Sunday, March 8, 2009

Constructing the Towel of Babel

The idea came into my mind sometime last year. I thought it could be interesting to use the wordplay "towel tower" as the base for a surrealistic imagery and associate it with the famous Tower of Babel. But to get the perfect mix of sex appeal and humor, I needed a suitable model. So the idea had to wait for the better times...

This January Diana, my friendly witch from Lithuania, who has kindly agreed to pose for some of my future projects, visited Tbilisi for her third time. It was a perfect opportunity to arrange another photo-session, like we did last year, just before the August war. As I was taking some probe pictures, I remembered about the Towel of Babel and asked her to bring her towel and see what we could do with it. The result was exactly what the doctor ordered: the combination of her slender arms and funny expression, as she looked up at the giant construction on her head, provided the right balance of sexuality and humor.

After finishing The Gas Cowboys I decided to take a break from the Politika series for a while. I really needed something enjoyable and heart-warming to work on and the Towel of Babel was the best choice for that. So the construction began, at long last...

Stage 1

The original Tower of Babel needed to be perfectly symmetrical in order to reach the Heavens... so I had to use a ruler while drafting the composition to make sure it's exactly in the middle of the workspace. At this stage I still had no idea, what the background would be like. Also, I wasn't sure about the top -- initially I was going to make it complete, but then I changed my mind and decided not to contradict with the Bible, leaving the top unfinished. Still, I needed to decide how it should end at the top. It was a towel, after all, so it couldn't just stick up there forever -- it had to come loose, eventually. So I made it look like it's slowly unrolling -- although rather strangely, defying gravity and flapping like a banner in the wind.

Stage 2

With the composition drafted, it was time to think of the scenery. The most obvious choice was to make it look like ancient Babylon, but I didn't want too much detail in the background, only a light resemblance. I decided to use the same approach as good old Pieter Bruegel did in his famous Tower of Babel -- the city on the left, the river on the right and the mountains in the distance. From my side, I added some palms in the foreground. Also, I made the ships and buildings look more appropriate to the supposed age and place, unlike the Old Master, who intended his scenery to resemble his native Netherlands rather than Babylon.

Stage 3

Finally, it was time to bring some colors into the action. Originally, I wanted the towel to be blue -- the handwriting in my sketchbook clearly indicated: "light blue towel" -- but when I actually started to distribute the colors, I shifted towards the orange, since it would look better against the blue sky. Although, I decided to fade the upper part to blue -- just to bring a sense of "vanishing in the clouds." At this stage Diana really started to look like an African woman -- mostly because her eyeballs were still uncolored.

Stage 4

This is the stage where colored pencils usually play their last accord. I tried to render as much details as I could before the final stage, where the ballpoint pens take the lead. The clouds, the "towel tower" and the scenery became more defined, and the colors gained more depth. The actual drawing finally started to match the one I had in my head, although there was still much work to do.

The Final Stage

It was time to use my ultimate secret weapon -- the ballpoint pens. Although, I had to resort to now retired colored pencils when dealing with the clouds, because, to be honest, I was so eager to proceed to the final stage that I rushed their rendering a little bit previously and now I had to finish the postponed work. That was normal for me, though -- usually I save the sky for last, sometimes even leaving it totally blank until later stages. Other than that, everything went on as planned. The ballpoint pens did their job well, bringing the desired sense of volume and completion. After two days of work, the Towel of Babel was finished...

I had drawn Diana before -- we already did Metalliana in 2006 and Vilnius-Tbilisi in 2008 -- but it was the first time when she posed for a major surrealistic work. She did very well, and I'm really satisfied with the results. As you can see, Diana fits into my surreal world just perfectly...


Metalliana said...

In fact, it's a great pleasure and joy to be a part of your (sur)real world, Rezo :)

Keti said...

ძალიან მომეწონა ეს ნამუშევარი..

Post a Comment