Character development - the whale gumshoe by ciro correia


This is part of my ideation process, I'll take a sketch and redraw over and over again. I do it to begin with and then I'll do it over an established sketch. Formstorming is tiring but absolutely vital - wether it's a graphic design project or a digital painting project. Small variations like these can change the basic image substantially. Doing as many as I can is key - 50 to 100.

Watching robots go by by ciro correia

One fine day in Paris?

One fine day in Paris?

I think I have an obsession with the roofs of Paris (and yes it is written roofs not rooves for all of you frantically searching an online dictionary cause it just doesn't look right). I bought a book about Paris as a teenager and some of my favourite photos in it were cityscapes (of Paris) filled with lead roofs stretching endlessly into the horizon line. Light reflects strangely off of their light grey surfaces. Are they lead roofs? I have always found them intriguing. The lines and forms in these pictures were geometric but also haphazard at the same time. I don't know if anyone has noticed but another thing I fancy are giant robots- I fancy retro looking ones, they tend to look like tin buckets. Remember Robbie? This picture started to form, of a giant robot lumbering through the streets of Paris. Towering above even the highest occupants on that muted level above the sea of roofs. Just imagine leaning out your window and suddenly its there, disturbing your peaceful view of the countless roofs. Imagine your relief as it strides by. Just imagine all those hundreds of inhabitants who didn't see it go past. ;)

Below you'll find a rough sketch, blocking out basic tones, an animated gif of the process :)

Rough initial sketch and blocking out values

Work in progress - diminishing outlines

Stranger Things fan art by ciro correia

This is the first fan art I've ever done (apart from before age 11 when I used to draw smurfs, Asterix and obelix, Tintin, things from 'The Lord of the Rings' and countless superheroes- strange mix) :) Like many others I absolutely loved 'Stranger Things' - everything about it from the storyline, the characters, the cinematic atmosphere and great homage to 80's movies and Stephen King. So I finally gave in to the itch to do something themed around Stranger Things - here's a quick sketch of "Eleven".

Master study: Akira Kurosawa's use of composition in 'Seven Samurai' by ciro correia

Recent conversations with a friend reminded me of how much influence cinema and 'art house' films have had over me. Our conversation turned to Akira Kurosawa and his amazing work. I have a copy of Akira Kurosawa's 'Dreams' (1990), and other than that I've bumped into 'Ran' (1985) a few times over the last six years. My exposure to Kurosawa's work has been limited, there is so much more in his work that I want to explore. It's one of those things, with the tumultuous roar of information that assaults us everyday at times our list gets stacked so deep that we come back to something that interests us much later than when we originally found it. Speaking to Tony I realised there was a gap here I had intended to fill some years back, so with these conversations fresh on my mind I stumbled about Chichester early the next day and got hold of a copy of 'Seven Samurai' (1954). Kurosawa's work has influenced Western film makers for decades and this is one of the films that has carried most of his influence into the hearts and minds of other creators - but why? What makes this black and white, three hour long film so powerful that people today still consider it to be one of the best films ever made? You'll find other opinions  scattered across the internet, in books, lecture notes and so on - I'm sure if you've found this post you probably have been reading about Kurosawa and know much more than I do. I humbly submit my own voice to the clammer, putting forward what I've learnt from my own sketches and studies of stills lifted out from the film.

The most striking thing I've noticed working on my Kurosawa studies is the masterful composition he has crafted into his shots and work. Akira Kurosawa studied to be an artist (I assume a painter - perhaps the graphic arts... but I don't know for certain) but he was considered not to have had enough personal vision so he continued into film instead, but It's quite obvious that his studies and knowledge of the visual arts are being employed if you consider the continuous use of art and design principles used within 'Seven Samurai'. From a compositional point of view Kurosawa has given special attention to each scene, almost each shot - action sequences look like carefully composed illustrations or paintings, nothing is left to chance - everything as been given serious thought.  The key though seems to be that composition has been thought about over time using motion and the result, on the one hand, leaves us looking at each frame as if they have been perfectly composed as a single shot,  and on the other creates a richness and depth as each composed frame bombards onto our retina at 25 frames per second. 

It's the remarkable achievement of a creative mind way ahead of its time, the use of shape and form in composing (black and white aids us to see in values and shapes - I imagine it gives us a clearer view of Kurosawa's viewpoint). Then there's the use of unexpected and dynamic POVs - these are things modern film makers struggle to achieve. 

Speed-paint study breaking down major shapes - two more passes would bring this sketch up to the same level of realism as the still, but replicating is not the point. Learning from the master is.

All the stills I examined had fantastic compositions, there's a very deliberate arrangement in the whole film - Kurosawa is controlling our perceptions and leading us through the epic.

In the study above there's a beautiful balance between negative and positive spaces, the point of view (POV) is low - looking up at the determined faces of the samurai placing them in a heroic stance above us. The negative space is the open sky, expansive and open giving us a sense of an unwritten story and placing the characters further on a level above us - as if they're gods.

There's a strong arrangement of shapes: The samurai on the right is in the foreground, the eldest of the group. Mifune stands in the mid-ground perfectly placed in the rule of thirds, so is the eldest samurai - his left is in line with another vertical third line. The others are in the background forming a half circle around Mifune. There's a zigzag composition starting with the face of the samurai in the foreground to Mifune's face in the mid-ground and then to the samurai's face standing next to the older one, from there one tends to follow the circle around through the various other faces ending with the samurai to the left of Mifune.

My eye flows in from the top mid/left to the strong vertical shape of the eldest samurai, up to his face, the hilt of his sword and his eyes point me towards Mifune (the background figures support this movement). The intensity on Mifune's face tells me something important lies ahead of them, something I can't yet see. My eye follows his arm to his sword to the top of the frame back to the samurai in the foreground. In this way my attention is kept within the composition in a circular pattern, picking up further details each time I complete a circuit until the director chooses to release me on to the next scene.

Notice that Mifune has been singled out as different, He and the eldest samurai occupy the two most important spaces on the picture plane but the older samurai supports Mifune's uniqueness. To emphasise Mifune's unique position Akira Kurosawa has composed the shot with Mifune holding his sword over his shoulder whilst the other samurai have their swords where they should be- at their sides. This mechanism supports several important purposes - one being that Mifune isn't actually a samurai while the others are.

I love so many things about Akira Kurosawa's skills and work - love the graininess and strong shapes within 'Seven Samurai'. I can't help but think that it must have influenced generations of artists who work in pen and ink and halftone patterns to emulate the graininess and grit of air and atmosphere between forms. There's an art book on my shelf by Inoue Takehiko which feels similar to the images in 'Seven Samurai'.

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Editorial Illustration by ciro correia

Once again thank you for taking the time to visit my blog, I'm grateful that you show interest in my professional and personal work as an illustrator, designer and artist. I previously posted some of the preparatory sketches for this piece, so here's the finished illustration.

I've worked on a lot of fantasy/scifi/horror illustrations over my career and have over the last year or so decided to expand the scope of my illustration work (I'm still open to working on fantasy/scifi and horror projects - just that I don't want to limit my work to these themes and want to explore different markets). I haven't done any politically orientated illustrations in years - so this has been a nice change. 

Growing up in Southern Africa I always thought it was cool that artists and art have often acted as a society's conscious, our images and work are not only meant to inspire beauty or help us to escape to far off places but also, at times, to speak about the human condition or the state of the world. It's a tricky thing, because there is often more than one perspective on the same issue - but often you have to choose a message and try to convey it the best you can.

All we offer is a point of view, an opinion to help us think and inspire a more open perspective on the world - however, ...

"If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream," (V, i. 440-455)

Once again thanks for reading my posts, and more importantly viewing my work.

Preparatory sketches for political illustration by ciro correia

Hey, thanks for clicking through and visiting my blog. If you're a returning visitor - wow, thanks for your continued interest. Alternatively if it's your first time here feel free to hang around or connect with me on the various social media platforms I'm on. If you're looking for an illustrator, concept artist or designer then contact me for a chat about your project.

One of the things I've been working on is an editorial type illustration, politically themed. The two images I've posted below are part of my preparation - one of them is from my moleskin, I doodle think, thumb-sketch and brainstorm drawing in different ideas to develop. I spiral through iterations adding to my roughs until I'm happy with the composition.

The other image is a more developed colour sketch of Putin as I examine the structure of his face and experiment with what I want to accentuate or not. I'm also thinking about how far I want to go with stylisation. At this stage things are getting pretty clear and nailed down. I have to reign myself back sometimes - I want to add references to all sorts of things in the final, like for example a reference to 'Pussy Riot' but I have to remain focused and serve the final goal.

Colour sketch and study for Putin illustration, arguably a finished piece in itself.

Colour sketch and study for Putin illustration, arguably a finished piece in itself.

My initial exploration through rough sketches and doodle thinking ;)

My initial exploration through rough sketches and doodle thinking ;)

Once again thank you for visiting.