Seriously though, it's just a painting of a kid holding a serving tray in his hand. Oh wait, it's above his hand...hmm. The rest of the painting is just a bunch of people in a building. Is he just a kid? Are they just a bunch of people? At a glance, this is just a simple moment in time. But take the picture apart and there are dozens of symbols or clues revealing the true identity of our innocent character. Here's some background to this painting.
His brief included:
Vass, the character's name, is elfin looking, almost androgynous. It is the late 1960's and he is a 12 year old boy who works at a cafe and is bringing you your food to eat in the outdoor patio. He is wearing an orange shirt, his hair is reddish blonde and he carries a serving tray with a cover over the contents,
The type of illustrations I most enjoy crafting are the ones where I can practice complex staging, excite our other senses besides just the eyes, and exercising allegories, symbolism, idioms, tributes, and weaving it into every square inch of the painting. My favorite master painters pushed meaning into every nook and cranny of their canvases. The illustrators I favor from the golden age of illustration did the same.
I began processing the piece. I worked out a list of ideas that I think would add something to the story. But I didn't have much time to work it all out. This would be a build it on the fly type of composition.
I wanted to play up both the alien qualities as well as the divine. I also had a few ideas about catching the viewers eye. I still have yet to find out if the one I used works or if I am just blowing smoke up my own Asgard. When all was said and done, here is what I managed to sneak into the image.
I used a song out of my skateboarder days that might not make much sense to many but I included it to help me make design decisions. A Wonderful Broken Thing,a great band from the 1990's and two of the coolest people I've ever known (RIP Jeff Klindt), made a song called The Bricks of Reason. While these bricks are still intact, they are old, they are crumbling, they are the walls that older generations put up to protect themselves from everything that scares(d) them. I designed the wall to appear smaller than Vass, no wall is too large to keep him out, and no problem is too difficult for him to find an answer. The truth is crystal clear like the window that makes up more of the composition than the wall.
The wall is designed with 23 bricks. I was told long ago that the number 23 was the number of the almighty. I found that it represents God With Us. It is not a number used often in the bible, but when it is it is significant, such as Psalm 23 which speaks of prosperity based on God's provisions. Those who come in contact with Vass are rewarded with this.
Behind Vass' head is the doorway from this painting by DaVinci. There were also serving windows to form the trinity of portals, similar to this trinity. However, by the time I built out all of the layers the doorway suffers from too much obscurity and I ended up removing the other windows because they conflicted too much with the other details in the foreground.
The open sign was something I thought of last second, and killed my trinity of windows in the extreme BG but I wanted this for several reasons. First, it represents the characters openness to anyone, his temple, his cafe is open, and open to anyone and everyone.
Next, I added the open sign to the image as a way to get the potential reader to open the book and investigate the contents.
And finally, the placement of the word Open is no fluke. It is placed where we hold the book when reading it. It is also directly above the serving tray, my Macguffen for our cover story, the mystical suitcase in Pulp Fiction, the trunk of the car in Repoman. The word is tempting you the viewer to want to see what is inside the magical floating serving tray.
In the end he gave me a couple extra days to finish once he saw how much meaning I was trying to add to the piece. He was also several days behind in page production so in the end I was not stressing out down to the wire on the piece and I was able to get a symbol or two into the image to satisfy my pictorial needs. And probably, to most who see it, it'll just be a picture of a kid holding a serving tray. Maybe that's all it really is, and all this that I finished writing was just a bunch of BS I had to make up because I couldn't think of anything to write about this week. Yeah, that's it.
Enjoy your weekend.