Saturday, November 2, 2013

The FatKing: Another Unfortunate Suicide and Assassination Gone Wrong...

...Or Just Another Sad Case of Running Out of Carbon Paper.

     It's Halloween and I find myself caught up in the smells and sights of the Season.  I LOVE seeing everyone in their costumes and I like to walk or bike the neighborhood to see everyone's decorations. I really like to see jack-o-lanterns and holiday lights and front lawn graveyards... Always gets me in the spirit.  SO it seems that this is a VERY appropriate time to finish a NEW FatMan piece.

     This series as I explained in a previous post, These various incarnations of the FatMan are kinda like him trying on a New Costume every time. Different wardrobe, sometimes different hair, different symbolism.  I admit, It's always fun planning a New FatMan piece because I get to explore the history and origins of some people or characters. 

     This piece is obviously themed by the King of Hearts, otherwise known as the Suicide King.  I have always been intrigued by this particular face card and have always wondered about his origins.  However, like so many things in life, you think about it and make a mental note to research something... then you forget about it when your are sitting down with the Internet.  Of course, smart phone and tablets are making this unfortunate incident a thing of the past, as many now have instant access to the Internet and the world of information 24/7 no matter where you are... as long as you have 2 Bars on there, right? ;0)

     In any case, I began researching the origins of the Suicide King. Out of all the playing cards in the Playing Card Court, he is the most mysterious. There is an alternate theory that the King of Hearts was not committing suicide, but rather being assassinated, as many felt the arm holding the sword/dagger did not math the attire the King is wearing. This theory made me more interested to learn about what the face cards in our everyday playing deck are based on.  Why they look the way they do?  Why, out of the entire court, is the King of Hearts either committing suicide or being assassinated?  To my dismay, all my research led me too was a conclusion that the King of Hearts demise boils down to The Illustrator... In his English Artist's Studio... with a Pencil and a Bad Eye for tracing.... That is, if we were playing CLUE and the King of Hearts was Mr. Body.

     ...In short, the image of the King of Hearts derives from a case of bad copying.

 A very brief and summarized history of the origin of the American Playing Card Court:
     Our Face Card Court derives from copying the English card designs.  The English copied the French designs (the Rouen).  From what I understand, the copy was not a very good one and the result was "grotesquely exaggerated" versions of the original face card designs.
The face cards also were meant and called after famous historical kings and queens and depending on what area of France you were in, changed which king and queen were which. I have included a list below for those who are interested to see who is who.  The King of Hearts in the American Court was a derived representation of Alexander the Great, the Macedonian King and Almost Ruler of the World.

      I decided to take this FatMan illustration, base it off the current and recognizable American Card design but change certain aspects of the card design to make it recognizable as a FatMan piece. I Included elements and practices I implemented from past FatMan pieces and also incorporated the Historical King from whom the card design inspiration originates from.  I did this by changing certain patterns in the card design with elements and symbols representing that historical figure. 

      First thing was first, I began sketching how I was going to combine the FatMan visage with that of the King of Hearts.  I actually combined some of the facial features and design elements from the King of Diamonds as he is the ONLY King in the Playing Card Court (PCC) to be illustrated in profile.  One of the main aesthetic elements in my FatMan illustrations is that he/she is always drawn in direct profile.
 So i needed a card design reference that could accommodate that requirement.  I also decided early on which elements of the card I would change to represent the FatMan and also which elements I would change to represent Alexander the Great.  In the beginning, I had a hole in my research and was basing my visual research and elements on the Charlemagne.
This was because in the Paris FCC, the King of Hearts represented Charlemagne (see list below.)  After a good friend pointed out my mistake, I had to redo all of my visual research based on a different king altogether.  Which made me grouchy for a bit, but I did want to be as accurate with my conceptual and aesthetic vision as possible.  So I did the research twice to accommodate my error.

     SO many of you, I'm sure are familiar with the biography of Alexander the Great, so there really isn't a need for a history lesson. If you are not that familiar with his history, I have included a link below where you can access that information.  I'm going to take this time and go over which symbols in my illustration represent him and why.

     Looking at the KoH design, I was unable to discern any visual or symbolic reference to Alexander.  This made me feel free to really change anything I wanted without taking away something that already represented him.  Just a tid bit about  me, I like to make lists as I'm researching for a project. These lists can be anything, really, but more often then not, I kinda know what I am looking for when I'm digging in the books, so as I run across something that fits what I'm searching for, I jot it down. I also jot down any idea that may come to me, the more I learn about a subject.  This certainly affects the final outcome of any illustration I'm working on.  For the KoH, I was making a list of things that I could use as symbols or symbols that could be made into patterns that could be used in the Face Card Illustration or to replace one that is already there. Here are the elements, symbols and pattern that made the cut and why.


1.)  The head completely in profile.
2.)  The eyes are always closed.
3.)  His bangs have a small curl.
4.)  His lips are always small and suggest a hint of a mysterious smile.
5.)  He is framed by an arched checker-board frame.
6.)  He floats centered in the composition amongst a Background filled with elements and symbols pertaining to him/her.

ELEMENTS That Pertain to Alexander the Great:
1.) The Lightening bold pattern that adorns the FatKing's Coat is the symbol of Zues.  When Alexander the Great was born,
his mother had vision that lightening had struck her womb in her sleep. The dream suggested he was of divine conception.
Through out most of Alexander's Life after the death of his father, he did much to assert and spread the reputation that he was in fact the Son of Zues and therefore rightful ruler of all the world.  I thought that this symbol should be repeated in the illustration for this very reason.

2.)  The Knight chess peices on his belt.  The game of chess is often used to symbolize conquest or a fued between two entities.  I thought the pattern of the chess board a nice added pattern for this very reason.  Alexander the Great set out to Conquer the Entire World and then Rule it as the Son of God (Zeus.)
I chose the knight as it is the image of a horse.  Alexander the Great became very attached to his horse, Bucephalas, so much so that he re-named a conquered city after his horse.
The city was called Bucephala.  Also the way they are offset, they create a pair of horns, very similar to the shape of a Ram's Horns.  I purposely did this because after he conquered Egypt, he referred to himself as the Son of Zues-Ammon.  He is often depicted in Egyptian art as being adorned with Ram's Horns which were a symbol of Alexander's Divinity.

3.)  The background behind the up-facing FatKing is very faint but it is the map of Alexander's Kingdom.  It is an obvious choice to place in the composition since there is no better way to show the scope of his like then by actually showing how far he expanded Macedonia's territory.
The faint fade of it serves a dual purpose: To not upstage the subject and behave like background should and to also conceptually show distance of time.  Since there really isn't a space behind a Face Card, I thought making a faint pattern would work best.

4.)  The background behind the downward facing FatKing is a constellation map. Here again the fade is to represent distant space to juxtapose the upward background of distant time.  Alexander the Great used constellations to guide him on his journey.  He learned form his tutelage that this was the method all sailors used.  Alexander was quite fond of the sailor's he read about in Homer's epic poem the Iliad.  He was also said to have carried that copy he read as a child with him on his conquests.  He rode with it near his chest.  You may see the constellation Taurus there behind the FatKing. This is another reference to the Ram and the Ram's Horns.   

I saved my favorite symbol for last...

5.)  The top pattern around the FatKing's Crown is made of Mermaid Tails.  As I just said before, Alexander was so inspired and connected to Homer's epic work.  I thought it would be wonderful to reference this aspect of Alexander in someway in the illustration.
When I ran across this one  interesting tid bit, I figured out exactly what the last symbol needed to be.  It was an superstition among sailors that, when met with the rough waters of a really bad storm, that Mermaids would come to the surface to speak with the Captain of the ship.  They would ask,"Is Alexander Still the Ruler of the Great World?"  If the Sailor answered with,"Yes. Alexander is still the King of the land and in good health," then the Mermaids would steer the ship through the bad storm to safety.  If the Sailor answered with,"No." or,"Alexander the Great is dead,"  then the Mermaids would transform into a great Gorgon (Sea Monster) and drag the ship under the ocean killing all aboard it.  A Gorgon is also from Homer's work.  The most notable is Medusa.  This old Sailor's tale is also why Mermaids are carved into the helm of many ships.  A good luck charm, if you will to steer the ship safely on it's journey.  So the FatKing's Crown was adorned with a pattern of Mermaid tales.

[The Mermaid's Rock by Edward Matthew Hale]

     This pretty much sums up the how-to's and what-for's of this particular FatMan Illustration.  Hope you enjoyed the work that goes on behind it.  I find it enriching, personally, to understand the working's behind different works of art.  It really fascinates me. 

Until next time...
Keep sketching, keep thinking, keep laughing and most important of all, keep making art. 



King of Spades= David

King of Hearts= Charles (possibly Charlemagne, or Charles VII, in which case Rachel (see below) would be the pseudonym of his mistress, Agn├Ęs Sorel)

King of Diamonds= Julius Caesar

King of Clubs= Alexander the Great

Queen of Spades= Pallas

Queen of Hearts= Judith

Queen of Diamonds= Rachel (either biblical, historical (see Charles above), or mythical as a corruption of the Celtic Ragnel, relating to Lancelot below)

Queen of Clubs= Argine (possibly an anagram of regina, which is Latin for queen, or perhaps Argea, wife of Polybus and mother of Argus)

Knave of Spades= Ogier the Dane/Holger Danske (a knight of Charlemagne)

Knave of Hearts= La Hire (comrade-in-arms to Joan of Arc, and member of Charles VII's court)

Knave of Diamonds= Hector

Knave of Clubs= Judas Maccabeus or Lancelot

[Beginning the Sketching Process.  Scaling & Measuring]

[Completed Pencil Sketch]

[Inked Illustration]

[FatKing WIP Screen Shot]

[FatKing WIP Screen Shot]

[FatKing WIP Screen Shot]

[FatKing WIP Screen Shot]

[FatKing WIP Screen Shot]