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


  1. Amazing! I love that concept piece, it's intense and alluring. But I also really love your influences of mixing that cloister, monastery look and applying it to the disciplined scientists. It's so unique! I can't wait to see this develop. :-)

  2. The more I read and see about this project, the more interested I am by it. I really love how you're utilizing the concept of dichotomy in your art, drawing from Gothic religious art and Catholic art of juxtaposing Hell and Heaven/sacred and profane/ethereal and grotesque. I was aware of this in medieval artwork but hadn't thought deeply about the concept; that juxtaposing two dichotomies highlights and draws focus to the extremes in both. Like Alexis said, envisioning a world where the scientific community is now a cloistered, monastery-type order is really unique and as you probably know, does have precedent in history as a lot of scientists up through to the 1800s were monks, maybe because the lifestyle gave them a lot of time to think and experiment, haha. Gregor Mendel, father of genetics, is the one who comes immediately to mind. I really love how you melded this look with a futuristic, modernist feel (the sharp, clean lines.) And of course, you know I think incorporating the quantum particle trails was really awesome. The design behind Oriel also has a fractal look to it. I'm really intrigued by this idea and sort of want to live in this world already :)