Sorry, I know The MAD Blog has been extremely LOST-centric for the last few months. This will probably be my last post about the show now that it’s over. If you have never watched LOST, then talk amongst yourselves… but I feel sorry for you.
I know I am always saying I never watch TV, but that’s not exactly true. I do catch the occasional episode of “30 Rock” and “The Big Bang Theory” and maybe one or two other shows. This is mostly through osmosis because The Lovely Anna and my kids watch TV which means I do occasionally watch TV. However I find few shows very engaging and think most of it utter garbage. I find most TV shows are full of cliche, recycled plots and dumbed down dialogue and stories… and don’t get me started on “reality TV”. So, when a show comes along that I find so original, so well written and so tremendously smart that I am actually looking forward to the next episode every week, it’s a truly rare occurrence. LOST is the first TV show since “The Sopranos” that did that for me.
I was first hooked on it when MAD assigned me the job of doing the artwork for the parody back in 2005. I had not watched it yet and it was about 7 episodes into the first season when I got that assignment, so I had to borrow some taped episodes from friends and MAD staffers. I started watching the first episode one night after dinner, thinking I’d watch the seven I had on tape over the next couple of days. I turned the TV off at about 3 am having watched every episode I had and setting the TiVo to record the rest of the season automatically. I can’t say I’ve seen every episode as it aired (in fact I’ve watched most some times weeks later if I’ve got a lot going on), but I can say I’ve always made sure the recordings were set and have watched every episode through the series finale last Sunday.
And I’m very glad I did.
That’s not the case with everybody. I’ve read more than a few venomous Facebook posts and tirades on the interwebby. One good friend of mine who I thought was a little less close minded tweeted “I’m sorry but LOST is BULLSHIT”. I’ve always found it funny how some people can’t stand anything that reaches a certain level of popularity. They seem to have this odd opinion that if anything is that popular it has to be crap, even though they either haven’t seen it or didn’t give it a chance and therefore have no valid opinion. I have a certain theory about that. I think these types just can’t stand not being part of the event, and rather than get in on the fun they would rather just show it disdain. How sad for them. If they truly did not watch LOST because of that reason, then they missed out on something special for nothing. A show like this isn’t easy to follow because it’s serial nature demands your constant attention, so I don’t blame anyone who just couldn’t do it… but I do feel sorry they missed the ride.
LOST was not a show for the faint of heart, the short of attention span or, not to put too fine a point on it, the stupid. The writers never treated their audience with anything but great respect for their intelligence and imagination and never talked down to them. They never came out and beat us over the head with a cut and dried explanation of anything (no matter how much we begged for it sometimes), preferring rather to make us actually use our heads and think about what we had seen and to discuss (or argue) about what it meant. In the end it did all mean something. We weren’t greeted with a Sopranos ending.
The writing was refreshingly original and sharp. The characters were beyond engaging. The story unfolded and unfolded and unfolded and walloped us with more surprises than I thought could possibly have been rolled into a single storyline. Nobody… and I mean NOBODY saw it coming when we realized in the final seconds of the season three finale when Kate came out from the shadows that the recent scenes outside the island were not flashBACKS but flashFORWARDS. My mouth hung open on that one. That’s just one example, although the most hard hitting of them all. At times it seems the show was doling out too little in terms of answers and it was frustrating, but once the network and studio decided to end the series the ship righted and it’s been one fantastic journey since.
SPOILER ALERT!!! Final episode details abound shortly!
So, what did I think of the finale? I thought it was terrific and true to the entire series. It left a lot of things to ponder and think about, but in the end it DID explain it all (well, the big stuff). However, like the series itself, it didn’t present us with a user’s manual of an answer… it made us think about it and rewarded us for paying attention and left us with some things to keep thinking about. I’d have expected nothing less.
What really amazes me is how many people I’ve talked to didn’t understand the ending. I’ve heard a lot of complaining about how cheesy it was that they castaways had been dead all along since the crash. THAT’S NOT WHAT HAPPENED. They didn’t die in the crash. Everything that happened on the island really happened. Everything. Everyone was dead at the end, but not from the crash.
In the final moments of the show, Jack has sacrificed himself to restore the island’s light and again stop up whatever terrible power is kept at bay there. He had passed the ageless gift on to Hurley, who agreed to be the new guardian. Realizing Jack is gone, Hurley asks Ben to help him protect the island to which Ben agrees.
Back in what we were calling the “Flash-sideways”, Desmond has been going around to the other castaways, who are all living lives that we believed were a result of the explosion that took place in the past that prevented Oceanic 815 from crashing at all, and reawakening them somehow to their memories of being on the island. These memories seem to be more than memories. Sun and Jin, when reawakened, suddenly know how to speak English. These reawakened people seem to now actually become the ones from the island, and not their “sideways selves” remembering alternate memories. We already know something is not right with these “sideways selves”, because they are not living continuing lives that are the same as the ones they had been living prior to the Oceanic 815 crash. Sun and Jin are not married but having an affair. Jack has a son he never had before. Desmond doesn’t know Penny and works for her father. Sawyer is a cop with Miles as his partner. There are many more examples. These lives had been changed far before flight 815 failed to crash, which had been a recent occurrence in this “sideways world”.
The reawakened castaways all go to a church where Jack’s father’s body is finally brought for his funeral. Jack is the last to reawaken, and his dead father appears to him seemingly real and explains some things. We discover Jack is dead, as are all the people in the church. They have been waiting for Jack to join them to “move on”. The place they have been, which we thought was a new timeline resulting from the prevention of the crash, was not a “flash sideways” but a kind of way-station world where those saved by the island, those who found what they were looking for there, have been living a kind of dream life they have created waiting for the day they would all finally be dead and able to gather and move on. When these events are happening we have no idea, as Jack’s father says “There is no ‘now’ here”. Some of the islanders cannot move on, and are missing. Michael is not here, he is doomed to haunt the island because of the mistakes he made (that’s why he appeared before Hurley a few episodes back, and that’s what the whispering voices are… some who committed evils while on the island are stuck there as spirits). Anna Lucia isn’t here, although her spirit is in this limbo world still wandering. Not all those moving on are from the crash… Jacob brought others to the island and not all on that plane. I believe that the island gave everyone that came to it a chance for redemption of their souls, and some didn’t take advantage of that chance. Some did bad things against their fellow islanders, and that excludes them from receiving the island’s final gift.
How do we know they didn’t die in the crash? Outside the church Hurley and Ben say goodbye. Ben will not come in, choosing instead to remain in limbo… or perhaps he cannot move on. Hurley says to Ben “You were a great number two.” Ben relies: “You were a great number one.” This tells us that Hurley is done with his guardianship of the island and some time has passed since he began that task. How much time? Given the agelessness of the guardian it could have been hundreds of years. He and Ben had some times together, and are saying goodbye. Also, in the church Kate embraces Jack and tells him how much she missed him. Kate was one of only a few who actually made it off the island in the plane Lapidus flew. She obviously lived some kind of life, perhaps a long one, before finally dying and coming to the way-station world. No, they didn’t die in the crash and events and time have passed since Jack saved the island and the plane flew off. One by one they all die and end up at the way-station, awaiting the time they can all be together again.
Regardless, now those who embraced the island and what it offered them are whole again and move on together. Is it Heaven? Does the stone cork in the cave of light keep back Hell? We don’t know, and many little things remain unanswered. Instead we are left with the uplifting message that these people whom we have gotten to “know” over the last six years have found a peace in themselves they were all desperately searching for before they found themselves on the island, and are moving on together.
What a journey. It’s a cliche to say that the joy is in the journey and not the destination, and perhaps that is true in the case of this show, but I found the ending to be as smart and thoughtful as the journey was wonderful.
Bravo J.J., Jeffery, Damon, Carlton and all those who believed in us as an audience and took us on this terrific ride.
Well… LOST is over and it will be a day or two before I will blog about my thoughts on the wrap-up of the show. Overall I will say I was satisfied, but I am a little sad the journey is over.
On a purely crass and commercial front, I am now auctioning off most of the sketches (the good ones, anyway) I did over the last two months for in honor of the end of the series. each of the sketches below is up for auction on eBay, all ending on Sunday, May 30th. If you are interested in bidding and directly participating in the college education of my kids (or at least a hamburger and fries for lunch when we move the first one in this fall) then click on any of the images below to go to the auction page!
As promised, here is a step by step of the ink wash sketch process I have been using for the sketch series of LOST characters over the last month or two. I’m afraid it’s not exactly scientific, so I don’t know how much people will get from it… but here it is regardless. Our subject again is Daniel Dae Kim as Jin Kwon.
Here is the initial sketch (darkened to show up better on the screen). I lightly sketch out the caricature using a hard lead, in this case an “H” but a 2H or harder works fine. Ultimately you want the sketch to disappear under the washes, so too dark a lead or too many lines won’t work as well. It’s hard to see but I will lightly draw around some of the main highlight areas because these are the areas I want to paint around with the first washes to create the highlights.
The first thing I do is “knock down” the pencil sketch a bit so I have the minimal amount o lines needed to do the wash painting. I do this by rolling a kneadable eraser over the sketch to pick up the lines slightly. I also did a few corrections with the mouth and some in the eyes.
The first wash is mostly water with just a few drops of ink in it. I use a disposable dixie cup with just a little water (1/2 inch or so) at the bottom and then using an eyedropper I put in three or four drops of ink. I’m using a Pelikan’s Drawing Ink A on this one. Using a #6 watercolor brush, I start to lay in this light value. Since ink dries permanently and very quickly there is always a certain amount of mottling and inconsistency in the wash. I try to do an initial flat value but with the wash still a little damp I go back here and there with the same wash and get a slightly darker value in places like the neck, under the cheekbone, to the side of the nose, etc.
Once the ink wash is dry it is not going anywhere. You cannot “lift off” or lighten an area like you can with watercolor. That makes ink wash work different than watercolor but you can use this to your advantage because dry layers cannot get muddled up or dead like they can with watercolor gone over and over. The same value of wash gone over top of a dry layer of that wash will produce a slightly darker value, so after I wait for the layer to dry I do another wash with the same mixture. I’ll go over areas again and bring this second wash into some of the first highlight areas to tighten up the highlight shapes and blend the two areas more. Areas from the first wash I do not paint over with the second become another highlight value… not quite as bright as the white of the paper but as I get darker and avoid covering these ares they will become more and more of a highlight.
Now I take my eyedropper and add another few drops of ink into the same dixie cup, making the value a few steps darker. I paint in the areas that need to be darker, avoiding the highlight areas and creating another value of lighter tone by not covering some of the areas tat has one or two coats of wash already applied. I’m still using the #6.
Sadly at this point I notice that either I have a bad piece of bristol or maybe my ink was a bad choice… I was using FW inks for the other LOST pieces and never had a problem with the paper getting so pilly and overly textured. Oh, well… too late now.
Here’s where things get less rigid and more chaotic. I add more ink to the dixie cup, and with this darker value I switch to a #3 round watercolor brush. I’ll add in darker areas and try to do some gradations as well, like in the cheekbone on the left. I do a gradation by laying down a fair amount of wash to a small area like the underside of the cheekbone, immediately rinsing my brush in clean water and then with the brush loaded with clean water go back to the still wet wash and draw it out into the direction I want the gradation to fade into. You have to be quick because even a few seconds will turn the wet wash too permanent to get it to flow away with the clean water into a fade.
The Rest of the Washes
At this point it’s all quick brushwork and controlled chaos. I add several more drops of ink to the dixie cup to get a much darker value, and am only adding washes here and there to establish the main shadows and forms. I will occasionally get just a touch of some straight ink from my inkwell and mix it on a scratch pad with some of the wash to produce varying degrees of even darker values to do really dark areas like in the hair, the eyes, the nostrils, etc. I also go over areas several times with the same darker value to build up some shadows. Too many small steps to scan in here.
The last steps are the final washes and white. I will now add a bunch of water back to the dixie cup to get a mid value again, and use it to go over some aras with bigger washes to blend in and add a few more subtle shadows like on the left of the forehead, under the brow etc. I’ll go back to the #6 brush for this as well as using the #3.
Finally, I use white gouache to add in highlights like in the eyes and a few hot spots on the face… although if I did this right I’ll need to do little of that. The whole idea is to paint around those highlights in the first place.
So, there you have it. The LOST “Sketch o’the Week” series is done as the show’s final episode airs this Sunday. On Monday I will be doing a special LOST post that includes the details of what I am going to be doing with all these sketches.
Yesterday there was no post on The MAD Blog. I’d like to point out that in the almost 4 years of the existence of this blog that is only the second time that has happened. Worse, I wimped out on a Wednesday, so there was no “Sketch o’the Week”. My bad.
Today I will make up for it by doing not just the last of my LOST themed ink wash sketches, but a step by step of the process. Above is the initial pencil sketch, Daniel Dae Kim as the über cheek-boned Jin Kwon. I darkened the scan so you can see it better… in reality it is very lightly sketched with an H lead. Later today Tomorrow I will post the steps of each application of ink wash up to the final.
Since I missed last week’s LOST “Sketch o’the Week” and since yesterday’s sketch of Juliet… well… sucked, I thought I’d do a second one today. Here is Nestor Carbonell as the ageless Richard (i.e. Richardo) Alpert.
I debated whether to even post this caricature of LOST’s Elizabeth Mitchell as Dr. Juliet Burke, since I lost the likeness somewhere along the way between the rough sketch and the final washes. However, seeing as how I didn’t post one at all last week I’d better get something up today.
We continue our ink wash caricature sketches of the characters from the TV show “LOST” with the brooding Josh Holloway, who plays James “Sawyer” Ford.
Josh is one of only two actors from the show I have ever met. You can read the entire story of the meeting here, but the short version is that I got him to sign a print of my splash page from the LOST parody in MAD, and he was genuinely thrilled to have been drawn in MAD. He asked how he could get hold of a print like the one I had, and complimented me on the artwork. I also met Maggie Grace who played Shannon at the same time. She was equally enthusiastic about having the show lampooned in MAD.
I’ve got trouble, Brotha!
Better late than never today! Continuing our series of ink-wash sketches of characters from “LOST”, this week’s subject is one of my favorite characters, Desmond Hume as portrayed by Henry Ian Cusick.
BTW- due to many requests I have set up a page with all the caricatures from this little LOST sketch series collected in it. You can see it here and always find a handy link under “Pages” on the top of my blogroll on the right of any blog page.
This week’s sketch continues our ink-wash countdown to the series finale of “LOST”. Our subject this week is Ken Leung, who portrays Miles Straume, the son of one of the Dharma Initiative’s main scientists and a man who can hear the dead speak… I couldn’t resist the little gag. Definitely not my most successful attempt with this technique, but you can’t win them all.