Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Antagonists

     It is the last day of the month! I am pleased to announce that did finish four pages, more or less, of my graphic novel. Unfortunately, I did not reach the 5 page goal. My new goal is to finish the page before I begin work again in mid August, so be looking for an epic post on my graphic novel next month!
     Since I wasn't able to finish like I wanted, I shall post some more of my study drawings. One of the reasons I wasn't able to finish in time was because the concept for the wicked King of Israel, King Ahab, wasn't coming to my mind. I didn't know what he was going to look like at all. I didn't want to make him look like a typical bad guy, with a sneering, deceitful face and dark countenance, yet King Ahab was one of the most wicked kings of Israel and was highly selfish, so that needed to show in his appearance. I went to Scripture and read other accounts of King Ahab that would better flesh out his personality for me. He was a man who was in all accounts arrogant and willful, but he was also easily manipulated by his wife, Jezebel. He was childish in behavior more than anything, not always intending to do evil and abuse his power, but ran with his passions and desires. One of the stories that more accurately represented him, was a story of when he desired a vineyard next to his palace that was owned by a man named Naboth. He offered money and an even greater vineyard to Naboth in exchange for this vineyard, but Naboth refused to give up the land of his inheritance. This threw Ahab into a mood and it says that he laid in his room without eating. His wife asked him what was ailing him, and he told her of Naboth's refusal. Jezebel asked him, did he not govern Israel? And then proceeded to tell him that she will get him the vineyard. In her craftiness, Jezebel brought forth false witnesses to testify against Naboth that he had cursed God and King, and then had him stoned to death. King Ahab was then free to take the vineyard, which he did without hesitation. 

     I thought this was a perfect picture of who King Ahab was, a man that Scriptures describes as there being "none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited." He wasn't ruthless enough to take Naboth's vineyard by force or cunning enough to do what his wife did, but he is selfish enough to enjoy what is not his own at the cost of a life and hedonistic enough to sell himself to every sort of evil. 

The above sketches were my first sketches of King Ahab. The head sketch I thought was much too regal and dignified for King Ahab, but the second one was something closer to what I was envisioning. At this point of my sketching, I was reminded of the actor Chris Hemsworth. Maybe it was just because I had recently watched Snow White and the Huntsmen, but Hemsworth seemed to be very good inspiration for my verison of King Ahab.

     I wanted King Ahab to be handsome and exhibit the kingship. He is royalty after all. Chris Hemsworth, who plays the demi-god Thor, certainly exhibits that regality and power. Again, though, I didn't want Ahab to be too dignified.

     This is my final sketch of King Ahab where I achieved the concept I was going for. I wanted him to be impressive, but have all the pettiness of his character and behavior evident as well. This is based after the above story, so he is sitting his room bemoaning that fact that he cannot have Naboth's vineyard. Haha.

     Another important aspect of Ahab is his clothing. I discovered that it is extremely difficult to get any historically accurate visuals of what they would have worn in Israel during the 9th century. A lot of the pictures show very Babylonian-esque clothing styles, so I more or less stuck with that. I didn't want it to be too showy and gaudy, just rich and elegant enough to express his kingship. I wanted Ahab's persona to put forth his station rather than his clothing. Another decision I made was not to give him any sort of headdress or crown. The Babylonian styled headdress looked rather ridiculous to my taste and overdone, which would have made him rather comical in my opinion. Instead, I decided to make his hair be more like his "crown". It is jet black, lose, and neatly styled. 

     My final sketch is of the other antagonists, the false prophets of Baal and Asherah. I wanted them to be indistinct as individuals, but together would exhibit the opposing force against Elijah. In this sketch I accentuated the figure and added loose lines because my concepts for the false prophets are something that I would describe as smoke and contortion, being that their ritualistic practice of cutting themselves is how they call on their gods. They would be full of zealousness and exaggeration, dramatization and intimidation; making a show of achieving power and ultimate worship, but gaining absolutely nothing. They would then become almost non-human, dissolving faceless into their masochistic worship. 
     It is the only sketch I have done of the false prophet concept, but I thought it achieved what I was wanting.

    That is all I have for right now, but again, God willing, I will have some work from my actual graphic novel to show. There are even changes to the cover design that I will doing as well. So, enjoy these sketches and I will have more coming soon!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Low Whisper

     As I have been trying to finish the last two pages of my five page goal for my graphic novel, I decided to take a break and do something where I could just play with shading and form. A friend of mine had asked me, after I had posted my blog Four Sketches in Movement and Metaphor, if I was going to develop those four sketches any further into more realized works of art. I hadn't planned on doing that, but after he asked, I thought it might be kind of fun to develop the sketches further. I don't know if I will do the rest of them, but I have one here that I did. It is Low Whisper. While I was sketching it, I kept in mind the mood and symbolism of the piece that I had discussed before, and then let myself sketch wherever I willed. It was an experiment in itself because I didn't know if I wanted to do it in pencil or make it a pen sketch. As the sketch went on, I ended up incorporating some pen techniques and lines, while keeping the pencil shading. Once I had finished with it, I was reminded of Japanese woodblock prints of the 19th century; Katsushika Hokusai being one of the most famous artist of that style. I had not intended this while I was drawing, but it came to me afterwards. I find that I am very much influenced by asian art in general, though I do not look at it quite as often as I have done other styles of art (and if I do it is mostly work by Amano or Manga artists), which I find to be an interesting observation as I have been developing my work. Another person that came to my mind (someone I love to be influenced by), is Arthur Rackham, the early 20th Century illustrator of many books and stories ranging from Shakespeare to Alice in Wonderland and fairytales to Richard Wagner's works. I simply adore his artwork, and strangely enough, his work also derives influences from Japanese woodblocks. So, I was rather fascinated by all of this and something I should keep in mind as I continue to create my works.

     Here are some works by both artists to look at for compare and contrast.

The Great Wave by Hokusai 

Naruto Whirlpool by Hokusai
The lines of the waves are simply beautiful in this one.

The Waterfall of Amida Behind the Kiso Road by Hokusai
I love the movement of this piece. Once again, abstract, but just the right
amount of detail to get the impression of water and landscape. 
This is simply gorgeous!

Undine by Arthur Rackham
I could choose so many works of his. I love them all! However, I chose two that you 
can really see the influence of the Japanese woodcut. This image has always
been one of my favorites. Love the movement and the lines!

Undine by Arthur Rackham
This is another illustration from the tale of Undine, a water spirit. I love the
feel of the wind running through his dress and hair and the wildness it
creates coupled with her mischievous face. Arthur Rackham is certainly
one of the greatest illustrators ever!

Low Whisper

     There has been some notable differences between this one and the first sketch:

     As you can see, I decided to use his clothing and cloak to develop that movement rather than his body. I have also organized the line work to be more intentional in their placement and where they are drawing the eye. This image is supposed to reflect quietness and sacredness, and so the shading and line work of his clothes and of the cave flow together like water. Water is something I was thinking of while I was studying the line work I was doing and to me it is best to reflect that serenity I am trying to capture. It flows in unison and creates soft, beautiful curves. As for the cave, I have made it seem like it could be made out of ice or crystal to keep with the "water theme" of the piece and the fluidity. It has that stillness of atmosphere and that feeling of pervading hush. 
    Again, I do not know if I will do the rest of the sketches, but this was fun to draw and to experiment with. Enjoy! 

"And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave."
1 Kings 19:11-13

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

New Element: My Avenger's Project

This post has spoilers for Iron Man, Iron Man 2, and The Avengers. You can skip to the third paragraph and to my artwork if you don't wish to be spoiled. 

So, last month while trying to work vigorously on my graphic novel, I was struck with inspiration once again. The Avengers. It is definitely one of the top films of this year, and there has been so many good ones and there as of yet to be more good ones to be released! However, The Avengers really spoke to me as a narrative, which is based solely on the character arcs (which is based primarily on Joss Whedon's writing!). I really enjoyed the different places this cast of characters were coming from and how they came together to fight and avenge the earth! Even the villain was fascinating to me and so I decided to get my ideas out through an ambitious art project. I started with Iron Man, who is my favorite avenger. His story arc was already strong and came from the genius of Jon Favreau who made Iron Man and Iron Man 2. What draws me to Tony Stark's story is not only because he is played by the fabulous Robert Downey Jr., but is the journey his character goes through and still is going through. A lot of what Iron Man is about is the idea of change, redemption, renewal of character, inner transformation. This idea is exemplified through this process of Tony Stark becoming the Iron Man; his core reactor that is keeping him alive playing a key part in that metaphor. In Iron Man we meet Tony Stark, an ambitious genius who is highly successful, but completely narcissistic, consumed with pleasuring himself and uncaring of anyone around him. From out of that deadness, he is given a second chance and a new life. In Iron Man 2, we find Tony facing his worst enemy again, himself, and slipping back into old habits until he is able to once again be "renewed", represented in his creating the new element for his core reactor. So, this idea of needing to be transformed or sanctified continually that plays out in the character of Tony Stark as he is physically becoming Iron Man is fascinating to me because it is very much like the transformation that we can find in Christ and His Spirit that is meant to dwell within us. Christ's death puts to death the old man and His resurrection gives us new life which is renewed day by day, to one degree or another. "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind..." Romans 12:2. "[...] But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Corinthians 6:11. "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:18.

   Tony Stark's character arc is furthered in The Avengers where he is faced with having to work with a team, something he does not do well. His arrogance, overbearing wit, and seeming uncaring for the seriousness of any situation clashes hard against the dutiful and selfless member of the Avengers, Steve Rogers (Captain America). Finding nothing impressive about Mr. Stark whatsoever, Steve claims that when it comes down to it, Tony Stark would not have the courage or the character to make that sacrifice for the sake of his country or his team. I love how this comes around full circle in the end, when Tony Stark makes that choice of self-denial and nearly dies because of it. This act of self-sacrifice would have been unthinkable for the man that was first presented to us in Iron Man. That is why I am pretty excited for Iron Man 3, which seems to be continuing this theme.

   All of this to explain the thought process that went behind this image that I created of the character. I chose to do the image in a more painterly style, with a combination of my pencil work and Photoshop painting. I am still striving for that movement in my artwork, and so I elongated the figure and had the background push and pull the eye around him. The piece is entitled New Element and I have placed emphasis at the core of Tony Stark, which is the heart of Iron Man. So the core reactor is the focal point with the color red emphasizing this idea, and then the colors run out into more neutral tones as you get further away from the center.  I have also put in an almost silhouette image of his lovely Pepper Potts, who is very crucial to his transformation. She is his colleague, support, and dearest friend. It is by her pushing him and believing in him that keeps Tony in check and inspires him. She is very crucial to the character of Iron Man and his motivations.

Here is a detail:

What I am aspiring to do with this Avenger's Project is to make these "character study" pieces of each character and bring that to life through my style. I will, however, only be creating them as inspiration leads. So far I only have fully fleshed out ideas for Hawk Eye/Black Widow (I am combining them) and Loki. I am also going to be juggling this amongst my other projects, so we will see what goes on. For now I hope you enjoy this artwork of Iron Man and my thoughts on the character.