“All at once he threw back his head, his blond locks fell back like those of an angel on his sombre chariot made of stars, they were like the mane of a startled lion in the flaming of an halo, and Enjolras cried:
‘Citizens, do you picture the future to yourselves? The streets of cities inundated with light, green branches on the thresholds, nations sisters, men just, old men blessing children, the past loving the present, thinkers entirely at liberty, believers on terms of full equality, for religion heaven, God the direct priest, human conscience become an altar, no more hatreds, the fraternity of the workshop and the school, for sole penalty and recompense fame, work for all, right for all, peace over all, no more bloodshed, no more wars, happy mothers! To conquer matter is the first step; to realize the ideal is the second. Reflect on what progress has already accomplished. Formerly, the first human races beheld with terror the hydra pass before their eyes, breathing on the waters, the dragon which vomited flame, the griffin who was the monster of the air, and who flew with the wings of an eagle and the talons of a tiger; fearful beasts which were above man. Man, nevertheless, spread his snares consecrated by intelligence, and has finally caught these monsters.
‘We have tamed the hydra, and it is called the steamship; we have tamed the dragon, and it is called the locomotive; we are on the point of taming the griffin, we already grasp it, and it is called the balloon. On the day when this Promethean task shall be accomplished, and when man shall have definitely harnessed to his will the triple Chimaera of antiquity, the hydra, the dragon and the griffin, he will be the master of water, fire, and of air, and he will be for the rest of animated creation that which the ancient gods formerly were to him. Courage, and onward! Citizens, whither are we going? To science made government, to the force of things become the sole public force, to the natural law having in itself its sanction and its penalty and promulgating itself by evidence, to a dawn of truth corresponding to the dawn of day. We are advancing toward the union of peoples; we are advancing toward the unity of man. No more fictions; no more parasites. The real governed by the true, that is the goal. Civilization will hold its assizes at the summit of Europe, and, later on, at the centre of continents, in a grand parliament of the intelligence. Something similar has already been seen. The amphictyons had two sittings a year, one at Delphos, the seat of the gods, the other at Thermopylae, the place of heroes. Europe will have her amphictyons; the globe will have its amphictyons. France bears this sublime future in her breast. This is the gestation of the nineteenth century. That which Greece sketched out is worthy of being finished by France. […] Let us come to an understanding about equality; for, if liberty is the summit, equality is the base. Equality, citizens, is not wholly a surface vegetation, a society of big blades of grass and tiny oaks; a proximity of jealousies which render each other null and void; legally speaking, it is all aptitudes possessed of the same opportunity; politically, it is all votes possessed of the same weight; religiously, it is all consciences possessed of the same right. Equality has an organ: free and compulsory education. The right to the alphabet, that is where the beginning must be made. The primary school imposed on all, the secondary school offered to all, that is the law. From an identical school, an identical society will spring. Yes, education! light! light! everything comes from light, and everything returns to it. Citizens, the nineteenth century is great, but the twentieth century will be happy. Then, there will be nothing more like the history of old, we shall no longer, as to-day, have to fear a conquest, an invasion, a usurpation, a rivalry of nations, arms in hand, an interruption of civilization depending on a marriage of kings, on a birth in hereditary tyrannies, a partition of peoples by a congress, a dismemberment because of the failure of a dynasty, a combat of two religions meeting face to face, like two bucks in the dark, on the bridge of the infinite; we shall no longer have to fear famine, farming out, prostitution arising from distress, misery from the failure of work and the scaffold and the sword, and battles and the highway-robberies of chance in the forest of events. One might almost say: There will be no more events. Men will be happy. The human race will accomplish its law, as the terrestrial globe accomplishes its law; harmony will be re-established between the soul and the star; the soul will gravitate around the truth, as the planet around the light. Friends, the present hour in which I am addressing you, is a gloomy hour; but such is the terrible price of the future. A revolution is a toll-gate. Oh! the human race will be delivered, uplifted, consoled! We affirm it on this barricade. Whence should proceed that cry of love, if not from the heights of sacrifice? Oh my brothers, this is the point of junction between those who think and those who suffer; this barricade is not made of paving-stones, nor of timbers, nor of bits of iron; it is made of two heaps, a heap of ideas, and a heap of sorrows. Here misery meets the ideal. The day embraces the night, and says to it: `I am about to die, and thou shalt be born again with me.’ From the embrace of all desolations faith leaps forth. Sufferings bring their agony here, and ideas their immortality. This agony and this immortality are about to join and constitute our death. Brothers, he who dies here dies in the radiance of the future, and we are entering a tomb all flooded with the dawn.’”
–Victor Hugo, Les Misérables 5.5
Light! Light! I always loved this speech, and I think pretty much everyone else with a pulse does too. I especially always liked the part where Enjolras goes off about steamboats, steam engines, and balloons, because it so sounds like something he ripped off from some Combeferre speech. XD But aside from the giggles I get just from hearing Enjolras enthusiastically exclaiming, “BALLOONS!!!” I always thought it was interesting that he was so deeply absorbing the Combeferrean idea that technological progress would lead inevitably to human progress. So I decided to go with that angle here, as a way to get into this speech and pick it apart visually.
When I asked you guys last week which different art styles you thought I ought to try out, just for fun, pilferingapples suggested Aubrey Beardsley. Beardsley was an illustrator working in the late 19th century, and like many of his colleagues of that time, he has a strong, stark black ink style, which I think was in part influenced by Japanese woodblock prints. Unlike his colleagues, Beardsley’s style can be bizarre, exotic, erotic, and everything in between, a truly strange and gifted artist with a great sense of negative space and layout. I like a lot of his work, especially the more detailed ones, but this is the one that I chose as the base inspiration for this piece:
It’s called “Gayle,” and being more of an Art Nouveau gal at heart than an Art Deco one, I like it when Beardsley works in this more flowing style.
Being an Art Nouveau gal means I also always have to sneak some Mucha in there too. The light beams come from an Alphonse Mucha poster, “The Morning Star”:
After rounding up some influence pictures and a shitload of reference pictures for, like, everything in this (historical technological machines are definitely not my drawing forte), my piece was started with a pencil under-drawing…
…refined by inking with Copic liner pens and with the black spaces filled in with Sharpie. (Now you know what I needed all those Sharpies for. :)) The white lines were done by leaving them as negative space when I colored the rest in (instead of with, say, a white-out pen), and the only white part of the picture that wasn’t done using a negative space voiding technique was the stars, which were a million times easier to just stick in afterwards using white colored pencil.
Inked this all in one epic day (yesterday); it took about seven hours. I couldn’t say how long the pencil under-drawing took…I guess about another whole day of kinda-work? This is an extremely fast pace for me with a work of art this detailed–I was working on this one like a beast! Sometimes you get in the zone and you can’t stop…
My husband loves this piece, and I have to say, I think it’s probably one of the most technically accomplished pieces I’ve ever completed. Before two days ago, I never would’ve thought I could even draw a steam engine, much less ink something this detailed and complicated. (BTW, I hate drawing barricades almost as much as I hate drawing technological machines, so this was definitely a challenge with a flavor of masochism to it. ;))
Hope you guys enjoy.