Monday, March 09, 2009

Tsarevitch Ivan and the Fire Bird

For this piece here, Ivan and the Fire Bird, I feel like there's some history to get through. If you'll bear with me, I've done some of the explaining in older posts so what I've got for you below is a compilation of all of those posts in context. Hopefully our trips back and forth through time won't be too terribly confusing. Enjoy!

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I read once a quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald, an American writer widely regarded as one of the twentieth century's greatest,

"...in life every person searches for reincarnations of a former aesthetic experience. The writer or painter tries to approximate some moment in their life when they had very real contact with awe."

Awe? Maybe.

Giant birds? Definitely!

I've discovered that for the last 4 or 5 years of my life I have done at least one painting a year stemming from a single idea I had 5 years ago. I've come close to the idea, approached it, but never hit it. This is part of a post from May 2008 that encapsulates the thing I'm trying to explain here :

I've got a piece in the works that is about three years in the making. That sounds ambitious, you say. Sort of, say I.

There is a piece that I've had in my head for about three years now. Various ideas about the idea have made to finish but they were all only inspired by this one idea. I hadn't the power three years ago to make this piece but now I feel it is within my reach.

It's a spread in the forth coming Ticket.

Here's the thumbnail for it:


I don't think this is even the original thumbnail. Even so, it's the one that I've had tacked up on my desk at work taunting me for the last 1,000 or so days. What's so complicated about that? -- I see a crude thumbnail of maybe a giant bird, or several, some Grecian style columns, possibly a foreground. I think there's some people, in the foreground, perhaps gathering something off the ground. Hm. Hopefully grapes. Or olives.

I know, who knows. For whatever reason it has eluded me but I've still been interested.

Here's a piece that almost came from that idea, just the birds, really. It would it have been the above thumbnail but the power eluded me and it veered off into smoke and war.


Here's another. I guess about a year later, still not it.


Other than these two pieces having big birds, they both bear the distinction of being pieces which started out as my stab at the top thumbnail but they veered off into their own territory, the second one a little more successfully so-- it had another idea pulling it in another direction:


So now what?

Production on Ticket is underway and under a fantastic deadline. I've got all my thumbnails and storyboards together, everything is in place.

I don't think this particular spread in Ticket is going to blow any minds like a piece "three years in the making" ought to, but that's not the point in any case. The point is that, hopefully, it'll be a great piece surrounded by other great pieces and no one will ever need to know that I've kept a doodle tacked up at my desk for three years.

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Fast forward back to now. Here is part of a post from July 2008 concerning the completed piece I was talking about back then :


Ticket didn't take off (...that ...might be an unintentional pun) until this piece. When I brought up this picture for Ticket, it was the first one I feel that I really had to knuckle down and improve on to do. The simplest things stump me. I went through half a dozen or more thumbnails for this one. It'd been several nights in a row and I'd made it through the first 4 spreads. I drew everything at about 14x20. This piece has managed to be my favorite one out of the bunch. (I think, it's hard for me to know and harder to pick one) but I think it might be though, there's something in it that completes a little half inch by half inch thumbnail I did and tacked up on my desk maybe two years ago.


I don't know. There's always been something that struck me in it. I'd had the idea for sort of Grecian architecture, giant birds landing, they had more Greek architecture on their backs and something. Lights at night, a party. In the end having such regal birds carry something on their backs felt like they were just big winged donkeys and felt demeaning.

There maybe a way to yet make it work. I'm sure I'll be back.

Who knows for sure, but it's nice to think that some ideas are good enough to be mined again for fresh pieces. I love drawing birds. And little flying boats and clock towers. Enough? I don't know, maybe, for a little while.

. . .

No, it's never enough.

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We're back to the present. Whew.

Well, in truth I don't feel like that piece above (while I still get enjoyment out of it) is truly the completion of that small idea I had way back. I'll be at it for a long time I believe. But honestly I enjoy the process, and I also just enjoy drawing and painting enormous birds. I've taken a pause from chasing that idea and set my pursuits in trying to perfect the way I see these birds.

My forthcoming story in Flight 6 (look for it July 2009!) revolves in some respect around the life and death of a bird, yes, a giant one.

Here's a page from that story that doesn't give anything away :


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When I originally began planning Grimm and Other Folk Tales, I looked for stories with three key elements -- princesses and monsters and birds. It may not be exactly that intellectually thin but it's close. No, there are hopefully a few other themes in there that I am hoping to get across, but, for the visuals of the stories I looked for the princesses, the monsters, and the birds.

Ivan and the Fire Bird, a Russian folk tale, is a somewhat risky one to include in that it is an "Aarne-Thompson type 550, the quest for the golden bird/firebird" which means that it and The Nine Peahens (which is another piece I've done for the show) are very likely a derivative of the same source. Meaning, they're closely related ideas; golden apples, bird(s) stealing them, prince sitting up at night to catch the thief, etc. however the stories do distinguish themselves from one another in the way the events play out.

To separate the ideas I made the fire bird in this painting a giant bird. The story doesn't say that it is, but then again the story doesn't say it's not. It's got a talking wolf for goodness' sakes.

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A king's apple tree bore golden apples, but every night, one was stolen. Guards reported that the Firebird stole them. The king told his two oldest sons that the one who caught the bird would receive half his kingdom and be his heir. They drew lots to see who would be first, but both fell asleep; they tried to claim it had not come, but it had stolen an apple. Finally Ivan Tsarevich, the youngest son, asked to try; his father was reluctant because of his youth but consented. Ivan remained awake and caught a tail feather. The Firebird did not return, but the king longed for the bird. He said that whoever caught it would have half his kingdom and be his heir. Wiki.

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The thumbnail.


The rough.



The color comp.


The pencil.



(details)

I really decimated the watercolor so I'll not be posting that here but I got exactly what I needed from it, value and texture-wise.

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As always, none of the work I've posted yet is a finished, final piece. These are final drawings and final under-painting but they are all just steps in the process.

I'll be revealing the final work at the show opening.

In production news, I am nearly up to being in real time with these posts, this evening I completed Beauty and the Beast and tomorrow night I'll begin final work on Ivan and the Fire Bird. Mark your calendars, April 3rd, 2009. I hope to see you there!

Here is the official show poster with all the important information :

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Ivan and the Fire Bird
from Tsarevitch Ivan, the Fire Bird and the Gray Wolf

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Next post : The Three Billy Goats Gruff, or another piece that I've been after for way too long.

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3 comments:

Andrew Ramos said...

The art I've seen for this show looks incredible. Really looking forward to it, Cory. April 3rd cannot get here soon enough!

Cory said...

Thanks man! I'm looking forward to April 3rd as well. It's going to be fun -- Erin's got some great stuff in the works, food and presentation-wise.

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Very nice art-works. I think we cannot ignore this kind of effort, most of the readers are thinking about those designs and you know what? so do I, because they're awesome, specially the second one.
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