25 Jan 2012

Guest post - John Connell

A fantastic idea: The world of Carnal by John Connell.
I don't remember exactly but it has to be close to eleven years ago now that I had a very vivid nightmare. This wasn't the kind of nightmare where you'd wake up screaming in a cold sweat. The imagery was so vivid and realistic. When I awoke, I grabbed my morning coffee and proceeded to sketch out my vision with plans of creating a painting. What I began to draw was a huge humanistic rhino, black and grey with black striped war paint smeared diagonally all over. He was fighting off a clan of humanistic hyenas that were clawing at him.

The whole scene was lit up like a national geographic special, safari rangers, jeep and all which were positioned way off in the distance. The animals eyes all glowed bright red. I thought "Man, this would make a killer painting."

Another strange thing aside from remembering all of this imagery is the fact that I remembered it!! I have the worst memory. Just ask my wife. Writing this now, I can still vividly see the rhino fending off the hyena's.
Thirdly, I'm famous for starting projects and not quite finishing them. I have a studio filled with half done paintings, sketchbooks crammed with toy ideas, concept sketches for painting series and partially made clay figures. My intent was to paint the image I saw that night in my dream, but this was more than a thought or a picture. This had a whole story of it’s own to be told. The idea grew in my head. What if the lions had humanistic qualities? What if the Cape Buffalo were humanistic? And of course the great Rhino. For a year or so, I was building on the idea of making this world come alive. I would jot down ideas and visions even if they weren't complete thoughts. There were numerous notebooks filled with ideas.

In 2003 my wife and I had twins and my Carnal hobby had to be put on a shelf. I already had a successful art career which was my source of income and any free time from there was spent on the babies and sleep. During this time, I had an addition of a studio added to my home so I could focus on painting while working from home. On the wall in my studio I hung a lion warrior portrait. Seeing the painting everyday nagged at me to start on Carnal again. Not having the time to paint, I worked up my Carnal ideas in photoshop and took the chance of posting them on Deviant Art. I was pissed at myself for not following through with ideas and projects in the past so I made a promise to myself that any free time would be devoted to Carnal. I've never been one to display my art but when I shared it on Deviant, I received four or five positive comments within the hour which motivated me even further. It felt great to have complete strangers take the time to comment on my art. On the other hand, if I received a "this really sucks" comment, I probably would never have continued to post it!

Over the years, I kept my promise to myself to keep the dream of Carnal alive. While the positive feedback continuing to pour in I would take time after work and on weekends drawing Carnal designs of Lions and I'd post them. There seemed to be a fan base forming. About a year from this point, I received a message from David at Sea Lion Books asking if I would be interested in publishing Carnal through them. I think I emailed back "HELL YEAH" or that's what I wanted to. It was then I asked my nephew, Jason Bergenstock, to help me with the writing. Jason and I would have writing meetings and come up with the story. It came from pictures in my mind or from designs I had done. I'd look at the design and try to come up with a story that matched the character in the art. Jason has been instrumental in helping to put my thoughts into words and to help create the world of Carnal.

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