Friday, 12 August 2011

Calavera (Mexican Sugar Skull) Portraiture Idea/Influence Map

I feel this is defiantly a theme I want to chase. I want to dedicate this piece to someone who I feel very strongly about. Although they aren't dead, they have departed from my life, so this will be a celebration of life, honour, and memories with them in remembrance. Recalling aspects that remind me of them will be the key aspect in the design in order to create a deep, emotional connection.

This piece I feel will  give me the strength to overcome that issue in my life, staying true to the nature of tattooing as a form of visual/ritualistic therapy, and maybe....hopefully, one day they will return to me.... :)
Here is an influence map full of reference that will help bring together a better idea of the direction and style im going for :)

Some beautiful colours and design wrapped into that Map, makes me really excited to start straight away. However, after my last painting 'Epitaph', not using a standard pose as reference was my Achilles heel, and was painful to try and fix. So I will try my best to find the perfect pose to use as a base to work and change from.

I want this piece to take a clear step away from the rest of my 'Biro Series' both creatively and visually. I feel those works although visual achievements for me on there own, still lack a human element. Expression is the way to bring a lick of life to my paintings, something I've learned this year through various character design projects.

Sketch Time :)

Calavera (Mexican Sugar Skull) Portraiture Research

Over the past month or so, I've become more an more intrigued about the imagery and messages the Calavera (Mexican Sugar Skull) represents, more recently seen as part of the tattoo culture. I began to fall in love with the beautiful decorations and colours that adorned the skull. That alone was enough to make me consider using this imagery, however looking further at imagery related, I came across women who had adorned the face with paint to mimic the style, through photography and tattoos, and instantly it was decided  for me that I needed to respond to my addiction to detail :).

However, is it really OK just to obey you natural instinct to WANT to paint something, without any particular basic meaning or message? This made me feel uneasy in all honesty, not applying some sort of deeper emotional response, so I took it upon myself to get some research around the history and ideal of the 'Sugar Skull':

The Sugar Skull is an important and integral part of the Dia de los Muertos celebration. Just as the use of real skull were used as a symbol of life and death to the ancient tribes during there month-long ceremonies, the sugar skull now represents the celebration of life and death as part of modern-day festivities. The present-day observance of Dia de los Muertos could be seen as a way to honour those dead as well as immediate family members. 

Sugar skulls represented a departed soul, had the name written on the forehead and was placed on the home ofrenda or gravestone to honor the return of a particular spirit. Sugar skull art reflects the folk art style of big happy smiles, colorful icing and sparkly tin and glittery adornments. The intent is to encourage visits by the souls, so that the souls will hear the prayers and the comments of the living directed to them. Celebrations can take a humorous tone, as celebrants remember funny events and anecdotes about the departed...

Other tie-in's with the Day of the Dead relating to Sugar Skulls:

La Calavera Catrina :

('The Elegant Skull') is a 1913 zinc etching by Mexican printmaker José Guadalupe Posada. The image has since become a staple of Mexican imagery, and often is incorporated into artistic manifestations of the Day of the Dead in November, such as altars and calavera costumes. The etching was part of his series of calaveras, which were humorous images of contemporary figures depicted as skeletons, which often were accompanied by a poem.

The word catrina is the feminine form of the word catrín, which means "elegant". The figure, depicted in an ornate hat fashionable at the time, is intended to show that the rich and fashionable, despite their pretensions to importance, are just as susceptible to death as anyone else.

The Danse Macbre:

Dance of Death, also variously called Danse Macabre (French), Danza de la Muerte (Spanish), Dansa de la Mort (Catalan), Danza Macabra(Italian), Dança da Morte (Portuguese), Totentanz (German), Dodendans (Dutch), is an artistic genre of late-medieval allegory on the universality of death: no matter one's station in life, the Dance of Death unites all. The Danse Macabre consists of the dead or personified Death summoning representatives from all walks of life to dance along to the grave, typically with a pope, emperor, king, child, and labourer. They were produced to remind people of the fragility of their lives and how vain were the glories of earthly life. Its origins are postulated from illustrated sermon texts; the earliest recorded visual scheme was a now lost mural in the Saints Innocents Cemetery in Paris dating from 1424-25.

Tattoo Culture:

Every meaning of tattoo is completely different and often only its owner knows what his tattoo means. In most of the cases sugar skull tattoo art introduces overcame past (generally hard times in the past), protection (mostly evil protection), energy (nothing will stop you), power (nothing can beat you), memory of decedent relatives, or underworld kind of thinking (symbolizing that you are at peace with death and things like that). In addition, sugar skull tattoo might be combined with many symbols (flowers, hearts, crosses, candles, etc) often used instead of skull eyes. They're usually found to be bright and colourful, as it represents joy, happiness and memories treasured. 

The original principal of this tattoo is to decorate it with things reminiscent of the person passed. Different symbols, ideas and designs can be incorporated into this tattoo to make it as unique as not only you, but also the person it is dedicated to. Getting a sugar skull tattoo is a great symbol of respect and remembrance to your loved ones that passed. The sugar skull tattoo can be a beautiful, colourful and unique tattoo.

Aside from showing one’s personality, old and young fanatics observe purposes why they consider sugar skull tattoo art as a significant element in their lives. If the personality of the wearer is strong, most often, he would create a symbol that looks threatening. If the personality of the wearer is sweet then she would resort to using light colors in enhancing the image of the tattoo.

Other Symbolism's that the Skull Represent:

Overcoming death
Overcoming a tough timeA past life, now changed, never to revert.

After gathering all this research, I began to think about the celebration of life, memories, honour, remembrance, department, strength, tough times, and just a mixture of different things. One part that really popped out at me was how sugar skulls are a dedication to an individual, and each has unique colours, shapes symbolism's the represent, connect and honour that particular person, in order for them to 'return to us'.

My next post contain my thoughts and idea on which way to take this, along with an Influence Map, rich with visual goodness

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Summer Update 1: Rendering Issues - Geometry Expenditure

Evening Blogosphere! It's been a while since my last post, so I felt like an big update was in order :)

So it seems I've finally reached the limit my current poor baby can handle in terms of rendering. After days of trying adding and changing elements in my scene to make it fuller, it appears i may have gone a bit too overboard and reached my limit on this computer, as it simply will not render anything without the lovely term 'FATAL ERROR' and something to do with 'HEAP SIZE FLUSHING' making an appearance.

After creating the leafless vine geometry, and importing it into Maya, I duped a few trees and messed around with the composition slightly to make it appear more fuller as well as adjusting the seam between the water and the backdrop so it blends in almost perfectly.I also took in to consideration perhaps creating alpha's with a vine texture to go between the tree's, which would need to be in a closer proximity to one another.

I think these two changes is what pushed the rendering overboard, as I have alot of finicky details elsewhere, however it's frustrating as with my scene, I can't utilize alpha's to portray bigger pieces of geometry as effective due to everything passing everything in shot, which would lead it to just disappear after a certain distance and be noticeable. It's frustrating because a wanted to put a certain amount of detail into this piece, but I'll obviously have to sacrifice some elements now.

I really think I've reached a point, where I cant grow any more from this scene in terms of technical/creativity, and my current computer setup. It's stunting my progress so much, with each render taking more than 6 mins a frame, it's wasting other opportunities to develop skills. The reason why I stuck with this so much, is because the fact I haven't really taken anything in the course to a finished level, and I felt with this piece I could no only do it, but do it well. All that's left to complete are:

Water Animation
Vine Alpha's *Possibly not needed*
Spec Maps 'Possibly not needed'
Final Camera Movement
Ambient Occlusion 
Batch Renders
After Effects

So, after a few months playing around in my spare time, and hours of frustrating trial and errors, I managed to reach this far in the environment. Due to rendering issues, I've had to render different geometry out separately, but managed to edit and compile the renders into one final image in Photoshop.

Final Renders

Photoshop Edit for possible After Effect's

I'm pretty pleased with the results so far, although I do think with the time spent on this, it has creatively drained me. I do feel when I get the chance to finish it, it'll be show-reel worthy, however again I need to prioritise my time and address more issues for next year....

I have a really short time limit now to fit in as much work as I can, because I move away from Chatham on Tuesday to Gravesend with my parents until my next house is all sorted, so that will not only eat up a lot of time, but also be an inconvenience possibly because I'll be kipping on the couch, so there's not really anywhere for my computer to be hahah, such is the student life! But, in that respect, could be the push i need to crack on and get some work out now with a deadline Post-2nd year agenda list is as follows:

Finish Swamp Environment
Sketching new Ideas 
Painting Portraits
Concept Art/Digital Painting
Rigging Tutorials
Experiment in Mudbox
Brainstorming for Minor Project
Update Deviantart/Facebook

Update Blog :
New Template Design
Update with new/Old work in created tabs
Banner Update
Animated Ident
Logo/Business Cards

Re-visit Transcription/Tezcatlipoca:
Create Concept Art
Create Weapons, Accessories
Address Re-Modelling, Texturing in Mudbox
Create Turnaround of Old Model/New Model

So not alot really? all honesty, this a high probability a lot of these wont get done in time for 3rd yeah, however aiming to do so will help me a lot to prepare for next year with less than a month to go.