This self portrait was inspired by a picture Antonia took of me when we were visiting Sainte-Chapelle, in Paris. I was costantly turning around in complete awe, looking at the stained glass, the blue and golden columns, the ceiling, the rose window, all over again and, eventually, I turned to see her with the camera pointed at me.
There is something extremely unique in Sainte-Chapelle that caught my interest for both pictures taking and painting, and that's the inspiring and colorful lighting, you don't get this anywhere else in the world.
The Chapelle is located in Île-De-La-Cité, next to the Palais-de-Justice. It was really special to finally be there. I couldn't wait to see Sainte-Chapelle in real life, especially after playing Assassin's Creed Unity for almost two years and virtually visiting that spot with my friends almost daily.
Here is a bunch of step by step. Enjoy and thanks for visiting!
When people ask me "what is Chain?" I usually just laugh and say "nice question".
But really, It isn't a comic and not even a novel... it's exactly what it looks like: a bunch of portraits collected in a timeline that aims to tell a story all through the written documents these pictures come with, such as letters or diary pages.
The events take place on the East Coast right after the end of WW2, focusing on the O'Clarys, a middle-class family living the American Dream on Long island, New York. All the family pictures and documents are collected for a school project by T. P. O'Clary, the "latest link of the Chain", who is moved by the strong love he feels for his family; affection that grew stronger after an extremely shocking event that completely changed his life when he was but a child.
From the end of a war to the beginning of another, "Chain" is the peace in between, for those who always wanted to go beyond a story's "ending" to see what the happy-ever-after is about.
In the second generation, Elizabeth Gabrys and Thomas O'Clary are living their own fairytale between Brooklyn and Manhattan, during the most splendid and shining decade in the history of the United States: the 50s. Their first meeting at his mother's diner, the first date at the Victoria Hotel and the first kiss in Central Park, Chain 55 is all about how these lucky ones got to live their incredibly normal and Disney-like lives, right before entering the 60s to witness the new generation of O'Clarys.
But since this is also a "behind-the-scenes" kind of post, here are two step-by-step GIFs to show the creative process behind the finished portraits. Their expressions, as portrayed, are particularly important as they are both represented in the exact moment they see each other for the first time, back at the "Katie's Diner". (click to enlarge)
Chain's purpose is to be purely entertaining, it's not a commercial project but a personal and inspired one. It's my true appreciation for peaceful times and admiration for that bygone era, channeled into what I'm able to express through my drawings. So enjoy it as it is and feel free to share your feelings, those are what it's all about.
"Oh, I haven't seen that green ribbon in a while, now"
I will probabaly never forget the light in my Grandmother's eyes the day I've asked her about the green ribbon. "He would go to work every morning, back then at the New York Times, kissing me on the cheek while I would put the lunchbox in his suitcase and... he used to put that ribbon inside his pocket, every day before leaving, right here, on his heart". She gently laid her hand on my chest, smiling dearly. "Tom wasn't like the other men, no. The King of all gentleman would pale in comparison to your Grandfather's kindness and behavior. He was incredibily sensitive towards the little things in life, and no matter how delicate the circumstance was, he had some sort of sixth sense that always brought him to choose the right thing to say, the right thing to do". I've asked her to tell me more, to show me some letters, if she still had any. "Oh my, honey. Are you sure you have time for this?" She laughed but she sounded nostalgic. I hated bringing all those memories up in her heart but when I've asked her if she preferred to talk about it in another moment, she stood up, held me tight and told me she would have called my mother, warning her I was gonna stay there for dinner. When she got back in the living room, she was holding a box: a real treasure chest. "This is the diary I had back then, that's where I wrote about him, the first time we met. Sometimes, when I miss him, I open it... and close it". She laughed again. Sometimes my Grandmother is just silly. That night I gave her the green ribbon back, I had a hard time trying not to cry as I was helping her wearing it again, after a whole life, in her long and white hair. The green ribbon was found in the pocket of the jacket my Grandfather was wearing the day he left us, right here, on his heart.
T. P. O'Clary, February 2014
February 9, 1955
My adored Mark,
I can't wait to be back in New York City next week. Chicago is beautiful and everyone here is adorable, but it has been a month now and I miss home. Anyway, before we meet next monday, there is something I am thrilled to share with you. April, Victoria Hotel, live concert. I just talked to their agents here in Chicago and everything is set. I will explain better at my arrival. The reason I am telling you is because I want you, my dearest, to design the art that will advertise the event. I gave them your name already, you will be contacted soon.
P.S. To show you how grateful I am, here is a detailed portrait I did of you.
From The "New York Post"
April 2, 1955
SUN ON VICTORIA - OPENING NIGHT
By Ryan Smith
The Victoria Hotel opened on April 21, 1905, in New York City. It was designed as a tribute to the Eternal City of Rome and is one of the grandest structures in Midtown Manhattan.
The Hotel has been closed for renovations during the past six months and officially reopens on its 50th anniversary, April 21.
For this glorious event, the Victoria will host a live concert by America's most popular sweetheart, Julia Adeler.
The "Sun of the Empire State" will perform live in Victoria's Great Hall where guests will also enjoy the delicious "art work" of Chef Michael Campagnolo and his talented team of cooks from Memphis.
Seating is limited to 250 guests and reservations for the brightest Friday night of this month begin today.
April 7, 1955
Today I've met the most beautiful and graceful girl I have ever seen in my life. I fell for her the second she lifted her eyes and looked at me.
I can't believe I've never seen her before. She's Elizabeth, Greg's daughter. Mr. Gabrys, you know him.
Oh boy, she stole my heart... I'm sure they'll be back soon because I've found a green ribbon on her seat, I think she dropped it on purpose.
Anyway, I hope you're coming at the diner tomorrow, I need to see your latest artworks.
P.S. I saw Julia's poster. It's amazing.
From Elizabeth Gabrys' Diary
April 7, 1955
This morning dad took us to Manhattan, Mom wanted to take a look at that new store on the 5th Ave and I, well, I just love walking in center city. Shopping, ice cream, more shopping, I thought our trip downtown was going to be today's highlight but, oh my, I was so wrong!
On our way back we stopped at a diner called Katie's. Dad was like "Oh, Katie's heaven on Earth!", "Best pancakes ever!" mom gave him a very bad look and said she's never gonna make pancakes anymore. I was trying not to laugh when I turned around and I saw him.
"Good morning, Mr. Gabrys. I see you brought the family!"
He had the brightest eyes I've ever seen, the deepest voice I've ever heard and there was something in his expression, he looked shy but also curious.
"Hey there Tommy boy, how's Kathleen?"
He smiled at mom and I and, oh, those eyes.
When he left with our orders Dad told us about the O'Clarys. Thomas used to be one of those newspaper boys downtown, "a special one, always yelling about the good news".
Isn't that adorable?
He looked at me as we were leaving. I think he likes me.
"Those pancakes were so good, dad, let's come back soon!"
"Sometimes everything makes such perfect sense that thinking there isn't a divine design seems almost madness, but it's not about faith. We are links of an invisible chain, bonded in ways we can't even imagine.
I've spent the last two years collecting old family papers. Some of the letters mentioned names that I've never heard before. That brought me to dig deeper into the past of some of those people who witnessed the days in which our country changed forever. I was on a quest to collect all the pieces of a puzzle that was already complete, but not on display.
I am the latest link of my chain and this is how I came to be.
In loving memory of Patrick O'Clary, my father."
T. P. O'Clary, January 2014
May 19, 1943
This photo is one of the most beautiful memories I have of us. I want you to keep it until you return from Europe. In my next letter I will send you a picture of Tommy, you should see how tall he is.
He's a strong and kind young man, just like his father.
I miss you very much, please be safe and come back soon.
My love, I've got some big news.
Tell lil Tom daddy's coming back: the war is over.
They're sending us home. I'm so close to see you and hold you again, honey, only God knows how much I miss you.
P.S. Don't mind the sidenote, Mark's drunk.
Only God knows how much I miss your meatballs, hunny-hunny.
February 19, 1948
We haven't heard from you in a while now and I'm pretty worried. Brooklyn is not the same since you left for Boston, your mother knocks at our door every once in a while asking about you.
What is going on over there?
I know it's tough but Mark, life goes on.
Come back, we'll face it together. Tommy asks about you all the time, he wants you to teach him how to draw... and for God's sake, just write to your mother, she's at our door again.
Your best friend,
March 18, 1948
My Golden Julia,
If you are reading this it means I'm on my way back to Brooklyn. The time I have spent with you in Boston is unforgettable and I can't wait to see you again. This little portrait of you is an invitation to come visit me in New York City as soon as you can. As I told you many, many times, you have the most splendid voice and your talent deserves the City's spotlights.
Just leave that hospital and come here, Charles and I know some interesting people downtown, we'll get you started.
Stop rolling your eyes and promise me you'll think about it.
January 8, 1949
I'm not going to justify myself. They thought I've lost my mind because of the war... it worked for me. I'm sorry I ran away 4 years ago, but you know the situation. Anyway, I'm coming to visit you in Philly this 4th of July, so we can talk about it. Everything is gonna be just fine, I promise. This portrait is for you. Happy Birthday.
P.S. Are we really using these silly aliases? I don't even like spaghetti.
January 22, 1949
My dear Greg,
I hope everything is going well in Philadelphia and that your grandfather will get better soon.
Your friend Mark visited us today, he was looking for you. I told him you'll be back next week.
He introduced me to his friend Julia, she's from Boston but she's planning to move here in New York City and Greg, she's a very talented singer. We should invite her to sing at our restaurant someday, I'm sure it will be a great success.
Stay positive, my love, and keep me updated about the situation.
Ubisoft's "Assassin's Creed" series has always been a huge inspiration for me— other than for some good time-killing, i mean. The concept created for this world offers an endless source of ideas and chances to fly away with your imagination into our own world and history.
Every once in a while i need to take a break from portraits commissions, freelance art and boring advertisement designs— and one of the things i enjoy most is painting whatever the frak i feel like.
An hooded assassin is always on my top-list.
Also, free-painting is not just fun but also a very good training. Every new painting teaches me something new and i can't see an ending yet!
Which means is not over yet. There's still a lot i need to learn and that i'd love to experience.
Some days ago i took a picture of my little sackboy and I. We were wearing our Phillies caps and that picture inspired me to paint this. Haven't done a self portrait in a while but i've had a lot of fun working on that.
Few sketches and concepts from Cassandra the Last Bastion, the imaginary world-theme of this year at Nemo NT Digital Art Academy, including a comic-like version of a story that we had to illustrate for Storyboard Class.