Saturday, October 19, 2013

Even FatMen Set Sail!



     So... I'm working on a NEW FatMan piece this month and I know many of you have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what that even means, but I am...
This post is not about the new piece.  I will be sharing that with the SketchBlog later this month. This post is about a previous FatMan incarnation...   ...   ...

     I've written a blog about the FatMan previously and what I think he represents to me as an artist, but I don't think I shared my ambitious idea of what I have been doing with him.  I had this impulse to create variations of the same character, as a series.  I'm thinking this would visually represent possible manifestations of my Muse and would allow me to explore more of why this character means something to me as a human being. 


     So I have decided to create 40 FatMen (or FatWomen) before I turn 40.  I started work on this project after I turned 30.  I was thinking to myself that really the next big milestone in a person's life is turning 40 and I daydreamed about what I would do to commemorate that hallmark.
My partner had previously turned 40 that year and he had created this really neat illustration of the number 40 and his name.  It was creative and made me wonder if I could do something creatively similar.  I then fantasized about this ABSOLUTELY INSANE idea of creating 40 illustration of the FatMan as different incarnations through time, space, literature and pop culture.  I thought that it would be really neat to create such a large body of work in the 10 year span I had to do so and then perhaps through a gallery show/birthday party to celebrate my 40th.  I would share with others all my various visions of The FatMan and what he could be.  I admit, this seems like such a silly fantasy.



     It did, however, got me to thinking seriously about the artwork body... 40 FatMen... How cool and fun it would be to work on an illustration series through time, selecting incarnations of my Muse as it came to me.  So right then I decided I would try to Go For It.  I figured, why not. Now whether the gallery show part of that fantasy actually comes to pass is another matter entirely.  I could definitely accomplish the body of work, though. So that is what I began to do three years ago. 

      I started out with a list of different ideas, brainstorming possible FatMan incarnations, not necessarily deciding what the 40 should be right then. I did want to have a jumping off point to begin the journey. I knew that the list of what incarnations would make it to the finish line would vary over the course of the 10 years I would be working on the project. 

An excerpt form my idea journal:
08.07.2010
40 FATMEN for the 40TH

-Sailor
-Molly Brown from Titanic
-Clown
-King of Hearts (Suicide King)
-Queen of Hearts or other face cards
-Drag Queen
-Female Version
-1920s Vintage Striped Swimsuit with Innertube (Sunbathers)
-Tacky Car or Door-toDoor Vaccuum Salesman.
-A Super Hero
(the following have been added on since then.)
-SOmething with a Facebook Theme
-Fairy Tale Theme (Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks, etc.)
-Robin Hood
-A Magician/Illustionist
-A Screen Printer
-Zues or Appollo or some Greek God
-A Merman with a trident


     I have mentioned before about my Secret Tree House in my head that I visit when I wish to escape the world and create something new.  I had promised to post a blog describing more in detail about that space, but this is not that post either.  The relevance of mentioning the tree house is that I can my visitation time there Hermit Time.  I turn my phone off, I talk to no one, I put on a favorite movie or audio book and loose myself for several hours.  I'm often found in my pajamas, but my mind is elsewhere.  SO one day during Hermit Time, I decided I would pull out the Idea Journal and begin work on a new project from it.  I saw my notes for my crazy 40 FatMen show-thing and decided I might as well start on one since there were so many to do. 

      I was a  little afraid at first because I wasn't quite sure how I was going to achieve creating a similar yet different FatMan incarnation without it looking like a completely different character.  This was quite a challenge, and a challenge I wasn't sure how to wrap my head around. This Hermit Time Day, however, I decided to just Go For It and see what comes of the effort.  I began by choosing an incarnation. I chose the Sailor.


      When I originally brainstormed and wrote down Sailor, I was thinking of an old fashion 1940s US Navy Man.  I always loved the look of the uniform and decided this would be a great opportunity to do something with that random interest in the aesthetics of that uniform.
For those who are unfamiliar with this particular period uniform, just think of the Cracker Jack Man.  He is an illustration of a Navy Man wearing the same type of uniform I am describing.  I also pulled out my original sketch of the FatMan from that day at the Flea Market as well as the other drawings used for the current version of him with his head in the clouds.



     I began analyzing my caricature and what elements made him him and which ones I could manipulate without changing him beyond recognition.  His very prominent nose, his visage in complete profile, his closed eyes, the wave-like shape of the line that creates his eyelashes, the hook end of his nostril, his petite yet masculine chin, his elongated (almost elf-like) ear, the front curl of his hair,
his small pouting lips that suggest the hint of a mischievous yet wise Mona Lisa Smile (I nod to the greats and to many of my favorites when I can.)  among the obvious characteristic of being fat are some of the MAIN Attributes specific to the FatMan image.  I did my research like always and began sketching a version of the FatMan in his new Sailor uniform. You can see the progression.




     I then decided I needed to figure out what would go behind him.  He would of course be set in the arched window frame, just as the previous incarnation, however, the background elements behind him will be specific to the theme and to this manifested incarnation of the Muse.  The main focus would be him, but there had to be elements that alluded to what type of inspiration this Muse created, if that makes sense.  I chose various animals and elements of nautical nature based on this principle.  I took great care crafting how each element would look and what purpose it served to the piece as a whole.  As you can see below, these are the first sketches of individual elements I wanted to incorporate.  I was at first thinking about having him "float" in front of this oceanic composition I was building behind him, however, when I decided to include the Light house, I decided to place my FatSailor on the docks of the harbor.  Perhaps the port of my creativity, Port Imagination (cheesy, I admit, but I've grown fond of the name.) 

     The element I like most in this piece: 3-way tie: The Ship in a bottle, the Octopus and the Mom tattoo on his arm.
The element I like least: The seagull.


      I just don't think the seagull turned out quite as I would have liked it too.  It's original sketch had more life and vibrancy than she did in the Final Illo, I think.  It's more than likely due to the fact that when you scale things down that you originally drew large, they don't always work out quite the way you would have liked.  Also, not every element can be the star. The FatMan is the main focus of these pieces and all other elements MUST play Second fiddle. Always.  The Octopus character, though intriguing in her own right, had to be down played.  I did bring her back in another illustration I did for Illustration Friday one week.  So she got to be a star later on.  What I regret most about this piece is having to cut the Whale... I LOVED the whale and I thought she was so wonderful.  That Martha's Vineyard prep-brand whale kind of reminds me of my whale I had drew for this piece, though Vineyard Vines brand wasn't around then, at least not here.  Anyway, I cut her out to have the ship in the bottle, which I LOVE more, I guess.  I didn't want to draw just a ship in the back ground.  I wanted to incorporate an element of fantasy that might clue in the viewer that this illustration is one of a day dream.  That the FatMan in the picture is not supposed to be real but "real-ish."  No to mention, I just have this affinity for the aesthetic of a ship in a bottle.  I have always been fascinated with them.  It truly is the Hobby I always wanted, but will probably not invest myself in. Only because I would choose other hobbies before it.


Anyway...
 

     After creating my elements, I began thumbnail sketching out possible compositions for the background behind my Fat Sailor.  I think I actually ended up taking two of those possible compositional options to finish and then choosing the second as my Final.  Since I was still unsure how my Illustration would go, I played it safe in the drawing process with a great tip I picked up from one of my professors.  They had told me to draw different individual elements of an illustration on separate sheets of tracing paper then shift them around on top of each other to find a composition you are satisfied with.
I employed this principle with this piece in particular.  I drew the arched frame that would become a standard with this series. I then taped down a sheet of tracing paper over the frame and began illustrating the new version of the FatMan into the Fat Sailor.  Luckily, I nailed it on the first go, because I had spent all that previous time studying the FatMan and his defining characteristics.  However, should it had gone wrong, I could just throw away that one sheet of tracing paper and be able to just redraw what wasn't working without having to start from the beginning with ALL of it.  Same way with the background composition and elements.  They were other layers of tracing paper on top of the Fat Sailor.  The "MOM" tattoo was kind of a last minute idea that came to me. It too had it's own layer.  Once I was happy with EVERYTHING, I placed a blank piece of tracing paper over all the other layers and retraced my Final Composition to ready it for inking.


      When I inked it the first time, Some of the smaller elements didn't work out so well, So I individually inked them separately then composited them into the other inked drawing, digitally.  After I had a Final Inked Illustration, I was ready for color.  I played with the color composition until I was happy with it then began the long arduous road of Digitally Painting behind my drawing.


     I kind of began keeping an impromptu SketchBlog on my Facebook for my friends and family to get "dailies" on the progress of the New FatMan piece.  I have added those progress shots below.  When I finished, I was so very pleased with the new incarnation of my Muse that I made him into one of my promo postcards that year to kind of celebrate the accomplishment of getting over that initial fear hurtle of setting this decade long project into motion.
 In the past 3 years, I have completed several other FatMen illustrations in the series and, as I mentioned previously, am currently finishing up a new one.  I'm not exactly "On Schedule" but am enjoying the journey and longevity of working on a large series over the course of my 30s.  The concept appeals to me and gives me an opportunity to visually explore the spaces where my ideas may come from. 

     I hope you enjoy the illustration and keep watch out for the new piece I'll be sharing with you all very soon.

Until next Hermit Time,
Keep sketching, keep thinking, keep laughing and most important of all, keep making art. 
Cheers,
LEWIS















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