In a new adventure, I signed up for a course in Colour Theory Foundation at George Brown College and got the chance to deepen my understanding of how colour works in art. I taught colour theory during my many years in the classroom, but the knowledge needed to get points across to my audience of adolescents was superficial compared to what I was able to examine here. It was a struggle at first, climbing to the top of the hill of existing knowledge to see from its summit the new world laid bare before me.
Working with military subjects, my palette has often been restricted to earth tones. Even when completing figurative art, intense hues were not exactly what I would be reaching for when placing them in the mixing trays. The opportunity to work with hues out of the tube in gouache has turned out to be a fun process, reuniting me with a medium I enjoy painting with.
From this point, I created a motif and used it for the subsequent pieces. I wanted to resist going to the old standby of aviation, as suggested by the instructor, but after much stewing and sketching, I saw saw on Instagram a picture of a photo-reconnaissance Spitfire entitled ‘A Perfect Example of Primary Colours’ and realised that was it.
The next step was to create twelve studies of the aircraft in mixes of complimentary colours. What follows are the studies and a new composite piece I created from them.
The next piece was to use the motif in a colour wheel featuring a shopping list of colour effects, including complimentary pairs, triads, tetrads, analagous colours and… the Bezold Effect! This one was so complex that I completed a primer to identify what colours went where in the piece. I then pulled out the paints and applied them using the primer one hue at a time. The images below show some of the process behind this piece.
The final piece, scanned and in a better resolution follows below…
Over the years, I have taken many photographs of the world around me. This gallery contains a few of them from both the archives and more recent collections of mine. From spring hatch-lings and summer sunshine to the coldest depths of winter, beauty is only a shutter click away. Click on these for enlargements.
To say a tank is just a tank when working on a book such as MANNA is to armchair generals like being asked what shade of white you want when going to a paint shop. I am just as bad as any armchair general when some of this comes up. How many Hollywood war movies made over the years featured generic or historically incorrect vehicles? (I can imagine a lot of mumbling at this point.) Of course, there were good fiscal reasons in a number of cases for this- getting the equipment beyond what was in storage on the backlot was too expensive, or building replicas was too expensive, and so on. No doubt some directors and producers probably made comments like “It’s just a tank. Who cares if it’s American and we painted it up to look German? Nobody will know- or care.”
These days, however, that just isn’t on. We do care. Why wasn’t there more debris on the beach in DUNKIRK? Why was a Yorktown class aircraft carrier subbed in for a shot In MIDWAY where the LEXINGTON is shown to be sinking at the end of the Battle of the Coral Sea? Where were the Wildcats in MIDWAY? Why was the bow of the EXETER, as shown in WORLD ON FIRE not given the straight stem it had in real life? Why is a U-Boat of the First World War drawn like on from the Second in a comic book I read recently?
We care. The materials are out there. People still know these things. Why didn’t that information get into the hands of people making these otherwise excellent films and stories? You can actually gain some insight on how this dogs people working in the historic genre from watching an interview with Anthony Horowitz about the making of FOYLE’S WAR and the challenges they faced in ‘getting it right’. I found it enlightening and intimidating at the same time, making me realise that working on historic fiction is a lot like juggling a lot of balls in the air. If you are interested in writing about the war, look up this interview and watch it- if you can find it.
Enthusiasts are well informed and very picky. Computer animation has made recreating the terrible vistas of war much easier. Video games and 3D simulations like BBC’s incredible “BERLIN BLITZ,” (created using the Oculus Rift), can put viewers into the action on an almost visceral level. (I could go on about how disturbing it is that many players seem to derive more fun than horror from these experiences, but let’s leave that for another time. “BERLIN BLITZ” left me in a cold sweat, unable to speak for some time after experiencing it. Others left saying how exciting it was. Hmmm…)
GETTING THE TOOLS TO DO THE JOB
So, facing this, I want to get a number of details in MANNA right and leave any construction of the imagination to things which are not out of the realm of possibility, but are also not crucial to driving the history in the plot of the book.
Getting information on vehicles, aircraft and weapons isn’t that hard. It’s only time consuming and requires fact checking- especially if initial sources are sites on the internet created by enthusiasts not necessarily affiliated with museums, collections or organizations that specialize in keeping or operating the guns, planes or tanks in question. Books are better for that, although, they are not fool-proof. As time passes and some younger authors are writing these works, I find errors are creeping in where once they didn’t. It may be that the speed and convenience of the internet is trumping good ol’ fashioned scholarly research.
Better scholarship is found more these days in books where the author has direct access to archival materials and related primary sources. If possible, meet these people and talk to them. Go to the museums. Visit the archives. Explain the project and ask for help in locating resources. Discuss findings in books with interpreters at these places. I will give you three examples of how this can be useful.
I wanted information on pilots who evaded capture by the Germans in World War Two and returned to Britain. What happened to them? Were they able to go back into action with their old units? If they’d been helped in their escape by a Resistance cell, how did that impact on their chances of returning to operations in Europe? The National Air Force Museum of Canada in Trenton was very helpful in pointing out resources and either supporting or refuting evidence I had discovered in other places. One meeting was all it took.
How does one start the engines on a Lancaster bomber? That depends on the type of Lancaster it is. Was it built in Britain or Canada? Is it a Mark I, III, or X? Does it have Rolls Royce Merlin or Packard Merlin engines? Was it built near the end of the war with possible deployment to the far east for missions against Japan in mind? All of this matters, as I discovered when I asked someone at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Mount Hope, outside Hamilton, ON., this very question.
If gasoline was rationed, how did people get about in occupied Europe during the war? Welcome to the wonderful world of wood or coal gas powered vehicles, carts pulled by dogs in harness, known in the Netherlands as Honderkar, and horses pulling wagons for the Wehrmacht. (On the last point, I discovered the German army was not nearly as mechanized as one would have believed from watching the propaganda movies. Hundreds of thousands of horses were used by the army in the war. One of my interviews with witnesses to the German occupation of the Netherlands revealed that it was rare to see mechanized vehicles under enemy control during the last half of the war beyond Kubelwagens, Schwimmwagens and motorcycles. Trucks were uncommon and then often only moved at night after D-Day.) This will be important as I sort out the conveyances used by one of the characters in the book. She will start with a small car, a van version of the Fiat Topolino, move to a wood gas powered motorcycle rigged up by her husband and finish with a honderkar. Some creative licence may be needed in parts, but only so in parts because everything else has be verified as having existed at that time.
Ask the questions of your sources. You may be surprised by the answers…
LINKING BACK TO OTHER ELEMENTS IN THE STORY
Finally, remember the people who ride the machines are just as important as the machines themselves. Check uniforms. Also, check markings on vehicles and camouflage patterns. If you’re going to portray a Canadian Military Pattern truck from a certain regiment of the Canadian Army in a particular area of fighting, make sure that particular type of machine was there and make sure the markings on the vehicle match units that served in the region at that time.
The only other thing you can do is come up with fictitious markings for a non-existent unit and then you have some latitude in terms of what you can portray in your story. For example, in MANNA, I created a fictional R.A.F bomber squadron flying Lancasters from a fictional place in Lincolnshire. The squadron codes are fictional. The tail markings- highly unusual anyway- are also made up. This was done after careful research allowed me to develop the above with a certain knowledge that none of it existed previously and no one either descended from squardron crews or actually there would come up and tell me I got it all wrong. Frederick E. Smith did this when he wrote 633 SQUADRON and its sequels. You can get the information to do this online or in books. I used both to re-search what I used eventually, coming up with my Lancaster looking something like this-
I hope this helps you realize the nature of the work you have ahead of you. When presenting this material in the class on the graphic novel at George Brown College, I have been greeted afterwards by comments like “Well, I guess I won’t be writing any historical graphic novels any time soon,” or “I think I’ll stick to fantasy.” I love the last one the most because I would pay real money to see the reaction of someone like J.K. Rowling or George R.R. Martin to a comment like that. For historic fiction, at least you have a foundation upon which to base your research. I would think fantasy or science fiction would, if anything, be harder to create.
If you intend to create a graphic novel, study the works of other authors and artists in the medium. When I suggest you study graphic novels, I mean read self-contained works, not trade paperbacks collecting six issues of your favourite superhero story. You can certainly learn things from those works, but they are structured differently from graphic novels, which have more of a traditional narrative structure and do not presume that you have a pre-existing knowledge of the characters or situations. By graphic novels, I mean MAUS, by Art Spiegelman, A SAILOR’S STORY by Sam Glanzman, ERNEST & ETHEL by Ronald Briggs.
Books like that. The ones above are named because they all deal with the Second World War. In the pictures below are a collection of graphic novels I have collected on the war. It is by no means complete. Click on the images to bring up a separate post. Click on that for an enlargement. These books are all available either through major major retailers, or the secondary market.
One thing a number of these publications have in common is that they originated in Europe. I met a German representative from a distribution company a few years back who said graphic novels about the war are popular in Europe as the grand-children of the people who lived through it try to understand what happened then. I have found more of these books coming from Europe now than from America or Britain, which seemed to focus more on war narratives a number of years ago. Perhaps it is because the nature of the conflict was such that continental Europe is only now being able to examine the war as it was fought right there and the British, while bombed and terrorized by the Luftwaffe and Hitler’s U-Boats never endured enemy occupation outside the Channel islands and the Americas were largely untouched by enemy action except off the coast at sea. Certainly I’ve learned the experiences of those living on the continent was VERY different to that of my parents, who grew up in the British Isles.
Some stories focus as much on civilians as they do on soldiers. All of them, whether true stories like TWISTS OF FATE, IRMINA, A SAILOR’S STORY, MAUS, THE BATTLE OF ARNHEM- SEPTEMBER 1944, SIX DAYS, ALAN’S WAR and I, RENE TARDI etc., adapted from a novel like SUITE FRANCAISE, or adapted pieces inspired by historic characters or events like the Garth Ennis stories, LE GRAND DUKE, BEAR’S TOOTH, and VOICES IN THE DARK, brings new dimensions to our understanding of the war and jumps beyond the standard US vs THEM stories that were more popular years ago. When I look at anthologies or collected works like ACES HIGH, WAR STORIES, BLAZING COMBAT and BATTLE CLASSICS, I notice that the selections here stand out also for their balance of characterisation and action. ACES HIGH represents a complete run between its covers and thus we get to see some more traditional stories alongside the ones that explore moral issues in war, but I wonder from the selections in the Garth Ennis picks for BATTLE CLASSICS how many other stories not in the anthology appeared in that magazine fitting the more formulaic works that were popular years ago.
(I have one book here, ROSE BLANCHE, which is not a graphic novel, but rather a picture book. The images are so much part of the story, though, that I keep it with the graphic novels just the same.)
Please note in the photos I have two samples of contemporary comic strips from the war in my collection- JOHNNY CANUCK and JANE, the latter being a biography of Norman Pett, the strip’s creator and his model for the title character, Christabel Leighton-Porter. Both are gems: the former for the Canadian content and the latter for the cheekiness that pushed the limits of propriety for its day. I met a veteran of the Canadian Army’s campaign in the Netherlands a few years ago and we got to talking about Jane. He told me waiting for the next installment of strips to come out in the army newspaper was something that helped keep him going during that campaign. JUST JANE, the Lancaster bomber at East Kirkby in England, is named after Pett’s character. If you visit YouTube, you can find old Pathe newsreels of Pett drawing Leighton-Porter for the much anticipated next edition of Jane’s story. It’s a bit of a staging job, though, because more often than not Pett drew his model from the nude and added clothes- or removed them- later in the final panels. Very much of their time, neither character is well-known today outside historical scholarship and the fading memories of people who were there when the adventures of Johnny or Jane first went to print.
Before Art Spiegelman created MAUS and brought comics and graphic novels to a whole new readership in the world, the Holocaust also appeared in comics. WE SPOKE OUT: COMIC BOOKS AND THE HOLOCAUST, edited by Neal Adams, Raphael Medoff and Craig Yoe, is a collection of stories from the pages of comic books where the Holocaust figures in the plot. One of the most powerful in it is Neal Adams’ own piece on the wartime experiences of Dina Gottliebová, (later Dina Babbitt). I bought the book so I could get a complete copy of the story and acquired with it a rich legacy of this horrific period in the history of so-called humanity. It provides a good foundation to accounts of the Holocaust in sequential art up to the publication of MAUS, allowing me to put some of the other books I have on the subject- like Joe Kubert’s YOSSEL, Dave Sim’s JUDENHASS, IRENA and AUSCHWITZ into a kind of context. The art in each is unique. The stories are powerful. Put together with the other books I’ve shown in this article and unrelated historical graphic novels I possess that are not covered here, (like George Pratt’s haunting take on the World War One character ENEMY ACE), I have gained an appreciation that artists in the genre have a freedom to be more expressive, abstract or illustrative with the art used to compliment the text here than they do in conventional superhero comics, where other expectations dominate the presentation of the work. Perhaps that is best, for I wonder how some of these stories would ‘read’ visually if they were presented in the same style as so many of those wonderfully action packed and dramatic tales from the big comic companies. WE SPOKE OUT gives us a glimpse of what they could look like, but I wonder if they would have the same impact if rendered exclusively in that style. I think not. I think the variety of art styles presented in all these books is what makes them together so powerful, for it reminds us that the filters we use when telling our stories don’t just stop working with the words we choose to put on the page. The images themselves carry as much of the narrative and need to be given careful consideration in their design and creation.
In all graphic novels, there is often a tug of war between writers and artists regarding which part of the book gets prominence. Having met some famous writers and artists, I have heard about this firsthand. One writer said she felt lucky to have such great artists illustrating her stories, but knew not all writers could say the same. “If you can write and draw your story, you’ve got much better control over the content,” she concluded.
I can think you also have much more responsibility too, for a comic panel is not so big when you have to find space for both words and pictures in it. Creating any sequential art, especially one that focuses on strong story telling, is a delicate balancing act and is not for everyone. So, in closing, think carefully about the story you want to tell and the best way to do it. I have a number of friends who would much rather read MANNA as an illustrated novel than a graphic novel. At this point, I’m not entirely sure they’re wrong. What may emerge in the end could be a hybrid like Terry Moore’s STRANGERS IN PARADISE, which uses prose, sequential art, and mixtures of the two to tell its story. Another good example would be Sydney Padua’s THE THRILLING ADVENTURES OF LOVELACE AND BABBAGE.
At the time of writing, I’m thinking the hybrid might be the answer…
As time passes and the Second World War slips from the living memory of humanity, efforts have been made by family members, museums and government organisations to gather the stories of those who lived through the conflict for posterity. Some of these collections have been published for the public as books. Some have been made available as media resources. Peter Jackson used audio recordings of First World War veterans made almost fifty years ago to create the narrative track for his documentary film, THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD. Similar projects related to the Second World War could be created the same way as thousands of stories have been preserved in various ways for people to consult in the future.
Where MANNA and the occupation of the Netherlands in World War Two is concerned, I have pulled source material from a number of places. First, the internet, using Google and Wikipedia as a starting point, helped to lay a foundation. Wikipedia is, to me, a good resource because of the links reaching out from articles to other websites or books. I have found much useful information that way. Wikipedia is good for the SEARCH part of fact finding. Google and Wikipedia quickly turn into rabbit holes and dogs chasing their tails when searching, though, because websites link to other websites, but the information shared is either the same or a variation therein. If you need a deep dive, you need to look elsewhere.
Books. Lots of books. Books about the subject directly and things spinning off from it will be a good place to start. For me, these were resources I used to get going. OPERATION MANNA/CHOWHOUND was already out of print when I picked it up. A newer book, OPERATION CHOWHOUND, came out jut a couple of years ago. Together, they compliment each other on the food drops that gave my book its inspiration.
Then, as I realized I needed to learn more about life under the occupation, I supplemented website information and photographic references with these little books of personal anecdotes from survivors of the occupation, either in the Netherlands itself, or in the colonies of the Dutch East Indies, now known as Indonesia. I collected the ones I felt were the most useful and then decided to add some primary material of my own, meeting people who were in the Netherlands during the war and interviewing them. Two of the three interviews I conducted were recorded for posterity.
Why not more interviews, you may ask? I have asked many people. Few wished to discuss their experiences. Others, according to relatives I’ve talked to, had forgotten much over time and could offer little of use. A couple examined the information I brought and said I knew more about aspects of the occupation already than they did… and they lived through it! Having said that, though, every one of those interviews lifted a curtain that was obscuring the vision I had of the world I wanted to created for MANNA. In one case, a look at a design for a kitchen I created raised concerns about the size and I was able to make it more realistic. In another case, my image of tanks and trucks everywhere was debunked quickly by one witness who said luckily the tanks stayed away from his town and only came through when trouble was in the offing. I learned about the use of horses in Holland- thousands of them. I heard about relatives who fought with the Resistance and relatives who were drafted into the army and sent to Russia. I heard stories that surprised me, touched me, horrified me and captivated me. More books reinforced those accounts and enriched them further. For example, reading about Arnhem was one thing. Hearing someone describing the sight of hundreds of transport aircraft flying past her home towards the drop zones at the beginning of Operation Market Garden was something else entirely.
Memories, I learned, could be stronger and more vivid with age than one might assume and attitudes generated by the experience of the war could be hardened surprising by time. “I hope they got what they deserved,” said one witness when he heard about the number Dutchmen who enlisted for the SS divisions formed in the Netherlands and sent to the Eastern Front. Other sentiments- not to be shared here- were also echoed.
These accounts are like gold, and more are being unearthed from sources long silent in the world. DUTCH GIRL, the story of Audrey Hepburn’s experiences in the Netherlands during the war was published just last year, long since she passed away. It’s well worth reading and I found it to be a great addition to my library on the Dutch in the war. To balance the perspective and try to get inside the experiences of Germans in the war, as occupation soldiers and support personnel would have had stories of their own, I read a lot of books about life in the Reich and in its service. A number of these books were memoirs of events that happened in the youth or childhood of the narrators. No one else is left today to tell their stories.
I would say to anyone out there wanting to attempt historic fiction, primary sources where possible are very helpful, but round them out with a range of materials. Be open-minded in terms of where you look. Sometimes, an unlikely place will yield a nugget or two of useful information. Don’t just concentrate on the narrative. Build resources about the whole of the world in which it takes place. It’ll make the story rich and authentic. Think of your story as being like an engine. You see the overall shape of the thing. But you need to remember the hundreds or thousands of parts- some moving and others not- that went into making it what it is. As anyone who’s had car servicing done, those little parts have their roles to play in the smooth operation of the engine. Don’t neglect them in your car any more than you would do so in your story. And finally, take your time in putting it together. The only person you are racing against until the book is complete is yourself and maybe the few friends you had read it at some point. The world is unaware of the thing until it finally appears in print and even then it might not even so much as wobble upon its release. So get it right while you get it done.
“…and that’s why we call it ‘research.’ Because we SEARCH and then we RE-SEARCH.”
Dr. Angela Baisley
Angela Baisley was one of the best teachers I ever knew. I met her when she did a teacher exchange many years ago at my school, coming up from Florida- within sight of the Kennedy Space Center and the launchpads that saw beginning of so many historic missions into space. Her knowledge was vast. Her wisdom was great. I believe we truly got the best part of the deal where the exchange was concerned and took away a lot from my time working with her.
Her quote, which I used to begin this article, summed up then as it does now the challenge of writing any work involving history. The challenge only increases when the work involves illustrations or is a graphic novel. Creating aviation art has led to some interesting conversations with people over the years about how one goes about trying to make the piece accurate. I even hosted a talk at the Brampton Public Library years ago on this and enjoyed exchanging ideas with people about ‘historic’ art.
When I began work on MANNA, having wound up SARGASSO temporarily, I knew a long road lay ahead of me where research was concerned. SARGASSO was a fantasy set within an alternate universe that looked a lot like Earth in the early 1900s. Costumes, cars, architecture and such had to be more or less period specific. Beyond that, I could play freely with the world I had created.
MANNA was going to be different. It was set on our world, in our past, featuring locations, events and historic figures that were parts of our history. Getting it wrong was not something one wanted to do. While it is almost impossible to get it completely right, though, all reasonable efforts must be made to try and recreate the era as accurately as possible.
“I believe the true line of research lies in the careful noting and comparison of the smallest details”.
MANNA required research on clothing, housing, transport, landscape and the environment- both rural and populated- to get the look of the Netherlands just right. Holland is more than windmills, bicycles and canals. The countryside may be flat or mildly undulating in most areas, but that doesn’t mean they are like the Canadian prairies or our Rocky Mountains. Early drawings for the graphic novel made the landscape look too open. With more research, I am now getting right the land and the colours within it and setting up scenes that say ‘Holland’, rather than ‘some place with a windmill in it’.
Books and the internet were very helpful to achieve that. However, I had to be careful with the internet, though, because I was not always able to recognize images that had been manipulated through the use of computer software. Collecting lots of pictures would help give me a range of materials so I could make informed decisions about colour choices later.
Ultimately, I know a trip to the Netherlands would be the best way to obtain primary reference material. At the time of writing, however, the global pandemic is making air travel difficult and other considerations continue to keep me at home. Someday, I hope that will change.
“The pictorial battlefield becomes a sea of mud mercifully veiled by the fog of war.”
If I find pictures from the war that are themselves in colour, I am very happy, indeed for the benefit of having the material at hand, though the subject matter is often tragic and disturbing. However, film stocks and issues with reproduction on the web make for challenges in themselves when viewing period photos. Old images often have an orange or sepia tint to them. Learning to recognize that when looking at these pictures has helped to avoid some errors when designing scenes for the book. For example, the colour of uniforms and anything to do with camouflage can be hard to figure out using period photos, if the original images have not been kept in good condition before publishing. Using books like the following in the image below, connected with others showing photos from the war, help a lot.
I also find books like the ones below to be of great help in handling details and providing great photographic references to help me draw the uniforms, machinery and settings I need to deal with in MANNA. A series of books from France on the uniforms of British, Canadian and German soldiers were among the more expensive purchases in my library, but easily some of the best. The uniforms photographed are, like the Hitler Youth ones in the picture above, original. The photographs are pin sharp, however, making you see the material in amazing detail. The Osprey books are solid, reliable and full of concise, well-organized information and hugely useful photos and illustrations. Realising that writing a book about the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands was going to require more than pictures of soldiers, I found Osprey provided affordable books to give me reference material on the underpinnings of the occupational forces’ structure, from police to nurses, firemen, communications operations and various auxiliary services. Some of them are illustrated here.
So where do you find these books? Amazon, with its myriad dealers and retailers is one place. One place where I go in person to buy these books is ARMY OUTFITTERS in Toronto, just off the 401 highway on Lesmill Road. It is an amazing place and has done wonders to help me find not only books for the various war stories I am working on, but also books I remember reading from my childhood, when visits to the library were a weekly Friday night occurrence.
Next, having discussed the colours of the war, I will discuss the stories behind it, followed by a reflection on the machinery in MANNA. Check the photographic section for posts related to the book and trips I took to museums and collections over the years. Also, look at the section on models for articles on some of the kits I’ve built so far related to MANNA.
Not all my research for MANNA involves books. Building models is a great way to create miniature representations of the equipment I will be featuring in the book. However, nothing seizes the imagination quite like seeing ‘the real thing’, whether it is a tank, a heavy gun, an airplane, or in this case, a working Schwimmwagen.
It looks like a bathtub on wheels. It even has a propeller on the back that can be lowered into the water so the driver may ‘drive’ across rivers and small lakes. It was built in Germany in the war as an amphibious vehicle, slightly smaller than the VW Beetle, with good handling qualities on land or in the water. According to at least one of my interviewees, a number of them saw service in the Netherlands during the occupation of 1940-1945. This would be hardly surprising considering the number of canals and natural bodies of water in the country.
These pictures were taken at the Ontario Regiment Museum Aquino a few years back. The owner of this working Type 166 had acquired the car from someone in Italy many years before and carefully restored it to its original configuration, complete with the propeller being an authentic wartime vintage artifact bearing the VW logo with the gear surrounding the company initials. (The gear disappeared with the de-Nazification of the company by the British after the war.)
If the Second World War, its history, equipment, and legacy, interests you, please take time to visit the Ontario Regiment Museum in Oshawa, ON., Canada. There is an excellent book on the regiment’s history I strongly advise you read to put what you see there into context. FIDELIS ET PARATUS, by Sgt. Rod Henderson, is an excellent, authoritative and complete history of the regiment. Many volunteers make this excellent museum ‘go’, and the tank days, when all the armour comes out to play, are well worth attending.
There will be other posts related to this collection and the connections to MANNA coming up in the future. More likely they will be posted on the social media sites attached to this one.
Outside of the other galleries are works I post here because they sit apart from the archival works or other illustrative pieces seen in that directory. Where possible, I will include information about the media and size of each piece. I hope you enjoy them.
I hadn’t done much with nature scenes in the past, but helping so many students with their drawings of animals gave me a sense of wanting to try it. So here it is, an original design cobbled together from different images showing these birds on perches of different kinds. The wood and doorway is, like the bird, a new creation. I started it in the winter of 2013, left it when I was working on other projects, revisited it before Christmas of 2014 and left it again until recently when I just sat down and finished it.
ENGLISH ROBIN. 8.5×10″, pen and ink, watercolour and gouache on vellum. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2015
WESTERN FRONT FANTASIES
In 2013, before I gave a lecture and presentation on war art in Canada from the past to the present, I examined the idea of creating new images of conflict based on researching primary source material like photos and accounts and then working from there to draw or paint imagined scenes of action or devastation. The Western Front as a landscape subject itself inspired many artists at the time and was a formative influence on members of the Group of Seven who served overseas during the First World War. If you look at some of the landscapes produced in the 1920s by some of them, the stripped trees of the Ontario north could just as easily be Belgium or ‘some field in France’.
We know the Group of Seven created oil sketches on site during their painting trips into Algonquin and other places, using them to develop finished paintings later in their studios. I wondered what I could do to create imaginary scenes from the photos in books about the war. The works below are the result. They were created with no rough drafts straight onto the final support as spontaneously as posssible, as if done ‘on the spot’ in the field. The first piece used charcoal, conte and Wolff pencils, carefully building the composition from background to foreground. The second one was done on some new black paper from Australia, recently arrived in Curry’s art supply store. I was the first customer to purchase the paper and try it out. The surface is very grainy, like a kind of sandpaper, which made it great for blending the colours and creating light effects like the rolling smoke in the distance and the shaft of light coming through the shattered window of the ruined church.
When they were first displayed at the lecture in 2013, they created a stir next to the more recognizable aviation works I had done, which are shown if you scroll down the screen. We discussed the fact that video games, graphic novels and films already undertake this kind of historic re-creation in their media. Using traditional media to create images like those realised by official war artists years ago was not something any of us present at the show had recalled seeing before.
The other thing that struck viewers of the work as intriguing was how oddly peaceful the first image was. “The war is definitely over. Look at the hope in that sky,” commented one person. I would be interested in hearing how viewers would react to it now, since the release of the Oscar winning film 1917.
WESTERN FRONT FANTASY No.1. 14×11″ Wolff pencils, charcoal and conte on vellum. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2013.
WESTERN FRONT FANTASY No.2. 11×14″ conte on black paper. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2013.
The next piece was a little Christmas project, imagined the same way as the war pieces above. It was a piece to practice pushing backgrounds into the background, softening them up to not fight with the foreground elements.
I needed a demo piece for teaching pen and ink to some of my senior students. As professional development, I used the last few days after shutting down the classroom studio for the summer to create this work, using ink and wash- the first I had done since the works in Cartooning 2 at George Brown and the first ever in colour. I gave the place a crooked roof and cobbled it together from bits and pieces of various places I’d photographed during my last trip to England. So, if you, like others I’ve shown this to, want to visit the place, you will need to travel through the landscape of my imagination to reach it. (It sounds so Rod Serling, don’t you think?) Here is a sequence of photos showing the piece as it was completed. I hope you find them useful.
A COTTAGE IN THE COUNTRY. 10×8″ ink and wash on watercolour board. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2017.
STUDY IN OWLS
Here was a little study I did of a stuffed owl at a conservation center in Northumberland Region. It was found dead and brought to the center, where it was set up and prepared for display. I enjoyed working on it in coloured pastel pencils, so I thought I’d throw it in.
OWL STUDY.9×12″ pastel pencil and charcoal mixed media on art paper. Copyright C.A. Seaman 2018.
In January of 2013, I took a course at George Brown College in Toronto on illustration for Children’s Books. This was the first formal studio courses I’d attended for marks since 1983. It was a great experience and I learned a lot in terms of composition and technique as a result. My work for this course led to a series of works related to Paul Gallico’s novella, THE SNOW GOOSE, first published in 1940 after the evacuation from Dunkirk. Subtitled “A Tale of Dunkirk,” it was a story about Philip Rhyadher, a reclusive artist, who while tending a lighthouse on the Essex coast in the last years before the outbreak of the Second World War, was approached by a girl of the marshlands who had found an injured snow goose that had been blown across the Atlantic from Canada. Rhyadher heals the bird and allows the girl, Fritha, into his life. A closeness between them develops as the years pass, with the snow goose being at the centre of their platonically loving relationship. Fritha becomes a woman who grows to love Philip, only to have the events of 1940 come between them.
No spoilers beyond that…
This story won awards when released in the U.S. in 1941 and helped Gallico establish himself as an author of note, creating later books like THOMASINA, and THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE. THE SNOW GOOSE itself was adapted into an award winning film for the Hallmark Hall of Fame in 1973 with Richard Harris and Jenny Agutter and while it does not appear to be available beyond the world of YouTube, audio books are more accessible to modern audiences.
I chose this book as the core work for my study in the class, developing several works around it and spending a lot of time researching the time, the location and extrapolating on ideas I was developing for the costumes. I even created a music mix to listen to while working on it, using music from JOYEUX NOEL by Philippe Rombi in a rearranged form intermixed with radio passages from Churchill and Chamberlain to add more weight to the work. Ironically, the music did so well in my mix, it was hard to remember it coming from that wonderful and so tragic film. It is available from Virgin Classics (0946 338279 2) and helped greatly in the creation of the final pieces below. I would also recommend you seek out the progressive rock group Camel’s album from 1975, THE SNOW GOOSE, inspired by the book. (Label: Decca – Universal Special Imports. ASIN: B00005V1B2)
I think the idea for doing this came from driving into Toronto one day for the class an seeing in the distance black oily smoke rising from a fire on the docks in Oshawa. It reminded me vividly of one of Peter Scott’s illustrations for the original edition of the book in 1941 and one thought jumped to another and the images below were the end result. I think my work on it in turn helped bring about the creation of MANNA later on.
SKETCH OF PROPOSED SETTING FOR STORY. 10×8″ graphite on acid free cardstock. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2013.
THE LOST PRINCESS. 11X14 in., graphite on acid free paper. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2013.
I had never drawn a goose in my life. I used the same techniques I employed creating a piece I never put in the aviation art show of a Bristol Monoplane. The clouds were blended graphite with a white eraser being used to bring up the details.
RHYADHER’S BOAT. 9×12 in. graphite pencil on acid free cardstock. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2013.
This was a study of Philip’s boat, which figures prominently throughout the book. I made the sails a little transparent, as I had noticed in some of the photos of small sailing craft I studied, you could see the shadow of one of the sheets through another when the light was right.
FRITHA AND THE LOST PRINCESS- four different versions. 12w x 16h in. graphite pencil on vellum (60lb.) stock. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2013.Other versions in watercolour, coloured pencil and mixed media and pen and ink on illustration board.
Here, after creating various thumbnails showing other compositional possibilities, was the first run at the final piece, sized the same as the hand-in work but done as a graphite tonal study. It remains one of my favourites. Fritha is as scruffy as Gallico describes her, with a dirty face. Mind you, if you saw the marshlands on the Essex coast, it would not be hard to imagine her this way. They look really wet. The overalls and top are all frayed and worn. Gallico never went into detail on her clothes, but I imagined one described as wild-looking as Fritha could look like this when she showed up on Rhyadher’s doorstep with this little bundle in her arms.
I joined Big Art Buzz, an artist’s collective for people across Ontario, in 2015. Besides having my work posted on the core website and its social media affiliates, I also enjoy the opportunity to display pieces in person at various events and to conduct demos. Here are some pictures from events that took place in recent years. The first images include pictures of the art work. The last two have me at my table with Keith Moreau, creator and organizer of Big Art Buzz, speaking with visitors. (I can say there’s somewhat less of me now than when those pictures were taken.) You can visit the site at www.bigartbuzz.com. Visit also the Big Art Buzz channel on YouTube. There is also the work of Keith Moreau on YouTube, which if you click on his name in this article you can see.
The Cromwell tank was very active in Northwestern Europe from D-Day to the end of the war in 1945. Whatever weaknesses it had against German armour like the Tiger, Panther and King Tiger, the Cromwell acquitted itself well as a cruiser tank, using a relatively low profile, good speed and a gun that could match most of what the enemy could throw at it- save for the vehicles mentioned above and the dreaded 88mm field gun.
And… it could fly!
The kit I built was Tamiya’s 1/35 scale Cromwell, a decent model with easy to follow instructions and a great fit in the parts. I had never built a tank before and was nervous, considering the experience I had with the much smaller Austin K2Y ambulance covered in the last article. (Click here for link.) I needn’t have worried. Considering the build was happening during a stressful period in my life involving illness in the family, I found working on the Cromwell to be relaxing.
I built it in two parts- the hull base with the wheels and tracks and the top of the hull with the turret and assorted bits for engine exhaust, towing and such added on. The two halves were sprayed with a base coat of the colour the British were using on their armour at this stage in the war and then given a deliberately sloppy coat of white on top to simulate the winter camouflage that was often hastily applied in the field using a water based lime wash that wore off as the winter ground on. As the wash only went where brushes or mops could be used to slap it on, the finish was inconsistent at best. I then weathered the two halves before joining them, gunking them up with mud, simulated wetness from watery roads, grime and such to show this machine had seen its share of action.
Decals were really hard to apply in places and the fixative didn’t fix very well. Also, there was a problem with the heavy rivets in the turret making it difficult for some of the markings to sit properly on the surface. Decal solvents were of mixed success, so let’s say the whitewash I used served more than one purpose in a couple of places. I learned it was generally accepted to try and paint around unit markings for identification purposes, but best laid plans, etc. sometimes led to the big white star atop the turret being obliterated under a layer of whitewash.
I only hope I will get better with decals as time passes. Tamiya ones in particular do have some annoying habits about them, although the Airfix decals for the Katy also threw a few curves at me.
So, here is my Cromwell. It has made me a fan of armour, as witnessed by the vast collection that has found its way into my studio in the last couple of years.
This is the big one. This is the biggest project I have ever worked on, let alone the biggest project since SARGASSO. It will be years before it is completed and it is years since it was started. However, I take comfort that Art Spiegelman took 12 years to create his landmark graphic novel MAUS, and other writers and artists have laboured over many years to complete their most famous pieces. If anything it to be learned from this, it is that it’s better to do something like this ‘right and slow’ than it is to do it ‘quick and dirty’. The latter results in a product that cannot come close to respecting its subject and one who cannot respect topics like the Second World War, the horrors of Nazism and the Holocaust, fighting in the war or struggling to survive in an occupied country during the war shouldn’t ever cross my radar, let alone my path.
You can tell I feel strongly about this. You would understand why if you sifted through the thousands of pages of reading I have undertaken since I began to research the book. I defy you to do so and not be moved as I have been throughout this process. It has been a powerful force in my life since I came up with the idea on Christmas Day, back in 2014, and has only grown more so as I meet people who were there and listen to their stories.
FLASHBACK TO THE ORIGINS OF ‘MANNA’
With the completion of the Cartooning certificate program at George Brown College, work in cartooning and illustration did not end. A new program, focusing on the graphic novel, was created at the college and now all work was to be dedicated to ongoing efforts in that area.
The primary assignment we were given was to create a six to eight page story to show we could set up a plot, establish characters, apply skills we had learned in previous courses and somehow put it all together in a short narrative in the media of our choice. Because of some fun I enjoyed working on a recreation of a panel of artwork by Milt Caniff for another course, I wanted to continue with a period theme in my story and relate something to the reader about the Second World War. On Christmas Day, while relaxing after a huge lunch by sitting and reading Edward Jablonski’s massive work, THE AIR WAR, I came across the story of the relief missions flown by bomber crews in the R.A.F., R.C.A.F., R.A.A.F. and U.S.A.A.F., among others, to deliver food to millions of Dutch civilians still living under enemy occupation at the end of the war.
The text and images below illustrate some of what has been accomplished already. Like SARGASSO, this is a substantial undertaking, more in the fact that unlike the former piece, where the illustrations supported the text, the illustrations here dominate the text.
‘MANNA’ CHARACTER DESIGNS
MANNA is a coming of age story set in the Netherlands mostly during the Second World War. It features two central characters- Pauli, a riches to rags girl who befriends Hilde, from an artistically and financially richer background and almost two years her junior, in the last few years before the outbreak of war in 1939. Together, as they mature, they endure the Nazi invasion and occupation and struggle to survive in a world that becomes darker and more hostile with each passing day. It is a macro to micro kind of story, with the events in the lives of our protagonists set against the massive events reshaping the world around them. For anyone who had relatives who lived in Holland during the Second World War or anyone who has read or known the story of Anne Frank, it is not hard to imagine the kinds of things that will be dealt with in this narrative. Originally designed as a short, (six to eight), page story, it has grown- through the encouragement of several people who have seen the plan of the thing- into a massive undertaking that will easily breach 100 plus pages. Like SARGASSO, it has required a lot of research, filling my shelves with many new books on all aspects of issues related to it or the war in general.
Below is the character sheet for the two leads. Pauli is in yellow ochre, and her palette will be consistently made of warm, sometimes bright colours. Hilde will be wearing greens, blues and cooler or pastel related colours. Her red hair is a factor in this. They are presented here as they appear at the beginning of the story, which is in late August, 1938, before the events of Munich and Chamberlain’s ‘peace in our time.’
SELECTED IMAGES AND PROCESS WORK ON THE MAIN CHARACTERS & SETTINGS
MANNA- EARLY TITLE PAGE SPREAD
A full colour title page spread was planned for the book, according to the script I wrote in the winter/spring of 2015. It was not going to be completed at the time, as I was planning to concentrate on the pages afterwards for the course work. When I was asked to participate in Big Art Buzz’s presentation at the Canadian Pavilion in July, 2015 as a guest artist, that changed. I was to do a demo and said, with everything else going on, I wasn’t interested in creating something just for the exhibition. I went to the instructor of the course and said I was going to include the spread now as a part of the final project and as the demo piece for the show.
The individual pages were to be 10″ wide and 15″ high, which when reduced would be compatible with traditional graphic novel formats. Thus, a two page spread would be 20″ wide by 15″ high, or twice the width. Based on the research done on clothes, bikes and aircraft, the final composition was designed first in Poser, and then drawn onto sketch paper at full scale. I only applied shading to the girls in the original drawing, and thus, that is the only part I’ve shown below.
Here are shots of the girls in progress, showing watercolour washes and layers of coloured pencil applied on top. You may notice Pauli’s legs were very skinny in the pencil drawing. They were beefed up a little in the final, but not too much, though, because she would have been thin anyway. At that point in the story, the average food intake for the Dutch was equal to 250 calories a day. We average over 2,000.
SOME NOTABLE DETAILS
In case you are wondering about the bike, it is a construct based on a Hungarian design, modified with wooden wedges shoved into the metal rims of the wheels to replace the rubber tires which would have been likely confiscated by the Germans during the war. Packages of food from a ‘hunger trek’ into the country fill the basket and rear pannier. Neither Hilde or Pauli are wearing socks, but Pauli is wearing some cut down boots, likely from a Dutch worker. How Pauli got them is a matter for speculation. Hilde’s shoes are improvised sandals cut from worn out saddle shoes popular at the end of the 1930s. Both coats are period accurate. Hilde’s hair is short, typical of her style anyway, but also practical in the later months of the war, when water, soap and shampoo were all in short supply because of the occupation forces’ closing of the borders around the Netherlands not liberated in Operation Market Garden, (September, 1944). In this image, Pauli’s hair is long. However, in more recent art, I have made it shorter as well for the reasons stated above.
As you can see the composition was designed to have nothing of importance to the right, as that would have been where the gutter between the pages would be. I still had to make it interesting enough not to make this design choice obvious, however. The final piece had to hang together and hang apart.
The sky was finished with coloured pencil. A tip: Prismacolour’s Light Cerulean Blue is a perfect match for Winsor & Newton’s Cerulean Blue! Blending was achieved with colourless blenders by Prismacolour and Derwent, the latter being better for covering the illustration board, which was Canson watercolour paper based on an acid free board support. The problem when working with this material is that little white spots where the paint or coloured pencil don’t reach really stand out when the work is scanned. The Lancaster bomber below, dark in colour, was problematic in this area, looking sparkly when scanned later. A solvent like Turpentine applied with a brush ‘solved’ the problem, filling the gaps nicely. Another tip: get the orange scented solvent. It’s a lot easier to work with in the studio.
Other problem areas included the tree line at the edge of the field. More grey and even pink went into that area than green. A little green goes a long way. Green is very difficult to work with in art, often being far too intense when applied out of the tube. In the distance, make it as blue grey as possible, and if warmth is needed, a soft pink from Derwent will tone down the problem spots. The amount of paint on the board caused mild warping, which is slowly levelling out after months of touring about in flat-pack portfolios. Applying primer to the back did not help straighten the board. I will have to deal with this again as at least three more pieces are planned in this format for each section in the book.
In historic details, this whole scene was a bit of a construct fantasy. A cordon would likely have been put around the field. Guards would be standing by organized piles of food. The danger of overshoots and missed drops was very real during Operation Manna/Chowhound in 1945. Looting was also a concern at the time, although incidents of it seem to have been very few. For the sake of providing a way of setting up the title in an homage to Will Eisner, who used creative ways to introduce his graphic stories to readers, I did what I did to make it work. The characters just happen to be excited speactators like their real-life counterparts from the war, enthusiastically waving at the aircraft with their last bit of energy. The more recent version includes more historically accurate details.
The decorated sacks- assuming the armed guards I mentioned earlier are off-screen (^_^)- sit on the ground after having been organized by workers on site, who had to dash out onto the field and grab what they could between drops. Piles of uncollected sacks lie in the distance. You can see I have started building layers of colour here, combining washes with coloured pencil to fill in areas of detail. Note the grey of the buildings in the background. The intense green you see here was virtually gone by the time the piece was done.
The Lancaster itself is a real aircraft, but the squadron markings are not. 642 Squadron never existed. TZ was never used. I have not seen tails painted in bold orange and blue patterns. (Can you guess the symbolism?) I created them all after doing research and deciding with the instructor of the course it was better to create a fictitious unit for equally fictitious characters than use a set real squadron numbers and unknowingly make an OTU into a Bomber Command Squadron and have someone from a society in the UK point it out nicely or otherwise. I have explained to some who feel such research and detail is overdoing it in art, that those interested in this kind of material take such things very seriously. In short, if you are not interested in trying to make it real enough, don’t try historic themes in your graphic novels.
The Lancaster was painted black underside. Canadian-built Lancasters had shiner finishes than British-built machines. Whatever the finish, the effect of reflected light from the ground would have meant anyone creating this subject in art would be using little black in the colour. Greys, blues and earth tones dominate. Even white, in places. Solvent was used to blend the colours. Grey is used for the sacks falling from the bomb bay. Most of the food was dropped in cases or bags that once contained cement mix, chosen to withstand the impact of being dropped from 150-1,000 feet in the air.
THE FINAL PIECE
A FORMAT REVISION AND NEW ART
In 2017, I was confronted with the reality that the illustration boards I’d been using for pages in the book were no longer being produced. I switched over to Canson’s comic art paper and found the format was different enough from the sizing used in the boards to make redoing the early pages necessary. I took the opportunity to re-imagine some of the stylizing of the book at the same time and explore media that would allow me to create soft painterly effects without actually painting on the Canson paper, which would buckle if washes were applied to the surface. Eventually, I found powdered pastels did the job well and even blended with the Copic markers, conte and charcoal.
As before, using the models of the characters created in Poser, I made sets and ‘shot’ scenes based on sketches done on mock layout pages. Poser gives me the opportunity to move the camera and search for better angles before committing scenes to paper. From there, I drew out the page in full size and transferred it to the board for inking. What follows are some revised pieces and drawings for pages not yet completed. Click on them for enlargements.
All materials related to MANNA are copyright C.A. Seaman, 2015-2020.Nothing of what you see here may be reproduced in any manner without written permission from the author/artist.
LIKE MANNA FROM HEAVEN, MORE TO COME…
A final note here. Please check the rest of the website for further articles related to MANNA. In the section on HOBBIES/MODEL BUILDING there are articles on building some of the cars, ships and armour used in the book. This will grow on both the website and social media as both become available. Also, in the section on WRITINGS there will be articles about the extensive research that went into the book to do what is possible to fact check and keep errors to a minimum- as it will be impossible to eliminate them entirely. Finally, in PHOTOGRAPHY there will be entries related to the photo research I’ve done in museums and exhibitions. Credit to related institutions will be given with each entry. If you find links or information of your own, please contact me through the Comments section and I will happily follow up with you.
I had the great pleasure of working on a production at the Whitby Little Theatre of this very funny and wise musical featuring foam, fur and fabric covered puppets that might have been at home on a certain other street on a certain long running children’s television show. Wonderful music, over the top and very risque humour dominate the production, and the production values required of the company meant that not only did robust, remarkable working puppets have to be created, but they had to work convincingly on great stage sets with live actors, accompanied by numerous animated title cards and sequences that themselves had musical or sound effects soundtracks.
Bringing together the parts to make the whole that is AVENUE Q was a monumental task, and my dear friend, director Monique Essegern, and a very talented company managed to pull it off. Being involved in the animations, I worked in the background and only had contacts with Monique, the sound effects creator and peripherally with the tech crew who had to sync up the imagery with live music and other actions on the stage.
I decided to take a different route for my work, keeping it as loose as possible, using wax crayons and markers to add colour, not using rulers on objects to make buildings, buses and scene details more organic, and often working ‘outside the lines’ to make the images look more child-like. With such great models, it wasn’t hard to become completely immersed in the imagery and realize that behind the laughter the show explored some huge questions we all face in our lives: ‘Who am I?’ ‘What is my purpose?’ ‘Will I find love?’ ‘Will people accept me for who- or what- I am?’ Consequently, some pieces needed to be treated a little more seriously than one might have expected and some great discussions with Monique on these points helped flesh out the scenes much better. I created the animations in Poser and linked them up using Movie Maker.
Here are some of the puppets that featured in the production, shown from photos taken either by me, or by members of the company for my use in creating the animations. They are seen in different costumes and at rest with their mouths hanging open in the storage room. I have also included a picture of the stage maquette, created as a guide for the construction of the full stage set, which I wasn’t able to photograph.
DESIGNING THE ANIMATIONS FOR ‘AVENUE Q’.
I created scrolling backgrounds and animation elements by hand and then loaded them into Poser as texture map images onto flat planes set up on a blank virtual stage. Basically, the idea was to recreate a traditional multi-plane camera in the computer software, similar to ones used in the classic days of movie animation before computers came along. Using the music score as a guide, I then set the length of the animation and manipulated the elements to create traditional 2D cartoon scenes in a 3D modeling software program.
The animation was limited in what I could do to pans, tilts, rotations on the Y axis. I had no time, nor was Poser the best platform to create cel type animation that could have characters move frame by frame, twist, move limbs independently and so on. It might be possible to do so, but I would have to ask if it is worth the effort in making it work. Other software exists that is better suited to that kind of animation. For what was needed in ‘AVENUE Q’, the set up I was using was fine for the job.
I wish I could include some of the animations, but without the music they lack context. Without permission, I lack money after the copyright holders sue me…
This project was a for an IT firm in Toronto developing a concept for the auto industry. I am not going into any details about their concept in the project, but I was given permission to reproduce these images for the website and my portfolio.
Below is a model I built to study and pose for the other images in the storyboard piece. The model was created in Poser 9 from bits and pieces of different objects that came with the software and some add-ons acquired online. The whole thing is meant to look like a toy. I studied Lego, reading from a DK book I found in the drugstore on the history of the toy building legend and used bright primary and secondary colours to help emphasize the various elements- like the columns I constructed from scratch, the tubing, cobbled together from a model of over 200 objects located on ShareCG.com. I had a list of things I had to include and this image, excluding people, contains everything on the list.
The beauty of building a ‘set’ like this, is that when working with the client, I was able to move the camera around and with him, plan the panels that eventually became the storyboard. My client was intrigued by how I start digtial in projects to create resources and finish the job with traditional media.
The scene below is a representation for the client of industry in the cloud. It is fanciful, as requested, and I designed it to be reminiscent of some of those maps you sometimes see where cities appear oversized against the surrounding countryside.
The final piece is a set of storyboards, laid out like a Sunday comic strip. I was asked to provide only line art- no colour, value or texture. It was a different kind of experience leaving something like this. However, the point is if further development takes place, this can be completed any way the client wishes. The assembly line pieces were set up with the model in Poser. I admit, the cars were a ‘light table’ job. I like to work freehand as much as possible, but I needed them to look identical, so took my composed layouts and traced those elements onto the vellum- a technique often used by comic artists- and adding the characters and various other monitor details, along with the text as I went. To create schematics for the tablet readouts, I was given templates by the client to follow and made new ones from scratch. For the automobile, I chose the vintage Corvette because it is a classic car anyone who appreciates such things should admire. Also, it had fine curves that complemented the various other elements like the characters and monitors. I finally created a logo for the piece, as there was a blank space that needed to be filled and I felt we’d come this far with the Sunday comic strip idea, so why stop?
This was a secondary project for the same person a year later, creating a logo for an online site that featured vinyl albums. It was meant to be fun and cartoony at the same time, like the retro styled art that would have been popular in a lot of animation when the albums on the website were produced.
In the last year before Oshawa Central Collegiate Institute closed its doors after over 60 years in operation, I found myself involved in two projects related to the event.
First, I suggested that two staff members involved with the Accommodation Revue Committee, (ARC), organized by the Durham District School Board to examine options for the school in addition to closing it, (I will not dwell on the process here), be recognized for the hard work they put in fighting for the school against what many felt was a rubber stamping process to legitimize a decision that had already been made. Whatever was the truth behind it, we may never really know, but what was agreed on was that these persons needed recognition. So, I created an art piece that parodied the Indiana Jones posters from the first three films and what is shown below was the final product.
The second project was the cover of the last yearbook put out by the school. This is usually a job done by students, so jumping in at the last minute to help the staff member running the Yearbook group put together something after student efforts came to naught was an interesting experience. Here I was, packing up my classroom, what of the Visual Arts program I was allowed to take to my new school, (I had exciting prospects awaiting me at Pickering High School), and ending 17 years at OCCI, then going home and putting together the final cover at night on the same machine I am using to write this post four years later.
What follows are parts of a place that no longer exists, except as archival pieces in a warehouse somewhere in Whitby. How like the ending of an Indiana Jones it all was…
In my courses at George Brown, a valuable part of the instructive process involved reproducing panels from existing cartoons, comic strips and graphic novels. It was a great way to learn the techniques of others, test one’s observation skills, and through the use of comparable media, broaden one’s range in terms of drawing and painting. In one case, reproducing a comic strip had us taking the last panel- which had been blanked out- and creating our own ending for it. Cheating by looking up the original strip was not encouraged. Tracing wasn’t an option either. These exercises were meant to give us something like an atelier experience, where students can spend years copying from plasters and the works of the old masters before venturing out to create their own pieces from scratch. It worked for us. I remember one of the most unusual things I had to sort out was a foot belonging to Dennis the Menace. Hank Ketchum’s rendering of it was stylized, to say the least. In among the other elements, it was unremarkable. Once you looked at it on its own, it became something otherworldly and very strange.
Zephyr Crow is a teenager living with her sister Bunty and her grandfather, Howard Elbee- a retired special effects movie magician from before the days of computers. Zephyr and Bunty’s divorced parents work separately overseas and have left the kids with the one relative they can trust. Howard, a widower, enjoys the company of his grand-daughters, and on the surface all seems relatively normal as they carry on from day to day.
Except for the fact that in Zephyr, Howard, and Bunty’s world normal is defined very differently from what one what imagine. Think Addams Family meets films about Hollywood…
That’s all I am going to tell you because this project is slated for further development, but has been on hold for a while. It was originally developed for the second of the cartooning courses I took at George Brown College and, modified to fit the needs of this particular Cartooning course, took on some interesting dimensions. (To read about the first Cartooning course, refer to the post on Andi, the beach princess with a difference.) What follows is development work, character sketches and completed projects like a sample one panel image, two comic strips and a projected cover design for an imagined anthology. These were all assessed projects and were all hugely useful in developing skills for me in sequential art.
ZEPHYR, BUNTY & HOWARD
If Bunty is Zephyr’s foil in this story, other characters are actively supporting her in her adventures. I have not considered villains here as they are more likely to emerge with the stories. What appears are some of the peculiar neighbours Zephyr has, like Monsieur Aggot, a single parent and former horror film star. Monsieur Aggot is a family man as loves his children equally. He is also a real gentleman with fine manners.
THE PROJECTS: 1 A single panel comic
The single panel comic was given to us as a way of exploring the characters in a given scenario. It was completed in pen and ink, with no use of wash or mixed media. There was guidance in terms of the subject, directing it had to be humourous. I think the dialogue was also given to us and we had to fit the subject to the line. Also, there had to be a visible demonstration of grid use and one point perspective in the piece. A good challenge, especially as Zephyr was developing as a much more serious project at that time.
Below are some process frames and the final project. You can enlarge a several images by clicking on them.
THE PROJECTS: 2 A Second single panel piece, using wash and two point perspective in the design
Now we are rolling along with the characters, we step up the work with a new scenario involving real estate, new personalities like Monsieur Aggot and his maggot children, the pet dog and the above mentioned technical requirements. The first image was a two point perspective exercise I did to work out the dimensions in the piece and set the characters in their correct proportions. Yes, Monsieur Aggot is one big bug. He also has a really interesting back story, but I don’t want to share it here.
THE PROJECTS: 3 Four panel comic strip
Next, we took the characters, introduced more into the piece and had to develop a four panel work on them. I was having trouble with my drawing hand at the time and created all the panels full page size first, then scanned and reduced them into the final piece to put less stress of cramping my hand with small details. It also helped me see what was worth keeping after the overload of the first piece. I had a lot more fun with this and pared down the texture a lot, giving the strip a cleaner look. If you wonder why there is so much open space at the top, remember it has to be kept clear to fit the dialogue.
The original panels are included separately and together. Click on them, etc., etc. to get bigger images.
THE PROJECTS: 4 Full colour weekend paper comic strip
The four panel strip was a great way to develop the characters and I was stronger in my sense of what to do with them. This was a fun work to do, pulling in mixed media and full colour. I can’t recall too much else about requirements of the assignment, but getting into the rhythm, I drew the original panels large, but in scale to the finals and reduced them. It may seem like a lot of work, but I know of other professional artists- their names escape me- who do the same thing for the same reasons, often going into completing the panels and then assembling them later in the computer. I can see that in my future for graphic novel projects.
The story is, incidentally, based on something that actually happened to me once when I took a class outside to draw trees and nature and had one preferring to sit in the sun and download her images from Google.
You can’t make this stuff up. Click on the images….
THE PROJECTS: 5 ANTHOLOGY COVER
The final project with Zephyr and Bunty was an anthology cover. We studied covers from various works like CALVIN & HOBBES, among others, and considered what time of year it would likely be released. Christmas was coming, so why not? As you can see, there were many parts to the project. Two point perspective, which for me had vanishing points 12 feet, (almost four meters), apart and leading to the parts of the planning being done in the computer using a cg grid. The final piece had to have several versions, as you can see here.
I would like to revisit this someday. It has light and dark elements to it that should appeal to a wide audience. Perhaps a collaboration of sorts might be in order to get it moving. Perhaps I should just make clones of myself instead…
Before you go on, this is NOT some tone deaf sexist comic piece.
Andi actually is a remarkably complex character who hopefully will sometime once again see the light of day on my art table. She was created for the first Cartooning course I took at George Brown, and a lot of work went into filling out her character. Part of it came from others in the class, who contributed excellent suggestions when we exchanged drawings and brief outlines of our characters one night with each other and the recipient added a second drawing of a foil for our character on the spot and gave broad strokes to a backstory for that person. It was one of the best exercises I did in that class and made me much more confident in what I was doing later.
DEVELOPMENT OF ANDI AND OTHERS
Miranda Andrew- Andi for short, was a rebel in her youth, getting pregnant at 16 and being thrown out of the house and her school. She went to live with an aunt, a progressive woman with liberal democratic ideas and a strong sense of justice for people who have rarely experienced it. She is also a cancer survivor, an activist and the perfect role model for Andi as she seeks to find her place in the world. The aunt lives on the coast and gives Andi a trailer on the beach to call home. Andi completes her education slowly, through night school and correspondence, has frequent run-ins with authorities who want to separate her from her son and over time develops into a clone of her aunt, ready to pick up where she leaves off when she goes into battle with the big C once more.
Actually, as I read this, I’m really thinking Andi is currently the right person in the right place at the right time. However, when the work was done several years ago, I only had time to develop what you see here before moving on to the next project, Zephyr Crow. Read about that in the post of the same name, coming out soon.
Many exercises in drawing were done to build confidence in rendering characters and drawing them quickly in a variety of gestures without models for reference. The same applied to settings, sidekicks, foils and secondary or antagonistic characters. Here are some of the drawings that came out of those exercises.
This project was not just a lot of fun, it was a really interesting exercise in taking some beloved characters, a story that read like a cracking good yarn and putting them together using mixed media- in this case, Copic markers and coloured pencil. Having read the story and being asked to create a wrap-around cover, I had to design a composition that set up the narrative in the Darth Vader series, which begins immediately after the destruction of the first Death Star and our villain’s rather uncomfortable meeting with Emperor Palpatine to explain ‘his failure’. If you’ve read the series, try to figure out why I set it up the way I did.
This piece is in a private collection and may not be reproduced without permission.
As with anime and manga, I have been called a fan of comics. While not as touchy about that label, I still feel it is too compartmentalizing. If you have visited other postings in this website, you know there is more to me than the sum of one or two parts. Nonetheless, I have enjoyed creating works in the style of North American comics. What follows are some pieces from the archives of the old website.
FREE COMICS DAY AND OTHER REQUEST DRAWINGS
One of the enjoyable things about being involved with comics and sequential art is that I get to participate in Free Comics Day as a guest artist at Comic Book Addiction in Whitby. For several hours, I speak to fans of comics- all ages, mind you- and draw quick sketches for them while they wait. These are not polished pieces; just quick renders that the person can take away with them. It’s busy but wonderful fun and having the company of a good friend during the day makes it easier. However, the biggest thrill I get from it is the chance to talk to fans and find out what inspires them about the characters they choose. I learn a lot about what is currently popular and what stories are grabbing the attention of people these days.
Below are some sketches done not just for FCD, but also requests by fans outside the venue of the comic shop. Those lead off the next gallery, followed by the quick ‘done in minutes’ sketches at the store. Please excuse the quality of those photos. They were taken on the fly with the cell phone and like an idiot, I tended to cast my own shadow on them.
Which one of the FCD drawings was my favourite? As the compositions were often suggested by the recipients- who had some interesting mash-ups in mind, I think those were the most interesting. Hulk in a snowball fight with Olaf, Darth Vader and Chewie playing chess, Thor inviting Hulk to a dainty little tea.
In another post, I will share the creation of a comic book cover for a friend featuring one of STAR WARS’ favourite characters- Darth Vader!
I like the look of some manga and anime. I have often been called a ‘fan’ of it, which I resent intensely, because it is a label that carries baggage in terms of pre-conceptions and associations that make me uncomfortable. While occasionally I stylize my work so that people say it reminds them of manga, I rarely actively embrace the concepts completely to do work that can actually be called manga or anime.
Having said that, I posted images in past versions of the website that definitely have that manga look about them. Some of the pieces were for students to copy, feeding into their interests and giving them the chance to develop their skills. The gallery below is filled with selected postings from that era, some of which haven’t seen the cybernetic light of day in years.
PART TWO: FIGURATIVE PIECES, STUDIES, LIFE DRAWINGS AND EXPERIMENTS
I have always said to my students if you can learn how to draw the human figure and water, you can do just about anything in flat art. Water is one challenge because it has so much movement, simple and complex shapes that constantly change, colour and transparency and so much more. The human figure is the other challenge because its structure has proportions that change over time, a shape that varies from person to person, lines, shapes, forms, textures and values, and so much more. The subject of the human face or figure is as old as art itself. Anyone wishing to create comics, animation, games and such must gain some understanding of how the figure is put together if there is to be any success in the workplace later.
To quote Andrew Loomis:
“The nude human figure must serve as the basis for all figure study. It is impossible to draw the clothed or draped figure without a knowledge of the structure and form of the figure underneath. The artist who cannot put the figure together properly does not have one chance in a thousand of success…. If you are offended by the body…give up all thought of a career in art.“
I agree with this and have yet to see anyone who can’t or won’t master the human form make a success of their work with the figure beyond being simple copyists of photos using grids or other ‘tricks’. The human figure, clothed or otherwise, is something that requires constant practice in mastering. Drawing from life is best, but I have found students have managed to achieve success from working with near life sized projections of computer generated models. The latter is not the ideal, but when circumstances dictate it, it’s better than downloading photos and copying them, allowing grids and such to dictate the creative process rather than freehand drawing, which can be more expressive and natural. With practice, the freehand approach becomes more polished and if precision is what is desired, it becomes achievable with greater ease.
It’s the same with painting. Look up close at one of John Singer Sargent’s portraits. A single, well placed dab of paint accomplishes so much. A single trained, expressive line in a drawing can do the same, acting like a signature for the artist and cutting to the core of the pose, which is why quick gesture drawings are so important as warm-ups.
We’ll explore this topic more in other posts. For now, from the archives, are some life drawing samples. The previous website featured clothed ones and portraits, and that is what you will see here. Click on the images in the galleries for hopefully larger versions. Many of these old pieces go back a few years. The day job and lack of life drawing classes in my area have made providing more updated images harder to acquire.
Here are some images drawn from photos for practice as much as anything else. Click on them, etc….
This next batch represents a sampling of paintings and mixed media pieces completed years ago. The first two pieces were modified significantly from photos, using new backgrounds, changed clothing and such. For the bubble blowing image, I can’t recall how I set that one up, but I suspect I probably used a computer generated model in Poser to pose the piece and work from there. In the case of the girls chasing the model airplanes across a field, I used wooden mannequins to pose the models. That piece earned me a place at the National Aviation Museum in their annual show of art from across the country and I still like the concept, but boy, would I ever do that one differently if I re-imagined it. NO MANNEQUINS would be the first rule. Those models you see these days from Japan are much more flexible than the wooden ones available years ago.
Another gallery from the archives, showcasing works completed over a number of years in different media. Where possible, I will try to include information on titles, dates of completion, size, media and so on. Enjoy!
All images here are copyrighted C.A. Seaman and may not be reproduced without permission.
The story of CORRUPTED began just as work on SARGASSO, my self-published series of books, was winding down. ‘People who knew people’ stuff happened and I was offered the chance to meet Paul and Jeff, who were developing this game for the X-Box Indie platform. We got along well and before long, I was brought in to work on character designs for the project.
Here are some things you might want to know about me at the time I began work on CORRUPTED.
I had never played a video game on either X-Box, Playstation, or Nintendo beyond Wii. I had flown a bit on Microsoft’s Flight Simulator, (and got vertigo on the screen?!), played some games on a desktop computer that had me using directional keys to steer cars onto sidewalks and fun stuff like that. But that was it.
I had no formal training in character design.
Any character design I had done was based on looking at model sheets I saw in books and copying the format of figure rotations and gestures. “If that’s how Disney does it, I can too.”
I had no concept about the architecture of what these games looked like, what sprites were, what characters and stories were popular in gaming culture or anything like that beyond FINAL FANTASY, because of the anime connections it had.
Basically, I was clueless. And being clueless made me perfect for the job apparently because although I had what was then self-taught art smarts, some skills and experience publishing a few books, my mind was a blank slate untouched by the influences of video games. Consequently, I wouldn’t inadvertently slip in some materials that buried themselves in my subconscious from previous game play experiences, leaving potential players saying things like “Hey! That’s just like the Blade of Pohtus used by Dojt Sryvat from MAGA 4: WASTELANDS OF THE REPUBLIC!”
Fans can be annoyingly observant about things like that…
Anyway, here we were, embarking on this amazing journey, and I must say I have only fond memories of my experiences with Paul, Jeff and the creative process that went into CORRUPTED. It was, in the end, what brought me to taking courses at George Brown and finally learning what all that stuff I’d been doing was actually called.
There are three parts to this story. Scroll down to read them and see the accompanying process work.
Paul saw my work from SARGASSO and while he was impressed with the illustrations, he wasn’t sure I had what he and Jeff needed for the game until I started pulling out books on manga character design and he identified with the super-deformed characters called ‘chibi’. Chibi is a super-cute form of manga character design where the figure is about three to four heads tall and the eyes are huge. The body proportions are all distorted so even crazy looking weapons look ‘cute’ to an outsider. Knowing I had resources and watching me explain them, Paul agreed to meet me again once I came up with some concepts. For that, I needed information on the characters- who they were and what they were like. I took the information and began with some further research into video game character designs, receiving much help from students in the form of screengrabs of sprites from ZELDA. One even tried to create sprites of his own to show me how it was done. From there, I sat down one day while the classes were working and I had nothing else to do and came up with two ‘chibi’ styled characters.
You can see the guidelines on the knight as I blocked out the character. The other one was something I did for fun, turning out to be a big hit with the students. They loved the antenna and the Jawas look to it, but really went mad over the fact the skulls on the belt were supposed to talk, hurling abuse at passersby. Originally, I was going to keep that one for myself, but with the work on SARGASSO taking up so much time, I decided to gift him to Paul and Jeff, who made him into the merchant for CORRUPTED.
Two elements carried on from this sketch of the knight to the final version, ie. the breastplate and aggressive posture. Everything else, as the character evolved, changed. As uniformity was going to be key, I did more reading, purchasing a great book called SUPER CUTE! KODOMO MANGA, written and illustrated by Kamikaze Factory from Spain and published by Collins Design (ISBN 978-0-06-192755-3). From that research, I created my own original base body template, based on a ninja pose on page 206 that caught the eye of the guys when they first saw the book. Thus, in a scrum around the dining room table in my house, we could now bash out ideas for the characters and just draw on the sheets until the pile was exhausted. The interesting thing was, though, given the information I had from Paul and Jeff, when we sat down to do this and I showed them the first revised concept, they went for it with only minor changes.
Anybody need some template sheets? I’ve got lots left over!
These were the base templates. The image below was the first- and main development sketch for what would become the evil knight in CORRUPTED.
A helmet design would emerge in much the same way and, unchanged, I will show it in the next section. I wanted the knight to be shown in action as befitted the nature of the game. So, the template was created to work with this as the premise from the beginning. We also worked on swords, bows and arrows and created a list of characters to be created at that point. Then, as you will see in the next section, I would create the unifed character reference sheets for an animator to use in creating the sprites. Click on “Final Character Designs” to see how they came out.
I knew the animator would need to have characters that worked from all angles, with armour and clothes lining up in multiple poses. Having read many books on the making of movies and series, I decided to create for the main characters- the evil knight, the good knight and the princess- templates with front, side, back and top views done to scale on a grid background. For the others, top and front views would do. Paul and Jeff wanted the characters to be see from the top in the game, so it was agreed to put some emphasis on heads where possible.
To unify the designs, I fired up Poser on the computer and opened Sadie a computer model who was the foundation of the original Poppy in SARGASSO. (Refer to the article on the art of SARGASSO to see some imagery to put this into context.) Enlarging her head and making her body as gender neutral as possible, I created the above mentioned views by rendering her from those angles with Poser’s cameras. By not moving the cameras once they were loaded, I was able to guarantee consistency in proportions and scale in the renderings, making it easier to line them up on the grid I would later create in Corel Photopaint.
This is Sadie, in case you haven’t seen her before.
This is how I modified her for the body template. Note how the camera names are on the images I composited. I also enlarged the feet, as requested by Paul and Jeff.
Below is how I drew on the costume for the evil knight over the photocopied template. I followed the same process for all the characters, thus keeping them fairly consistent.
From there, I took the images to Staples, photocopied the sets and shaded on the back of each copy with a soft pencil. I then carbon-traced out the drawings to clean paper. As the grid was only useful for the initial layout to keep everything lined up, I did not need it for the final inking, which was done afterwards. I use carbon-tracing often when working on large projects to preserve all reference materials in case of a foul-up and this has proven to be a smart practise over the years on those occasions when I have had to modifiy a piece or redo the final work. I also keep the reference materials after the job is done for years in many cases, just so I can recall the creative processes used when I need to do so.
THE EVIL KNIGHT- FINAL INKS
The top of the head was an important part of the design as this was what players would see most when playing the game. With the chibi design, it meant the head would overwhelm everything else around and beneath it. Thus, the evil creature possessing the knight was created as a focal point. I think that was my idea, but I could be mistaken. Looks nasty, though.
THE GOOD KNIGHT
The armour on the evil knight was meant to be spiky and concave, glowing green between the plates. By contrast, I suggested the good knight should have softer forms and curves, with the armour looking more like the material I saw in reference books I consulted from the local library’s childrens’ section. Good call on the part of the librarian who helped me. The best books really were there- not in the adult section upstairs.
There is a reason why she is barefoot. I suggested she might have been grabbed from her chambers while engaging in her daily ablutions. There was something innocent in this presentation as well, I thought, and I transferred it to the final cover art.
I moved the skulls to the front for more impact and gave ‘him’ nasty looking nails and a little more detail on the cloak to make him look a little less like a Jawa.
THE RANGER AND VILLAGER
What can I say about the Ranger? Everything I’ve ever seen of them in fantasy art seems fairly consistent. Paul, Jeff and I agreed to keep it within those common concepts. As for the villager, he looks like he could be happy in a field, at the forge, or behind the counter of the local tavern.
To see how the cover and the animated evil knight came together, click on the link “The Cover Art and Logo.”
COVER, LOGO AND ANIMATION
Once the characters were done and signed off, it was a race to get the cover completed. Time was flying and I needed to start prep work for the main gig- school. Paul, Jeff and I worked through some ideas and I developed some concepts using Poser and Corel Photopaint which I thought might work. Neither Paul nor Jeff felt the love, though, and these early efforts simply became stepping stones to the final work. The meeting when we hashed out the cover concept, though, was some of the best fun I had in the whole project. It was like being in the big studios working through a creative session on a movie where everything went on the table and was bounced around until it stuck or fell apart.
Poser was fantastic as a pre-visualization tool at this stage. I used the Sadie base I developed for the templates and posed versions of her with prop weapons and sets to give the guys a feeling for the final piece. They made suggestions and eventually, we agreed on this composition after I tweaked three versions and they cast ballots by phone and email.
I blew up the images and carbon traced these basic forms onto larger art sheets- one each for the good and evil knight. With those templates, I then drew the armour, weapons and costumes based on the original designs. The new drawings became the foundation for the final work.
Without the CG base reference for proportions, I don’t think I could have finished the piece in time. I prefer going freehand whenever possible, but that armour and the princess’s dress was very hard to do. So having the bathing suit Sadie template as a guideline made getting to the freehand stage a lot faster. As you can see below, the guidlines are still in place, although the bodies have disappeared under the clothes and armour. Only the face of the princess remained relatively un-altered at this stage. The background is clear in both images.
I added all the buildings and background elements directly to the final piece later, hoping all the time they would work with the characters and not overwhelm them.
Please note in the gallery below, double-click on each image to bring up a larger version in a separate gallery.
Back to Staples to create photocopies of these drawings. They would be transferred afterwards onto the 100lb paper I bought for the final art. What follows are snapshots I took as the work progressed. They are not very good, but did give Paul and Jeff tantalizing glimpses of what was to come. Paul and Jeff wanted the final work in coloured pencil- something I had not used on this scale since 2007. It was great getting back to it, though. There’s so much computer work out there that people forget that wonderful results can be obtained from these simple tools.
Did you see it? Just before I finished this part of the image, I reversed the sword in the hand of the evil knight. Check the transfer drawing again if you missed it. I was not happy with the piece as I working on it, but could not put my finger on it, being too close to the work. The moment I concentrated on the sword, I knew that was the problem. Once flipped, I felt hugely better about the piece and it was done in no time.
This is actually a mixed media work. The sky and stones are done with graphite pencils. Only the buildings and characters are completed with coloured pencils. The cover design at the top of the page has the colours tweaked a little from what you see here, which is closer to the original. However, I think the cover with the composited title looks wonderful. I don’t know who did it as I signed off after the cover was done. I definitely like it, though.
This was the second design. Green was the order of the day. I used red in the earlier version with original text I created that looked like a graffiti tag. As you can see, if you compare this one with the logo on the cover art at top, the texture on the letters has been redone. We agreed on what you see here, but I like the other on the final cover better. It looks like scales! Oh, the nasty looking thing underneath is a view of the sword in regular graphite pencil.
A WONDERFUL SURPRISE!
This arrived in an email one day- the evil knight as rendered by an animator in Sweden. If you read Paul and Jeff’s blog at the time, you could follow links to the creator’s own site. I think the drawings translated really well into the final model. The sword was simplified in the blade, but the handle remained pretty much as imagined. And you should have seen this guy move in the demo animation!
And that was it. At the time of writing, the game was still available on the X-Box Indie platform. People I’ve talked to who played it had a lot of fun. I did get an X-Box later and played a few games on it, but never became a huge fan because of the time involved and all the other projects I wanted to work on. I will not say ‘no’ to another stint of character design, though. CORRUPTED was just too much fun.
The following galleries are from the old website, featuring images that were taken during the 1990s and 2000s. As on the page of black and white images, a number are reproduced from old prints. I transitioned completely to digital with the purchase of an SLR camera sometime around 2005.
In March, 2004, I visited Japan for the first time, spending the week in Tokyo going on tours and doing a lot of walking around the place. Tokyo has to be one of the cleanest, and most workable big cities I’ve ever visited. With a population of 12.8 million, I was truly amazed by how easy it was to get around, and how polite people there were. They certainly show us how it’s done! Anyway, here are some of the 100 plus photos I took while there, visiting places like the Meiji Shrine, the Asakusa Kinnon Temple, Ginza, the Imperial Palace, and Tokyo Bay. Frankly, I’m not a fan of big cities, but Tokyo works so well I’d move there in a second. Don’t even get me started on the anime and manga… I have grouped the larger images within the galleries, so you may not have hyperlinks off all the thumbnails below. This way, all the various locations can be grouped together where necessary.
Click on each of the images in all the galleries to hopefully open and explore larger versions of them.
I have traveled to the British Isles more than any other place. What is shared here will be some of the photos from trips prior to the most recent visit of 2014, which will be in a separate posting later.
ASSORTED OTHER IMAGES- ELEMENTAL LINES, SHAPES AND FORMS
All images in this page are copyrighted C.A. Seaman and may not be reproduced without permission.
There was a time once when you needed to buy something called ‘film’ for your camera, which itself was something self-contained and not part of that mini-computer that tries to pass itself off as your phone.
Okay… enough sarcasm. The photographs displayed here are ones I took years ago with either a traditional SLR camera, developed using traditional means, or the earliest of digital cameras, using floppy disks or something like them for storage- as far as I can remember. I actually took a course in black and white photography at Durham College in 1998, using darkrooms and enlargers and other tools of the trade that at that time were just beginning to be replaced by digital media. I’m glad I had the experience of that. It taught me the plan the work ahead of time and respect the process of development, knowing each image cost paper, chemicals, time and money. Today, with UNDO functions, Photoshop and the like, students of photography have many safety nets to catch them if they mess up, unless they first forget to hit AUTO SAVE.
With cameras and social media now so prominent in society, I think it can be argued the world and the people within it have never been photographed as much as they are today. And as to the quality of the overwhelming majority of images out there? Well, let’s just say if people had to pay for each one, the internet wouldn’t be choking on the many narcissistic selfies that appear on social media platforms every second of the day. Privacy might not have to be so carefully protected against unwanted recording in someone’s random imagery.
Photography was once a novelty. It was an event when the camera was taken from its case. Now, it is almost a substitute for vision and memory as we know it. People don’t watch concerts. They film them. People barely savour the moment of meeting a celebrity. They reach for their phones to let the device record the memory of that moment for them instead. It goes on…
You didn’t click on this page to read rants, though, and I won’t take up any more time on this rant because I could really go on and on….
BLACK ANGEL OF PETERBOROUGH
This cemetery just on the outskirts of Peterborough featured many interesting memorials, but I must admit I feel in love with this statue of an angel sitting atop the grave of a former Lieutenant-Governor’s son. It is at least life-size, and looked fantastic from any angle. I believe these may have been in colour originally and shot with an early digital camera.
COBOURG AND PORT HOPE
These two old towns have some interesting cemeteries of their own, with a couple of pieces that stood out from the rest. In Cobourg, it was the strange structure that sat all tipsy on the side of a hill, overgrown with vines and looking something like a beached stone TITANIC. In Port Hope, it was another angel, and…CREEPY!…a grave marker with my family name on it and no dates… These pictures were taken at roughly the same time as the Peterborough set.
TYRONE MILL SERIES
Tyrone Mill is located just north of where I live, and is still an operational saw mill and cider refinery. It has stood since the mid 1800s, and is a dream photo location site. Inside the mill, wood is stacked ready for cutting. Tools used when my great grandfather was alive line shelves around the shop. On the lower level, you can buy cider and donuts made on site. Outside the mill, you can walk around a lake, or along the river created from its runoff. Then there are all the other little touches, as seen in this gallery.
I hear it has changed a lot since these pictures were taken. In that case, the images here represent an historic record of days gone by. While uploading this set, I found the original colour digital files of these images. I’m happy to still have them, but they look much better in black and white.
The following are photos taken by me recently at Parkwood Estate in Oshawa, the former home of R.S. McLaughlin and his family. For those you who don’t know who he was, he helped create General Motors, and his philanthropic ways helped create many other venerable institutions in Oshawa and around Ontario. I took these pictures in colour, but converted them to black and white in order to catch more of the period in which this grand building and its grounds were created, between 1915-17.
OSHAWA UNION CEMETERY
I have lived in the Durham area for 14 years, and yet only just vistied this old and very interesting place of rest on the corner of Highway 2 and Thornton. Here are some of the images I captured there. I have played a little with the settings, to bring out the detail in the stone.
GHOST ROAD SERIES
Ghost Road was the name of a band in Oshawa, playing a selection of original and cover tunes with a country rock theme. I was invited to become a photographer with the band in 1999, and then followed like a roadie on the trail with them as they played some of their gigs. I felt like an older version of the kid in ALMOST FAMOUS. (Somehow I missed Kate Hudson along the way…) This gallery contains images of the mysterious Ghost Road itself, just outside Port Perry in Ontario.
ASSORTED OTHER VIEWS
These are assorted other images from the archives. Some may be recognizable to you in terms of locations. Others may be more abstract in their composition and not meant to be part of anything representational or narrative in context.
All images are copyrighted C.A. Seaman from the time shown on the identification and may not be reproduced without permission.
I first became interested in aviation and naval art in high school, and still have some of the pieces I did then in my old portfolio. What is shown here is a collection of pieces done since 1990. Many are in private collections now and are not shown in public any more.
Let’s start with the Bristol Monoplane…
This piece was supposed to appear in an art show in 2012, but being the only black and white work, stood out as such an oddity that I left it home when it was time to hang the exhibition. Featuring the graceful and little known Bristol Monoplane of the Great War, it is a tribute to an aircraft that was ahead of its time and unfairly maligned by the powers in charge of the RFC during the war. Serving largely in the Middle East, it performed well and examples of it survived years after the fighting stopped in 1918.
BRISTOL MONOPLANE. Graphite on paper, 14x11in. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2012
“REMEMBERING THE WAR IN THE AIR”- an exhibition in 2012
2012 was the year when aviation art returned in force to the studio. An invitation in early July to participate in a book talk at the Brampton Public Library on CANADA AT WAR, by Paul Keery, was based on the assumption that I would simply put old pieces lying around the house on display. However, the organizer of the book talk became concerned when I told her many of those pieces went into private collections and in some cases, were unaccountable in their whereabouts because the owners had moved, passed on the work or died. I proposed instead of hunting them down to create new works more reflective of my current style, rather than that of the 1990s when most of the original pieces were created. What follows is a catalogue of new works done in four months on a variety of British and Canadian subjects. For BOMBS GONE OVER BRUNSWICK, where the original is now in England and the process of its completion is documented below, I included a print of the image produced from photos I took of it before it left for its new home.
What also follows after that is an assortment of other pieces completed in a variety of media over the years leading up to the 2011-12 show. Where possible, I will include further information about those pieces, their composition and completion dates.
DEATH AT DUSK. Coloured pencil and watercolour media16x12in. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2012.
COUNTERMEASURES- Electronic Warfare B-17 in Action. Coloured pencil and watercolour media, 16x12in. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2012.
CANADIAN OVER COLOMBO. Coloured pencil and watercolour mixed media, 14x11in. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2012.
CHARGING MUSTANGS- 442 SQUADRON LIBERATES THE CHANNEL ISLANDS. Coloured pencil and watercolour mixed media, 14x11in. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2012.
TIP AND RUN- BOUNCING A BUZZ BOMB. Coloured pencil and watercolour mixed media, 16x12in. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2012.
CLOSING THE GAP- TYPHOONS OVER FALAISE IN 1944. Coloured pencil and watercolour on paper, 14x11in. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2012.
REAPING WHIRLWINDS- HUNTING E-BOATS IN THE CHANNEL. Coloured pencil and watercolour mixed media on paper, 14x11in. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2012.
BOMBS GONE OVER BRUNSWICK- process to completion
In late 2010, I was invited to create an image of a Lancaster bomber for my aunt and uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary. The way in which the aircraft was created was left up to me. Not having completed a large scale aircraft piece in six years, I elected to use coloured pencil for my medium on 140lb. watercolour paper stock. Research took place early in March, after I had already decided on a composition. Admittedly, this was an odd way to compose the piece, but once I sorted out the aircraft, using Touchwood’s Lancaster computer generated model in Poser and my own photo reference material for the background, I hunted through books and the internet until I read of an account of a Lancaster in trouble while on a raid over Brunswick sometime in 1944. Satisfied the account matched the composition, I transferred the squadron codes to the aircraft- already drawn out on the board- to create the first stage of the work shown below, as completed on a Friday. Next, I washed in a kind of underpainting using watered down acrylics to establish a tone range for the background. Yes, it was messy and the paper wrinkled badly at this stage. I was not bothered, however. The coloured pencils- Prismacolour, to be precise- were to be used next, and the sheer pressure of the waxy ‘lead’ on the paper would be enough to flatten the image and shatter more than a few pencils in the process. Detailed images follow the process as the picture progressed.
The final piece, completed the following Thursday after some 22 hours in total, looked like this…
BOMBS GONE OVER BRUNSWICK. Coloured pencil and watercolour mixed media on paper. 20x14in.Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2011.(In private collection)
Some detail studies…
…and other aircraft, too!
LATE MODEL SPITFIRE. Coloured pencil and watercolour mixed media on paper. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 1999.(In private collection)
DeHAVILLAND DH 106 COMET AIRLINER. Coloured pencil and graphite on paper. 30x22in. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2004.
HANDLEY-PAGE HALIFAX OF NO.87 SQUADRON, R.A.F. Aircraft flown by Len Broadhurst, who I had the pleasure of meeting many years ago, and who received the original of this work. Coloured pencil and watercolour mixed media on paper. Dimensions unknown. Copyright C.A. Seaman, originally 1998. (Posted 1999).
NOTE: Mr. Broadhurst passed away a few years ago. If anyone knows what happened to this piece, please contact me through this website.
We have all heard about the crazy cat lady. I suppose I might be that crazy kit guy, except for the fact that like that crazy cat lady, I am not alone in my mania for collecting. Others share these passions and some of us are very particular about what comes into our homes.
For me, I see the collection as a kind of bucket list in some areas and a ‘must have for this story or ones I may write in the future’ in others. Very few ‘want’ models. Mostly ‘need’ models. A couple of the ‘need’ models will be featured in this article and before we go any further, I am an enthusiastic amateur and not the kind of builder you read about in modeling magazines, on the web or see in YouTube videos. My stuff is far from perfect and is meant only as reference for the works I am currently creating. As I get back into plastic modeling, I am learning as I go. That means, put nicely, I am making a huge number of mistakes. The first model I will cover in this article is a grand example of that.
The Austin K2Y ambulance- ‘KATY’
This tiny kit took many years to build. It shouldn’t have, but it did. Work, art courses and so many other distractions kept putting it on the back burner. However, I finally got it done after six or seven years and now that frustrating little piece is one of my favourites, even featuring in a new story I am co-developing with a friend right now.
The Austin K2Y model came with a fire engine as part of an Airfix kit of RAF rescue vehicles- an old release that I’d like to see back on the shelves again or better yet, the KATY being released in 1/35 scale instead of 1/76, as it was when first produced. Here is a picture I downloaded of the box art from the kit.
I had not built a model in years and never a wheeled vehicle before. It should have been something bigger to start with. I never imagined how complex the build would be until it was too late. Truly, I cannot count the number of times parts would go together and then have to be pulled apart because I misread the instruction sheet. Eventually, I got through it, though, and then had to paint the piece.
Here are more images of it, taken after painting, weathering and decals were applied. I will note here that the decals reflect the markings used later in the war. You may notice also that the vehicle serial number is missing from one part of the bonnet on the truck. The official reason is a repaint took place in the field and no one bothered to add the serial number as it was already on the other side. The real reason is that try as I may with decal solvents, adherents and glosscoat sprays to make the decals stick better, that one was sucked away one night into an inter-spatial vortex to join millions of other tiny decals and model parts abducted from the studios of model makers everywhere!
(This essay reflects a practical academic application for some of the techniques and work I have developed in recent years. Feel free to read and use it. However, if you are to use it, be sure to give me credit.)
APPLICATION TO ESL
How can ESL benefit from the use of sequential art in the classroom? Historically, sequential art has already been used to help people learn the language better. Dry comics showing characters learning numbers, key words, concepts and other communication skills are present in many ESL guides. Indeed, those of us who have taken French as a Second Language at a young age will not soon forget the adventures of Jacques, Suzette and Pitou, the dog (the Francophone equivalent to Dick and Jane). However, beyond the basic function they possess in helping familiarize new learners with the language, there is little in the current material which exists that can capture the imagination of an immigrant audience in this language, and encourage it to read on in English as much for the enjoyment of reading a good story as for the obvious learning benefits it has. If immigrants are continuing to read, it is often in media printed in their own language.
What follows are some ideas on how to use existing comics, or photos to help improve literacy in the ESL learners we teach. You need not be an artist to understand these concepts.
SUGGESTED INSTRUCTIONAL STRATEGIES
Existing comics can provide a useful basis for teaching beginning language for the ESL learner. The sources are readily available in the daily newspaper. The instructor needs only to clip out strips with appropriate material and clearly defined images that are neutral in terms of controversial content, and photocopy them, (giving credit to the creative source, of course!), for the class. The use of a good photocopier is key to this process, as blurred, smudged images with poorly copied text will not work for the students. If size matters for the instructor, enlarge the strip to fill a larger piece of paper. If colour copies are available, the teacher could use them. However, many of the best comics or manga in the world is printed in black and white. Stylistically, as well in the sense of reproduction, this is a lot easier to work with, providing clearer images and less visual clutter for the reader.
What the teacher does with the strips as tools is up to that person, and what they are trying to accomplish in the class. Three possible uses for the completed comic strip are identified below:
1) Simple reader’s comprehension. Students read the strip and develop better language skills from the experience.The instructor may opt to replace text that is hard to understand or conceptually abstract with language of their own in the speech bubbles. However, remember that the material is someone else’s and copyright concerns may exist. Students can be evaluated on pronunciation, clarity of voice, inflection and knowledge of body language, expressions and basic content. Being visual, comics can teach a lot of communication skills to students simply through the way characters on the page are drawn. Many books on how to draw comics contain reference sheets on how faces that are happy, sad, frightened, or exhibit other emotions look on paper. Some of this material could be used to help educate students on the visual language of sequential art.
2) There is also the possibility that the teacher may want the students to interact more with the text of the comics. In that case, the speech bubble content may be erased and the students could be encouraged to place their own text inside. Whether the students complete this task alone or in groups is the choice of the instructor, considering the abilities of the pupils. Students could be evaluated according to appropriateness of dialogue, based on visual cues such as the action taking place, the body language or facial expressions of the characters portrayed.
3)The third strategy employing existing comics could be to take frames from strips which are familiar to students and chop them up, leaving the students to re-arrange them and develop a narrative of their own. This can also be done using magazine photos and other visual media, creating a kind of storyboard project, where images are described in short sentences or paragraphs by the students in the order in which they are arranged. This can be the most interesting of the assignments as the skills applied in this project are varied from art based to literacy based. The students could finish the project with an oral presentation, honing their skills as orators in front of their peers.
4) Students could also take existing strips, if the skill levels are not up to creating an entirely new narrative, and simply continue the story, or, if the last frame is removed, create an ending of their own.
5) Finally, take images from magazines, and lay them out for students. Using the images of their choice, they can arrange them in some order of their own and write a sentence of descriptive text to go with each. They could be encouraged to figure out some kind of narrative to go with the images and tell a story with them using three or four select pictures.
All text is copyrighted C.A. Seaman 2007, and may not be reproduced without written permission from the author/artist.
I have a friend who is a huge fan of television show like THE MUNSTERS. For Christmas in 2012, I decided to build for him as a gift and as a thank-you for the many courtesies he has extended me over the years the Moebius model kit of the house on 1313 Mockingbird Lane- the Munsters’ house.
Purchasing the model and bringing it home was the easy part. This is a Skill Level 3 model, and I haven’t finished a kit in over seven years! Many things have changed, particularly in the areas of paint and putty. In those areas, all changes have been for the better. However, it was a tall order to fill with a two week deadline, even with the better paints and putties, because this was not to be an ordinary model. It was to be mounted on a wooden display stand and rigged with LED lights.
Here’s how it happened. Moebius has included amazing window treatments for the kit. Each window has a photo acetate image of curtains, candles on the sill, broken blinds or other designs that look great when backlit. It seemed a shame to leave the model dark with these window treatments included. So, my father- who has more of a head for wiring than I- said he’d take on the job. He also offered to build an oak and plywood base for the model. I would handle the building of the kit itself and the painting that was required. We would then work together to rig the lights and mount the model on the kit base.
The kit is beautiful. The details are intricate and the whole place reminds me of those captain’s houses you find in east coast fishing towns like Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Moulded in gray plastic, it requires a lot of paint to cover the surface. I elected to do the whole thing by hand- no spray, thank-you. As the house in the television show is run down and spooky, a sparkling finish is not needed. However, more weathering than was recommended by Moebius is needed to prevent the model from looking like a tiny doll’s house. They suggested a light brown. I used flat black and a medium grey, sometimes with cleaning the brush in between coats to mess it up even more. If some think that was too much in theory, I suggest looking at run down houses on the coast. Unpainted wood often darkens over time as it rots. Grime and environmental damage often shows as dark staining rather than light.
The siding was a tan/cream colour, chosen from research on Google featuring computer generated images by artist Robert Rowe. He and Moebius used white trim on the house. I switched it to Aged White, with Roof Red, Building Brown, Deck Brown and Aluminum or Steel acrylic paint for the rest of the house. Testors Acrylics, Polly- S railway and hobby paints and Tamiya Acrylics were the manufacterers of the paint I used. Tamiya also made the body putty I used to fill light bleeds that are a problem with the model if one chooses to give it interior illumination.
Above is a picture of the box with the sub-assemblies in it. Below is a picture I took while test fitting the front door. When it comes to final assembly, follow the instructions precisely and test fit everything to head off problems before they start. Note this kit becomes a lot harder as more plastic is glued down. Any twist along the way means big problems for the last pieces going in. It is unavoidable, however. You need to sub-assemble as much as you can first and then bring the modules together later. For me, it was the barn-like model wing without the roof sections, and tower and other wing which were the major sub-assemblies.
The overhang on the front steps and the details are added only during final assembly. The instructions say otherwise, but I found it didn’t work and had to pull everything apart and start again later.
Above is a test fit. You can see the gap in the towed and the lack over overhang by the front door. Painting and weathering had to be done over as the model came together and putty was needed inside to fill gaps. Like most other jobs, though, it was no trouble. The basic structure of the model is such that I found it forgave my ham-fisted bumbling quite freely.
THE LIGHTS & STAND
Because LED lights were to be used, I painted the inside of the house aluminum to cut down on light bleed through the plastic and reflect light inside the model. Big mistake! Two heavy coats did nothing to make the plastic more opaque. Flat black is the only thing that works. Be prepared to use it for details as you fit the modules together and test them with the lights. Any joints or slots in the model have to be painted- rather sloppily- to ensure coverage and prevent light leaks. I literally did not finish painting until the last roof piece went on and the house was sealed in.
This is the stand my father built for the model.
Here is the underside, with emphasis on the mounting for the 9V battery and wiring, shown in close up in the second picture in black and white.
You can see the wiring used and the heat shrink wraps to help bind together the connections. Dad handled this part himself, as I have only lit one model before- Bandai’s ENTERPRISE NCC-1701-E. That kit had all the channels cut and wires linked up. It was simply a case of mounting them in their proper places and offering many prayers along the way. (Building that model was NOT a pleasant experience and it was the last kit I more or less finished for several years. Conicidence? I think not.) This model had nothing for rigging available. We did it all ourselves. Below is a black and white picture of the model stand with the lights set up and tools holding the wires in place.
Channel-shaped styrene plastic I picked up to help with light bleed was used instead to make stands for the LED lights. It worked beautifully, giving both protection and strength to the mountings when final assembly took place and the inevitable bumps happened.
Here is my father securing one of the five lights used in the model. You can see the size of the kit is not huge- barely 11 inches on the base. One of his architectural watercolours is resting against the wall behind the wooden stand. You can view some of his artwork at www.bigartbuzz.com, using “Albert Seaman” as the search term.
Below is a wobbly shot of the lights during a test fitting. Where is a tripod when you need one?
The kit came together in about six hours, after all the other work had been done. There was a major problem with the final pieces going in; the whole of the East Wing being slightly twisted. The instructions call for the tower to go in first, followed by the front door and the West Wing, (the barn-like part of the house). I Started at the West Wing because I needed to check light bleeding as I went. In the tower, my father channeled a hole in the base at the back so we could install a light in the base. If you don’t light the house, just plonk the tower in as one piece, according to the instructions. It will likely make putting the house together easier. We did not have that ability, though, because of the lighting. Putty had to be applied constantly as the house came together, plugging little holes all over the joints. With the exception of some around the base of the roof on the tower and a couple of tiny slits on the West Wing, I pretty much got them all.
Now… back to the twist in the East Wing. I covered the unslightly mis-alignment with autumn leaves, also sprinkled around doorways and gutters on the model to give it an autumnal appearance. Considering the colours used, the leaves become the most colourful part of the whole dwelling. It still annoys me that this happened. Clearly, I messed up somewhere. But I’ll be darned if I can figure it out.
Here is the back of the house, with the switch for the lights and the leaves clearly visible. The back roof would not sit properly on the rear wall. Trimming and plastic reinforcement did little to help. In the end, I poured body putty in around the gutters as we joined the roof to the house and painted it up to blend in with the rest of the house. Fortunately, the house is supposed to be old and run down, so a precise finish was not required. But no light escaped, so it was worth it.
And here is 1313 Mockingbird Lane- finished. Scroll back to the top for another image of the front.
This model is built in HO scale, making it great for railway displays. Find appropriately scaled figures to add detail. Also, refer to Google, or www.cultTVman.com for images of other versions of the house. One writer suggested painting it in black, grey and white, because the show was aired that way. However, the recipient of the gift noted two feature films in colour were made and I opted to approximate the colours used in the films accordingly. Having since watched the series and the films and enjoyed them with a maturity I lacked when they first aired, I’m glad I went for the colour option as well.
This article and images are copyrighted C.A. Seaman, 2012, and may not be reproduced in any way without written permission from the author. The Munsters house is produced by Moebius Models, at P.O. Box 229372 Glenwood, FL 32722 or www.moebiusmodels.com, with acknowledgement to NBC Universal Television Consumer products. My thanks to them all for making a wonderful building experience for both my father and I.
Since I was old enough to hold a pencil, I have created art. Since I was old enough to read and write, I have written stories. As I write this, I have no interest in stopping in either of my pursuits.
I was born and raised in Brampton, Ontario. after graduating from high school, I attended studies at the University of Toronto, obtaining both a Bachelor’s Degree in English and History, with a Minor in Sociology and shortly afterwards, a Masters Degree in Modern Military History and Anglo-American relations. From there, I worked with the Brampton Public Library as a Library Technician and then returned to the University of Toronto to complete a B.Ed and then become an employee of the Durham District School Board, where I worked for 29 years.
Arts Education- teaching and learning…
Once in the classroom, I shifted my teaching interests from English and History to Visual Arts and Media. To support this change in direction, I upgraded my skills through taking courses in Photography and Multimedia at Durham College, and in taking a computer course at the International Academy of Design in Toronto. A few years ago, I completed a program in Cartooning and Graphic Novel design at George Brown College and enjoy keeping up with my studies whenever time for travel and work allow me to do so. Coincidentally, I also taught art both privately, and in places like Curry’s Art, the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, and Comic Book Addiction and have been a guest artist at CBA’s Free Comics Day events for several years .
In 1997, I received a Civic Arts Achievement award from the City of Brampton, for work I had displayed across the country at places like the National Aviation Museum in Ottawa, the Durham District School Board offices, the Granite Club, the Brampton Public Library, and the offices at the City of Brampton. I acted as a photographer for a band called “Ghost Road”, won an honourable mention in an international postcard art show, and had work published in an alphabet book published by Visual Arts Brampton. My artwork, ranging from landscapes to historical aviation themes hangs in the homes of collectors in Canada and the United Kingdom. Currently, I am a member of Big Art Buzz, an online arts collective that has exhibited in various locations across the Greater Toronto Area.
In 1999, I created the Rocket Girls, later known as the Kaiten Angels, as part of a Millennium project hosted by Visual Arts Brampton. The first piece appeared in an alphabet book published by V.A.B., created from a drawing scanned in Photopaint and coloured using that software. Over the years that followed, more images were created, along with story outlines, a short story- never published- and several calendars given to friends and associates. The characters became more computer generated, with less drawing involved up until the release of the last calendar in 2007. After that, I began work on my current project, called SARGASSO. Three books will have been published in the series by Christmas 2010, with the fourth on the way soon after. The story and art are both created by me and the books may be purchased at www.blurb.com. you can also read separate postings on the book and view some of the art related to it by searching this website.
From George Brown to Zephyr Crow and MANNA
I finished work on the first story arc for SARGASSO at the time I began my studies in Cartooning, the Graphic Novel and related illustration or anatomical courses at George Brown College in Toronto. In the Graphic Novel course, we were asked to create a short story of several pages for the final assignment. I had already done some work on a new story involving a character named Zephyr Crow and set in an old movie studio back lot. I will show you more about that in separate postings. For the final project in the Graphic Novel course, I began to develop MANNA, which is a coming-of-age story set mostly in the Netherlands during the Second World War. At the time of writing, MANNA is, as I call it affectionately, my herd of elephants in the room. Years of research, acquiring models and materials for the story, writing the script and sampling different formats for the book have brought me to the point where I am eager to get on with the production of the piece and other stories that have developed around it. As with the other projects, I will include separate postings on MANNA and the other stories as materials become available. Now retired from my work at the DDSB, I will have plenty of time to develop all of these projects and more.
One thing I enjoyed a lot in the last few years was working on creating animated sequences for AVENUE Q with the Whitby Little Theatre. I got to design the animations, put them together, see how puppets were made and be part of a very special production. Please take the time to read my article on working on the show, included in the section on Design and Commercial Projects. I’d like to explore puppetry more in the future and perhaps use it as a way of telling my stories. I’d like to explore the different types of puppets and the ways in which they are made. Puppetry is practically as old as theatre itself, with a long and rich tradition. Some say it is a dying art. I wonder, though. Can it not perhaps re-imagine itself for the new century? Like thinking of the next project and where it will take me in the future, who knows?
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 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.
When I first began keeping websites on the internet, the world was a very different place. Y2K was fresh in the minds of people in many parts of the world. (I still have the candles I bought to deal with the darkness experts said would fall upon us when the new millennium began. When the lights go out in the neighbourhood today, those little lights of mine shine with a warmth that says ‘We would have lit your way then. We will light your way now. This darkness will pass.’)
Today, twenty years on, as I re-imagine my website and use wondrous new tools to bring it to life, I think about how far the internet has come since my first efforts were published on what was still widely known then as the World Wide Web. Now we are dependent on it for commerce and communications, education and enlightenment, comfort and counselling.
My first website was born in that time after Y2K and before 9-11. This one emerges in the world of Covid-19. Times were strange then and much stranger now.
However, one thing has remained consistent throughout these strange days and stranger things: many people enjoy creativity in its many forms. Making things, sharing things, reflecting on things made and shared have brought together people from across the world. ‘Isn’t that beautiful?’ ‘How was it made?’ ‘What was the creative process behind it?’ ‘How can I do that?’ ‘Where can I find more?’ These are all questions asked often when people look at artistic creations on the internet. (I will ignore the negativity that, unfortunately, also surfaces among viewers on the web here, except to say that such hostility, born of ignorance rather than constructive analysis, warrants neither acknowledgement nor reflection.) Sharing and admiring art, or offering genuinely helpful tips to bring refinement to future works from artists, should be what websites are about.
It is, I hope, what will be the function of Pics & Prose.
I want this website to be more accessible than its predecessors. I hope it can be open to constructiveinteraction and reflection among readers and viewers alike, for while I know I have something to offer in my work, there is so much more for me to learn in the process of creating my art. I am mostly self-taught, except for my period as a part time continuing education student taking a handful of courses at George Brown College in Toronto. I grew a lot in my time there as an artist. I also learned my journey- like that of many other artists- was, at best, only just beginning.
So here in these postings will be snapshots from my journey towards artistic fulfillment. Here is a travelogue, sharing my adventures and aspirations as I stride, stumble and stretch across time and creative space. Come with me, if you wish. I only ask in return that if you do choose to come with me, do so as a friend.