Friday, August 28, 2015


“"The star of home," said Denyo.

His father was shouting orders. Sailors scrambled up and down the three tall masts and moved along the rigging, reefing the heavy purple sails. Below, oarsmen heaved and strained over two great banks of oars. The decks tilted, creaking, as the galleas Titan's Daughter heeled to starboard and began to come about.

The star of home. Arya stood at the prow, one hand resting on the gilded figurehead, a maiden with a bowl of fruit. For half a heartbeat she let herself pretend that it was her home ahead.

But that was stupid. Her home was gone, her parents dead, and all her brothers slain but Jon Snow on the Wall. That was where she had wanted to go. She told the captain as much, but even the iron coin did not sway him. Arya never seemed to find the places she set out to reach. Yoren had sworn to deliver her to Winterfell, only she had ended up in Harrenhal and Yoren in his grave. When she escaped Harrenhal for Riverrun, Lem and Anguy and Tom o’ Sevens took her captive and dragged her to the hollow hill instead. Then the Hound had stolen her and dragged her to the Twins. Arya had left him dying by the river and gone ahead to Saltpans, hoping to take passage for Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, only…

Braavos might not be so bad. Syrio was from Braavos, and Jaqen might be there as well. It was Jaqen who had given her the iron coin. He hadn’t truly been her friend, the way that Syrio had, but what good had friends ever done her? I don't need any friends, so long as I have Needle. She brushed the ball of her thumb across the sword's smooth pommel, wishing, wishing...

If truth be told, Arya did not know what to wish for, any more than she knew what awaited her beneath that distant light. The captain had given her passage but he had no time to speak with her. Some of the crew shunned her, but others gave her gifts—a silver fork, fingerless gloves, a floppy woolen hat patched with leather. One man showed her how to tie sailor’s knots. Another poured her thimble cups of fire wine. The friendly ones would tap their chests, repeating their names over and over until Arya said them back, though none ever thought to ask her name. They called her Salty, since she’d come aboard at Saltpans, near the mouth of the Trident. It was as good a name as any, she supposed.

The last of the night’s stars had vanished … all but the pair dead ahead. “It’s two stars now.”

“Two eyes,” said Denyo. “The Titan sees us.”

The Titan of Braavos. Old Nan had told them stories of the Titan back in Winterfell. He was a giant as tall as a mountain, and whenever Braavos stood in danger he would wake with fire in his eyes, his rocky limbs grinding and groaning as he waded out into the sea to smash the enemies. "The Braavosi feed him on the juicy pink flesh of little highborn girls," Nan would end, and Sansa would give a stupid squeak. But Maester Luwin said the Titan was only a statue, and Old Nan's stories were only stories.

Winterfell is burned and fallen, Arya reminded herself. Old Nan and Maester Luwin were both dead, most like, and Sansa too. It did no good to think of them. All men must die.”

Excerpt from A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
He makes everything beautiful in its time . . . Ecclesiastes 3:11

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


Then she heard Dog barking, loud and frantic.

“Someone is coming.”

“Friends,” said Gendry, unconcerned.

“What sort of friends?” Brienne moved to the door of the smithy to peer out through the rain. He shrugged.

“You’ll meet them soon enough.”

I may not want to meet them, Brienne thought, as the first riders came splashing through the puddles into the yard. Beneath the patter of the rain and Dog’s barking, she could hear the faint clink of swords and mail from beneath their ragged cloaks. She counted them as they came. Two, four, six, seven. Some of them were wounded, judging from the way they rode. The last man was massive and hulking, as big as two of the others. His horse was blown and bloody, staggering beneath his weight. All the riders had their hoods up against the lashing rain, save him alone. His face was broad and hairless, maggot white, his round cheeks covered with weeping sores.

Brienne sucked in her breath and drew Oathkeeper. Too many, she thought, with a start of fear, they are too many. “Gendry,” she said in a low voice, “you’ll want a sword, and armor. These are not your friends. They’re no one’s friends.”

“What are you talking about?”

The boy came and stood beside her, his hammer in his hand. Lightning cracked to the south as the riders swung down off their horses. For half a heartbeat darkness turned to day. An axe gleamed silvery blue, light shimmered off mail and plate, and beneath the dark hood of the lead rider Brienne glimpsed an iron snout and rows of steel teeth, snarling. Gendry saw it too.


“Not him. His helm.”

Brienne tried to keep the fear from her voice, but her mouth was dry as dust. She had a pretty good notion who wore the Hound’s helm. The children, she thought. The door to the inn banged open. Willow stepped out into the rain, a crossbow in her hands. The girl was shouting at the riders, but a clap of thunder rolled across the yard, drowning out her words. As it faded, Brienne heard the man in the Hound’s helm say, “Loose a quarrel at me and I’ll shove that crossbow up your cunt and fuck you with it. Then I’ll pop your fucking eyes out and make you eat them.” The fury in the man’s voice drove Willow back a step, trembling.

Seven, Brienne thought again, despairing. She had no chance against seven, she knew. No chance, and no choice. She stepped out into the rain, Oathkeeper in hand.

“Leave her be. If you want to rape someone, try me.”

Excerpt from A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
He makes everything beautiful in its time . . . Ecclesiastes 3:11

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Character Design: Dr. Sagan Carlyle

It's time for some more science here at Danielle Pajak Illustrations! (Yay!) I've recently completed another character design for my graphic novel idea, Infinity's End. (For more posts on my new graphic novel, check out these three character concept posts I've done, Dr. Sarton, Dr. Aedon, and The Casimir.) So, my next character I am unveiling is Dr. Sagan Carlyle, who is basically BFFs with my main character Dr. Sarton, my very own "Science Bros" if you will. (Sorry, I've seen Avengers Age of Ultron three times already, so I have that on the brain.) Dr. Carlyle is the antithesis to Dr. Sarton, (in many ways similar to how Tony Stark is to Bruce Banner), so I wanted Dr. Carlyle to be someone who looked and felt a little different than the rest of my characters up until this point. He is someone who is more charasmatic and relaxed, and doesn't take himself (or most of anything else) so seriously. Though, he is very passionate about the sciences and tries to push others around him to think outside any form of constraints and to pursue bigger and grander ideas, so he is a strong motivator and speaker. Like Sarton, though, he is also a physicist, but with emphasis on engineering and archictecture (I'll come back to this later). Here are my two concept pieces I completed:

"I'm just a glorified mechanic."

Yes, he is obviously named after Carl Sagan, haha, but the name has importance for his character.
Sagan means "wise one" and Carlyle means "protected tower". Also, it just sounds cool.
I wanted to capture Dr. Carlyle's more cavalier personality through his character design, but still retain the monastic ambiance that I am going for in the whole design of my world. So, as you can see his clothing is looser and not so tight fitting, bringing a more open connotation that is his personality. He also wears an ornament, as you'll notice, which is a significant addition for his ensemble. His contours are dynamic, his posturing a little impudent and debonair, and he is stronger and more aggressive in comparison to Dr. Sarton. Though, overall, he still maintains some of that reserve and conservatism which is valued in the scientific institution in which he works. I am really happy with the way his character concept came out, of which I am more than a little partial, haha. (Is it weird to be in love with your own character?) He will play a significant role in Dr. Sarton's journey, and his being that antithesis to his friend will challenge Sarton in very unexpected ways. I am so excited to tell this story!

Anyway, going back to his being a physcist engineer and architect, as you might remember, quantum physics is the basis for my world. I've been learning so much about it of late as well as other areas of science, and one exciting thing I've learned about is nanotechnology. There is still a ways for it to advance, but the things we can already do are simple amazing! We can move individual atoms and build small structures out of them, moving atoms as if they were merely lego blocks. One accomplishment in nanotechnology was back in 1997, when Cornell University created a guitar that was the size of a human cell! Here is a picture of it:

"The world's smallest guitar is 10 micrometers long -- about the size of a single cell -- with six strings each about 50 nanometers, or 100 atoms, wide. Made by Cornell University researchers from crystalline silicon." - Cornell Chronicle
I think this is just incredible that we have the technology to build with atoms at such a small of scale! Here is something really cool to watch that really shows our current capabilities, the first ever atomic film! Created by moving individual atoms frame by frame! Then you can watch the "making of" video, in which they describe the science behind their little film.

Nanotechnology will only continue to advance, but the fascinating thing is, the smaller and smaller we go (which is why our technologies continue to decrease in size), there will be a point where we won't be able to get any smaller because quantum physics takes over, the wave/particle duality. Technology as we've come to understand it will hit its limit within the very near future, your iPhone or iWatch or storage devices will only take you so far. That is where another crazy concept will take over: quantum computers, which is a whole other fascinating subject in itself. However, returning back to atoms, and using them as building blocks, one of the ideas I want to incorporate in my world is that technology is so advanced, that humanity is able to manipulate the very smallest of small subatomic particles, thereby mastering matter completely. This concept is very similar to the Star Trek replicator, in which Captain Picard always asks for his Earl Grey. This is the same idea, syntheizing materials at a subatomic level. However, in my world, it is taken a step further, where humanity is able to manipulate everything. If they want to create suns, galaxies, planets, make infinitly complex structures, change elements from one to another, anything they literally desired and dreamed, they can do this. Nothing is off limits for them, and so in that way the world of the quantum is magnified and put on display on an universal scale. So, this where my "engineers" and "architects" come in, which they would be the experts in this field. It takes an Engineer to be able to understand the technology and science behind the machines (or as I'm calling them in my world, "quantum simulators") and it takes an Architect to have the skill and artistry to create them. In my world being an Architect is one of the highest and in demand positions because, obviously, people would be needed who have the skill to be able to maintain a society of such capabilities. Since this skill is made possible, ultimately, by science, scientists usually end up just becoming Architects, just so that they can be useful. It is depressing for the scientist in that the practical avenues of their work are so limited, but Dr. Carlyle, in this case, is a very exceptional Architect and Engineer. It is with his help that Dr. Sarton will be able to bring to fruition his theories and ideas in the story.

Before I leave the subject, though, one of the foundational principles, or the science, behind my "quantum simulators" is the Higgs Field. One of the greatest discoveries that has occured recently, was the Higgs Boson. It was a theorized particle (which makes up the Higgs Field), that was thought to give fundamental particles their mass. Well, it was theorized correctly, because it was found in the particle collider at CERN in 2012! Basically, elementary particles (such as quarks and electrons) are given mass as they interact with the Higgs Field, and these elementary particles go on to make larger particles, such as neutrons and protons, then ultimately atoms. So, it would seem to me, that if you were to somehow manipulate the Higgs Field, you would be able to begin to manipulate matter itself, because you could change the structure of subatomic particles by the smaller constituents of subatomic particles. This is the basic idea behind my quantum simulators, though since this is the far advanced future, I am assuming that there are even more infinitly complex quantum fields used for manipulation, because all that we are and see, what gives mass to things, isn't *just* from the Higgs Field (actually most of it isn't!). I'm still trying to piece together basic concepts on the science of my story, but this is one of the foundational elements.

So, as I come to the end of my post, (I hope you've enjoyed all our sciencing!) I'll leave you with one last video that explains Higgs and the elementary particles, and how amazing it is that most of what makes up mass is *not* mass! The masslessness of mass is staggering! O_o

Another completed piece of Dr. Sarton entitled Sacrifice.

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

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Giant of Lannister

"Why do you read so much?”

Tyrion looked up at the sound of the voice. Jon Snow was standing a few feet away,
regarding him curiously. He closed the book on a finger and said, “Look at me and tell
me what you see.”

The boy looked at him suspiciously. “Is this some kind of trick? I see you. Tyrion

Tyrion sighed. “You are remarkably polite for a bastard, Snow. What you see is a dwarf.
You are what, twelve?”

“Fourteen,” the boy said.

“Fourteen, and you’re taller than I will ever be. My legs are short and twisted, and I walk
with difficulty. I require a special saddle to keep from falling off my horse. A saddle of
my own design, you may be interested to know. It was either that or ride a pony. My
arms are strong enough, but again, too short. I will never make a swordsman. Had I
been born a peasant, they might have left me out to die, or sold me to some slaver’s
grotesquerie. Alas, I was born a Lannister of Casterly Rock, and the grotesqueries are all
the poorer. Things are expected of me. My father was the Hand of the King for twenty
years. My brother later killed that very same king, as it turns out, but life is full of these
little ironies. My sister married the new king and my repulsive nephew will be king after
him. I must do my part for the honor of my House, wouldn’t you agree? Yet how? Well,
my legs may be too small for my body, but my head is too large, although I prefer to
think it is just large enough for my mind. I have a realistic grasp of my own strengths
and weaknesses. My mind is my weapon. My brother has his sword, King Robert has his
warhammer, and I have my mind . . . and a mind needs books as a sword needs a
whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.” Tyrion tapped the leather cover of the book. “That’s
why I read so much, Jon Snow.”

The boy absorbed that all in silence. He had the Stark face if not the name: long, solemn,
guarded, a face that gave nothing away. Whoever his mother had been, she had left little
of herself in her son. “What are you reading about?” he asked.

“Dragons,” Tyrion told him.

“What good is that? There are no more dragons,” the boy said with the easy certainty of

“So they say,” Tyrion replied. “Sad, isn’t it? When I was your age, used to dream of
having a dragon of my own.”

“You did?” the boy said suspiciously. Perhaps he thought Tyrion was making fun of him.
“Oh, yes. Even a stunted, twisted, ugly little boy can look down over the world when he’s
seated on a dragon’s back.” Tyrion pushed the bearskin aside and climbed to his feet. “I
used to start fires in the bowels of Casterly Rock and stare at the flames for hours,
pretending they were dragonfire. Sometimes I’d imagine my father burning. At other
times, my sister.” Jon Snow was staring at him, a look equal parts horror and
fascination. Tyrion guffawed. “Don’t look at me that way, bastard. I know your secret.
You’ve dreamt the same kind of dreams.”

Excerpt from Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
He makes everything beautiful in its time . . . Ecclesiastes 3:11

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Character Design: The Casimir

Moshlab Wallpaper
"He [Leibniz] said that the infinitely small was not a "simple and absolute zero, but a relative zero." It was an evanescent quantity, which retained the character that was disappearing." - Richard Morris Achilles in the Quantum Universe: A Definitive History of Infinity.

Once again, it is time for some science! For this month I have a little something to share that I've been working on, as I journey through the world of quantum mechanics. This stuff is truly fascinating, and I am excited to share my new graphic novel idea! I'm still working hard on the preliminary stage, but I have grand visions for this story!

For now, I am going to share with you another character concept. He is simply called "The Casimir," and I would basically describe him as the Catholic Pope...of science! As you may remember from my previous post, the world I'm envisioning is this futuristic utopia where everything has become so ridiculously advanced, the sciences are no longer "needed," and therefore no longer respected. Humanity takes everything they've accomplished for granted, and because of that, they no longer have any curiosity or desire to look beyond their universal empire they've created for themselves. They are content, so they are, therefore, stagnate. The scienstists who do still exist and desire to study and learn the whys and hows of everything are a select few, devout and studious, and their leader is the Casimir. He is the prestigeous, enigmatic, and eccentric head of their academy, the last establishment of the scientific disciplines. His age is unknown, his origins unknown, but amongst the nebulous web of governments that make up my world, he is eminent, even feared.

"What we do here, at the academy, is no longer respected.
But they respect him."
There are a few places of inspiration that I drew from for his character, the first being from Tsugumi Ohba's Death Note, which I've mentioned, quite excitedly, before. I knew I wanted this character to be different from my other characters, and that point of contrast being his youthful appearance. I wanted him to be very unnerving. He has this unmatched intellect, an austere and commanding precense, but his appearance is that of a child, an inferior. His eminence is in contrast to what one may expect just based on his appearance alone, and I liked that tension that happens there. This idea I drew from a character from Death Note who exhibited these same qualities, Nate River, or as he is simpy called "Near" or "N". In the story, he's a child genius, one of the successors to the genius detective, L, and he takes over the Kira case in the end. I loved the ruthless monotone and brooding youthfulness of his character, and how even though he was just a child, he had an impenetrable intellect. One moment he looked every bit the innocent, playing with his toys, and then the next he could be absolutely terrifying, someone you did *not* want to mess with. This dichotomy of innocence and penatrating shrewdness is something of what I wanted to convey in my own character.

Near, both from the manga and the anime.
The second place of inspiration came from his name, "Casimir," which refers to the Casimir Effect, which is basically the idea that their can be energy, even in the nothingness of the vacuum. Proposed by the physicist, Hendrik Casimir, the concept is if you take two plates, strip them of any forces, making them neutral, and place them in the vacuum of space, at an extremely small distance, they will, incredibly, attract one another, This is due to the fact that there really isn't "nothing" in the vacuum! There can never be absolutely nothing, the literal sense of the word, in our universe, because there will always be motion happening from the quantum fields. Due to the uncertainty principle (the wave/particle duality of the quantum world, which states particles are in all places at one time), there are fluctations in space from the quantum waves which gives the vacuum its motion, and the waves that exist outside of these plates are longer and larger than the waves that exist in between the plates. So, it is these waves on the outside that push against the plates and cause them to attract one another. It is amazing that even in "nothing" energy can be present! There is no "absolute zero" in the world of the quantum, only strange and bizarre infinitismals.

With this idea in mind, I have the Casimir dressed in a strange robe, with two red stripes lining his front. The red stripes represent the attraction of two plates in the vacuum, and his clothing going from black to grey to white, represents the abstraction and blurriness of the quantum world. And since this attraction or energy of plates only happens at very, very, very small distances, proves that even the smallest forces of the universe can have significant effects, which fits very well for what the sciences represent in my world. Though they are a minority, the work that they do still holds weight and significance in the universe. The Casimir, then, represents the supreme power of the sciences, where it cannot be completely erradicated, reduced to "zero", but even the most minute contributions of the institution will have resounding effects for the universe, for reality, and for humanity itself!

I leave you with another concept drawing.

Bonus Sneak Peek: My logo design for my graphic novel!

"One man’s obsession will lead him down a path of self-destruction through the very fabric of reality itself
towards an encounter with the Infinite."

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

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Winterfell's Daughter

When she opened the door to the garden, it was so lovely that she held her breath, unwilling to disturb such perfect beauty. The snow drifted down and down, all in ghostly silence, and lay thick and unbroken on the ground. All color had fled the world outside. It was a place of whites and blacks and greys. White towers and white snow and white statues, black shadows and black trees, the dark grey sky above. A pure world, Sansa thought. I do not belong here.

Yet she stepped out all the same. Her boots tore ankle deep holes into the smooth white surface of the snow, yet made no sound. Sansa drifted past frosted shrubs and thin dark trees, and wondered if she were still dreaming. Drifting snowflakes brushed her face as light as lover’s kisses, and melted on her cheeks. At the center of the garden, beside the statue of the weeping woman that lay broken and half buried on the ground, she turned her face up to the sky and closed her eyes. She could feel the snow on her lashes, taste it on her lips. It was the taste of Winterfell. The taste of innocence. The taste of dreams.

When Sansa opened her eyes again, she was on her knees. She did not remember falling. It seemed to her that the sky was a lighter shade of grey. Dawn, she thought. Another day. Another new day. It was the old days she hungered for. Prayed for. But who could she pray to? The garden had been meant for a godswood once, she knew, but the soil was too thin and stony for a weirwood to take root. A godswood without gods, as empty as me. She scooped up a handful of snow and squeezed it between her fingers. Heavy and wet, the snow packed easily. Sansa began to make snowballs, shaping and smoothing them until they were round and white and perfect. She remembered a summer’s snow in Winterfell when Arya and Bran had ambushed her as she emerged from the keep one morning. They’d each had a dozen snowballs to hand, and she’d had none. Bran had been perched on the roof of the covered bridge, out of reach, but Sansa had chased Arya through the stables and around the kitchen until both of them were breathless. She might even have caught her, but she’d slipped on some ice. Her sister came back to see if she was hurt. When she said she wasn’t, Arya hit her in the face with another snowball, but Sansa grabbed her leg and pulled her down and was rubbing snow in her hair when Jory came along and pulled them apart, laughing.

What do I want with snowballs? She looked at her sad little arsenal. There’s no one to throw them at. She let the one she was making drop from her hand. I could build a snow knight instead, she thought. Or even

She pushed two of her snowballs together, added a third, packed more snow in around them, and patted the whole thing into the shape of a cylinder. When it was done, she stood it on end and used the tip of her little finger to poke holes in it for windows. The crenelations around the top took a little more care, but when they were done she had a tower. I need some walls now, Sansa thought, and then a keep. She set to work.

The snow fell and the castle rose. Two walls ankle high, the inner taller than the outer. Towers and turrets, keeps and stairs, a round kitchen, a square armory, the stables along the inside of the west wall. It was only a castle when she began, but before very long Sansa knew it was Winterfell. She found twigs and fallen branches beneath the snow and broke off the ends to make the trees for the godswood. For the gravestones in the lichyard she used bits of bark. Soon her gloves and her boots were crusty white, her hands were tingling, and her feet were soaked and cold, but she did not care. The castle was all that mattered. Some things were hard to remember, but most came back to her easily, as if she had been there only yesterday. The Library Tower, with the steep stonework stair twisting about its exterior. The gatehouse, two huge bulwarks, the arched gate between them, crenelations all along the top. . .

And all the while the snow kept falling, piling up in drifts around her buildings as fast as she raised them. She was patting down the pitched roof of the Great Hall when she heard a voice, and looked up to see her maid calling from her window. Was my lady well? Did she wish to break her fast? Sansa shook her head, and went back to shaping snow, adding a chimney to one end of the Great Hall, where the hearth would stand inside. 

Dawn stole into her garden like a thief. The grey of the sky grew lighter still, and the trees and shrubs turned a dark green beneath their stoles of snow. A few servants came out and watched her for a time, but she paid them no mind and they soon went back inside where it was warmer. Sansa saw Lady Lysa gazing down from her balcony, wrapped up in a blue velvet robe trimmed with fox fur, but when she looked again her aunt was gone. Maester Colemon popped out of the rookery and peered down for a while, skinny and shivering but curious. 

Her bridges kept falling down. There was a covered bridge between the armory and the main keep, and another that went from the fourth floor of the bell tower to the second floor of the rookery, but no matter how carefully she shaped them, they would not hold together. The third time one collapsed on her, she cursed aloud and sat back in helpless frustration. 

“Pack the snow around a stick, Sansa.”

She did not know how long he had been watching her, or when he had returned from the Vale. “A stick?” she asked.

“That will give it strength enough to stand, I’d think,” Petyr said. “May I come into your castle, my lady?”

Sansa was wary. “Don’t break it. Be...”

“...gentle?” He smiled. “Winterfell has withstood fiercer enemies than me. It is Winterfell, is it not?”

“Yes,” Sansa admitted.

He walked along outside the walls. “I used to dream of it, in those years after Cat went north with Eddard Stark. In my dreams it was ever a dark place, and cold.”

“No. It was always warm, even when it snowed. Water from the hot springs is piped through the walls to warm them, and inside the glass gardens it was always like the hottest day of summer.” She stood, towering over the great white castle. “I can’t think how to do the glass roof over the gardens.” Littlefinger stroked his chin, where his beard had been before Lysa had asked him to shave it off. 

“The glass was locked in frames, no? Twigs are your answer. Peel them and cross them and use bark to tie them together into frames. I’ll show you.” He moved through the garden, gathering up twigs and sticks and shaking the snow from them. When he had enough, he stepped over both walls with a single long stride and squatted on his heels in the middle of the yard. Sansa came closer to watch what he was doing. His hands were deft and sure, and before long he had a crisscrossing latticework of twigs, very like the one that roofed the glass gardens of Winterfell. “We will need to imagine the glass, to be sure,” he said when he gave it to her.

“This is just right,” she said.

He touched her face. “And so is that.”

Sansa did not understand. “And so is what?”

“Your smile, my lady. Shall I make another for you?”

“If you would.”

“Nothing could please me more.” 

She raised the walls of the glass gardens while Littlefinger roofed them over, and when they were done with that he helped her extend the walls and build the guardshall. When she used sticks for the covered bridges, they stood, just as he had said they would. The First Keep was simple enough, an old round drum tower, but Sansa was stymied again when it came to putting the gargoyles around the top. Again he had the answer. “It’s been snowing on your castle, my lady,” he pointed out. “What do the gargoyles look like when they’re covered with snow?”

Sansa closed her eyes to see them in memory. “They’re just white lumps.”

“Well, then. Gargoyles are hard, but white lumps should be easy.” And they were.

The Broken Tower was easier still. They made a tall tower together, kneeling side by side to roll it smooth, and when they’d raised it Sansa stuck her fingers through the top, grabbed a handful of snow, and flung it full in his face. Petyr yelped, as the snow slid down under his collar. “That was unchivalrously done, my lady.”

“As was bringing me here, when you swore to take me home.”

She wondered where this courage had come from, to speak to him so frankly. From Winterfell, she thought. I am stronger within the walls of Winterfell.

His face grew serious. “Yes, I played you false in that ... and in one other thing as well.”

Sansa’s stomach was aflutter. “What other thing?”

“I told you that nothing could please me more than to help you with your castle. I fear that was a lie as well. Something else would please me more.” He stepped closer. “This.”

Sansa tried to step back, but he pulled her into his arms and suddenly he was kissing her. Feebly, she tried to squirm, but only succeeded in pressing herself more tightly against him. His mouth was on hers, swallowing her words. He tasted of mint. For half a heartbeat she yielded to his kiss... before she turned her face away and wrenched free. “What are you doing?”

Petyr straightened his cloak. “Kissing a snow maid.”

“You’re supposed to kiss her.” Sansa glanced up at Lysa’s balcony, but it was empty now. “Your lady wife.”

“I do. Lysa has no cause for complaint.” He smiled. “I wish you could see yourself, my lady. You are so beautiful. You’re crusted over with snow like some little bear cub, but your face is flushed and you can scarcely breathe. How long have you been out here? You must be very cold. Let me warm you, Sansa. Take off those gloves, give me your hands.”

“I won’t.” He sounded almost like Marillion, the night he’d gotten so drunk at the wedding. Only this time Lothor Brune would not appear to save her; Ser Lothor was Petyr’s man. “You shouldn’t kiss me. I might have been your own daughter...”

“Might have been,” he admitted, with a rueful smile. “But you’re not, are you? You are Eddard Stark’s daughter, and Cat’s. But I think you might be even more beautiful than your mother was, when she was your age.”

“Petyr, please.” Her voice sounded so weak. “Please.”

“A castle!” The voice was loud, shrill, and childish. Littleflnger turned away from her. “Lord Robert.” He sketched a bow. “Should you be out in the snow without your gloves?” 

“Did you make the snow castle, Lord Littlefinger?”

“Alayne did most of it, my lord.”

Sansa said, “It’s meant to be Winterfell.” 

“Winterfell?” Robert was small for eight, a stick of a boy with splotchy skin and eyes that were always runny. Under one arm he clutched the threadbare cloth doll he carried everywhere.

“Winterfell is the seat of House Stark,” Sansa told her husband-to-be. “The great castle of the north.”

“It’s not so great.” The boy knelt before the gatehouse. “Look, here comes a giant to knock it down.” He stood his doll in the snow and moved it jerkily. “Tromp tromp I’m a giant, I’m a giant,” he chanted. “Ho ho ho, open your gates or I’ll mash them and smash them.” Swinging the doll by the legs, he knocked the top off one gatehouse tower and then the other.

It was more than Sansa could stand. “Robert, stop that.” Instead he swung the doll again, and a foot of wall exploded. She grabbed for his hand but she caught the doll instead. There was a loud ripping sound as the thin cloth tore. Suddenly she had the doll’s head, Robert had the legs and body, and the rag-and-sawdust stuffing was spilling in the snow.

Lord Robert’s mouth trembled. “You killed him,” he wailed. Then he began to shake. It started with no more than a little shivering, but within a few short heartbeats he had collapsed across the castle, his limbs flailing about violently. White towers and snowy bridges shattered and fell on all sides. Sansa stood horrified, but Petyr Baelish seized her cousin’s wrists and shouted for the maester.

Guards and serving girls arrived within instants to help restrain the boy, Maester Colemon a short time later. Robert Arryn’s shaking sickness was nothing new to the people of the Eyrie, and Lady Lysa had trained them all to come rushing at the boy’s first cry. The maester held the little lord’s head and gave him half a cup of dreamwine, murmuring soothing words. Slowly the violence of the fit seemed to ebb away, till nothing remained but a small shaking of the hands. “Help him to my chambers,” Colemon told the guards. “A leeching will help calm him.”

“It was my fault.” Sansa showed them the doll’s head. “I ripped his doll in two. I never meant to, but...”

“His lordship was destroying the castle,” said Petyr.

“A giant,” the boy whispered, weeping. “It wasn’t me, it was a giant hurt the castle. She killed him! I hate her! She’s a bastard and I hate her! I don’t want to be leeched!”

“My lord, your blood needs thinning,” said Maester Colemon. “It is the bad blood that makes you angry, and the rage that brings on the shaking. Come now.”

They led the boy away. My lord husband, Sansa thought, as she contemplated the ruins of Winterfell. The snow had stopped, and it was colder than before. She wondered if Lord Robert would shake all through their wedding. At least Joffrey was sound of body. A mad rage seized hold of her. She picked up a broken branch and smashed the torn doll’s head down on top of it, then pushed it down atop the shattered gatehouse of her snow castle. The servants looked aghast, but when Littlefinger saw what she’d done he laughed. “If the tales be true, that’s not the first giant to end up with his head on Winterfell’s walls.” 

“Those are only stories,” she said, and left him there. 

Excerpt from A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
He makes everything beautiful in its time . . . Ecclesiastes 3:11

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Character Design: Dr. Oriel Aedon

Particle tracks on film in a Bubble Chamber!
This is quantum physics!
“Not only does God play dice but he sometimes throws them where they cannot be seen.” - Stephen Hawking

"It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out." - Proverbs 25:2

Lately I've had science on the brain, quantum physics to be exact! Some of you may remember this post here, where I introduced an original character as part of a new graphic novel idea of mine. Inspired by science fiction greats, I want to create a story that would follow in the same vein, showing the beauty and wonder of our Universe. Yet even more than that, to show that at the heart of true science fiction, it is about seeking, asking, and searching the great Unknown, and what can be discovered there. In accordance with this idea, I've been doing a little seeking out of my own! I've recently come to discover the subatomic world of quantum physics, and I definitely found my new favorite thing! In short, the Universe is amazing. The perfect chaos of the fundamental foundations of the world as we know it is astounding. It is completely counter intuitive to what we know by common sense and experience in the ever day world. Where subatomic particles are neither here nor there, but in some ambiguous state of both here and there. Yet not only that, they can be in all possible states at one time, and it is only when the Observer seeks to measure and/or pinpoint the particle that it appears where you expect it to be; meaning that subatomic particles are both particles and waves depending on how you look at them. They can even transport across great distances with absolutely no connection of any kind between them! They are elusive, unwieldily, and tenuous, and this is what makes up you and me, and all the concrete matter of the Universe! It is incredible! I've been devouring books and internet research and images trying to understand the beautiful complexity of quantum mechanics (which is rather impossible to achieve entirely since even physicists don't even understand it entirely!). Now you may ask, what does science have to do with an art blog? I would answer, as far as I am concerned, everything. Science fiction is based on science after all and it has become a genre that really connects with me. And as I have come to discover by learning about quantum mechanics, science is a very intuitive and conceptual discipline at its heart. It is based on observable facts and measurements, of course, but it also takes creativity and imagination to push ones self beyond the limits of ones understanding as one is faced with the stunning wonder of reality. Life, proving so often, stranger (and more beautiful) than fiction. Nothing has quite awakened my imagination like quantum mechanics! It is like this whole other world! It is, quite literally, like Alice falling through the rabbit hole, where "nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn't be. And what it wouldn't be, it would." So, in my graphic novel, I want to be able to capture some of this wonderful, complex nonsense and artistry of quantum physics.

So, that is my leaping off point as I embark on this new project. Over the months, I'll be posting up character design and concept art as I create precisely what kind of world I want for this story. My first post was about my main character, Dr. Josef Sarton. The story is going to be mostly from his point of view with only a limited cast of other characters. I'll begin, then, with the mysterious and intimidating Dr. Oriel Aedon:

Dr. Oriel Aedon Concept
"I know a little of sacrifice, Dr. Sarton, I know more of discovery.
The pursuit of knowledge is always worth the cost.
Dr. Oriel Aedon Concept
"A keen and serious mind, driven, acerbic;
so you two should get along famously.
Those are my first concepts of her as I try to visualize who she is, why she is, and what her motivations are for the story. She is a prestigious mathematician and the second highest rank in the Sciences. I am still sorting out all the politics of my story, but it is set hundreds of thousands of years in the future, and the Sciences have become a set of disciplines that only a very select few practice. Those in the field of Science live a monastic existence, where they are not largely respected by the masses, even if they still harbor some of the greatest minds of the human race. It is for this reason that both of my characters, Sarton and Aedon, have a very cloistered look about them. Close-fitted clothing covers every part of her, modest, but also restrictive and disciplined. Her hair is long and full as I am mimicking the modest outline of a nun, but her lines still sharp-edged and modern. You can see a lot of my influences are from Japanese Anime/Manga as well. Taking these ideas, then, I decided to do a color concept of her character, to broaden my ideas I was working with. This is the result:

The piece above is called Discovery. Dr. Aedon, like Dr. Sarton, is pretty intense when it comes to her work and I wanted to convey that intensity through the way she carries herself and in her design. Not only was I experimenting with her character concept, but I also was trying to play around with ideas of how I want my graphic novel to look in general, what direction I want to go in with color scheme and influences. I want my future world to be very barren, cold, and isolating. I want the immensity and emptiness of space to be felt in the overall mood and atmosphere; to have it be heavy, dark, and suffocating. Thus, the heavy blue-green color scheme with sharp light and long shadows. It is somber, enigmatic, and cavernous. Then I will place certain colors to stand out against this minimalist color backdrop, as I've done here, with her golden eyes and her gloves. This draws the viewer to those areas, as they'll represent ideas about the characters as the story progresses. The name "Oriel," after all, means "golden."

Another place I am drawing a lot of my influence from is from medieval architecture and art, whether it be from cathedrals, painters, or illuminated manuscripts. I want to take that medieval Gothic style and infuse it in my world. Gothic art of the 12th Century onward to just before the Renaissance had some of the most glorious works in architecture and illustration. I love the intricate, painstaking details of that time period, but not only the craftsmanship, but the concepts in the works of art as well. Though the Catholic Church was totalitarian in its influence, they, at least, were able to come up with stunning and dreadful imagery. Preoccupied with concepts of Heaven and Hell, their artwork drew a dividing line between the two, juxtaposing the ideas of the Good, i.e. sainthood, the beauty of heaven, purity, the glory of Christ, etc, and the Evil, Satan, demons, the consequences of sin, etc, and bringing such strong, visual emphasis to each one so their dichotomy will drive them even further apart. The Sacred and Profane pushing against one another, making each idea powerful and unforgettable. I want those concepts, that division between light an darkness, as well as all the complexity of the ornate design work of the Gothic Era to come through in my world.

Top: Not of the Gothic Era, haha, but a concept piece from the movie
Jupiter Ascending. It is Balem Abrasax' awesome lair of evil.
It is heavily influenced by Gothic architecture,
Bottom: Milan Cathedral in Italy. My favorite cathedral!
It is in the style of Flamboyant Architecture, late Gothic architecture from France.
It is so mindbogglingly detailed! O_o
Top: Jupiter Ascending concept art. The beauty!
Bottom: Detail from the Milan Cathedral. More beauty!
From the polyptych "Visions of the Hereafter"
"Ascent of the Blessed" & "Hell"
by Hieronymus Bosch. 
Detail of Discovery. You'll notice the quantum particle designs on the wall behind her.
So, bringing it back around, I want to infuse the spiritual mystery and awe of religious experience with the mystery and awe of scientific thought, making a world that is beautiful, terrifying, transcendent, showing the allure, the gratification, and the price of discovery.

"I love science, and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot choose compassion, or the arts, or be awed by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and reinvigorate it." - Robert Sapolsky

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

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Encounter


Happy 2015! I would like to start off the new year with some Interstellar goodness! I've been dying to talk about this film and I knew I wanted to do an art piece inspired from it that would encapsulate what I got from the film. Interstellar is easily my favorite of 2014; saw it three times in the theater and all in the same week, one of those times was in the IMAX! (Yes. Yes. Yes.) It is a spectacular and beautiful film that hits you hard on many levels (Especially in decibels! Love that organ!). I love Christopher Nolan as a filmmaker and to me there is no filmmaker today who quite understands the art of ideas in film like he does. His Batman Trilogy and Inception are excellent examples of this, and Interstellar follows the same vein. He is able to take ideas and turn them into viable, engaging pieces of poignant imagery in threads of powerful storytelling that make an amazing cinematic tapestry! Must not forget his brother Jonathan Nolan (who's an amazing writer. Person of Interest anyone?) in this either, because it is really them together that make the movies sing like no other. Interstellar is probably my favorite of all their work (so far) simply because it is a science fiction story, and it actually understands what science fiction is as a genre. It is also based on real science. In fact I read on Wikipedia that Jonathan Nolan took a class on relativity while writing the script! That is so cool. So, seeing as I've fallen in love with the science fiction genre, it is only natural Interstellar would be the one. Besides, Michael Caine reciting Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas. In space. Um. Yes please!

Why, Matt Damon? Why? 
I won't go into the whole film, since that would be a crazy long movie review, but I want to draw your attention to one scene in the film because it is what inspired my next art piece. One of my absolute favorite scenes in the film is Dr. Mann's entrance into the story and his inevitable betrayal. As we discover, Professor Brand and Dr. Mann knew all along that people back on Earth wouldn't be able to make it off, so they deceived everyone in favor of preserving the human race instead. In this sense they are both the "antagonists" of the story, especially Dr. Mann. However, in the superb slyness of the Nolan brothers, things aren't that clear cut. Dr. Mann is an antagonist, yes, but not entirely. Yes, he turns out to be a coward having gone completely crazy from having no human contact even losing all hope to the point where he puts himself to sleep permanently until Cooper and Co. come for him, yet the essential driving force in Dr. Mann's story is basically what Interstellar is all about. In the scene, as he walks away from Cooper's death throes with unsettling detachment, Dr. Mann asks Cooper if he remembers the poem Professor Brand used to recite, and as the music rises, he begins to recite Dylan Thomas' poem. This poem is crucial in understanding this film, but most especially this scene. In the poem, Dylan Thomas himself is speaking to his father who was dying at the time. He is essentially telling him to not die, to "rage against" dying, to "not go gentle" into death. This is Interstellar which states: "Mankind was born on earth. It was never meant to die here." Rage, rage against the dying of Mankind! And what is even more interesting and telling about this scene is that Dr. Mann's betrayal coincides with Murphy trying to get her brother to leave the farm. I was instantly struck by this compare and contrast. Why were these two events happening simultaneously on screen? In Cooper's storyline, Dr. Mann makes the move towards survival (for himself), betraying the team. In Murphy's
storyline, Murphy is the one who makes the move in survival for her brother and his family, by setting fire to the crops. Murphy is the protagonist, so why is she mimicking the "antagonist" in this way? Because Murphy and Dr. Mann are both motivated by the same thing, survival, yes, but even more than that, a sort of metaphysical "rage" that pushes them to struggle, fight, and strive to not only overcome, but achieve something that is beyond their own limitations. True, Dr. Mann is doing it for cowardly, insane reasons, but that is besides the point, because in the end we know that Mankind not only survives, those from Earth and those who now have a new home on Edmund's planet, but they eventually become extra-dimensional beings that reside outside of space and time! Mankind has raged against the constraints of their inevitable doom and has not only won, but mastered the Universe itself! So, Dr. Mann is only doing, albeit tragically, what the movie exemplifies over and over, which is to rage against your circumstances, against the odds, against nature, against death, against even your own mortal finality, and transcend them. There is a lot more that I could go into on that note, but Dr. Mann's betrayal has shown there is more there than meets the eye. In my art piece, though, I wanted to explore this concept, this idea of the struggle of Man against his environment and his own finite nature.

The Encounter
To begin, I wanted to keep the subject matter rather mysterious, i.e. Who are these figures? Who is the being whom the man is wrestling? Why are they wrestling? Etc, and have certain key items stand out instead. For one, I wanted the violence of the situation to show through, with the jaggedness of the cliff edge and the cosmic event happening in the heavens where some unknown moon or planet is ripping apart. There is an aggressive and fervent unrest in the environment surrounding the figures. Despite this, though, the alien being looks calm, firm, and in control of the situation. His serenity contrasts against all the violence that is around him. The man, on the other hand, is fighting with all his might. His helmet is gone, which shows extreme vulnerability, and he is in a spacesuit which reminds us that he is incapable of interacting with the environment around him directly. In this way, it would seem as if the man is in the weaker position of the fight, and yet he holds the being in his tight grip, the both of them poised upon the edge of the precipice, the world in great unrest around them. Perhaps, then, the man is not struggling in vain. So with these concepts at play in the composition and environmental elements, I wanted to show that all pervasive struggle of man to survive and conqueror that which conspires to keep him in bondage. Then, in taking the concept a bit further, I specifically named this piece The Encounter and I chose an intimate scene of a man pitted against a mysterious being, the both of them alone in a raging universe. I do this to raise the question that perhaps this wrestling is more than just the "survival of the fittest," but a persistent cosmic "encounter" with something greater, bigger, and more glorious than what we could have conceived; a a Something or Someone of whom we interact with in this unwavering and unquenchable violence of our souls, and just maybe this struggle could lead us to a mysterious and an unsearchable Beyond that we are longing for.

Before I end this blog, I wanted to quickly mention that for this piece I was also inspired by retro science fiction illustrations. I've only recently been delving into this realm of art, back when science fiction was on the rise in popular fiction and cinema. True, much of the early conceptualization in science fiction was rather cheesy and limited by technology that had not yet birthed computers and the knowledge of the digital age, but these early works had something that is largely lost in science fiction now a days. They had mystery, adventure, and awe of the unknown, and it shows in their work. Worlds are bizarre, otherwordly, abstract, and just all out strange. The minds of that time were trying to push the limits of their imagination to envision the worlds and universes of the future and that brought out some pretty psychedelic, but wonderful material. I could go into a long rant about the generic and unimaginative conceptual art of science fiction (and all genres) of today, but that is for another day. Needless to say, I wanted to incorporate some of that vintage wonder in my own piece, to capture some of that mystery of an age when space exploration and technological knowledge was just beginning. Here are some examples of of the type of work I am talking about. This is a vein of thought and inspiration that I am going to continue to explore in my own artwork, especially for future projects that I have in mind, so watch this space! As always, thank you for reading.

Don't know the artists of these. So pretty!
Love these images by Frank Frazetta
Dan McPharlin. A modern day artist whose work looks very retro!
What is even going on here? Who knows.

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