Alright, I have this book ‘Under the Volcano’ that I’m basing my Transcription project around. While I’ve made some general comments about where I want to take it I haven’t really outlined it in any meaningful way. My Transcription project is going to be an environment based project. The environments from the book however will be represented abstractly, based on the themes that the book explores.
It’s slightly ironic but due to having lots of work to do I haven’t really been able to dedicate the time to actually sit down and read the novel. The thing is, it’s not something you can just pick up and read for a 20 minutes a pop and it’s not something you can read for hours on end because things become a jumbled mess due to the dense prose and tricky language. Read a few pages, take a break, read some more, take a break, the cycle goes on. It’s something you have dedicate a lot of time and energy to, if there’s no motivation to read it and attempt to understand it then I’d argue that it’s a slightly pointless novel.
There are a lot of themes that the book explores and obviously I won’t be able to fit all them in. In the near future I’ll read through all this stuff again and pick the ones I feel that I want to convey the most in my environments. I don’t want to take these themes too literally. For example, I don’t want to resort to cheap camera and post-production tricks when it comes to the representation of Alcoholism. Yes, more than any other the book wears the theme of Alcoholism on it’s shoulders but it’s not about the feeling of being drunk per se. Rather it’s the effect that being a chronic alcoholic has on The Consuls views on life and the effects that it has on his relationships with the people around him and the world he exists in. How I convey this without typical literary and filmic techniques will potentially be the biggest challenge but it’s not something I’m going to shy away from, rather it will be the thing that defines this project the most!
In the background I’ve been looking at lots of artists, collecting them as potential visual references. When I first set about finding some sort of influence to have on this project I was looking a lot at German Expressionist painters since I felt that it could be a potentially interesting idea to attempt to first try and convey the novel through expressionism and then transfer that into Maya. In recent weeks I’ve slightly cooled on this idea, I’m not dismissing this idea completely, far from it, I still want the environments to have and expressionist and painterly feel since I would describe the book as an expressionistic novel. However as began rummaging through the art world I came across numerous different South American painters and artists whose paintings left a lasting impact on me and having then seen these I don’t think I can escape their influence. Diego Rivera, Jose Guadalupe Posada, Frida Kahlo and Jose Clemente Orozco etc are the artists that have defined and captured the modern visual culture of Mexico, their art cannot be ignored.
Much of their art style however does not fit in with my agenda; this is where the expressionism and much more painterly side of my project will come into play. Key artists for me in a loosely defined sense are Emil Nolde, Egon Schiele, Zao Wou Ki, Oswaldo Guayasamin, Van Gogh, Edvard Munch, Francis Bacon and any others that happen to come along. I’m never going to be able to fit all of this into one project, it’s more to do with the way they paint and why they paint that way which is much more important to me.
Me being me I don’t think I can escape the potential influence of film. There is a film version of Under the Volcano that will useful when it comes to trying to capture the look and feel of 1930/40’s Cuernavca, the town that the novel is set in but I’m guessing that probably the most obvious thing to do is to look at the cinema of Mexico since it’s surprisingly big. If we’re going by Wikipedia then Mexican cinema can be split into three distinct era’s of prosperity, style and success.
The ‘Golden Age of Mexican Cinema’ between 1935 and 1959. The 1960’s through to 1980’s where more low budget and cultish films were produced. The New Wave of Mexican cinema that has been occurring since the 90’s which includes films that I’ve actually seen such as Amores Perros directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu and Y Tu Mama Tambien directed by Alfonso Cuarón. I suppose you could throw Robert Rodriguez in this group as well. I’m generally accepting of the fact that it might be difficult to acquire obscure 1930’s Mexican films through reasonable means so I’ll try and keep my reliance on Mexican films down to a minimum. It might be a better idea to think outside the box. For example I’m keen on the final the piece having a filmic quality to it. Under the Volcano is deeply human novel so I’m keen to avoid the typical (and in my personal opinion boring and generic, not that they don’t serve a purpose of course) epic fly-throughs that typical get used when it comes to showing off environments made in Maya. I think there are potentially more interesting ways to show the information, ways that help create an underlying narrative, make it more of a cinematic experience rather than just a visual experience. If I go this route then it will be a good idea to look at films outside of Mexico that have heavy emphasis on natural environments playing a big part when it comes to telling a story. I can think of two off the top my head that do this which are Walkabout and Stalker.
Time to move from all the theoretical gubbins and explain how I intend on creating this project. Early on, as in straight from the first week, heavy emphasis will be placed on the concept art phase. While I may not have all my visual references sorted out by the day the project starts I still want to get some ideas down on paper or screen. I’ve actually already started this with some thumbnail sketches I drew in the Christmas Holidays. I’ll say that there will be three stages of the concept art process. Firstly thumbnails obviously. Secondly because I feel like I have the time, I’m going to do what I did in the Virtual Anatomy project and produce a bunch of artwork that will represent a middle-ground between thumbnail and final concept art pieces. Then thirdly after my research is in order and I have some tangible ideas to work from I’ll produce the final concept art, how many images is up in the air but right now I’ll say as many as it takes.
What I produce in Maya will be down to what happens in the concept art. As I see it now I expect a big emphasis on modelling, UV mapping and texturing; high quality, with all the typical things associated with that such as bump mapping and specular mapping etc. Also some tasty lighting, potentially some dynamics such as smoke and at the end of it all render it in mental ray. All this will happen by the way, no compromises in the overall vision this time. Dammit if it takes two weeks to render then I’ll make sure I have two weeks for it to render.
Lastly, I’m going to make a big effort to brand the project, potentially all work produced will exist as something, rather than just empty (empty as in simply existing as images on a screen) blog entries. I’ll start this early.