Odinel, I just saw the list of Semi-Finalists and I don't see "Angel's Garden" there. I guess you didn't make the cut. I'm so sorry. I personally can't see why yours didn't make it, but then again I am not trained in graphic art.
About 2 weeks ago I showed this painting of yours to a cyber aquaintance whose mother is a professional graphic artist, and my friend said your staircase didn't have the correct perspective to it, and that it terminated too quickly at the top without enough steps to validate the implied distance, triangulated with the upper termination point. (I then had to look REALLY hard at your staircase, and I think he's right, but it's so subtle that I think only a trained eye could pick that one out.) Other than that he really liked your work.
Let me offer an analysis of HIS work as compared to your own. (AGAIN, I am not trained in this, so perhaps my analysis will prove lacking. But here it is.)
This semi-finalist deviation has a similar layout to yours -- the circular theatre of focus, surrounded by trees in both the foreground and the background. Interesting lighting with the center as the focus and darker shadows on the edges. This one painting made semi-finals while yours did not. I must say that perhaps there is a vibrance to this painting that yours lacks. Yours is a painting whose key mood involves an extreme hush of breathless silence. And perhaps the judges were not interested in one of those "hush of silence" kind of paintings, or else perhaps you didn't convey enough oomph! into the resulting hush (tough trick, I gather, to make silence be "powerful"). Yours also only really has two figures in it, and maybe they weren't too keen that a) one of them was an unmoving statue, and b) the other was deliberately diminished via perspective into a tiny speck of a bug --that left only the surrounding scenery to pull-off the majority of the requirement of making your work stand out, and so perhaps they weren't impressed with the execution of your scenery.
This work called "The Collector," however, has a dynamism -- it moves and it is abuzz with activity. It deftly integrates exraordinary elements of both humor and horror (kiddie-safe horror). There are so many figures/characters in this painting, each with a clearly realized degree of individuality, and each with a level of motion (or non-motion) which you can sense. --Which is to say that you get a clear sense when looking at "The Collector" which characters/scene elements are moving, and which are standing still. I can "see" that one horned imp in the foreground shaking his sword up and down in a sort of a "pitchfork and torches" style of mob-mentality agitation. I can also "see" a second imp off to the right likewise shaking something (a stick? a whip?) in similar agitation. I can see the various animals in the background -- all in little cages strung from overhanging tree branches-- cocking their heads, blinking their eyes, etc. I can also "see" the little boy standing still-as-a-satue in stark terror before the boss-dude on the throne-thing. And I can also "see" the boss-dude on the throne-thing... thinking. He's scratching his chin and he is silently considering the boy --considering whether or not he shall add the boy to this "collection" which the title so tantalizingly implies.
I also like that the boss-dude is the only character whose eyes we can actually see. (I realize that I said up above that I could "see" the caged animals blinking their eyes, but not really -- I am only imagining such motions to be taking place, but truthfully their eyes are not at all discernible. Kinda like in the Hitchcock movie Psycho, during that famous shower scene, it has been long-noted by film school professors over the years that never once do we ever "see" the knife blade touch the skin of Janet Leigh, we merely imagine that the knife is touching her. Likewise, I do not truly see the eyes of the caged animals in "The Collector," I merely imagine those eyes are there.) The eyes of the boss-dude are very expressive -- in a kiddie-friendly cartoony sort of way. Anyone else would have made them glowing red, but this artist made them a little more human. And those eyes are not only the ONLY eyes we can see in the whole work, but also --and more importantly-- they are the only aspect of the entire painting which he rendered in SHARP focus. The rest of the painting has been rendered with a subtle haze to it. The top-sides of those eyes are NOT flat as if he were squinting in either anger or self-satisfaction. Instead they are very rounded, as if he is somewhat surprised. He has perhaps never seen such a creature before as this little boy. He is ... preplexed. He is thinking. Scratching his chin. Wondering what to do. This little boy truly is a special catch. And so there is hope -- a glimmer of hope-- that maybe he will let the boy go, or at least will treat him with a specialness that his other "prizes" do not enjoy. There is a HUGE story being implied in this one painting. (And if there's one thing I am trained in, it's the concept of story.)
So I'd say that this dude named Yakonusuke who created "The Collector" has extraordinary command of his craft.
I will further say that I like an artist who can convey silence, and so I think you do that quite well. And I think a lot of 19-year-olds don't typically have the maturity to convey silence the way you do. So there is a style to your work --we writers say "voice." Certain writers have a "voice" which you can "hear" as you read their work. And so to borrow from the language used when discussing literature, I would say your work has a "voice" to it. So keep working on that voice. It can only get better.
Very cinematic! You have awesome potential as a Hollywood storyboarder! Maybe even an art director!
The dark foreground, growing progressively paler --and even growing mist-enshrouded as each level of depth perception recedes into the distance-- is phenomenal!
Visually, there is just so much going on in this painting.
First, we can see it is a round terrarium or greenhouse of some kind (I forgot the exact word for such a structure. "Greenhouse" is the best I can come up with. But I keep thinking there is a more pretentious word for it, some word which is more architectural and maybe has Latin roots to it, the kind of word only "sophisticated" people toss around. Is it perhaps called an arboretum? Oh well. That's not the important part of my critique.) It's a very formal greenhouse, like one you might find attached to some gazillionaire's 95-bedroom Gothic mansion. It doesn't seem to be particularly "churchy" looking, just a formal garden environment. So I do not get a "temple" feel or a "sacred place" feel from it. Nor even a "graveyard" feel. I just get the sense of the following words:
-- formal -- Victorian (or at least Gothic) -- grand -- intimidating
The very formal iron gazebo-looking archway thing (maybe not iron, maybe wood, not important) at the bottom of the staircase is part of this Victorian-ish feel I am getting. And then of course that Titan-sized angel statue --this ain't no Jackson Pollock work here.
The only thing that seems out of place here is that -- while everything else in this greenhouse garden design seems very formal with a lot of hyper-symmetry going on befitting of a Palladian manner house -- the staircase is NOT symmetrical. It has an odd curve to its downward ascent. Hmmmm .... not sure why.
The garden is certainly "alive" as evidenced by the red fruit on the tree to the right -- and I notice that aside from the bright skin tone of the lone human figure in the bottom center, the fruit is the only "colorful" aspect to the whole painting. The rest is very monochromatic off into varying hues of green and black with some very muted browns and greys. But is spite of the garden being alive, it seems also to be mostly dormant. We can see that only some of the trees (the smaller ones) have leaves, but the larger trees seem to be in a leafless winter state (or perhaps they are dead??). There is a loneliness here evoked by the barrenness of the trees. And the birds who are either flying or perching up among those barren branches lend that lonely feel.
I'm not completely sure, but I am sensing that perhaps the garden is not always tended -- a small degree of neglect might be going on and so the garden is getting a tad bit wild and wooly around the edges. I am not alluding to complete abandonment and complete desolation. If that were the case, I think we'd see shattered glass up above in all the panes, and we'd also see a frightful mess below of tree litter and runaway vines growing everywhere and weeds pushing up between the cobblestone floor. But I do get the sense that the garden's growth is just SLIGHTLY out of hand at the moment. I see some vines snaking up the tree trunks of the two massive trees found in the extreme foreground, as well as what might be excessive moss dangling down from that gazebo-looking thing at the bottom of the staircase. And the Titan-sized angel statue has white streaks indicating many years of weathering and demineralization streaming straight down its surface (or are those white streaks just bird poop?). This all kinda reminds me of a somewhat less-severe degree of neglect as what we saw in that scene from the part of the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy, Scarecrow and Tin Man encountered the Cowardly Lion for the first time --more famously known as "The lions and tigers and bears scene" (see YouTube clip below). Notice that the Yellow Brick Road at this section of their journey is not as neatly maintained as the road was earlier on in the film -- the forest here is encroaching upon the road, growing in an unkempt and even destructive manner over the edges of the curbstone, tree roots pushing up under the bricks at some points, weeds growing straight up through the cracks between the bricks, dead tree trunks strewn across the road, etc etc. A poorer art director would have made the forests of the Land of Oz look and feel completely the same from one end of this 1939 movie to the other. But the art director for TWoO was very nuanced in how he made different stretches of the Yellow Brick Road look and feel differently from each other. Your painting here shows SOME degree of neglect creeping into the environment of your greenhouse/arboretum --not as severe as in this YouTube clip, but enough to invoke the right feel.
(34 seconds long and perfectly safe for work) [link]
This oh-so-subtle feel of the beginnings of wild-n-wooly runs contrary to the style of garden that the Gothic and/or Victorian eras espoused. Those were eras of extreme formalism in their garden designs, and everything was always neatly manicured to a hyper degree of control. But there's a lot of unchecked overgrowth of the garden going on here. Even the tall trees in the foreground are tilting inward with a somewhat menacing degree of convergence rather than standing perfectly straight and erect. So the unease we are already experiencing from the sense of "loneliness" is an ill-ease being compounded now by a feeling of our being in an untamed territory -- a feeling of being in a possibly dangerous and unpredictable place (much like the "Lions and Tigers and Bears" scene) which has gotten just slightly out of control of human hands.
I think I might even see one --possibly two-- waterfall(s) located in the midground, one to the near-right of that curving staircase and the other to the far left of the staircase. (Maybe the pale-almost-white thing I see to the right of the stairs is really a birdbath. Not sure.) I am not sure if those are waterfalls, nor am I sure if they are deliberate waterfall/fountain features which the architect of this gazzillionaire's mansion built into it, or if they are unplanned incursions by Mother Nature due to too much neglect and the elements taking their toll and breaking through the walls up above. Up above?? Hmmm ..... Are we perhaps in a slightly-underground kind of a structure?? Kind of like a much larger cousin to the round sunken-into-the-ground farmhouse owned by Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru from the 1977 Star Wars film, "Episode IV: A New Hope"? Are the stairs leading up out of this sunken pit a pathway up to the true ground-level? And therefore the two small waterfalls which I think I am seeing left and right are really natural creeks (or streams or brooks) trickling down from the ground above? Could THAT be the reason why the staircase is irregular? Specifically, am I seeing (via the creeks) evidence that the architect did what he or she could with the rocky ground, and so as he was carving away at the stairs, the underlying bedrock had its own curving grain to it, forcing the architect to incorporate the same curve to the downward path of the stairs themselves as he progressed his stairs down the hillside to the greenhouse's main floor below? Such an irregular curving defies the hyper-formalism of either the straight-as-an-arrow downward staircase found in Gothic or Victorian sensibilities, or the perfectly symmetrical double-curve of two twin Palladian staircases.
But as one character from the recent movie "Prometheus" said "God doesn't build in straight lines." So that's when architects must bend to the handiwork of God and make their side-of-the-hill staircases into odd curves.
And then the generous usage of a gloomy, shadowy darkness in both the left and right corners of the foreground adds to the sense of mystery and unpredictableness of this place.
Very atmospheric! But not in an overdone manner.
Now for the main subjects of the painting -- the tiny human/humanoid figure who stands dwarfed by the Titan-sized angel statue
As I said earlier, the only two portions of the painting which deviate from the dominant monochrome palette of greens and greys are 1) the bright fruit and 2) the bright-skinned human(oid). So much of the painting forces us to look at just those two elements. The human(oid) is in the center of the center of the center. I admit he is NOT dead-center in the field of the painting -- in other words he's not "bullseye" center, like if you were to set crosshairs onto the canvas with an X-axis and a Y-axis. No -- not literal center. But rather he stands at the center of a circular cobblestone floor, and that floor is that the bottom of this circular pit which contains this circular sunken-in-the-ground building, and up above we have a circular greenhouse glass rotunda which itself has lovely vaulting curves to its framework. Even the tilting trunks of the two larger trees in the foreground are somewhat echoing the curves of the rotunda framework up above. And then the trees' branches mimick the curving rotunda framework even further. Circle and circles and more circles. Curves compounded by curves compounded by even more curves. What better shape in nature asks us to look to the center? (None, really.) So ... we look to the center of the center of the center where the inner-circle of the inner-circle of the inner-circle lies. And there at the center of all these curves and circles stands our lone human(oid). And looming off to one side of him we see the Titan-sized angel statue. And that statue (quite incidentally) SEEMS to be MAYBE looking directly down at him. It also is crouching -- an odd stance for an almost godlike creature to take-- and the statue even has a somewhat beckoning hand extended toward him.
The statue's intimidating size, coupled with its coincidental (and just slightly creepy) gaze down upon our human(oid) subject, already has our attention. But the red fruit on the trees behind the statue forces us to assume a very tangible (albeit invisible) line of connectedness between the human(oid) and the statue. We WANT to connect the bright colorful skin of the human(oid) with the bright red fruit. The rest of the painting's muted color palette just spurs us on all the more to WANT to make that connection. So ... when we draw a line between the human(oid) and the apples ... guess what lies in between the two?? -- the angel statue of course! And the "line" we draw between the two colorful subjects is really more of a "cone": the point of the cone is the human(oid), and then the wide part at the other end of the cone is the scattered spray of fruit with outlines the top and backside of the entire body of the angel -- even the angel's extended hand has a touch of fruit hovering above it. I think it's pertinent to point out that the point of the cone is ALSO pointing at the middle of that oh-so-obviously circular cobblestone floor. So as we trace the outline of this invisible cone with our minds, we sense a connection between the human(oid) and the angel statue. The human(oid) is NOT looking at the statue, but there is still a connection there. What the connection is, I do not know. But there is SOMETHING going on here. If anything, I more so sense that it's the angel seeking to connect with the human, and not necessarily the other way around. What an odd thought! An angel is by nature a very large, lofty creature, a dweller of the heavens, while a human is a lowly thing made of the dust of the Earth. And here this stone rendering of such a magnificent being has been quite fittingly elevated on a noble platform high above the tiny human(oid). And yet the angel is ... crouching ... stooping downward, extending his hand, and gazing upon the human(oid). And further still, if I study it a little further, there at first seems to be a slight bit of contradiction which works against this original hypothesis of mine where I suspect the angel might want to connect with the human(oid). Specifically, the angel's face has a somewhat bland regard to its expression, and the angels' OTHER hand is being held back in reserve. At first it might seem that maybe I am wrong about the angel wanting to make a connection, or else the angel is conflicted in such a desire. So much subtlety. A lesser artist would have had the human(oid) figure looking straight up at the face of the statue. Instead, the human(oid) is looking elsewhere. And a lesser artist would have also had too much obviousness going on with the statue's pose of seeking a connection. My final conclusion on this matter of the angel's pose is that the overall pose of the angel reminds me of when a human is cautiously squatting to the ground at a non-threatening distance from a stray kitten -- just somewhat beckoning of the tiny scared creature, not wanting to hurt it or frighten it, just sort of ... hoping ... that the kitten will not be afraid and will respond positively to the initial offer of a connection. And then the glowing yet diffused sunlight --a somewhat cloudy overcast sort of a glow where we can see the sun TRYING to push through the haze of clouds. That muted sunlight shines down through the glass above to the garden below. Is it dawn or dusk? Either way, it is a very hopeful light, offering a hope to this possible connection, driving back the darkness in the extreme foreground.
Perhaps that angel statue itself is the true source of the loneliness of this place.
I only JUST NOW made the symbolic connection between the angel and the red fruit (possibly apples?). This is a possible Garden of Eden connection with the Forbidden Fruit found on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
The fruit in this painting is behind the angel's back, almost as if he has them in an invisible sack which is slung over his shoulder like Santa Claus' sack of toys. Could it be that the angel in this painting will offer the fruit to the human in another moment? As a gift? Or as a form of treachery? Is this encounter between the human and the angel going to culminate a mirroring event, one which mirrors the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden? While I realize it is more typical for artists to portray the Fall of Man via the symbolism of a human woman offering fruit to a human man (with all the subtle sexual trappings implied in that imagery) the more complete telling of the story starts off with the character known as "the serpent" (many would say he was a fallen angel) offering the fruit to the woman, who eventually offered it to the man.
So ... is THAT story being alluded to here?
As far as the "aliveness" of the angel in this painting, I see no real evidence that the angel ... moves. He seems to be perfectly still -- still as a statue in fact, because he is quite literally a statue. He has at least one tiny forest creature (a bird? a squirrel? a chipmunk?) perched upon his utterly unmoving head, and maybe even one on his outstretched and equally unmoving arm as well. And he additionally has those white streaks on him, streaks so downward straight in their current paths that there is no way he has been posed into any other position than the crouch he now assumes. So I want to make it abundantly clear that I do not believe the statue "moves" nor even that he is actually and literally "alive." Instead I am saying that I see symbolism here which cannot be ignored.
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