Sunday, May 2, 2010

"Softly whispering their siren-song..."

Silvestri's verse for this next illustration is as follows:
"And as he's dreaming the heavens call him, softly whispering their siren-song: Leonardo, Leonardo vieni á volare!
(Leonardo, Leonardo come fly!)
Silvestri imagines Leonardo being tortured in his dreams by the entreaties of the sirens, to the extent that he decides to make a flying machine and fly.
          I researched 'sirens' and found that the early ones from Greek mythology were malevolent bird-women, portrayed as seducers who lived on an island surrounded by rocks and cliffs. Ships were lured onto the rocks by their enchanting music and singing, and became shipwrecked. They were depicted on statuary and on vases as women with wings, with birds' feet, something like rather dumpy angels. In later stories they became aquatic and mermaid-like. For this work I thought it more appropriate to have them airborne, and made them a little more visually tempting. Wiki tells me that: In his notebooks, Leonardo Da Vinci wrote of the siren, "The siren sings so sweetly that she lulls the mariners to sleep; then she climbs upon the ships and kills the sleeping mariners." Oops! Leonardo is evidently aware of the dangers of flying, as he comments in his notebooks that it would be best to try out a flying machine over water, with inflated wine-skins for safety, in case of wing malfunction. 
  I work on illustrations in what is undoubtedly a very old-fashioned way. I start by making many thumbnail sketches - actually about the size that the finished image will be. Then when I've found something I like, I draw it out on tracing paper twice the size of the finished image, so that when it is resized down the detail and line quality look neater. As the drawing progresses I scan it in and reduce it from time to time to keep track of how it will look in the finished size. Tracing paper erases extremely well and it saves time in repositioning elements of the image if I need to. The tracing is then used to transfer the outlines of the image to a bleed-proof paper, where I work on it in ink with a technical pen and then scan it into Photoshop Elements to erase unwanted 'blips' and generally tidy it up, and finally put it in the right mode and file type for the platemaker. At the top of my wish-list is a Wacom tablet Intuos4, which would probably make my life easier. If anyone out there has used one of these, please tell us about it!
          I recently discovered a good and reasonably priced bleed-proof paper, Pen Sketcher's, made by Bee Paper. I have countless pads of so-called bleed-proof, this is the best paper I've found to date.
          The tracing paper method was advocated years ago by Marie Angel, the very accomplished calligrapher and artist, in her book "Painting for Calligraphers," and I subsequently read that the great illustrator Edmund Dulac used the same working method, but before he died destroyed his tracings as he didn't want people to know that was how he worked.
          Here is a great resource for design and print-making blogs

1 comment:

Sue said...

Love the bird-women and the way you've woven the words in with the composition. :-)