risen and fallen and the son of Count Dracula rides the untameable frontier in a very cowboy-esque fashion, rescuing beauties, helping villages, and killing monsters...and vampires, of course. If you like this sort of thing, it is definitely a beautifully crafted series. I believe that Amano's style and artist renderings were a large part in the popularity the series, and it is not hard to see why. Amano was able to capture the dark enchantment of Kikuch's prose and especially the silent, otherwordly grace of its hero, D. His work is free flowing, powerful, and cinematic. What really strikes me is the way he is able to convey an action of a scene by the use of composition and line rather than always literally showing what is happening. Often times his work becomes very abstract in the process. If anyone knows me, they know my passionate stance against art that is in the abstract, and it is true that I do not like all the work by Amano because he often can go in the very abstract and pretty bizarre, but on a whole I would say that his work is abstract in its interpretation not its application. What I mean by that is there is no loss of skill or creativity such as the haphazard lines, blocks, colors, and distortions that many call art now a days, but in fact there is a very precise intention to make his lines symbolize the action, atmosphere, and scene he is trying to render. I have here two images to show you what I mean:


    You can click on the images to see larger versions of them. Aren't these beautiful? There is so much movement and grace in these images! If you look to the one on the right, you will see what I have been telling you. From far away you can see the abstraction of the image, the white against the black, but as you look closely you can see the strong, elegant physique of the Vampire Hunter D bursting from the lights and darks, lines and shapes. I love this! He is able to show the mood, convey the personality of the character, as well as display the action all in the application of his lines! I would ask my readers, if you are interested, can you guess what sort of character the hunter is just by these images?

    Anyway, so, all of this inspired me to create a series of sketches where I really explored these ideas. Amano has already been an influence on my graphic novel, and I foresee he will continually be a big influence as I go along.

     The series is of Elijah, but from 1 Kings 19:9-18. It is where Elijah, after running for his life (he just slaughtered the king and queen's prophets!), goes to talk and plead with the Lord. The Lord tells Elijah to stand on the mount and there Elijah waits to hear from Him. As he waits, a strong powerful wind, an earthquake, and a fire come, but Scripture says the Lord was not in any of them. Finally, a low whisper is heard and it is only then Elijah enters the cave and meets with His God. I love the way the Lord works and as I was discussing about Amano's work, I chose to represent the power of these circumstances by my lines, composition, and really pushing my forms. I also tried to do them quickly, as quickly as I could push myself, and tried not to do too much revision or correcting. I wanted to show the power and might of the Lord who creates winds, fires, and quakes, but chooses to come to us in quiet stillness; and if I did it correctly, the images speak for themselves. I hope you enjoy these!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Elijah: A Graphic Novel

    Well, I thought that since I finished the cover art, I would share with everyone a current project that I am working on. It is a graphic novel that I have begun working on for the last several months. I have always loved the graphic novel as a medium of storytelling. For me it is movie concept art come to life on the page or an illustrative story told cinematically. For those of you who may not know what a graphic novel is, it is like a glorified comic book. The medium has gained much popularity in recent years and movies like 300, Sin City, and Road to Perdition were all graphic novels adapted to screen. They tend to be much darker in content, i.e. very adult material, and usually have full length stories rather than episodic stories like Marvel comics. I think that the concept of a graphic novel holds so much potential, but I have not been impressed by any of them that are on the shelves, unfortunately. Either the stories or the artwork (or both!) tend to be below average and no one seems to have the vision to really take advantage that the medium gives. Japanese artists who create their own version of graphic novels called Manga understand the medium much more than Westerners do, but even then, the stories don't really strike my interest.
    So, I decided that I would create the graphic novel I would like to see on shelves and would myself buy, and thus, Elijah the prophet via graphic novel was born. I do have my own stories that I would like to make into original graphic novels, but for now I decided to start small and work my way up in difficulty level. Why did I choose this particular story? This story is from 1 Kings 18 of the Bible, and it is during the early days of Israel around 9th Century B.C. During this time Israel's current king is Ahab, a man who the Bible says "did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him." He married a wicked woman Jezabel and she brought in all the false deities of her culture, of Baal and Asherah, which Ahab willingly worshiped and lead all of Israel to worship. It is during this time then that prophets of the one true God where persecuted and Elijah was one of the few who still remained faithful. In chapter 18 of Kings he confronts Ahab and all the false prophets, bringing them to shame, and he slaughters all the false prophets before Ahab, declaring Yahweh (God) the God of Israel. I love reading the stories of the prophets in the Old Testament, and I was instantly struck by the fact that these stories could be told in a very cinematic way. We love stories of one man against the odds, fighting for truth and justice, whether it be in comic books or westerns. Here are stories in Scripture that tell of real life occurrences of men finding themselves against their culture, government, and even against the very people of their country whom they desire to see set free. These are also men of power and faith, sought out, hated, and feared; men who by the power of prayer to God, healed the sick, raised the dead, challenged kings, and escaped dangerous circumstances. It all sounds rather romantic, but it is all there in Scripture! It is my desire, then, to showcase the glory of God through this medium that can be enjoyed by all. Here is the cover of this graphic novel, which will probably be around 22-25ish pages long. It is my intention to post something every five pages that I complete, so hopefully I will be able to do that. Haha. I hope you all enjoy this and please come back for more information on this project! (You can click on the image to see a larger version!)

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Beauty and The Beast

Speaking of Disney, I thought for my first real post I would put up one of my illustrations that I created in Photoshop. I am inspired by all sorts of fairy tales, Brother's Grimm being my favorite. I grew up on the Disney films of Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid and simply adored the recent animated feature Tangled, and so the world of true love, faerie, magic, and pretty damsels has always been a part of my daydreams. I am also inspired by the work of 18th Century illustrator Arthur Rackham who did many illustrations for fairy tales, Shakespeare, mythology, Alice in Wonderland, and more. If you google his work you will see that his work is simply exquisite and full of life, romance, and movement.
    As for my image that I created, I always like to work in dark, muted tones with one or two rich colors for emphasis. In this image it is the use of the red against the dark blues and greens to bring out the angst of this story. My idea was to show the isolation that the beast feels from Beauty in the beginning of the story by the way they are standing separately with Beauty turned away from him. His beastly nature, as well as his appearance, separates him from her and so she stands aside in a sort of melancholy beauty that is untouchable to the beast as he sneaks a timid gaze in her direction. I painted the beast in the same colors as the background so that he fades away as Beauty stands out in vibrant red; the same red of the famed roses. Her being clothed in red also symbolizes who Beauty is becoming for the beast, a lovely rose who has captured his heart. I hope you enjoy this one. I have also added parts of the beginning sketch that I did for this piece. I always work from sketches first and then bring it all into Photoshop.