Monday 21 April 2008

Artwork Mondays: The Right Pose

Welcome to the second Artwork Monday here at The Flying Trilobite!

Rehabilitating an older concept can be a fun endeavour. It is rare that I do not have a new idea that I want to try out, but on the few occasions it has occurred, I find the best way to inspire myself is by flipping through old sketchbooks. One of the biggest worries I think most artists share is living long enough to get all their ideas out.

Currently, I have about 8 more new concepts waiting to see fruition, but reviving this older drawing seems really appealing. I'm curious to see how much my drawing skills have matured over the past eleven years.

After the rough sketch last week, I knew part of my focus would be to show off how my life drawing abilities have matured. The model pose I used last week didn't seem satisfying though. I wanted this Sphinx to look predatory. The dimetrodon was an ancient pelycosaur that was probably the apex predator of the Permian, living just before the worst mass extinction of all time.

The Sphinx is supposed to be an ancient creature who guards secrets, and is famous for the riddle, "what walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening?". An interesting and more modern riff on this riddle was in my Favourite Book of All-Time, The Stress of Her Regard, by Tim Powers. The answer had to do with the amount of atoms in carbon and silicon.

Together, the dimetrodon and sphinx appeal to me, since both are ancient creatures, and using the dimetrodon in lieu of a lion makes a good example of how re-imagining the mythological past can be enhanced by modern scientific understanding. One of the reasons I feel compelled to create at all is to use the rich visual language science affords us to look at ourselves in light of the past and of reality as we understand it to actually be.

There really is no excuse as an artist not to do research in this day and age. The internet has some generally reliable sources; libraries and bookshops are teeming with full-colour pictures; digital cameras, photocopiers and scanners abound. Sure it takes away a small but of spontaneity to do some research, but in the end, it is worth it. What you will have is a fantasy image, culled from real life, and real human bodies often move in ways your mind does not expect, especially if you've watched a lot of cartoons.

One of the best ways to do research, is to go out and photograph your own images and use those as reference. Scientific Illustrator Heather Ward, who blogs at Druantia Art has some tips.

After finding a suitable pose, I drew this image. I think it is a more dynamic pose than the one I mused with last week, and the figure turning over her shoulder will hopefully lend that predatory air, especially if the face is largely in shadow, with glittering eyes. So far, I'm not too happy with the rendition of the face, so I will likely re-work that altogether. I'm pleased with the back though, and I think the foreshortening of the arm has turned out rather well.

The next phase will be to begin joining up an appropriate dimetrodon body to this one. If you followed the Wikipedia link about dimetrodons, you'll note that there were distinct species, with markedly different sails and jaws. I won't refine this sketch any further until I see where and how the sail-fin attaches to the back of the woman above.

Thanks to everyone on the comments last week! I love the feedback.

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All original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow. The contents of this blog are under a Creative Commons Licence. See sidebar for details.


traumador said...

I still just shudder at the thought of Ms. Extinction/Sphinx.

Love the inside scoop on where the ideas are coming from. The mix of the science and mythology.

There should be some creation myths and legends (in the polythesiest sense of the word creation mind you!) for science type stuff. Like why water has two hydrogens, or how the bunsen burner got so hot ;p

Anonymous said...

I am really liking the pose, particularly the way the foreground hand does what it's doing. Very expressive...

Glendon Mellow said...

Glad you like the hearing about my creative process, Traumador! I know I enjoy hearing about how pieces were created from other artists, so I was hoping I had something interesting to say as well.

I agree about the "myths" of science; there is a richness of concepts in modern science that have not been fully tapped for the creative process.

I think so long as the artist and audience are aware that it is fiction, it is an exciting creative road to travel down.

As soon as somone starts claiming it is more than fiction, it sullies the human contribution to great ideas, and becomes like a new theology.

Glendon Mellow said...

Thanks Leslie! >all smiles<

I know many artists wll play with a number of poses before beginning, and it almost seems arrogant of me to pick one and say it is the "right one" without further exploration.

In the case of this Dimetrodon-Sphinx, I knew right away what I wanted to try, and snappe about four photos. Two different poses, each with different lighting.

Then I tweaked the contrast in Photoshop, and picked which one would be most effective. Another had much cooler lighting, but wouldn't show off the models' back as well I wanted.

We need to see a lot of the back, since there will be a big fin on it. Also, I have always loved drawing human backs. They're so fascinating.

Thanks about the hand! I'll makesure to refine it for Monday's post.

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