Sunday, September 28, 2014

Character Design: Dr. Josef Sarton

Cute little Isaac Asimov holding an adorable robot. Aww.
Hello! Just as September is ending I am able to get in a blog post! I've been very busy of late, getting my first ever iPhone, trying to figure out its inner workings, and other such important matters of life. Oh, I've been drawing too, of course, haha. This post is going to be in relation to this post here that was back in 2012. (It is also connected to this drawing here.) That was my starting point of inspiration, and I haven't forgotten about it. No, it's just been brewing in my mind. Once I am finished with my Elijah: A Graphic Novel, I do intend and have always intended to continue creating graphic novels, which I am advocate for as an underrated medium, and I want to do a completely original, out-of-my-own-head idea. Science fiction is a genre that has been really speaking to me as of late, and I find that it is something that I resonate with very much. I want to create a science fiction story! Buuuut I don't really have any idea about science. They do say to write what you know. However, I do understand science fiction as a genre and then there is good ol' C.S. Lewis, who wasn't a science man at all, but he wrote his amazing science fiction trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. True, they were all more fantastical than science-based, but they worked! There is so much potential with science fiction that I think gets largely wasted now a days. It is more than just about space ships, planets, and aliens, but it is about humanity, exploration, discovery, and the unknown. True science fiction, at its heart, asks questions. It asks what it fundamentally means to be human. It asks if there is more to life than what is known. It grapples with ethical dilemmas, what is or isn't too far. Are there some things Man was never meant to do? Does Mankind have limits? Does the Universe? It keeps reaching and reaching, groping and yearning and seeking for things out in the Great Black. It is such a thought-provoking, and soul-searching genre, and no one has mastered it quite like the great Isaac Asimov. It is his work that got my caught on to science fiction, and it is his work that has largely inspired me for this project. I love his work so much. He may seem a little out-dated to us modern readers, since he wrote most of his science fiction before the concept of the modern day computer which has lead to our digital age, but I believe his work stays true. This is because his work always kept in mind the "bigger picture," seeing Mankind within the context of the Universe and his role in it. He also had the ability to not only ask the questions, but answer them in such a phenomenal and enlightening way. He was an explainer, even as much as he was a storyteller. Carl Sagan called him "the greatest explainer of the age." (Isaac Asimov certainly had the published work to prove this, having written and/or edited 500 works in his lifetime!) In short, he was a genius; and strangely, this outspoken atheist and humanist, is someone whose work I've been able to connect with in a way that surpasses even Lewis and Tolkien! And that is saying something. (Still love you guys!)

So, this was my starting point for the work I am about to show you. Allow me to introduce to you my first original character: Dr. Josef Sarton:

Dr. Josef Sarton Character Concept
Dr. Josef Sarton Character Concept
"Leave me to my work."
"And what exactly is that, Dr. Sarton?"
Dr. Josef Sarton Character Concept
"The Universe, as we know it, is infinite, yet this is not inerrant.
I am going to test the limits of this; and if I break the fabric of Reality in the process,
then that, in itself, would be knowledge gained.
"
I've been thinking about this character, obviously would be my main character, for about two years now, so I've finally been able to get him out of my mind and on to the page. Everything about him is very deliberate, how tall and lanky he is, the harsh, angularity of his face, and the set of his eyes, the lowness of his mouth, the clothes he is wearing, etc, even his name is deliberate. I probably won't go into much of the why behind all these things, you'll just have to wait, but I'll outline a couple of things. To begin with, science fiction is largely claimed by atheists and humanists, Asimov being a prime example of this, and I find that this is also another unfortunate aspect of the genre. Unfortunate in the sense that it should be so dominated by this one worldview, and that Christianity has no significant claim in it or even wants to have a part in that claim. It is that stereotypical divide, Atheist = Science and Christian = Faith, as if these two things, faith and science, are as diametrically opposed as the worldviews that hold them. Obviously it is an age old debate and understandable considering what science holds as what is true, proof of the existence of God, all those fantastical stories in the Bible, etc, but if we boil all that away, getting to the very roots of science and faith, right there, fundamentally, they aren't opposed at all, but are, in fact, quite harmonious. What is science? According to Wikipedia, the exact definition is:

"(from Latin scientia, meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe." [x]

What is faith? Wikipedia defines it as:

"Faith is belief that is not based on proof. It can also be defined as confidence or trust in a person, thing, deity, view, or in the doctrines or teachings of a religion, as well as confidence based on some degree of warrant. The word faith is often used as a synonym for hope, trust, or belief." [x]

Now, I believe that this is the main idea of faith that most people have, if not how everyone universally understands it, but I think it is wrong fundamentally. Faith is not belief based on no proof. This is how I would define faith, and what it truly is:

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." - Hebrews 11:1, King James Version.

Some may think it disqualifying that I use the Bible as a definition, but I don't think so. I'm not using the Bible as proof of anything, just for an objective clarification of the meaning of a word, so I think that is legitimate. So, faith is substance, faith is evidence. Our society portrays faith as if you just have to believe in a thing, and that makes it real. That by mere belief alone, based on absolutely nothing except on one's self, will make a thing true. Yet this is not so. Faith is a tangible thing with substance based on outside evidence that doesn't come from one person. However, it isn't how we would normally understand tangible evidence. It is based on the "not seen," something that can't be seen as with the human eye or man-made device, and the "hoped for," as in an expectation of a thing one desires. Obviously, that is where the whole disagreement comes in, but what I'm trying to point out is that science is the gathering of knowledge based on evidence and faith is belief based on evidence. Strip it down, taking out all the other factors, at the very core, this is science and faith. They aren't opposed, both come from evidence. What is opposed is how Mankind defines what is legitimate evidence.

So, why did I just go into all of that? Because this idea is what I want to base this science fiction story idea off of, and the major thought process driving my concept design of my character. I purposefully chose to make Dr. Sarton look very monastic in clothing and style. His hair is clipped short to his head, very conservative, and his robes are long, black, and cover every inch of him, it is almost stifling. I wanted this religious, devout air surrounding him, though he himself is most definitely not religious. He's a hardcore physicist!

This next piece, then, is my final concept in putting all these ideas together:

Dr. Sarton
Everything in this art piece has a point and a purpose for his character and what I hope to achieve with his story. The room is dark and frigid, brooding, cloistered, and rather disturbing. The light shining behind him forms a halo around his head. He is intent on his work, measuring and calculating. There is an infinity symbol that is being dissected on his desk. There seems to be some sort of strange test subject in the background, and the eery red light shines down on something bizarre, his finger tips touching another set of fingertips. All the scifi elements aside, I wanted this image to have a strong religious feel to it. Not only with the halo light, but in the composition of the piece. I've used a very triangular composition. There is the triangle shape from the halo, to the diagram on the desk, to the experiment in the tube. There is also a triangle shape between the red elements of the experiment tube, the hands, and the protractor. There is a triangle shape within the protractor itself, then a triangle shape in the hands' fingertips touching. It is a very common composition, and used in many paintings of the Old Masters and beyond, which constitute a great portion of religious art. The triangle, with its three points, can also represent the Trinity, which adds to this idea. Finally, this use of the triangle in my composition was specifically inspired by Leonardo DaVinci's The Last Supper, where the Apostle John sits with his body turned away at a slant from Jesus, and that 'v" shaped space is created. I have Dr. Sarton positioned in a similar way, turned to the side, slanting a bit, and his arm extended out to create that space as it connects to the fingertips beyond. It is all in there, these ideas, even the fact that it is between Jesus and the Apostle John is not an accident, as Apostle John is described as "the apostle whom Jesus loved." (John 13:23)

So! This is a good portion of my thought process for this character and for my graphic novel idea and thus concludes my lengthy exposition! It still needs a lot of refining, but I've got Dr. Sarton down, at least. I would love it if you would leave a comment down below telling me your thoughts on my character idea/design! What do you feel when you look at my design? What is your impression of his character? What do you like? Do not like? Whatever you would like to share about this concept, please do! I would love to hear from you! This idea won't become a full reality for a long while yet, but I would love to hear feedback on these early beginnings. Thank you!

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