Sunday, December 4, 2011

Frankenstein and the Sublime

Illustrations produced for my Illustrations of the Romantic Period elective course which feature key plot events from Mary Shelley's groundbreaking Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus (1819). These images intend to showcase fundamental elements of the Sublime as stipulated by political theorist and philosopher Edmund Burke (1729-1797) in his prose A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1756). The imagination, Burke correctly asserts, is activated by a sensation of awe and instilled with a degree of horror by what is "dark, uncertain, and confused".

Image #1: Victor Frankenstein catches a glimpse of the wretch near the location of William’s murder.

“While I watched the tempest, so beautiful yet terrific, I wandered on with a hasty step…I perceived in the gloom a figure which stole from behind a clump of trees near me. I stood fixed, gazing intently; I could not be mistaken. A flash of lightning illuminated the object and discovered its shape plainly to me; its gigantic stature, and the deformity of its aspect, more hideous than belongs to humanity, instantly informed me that it was the wretch, the filthy daemon to whom I had given life”
Frankenstein or, The Modern Prometheus, Chapter 7

Image #2: Murder of Elizabeth in her bridal bier.

Passage: “She was there, lifeless and inanimate, thrown across the bed, her head hanging down and her pale and distorted features half covered by her hair. Everywhere I turn I see the same figure—her bloodless arms and relaxed form flung by the murderer on its bridal bier” Frankenstein or, The Modern Prometheus, Chapter 23

Image #3: Discovery of Henry Clerval’s corpse

Passage: “As he was proceeding along the sands, he struck his foot against something and fell at his length on the ground. His companions came up to assist him, and by the light of their lantern they found that he had fallen on the body of a man, who was to all appearance dead. The supposition was that it was the corpse of some person who had been drowned and was thrown on shore by the waves; but, on examination they found that the clothes were not wet and even that the body was not then cold”
Frankenstein or, The Modern Prometheus, Chapter 21

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bran the Blessed

Owing to the demands of my first semester in fourth year Illustration, many of you have surely taken notice of my online disappearance and the deficiency of blog output...But, I have triumphantly returned to acquaint your eyes with the fruit of my toil :D.

A renown giant and king of Britain in Welsh folklore, Bran the Blessed’s (WelshBendigeidfran, literally "Blessed Raven", also Brân Fendigaidd live severed head was buried at his behest under the White Tower in London, facing France. The head served as a powerful talisman, protecting Britain from invasion for countless generations before it was excavated and turned around by the pious King Arthur, who claimed that from that point forward, Britain would be safeguarded by God and his armies alone.

In the Welsh tale of Bran the Blessed’s sister Branwen, Bran dispatches a formidable army to avenge the Irish king Matholwch’s maltreatment of his beloved sibling. The king’s swineherd witness their movements on the open sea and consult their queen:

“Hail to your Lordship!’ said they. ‘We have seen a forest on the ocean, where we never before saw a single tree…we see a great mountain beside the forest, and it is moving; and a high ridge on the mountain with a lake on each side of the ridge; and the forest and the mountain and the rest are all in motion.”
Upon hearing this, Branwen decodes the cryptic display,
“I know what this is. The men of the Island of the Mighty are coming over, for they have heard of my being punished and dishonoured”
‘And what was the mountain which they saw beside the ships?’ said they.
‘That was my brother, Bran the Blessed,’ she said. ‘wading through the shallows. There was no ship that could carry him’.
‘What was the high ridge with a lake on each side?’

‘That was he, looking upon this island,’said she, ‘for he is angry. His eyes on each side of his nose are the two lakes on each side of the ridge’

Bran’s love, which assumed a degree so powerful that both the forces of nature and man were summoned to preserve it, inspired this serene portrait. The giant’s mild expression and glistening eyes imply wisdom, his smile a hint of mischief. The horizon line is marked by the presence of the White Cliffs of Dover which served as Britain’s natural defense against aggressors crossing the English Channel. Bran represents the perfect confluence of dormant and active energies--the stationary monolith rising from the channel in a mantle of evanescent fog, the viking horde ascending the cliff tops. I will likely continue in this vein for the remainder of the series.

Initial concepts for Bran the Blessed, which gave greater focus to the 'severed head' notion than was perhaps acceptable. The intent here is that these images will appeal to adults and children alike.

Bolesław I Chrobry

Bolesław I Chrobry or Bolesław I the Brave (967-1025) was Duke of Poland from 992-1025 and the first King of Poland from 1025 until his death. As firstborn child to the revered Miesko I, the first historical ruler of the Piast dynasty, Bolesław's remarkable tact as a politician, strategist and statesman elevated Poland into the pantheon of Europe's elite. The first crude effigy of the Polish White Eagle, the emblem of the Piast dynasty, can be found on the first crowned king of Poland's silver denarius.  

He led successful military campaigns to the west, south and east, consolidating Polish lands and conquered territories outside the modern borders of the country such as Slovakia, Moravia, Red Ruthenia, Meissen, Lusatia and Bohemia. The king inherited from his father a realm that resembled the dimensions of what is now Greater Poland or Wielkopolska. Greater Poland comprised the valley of the river Warta, stretching north to the Notec River and Kalisz in the south.

According to legend, Bolesław I Chrobry and his retinue of lance-bearing knights are interned in a mountain massif called Giewont "Sleeping Knight" in the Tatra Mountains, a mountain range that forms a natural border between Poland and Slovakia. 

This developing composition for Bolesław I Chrobry alludes to an anticipatory moment in Act V of William Shakespeare's Macbeth. As Macduff's army encroaches upon Dunsinane Castle, Malcolm urges each man to carry a bough aloft from the wood of Birnham. Therefore, while the King appropriately assumes his sleeping position in the mountainside, his retinue experiences their own metamorphosis with the growth of pine trees from their lances.

Colour studies and concept sketches for the first king of Poland.

Frederick I Barbarossa

Frederick I Barbarossa (1122-1190) was a German Holy Roman Emperor noted for his involvement in the Third Crusade (1189), a massive expedition in conjunction with the French, led by king Philip Augustus, and the English, under Richard the Lionheart. He organized a grand army of (by contemporary historians' reevaluation) of 15,000 men and 3,000 knights and set out on the overland route to the Holy Land. The emperor saw his unfortunate death in 1190 when he drowned in the Saleph river after a refreshing his armour...yes. Frederick's death plunged his panicking army into chaos and only a handful actually arrived in Acre.

Legend, however, says he is not dead, but asleep with his knights in a cave in the Kyffhäuser mountain in Thuringia or Mount Untersberg in Bavaria, Germany. When the ravens cease to fly around the mountain he will awake and restore Germany to its former golden age. The emperor's red beard must wrap three times around the perimeter of the table at which he sits before he is to wake. TV tropes informs me that it has only grown twice around thus far :P

A work in progress of Frederick, pondering the ravens as they circle skyward.

Final Composition sketch and initial concepts for Frederick I Barbarossa:

King Under Mountain--Fourth Year Thesis

For as long as human beings have recited stories to one another, the truths of history became legend and legend yielded to myth, creating what the modern era calls pseudo history. More than often these episodes of ancestral history participate in the development of a nation. The prominent King in the Mountain, King Under Mountain or Sleeping Hero motif is one of many in folklore and mythology which gives hope to the resurrection of beloved historical figures, usually of some military consequence, who will transcend time and space to secure their loyalties and act as guardian to the future nation.

These legendary undead heros, often accompanied by armied retainers/legions, sleep in remote and covert dwellings which include caves, mountaintops, islands or mystical worlds. It is foretold that they will waken at the hour of their country’s greatest need. The presence of the hero goes unsuspected until a herdsman or meandering passerby enters the cave unknowingly and chances upon him. In nearly every tale, the hero has become withered by centuries of sleeping under the mountain and has grown a long beard. The witness is in most cases supernaturally harmed by the experience, especially if his actions cause a disservice to the resting King, or worse, rouses him to wake. A far cry from the familiar Sleeping Beauty tale isn’t it? The King Under Mountain motif still resonates with us in contemporary times with the hopeful return of such famed entertainment figures as Elvis Presley or Tupac Shakur.

As part of my fourth year thesis proposal, I plan to create a Japanese fold accordion book that will feature at least 8-10 illustrations of sleeping warriors, complete with full-page descriptions of each character and their respected nations. Potential candidates are as follows (or more specifically, those that caught my interest):

1) Holger Danske--Denmark
2) Bolesław I Chrobry and his retinue of knights--Poland
3) Frederick Barbarossa--Germany
4) Bran the Blessed--Wales
5) Brynhildr--Scandinavia (Viking Lore)
6) King Arthur--England
7) King Sebastian--Portugal
8) Vytautas, the Great--Lithuania
9) Väinämöinen--Finland (Hero of National Kalevala)
10) Lāčplēsis “Bear-Slayer”--Latvia
11) Toell the Great--Estonia
12) Kralj Matjaž --Slovenia
13) Seven Queens of Sindh--Pakistan
14) Prince Marko Kraljević--Serbia
15) Casaba, son of Attila the Hun--Hungary
16) Kukai, 9th century Buddhist monk--Japan
17) Fenibeso, first sole ruler of Okrika (Nigeria)--Africa
18) Golem of Prague--Ukraine
19) Wenceslaus I--Czech Republic
20) Thomas the Rhymer--Scotland
21) Gearoidh Iarla (Earl Gerald)--Ireland
22) Theseus--Greece
23) Tecumseh, Native American leader of the Shawnee--Canada
Every few weeks I will be posting process work and finished portraits of each of these sleepers. Stay tuned!

"Was it a vision, or a waking dream?"

Illustrations inspired by Romantic poet John Keats' (1795-1821) "Ode to a Nightingale" and William Wordworth's "Tintern Abbey".

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sunnyside Beach Juried Art Show and Sale

The Juried Art Show and Sale at Sunnyside Beach from September 9-11 marked the finale in my stretch of summer exhibitions. My experience at Sunnyside Pavilion taught me that there is credence to the common phrase, ‘save the best for last’. It was a weekend filled with unique opportunities to convene with emerging and established fine artists from various cultural backgrounds and creative practises inside one of Toronto’s historic architectural gems. Favourable weather and an enthusiastic, intelligent crowd were also highlighting elements of the well-operated, successful show. I was fortunate enough to meet several talented personalities whose unwavering dedication and passion for their art set a standard for my own. Feel free to browse the portfolio links of OCAD marvels Kate Hogg and Melissa Charles; James Bentley, Jen LipskiIrina Koulikova, Marta OgonekCorey WaurechenMaliha Rahman and Olga Hutsul to name a few. I would also like to offer my congratulations to the sponsored award recipients, Caitlin Doherty and Jillian MacLachlan; and the People’s Choice Winner E.J. Davy.

My heartfelt gratitude goes out to the Sunnyside Beach Juried Art Show and Sale organizers and assistants Jazz Morrow and Michael Romaniuk for their tireless efforts and optimism.

The spectacular Sunnyside Pavilion on Toronto's West-End waterfront.

I was located in prime real estate of the Greco-Roman marquee, with two open tent faces which allowed for copious sunshine.

The lower level of the Pavilion, complete with a cafe and outdoor tin type photo studio.

No better pairing than Homer's The Iliad and a cup of Tyski on the beach.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fan Expo 2011

Once the evenings begin to cool and our minds refocus on the start of a new semester, we acknowledge the fact that we’ve crossed the threshold into an Indian summer. Taking place annually on the last weekend of August, Toronto welcomes FanExpo Canada--a haven for lovers of the science fiction, horror, anime, comic book and gaming entertainment genres. For every year I have attended, the show has never been short of thrills or interesting finds. Only there will you witness throngs of people gather for the man who evokes equally mixed feelings of love and irritation, William Shatner; eyes bedecked with steam-punk goggles, Marvel superheroes pacing red carpets or Fearless Fred.

I had the opportunity of exhibiting alongside my talented friend and classmate, Miko for a second year in the event’s popular Artist’s Alley. Our experience as first-time exhibitors at Fan Expo 2010 ultimately prepared us for the presentation and trends we capitalized on in the following year. We also had the benefit of being surrounded by some major talent in Sheridan Illustration. I want to express my utmost thanks to those of you who visited our booth and offered your help and kind sentiments. I missed you all throughout the course of the summer and in the case of some, Fan Expo represented a pleasant reunion.

Now for a few updates before I dive into the riveting four-day Fan Expo weekend:

The Hobbit, Chapter One: An Unexpected Party

A 75 % work in progress, completed in gray-scale just in time for printing. I have since endeavoured to add colour and breaks of light between the oak leaves, despite the fact that the scene itself occurs at night.

The Hobbit, Chapter 6: Out of the Frying Pan Into the Fire

Our polished booth, located at A7 in the Artist’s Alley.

Miko’s brilliant arrangement for his Tolkien-themed merchandise. I am more than pleased that his initial design for Dwarven Mead coasters became a reality.

Miko, thank you for another expo enriched by your creativity, good humour and hard work.

The view from our booth, overseeing the entire Artist's Alley.

Marvel’s Thor descends from Asgard to greet Fearless Fred and his Big Sexy Comics team of illustrators and writers:

Carnage gets camera-ready:

Nostalgia at best. The father from one of my favourite childhood television shows, Reboot.

Custom-built, imported Samurai armour from Japan.

Dobby the House Elf follows a Harry Potter fan into the photo-op for Tom Felton.

Posing for a photo-op with Fearless Fred from The Edge and Teletoon fame.

He’s grotesque, unsightly, and he’s all mine. Weta’s impeccably detailed Catapult Troll maquette from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy films. 

A pre-thesis gift that I feel compelled to share with everyone :). Peanuts is my philosophy go-to.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Guide to The Hobbit

This August I will be exhibiting at Fanexpo Canada for my second year in a row. The four day event promises another weekend of monumental attractions, celebrities, comic creators, artists and as always, a bustling crowd. To the delight of fans anticipating the two-part release of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, I have chosen to dedicate my efforts into illustrating J.R.R. Tolkien’s much beloved novel as a small introductory book. Filled with a compendium of facts from Tolkien’s Middle Earth mythopoeia, fans of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy films and books can learn about Bilbo Baggins’ There and Back Again journey and its major players through pictures and accompanying text. The illustrations will profile each group of dwarves as represented in different scenes from the novel.

Thankfully I am able to design Tolkien’s characters with little to no influence from the film, with the exception of what few images exist from pre-production concept art. Jackson’s dwarves deviate from our pre-conceived notion about the appearance of these underground dwellers and are instead keenly tailored to their personalities as well as culture. There were some reservations, however, about how far the director was willing to tamper with the classic visual characteristics of dwarves and their racial values. Thorin Oakenshield and Kili, for instance, fail to meet the Longbeard standard with their ostensible grooming and lack of facial hair. To be fair, after the handsomeness brought onscreen by Aragorn and Legolas from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, he had to appease the female demographic watching for hunks ;).

My dwarves resemble more of the Iron Age Scandinavians I envisioned with my first reading of The Hobbit. In addition to referencing clothing and armour from concept art produced by The Lord of the Rings Trilogy art department, I consulted museum imagery of preserved Iron Age bodies recovered from bogs in Sweden. With their pointed caps and shoes, the bog people embody the true essence of the dwarves Tolkien would have scribed about from Norse mythology.

Sketch for Thorin Oakenshield:

“We are met to discuss our plans, our ways, means, policy and devices. We shall soon before the break of day start on our long journey, a journey from which some of us, or perhaps all of us (except our friend and counsellor, the ingenious wizard Gandalf) may never return” 
An Unexpected Party; pg. 17

Sketch for Ori, Nori and Dori:

“There was a howl of anger and surprise from the goblins. Loud cried the Lord of the Eagles, to whom Gandalf had now spoken…Other birds flew to the tree-tops and seized the dwarves, who were scrambling up now as far as they ever dared to go” 
Out of the Frying-Pan Into the Fire; pgs. 100-101

The Space Between Opening Reception July 21

As soon as the activity and splendour of the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition subsided, I realized that I had approximately two weeks to prepare my final pieces for The Space Between collaborative exhibition. The race to opening reception taught me more than a few lessons in effective time management. In summary, I am working an entire painting simultaneously rather than allotting my time to marginal, precious details. An obvious suggestion that has only taken hold of my stubborn ways recently.

Thursday, July 21st marked the opening reception of The Space Between at Gallery 1313 on Queen Street West. Rachel Idzerda, Kailey Lang, Celia Krampien and I’s work welcomed an overwhelming crowd of attendees. It was a successful night and I must extend my heartfelt thanks to all the students, faculty, friends, family, Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition goers and passer-bys that came to opening night or visited the show during its 10 day duration. As for my fellow exhibitors, you guys are gold. Working with you was such a joy, thank you for bringing your talents to this experience.

Photographs of pieces exclusive to the gallery show. I will post scanned versions soon!  

In-studio process work for previous postings Prince Lindworm and Oedipus Rex. Notably listening to theYoutube audiobook for The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien in both :)