January 1st, 2011

Last month I finally read The Great Gatsby. I know, I know, how could I have not read it till now? well, for my defense I will say that Fitzgerald wasn't part of the curriculum in Israeli schools (at least they taught Salinger ). People tell me their experience from the book has been hampered by being forced to read it when they were 14, I agree that at that age you wouldn't really be able to appreciate it, unless you were Lisa Simpson. Well I was totally blown away, I can safely say the book is now up on my all time favorite list. It's hard to put a finger on what charmed me so much, maybe it was that elusive quality of the world that Fitzgerald paints - a world that is almost there but much like Gatsby's dream doesn't really exist. There layers and layers of depth and melancholy, and vivid descriptions of the gloriously beautiful and vapid lives of the rich in the 1920's. I also identified with the narrator - Nick - who reaches a junction in his life as he hits 30, looking with a certain gloom ahead. There was one scene which I found especially striking; when Nick looks over to his neighbor, Gatsby's house, and sees that he lit it all up, with lights shining bright through every window. As I saw it, Gatsby's house was a symbol to his overblown desire for Daisy, and I had an idea to show the relationship between the two. Another element that struck me was how Gatsby had turned Daisy into a larger then life figure, an enormous fantasy which he desired so badly that it came completely dominate his life.

So I started sketching up ideas, I decided that I wanted to play with scale, and contradictory planes. Also, with a lot of my personal pieces I've been playing with the idea of dark/light, and this image was no exception. I started with really rough sketches, and slowly figured out where to position the elements on the page.

Daisy had to be dominating, but at the same time I wanted her to be ghostly, almost not there. I drew out the final rendered image with a mechanical pencil with 0.9 B leads - It gives a nice soft line that helps me describe surfaces without getting too messy.

I proceeded to scan the pencils, then started playing with the colors, adding watercolor textures and working with the values. I wanted the sleeping figure of Daisy to be somewhat obscured in the her space rather then pop out. Initially I envisioned strong beams of light blasting out of the house in all directions, but the more I worked on the image the more I realized that I preferred a more subtle glow. That left the sky somewhat empty - I decided to solve this issue by adding a sereis of soft clouds engulfing the hill.

As I was working on the image I realized that I was subconsciously having a visual dialogue with the original cover illustration by Francis Cugat, choosing similar colors and theme, although I think that my image is far enough removed from the original to be able to stand on its own accord. Below is the final color version: