Friday, July 13, 2012

Sea of Shadows


This piece was originally suppose to be a book cover with my interpretation of the characters and setting from the first novel of the 12 Kingdoms series by Fuyumi Ono. I decided to make it more poster-like and obviously gained inspiration from illustrators like Drew Struzan. I loved the TV series in my teenage years for the vibrancy of the world and the ancient Chinese-like atmosphere and politics. The character development moved me, especially the heroine, Yoko Nakajima. I found her transformation splendid from being a girl to a woman! What a metamorphosis!

I do not think I loved the novel series as much as I had hoped, but I was interested enough to read the first three books. If I recall, I found the characters, though having interesting qualities, somehow dry and dull in the book. I am not sure if it is how the English translated it or the original writer herself, but if felt stiff. I did however love the elaboration on the complex world Ono created, and her use of made up vocabulary to pull the reader in to such imagination. The culture and politics fascinated me.

However, I could see if I had no interest in such subjects the writing would bore me even if the concepts weren't creative, which they were. They were creative... In fact, I don't know how someone could write such wondrous things in such a boring fashion.

Before I started this piece, I drew many concept sketches as I originally wanted to illustrate three books from the series. I would underline book excerpts, jot notes and descriptions, and hunted Ancient Chinese and Japanese fashion such as the Tang dynasty. Why? The book is incredibly influenced by the two countries. At points, I would modernize certain outfits or fuse the two cultures into a costume. Other times, I would focus on one culture/dynasty/era depending how I felt the character's personality blended with a particular fashion. It was fun researching and sketching the characters.

After I did that, I struggled on the thumbing stage as I wanted to incorporate how amazing I felt 12 Kingdoms was. Yet, every time I sketched an idea, I felt it didn't captured enough of the world, enough of the culture, enough of the characters, or enough of the magical beasts. It simply wasn't enough!

Then it occurred to me to do a montage. So I studied comic covers like the X-Men, which have a plethora of montages, and really focused on Drew Struzan for his movie posters such as Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Star Wars, and etc. Another montage illustrators I looked at was Bob Peek. I tried to understand what made montage so successful, and strikingly beautiful. How to interweave the different segments and make them flow and unite as one composition. It was intriguing and illuminating to me. It was sort of like a comic page and meshing the multiple frames into one fluid harmony.

While I worked on the final piece, I wanted to explore the first novel's title and what it meant to me as I developed other concepts. The title is Sea of Shadows. I wanted to show the young heroine, Yoko, being engulfed by her shadows, her dark fears as she fights against her inner demons and the world she knows so little about. Yoko is constantly fighting for her sanity and pushing forward. She struggles with herself as she tries to distinguish foe from friend, but instead sees everyone in one massive darkness. While she struggles with herself, I also wanted to show hints of her embracing this world. I wanted to show how the scared girl pushes her fears to become a brave and courageous woman. No longer a whimpering girl, but a strong woman slowly adapting to her surrounding.

Another aspects I wanted to show is the architect of the world. Sadly, even a montage has limits so I choose to depict one of the many kingdoms this series has, the kingdom of Kei. This kingdom bears great importance in the first book. It is described if I recall as warm, golden and majestic in its proper form. At the front of this kingdom, I painted the values darker as it gradates to a brighter value toward the back of the kingdom. I wanted to show a darkness looming at the edge of this kingdom. The kingdom has a great tie to the heroine and the man she is looking for named, Keiki, who in my piece is the elven-like figure dominating most of the upper composition of my piece.

I depicted Keiki large with long white, blonde hair, as he is the main story device for the heroine and the main thought in her mind. He represents freedom, power, hope, and divinity. In many ways, he influences the heroine's actions. The heroine needs his abilities and his guidance to achieve that which she desires. It is through him, her journey begins and transforms her into a greater person. I wanted to show how great a influence he is in the story and the heroine's link to the man with his flowing hair.

As this artist comment is becoming a heavy dissertation, I should probably end it here. There is so much going in this piece, it would take forever to expand. I wish I could go into it, but I don't have the time sadly. Also, I fear I spoiled somethings when I was trying to keep points ambiguous. So if you are curious about the book or the show- Go check it out. I highly recommend the TV series. All I can say is while this piece was a struggle, it was also great fun. I learned much from it. And in the end, the hard work paid off!

I got into Spectrum #19 this year with this piece! SPECTRUM!

It's a great honor! I didn't think I'd get in a second year in a row!

If anyone is curious about what I got in to last year's Spectrum, it was my La Belle Au Bois Dormant piece, which can be found here: [Link] . This is the updated version that is published in Spectrum #18.

COPYRIGHT:  Illustration belongs to J.S. Choi (c). DO NOT USE!
                          The characters and world-- The whole she-bang belong to its
                         original novelist, Fuyumi Ono (c).

MEDIA: Graphite, Watercolor, Gouache, Texture, and Photoshop

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