Friday, November 6, 2009

To Kill A Bluebird...

As was mentioned in an earlier post, this is a piece called " No Toys For Men" done for "Break" the Anthology. It's due to be released some time before Christmas, but there's currently no definitive date. Since it actually IS coming out, I supposed I shouldn't be posting this. Ehhh, oh well.

The theme of the anthology is, of course, centered around the concept of "breaking." For quite some time, I was at a lost as to what I should do. The obvious thing to do would have been to draw some character breaking through something, or to conceptualize a broken heart. I wanted to be a bit more clever than that, so I made a list of every concept, scenario, and phrase related to breaking as possible. The list ranged from the abstract (broken spirit), to the physical (broken neck). It soon dawned on me that a combination of both tangible and intangible forms of breaking would yield the most interesting result.

The intangible aspect of it would be the most important, so I began my exploration there. Emotional, psychological, or spiritual anguish were always favorite subjects of mine. Whatever I did would most likely represent one of those three states. I eventually found myself wanting to deal with the establishment and subsequent destruction of happiness.

That process potentially covers many forms of breaking: A breaking of ones dreams, perceptions, and concepts of reality. It is disillusionment, pure and absolute. To fully embody it, I needed a powerful symbol of happiness.

The most iconic and profound symbol of happiness is, of course, the bluebird.

The bluebird of happiness is an enduring symbol of joyous, childlike, innocence. Inversely, the death of a bluebird represents disenchantment and a transition into adulthood. It was then that it became evident to me that my primary visual cue should be not just a bluebird, but a bluebird ravaged and in ruin.

In my research of bluebirds, I ran across a species of bluebird known as the Fairy-Bluebird.

As brilliant as its blue plumage is, I didn't want to use the male of the species as a source of imagery. Luckily, the female of the species was pretty colorful as well (as opposed to most bird species).

This was actually a turn for the better. It's appropriate that the blue coloration of the females is more turquoise in hue, because the name "Fairy-Bluebird" reminded me of "The Fairy with the Turquoise Hair." from "The Adventures of Pinocchio."
She's more commonly known as the "Blue Fairy."

Finding examples of her with "turquoise hair" was pretty difficult.

In Disney's "Pinocchio", she's a blond with blue wings and a blue gown.

In the feature "Un burattino di nome Pinocchio" , her hair is blue, but not really turquoise.

Ah, but I digress. The Fairy with Turquoise Hair, in her original book incarnation, is a motherly figure that helps Pinocchio mature and earn his humanity through good will. Her role in Pinocchio's transformation is a bit more direct outside of the book. The Disney "Blue Fairy" not only granted Pinocchio's wish to be a real boy, but was also the one who brought him to life in the first place. That was a granting of Gepetto's wish upon a star. Through and through, she was a benevolent being of wish fulfillment. Wish fulfillment is the divine-like realization of a dream and the promise of happiness.

Pinocchio also lead to the idea of including a boy in the illustration. Through the destruction of the bluebird, the boy would be changed, or transformed in some manner. I then asked myself, "What should his relationship with the bird be?". Was it a pet? Was it some sort of gift, or did he capture it himself?

Or,........perhaps he made it. Yes, the meticulous building of a dream. Forging one's own reality, piece by piece. Creating a vessel to take one far into the heavens where dreams reign supreme and each star is a covenant that righteous aspirations are rewarded. The sun, being the greatest of which.

To best illustrate to idea of constructing happiness, I thought it'd be appropriate that the bird be artificial, a toy even. A boy who built his own toy bird. However, the bird would have to be more than a toy. An embodiment of childish idealism would have to be a guardian of sorts. Something massive. Hence, a giant mechanical bird.

I wanted the design of the bird-mech to be primarily reminiscent of those little wind-up tin toys. If possible, also I wanted to harken back to classic imagery of clockwork birds like the one in "The Nightingale."

For that reason, I made most of it very rounded and smooth with some "clockwork" accents here and there. You'll also notice the placement of the boy near the opening between the birds legs. Obviously it's to symbolize rebirth, but it also makes a nice focal point.

Here I altered the design of the bird-mech to match actual bird anatomy (namely the wings and legs). At the same time, I tried to retain the "tin toy" look. I also changed the boy's expression to that of shame rather then distress. I wanted to get across the idea that he was responsible for the bird's demise. To really drive it home, as well as to sell the whole "vessel/vehicle" aspect of it, I added a cockpit to the bird's head.

The boy has inadvertently crashed it and in doing so jolted himeslf out of his idealistic bubble.

The bird's wing blocks out the sun he cherished so much. Only the light of his new found perspective shall guide him.

I left an opening in the bird's neck for aesthetic and lighting purposes, but also to subtlety play around with the nature of the light source. It's obviously meant to be coming from within the bird, but you may also interpret it as sunlight passing through the bird. In that case, the artificial light of his bird-mech is really the light of his beloved sun.

In Native American culture, bluebirds are messengers of the sun who herald the dawn of a new day. The bluebird in this context could be not just a representative, but a messenger of the boy's own happiness. The bird-mech may have actually destroyed itself. It knew that its prolonged existence would hinder the boy's development. The boy had to be brought down to earth and be reborn as a man. This is represented by the tall shadow he's casting.

I thought nothing of it at first, but after closer examination, I thought to myself about the importance of his adulthood being represented a shadow. Who he is on the inside has been changed forever, but he's still a child. His transformation into adulthood may just be a superficial facade. A person caught between two states of being. More than a child, but less than a man. He's left to wander the grey wilderness, searching for meaning. Searching for something to believe in again.

I that doubt much of that will be very apparent to anyone who sees this in publication. At the very least, it was a cathartic experience for me. It commemorates a milestone in my life that I will touch upon in full on Monday Nov. 30th. The 1 year anniversary of my bluebird's death.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Shattered Wings of Blue

Here again we have a piece that was finished quite some time ago, but has only now shown itself on this blog. There are actually a lot more like it. For example, I have a whole slew of concept art I did for a company project that fell through. Look for that soon.

What we have here is an illustration done for anthology known as "Break." It was put together by some college colleagues, but it hasn't come yet. I'm not sure if it ever will, so I decided to go ahead and post my entry here. I may do another step by step walkthrough for this in another post. I'll also elaborate on the story behind the piece's abstract concept.

Also, I'll post bigger versions of these pix.

The piece is called "No Toys for Men."

Black and White (interior art) version