Fables of the salamander and the seahorse

Back with two fables, and the struggle I'm talking about is the fear of endings and how we might embrace renewal. First name I had for these a year ago was the dweller, then it became the passenger and for this last round I found ideal names: the first one I called the goner, and its opposite is the survivor.

At the time I developed the illustrations for this idea I was focusing on trees and my first impulse was to do a search for "tree of life". Google has a way of surfacing things that can lead in unexpected directions. In the results I saw an image for the Terrence Malick's movie Tree of Life, which I had not seen. It looked intriguing. I decide to watch the movie and see if I would find inspiring ideas there. It was a slooow movie, but very beautiful, with strange scenes of fire and explosions and then water and the beginnings of life on the planet.

 
 

Using fire as a way to represent renewal, I found the various symbols to construct my drawing. The salamander is often related to fire, because they used to hide in the logs and when someone would come and make a fire they would all run out for their life, but it appeared like they lived in the fire. The red ones have a beautiful fiery orange color. For the tree symbol I chose the joshua tree, and a painting from Gustav Klimt, the Tree of Life, inspired me to add a raven on it. Other things I searched for was Death Valley and from there I found these mysterious rocks that move without anyone seeing them do it, and also amazing time-lapse movies of the stars taken over night. 

With water to represent the permanence of life for the opposite drawing, I looked for a water creature for an animal symbol. The seahorse seemed perfect and a search on Google returned a photo with a baby seahorse and his dad (cause seahorse dads carry the children, did you know that?). It became the central point of my drawing, and for the rest I got inspired by re-watching the quirky Wes Anderson movie The Life Aquatic, and by a couple of its posters. It's funny too that the movie has a part in the story about the main character discovering his son and wanting him to carry on his oceanography career. Passing on a legacy is one way to stay alive for generations.

I'm going to leave you with some photos of the process to create the images. Below is the manual phase where I'm carving the drawing into a linoleum block, inking it and then scanning the dry block to digitize it.

Then after the manual phase in Photoshop I fill in the shapes and apply colors and textures. I start with a quick color study and go through many tweak with the textures to get something that feels right. Along with that I also write the little haiku story and refine it as well until it says as much as I'd like it to say in this few short words.