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

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