Steampunk + Medusa - Bridging the gap.

I spent some time just thinking and reading about the different elements of Medusa, things from the myth and the character that would lend themselves to her design. I think this is a key part of design. Alan said to me I had to have as much information about her as possible. Of course, I didn't fully understand this untill now. The problem I was having was that I was trying to solve certain design problems, problems such as "How do I represent the snakes coming out of her head." Of course, people can't genuinely have snakes emitting from their skull, and I had to consider that this is a steampunk piece. Of course steampunk is very fantasy, but it has certain rules. It was set near the end of the industrial revolution, this was a time of science, of the mechanization of things. There was no magic, so she certainly could not just have snakes there. The mechanization certainly would work, however, and so metal contraptions to represent the snakes would be the better option.

All of these are design problems that I have resolve, and I understand that that is the stuff I need to address as soon as possible (and I am, don't panic.)

I have been spending time asking "How can she turn people to stone." There are multiple takes on how Medusa turns people to stone. The most common, and the one I believe to be the case, is her eyes. Look into them and turn to stone. But for example, if you watch "Perseus and the Lightning Thief" (I've not watched it yet, I don't think I will though) Medusa in there has her snakes covered with a hat, and when she removes it they will turn to stone. (I just have to say here that that rendition of Medusa is absolutely shocking, the snakes just don't even look as if they fit, this is an example of where they must have missed this design problem entirely.)

The answer to this question for me came from the part of the myth where Medusa has her head cut off. Why not have a weak spot in her neck to symbolise that? In which case, let's have a tube of some sort coming from her neck into her head that pushes some form of paralytic toxin which she can spray at people to paralyze them. Something like that, part of the myth lends its self to the design element.

There's a problem though, I can't seem to find what it is that Medusa did inbetween being cursed and then subsequently killed. What ever happened here would lend its self to the motivation of my character. Now, I'm just filling in the blanks here, but I want to take the victim story of Medusa, wherein Posiden raped her, and she was wrongfully cursed. So I would assume she is angry at men, and so wants to exact her revenge on them. Take this to the 19th Century, and we have a woman that is luring men in order to kill them. 19th Century prositute perhaps. This leads to another part of the story : "cursed Medusa and her sisters, so that they became monstrous creatures, with live snakes in place of their hair, and hideously deformed bodies. But Medusa’s face remained beautiful." I could then take the deformed body to mean that it is no longer useful. So having a robot body would make sense, and her hiding this under victorian type clothing would make sense also. Her snakes would need to be hidden, or used in some form of stylish manner so not to take away from her attractiveness, remember, her face is still beautiful, she will use that to her advantage when luring men!

There is also the question of how will she lure people away from populated areas without them looking into her eyes first. Well she could have a mask type thing on a stick that she covers her eyes with, she would be this extremely mysterious yet pretty woman that men just flock too.

Then I remembered that in the 19th century people were obsessed with their look (Not that people aren't now) and women carried around the little box things in order to powder their faces and such. I imagined that the robot snakes could do this for her. One could hold the pot and the other could dab her face. Pol told me an interesting fact re. the 19th century and today. Basically today people get tans because it's considered attractive as they obviously have an active life, but in the 19th century, to have a tan meant you workd in the fields, and so even men were powdering their faces so much so as to be as pale and attractive as possible.

This is the sort of logic I was missing. Prior to this there was no logic, all I had was steampunk and Medusa, they were basically two puzzle pieces from different puzzles. This is where my frustration was coming from, I was missing the point entirely. So now I am briding these gaps from the myth and how they fit into the era/setting of steam punk. It gives me a focus when I am designing, instead of just drawing random things.

I hope this post was clear and explains well enough my thoughts.

More focused drawings will be incoming soon. I prefer to have the rules, and limitations in place in order to focus on what is needed.


tutorphil said...

Hey Jonny,

A very lucid post - and I see that you're finally unpicking the significance of narrative & its relationship to design - indeed, more than this, how the right kind of narrative elements can quickly make design decisions feel nothing short of inevitable; it prohibits that kind of arbitrary design, which often slides into mimicry of existing work. The issue with Medusa turning the menfolk into stone - if, by 'stone' we actually mean 'paralysis' - perhaps she seduces men with her gaze (because she is beautiful), but in the snake-like contraptions that she has grafted onto her body, there is poison that renders her victims immobile? I'm more than sure that there are snake venoms that do just that? She could have hypodermic needles in her snakes - you could therefore start looking at Victorian medical apparatus as another steampunk component - indeed, perhaps she was a young nurse, raped by a Patriarchal doctor - an expert in hydrotherapy, no less (Posiedon link?). Anyway - you get the point - real world logic and design derived from existing evidence... If she was a prostitute, maybe you could look at the effects of syphillis and other STDs - perhaps as another element governing her appearance?

Jon Stewart said...

Hey Phil :D

I did have a similar idea with the snakes. A toxin that pumps from a tube in her neck through to the snakes. The 'snakes' bite and pow you're paralyzed.

I've been thinking of where rape fits. Actually I was thinking that she would have been raped and some sort of scientist then took her and used her to experiment on. Leaving her in this situation.

The nurse idea is lovely, and I actually will certainly explore that idea! This is feeling very reminscent of Bioshock or even Silent Hill now. Some interesting ideas bobbing around my head now.

Snakes with 19th century medical needles and apparatus attached to the end. Toxins that go through tubes and paralyze people and such.

I guess the paralyzing of a person through her beauty is a good idea. I had a similar idea with the large BMovie type Medusa I was thinking about before. People freeze in awe, perhaps this could be the case.

I am finally feeling some form of excitement for this project now. This character has the potential to be very very scary and eery indeed. Woop!

I must say, it's nice to receive a post without a negative in there. Finally I'm beginning to understand! :D

tutorphil said...

apologies if my tone has been on the negative side - not so much 'negative' as 'frustrated' - because I've seen students get swallowed up by the wrong emphasis on the importance of narrative - but you've struck the balance here - back-story (narrative) drives character - and so drives the design and its details. Remember, you are only interested in the narrative details that translate into visual cues; you are hunting for the 'whys' and 'wherefores' - a means to focus your character design on specifics and move your work away from repeating existing characters...

Be sure, however, to draw as you think - try not to separate the two approaches - think through your drawing.

Jon Stewart said...

Some good advice there Phil. Though I daresay it's easier said than done, I am definately trying to do this though.

About Me

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I am a video game artist at Dovetail games, working on Train Simulator 2014, 2015 and an unannounced title. I also graduated from the CG Arts course at UCA in 2010 with a First Class.