Monday 5 May 2008

Artwork Mondays: reference & when not to use it

The revamp of my Dimetrodon-Sphinx concept from over a decade ago continues. The original drawing is below, and is part of a larger drawing seen here.

And below, is where I am so far.

To reach this stage, it was important to use a lot of reference. A part of this exercise was to see how much I may have improved. A lot of that improvement likely comes from using references, such as a model for the woman's body, and looking at other artists' representations of living dimetrodons for the back-half. As well, I used these two photos I took last summer when visiting the Royal Tyrrell Museum.

(Actually, I'm not sure that the one on the left in the left-hand photo is actually a dimetrodon; the head seems to be quite a different shape. A pelycosaur nonetheless. )

There is still some work to do. I thought I might be able to complete the drawing in time this week.

I struggled a lot with the hair. I tried tiaras, an Egyptian sphinx headdress, no hair, tight curls, messy hair whipping in the wind, and even the bob on the one in the original. Eventually I decided to go with slick wet hair, as I could be fun to paint this as a rainy scene.

The mouth and lips are way off, and will need some work, and I messed up the left hand. One of the ways many artists' check the progress of a composition or the realism if a piece, is to flip it:

This allows some mistakes to jump out, and gives the familiar pencil strokes a foreign eye, as a viewer will likely have for the first time they see it. Looking at the piece in the mirror is one way, and using Photoshop is another great way to try this technique. Remember though, that no face or body is perfectly symmetrical, not even Pac-Man's. (Look close, you'll see his left eye is 1 pixel closer to his nose than his right.) I think the Sphinx's hair could be more ropy and knotty.

Looking at the lone dimetrodon above, I can see there are about 24 of the long vertebra supporting the sail. My Sphinx's pretty back is not long enough to support quite that many, so here is a point where reference and I part company. Another is in the feet. When I was at the Royal Ontario Museum's Darwin exhibit recently, I was reminded of how fascinated I am by the irregular-looking toes of an iguana. And so, I abandoned the realism of a dimetrodon's no-doubt noble foot, in favour of the broken-looking toes of the green iguana. And to top it off, I didn't use a reference *gasp*.

This piece seems to evoke a night-time feel to me, and so I began roughing in some rocky shapes in the background, and darkening the sail to illustrate the translucency and rock silhouettes showing through. Last week, I spoke about the possibilities of camouflage. Now, I think any colouration choices would have to wait for me to paint the piece.

Will I add colour? It's at the right stage for it. A scan and print onto canvas-paper and I could apply my oils. There's some great tips on colouring and texturing using Photoshop in ImagineFX, a magazine I just picked up a couple of weeks ago. However I've spent longer on this drawing than I thought I would over the last few Artwork Mondays. Next week, it may be time to move onto something new.
All original artwork on
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Michael Parker said...

Alright...each new post about this sphinx makes me want to get it tattooed across my chest...seriously, it's gorgeous and I hope you don't take the fact that I think it would make for a fantastic tattoo as an insult.

When you finish it up, I'll ask your permission heh...

Glendon Mellow said...

That's not an insult! One of the things I toyed with posting next Monday was sketches and concepts for a new tattoo I'd like to get in June...!

Thanks for the kind words, Mr. Thomas!

traumador said...

It is shaping up nicely... though why'd you'd help give form to extinction is beyond me!

Glendon Mellow said...

Important concepts that shape our lives, Traumador! I can paint about love and hope and death and birth another day.

The enigma of extinction and how to avoid it need their due.

And thanks for the compliment on its shape. ;-)

Zach said...

Speaking of tattoos, I designed one for my buddy--a monitor lizard crawling up his leg. Turned out group. I like this sphinx, although you should know that the "irregular toes" of iguanas are not unique to iguanas! The vast majority of lizards have that unusual toe length arrangement, even my leopard geckos. It seems to be ancestral to the group.

Glendon Mellow said...

I'd love to see that tattoo, Zach!

I obviously need to spend more time looking at lizard feet. I hadn't realised that about their toes.

Are the gecko's toes rounded? I'd always assumed.

That's a great name for a band. "Gecko's Toes".

Zach said...

Well, wall-crawling geckos have rounded toes of subequal length. My geckos, however, are of the leopard and frog-eyed variety, and are not able to climb up sheer surfaces. Instead, the leopards are dune lizards and the frog-eye is a burrower. I'll get a picture of the monitor tattoo on my blog, brother. I'm quite proud of it.

Glendon Mellow said...

I'll keep my eyes open for it, Zach!

Heather Ward said...

WOW! This is coming out so well! I love how you did the hair. How much time do you get to spend on it?

Glendon Mellow said...

Each week has been about 60-90 minutes. Life's been hectic lately!

Thanks for compliments on the hair. Means a lot from the expert on "the flow of fur".


Peter Bond said...

Wow, the dimetro-sphinx looks great, Glendon! I am definitely enjoying the progress from one week to the next, like I'm "looking over your shoulder."

I hope it does become a painting. Not seeing it's progress next week will be unfortunate, but I'm sure the new piece will be just as good!

Glendon Mellow said...

Gah! You are looking over my shoulder! What're you, like a ninja or somthin'?!

Cut that out.

Seriously thanks, who knows if it will be a painting down the road. I've thought about trying it fully digitally. It's tough without a tablet. I may give it a try.

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