Saturday, 31 August 2013

Hexapod evolution in a twist

Just a short post this time, as I am busy painting. The painting in question involves the early evolution of hexapods, something also discussed in a post titled 'The lateral fin theory and mackerel mode'.  

Click to enlarge; copyright Gert van Dijk
Above you see the specimen of 'Fishes II' that was shown in the previous post. It was digitally sculpted and painted in Sculptris. Such sculpts help define the perspective of the undulating fins. Once you have such a shape in your computer, you can go two ways: the first is to  perfect digital sculpting, which at present probably means mastering ZBrush. That road does result in a 2D image, taken as a snapshot of the model, but do do that the models need to be sculpted with much more finesse that the rough ones I produce. Readers of this blog will know the work of Marc Boulay, who does all this at the expert level.

But I chose to stick with regular figurative painting, because there is something about a painterly look that I like. It is not that easy to define 'figurative painting' in such a way that it excludedes digital sculpting. Perhaps it is creating the illusion of a three-dimensional object by placing colours on a two-dimensional surface. This includes digital painting as well as classical painting using oils or water colours or any such technique (I sometimes encounter a resistance against digital paintings in art circles, which must mean they see it something else than it is: just another technique).

In this process, 3D sculpt programs are aids to get the perspective or the lighting right. As with any technique they have their own unique problems. People will accept any perspective on a photograph or computer rendering, but not on a drawing (see here for an explanation).

Click to enlarge; copyright Gert van Dijk
Anyway, I try to produce a painterly effect. The two images above show two versions of the head of the Fishes II species Vexilloscissus. The left one was based on the 3D sculpt. I thought the painting was finished, and suddenly realised that there was no way that the six protojaws seen here could evolve into the typical four jaws of the basic terrestrial hexapod Bauplan. That design involves upper and lower jaws with two rows of teeth each, and two lateral jaws with one row each.  While sculpting I had forgotten that, so I had rotated the ensemble of six jaws incorrectly, with jaws in the midline in the upper and lower positions, and no jaw in the lateral positions. In world building it is hard to keep tracks of all the details, or at least that is my excuse for the mistake.  

So I had to erase the jaws and paint them again in the correct position. The result is at the right. It's a  pity really, as I rather preferred the left one. Oh well, never mind...      


Jan said...

Those eyes are beautiful. I have never thought much about the colors of insect eyes, but there must be some interesting story behind them.

Nicky said...

You know, I bet that if there was something like that in the ocean, I would use alot of live bait parts to lure him out, and I would be promoted to Pro Bass's highest elites.

Sigmund Nastrazzurro said...

Jan: Thank you; it was fun painting such eyes. I indeed looked at insect eyes for inspiration. In insects there is usually more than one story. I found a paper with some good examples. One theme is that eye colours add to the visible features of the animal:

Nicky: I guess that means it looks fishy; good. You might like that the scale drawing for this animal shows a man holding out his hands in the gesture indicating the size of a fish...

Evan Black said...

Eye coloration is something that has always interested me. I'm going to read over that pdf in the hopes that it will inform me not only in my understanding of the underlying biology and physics, but also in how it may affect my own creative directions.

I've never understood resistance against any form artistic expression. It all really comes down to personal preference and familiarity with a medium. For example, I have much more experience with digital techniques than with paints, and thus I lean toward that method; I've seen people who can produce beautiful artwork through 3D modeling and masterful lighting techniques. Whenever someone insists that one form of visual depiction is better or worse than another it seems to be like the heights of snobbishness.

Good call on the arrangement of mouth parts. I too prefer the appearance of the one on the left, but I think it's really a matter of coloration and how the light describes their shape. Perhaps you could incorporate some of that gradient toward a light green on the tips, and define that sharper edge along the length of the mouthparts?

Sigmund Nastrazzurro said...

Evan: thank you. There does seem to be some resistance in art circles against digital painting. As far as I can tell (not very far) there is resistance in circles where art is conceived as being all about intention and not about depiction, something regarded as completely uninteresting. Digital painting at present seems to be about depiction only, so those ends will take a long time to meet. I guess that the high percentage of fantasy art in digital painting does not help to gain status in circles where painting a dragon is NOT fashionable. But I expect that everyone with any appreciation of figurative art will soon realise that digital media are just another technique (one with such a fast learning curve that people might actually become better painters).

As for the mouth parts, those were my thoughts too. I will get back to this animal in time.

Petr said...

another intriguing and inspiring post! I'm sorry for being a slacker, but I'm happy I found my way back to this blog and website! =)

I wish you luck in painting and lots of inspiration, I am already decided I'm going to buy your book when it comes out! (no pressure! :D)