Body of Work 01.10.20
Along a similar vein to my post on The Detective, I had some ideas about my aquatics-themed concept art and how to turn it into some story beats. I've decided to note this down, as I did with the last one, in iterative formats to be re-posted as I progress.
Aside from loving this piece individually, one of the reasons I included this in my body of work roster was because of the striking, coincidental resemblance that it has to Iain McCaig's retelling of The Little Mermaid in space for his Gnomon Workshop. I felt that, by proxy of the similarity, it would make an excellent starting attempt for trying out these new techniques in my style.
Despite happily settling on making my own retelling of the story, I would say that I still want to avoid popular tropes as much as possible. Exploring the themes I had already included in the original art, I conceptualised that instead of a love story of nature (here meaning the mermaid) falling for man and visa versa, I would instead take a leaf out of the Studio Ghibli book, omit romantic relations completely, and focus on a platonic love based on admiration between one natural force and another. In the original work, this is represented by the character's fascination with the rain which relates to my own adoration for the rain, however I wasn't satisfied to leave it at just that and wanted something a bit more tangible for her to covet.
When I sat down and tried to tell Sheza, my colleague and friend, what I had been thinking, I found that, almost magically, the story beats fell into place.
Bellow is the version that came to me as I was telling it...
The mermaid lives with her people in an ocean that tapers off into a lake
They all mostly avoid living in the lake as they think the shallow bed makes them vulnerable to the sun and to outsiders
Our character instead chooses to embrace this and soon discovers the 'sky water' - a misnomer she comes up with when she first sees the rain
For the longest time she stays in the shallows of the lake, as she falls in love with the rain, fascinated by the kind of beings who could have such amazing gills as to breathe through this sprinkling of water (which she cannot)
One day, as she explores the edges of her lake, she sees, for the very first time, a land being - a wild horse with long, straight hair that cascades into the water. The grey strands from the head and tail, to our mermaid, look like the rain beating down on the surface of the water. She approaches, awestruck, but before too long the horse sees her and flees
At an underwater gathering she animatedly tells the story of the creature she saw - with hair of cascading water, and 4 tails topped with stone stumps (hooves) with which it walks across the land. Having never seen a horse, or any other land being really, the other mermaids laugh her off and humiliate her
This causes our mermaid to be determined to prove them wrong
She spends some time earning the horse's trust, through trial and error, observing that it eats the grass and then drinks the water. Finally, she is able to get it to trust her enough for her to grab it and drag it under water, all the way to the bottom to show the other mermaids
Too late she realises she has accidentally drowned it, only now realising the absence of any gills whatsoever
Grief-stricken, she recruits the help of a great underwater power - like a sea witch and makes an ultimate sacrifice to bring the horse back to life. The witch tells her to take the horse to land, and once it has taken its first step on the grass, her body will be taken and she will become part of the thicker, underwater river and never be able to reach the surface again
She accepts, dragging the horse onto the grass pasture off the side of her lake. As promised, it comes back to life and she is able to say a final goodbye and finally pet it
Just as the horse takes its first step it is suddenly lassoed and dragged off by a group of humans. The mermaid reaches out to help but before she can she is pulled down and stripped of her body, just as the witch had foretold
The story follows the horse now as it is dragged off to the human settlement and placed with countless other beautiful horses that have been sheered and broken into saddles
The story appears to end but, from the underground river, there appears a big crack in the riverbed that turns into a phenomenal wave. The human village is flooded, taking the people with it but leaving the horses to be freed
The sun comes out and the resulting water evaporates, ascending and turning into the clouds where it becomes rain that falls down on the horse who stares up at the sky. A version of the mermaid can be seen in the cloud formations
As soon as I am ready to move onto the drawing stage of the project, one of my first tasks will be figuring out how to turn these written story beats into images that convey the same depth of context.
I look forward to tackling such an industry-specific issue.
- R Cipolletta