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

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Meditations on the Fairy Tale

 I've doing a lot of contemplation lately, and with my new favorite tv show being Once Upon a Time, I've really been thinking on fairy tales and their significance. My thinking sessions have resulted in two sketches which I would like to share, along with some of my thoughts.

Whether it is a Disney Classic or a new fairy tale twist, I love fairy tales. I own the complete Brother's Grimm along with several retellings of fairy tales, especially in illustration form. Anything having to do with fantasy is my cup of tea; Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, Earthsea Cycle, Harry Potter, the list could go on. Many may find fairy tales to be either meant for children or not a form of storytelling as high as drama, independent films, or something more realistic and/or gritty. Disney is definitely ridiculed for its idealism, the "Disney Princess" having a negative connotation besides with families and their five year olds. In more recent years, with the success of so many fantasy-based films, fairy tales/fantasy-based stories have definitely become more mainstream, but even then, fantasy, on a whole, isn't taken truly seriously. I'm generalizing, I realize, but I believe the fairy tales' simplicity makes it easily overlooked by many. I think that is a great shame for fairy tales offer us so much. They speak of Truths in ways other stories cannot, expressing the human experience in a way that can transcend reality and touch a higher Reality. One aspect of this that I've been thinking on while sketching is one of the most profound things fairy tales offer us, which is endurance for the sake of Hope.

"Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten." - G.K. Chesteron

Tangled Concept Art. It is my absolute favorite!
It is stunning and profound!
Most fairy tales present us with a protagonist or protagonists who through a mysterious and magical sequence of events, meets opposition, trouble, misfortune, struggle, peril, whether in a form of an antagonist or something else entirely. Many might find it quaint or unrealistic when in the end the protagonist(s) overcomes, saves the princess, rescues a kingdom, and then promptly lives "happily ever after." In our world there are so very few marriages, relationships, situations, life experiences that end in a "happily ever after", which is where the disconnect happens. However, is the fairy tale merely about the "happy ending" or are they saying something much deeper? If we peel back the simple structure of its plot, we will find many rich and insightful layers, one of them being the call and reward of endurance. They tell us that through long-suffering, "dragons can be beaten", that the "night is always darkest before the dawn", that "weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning." When Beast, suffering under a curse, watches Beauty leave him knowing that she is his only chance at freedom, that is deep soul darkness. When Rapunzel, in the original Grimm's version, is cast out in a wasteland pregnant and alone, her prince overcome with grief and blinded by thorns, that's agony and hopelessness. When Snow White lies as if dead in a glass coffin, her dwarves weeping over her, that's loss and sorrow. Fairy tales then become a magical and metaphorical picture of a very real place that we find ourselves in many times in our lives: hopelessness, loneliness, times where we are  overwhelmed with pain, grief, and the struggle of life. Yet in everyone of these stories that is not the stopping point, the story continues on. Beauty comes back and confesses her love for the Beast changing him into a human again, Rapunzel and her Prince find each other and her tears heal his blindness, and Snow White with a kiss is brought back to life! If one half of these stories is true, the other speaks of an even greater Truth, namely that there is Hope and through endurance, that very real Hope does not disappoint.

"How dare you? How dare you steal my rose?"
- Beauty and The Beast a retelling by Max Eilenberg
"And when her tears touched his eyes they become clear again,
and he could see with them as well as ever." - Rapunzel by the Brothers Grimm

These two sketches express that darkness passing into light moments of fairy tales. The rose, made up of thorns, stands alone in the midst of an ominous, moon lit sky, representing that struggle the characters find themselves in, the events through which the characters endure, all hope seemingly lost. The second sketch is when that story shifts, darkness breaks into light, and all that was endured passes away, hope rewarded. Movement, composition, and the abstracting of the shapes are all intentional to express these themes.

Fairy tales are powerful stories and if we are willing, like Henry in Once Upon a Time, to believe something that might appear foolish to others, then let us return again to childhood and listen to what the fairy tales tell us.

“Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.           He is not here, for he has risen." - Matthew 28:5 - 6

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