Sunday, April 21, 2013

New life. New York. Old masks. Old blog.


I've been out of school for almost a year now, and the necessity for an active online presence has become...significantly more important.

Anyways! Here's a couple in-progress shots for the masks I made last year for my thesis-project "Into the West." The play was an hour-long solo show, in which I functioned as a playwright, actor, and designer; each role presented new and unique challenges.

I knew from the beginning of my proposal that I wanted to use masks, and as I've come to learn- there are more than enough ways to do this. I had the opportunity the year before to visit the studio of my professor Tony Janello. His unique and highly refined process of additive sculpting was a revelation to me. Starting the sculpture with a cardboard/sonotube base, layering with paper-towel-mache, and finishing with Paperclay created the ultimate light-weight, strong, and highly detailed form that I translated here for the mask on the left (Friar Sand). The mask on the right (Monkey King 2.0) was mostly Paperclay (a light, air-dry clay. carvable, sandable, AND re-wettable), and while I love the material, it is highly brittle without a strong foundation (wire mesh for this one). I plan on using Tony's technique for all manner of puppets and masks- when he first showed me his process, my mind went instantly to practical and theatrical applications.

While working on these masks, I most certainly entered into "flow state," which does not happen with me as often as I like, and is a sure sign that I should revisit this work. "Flow" is an incredibly powerful idea for *everyone*, but especially anyone in the creative arts.

The mask designs were based on the Chinese opera face-paint designs from which the characters originate.



"Into the West" was a semi-autobiographical story framed around the classic Chinese folk-tale "Journey to the West." It premiered in May 2012 as part of the Brown University SoloFest. Gallery coming soon!


My time in New York has been flying by, and I'm closing in on the anniversary of my graduation from RISD. I can look back at a handful of accomplishments in this turbulent period of my life, but I'm looking forward to so much more. I think it's been almost two years since I posted here, I now have an intimidating backlog of work to upload, and my life has changed in more ways than I have patience to write about in one post. I've done some designing, some acting (and auditioning to more success than I could have ever expected!), and some illustrating. But no masks, and certainly no oil paintings. I mean to rectify this. I've recently reconfigured the furniture in my apartment, in hopes to cram a studio space in my bedroom. The sooner it's ready, the sooner I can get started on my next mask project - Jungian archetype masks!

I have, however, had the opportunity to learn more mask performance (since Bali in 2011) with the venerable Per Brahe. I came across him years ago while reading an acting textbook's article on Michael Chekhov technique (which offers an utterly MIND-BLOWING synthesis between acting and visual art), and somehow, by the alignment of the planets I was fortunate enough to meet him and take two of his classes this year. I am as humbled as I am grateful to have met him, and I eagerly anticipate the next chance I have to learn from him.

I'll end this post with a note on New York- it's tough, it's fast, and it's most certainly stressful. But if you put yourself out there as openly and honestly as you can, it pays off. The people you know, and the people you meet will resurface in your life in more ways than you can imagine, especially considering how dense the population is here. And I've only lived here for ten months! The sheer amount of serendipity I've experienced in this city is almost incomprehensible.

Waiting is hard, and finding ways to pay rent can be even harder, but believing in the possibility for the life you want to live is the first and most important step in making it happen. I wavered in this belief when I first got here, but I see some very promising things on the horizon.

-Sean

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Back to my roots...

No, I haven't forgotten about this blog! It has been a long time since I started it, and this post is quite a long read (worthy of at least two very big posts), so take your time, I certainly did! I don't have a whole lot of finished things (sketches and half-finished masks...) to show for my summer- which was still very well spent working on campus, doing lots of cooking and reading, which brings me to the subject of this post!

First and foremost, it was without a doubt my fascination with sci-fi and fantasy worlds that brought me to pursuing a career in illustration. As a few of you may have found some of my *very* old works floating around on the web, some of my earliest illustration attempts were characters from authored to cultural mythologies. Early on, my elementary school music teacher as well as my sister turned my attention to fantasy literature, and I eagerly began with Tolkien's masterpieces- The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and yes, even the Silmarillion.

Dragons were a fairly obvious trope for me to turn to, and I looked to artists like John Howe and Alan Lee for their depictions of Smaug and other illustrations set in Middle Earth. Scientifically informed dragon design has been an extension of my interest in sci-fi/fantasy. I also looked through a lot of books on animals alive and extinct (I'm watching a special on paleontology right now!). Many hours were also spent in the dinosaur wing in Chicago's Field Museum. My professor Lars Grant-West is something of a specialist when it comes to dragons, and I am highly anticipating taking his Creature Lab class in just a few weeks! 

In the mean time, my friend and fellow RISDoid Leo De Luzio is organizing an anthology of RISD-created dragon illustrations. I actually haven't drawn one of these beasties in quite a few years, so I was a bit rusty in whipping these sketches up.

The first dragon I came up with felt too generic, so I stopped about halfway through and did another. This second one was something of a hybrid mix of komodo dragon, thorny devil, and a hint of mammoth/elephant. Lately I haven't been so keen on the six-limbed dragon that is more common, so I attached the wings to the fore limbs like a bat or a pterosaur. This seems to be a more modern trend with the design used for the movie "Reign of Fire," and even more recently with the new HBO series "Game of Thrones" (I've been going through the thousands of pages that is George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, which Game of Thrones is based on, for a majority of the summer and some of last year). This was very close to being my submission to the RISD Book of Dragons (I even made the setting on campus!), but something just didn't feel right about it- I even put it into photoshop and began coloring it, but it still didn't suit me. I might take another crack at it later on...


I ended up settling on this final one below, which you could argue how much of a dragon it really is. I figured that since there certainly is a gray area between birds and dinosaurs, why not dragons? I decided to make it a bit more mythological, so I made it something of a mix with a phoenix, along with a third eye as a reference to both mythology and the real life "parietal eye" found in various creatures like the tuatara (a very small, but close relative to dinosaurs). I also decided to give it hind legs inspired by the fairly recently discovered microraptor, giving it a total of four "wings." The head gave me a little trouble, but I got it to a place I liked. I then finished it with a swallow's feather pattern for the tail.


I'm still not completely comfortable with digital painting, but I gave it a shot along with the help of a few brushes by some of the leading professionals in the Illustration/Concept Art field. I may try again with a completely different technique, though I'd like to get closer towards my aesthetic of painterly textures, staying loose without too much rendering.


And now...FANART. Yes, my path to RISD was paved with fantasy fanart. So now I return with some armor sketches of some classic characters from the aforementioned "A Song of Ice and Fire," starting with none other than Robert Baratheon, in his pre-king days when he could actually fit into his armor. I'm trying to keep with the aesthetic that HBO has set with their production design (dream job? maybe?)- historically informed, yet still classy and subtle. 

This one isn't as original- I managed to spy Robert's greathelm early on in episode 5 of Game of Thrones, as well as his infamous breastplate which he had since...outgrown. I did some research on German/Gothic and French plate amor, and I came up with the final additions to the suit. I look forward to painting in the rest!


The next one is Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, killed on the field of battle by Robert in a climactic battle. I had the idea that the Kingsguard (royal bodyguard) armor was styled after Targaryen aesthetics (seeing as they did create the order upon conquering the lands), so I basically copied the design and added on some "draconic" flourishes. I may decide to add a visor. When colored, the suit will be black, with the iconic ruby/red ornamentations.


I had a bit more fun with this next one. Known as the "Red Viper," Oberyn Martell hails from the warm and arid lands of Dorne. There seems to be a lot of implication that this region is inspired by Spain in its Moorish days, so I did some research on Moorish/Saracen/Arabic armor, as well as the Greek hoplites who were also famed for their phalanx of spear, shield, and light armor.


Finally, I'll close with a little preview of what I'm calling the "Elfwood Challenge." This is a reiteration of an earlier (MUCH earlier) character- the seldom depicted Tuor, in the moment he uncovers the ancient relics of a long dead king.


Thanks for reading! Til next time,

-Sean

Sunday, May 15, 2011

For real, this time

Blogging is new and somewhat foreign to me, but this is where I'll be posting my work as it happens, as regularly as I can (and in progress too?).

"Jalan-jalan" was a term I found myself using during my study abroad in Bali, Indonesia. The phrase literally translates as "path, path," but it's more colloquially understood as "going," "wandering," or "hanging out." Often foreigners (betrayed by their lack of motorbikes) are given a lot of attention, abeit polite attention, and are asked where they're going or coming from. Generally the phrase "jalan-jalan" could be used to deflect this attention, that and with my ...misleading racial identity I managed to pass as a local often enough. So I figured it was a suitable name for my blog, aimless, but not without intent.

Finals at RISD are now well under way, and junior reviews are a week from tomorrow. These pieces are mostly in progress, so hopefully they'll be ready by wednesday.

This first piece is for a the Mistborn series by Brandon (not Brian, as I made that mistake today...) Sanderson. I've been trying out a digital/oil sketch process that I think is decent, but there are some logistics that make me just a but unsatisfied with the final. Still not entirely comfortable with digital to go all the way with it, but this is something of a compromise. It may have worked better for the Wolverine Netsuke piece I did last week, with concern to style, scale, content, etc. Process was a little more intensive than usual with the National Cathedral (said to inspire one of the buildings in the story) rose window, and several reference shots for the pose that may not have been exactly right. Not sure if they bottom window tangent has been fixed, but I'm not sure what else I can do at this point...

sketch

"final"

I've also been teaching myself Zbrush with a little help from Ryan Kingslien. His book has an excellent section on facial anatomy for sculptors. Though it is a Zbrush/Maya tutorial, the book itself has some really great tips for any kind of figure sculpture, digital or not. Anyways, I've been working on a full figure to a certain degree of realism. From there, I'll use it as a template from which I can create a multitude of human/humanoid characters. The whole thing was made in Zbrush starting with strategically placed zspheres, then moving up in poly count for higher detail. In addition to the Kingslien book, I found a number of good tutorial videos. I've also modeled the basic structure of the rest of the body (now adding muscles!!), and I'll be finishing that within the week.

PolyFrame

green clay

Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

-Sean