Jan. 7th, 2010

paul_scribbles: Cartoon of a small white moth in flight, wearing large spectacles (Default)


This is somewhat flawed, but I liked it enough to post it.  There was also an element of putting it online as a way of drawing a line under it.  Photoshop is a wonderful thing, but at times it can seem almost too forgiving.  Where it might have been better simply to start again, I have been tinkering away at this for far too long, making endless adjustments to every element of the piece despite the fact I'm not really taken with the basic composition.  Some of my best ever Photoshopping, but ultimately I'd have to conclude that "you wouldn't start from here".
The concept of a cute fossil preparator finding herself inexplicably transported to the Devonian still pleases me, and in the absence of any better ideas at present, I'm continuing to go with it.   This has been invaluable as a practice piece. Plenty research involved, and I've been pushing my Photoshopping skills to their admittedly modest limit.

One of the nice things was tracking down details of the early fern Rhacophyton, only to make the foliage a suggested feature of the background.  Background detail in prehistoric scenes is always a pain, and you can often see how it makes artists selfconscious and anxious to demonstrate that they've done their homework.  Every portrait of a dinosaur usually has a sprig or two of exactly the right kind of fern at its feet and exactly the right species of cycad off to the side...  Obviously I want to get it right, but without wearing such hastily acquired botanical knowledge on my sleeve.  Draw a scene as it might have actually looked and for the most part you'd see a jumble of greenery that could be ancient or modern.  Of course, I happen to have picked an easy time-slot.  Mesozoic floras are a nightmare; as complex as modern ecosystems but quite different.  In the late Devonian, that level of complexity was only beginning to establish itself and replace the earlier scenario where a single plant species would dominate a given locality to the exclusion of all others.  I'm going with the idea that this lakeside environment was mostly Rhacophyton, with a few Archaeopteris tree-ferns farther back (I've blurred these, possibly way too much, to indicate their relative distance and the misty conditions.)  

I'm wondering about the sky, though.  Greenland 260 million years ago would have been in the tropics.  Now, my experience of hot climates has been confined to hot dry climates, like Spain and Arizona, where the sky can be an incredibly deep blue, presumably because there's not so much as a wisp of cloud between you and the depths of space.  It wouldn't be that way here.  So there had to be some sense of cloud.  But bringing in any blue at all makes it uneasily reminiscent of an English springtime.  Not right at all.  The best modern parallel would be with someplace like the Amazon basin.  What would that be like?  Heavy cloud cover?  Of course, it's hard, with my British sensibilities, to depict dense cloud and associate it with a warm climate where you wouldn't mind wandering about in the altogether.  Don't actually want it to look like a thunderstorm is imminent.  Any suggestions here would be most welcome.

The creature that apparently does not object to being petted is an Acanthostega gunnari, which was pretty much a lungfish with added fingers and toes (eight digits per limb).  A very appealing feature of this species is that although it is one of the first limbed vertebrates, it was fully aquatic, and appears not to be an ancestor of everything that came after.  Just a fascinating oddity, forever lost in time, and blameless in terms of human evolution.  I doubt it would have been especially friendly, though.  It might have been fairly fearless, being the top predator of its habitat (there were much larger predacious fish at the time, but not in the vegetation-choked shallow waters with which we are concerned).  But it would probably have been pretty vicious if you tried to handle it.  I want some sort of interaction.  Maybe some convincing spiel about tonic immobility, like the trance that poachers can induce in some kinds of fish by stroking their bellies, or the well-known trick of becalming a shark by turning it on its back.  Hm.  Then again, the rays at the London Aquarium come up and let you stroke their noses, and they are predatory "fish" with no particular reason to respond well to interaction with humans.  Prompted by curiosity, perhaps?

And our heroine walking around in the altogether, when arguably she could be fully clothed, and might well keep her undies on even when going for a dip?  Well... look, she just is, okay?  Anthony Gormley recently said "the nude is to Art as a ball is to football". 

On the recent MA, we had an assistant lecturer (who seemed very little concerned with educating anyone) who would do the curled lip thing and hold my work at arm's length, observing through gritted teeth; "I see you like drawing women..." 

Well, yes.  Apparently I do.


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paul_scribbles: Cartoon of a small white moth in flight, wearing large spectacles (Default)
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September 2010

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