Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Sons of Asgard

"One son who wanted the Throne too much, another who will not take it."

**SPOILERS** Thor 2 The Dark World. Ah, so amazing. Probably my most favorite story arc in the Marvel series, next to Tony Stark's, is Loki and Thor's journey as characters. Thor 2 did not disappoint! The contrast between Loki and Thor is so fascinating as they are faced with a common enemy, the Dark Elves, and how their motivations come to light through this confrontation. I love how Thor continues down the path of a servant's heart, taking the lower then lowest ground whereas Loki . . . well, he takes a more twisted path. Haha. From the very beginning Thor's motivations are pure, even purer than his father Odin's. Jane, having accidentally come into contact with Dark Matter, is in danger of her life, and where Odin sees her as unimportant to the larger scheme of things, Thor fights for her. Though a mere human to them, Thor sees value in her, just as he sees value in all humans of Earth. Thor is a protector of the Realms, and he takes the servant's position. Loki, on the other hand, does not bow to anyone, languishing in his prison, owning none of his wrongs. Then when confronted with their enemy, sees them as a means of selfish gain through manipulation and tricks. When the two brothers are forced to join together for a common cause, love motivates Thor whereas rage motivates Loki (or so it seems). In the end, both brothers achieve what they want, and Loki finds himself sitting on the Throne and Thor finds himself refusing it. He not only refuses the Throne, but even goes further to say that Loki understood ruling better than himself and that he desires to live with the same honor he believes his brother died with, putting himself now, lower than even Loki, a man who was his very enemy. So, here we have a man taking the lowest position, claiming no honor or glory for himself, but remaining humble in every respect. Whereas Loki's position is one of the unbending proud, and his refusal to come down from off his throne continues to cause himself and others much pain. We have no idea what he did with his father, and it was through Loki's own manipulation that inadvertently killed their mother. His road is inevitably self-destructive. Yet Loki's journey is not so black and white as all that. His motivations seem clear, as I've outlined, but yet they are not, for Loki shows another quite different face through the events of Thor 2, and it is quite interesting, indeed! Perhaps it is Thor's own true goodness, guilelessness, and humility that will save Loki in the end.

I love Marvel. Anyway, needless to say, I was inspired to do some Loki/Thor sketches. I decided to go with something a little more "authentic" with the sketches, giving the character studies a Norse-edge. Haha. These shall also be available at the Phoenix Comicon. :-) Please, enjoy!

"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." - Philippians 2:3 - 8.

He makes everything beautiful in its time . . . Ecclesiastes 3:11

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Sting and The Raven

My final blog post for the month and I wanted to talk some more about the Youtube web series I am a part of, The Sting Chronicles. We finished our first season over the summer, and shall begin airing the second season here in a couple of weeks. The first season our hero, Ethan Harper, met with unexpected challenges of being given "great responsibility," but this second season might prove to be an even greater challenge for The Sting. Introducing, The Raven:

Some of our inspiration came from
Vicious, the villain of the anime
series, Cowboy Bebop and
Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes.

This mysterious nemesis has made an unexpected appearance into Ethan's life and Season 2:1 shall give us more insight on this Poe-inian villain, so I won't give too much away. However, with our nemesis having taken on the name from one of Edger Allen Poe's most famous poems, we really wanted to convey the atmosphere of those Gothic poems by making our villain out-of-world steam punk, with heavy trench coat, pocket watch, and old-styled glasses. The dark, Victorian-esque assamble of our villain creates a nice contrast with our hero's contemporary, swashbuckling look. The heavy blues and grays next to the bright yellow really conveys the comic book antagonism between these two characters, of good vs evil:

I've really enjoyed doing the concept art for this web series, but I've also been able to work on the posters, which has been awesome. I love creating movie posters. It is always a challenge to make a convincing, original composite while conveying the concepts and themes of a movie, or in this case, a series. The poster concepts for The Sting Chronicles season 1 and season 2 weren't entirely mine, though, but my partners' in crime as well. I thought I would explain a little the concepts behind each of the posters:

In Season 1 we are introduced to the somewhat self-centered and naive Ethan Harper, who tells us that he undoubtedly has super powers after being stung by a scorpion on a school field trip. Clothed with these new powers, he takes it upon himself to follow his "superhero brethren" and document his fight against crime for future generations. He is cocky, but earnest, yet is mostly oblivious to much that is around him, and so we see Ethan go from "zero to hero," hero to zero, and back around again. The first poster reflects the beginning of Ethan's journey. He is boldly clothed in his costume talking to the camera and his backpack is full of his superhero paraphernalia. The color scheme is a bright, gregarious yellow, much like the colors of comic books, over-confident and optimistic. I also made the poster look like an old comic book, with texture, issue number and price, and even a bold headline of "This mish just got real!". It expresses everything about Ethan's journey into comic book-dom.

In Season 2, things are taking a much darker, more sinister turn. Ethan's life has suddenly become like something out of The Dark Knight, as he is faced with his very own nemesis, The Raven. The poster reflects this new transition of events, with Ethan walking in a deserted and lonely landscape (of the Phoenix Valley, of course) and an "ominous bird of yore" looming in the sky behind him. It is a flock of ravens that make up this ominous symbol. I chose to hand draw the ravens as a way to incorporate a grittier, comic book feel to the piece. I didn't think making this into a comic book issue, like I did for the first one, would work for the overall composition, so instead I brought the atmosphere of comic book by the hand drawn ravens, which works quite well. Also, in this photo, Ethan is much more wary, wearing his shirt underneath his clothing, another nice contrast to the bold statement of the first poster, and the overall color scheme of the shades of blue are subdued and isolating, emphasizing Ethan's trial with his enemy, which, as the tag line insinuates, (a line from Poe's The Raven) may cost Ethan much.

So, it is going to be quite an interesting season! I hope that this post has intrigued you into either watching our show or get you excited for Season 2, not to mention build anticipation for The Sting Chronicles at the comicon! On the right side of my blog here, is the link to our Youtube channnel, please check it out, subscribe, and favorite! Thanks so much!

He makes everything beautiful in its time . . . Ecclesiastes 3:11

All material in this post is Copyrighted by Danielle Pajak Illustrations 2013.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

He Was Not in the Fire

"And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire." 1 Kings 19:12

So, at the comicon next year I shall be promoting my graphic novel, and after being inspired by what I saw last comicon, I thought of a fun and creative way to do that. I shall be selling a pack of four 5 x 7 Elijah illustrations. The one above is an entirely new piece I created for this pack. It depicts Elijah in the cave about to meet with God. You will recognize it, no doubt, from the quick sketches I did depicting this story. Here is the original sketch:

The next three illustrations I've chosen you have seen before in one form or another, I've just added a few changes:

Elijah Sketch & Low Whisper
Not By Bread Alone
I am so excited for next year's comicon! I cannot wait to have all my merchandise available, meet people, dress up, promote The Sting Chronicles, and just experience it all as an exhibitor. It is going to be incredible. I shall be keeping you up-to-date on all the latest news!

He makes everything beautiful in its time . . . Ecclesiastes 3:11

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Between Rage and Serenity

Still love this poster!
"I believe that true focus lies somewhere between rage and serenity." - Charles Xavier

Before I go on to finish my Avengers Project, I was inspired to do another comic book inspired  piece, this time from The Wolverine. I wasn't expecting too much from the film, (other than the awesomeness that is Hugh Jackman) for my X-men love has been somewhat dimmed of late. However, to my surprise, The Wolverine was quite a good film in many respects, exploring the ideas of the Wolverine's immortality, his inner struggles with his past, and the uncertainty of his future. In accordance with these, one thing that stood out to me was Wolverine's relationship with Mariko Yashida. Granddaughter to Yashida, a man Wolverine rescued during the bombing of Nagasaki now turned CEO of powerful technological corporation, Mariko is inexplicably thrown together with Wolverine through a mesh of power politics in which Mariko finds herself in danger of her life. Wolverine becomes her protector, the very legend her grandfather had told so many stories about when she was a child, whom she now finds to be a haunted and lonely man. He is burdened by countless nightmares and visions of Jean Grey, as he is unable to live with the decisions he has made or the never-ending curse of his immortality. He is paralyzed unable to move forward from his past and having no purpose to continue on to his future, truly a broken man. In this dark state, Wolverine is instantly struck by Mariko's quiet, intense spirit and they slowly fall in love through
The beautiful scene when Wolverine first meets Mariko.
In the Rain. Everything awesome happens in the rain.
the course of the story, but what stands out to me is how Mariko is able to break through Wolverine's hardened outer shell to the man beneath, making him face his past and inevitably giving him the incentive for his future. One of my favorite scenes is when Wolverine awakens violently from another nightmare, his body tense, his claws extended ready to attack, but Mariko lays at his side, not even flinching, speaking to him quietly, and even lightly touching his claws without any fear. Slowly she calms him as she speaks, bringing stillness and serenity to the rage of Wolverine's spirit. It so perfectly illustrated her tranquility that irresistibly recalls Wolverine from the downward spiral of his life. I even love the visual contrast between Mariko and Wolverine, Mariko being lithe and delicate, a fragile thing in comparison to Wolverine's bulk and hardness. It is even interesting to note that when Wolverine first meets her, she is wearing white, the symbol of who she was going to become for Wolverine. It is very much a beauty and the beast type of concept as well, and in the end, Wolverine finds the freedom and strength to move on. It is a beautiful relationship, but subtly and quietly played out in the film, which I very much appreciate.

So, you are probably realizing by now why I chose the quote from X-Men First Class (another good film, by the way). That quote was something I instantly thought of while watching this movie, for Wolverine finds his true focus somewhere "between rage and serenity." In my piece, I wanted to really bring out these concepts. Keeping with the Asian-inspired style of minimalism, I have Wolverine and Mariko standing on either side, Mariko blossoming in the serenity of white, and Wolverine materializing from rage of darkness. The focal point extends from Mariko's face, from the blackness of her hair and gold dividing line to her hands caressing his hand in the sea of red, the red symbolizing the focus between rage and serenity. I've kept everything abstract in design, with rough. illustrative strokes with the clarity coming to the focal point of their hands. I've, of course, added texture, which I think always adds an extra dimension to any piece.

I hope you've enjoyed this post. This piece, along with my Avengers pieces, shall be available to purchase at the Phoenix Comicon next year, so hope to see you there! Information on my booth's location shall be provided soon and in a more official capacity so everyone can find me. Thanks! Here's to September!

He makes everything beautiful in its time . . . Ecclesiastes 3:11

Friday, August 30, 2013

My Avengers Project: The Other Guy

Natasha Romanoff: You're a monster!
Loki: Oh no, you brought the monster.

It took me a little while, but I'm finally doing an update in my Avengers series. Yay! I had originally planned on doing Captain America next, but that didn't turn out exactly as planned. However, I think it'll be fitting to do the "climax" with the Cap. For now, I give you, The Other Guy:

The Hulk is not my favorite of comic book stories. Who really cares about a guy who hulks out as some green, rage monster? I didn't. I actually enjoyed Ang Lee's The Hulk mostly because I found it an original, artsy take on the story with a great soundtrack and a deeper, darker look into the Hulk's story, yet even then I still wasn't that impressed with the Hulk's story. It wasn't until Mark Ruffalo's performance that I stopped to take notice. Obviously everyone did. Mark Ruffalo wasn't the star and he didn't get all this screen time to develop the character, but somehow he gave us the most convincing Bruce Banner yet. We can praise Joss Whedon again and his great writing, but I think Mark Ruffalo himself gets a lot of credit. He played Bruce quietly, and I think that is the key right there, the contrast between man and monster. Bruce is a little awkward, a little paranoid, but entirely unobtrusive, while inside of him he holds a raging beast that threatens to break the normal existence he is trying to maintain. There is a tension and a depth there that Ruffalo expresses so well through his nervous body language and dry, pessimistic humor. It makes you think about the inner turmoil of this man and the monster that was unleashed within himself. In this storyline, it was Bruce Banner's taking part of the "super-soldier" program (the one that made the one and only Captain America), that made him what he is. He was mistake, or so it seemed. I think it is intriguing to see The Hulk as a sort of alter ego to The Captain. Steve Rogers, though a man who was outwardly weak, was given the super power because of the strength and integrity of the man within. On the flip-side, The Hulk is the creation of unworthy, little men desiring power and doing everything they can to manipulate it. Indeed, Bruce Banner spends most of his time hiding and running just so no one can misuse the "other guy". Even Loki's plan was centered around the Hulk, hoping for his transformation and the much needed destruction that would ensue. Obviously all pretenses of trying to control "The Hulk" for selfish ambition fails in the end, which leaves Bruce Banner a haunted Dr. Jekyll at the mercy of his Hyde. Or is he?

The Hulk 2003. Science. So pretty and yet so dangerous.
Another intriguing contrast/comparison is between Bruce and Loki. When Bruce meets Loki he claims his "brain is a bag full of cats" denouncing him as crazy. Funny coming from a man with a "condition". In my post on Loki I talked about his dual nature, and in this way also Bruce has a dual nature, that struggle within himself. Yet unlike Loki who must choose one or the other, Bruce has the unique position of embracing his duality and becoming something better because of it. What was awakened in him was out of his control and ugly, but doesn't have to remain so. Tony expresses the idea of his condition being a privilege rather than a hindrance, an opportunity to something greater. Tony points out that the gamma radiation exposure should have killed him, but it didn't. Maybe then Bruce, like Steve, could be worthy of this fearsome power. Not because of any greatness in himself per se, but because of a humble understanding of what it would mean to bear this power. Bruce Banner is a superhero after all, just not your average run-of-the-mill kind. I would love it if they made another Hulk film post-Avengers with Bruce embracing this new role and no longer being the pawn of everyone's ambition. It would be awesome. More Ruffalo, please.

For my own piece, I kept it simple, with the vivid colors of green and purple. It was difficult for me to create movement in the piece, but thankfully to my current obsession with veins/trees, I was able to add the pattern of the veins throughout the piece. I thought it was fitting, since the Hulk is a part of him, running in his veins, part of his system and body makeup. This is science after all! Also, it wasn't a coincidence that the composition is similar to my Loki piece, except flipped. In this way I wanted to express that same duality which is like, but unlike Loki's; the raging Hulk materializing behind the unassuming Bruce Banner, separate, but part, and the path before him is one that is unlike either. Here is a detail:

Thus ends my Hulk post. Prepare for the Cap next time around! Stay tuned!

That's my secret, Cap. I'm always angry.

He makes everything beautiful in its time . . . Ecclesiastes 3:11

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Prophets of Baal

And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” 1 Kings 18:26

I'm pleased to be able to post something of my Elijah graphic novel. With my announcement on my Facebook page of my going to be at the Phoenix Comicon (yay!), I'm endeavoring now more than ever to work on my graphic novel. I intend to do some promotion of it at the Phoenix Comicon in preparation for the end of 2014 release date. Still trying to figure out all the logistics of all that, but for now I have something to share of what I've been working on. I give you the Prophets of Baal:

Art by Kazuto Nakazawa
My graphic novel is inspired by several things, one of the things being Asian art styles, but this piece particularly was inspired by The Animatrix. I finally got around to watching The Animatrix after wanting to watch it for years now. I was a little disappointed that more effort wasn't put into the animation, but overall I thought it was a well done collection of stories. The stories and style are very philosophical and subtle and makes the world of the Matrix very intriguing to me again, but two stories in particularly stood out to me in both story and unique artistry, Detective Story and Program. The first is just hands down my favorite. A Film Noir detective story in the Matrix done in Anime style? Yes, please! I found it was the most artistically clever of all the stories, looking as if it came straight out of a Film Noir, but having the detail and grittiness of 1940s newspaper photography. It was beautiful, and like every true Noir, ends in exquisite tragedy. For my piece particularly, though, the story Program was the most influential. Another great short story about a young woman, Cis, who is challenged by a samurai in whether or not she'll stand with Truth or choose the bliss of
Art by Yutaka Minowa
delusion. It was done very much in the style of the ancient Japanese paintings, with simplistic composition, fluid lines, and minimalism. It too was very beautiful, and I knew that is what I wanted for this piece. Minimalism is already a component of my graphic novel, but for this piece I chose to make the surroundings very graphic, with the shadowy tree and alter, and the blood red sun. This abstraction of the background enables me to focus on the action going on, with the fluid lines coming forth from the alter as three agonizing prophets cut themselves bloody for their false god. It not only brings emphasis onto the bloody scene, but I think the starkness adds to the concept of the falseness of these prophets, who, though go through much agony to call upon their god, receive no answer. I want to be able to express the spiritual dryness and emptiness of the religion of the false prophets in the surroundings as much as I am able, and gnarled trees and empty landscapes will be part of my design. I also like how the tree branches mimic the bloody streaks and trails on their arms. Also, as you can see from examples from Program, having the minimalist backdrop adds to the dueling aspect the story, of protagonist vs antagonist. That was an artistic decision I has already developed earlier on and have further been inspired to develop as I continue creating. Here are some more images from The Animatrix: 

Exquisite movement and powerful composition!
I love it so much!
The texture! The texture! I must always have texture!
I'm also excited to say that I've made my official Facebook page for my graphic novel, Elijah: A Graphic Novel. So, please like my page because that's where I'll be putting the latest news! I'm so excited about everything that is happening with my work. Well, here's hoping my next post will be Avengers-esque!

He makes everything beautiful in its time . . . Ecclesiastes 3:11

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

July Observations: In Another World

The end of July draws nigh and I've been working hard, but alas I have nothing to show of my main projects.  I am excited, though, to say that I have gotten some significant work done on my graphic novel and I'll most likely have something to show you all next month. I'll keep plugging away, but I can actually see the half way mark in my progress, which is exciting for me. I still have so much to do on it, but I'm making head way and my plans for next year's promotion of my graphic novel might actually be doable. Yay. So, please keep coming back for updates on that! My Avengers Project isn't going as smoothly, however. The Cap is being quite stubborn and there is something about the piece that just isn't speaking to me. It is kind of like beating your head against the wall. After repeated experiences with the lack of inspiration, I've finally learned to just let it go and leave it. It is no use in trying to push something because you end up just wasting your time. I've even done a little pictured demonstration of what happens for everyone's amusement.

Haha. So, I'll probably move on to the green rage monster Bruce Banner and then come back to The Cap later. It's for the best. But now to switch gears on this post; I've been doing some sketches that I've posted on my Pintrest/Twitter, which have been of nymphs and faeries. Just letting my imagination roam free while listening to a lot of Carbon Based Lifeforms (a Swedish ambient music group). Probably one of my top favorite songs ever, though, is a song called "Stolen Child" by Loreena McKennit. It is a song about a faerie taking away a child, which is a common myth surrounding faeries and their mischievous ways. I find it haunting and beautiful, and I often find myself loving this idea of being beckoned away to another world. Whether it be faeries, sirens, the white rabbit, or some other elfin creature, I'm fascinated by this aspect of being drawn by something mysterious or alluring into another world (or death in some cases, haha.) There is such excitement and beauty in being drawn to another realm, to pass through "the grey-rain curtain"of this world to "a far green country" beyond (Lord of the Rings pg. 1007). It reminds me of this verse from Hebrews 11:13-16 "These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city." It is the idea of another realm beyond this world and of being part of that Otherworld so as to have longing of a stranger in a land not our own, then finding ourselves drawn away, called away by a Voice mysterious as it is beautiful; a Voice surrounded by "clouds and thick darkness," "flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder" with "a sea of glass, like crystal" (Psalm 97:2, Revelation 4:5-6). How does this translate into faeries, nymphs, and sirens you may ask? Well, I think C.S. Lewis says it quite brilliantly: "We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words - to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. That is why we have peopled air and earth and water with gods and goddesses and nymphs and elves - that, though we cannot, yet these projections can enjoy in themselves that beauty, grace, and power of which Nature is the image" (The Weight of Glory pg. 42-43). With this in mind, I shall always continue to be fascinated by the otherwordly, always following that White Rabbit down the rabbit hole to another world.

So all these ideas swirling around in my head produced these two illustrations I've done in pencil (with some Photoshop magic!):

Come away oh human child
To the waters and the wild
With a faerie hand in hand
For the world's more full of weeping
Than you can understand

"Stolen Child" Loreena McKennit.
Observations in Kensington Gardens
This second one is more sci-fi, surrealist in nature and it was largely inspired by Carbon Based Lifeform's "Kensington Gardens," thus the name. Listening to the song will really help in getting the atmosphere. You'll notice, though, how in both these images I have the veiny, branch-like patterns. One of the things that fascinates me about nature is how the world of the micro and the world of the macro have similar patterns. Whether it is our own arteries and veins, membranes and molecules, to nature's branches, foliage, and creatures, to the makings of a star or galaxy, there are such beautiful similarities in design. I love this aspect to our Universe and love the idea of blurring the line between micro and macro in my artwork. This especially comes out in "Observations" where the scale of things aren't exactly clear. I'll probably want to experiment more with this idea in my artwork, to see what other fascinating concepts I can come up with.

Well, that is what I have for July. Please check out either my Twitter or Pinterest if you are interested in more of my elfin sketches. (Yes, this is what I think about all day.) Don't forget to check back soon for updates on my graphic novel! God bless.

He makes everything beautiful in its time . . . Ecclesiastes 3:11

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Random Musings with Sketches

Well, here the end of June is drawing nigh, and I haven't really done what I had set out to do. I desired to move into full throttle with my work, and I sort of lost the steam of inspiration. That sometimes happens. It isn't that I haven't been working, of course, but I had set out with certain goals for this month and didn't accomplish them. So, the best thing to do when one has lost inspiration is to start drawing trees and lithe faerie women! This recent piece (pencil, color pencil, terracotta pencil) is another concept of my own take on the character Persephone. See posts here and here. I was kind of inspired by a book I recently purchased, Brave: One Perfect Day. It is a children's book illustrated and written by men who worked on the actual film, Steve Purcell and Matt Nolte. The book is gorgeous to say the least, the illustrations rich and full of movement, and I decided that I wanted to draw something pretty too. Thus:

Persephone and the Pomegranate Tree
I kind of love trees . . . a lot. And pomegranates.
I can also post another sketch I did this month. I posted it on my Pintrest, which I would remind everyone to follow if you have a Pintrest. In the future I hope to post more and more of my work on there and I will be posting sketches that might not make it into a blog post, so please check it out if you want to keep up with my latest work! Anyway, as far as this sketch, it was done after a visit to Tonto Natural Bridge here in Arizona. It is a lovely place where the elements carved out a cave/bridge into a small canyon. If you venture inside, there are pools amongst the slippery stone and water rains down from the ceiling. It is very surreal. I thought it would be a perfect place for a nymph sighting, one of M. Night Shyamalan's Lady in the Water nymphs most likely.

In good news, though, I've been working on my graphic novel again! I'm excited about that. My goal is to really focus on that the rest of this year, and maybe begin promoting it next year as well as finishing it. We will see. In another good news, I've been doing a lot of work on The Sting Chronicles, which actually is taking most of my time these days. We have now debuted three episodes of the Youtube webseries, and I believe they are excellent. The writers, Alexis Johnson and Radcliff Weir, have done exceptional work and it is really quite clever. Probably one of my favorite aspects so far is the relationship that's developing between Ethan Harper and his half-sister's husband and refrigerator repair man from New York, Tony Russo. If you haven't been watching, you must. The gruff, New Yorker whose all about the Yankees rubs the nerdy, but earnest Ethan the wrong way. It's hilarious. At any rate, I've been really enjoying the whole experience. Here is a concept piece I did for the show recently, showing his fashionable superhero getup.

Well, I think that is enough random musings. I'll keep myself busy with my pencil in hand and you can check back here in July where, hopefully, I'll have some more updates on my other projects. :-)

He makes everything beautiful in its time . . . Ecclesiastes 3:11

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sherlock and The Woman

"To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex." - Dr. Watson A Scandal in Bohemia.

You'll have all bear with me, I'm about to get a little geeky, even more than usual. Also, I've kept this post as spoiler free as I can, but you'll still have to read at your own risk. My best advice? Watch Elementary, then come back to this post. (Yes, do it!)

Inspiration for this post happened when I was perusing the exhibits at the comicon. I saw this piece of art related to BBC's Sherlock that I found to be intriguing of Holmes and Irene. I thought it would be cool if I borrowed some elements of the idea and do something of my own. It got me thinking of the characters and in particular the enigmatic and lovely Irene Adler herself. In the original story, she was the woman who outsmarted Holmes in a case involving her scandalous liaisons with a Bohemian King. In comparison to the aura that surrounds this character today, Doyle's original work is pretty tame. However, despite the grandiose nature of her character, I've never been pleased by any portrayal of Irene. Even in the Jeremy Brett adaptation, (which I love) though very canon in portrayal and beautiful in appearance, Irene was a little dull. Otherwise they usually portray Irene Adler in a very sexual way, very seductive, and always annoying. I was actually surprised, though, by Rachel McAdams, and by surprised I mean I didn't hate her portrayal. She's grown on me, and I do like that they took her character in a more vulnerable route, which I think makes her character sympathetic. However, even with Rachel there is still mostly sexual interplay and annoying self-assertiveness. So, I've not been very impressed by any Irene Adler. That is until Natalie Dormer's portrayal in Elementary. I instantly liked her face (I hadn't seen her in anything up to this point) and was confident that someone finally was going to do her character justice. I was not disappointed. Actually, my expectations were exceeded. Natalie Dormer brings to Irene's character a sophistication, feminine mystique, and most importantly of all, a razor sharp mind on par with Sherlock Holmes; after all, it was her wits that impressed Holmes, not her sexual appeal.

"You're beautiful!," says Irene
to the unsuspecting Sherlock Holmes.
In Elementary, Holmes is a recovering drug addict, self absorbed and somewhat childish, but with an exceptional gift of deduction and seeing the must minute of details. His love for puzzles makes him unyielding in a case and blunt in speaking the truth, whether anyone wants to hear it or not (TMI!). When he first meets Irene she is a restorer of old paintings and her own bluntness and disarming mind and beauty impresses him immediately. I love the almost old Hollywood-esque sharp banter between the two of them as Natalie Dormer is able to show the sensuality and seduction of Irene in a way that accentuates her intelligence and femininity, which is rather like the femme fatales of Film Noir. Natalie Dormer actually reminds me a lot of one of my favorite Film Noir actresses, Gloria Grahame. She has the same quality about her, the mischievous and intelligent eyes and impish face that makes her either vulnerable or untrustworthy, but carries an irresistible attraction that is all woman. With this quality about her, Natalie Dormer makes you truly believe that Irene is someone Holmes would say "eclipses and dominates" her sex. I would like to mention Johnny Lee Miller's performance further sells this point. Holmes is completely smitten by her. It's cute. . . in a disturbing way.

See what I mean?
All this to say that I did two pieces of work based on Guy Ritchie's Holmes and Irene and Robert Doherty's Holmes and Irene; more character studies, I guess you can say. The first one, Catatonic:

I wanted to bring out the vibrancy, passion, and disturbance that Irene brings to Holmes' world which is usually controlled and logical. Irene challenges Holmes, but there is definitely a mutual attraction and love between the two of them; though Holmes keeps his distance, showing his true feelings in only fleeting moments. As Watson says, "Why is the only woman you've cared about a world class criminal? Are you a masochist?" Haha. This version of the characters is the farthest from canon, but it is clever, actually rather sweet, and great fun. I am awaiting eagerly for the third installment!

In this piece, Games and Puzzles, show an entirely different kind of relationship dynamic, also not canon, but I think an impressive interpretation. Here Irene is in white to represent how Holmes sees her, an ideal, someone whom he loves intensely and unreservedly. Here he is moving towards her, grasping her, as if to keep her as he sees her, but she keeps her distance. She looks vulnerable, but is she? I love the darker interpretation of the Sherlock Holmes universe in Elementary, it is very poetic, but Holmes is still Holmes, and what is revealed in this complex relationship, I think, is very much in the spirit of Sir Conan Doyle's work.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this very nerdy post and art pieces. Gotta love the world of Sherlock Holmes.

"My mind," he said, "rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram, or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation. That is why I have chosen my own particular profession, or rather created it, for I am the only one in the world." - Sherlock Holmes Sign of the Four

He makes everything beautiful in its time . . . Ecclesiastes 3:11

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Persephone and Hades II: Another Random Concept Piece

So, over the weekend I attended the Phoenix Comicon. Thanks to all those who voted for me in the badge art contest, I was able to win two free passes to the comicon! I was happy to be able to go with my brother and my cousin. I love the Phoenix Comicon. It is full of nerdy fun, great atmosphere, and you never know what is going to happen or what type of people you are going to meet. I particularly love walking through the exhibition room where there are hundreds of booths of artists and merchandise to peruse. I actually met some lovely artists, particularly one artist named Lyla Warren. She has a lovely style, working in both animation and sculpting, and her pieces are full of movement and character. I'm happy to say I own some of her work, which is now on my "wall of crazy", and I would recommend anyone to go check out her website, blog, and Etsy shop!

What does this have to do with another concept piece of Persephone and Hades you might ask? Well, at the comicon I went to a panel that had animators and artists for video games and films that were doing a Q & A type session to help artists who are desiring to get into the industry. They were very helpful, friendly, and of course knowledgeable in their field. The advice they gave me I am already doing, which is good to know, but  I also sensed that I should probably step it up a notch, as far as drawing goes. Being a concept artist means drawing all the time. The one panelist mentioned 40 hours a week should be the kind of work I should be putting into drawing, which is a full time job. It is true. You have to keep up the practice and drawing is a constant learning process of refining the skill. I have no qualms about how much hours I put in, but of course, what is doable is the question. I think I already put in at least 20 - 25 hours a week, so I'm going to see if my life permits me to add more in. So, as the summer goes on, hopefully you'll be able to see more work from me! For now, enjoy this concept piece of Persephone and Hades. For some reason I was struck with inspiration again with these two characters and came up with this piece. I don't know if I'll be doing anything with these characters in the long run, but there is definitely something compelling about them.

"Persephone, meet Cerberus." - Hades is kind of a jerk.
Oh, before I end this random post, I would also like to mention that another great thing about this year's comicon is that my cousin and I were able to promote our webseries, The Sting Chronicles! Production is going well, promotion is going well, and the scheduled air date is June 7th! We are all very excited! So, don't forget to check it out on Youtube!

He makes everything beautiful in its time . . . Ecclesiastes 3:11

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My Avengers Project: He Who is Worthy

Thor: You think yourself above them?
Loki: Well, yes.
Thor: Then you miss the truth of ruling, brother. A throne would suit you ill.

In anticipation for Thor 2, I am pleased to say that I have now completed my Avengers concept poster of Thor Odinson; a demi-god, with an all-powerful hammer and incredible hair. Thor's story was a surprise for me. I can't say I was ever interested in Norse Mythology and I particularly wasn't drawn to a hulking, viking figure with lightning coming from his hammer, however, when I saw Thor I was pleasantly surprised. Despite the movie's weaknesses, the sophistication and creativity of Thor's story really came through. His character, though one-track minded for most of the film, ended up being sweet, gentlemanly, and honorable. I think there is a lot to glean from his story particularly the theme of his becoming worthy of Thor's Hammer. The hammer represents all the power and authority given to him; it can destroy or create and so a great responsibility lies on Thor as Prince of Asgard. At the beginning of the film he is a completely rash, arrogant, and foolhardy young man whose only thought is to lord his power over his enemies. When Odin takes that away from him, banishes him to earth, Thor is forced into humility. With the help of the quirky, but intelligent Jane Foster and their friend Dr. Selvig, Thor, who is like an immortal, puts on mortality as he learns from these "tiny" humans. He even comes to fall in love with Jane, a human girl, and this becomes a kind of catalyst for his care and protection of human beings. When Loki threatens this, putting everyone he cares about in danger, Thor is brought to a point of decision. What he decides is what we often see in these types of films, the self-sacrifice, the Christ-like moment where the hero gives himself up for others.
What is different about Thor, though, is how the story was told up to that moment. I believe Thor could easily be called The Tale of Two Sons. The film follows the paths of the two young demi-gods, Loki and Thor. Loki takes the path of deception, mischief, self-glorification, revenge, and murder, becoming more and more twisted, more and more consumed with himself and control, but as I pointed out in my post on Loki, his motivation stems from a desire for identity and this becomes a striving to be found "worthy" of Odin's love. He says in the film that all that he has been working for was "To prove to Father that I am a worthy son! When he wakes, I will have saved his life, I will have destroyed that race of monsters, and I will be true heir to the throne!" Let us contrast this then to Thor's story. Odin casts him out, forcing him to take a lowly path, a humiliating path, as he is faced with earth ways and customs. Through this Thor comes to see others outside of himself and his own glory, and when the choice is him or those whom he loves, Thor doesn't hesitate. So Thor, unlike Loki, becomes more and more servant-hearted, more and more contrite and self-sacrificing. It is in this that Thor proves himself a "worthy son", worthy to take up that power and authority, and when he gives himself up to Loki even unto death, his hammer is restored to him. From that moment on, Thor identifies himself with being Earth's protector and servant. In Scriptures, Christ says, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28 This is what Thor's story is about, a god becoming a servant, which makes him worthy of his godhood. I believe and hope this theme will carry over to Thor 2 as what he cherishes and took upon himself to protect is threatened like never before. Also this tale of two sons is not over either!

In this piece, I've incorporated this idea of Thor being a protector and servant. With the movement of his red cloak drawing the eye from the center to around and downward, emphasizes Thor's bowed position. His position is humble, but not passive, as his hammer is encased in lightning, his face fierce and determined. With the title being He Who is Worthy, his position, color, emphasis, and movement, they showcase Thor and his servant-hearted devotion and powerful guardianship. Here is a detail:

I hope you enjoyed this post. Next up, The Cap'n! My series is almost complete!

"Doth mother know you weareth her drapes?"

He makes everything beautiful in its time . . . Ecclesiastes 3:11

Friday, May 10, 2013

Persephone and Hades: A Random Concept Piece

"We dance, we kiss, we schmooze,
we carry on, we go home happy."
The other day I was watching Disney's Hercules, and admiring the artistry and excellence of that film. I haven't seen it in many years, I can't remember the last time I'd seen it, but watching it with fresh eyes I really was able to appreciate the humor, the art direction, the music, and the wonderful characterizations. It is definitely one of my favorite Disney animations. One of my favorite things about that film, though, is the villain Hades and his Underworld. He is definitely a different type of Disney villain, and one that stands out as truly unique. Unlike other villains, there isn't decisive destruction, an absolute end to him. His plan is foiled and he gets trapped in the whirlpool of death, but he is immortal and god of the underworld, so he can't really be destroyed entirely. Even more than that, though, he's hilarious and zany. I like the tongue in cheek humor of the film, which is due in large part to Hades characterization. He's the fast-talking, deal-making, god of the underworld and you can't really dislike him all that much because he's funny. His character design, is excellent, with his hair flames ("Whoa, is my hair out?") telling of his mood and his greek-esque hulking figure with swirling smoke and snake-like face that really emphasize this sinister, quick-tongued villain. The underworld in which he is charge is also amazingly designed. I need to get the Art of Hercules to really be able to study the concepts behind all of this, but I do have a fascination for the dark and macabre and there is a lot going on here in this design work:

"While the angels, all pallid and wan,
Uprising, unveiling, affirm
That the play is the tragedy "Man,"
And its hero, the Conqueror Worm."
- Poe
Anyway, I can geek out about this all day. Needless to say I was inspired, and it got me thinking about Hades and the tale of Persephone. In the Greek myth, Persephone is the daughter of Demeter (goddess of the harvest) and Hades sees her, desires her, and kidnaps her. After much angst, Hades is finally forced to return her, but tricks Persephone into eating some pomegranates from the underworld before she leaves. Eating food from the Underworld makes her a part of it, so she must always return to the Underworld and be by Hades' side as his queen. Thus this is why, as Greek myths go, we have winter every season, when Persephone has to return to her place as Queen of the Underworld. I thought all of this could be really fascinating as a retold story, a twisted and dark "Beauty and the Beast". It was also reminding me of Once Upon a Time's Rumpelstiltskin and Belle, this idea of an anti-hero and his journey from darkness to light. It would be done even deeper way than simply just "don't judge a book by its cover" concept. Hades would truly be, in many ways, despicable and unlikable, but as anti-heroes go, there is hope for redemption and who doesn't like a good anti-hero now and again. So, I just let myself imagine what that story would be like and the characters and I came up with this concept piece:

Maybe one day this will be animation masterpiece of death, vanity, true love, redemption, responsibility, and the human condition, but for now I just have this piece. Enjoy!

He makes everything beautiful in its time . . . Ecclesiastes 3:11

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Sting Chronicles: Superhero of Arizona

This summer is going to be full of new projects, some old ones, and is going to be wonderfully productive. I'm pleased to announce one of the new projects I'm going to be a part of. In collaboration with my cousin Alexis Johnson (Reel Reflections), actor, film critic Radcliff Misseri (actor of Sundown, mentioned in my post here), a group we are assembling together, and I will be creating a Youtube webseries called The Sting Chronicles. It is a satirical, coming-of-age story of a young man who thinks he has superhero powers and records his adventures via video records. It seems as if webseries are going to launch creativity in media into a whole new sphere, Youtube full of webseries cropping up to popularity, and I'm happy to be a part of this new media outlet. One of the main inspirations for this webseries is the new, highly innovative adaption of Jane Austen's novel, Pride and Prejudice, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. It records the story of Lizzie Bennet, a college student studying Mass Communications, as she recalls to her audience the antics and drama of her life with her family and friends. It is a very clever, heartwarming, and downright hilarious retelling of Pride and Prejudice, there is nothing like its kind out there. Using the internet as a mode for storytelling, but have the story be told as if it is actually a real-life scenario is ingenious and we hope we can capture that same spirit and connection with the audience that the creators of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries have achieved with their webseries.

So, I begin with my work that I've done so far on this project, and it starts with The Sting logo. As I said, this young man feels he has gained super powers, and in this case the story is set in Mesa, Arizona, and he happens to get stung by a scorpion, thus The Sting is born. The Scorpion logo design concept is a collaboration with Alexis Johnson, as she wanted something that would look menacing, but unique. With my own love for Art Nouveau, studying many pictures of scorpions, and with a touch of Celtic knot influence, we both came up with this idea:

We purposefully chose the yellow and black, because we are going for this aspect of "Danger". With reptiles and insects, there are the colors red, black, and yellow to warn other creatures that they are dangerous and poisonous, and so in this way the main character, Ethan Harper, is using this idea as a way to show he is a threat to all crime; a blaring "Danger Ahead" symbol fighting for justice! Of course, as a final touch, and as is my usual staple, adding texture adds that rustic edginess, which fits to the "wild west" atmosphere of Arizona.

Continuing with these themes, I then came up with a concept piece of the character himself, also in collaboration with Alexis Johnson. She is the writer of this series, and so much of the ideas and concepts are her own, and so she and I both agreed that this character's superhero costume would have the feel and look of Indiana Jones crossed with The Punisher. There were other influences as well, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog being one of them, but Indiana and Frank Castle were what I drew from the most while creating my piece.

We have the roguish, rustic adventurer mixed with the edgy, city superhero, and the results:

One of the key aspects of our Arizonian superhero is his bullwhip, which is how we draw the idea of the "scorpion" into his superhero persona. The stinging whip is how he battles against the forces of darkness and keeps criminals at bay! The rest came easily enough, and with high contrast, lots of texture, and simplistic design, we have our superhero ladies and gentlemen.

It is certainly going to be an adventure in bringing this story to life. As my viewers, you can have a chance to be a part of bringing this project to fruition. We are currently doing two fundraisers to raise money for the project, and it starts at a $1 minimum pledge. Alexis Johnson and Radcliff Misseri have put together a video where you can learn more information on this project as well as get to know our vision and sense of humor. Click Here. You can find out more information as well as keep up with the project on our Facebook page. 

I'll keep you up-to-date on any new artwork on do on this project, but I do hope you'll join us in bringing Ethan Harper, our desert crime fighter, to life. 

He makes everything beautiful in its time . . . Ecclesiastes 3:11