Sunday 3 February 2008

Retrospectacle: "making of" retrospective

Shelley Batts of Retrospectacle and Steve Higgins of Omnibrain will be closing up their blogs, and merging into one metabrainy blog. Both are neuroscience students, and are part of the ScienceBlog network.

Readers of The Flying Trilobite may recall that I was elated (frantically excited, honoured, scraping & bowing) that Shelley had asked me to design a new blog banner for her last year. It is still featured in rotation with a banner by Carl Buell, scientific illustrator par excellence.

Sometime this weekend, Steve and Shelley will be announcing the new blog title, which they threw open to their many readers in the form of a contest. I contacted Shelley when I read the news, and I may be once again contributing a banner. Here's hoping! Carl Buell has offered again as well, and Steve has some quirky banners of his own on Omnibrain.

So, since this may be the last weekend of Retrospectacle, I thought I would post here the process I went through to come up with the banner. This was already featured as a post on Shelley's blog, but I thought I would import it here, for my old & new readers. Hey, it's almost like an insight into my heavily-caffeinated brain. From September 24, 2007.


Step 1. Thought about wing, an ear, and started with the Valkyrie type image. Thought about how cool it would be if Shelley was leading a gang with multiple-species, parrot-wing helmeted scientist-warriors.

Step 2. Drew a wing out in water-soluble pencil crayons, fudged the wing colours to bring in the red of an African Grey's tail. Worried about purist owners of African greys slamming the heresy.

Step 3. Copied a photo of Shelley from her blog, heightened the contrast, and clipped the sketch from step 2 onto it. Shelley mentioned making it dark, (my favourite) and I threw a black background on it. Also hand-drew a 2 minute version with blue around it too embarrassing to see the light of day.

Step 4. This is where I stay up late, drinking coffee, listening to fast gothy electronic music like Jakalope. Used my favorite tools, 0.3mm lead pencil on vellum-finish bristol. Used Shelley's face for the Valkyrie, since Retrospectacle is personal. I am really happy with how this drawing turned out. I like the Valkyrie-type idea. They were strong mythical female warriors in an age dominated by men. The wings also suggest Nike or Athena to me, for Victory & Wisdom. Scanned image in, printed it out onto canvas-paper so I can paint it without harming the original drawing.

Step 5. After painting on top of a couple of versions, I had trouble with the pale face and shadowing away from the ear. I decide to see what it would look like if I invert the whole thing. Showed it to good friends who will criticise me if I am on the wrong track. More coffee & fast electronic beats.

Step 6. Painted the ear & wing in oils, scanned it, tried a few concepts. This symmetrical one seemed too busy and impersonal. Played with various levels of cropping to see if the whole face was more important than the feather details.

Step 7. The final product. I picked this one since the face is up close which seems more intimate. Added effects using Photoshop to give it depth and draw the eye from the image on the left to the title on the right. Used font named 'Kartika' and put a spiral for the 'O' to reference the cochlea. Finished all the coffee in the house.


I wish Shelley and Steve all the best on their new adventure in brainy blogging. 'Can't wait for the new title! I've got some ideas already.


Shelley said...

Good idea reposting the 'making of' the valkyrie banner. I still get kudos and questions about it and always direct them to you. Thanks so much for sharing your vision with me. Looking forward to a new collaboration with you Glendon! ^_^

Glendon Mellow said...

Always a pleasure, Shelley.

I figured this was a good time to re-post this here.

I'm still baffled by your blog-ouput considering you're in your final year of school!

Peter Bond said...

Wow, Glendon, this post was fantastic!

I love seeing art-in-progress as it inspires me. As a newbee to photoshop, what techniques did you use on the banner?

Good luck with the next one!

Glendon Mellow said...

Hmm, lessee, on the final stage of the banner the text was done with photoshop, and the lens flare.

Lens flares are a bit controversial for artwork and graphic design, since there were a lot of them right after the edition of Photoshop came out. Some people feel it dates the image. I kind of like them (check my original banner), and I thought is was a nice way to light Shelley's face.

The "O" was done with some weird distortion filter I can't remember.

Also, the feathers and wings were done in oil paint. I usually use Photoshop for colour-correction more than anything else.

The "levels" layer is really good for getting your black and whites right. Just make sure to flatten image and save for web before posting. It will cut down on load times.

traumador said...

So this is the flying skull than... convergently evolved mammalian version of flying trilobite.

As for lens flares I love them. There should be no need to defend them!

Prehistoric Insanity said...

I agree with Traumador.

There is no such thing as too many lens flares!

Their one of my favorite puter effects, and I use them all the time in my 3D stuff. They always bring a sense of energy and well flare to compositions.

Glendon Mellow said...

Thanks for your plucky defence of the lens flare, guys!

I hadn't noticed that I'dgiven Shelley's blog wings as well...hmm...The one in her banner is due to her owning a parrot, and writing about their cognition capabilities from time to time.

Or maybe I have some sort of repressed identity issue revolving around wings. (Like almost all other humans, I suspect.)

And also nice to meet you, Mr. P-I! Remember to use lens flares responsibly: 'cause knowing is half the battle!

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