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Illustration and Cartooning

SARGASSO- the story and the art

OVERVIEW

I took a trip to the East coast in 2007. I came back with hundreds of photos, priceless memories, some great books and the germ of an idea. Halifax struck me as a fascinating city because of all the history connected with it. The early 1900s- the Gilded Age, the sinking of the TITANIC, the outbreak of the First World War and the Halifax Explosion- have long fascinated me because of the huge upheavals that came with those events. What must it have been like to live in those times and see the wonders and horrors up close?

In my mind I saw a city by the sea and a river winding inland. People trading, exploring, going overseas or up the river into the heart of a continent we might recognize as America, but subtly changed, as if it existed in a parallel universe. When I was home sick one day and put the APOCALYPSE NOW Redux movie into the DVD player to watch for the first time, (I saw the original theatrical version many years earlier), the hot toddie I was drinking to kill the fever mixed with the dreamlike cinematography and storyline to take me deep into this world that was forming in my head.

Over time, characters and settings emerged. I draw sketches and parts of a map of Fairview, as the city state became known. One character- Poppy- was there from the beginning. She ended up changed considerably from how I first imagined her and became not the central character in the story, but a driving force behind some of the action within it. What I took from Poppy I put into Ariana, who, for the first four books became the centre of my world now set in the Sargasso Islands, offshore from Fairview. Her adventures as a researcher from another world sent into exile across space and time for her own protection gave me the perfect foundation for an examination of the period that has interested me for so long.

I did a lot of research on life, culture and entertainment in the early 1900s, focusing originally on the Toronto Islands, Books I read kept comparing the amusement parks there a hundred years ago to those much grander venues in Coney Island, causing me to redirect my research there. If you haven’t seen pictures of Luna Park or Dreamland, look them up. Everyone I showed them to was struck amazement at how fascinating those parks were.

From there, my art research led to revisiting the works of Charles Dana Gibson, creator of the Gibson Girl. Evelyn Nesbit- inspiration for aspects of the character- became the next quest. Her bittersweet and tragic story, recounted in Paula Uruburu’s AMERICAN EVE and re-imagined in E.L. Doctorow’s classic RAGTIME, led me to collect antique postcards of her- giving me real pieces from that long-gone world.

Yet where some might be nostalgic about that era, I chose to portray it as seen through a more critical lens. Ariana/Mallory, the protagonist in the story, experienced the injustices of the period, the hypocrisy and the darkness that lived in shadows cast upon the western world by the monuments of the Gilded Age. She might have been a powerful woman with fantastic resources at her disposal, but in that time she could not vote. Her values were often in conflict with those of others in that era. Knowing what she knew from her life in ‘the old world’, she had to publicly accept her status as a woman of her time in the new world; trying to live like someone in a witness protection programme and only engage in acts of emancipation sparingly so as not to make herself a target here as well. Circumstances being what they were, however, would conspire eventually to make that almost impossible…

Of course, Ariana/Mallory was not to be alone in her adventures. Being a specialist in artificial intelligence and cybernetics, she was accompanied in her journey to the Sargasso Islands by sidekicks in the form of several living dolls, popping seemingly out of the Anime and Manga culture that’s been popular here for a number of years. Quirky and each representing a character archetype from Manga, they made convenient foils to Ariana/Mallory as the story developed. And, typical also to the tropes of Anime/Manga, one among the dolls would prove to be a powerful force herself. That eventually was the part played by Poppy.

PUBLISHING THE BOOKS

SARGASSO remains published by Blurb in California a company that specializes in self-publishing on demand. At the time, it was one a few companies that was willing to do so, providing people like me with the means to generate content without having to order hundreds of books afterwards at great cost. Today, over a decade later, the playing field in self publishing is crowded and authors have a lot of options to consider when seeking the best way to make their work available to the public. Four books were published by Blurb and can be found through a title search or by my name, C.A. Seaman, on the website.

THE ARTWORK

The following images are samples from the four books published in the series, completing the first arc in the story. Unless stated otherwise, all the pieces are completed in graphite pencil on 110lb paper, allowing me to create a range of textures and finishes in the imagery. In some cases, I used a small amount of computer post production work only to add some limited smoke effects, spot lighting or blur to enhance the appearance of the final piece. I also created a number of silhouette illustrations in the books. Silhouettes were popular many years ago in book illustration and seem to have died out recently. Drawing the forms, I then filled them in using Photopaint to create the silhouette effect. The average maximum size of images was no more than 8.5×11″, mostly to facilitate scanning on the machine I had at the time.

EARLY PROCESS PIECES

In this gallery is an arrangement of early drafts, poses and character designs that helped me imagine the world of SARGASSO. The last piece is a study I did from process drawings created for Disney’s animated film THE RESCUERS. I found the images helpful in terms of trying out proportions for younger characters. The computer generated model at the beginning is Sadie, who helped me figure out some early concepts for the character of Poppy. The action poses are my versions of gestures I found in a book of training images created for artists at Warner Bros. working on Bugs Bunny. It’s an amazing book. Grab it if you find one. I did and have had no regrets. Finally, because Ernest Shepard has always been a favourite artist of mine, I adapted one of his WINNIE THE POOH illustrations to the SARGASSO world, just to see how it would look. It was all good training and training never ends for artists, as many know.

These images appeared in the final books. They are published in no particular order and represent a sampling of what appeared in the books.

To access images, double-click on them. Eventually, you find yourself in a gallery setting for viewing. To return to the main page, click on the Back arrow at the top left of the toolbar.

2 replies on “SARGASSO- the story and the art”

Thank you, Mica. It makes me really happy to read that you enjoyed your visit to the website and will continue to follow it. I also have pages on Facebook and Instagram now. If you look up my name in either, they should appear. Take care for now!

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