Thursday, August 30, 2012

Heart of Darkness: Redux

UPDATE: All of the available art below has been added to my Etsy shop so check in there if you see anything you like. Thanks!

The last few weeks have been exceptionally trying. I've had an extraordinary amount of day job responsibilities, an anniversary, a much needed and long awaited but still time consuming vacation with my wife, an enormous amount of art to create, and even more day job responsibilities.

Unfortunately, I misunderstood several things about the trim size and page dimensions of the upcoming illustrated Heart of Darkness book, so nearly all of the illustrations I'd completed were at the wrong size. A few could be shoehorned in, with some careful cropping, but most of them would have to be recreated entirely. The error was entirely my own and I don't blame anyone at my publisher for this. If anything, they have bent over backwards in trying to find ways to help me make things work and for that I am grateful.

After carefully considering what to do next and re-examining the illustrations I had already created and how these might fit with the new work, I've come to the conclusion that the only proper way forward is for me to simply begin all over again. While that might sound daunting, I relish the challenge and I have actually re-conceptualized my approach to this great novel and how I would like to see it represented in this project. I've completed the first nine illustrations, in only six days, and am working with a renewed passion and vigor. This is actually quite exciting, although there is a great deal of work yet to be completed.

I am no good at leaving loose ends. I like to close things off, properly and neatly. Which means that for my own piece of mind and mental integrity, I am going to sell nearly all of these previous Heart of Darkness illustrations. That will help me to end that chapter of the work and move forward, but honestly, I am using some new and really beautiful inks for the new illustrations and they are quite expensive, so I could really use the funds for art supplies and paper.

All of the available pieces are below, in this post, with the page number, price, media and dimensions. Two have been claimed by my wife, one promised to a friend, but the rest are here. I will have these up and listed in my Etsy shop some time next week, but you get the first view here. If you'd like any of them, send me an email at mattkish87 at gmail and we'll figure out. Paypal works best, but if you like, you can make partial payments over time.

page 001 : claimed
8.75 inches by 12 inches
acrylic paint and ink on watercolor paper


page 002 : in my Etsy shop
9 inches by 12 inches
acrylic paint and ink on watercolor paper


page 003 : in my Etsy shop
9 inches by 12 inches
ink on watercolor paper


page 004: in my Etsy shop
9 inches by 12 inches
acrylic paint and ink on watercolor paper


page 005 : in my Etsy shop
9 inches by 12 inches
acrylic paint, ink and marker on watercolor paper


page 006, first version : in my Etsy shop
9 inches by 12 inches
acrylic paint, ink and marker on watercolor paper


page 006, second version : in my Etsy shop
9 inches by 12 inches
acrylic paint, ink and marker on watercolor paper


page 007 : in my Etsy shop
9 inches by 12 inches
acrylic paint, ink, marker and watercolor on watercolor paper


page 009 : in my Etsy shop
9 inches by 12 inches
acrylic paint and ink on watercolor paper


page 010 : in my Etsy shop
7.75 inches by 11 inches
acrylic paint, ink and marker on watercolor paper


page 012 : in my Etsy shop
7.75 inches by 11 inches
acrylic paint, ink and marker on watercolor paper


page 013 : in my Etsy shop
7.75 inches by 11 inches
ink and marker on watercolor paper


page 015 : in my Etsy shop
10.75 inches by 8.25 inches
acrylic paint and ink on watercolor paper


page 016 : in my Etsy shop
7.75 inches by 11 inches
acrylic paint, ink and pencil on watercolor paper


page 017 : in my Etsy shop
7.75 inches by 11 inches
acrylic paint on watercolor paper


page 018 : in my Etsy shop
7.75 inches by 11 inches
acrylic paint and ink on watercolor paper


page 019 : in my Etsy shop
7.75 inches by 11 inches
ink and marker on watercolor paper


page 020 : claimed
7.75 inches by 11 inches
acrylic paint and ink on watercolor paper


page 020 : claimed
7.75 inches by 11 inches
ink and marker on watercolor paper


page 022 : in my Etsy shop
7.75 inches by 11 inches
acrylic paint and ink on watercolor paper


page 023 : claimed
7.75 inches by 11 inches
acrylic paint and ink on watercolor paper


page 024 : claimed
7.75 inches by 11 inches
ink and marker on watercolor paper


page 025 : in my Etsy shop
7.75 inches by 11 inches
acrylic paint, ink and marker on watercolor paper


page 020 : claimed
6.75 inches by 11 inches
ink and marker on watercolor paper


page 027 : in my Etsy shop
6.75 inches by 11 inches
ink on watercolor paper

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Book of the New Sun: Notes #04

Baldanders...again
Baldanders is human. Not an undine. Not a proto-undine. Not a child of Abaia. Not a Hierodule. Baldanders is human.

In chapter 31 of The Sword of the Lictor, Severian, recently rescued from the clutches of the hetman and the shore people of Lake Diuturna, is having the following conversation with Llibio, leader of the nomadic People of the Lake who drift about the lake on floating, windblown islands. Llibio speaks first.

"Once when I was a young man, these quarrels took two or three lives in a year. Then the builder of the castle came. Do you know the tale?"

I shook my head.

"He came from the south, whence, as I am told, you come as well. He had many things the shore people wanted, such as cloth, and silver, and many well-forged tools. Under his direction they built his castle. Those were the fathers and grandfathers of those who are the shore people now. They used the tools for him, and as he promised, he permitted them to keep them when the work was done, and he gave them many other things. My mother's father went to them while they labored, and asked if they did not see that they were setting up a ruler over themselves, since the builder of the castle could do as he chose with them, then retire behind the strong walls they had built for him where no one could reach him. They laughed at my mother's father and said they were many, which was true, and the builder of the castle only one, which was also true."

I asked if he had ever seen the builder, and if so what he looked like.

"Once. He stood on a rock talking to shore people while I passed in my boat. I can tell you he was a little man, a man who would not, had you been there, have reached higher than your shoulder. Not such a man as inspires fear."


Llibio goes on to describe how, after the castle was completed, the beasts and the children of the shore people began to go missing in the night. The shore people blamed the People of the Lake and began kidnapping their children, in the hopes that whoever was taking the beasts and the children would take these kidnapped children instead. The conflict grows until the antagonism and violence is openly acknowledged. The "builder...was seen by no one once his castle was complete." Severian ventures that he may be dead, but Llibio continues, "An evil giant dwells there now, but no one has seen him." More clues are offered, as "Five years past, and they swarmed over it by night like the fingerlings that crowd a dead man. They burned the castle and slew those they found there." Finally, "After the melting of the ice this year, the people of the castle returned. Their hands were full of gifts - riches, and the strange weapons you turned against the shore people. There are others who come there too, but whether as servants or masters, we of the lake do not know." These others, it turns out, are not from the north or the south, but "From the sky."

Even the first time reader should see the parallels between this and Dr. Talos' earlier story of he and Baldanders touring the south with their little play in order to earn the gold necessary to restore their home on the shores of a far off lake. This lake, Diuturna, is indeed that same one Talos speaks about, and the reader will easily connect the builder of the castle, the "little man" who would not inspire fear, with Dr. Talos while the later "evil giant" that comes to inhabit the castle would be Baldanders. The visitors "from the sky" are obviously the Hierodules. Their connection to Baldanders remains a mystery at this point, but one which will soon be partially revealed since their ship is, at the time of Severian's attack on the castle, hovering above Baldanders' tower like an obscene mushroom cloud.

Much supposition bears fruit when Severian enters the castle. After pounding on the door, he is greeted by a surprised Dr. Talos who promises that Baldanders will give Severian back the Claw of the Conciliator (which had been stolen by the hetman of the shore people and sent to the castle) but that he is upstairs talking to the Hierodules. As Severian and Talos climb through the tower, Severian sees for the first time the horrors that Baldanders has wrought in his quest for knowledge. Aside from a screaming, insane prisoner who is being kept, as Dr. Talos puts it, "For parts, I suppose. That's what Baldanders has most of this rubbish for," the tower is full of strange and disturbing devices.

"This room held machines too. But these, though they might have been as old as those below, gave the impression of being in working order; and moreover, of standing in some logical though impenetrable relation to one another, like the devices in Typhon's hall. Baldanders and his guests were at the farther end of the chamber, where his head, three times the size of any ordinary man's, reared above the clutter of metal and crystal like that of a tyrannosaur over the topmost leaves of a forest. As I walked toward them, I saw what remained of a young woman who might have been a sister of Pia's lying beneath a shimmering bell jar. Her abdomen had been opened with a sharp blade and certain of her viscera removed and positioned around her body. It appeared to be in the early stages of decay, though her lips moved. Her eyes opened as I passed her, then closed again."

Horrifying.

Severian is introduced to Baldanders and the three Hierodules he is speaking with, Barbatus, Famulimus and their android servant Ossipago. They shock Severian and deeply offend Baldanders, although this is only subtly indicated, by bowing to Severian. The Hierodules, like Merlyn in T.H. White's The Once and Future King, live through time in reverse, having come from the future while traveling toward the past. They bow because they are aware Severian will eventually become the Autarch and beyond that will bring the New Sun. Baldanders, who in his monstrous ambition, has been vying for these honors as well is infuriated.

In his slow voice, Baldanders said "Severian will be the victor. Else why did they kneel to him? Though he may die and we may not. You know their ways, Doctor. The looting may disseminate knowledge."

After a fiery exchange, Dr. Talos leaves and the Hierodules explain, in the vaguest terms, their motives. Their desire is to advance humanity - all of humanity - in the hope that, as is revealed in the fifth book The Urth of the New Sun, humans eventually evolve into the very Hierarchs that left the fallen universe of Briah, traveled to Yesod, created the Hierodules, and learned how to create suns and even galaxies. In short, the Hierarchs, Hierogrammates, and Hierodules are essentially equivalent to a modern Christian's angel, and their hope is that humanity eventually attains the godhead. The Hierodules, literally "holy slaves," have the closest contact with humanity although they, like the Istari in The Lord of the Rings, do not directly interfere with or manipulate events for a more favorable outcome for humanity. They offer what guidance and tools that they can, placing the onus for the spiritual progression necessarily on the shoulders of humanity. The Hierodules, privy to the knowledge of multiple futures, see the possibility of either Severian or Baldanders bringing the New Sun, therefore they have taken a special interest in each. With Severian, this interest seems to be smoothing his road toward the throne of the Autarchy and, by extension, his eventual testing by the Hierarchs. With Baldanders, this interest is in the dissemination of knowledge and tools in the hopes that Baldanders will either disperse this information to others willingly or, in his death, "seed" the planet with the results of his inquiries. Famulimus says this explicitly.

"That man you call Baldanders lives to learn. We see that he hoards up past lore - hard facts like seeds to give him power. In time he'll die by hands that do not store, but die with some slight gain for all of you. Think of a tree that splits a rock. It gathers water, the sun's life-bringing heat...and all the stuff of life for its own use. In time it dies and rots to dress the earth, that its own roots have made from stone. Its shadow gone, fresh seeds spring up; in time a forest flourishes where it stood."

Time to draw these threads together. Baldanders, whose origins at first seemed ambiguous enough that calling him a proto-undine or an extra-solar monster would not have seemed far-fetched, began life as human as Severian. I believe this to be true because the bringer of the New Sun, the Conciliator, is essentially the redeemer of humanity specifically, and not just Urth. In order for Severian and Baldanders to have been considered equally worthy, at least at first, they would both have to be human. I also maintain that Baldanders, while turning inward and away from humanity in his monstrous ambition and self-obsession, is also not specifically aligned with the interests of Erebus, Abaia and the rest although he will also use them and their powers to aid his own desires if necessary. Baldanders truly is a third faction in the struggle for Urth and as I mentioned before, more a Byronic hero than an evil enemy or fallen Christ figure.

And if any further evidence is necessary, for once, one needs look no farther than the text itself. Wolfe spells it out quite directly in this brief conversation between Severian and Baldanders.

"I had already concluded," I said with as much self-possession as I could summon, "that when the islanders told me of a small man who paid for the building of this place, they were speaking of the doctor. But they said that you, the giant, had come afterward."

"I was the small man. The doctor came afterward."

The Byronic connections are also made explicit a bit later in the next chapter, as Severian, Dr. Talos and Baldanders talk following the departure of the Hierodules. Baldanders begins.

"No, I am my own great work. And I am my only great work!"

Dr. Talos whispered, "Look about you - don't you recognize this? It's just what he says!"

"What do you mean?" I whispered in return.

"The castle? The monster? The man of learning? I only just thought of it. Surely you know that just as the momentous events of the past cast their shadows down the ages, so now, when the sun is drawing toward the dark, our own shadows race into the past to trouble mankind's dreams."


The final key to the mystery of Baldanders arrives near the very end of the cycle, in one of the last chapters of The Citadel of the Autarch. Severian has completed his journey to the throne and is receiving visitors. To his surprise, Dr. Talos arrives, having survived the massive struggle at Baldanders' tower.

"Oh, Baldanders, you mean. No, he has dismissed me, I'm afraid. After the fight. After he dived into the lake."

"You believe he survived, then."

"Oh, I'm quite sure he survived. You didn't know him as I did, Severian. Breathing would be nothing to him. Nothing! He had a marvelous mind. He was a supreme genius of a unique sort: everything turned inward. He combined the objectivity of the scholar with the self-absorption of the mystic."

I said, "By which you mean he carried out experiments on himself."

"Oh, no, not at all. He reversed that! Others experiment upon themselves in order to derive some rule that they can apply to the world. Baldanders experimented on the world and spent the proceeds, if I can put it so bluntly, upon his person. They say-" here he looked about nervously to make sure no one but myself was in earshot "-they say I'm a monster, and so I am. But Baldanders was more monster than I. In some sense he was my father, but he had built himself. It's the law of nature, and of what is higher than nature, that each creature must have a creator. But Baldanders was his own creation; he stood behind himself and cut himself off from the line linking the rest of us with the Increate."


That exchange is so rich with meaning it almost asks for a separate blog post. It is too easy, especially at the beginning, for the reader, through Severian, to love Vodalus and to hate the Autarch. The reader comes to see though that while the Autarchy is deeply flawed and the Commonwealth is in many ways a horrible system of governance, he is the greatest hope humanity has. He is the Epitome, and through the many many people inside of him, he is deeply and intimately connected to all of humanity. The Autarch must truly be selfless and Baldanders is the antithesis of this. Baldanders, while human, is almost Miltonian in his Satanic pride and individuality. He willingly severs himself from the Commonwealth, from Urth, and from humanity, and from divinity through sheer selfishness and pride. Baldanders subverts the Hierodules in hoarding the knowledge that they share with him and using it for his own ends and to sate his own appetites. In The Urth of the New Sun Apheta explains that the Hieros ultimately stand against entropy. Entropy is the great devourer and only through an ordered advance of culture, philosophy, knowledge and morality can humanity evolve and eventually triumph over entropy. Baldanders is an evolutionary cul-de-sac. As the New Sun, he is a failure.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Happy Birthday, King.

Jack "King" Kirby would have turned 95 today. No other artist has had such a hold over my imagination for so long, and that will never change. Kirby fundamentally changed comics in unbelievable ways, and his legacy simply cannot be overstated. There will be many tributes online today, most of which will be far more articulate than anything I could ever write. I am just going to share some of my favorite Kirby images. And really, what you see below is a tiny sample of the greatness the King created. Happy birthday Jack.












































And finally, this awesome picture of the King with his son, imitating the Silver Surfer.