Friday, 16 October 2009

Character Design: More Character stuff.

Here is a write-up and some of my own thoughts of the little tutorial thing I had with Phil the other day regarding my slightly floundering character design project, which I feel at this point needs to be my main focus for a few days. At the moment even though I think I have a general style to work with, it’s currently all a bit watery. I think I need to embrace my enjoyment of excessive films, artists, games and books and bring them into to my project work more so than I have done before. By the end of this post you’ll probably think I’m some sort of psychopathic sexual deviant. That’s only a half-truth.

Sooooo the other day I had the pleasure of finally seeing the fully uncut version of Caligula. Outside of some of the ever so slightly needless hardcore pornography I think it’s a very interesting film in regards to how power corrupts and I enjoyed it very much. It’s just so exuberant and gaudy that I couldn’t help but admire it, even when it did turn into a Roman Oktoberfest but with beer replaced by genitalia.

Anyway, how could Caligula fit into this project? I think Malcolm McDowell’s fantastically flamboyant performance as Caligula can be taken into account for my Villain character and then there’s also Helen Mirren’s ice cool and even slightly bored performance as his wife. Drusilla is the only voice reason in the film even if she is sleeping with Caligula who happens to be her brother (that’s the Romans for you). This kind of fits in with my goal of having no real outright good characters or to say it a little bit better, characters without clear morals.

Hero – The Hero is still a bit up in the air but it’s starting to take some shape. Even though my intention is for the hero character to not be distinctly heroic I think this character should be a voice of morality. If you look at my Villain and Sidekick characters then there’s an issue of free will going on, so this character will be less corrupted than the rest. How I go about presenting this is something I’m still something I’m thinking about. I’m leaning more towards a female character because I have this sort of weird domineering sexual theme going on but I think a male character could also work. In Bret Easton Ellis novels there’s usually some homoerotic stuff going on.

Villain – I very much inclining towards the Villain being a female (although once again a Male character could fit this character, I even quite like the idea of it being a man in drag.) If the hero character is going to be the voice of morality and free will then the Villain has to be amoral, completely corrupted and evil. A Sadist.

Sidekick – A staple portrayal of sidekicks is for them to be a punching bag for the villain in order to offer some comic relief, Disney does this a lot. Obviously I don’t want any comic relief but the idea of the sidekick being a literal punching bag is an interesting one. If the villain character is going to be a female or at least have the appearance of one, then the sidekick should be a male. In essence he is going to be a gimp for the Villain. He could be so beaten up that he is literally a vegetable, a round and dented potato-man (joke).

Whoa, this starting to get a little bit weird but it's all Phil's fault to be honest. Now I have this whole Sadist and Masochist thing happening it’s time to work out how to incorporate the mechanical aspect into my character. Phil’s suggestion was to look at machines that you would think of as sadistic machines an obvious choice would be weapons. Not just any weapons though but weapons that have ‘cruel’ purpose or aftermath. Weapons of Mass Destruction, Tanks, Grenades, Mines, Barbed Wire, Mustard Gas, Napalm, Nail Bombs. A lot of quite phallic looking objects and others which are designed to be more like traps. If I could incorporate this kind of imagery into my characters then it could work very well because these things are very distinctive looking and will directly create the look that I am after.

I want my characters to have human characteristics whilst being mechanical. There are people out there that deconstruct, reconstruct and change their bodies by unnatural means in the name of art. Just the people I’m looking for.

Firstly there's Orlan, who is a French Artist who uses Plastic Surgery in the name of art to change the way she looks.

Fakir Musafar is more interested in the spiritual side of things.

And Leigh Bowery who I don't know much about but he seems pretty interesting simply from a visual stand-point.

This film was one of the first things I posted for this project. Since then however it has been tossed to one side but now it’s time to bring it back into the fold in a way that makes it seem like I never forgot about it. The film is about a Metal fetishist coming back to haunt this couple who hit him with their car and dumped his body in a ditch somewhere. There's a lot of weird psycho sexual stuff involving metal going on, for example the man's penis turns into a giant metal drill. By the end of the film he is literally a big lump of mechanical parts.

If we’re talking about masochism and people being punching bags then it’s probably worth talking about Tokyo Fist which is from the same director as Tetsuo. It’s all about two men’s obsession with boxing and beating the shit out of each other over some woman, who to me seemed like what you would call a ‘clinically insane psycho-bitch’. She herself is also a masochist because throughout she starts inserting and piercing large metal things into her body. It’s quite fucked up. By the end of the film, one of the boxer characters is so battered and bruised his face literally explodes in a fountain of blood. This clip below is fairly representative of the film.

All this talk about sadism reminded me of this famous footage of Orca Whales hunting a Sea Lion. The Orca’s catch the Sea Lion but rather than kill it, they play around with it by tossing it up in the air while it’s still alive. Stupid Jerks of the Sea should be their nickname and oh look more phallic looking things.

The setting is an important part to the overall design of my characters because it will make sense of key aspects of their design, such as the Venetian masks which I still want to play a big role. This is one where I have a good idea of what I want. Basically I want it set to the backdrop of a high-class dinner party with a Masquerade Ball theme. I want the meaning of this occasion to be ambiguous, something akin to some weird David Lynch style dream.

The End. Drawings next week I promise, that’s the only way forward now. : )


tutorphil said...

Hi Tom,

I'm writing this from within a 'man flu' haze: I'm feeling pretty rough, but seeing your latest post has cheered me somewhat; I was livid when I got the email from Justin, the subtext of which is that a class of ostensibly intelligent and creative individuals can't spin two plates at once; really, it's a waste of his time and yours if there's nothing for him to feedback on - and also, four weeks in, and the second year are generally producing less work in more time. I'm not necessarily levelling this criticism at you, but the energy levels in the group seem to be pretty moribund... anyway, the real reason I wanted to post a comment is to re-state something obvious; at last, you seem to be building your own style and proclivities into the character design brief; every brief has enough room in it for this, and sometimes I'm baffled at the sense of alienation students experience - this IS your work; this IS your world. Your palate of references here are so rich, so decadent and so counter-culture, your resulting designs could/should be really rather wonderful; I'd suggest you're still being rather coy; switch your private browsing on and go looking at the real blurring of boundaries between pain/pleasure - power/submission; Robert Mapplethorpe documented a lot of s/m stuff, but you might also want to look at London's Torture Garden or similar... You might also consider putting a content warning on your blog - just in case you mine a very rich seam... Looking forward to those drawings - Be bold, Mr Beg - what's the worst that could happen? You might even get the sort of transformative feedback that kills off your inhibition about figure drawing forever...

Justin Wyatt said...

Hi Tom,
apologies for any radio silence for a few days since i have been away for a few days. Well it does seem like you have giving this project some real thought at last - Hey i usually draw Winnie the Pooh, so the subject matter is a little different from my usual tastes... However, it is a highly unusual and distinct direction to go, which will help you in your final design. My major concern is that you will not have enough time to realize these ideas into a finished design. In short, i really need to see some sketching this week, and as Phil has suggested, it is vital that you need to back up your strong and subversive themes, with equally bold imagery. I hope to see something by the end of the week...