For each scene of this episode, I wanted specific quotes from the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church regarding prayer, and I wanted each quote to match my scenes. Or rather, I wanted each of my scenes to match the quote. After doing searches both online and in various prayer books, I found the perfect quotes that I wanted to use:
Prayer for others, said gently and with deep love, is unselfish and of great spiritual benefit. It brings Grace to the person praying, but also benefits those being prayed for, since it brings them the Grace of God.
Venerable Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia
I thought the above quote would be perfect for the first scene. In the first scene you will notice Father Gabriel on top of a very tall hill, praying with his Komboskini (Prayer Rope). The Prayer Rope is an ancient Eastern Orthodox tool (a loop of knots, usually made of wool but sometimes of wood) used to help a monk or a nun to keep track of the number of prayers which have been said. The rope is usually used with the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
In this scene, I wanted Father Gabriel to be secluded on top of the hill, reciting the Jesus prayer. In Blender, this was a very large environment that I had build for my previous cartoon, Father Gabriel Goes to church. But for this scene, I had to expand the environment to include not only the hill, but also the mountains in the background.
Creating Father Gabriel’s prayer rope was really a challenge for me. Usually, almost everything I want to model with Blender I can find a tutorial on YouTube or somewhere online. But there were no tutorials whatsoever of how to model, rig, or animate an Orthodox prayer rope. So this was something I had to figure out on my own. It took a while, but after many trials and errors, I finally got a workable prayer rope modeled and rigged for animation.
In the beginning, I wanted a good friend of mine to be the voice of Father Gabriel. I thought the gentleness and meekness in his voice was a perfect match for Father Gabriel. Unfortunately, my good friend has a very busy schedule and was unable to make the time, so instead I recorded myself saying the Jesus Prayer for Father Gabriel, and most likely for future recordings as well.
For the next few scenes, I had in mind to use a beautiful prayer written by Saint Basil the Great:
When you sit down to eat, pray. When you eat bread, do so thanking Him for being so generous to you. If you drink wine, be mindful of Him who has given it to you for your pleasure and as a relief in sickness. When you dress, thank Him for His kindness in providing you with clothes. When you look at the sky and the beauty of the stars, throw yourself at God’s feet and adore Him who in His wisdom has arranged things in this way. Similarly, when the sun goes down and when it rises, when you are asleep or awake, give thanks to God, who created and arranged all things for your benefit, to have you know, love and praise their Creator.
St. Basil the Great, from Homily V. In martyrem Julittam. A different translation is quoted in the Prolegomena in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Series II Volume 8
Such a beautiful prayer! For my next scene, I wanted Father Gabriel in his little monastic hut that he build from cob. I wanted Father Gabriel’s cob hut to be a tiny, cozy hut that he sleeps, eats, reads and prays in. After modeling the hut, I also created a small wood cot, a table, a book shelf with books, and also a few icons and an icon corner. In this scene, I wanted Father Gabriel to say a prayer before he eats his bread and drinks his wine, while the prayer quote would be displayed on the screen.
The following scene I wanted to apply the following quote from the above prayer:
When you dress, thank Him for His kindness in providing you with clothes.
So I had Father Gabriel getting ready to go out by simply clearing off the dust off his cassock and putting on his hat. Very simple and sweet scene 🙂
The next and final scene was the biggest challenge for me, creating a sunrise while Father Gabriel admires the beautiful scenery and falls down to worship God in adoration. For both the clouds and the sun, I wanted to avoid modeling and texturing them since I knew that without using the cycles render engine in Blender, I wasn’t going to get that realistic and painterly effect that I wanted. I also wanted to avoid using too much particle effects, which tend to increase render time and make the scenes more complicated. So I decided that the best and the most simple way to get the most desirable results for the sun and clouds was to just paint them in a painting software. The software I chose was a free open source software called Gimp, and import them to Blender as planes, and then animate the planes. What I also did was create a giant oval object, apply a blue sky texture and wrapped it around the entire mountain 3D environment. The reason for this so that I can animate the sky texture from dark to light, mimicking night becoming day. As for the stars, I applied a particle effect the inside the oval to mimic the stars, and as oval turns from dark to light the star particles reach the end of their life cycle. And voilà! A sunrise scene! At the very end of the scene, a large icon of the Pantocrator appears in the sky and Father Gabriel falls down and worships the Ruler of the Universe.
And last but not least: the music. The music is one of, if not the most, important aspect of Father Gabriel’s Prayer. I knew I wanted to use Orthodox Christian chant for this animation, and I already had one in mind as I was working on the animation. But Once the animation was complete, I realized that the particular chant just did not fit well with the overall animation, so I had to keep on looking. Finally, after a few days of searching I came upon this collection of chants from the The Greek Byzantine Choir – Lycourgos Angelopoulos. The chants were amazing and really touched me, but one particular track I thought fit Father Gabriel’s Prayer perfectly.
Here is the link to the collection:
And here is the track I selected for Father Gabriel’s Prayer:
It was a great joy and a blessing working on my second episode. I hope you enjoy it the second episode and please feel free to comment on the video and let me know what you think. 🙂