Friday, 21 August 2015

Project 5 Exercise 4 using source material

Build on a found image of animal anatomy to make something more personal.

Images of skeletons I found that appealed...

This one is cute and has some movement to it
To webpage with this image
This one has character
Frog skeleton by hEyJudeStock

 Mallard duck and Pigeon

Smithsonian libraries
Mallard skeleton drawn by A.B Meyer 1879-97
This one looks dead
This one's posture is characteristic.
I can see it looking at something alertly.

skeleton_of_a_pigeon_by_hontor-d37vkk2 deviantart
This one looks a bit scared
I am interested in the feet.
Not sure what I could do with them though!

In the end I went for the duck skeleton, mostly because the posture of it seemed most duck-like, but also because it wasn't as clear as the others and knowing myself I thought that would make it easier for me to be inventive rather than just copying it.

I did some sketches to explore what was important and what direction I might go in for the drawing.

First, I did copy it, using dark paper and chalky crayons (because of my ongoing ideas about darkness), thinking about the shape, what makes it duck-shaped.
I tried to use white for the lightest parts, blue for medium, and red or tan when they came into the picture in real life. The background looked too dark once I'd done that, so I filled it in, and to an extent the negative spaces in the torso, with tan to take down the contrast a bit. 

I had made a mess of the feet, and in fact think that
they need a more sticky look to them, so I used
children's wax crayon for this sketch.
This one is about the striking contrast between the brown feathers and blue/green iridescent feathers which mark it as  a mallard in life. I wondered if I could somehow use that contrast to make the skeleton both an object of curiosity (like in a cabinet of curiosities), and remind us of how beautiful it was as a live bird.
I like the way this is going - although the intensity of the brown will have to be deeper, and I'll have to think about what paper to do it on to get the echos of sepia natural history drawings. Exactly where the blue bits should go, and what colour they are, is something I will have to think about before I do the drawing itself.

Some ideas of how to compose the final drawing.
There is something amusing about a skeleton behaving as if it were alive.
The one on the right was trying to emphasise how very double-curved the duck shape is - oddly but characteristically so. But I don't think that will work with the colouring idea.

I collected some relevant images:

An example of natural history drawings from Edwardian era, and what they looked like.

This one from a website called Surrender Dorothy. The numbers relate to the list of latin names at the bottom of the page of illustrations.Surrender Dorothy etsy site

And another whole page of birds from F E Wright Edwardian birds 1914 Natural History lithograph copyright Petitpouaillier 2009 Source of image

The backgrounds of both are coloured on cream paper, surrounded by a border of dark blue ink.
This one, by Carl Friedrich Dieker 1875 (Dieker_lagdbare_Riere_1093218.jpg) shows something of the colouring of mallards, and a naturalistic background, but on the same cream paper. I had forgotten that the male has a green head. And the colours are separated from the brown by strong stripes of white and black.

The Audubon print below has more accurate colouring, again on cream background, with copperplate labelling.  Anas platyrhynchos.
Plate 221 of the Birds of America J J Audubon

And finally, a real one, photograph by Charles J Sharp
This background is a more interesting colour than grasses, that reflects the flash on her wing.
Could I do a drawing of skeleton with flash on a watery background?
The colour of the bones and the colour of the shadows of wavelets could blend into each other...

I loved this photo, but I wasn't sure how I could get the skeleton in there and make it work. So, after some thought, I decided that I would go for the sepia idea, using the 'cabinet of curiosities' sketch as a basis for the composition. Because I wanted a medium that would allow me to get a reasonable amount of darkness in there, and mellowed with age, but also the ability to get quite a lot of detail into the skeleton, I chose the chalky pastels.

For the paper I wanted to make it quite large (as my drawings go anyway) with a long tall rectangular shape, so I cut an A3 piece of paper in half and stuck the pieces end to end. I thought this was OK (see Jerwood prize 2013) and would in fact work to make it look a bit more ancient. I used white paper with a bit of bite to take the colour better, and because my intention was to cover the whole of the surface.

To go on the other shelves of the cabinet, I chose two images which are bird related but a bit odd in context, because a skeleton with a flash of blue is a bit odd too.

When I was drawing the skeleton I was thinking about the sweep and shape of it, and how to show that it wasn't flat (by using tone). I used yellow for the brightest parts, to make them 'glow in the dark'. That was interesting because it meant that the white paper was not in fact the brightest part of the drawing. When drawing the background it was more about a/ the triangular shape and b/ suggesting wood markings. The background was imaginary which made it a bit more difficult to work out where the shadows should go etc.

Initially I made the background too light in tone and the duck and its detail were lost. So I darkened it, and increased the contrast between the parts of the background to make it more obviously three dimensional. I had to touch up the darker parts of the duck to work with this.

Cabinet of curiosities
Pastels on white cartridge paper

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