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8/4/09 08:37 pm - Pterodactylus kochi

So, what is a chap to do in the immediate aftermath of completing an MA in Illustration (whilst waiting for all those lucrative commissions to come flooding in)?  What, in particular, if said chap is having a bit of an identity crisis brought on by an MA project centred around the development of comic characters and narrative, after years of striving for accurate natural-history illustration?  What if you don't know which way to turn?
This is the time when, inevitably, one's thoughts turn to pterosaurs.  Old friends from childhood.  Familiar, but still surprising.  Still confounding every expectation.
I really wanted to get back into some detailed, technically accurate work, while at the same time feeling loth to relinquish my newly honed powers of caricature and stylization.  Pterosaurs somehow answer both needs, being both utterly beautiful and totally bizarre, with the most extraordinary proportions of any animal.  In many species the head really is quite a lot larger than the torso.  I could never get over that.  But I have been checking the measurements of my cast of that famous specimen of Pterodactylus kochi from the Solnhofen limestone, and there it is; skull, approximately 80mm; neck approx 60mm; shoulder to hip, approx 40mm.  Wonderful!
When I was a kid in the 1970s, pterosaurs had a terrible public image.  I still have books which insist that as "cold-blooded" reptiles they would have been too sluggish to be capable of active flight.  And with that floppy wing-membrane supported only by a single finger at the leading edge, they would never have had the fine control of birds or bats, and a bit of half-hearted paragliding would have been the most they could manage...  Now we know so much more.  It is now accepted as fact that they were true and active fliers, that their bodies had a hair-like covering for insulation, and that the wing membrane wasn't mere skin but a complex, multi-layered structure, reinforced by muscular fibres that would have given such precise control that the flying abilities of these creatures probably surpassed those of birds.
For a while in the '90s, it almost seemed to go a bit too far, with suggestions that pterosaurs on the ground strutted and ran around on their hind-limbs alone.  Personally I was never happy with the idea of pterosaurs as bipeds.  They're just not the right shape for it.  The weird, quadrupedal, "cowboys on crutches" stance described by Dr Unwin is so much more appealing, because it is so uniquely their own.  
Lots of pterosaurs had strange crests, but until recently Pterodactylus was not thought to be among them.  However, the latest research shows that at least some specimens did have a head-adornment of cartilage or other soft tissues which didn't always leave much of a fossil impression.
Colours?  Total guesswork, of course.  Pterosaurs would certainly have been quite boldly coloured.  There are some absoluitely wonderful "palaeo-artists" (come on, you know who they are!) who have a glorious tendency to depict all dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures in general looking as if they had been in an explosion at a paint factory.  Personally I prefer a slightly toned down appearance; I think most pterosaurs, given what little we know of how and where they lived, would have been coloured a bit more like seabirds than like birds-of-paradise.  But who knows...?

X-posted to http://paulcarneyillustrationz.blogspot.com/

8/1/09 07:21 pm - MA stuff

Hm.  Haven't been doing the blog thing in a while.  This feels strange.  But nice to be back.  Lately I have been so caught up in doing my MA, but 'tis done now and I passed! :)

Been meaning to write some sort of summarized explanation of what I have been up to, and it occurred to me that I could do worse than simply to post the final essay that we had to write at the end of the course.  Now, that was fun!  On an arts MA you are required to do some pretty strange things, like hanging pictures on walls(?) and talking about your work (Ack!), but every now and then, sweetest of joys, you get to write...
So here in its entirety, should anyone wish to read it, is my Reflective EssayCollapse )

3/29/09 04:18 pm - For all occasions...

Birthdays and other occasions seem to be coming thick 'n' fast at the moment.  Which provides Paul with the opportunity to have lots of fun making cards!  Yay!

First up, here's one for my lovely friend and former fellow student Carly Greene, whose unofficial birthday was last night although the real one is tomorrow.  Muchos fun was had by all at the Comedy Carnival in Clapham.  The card is a not-in-the-least subtle reference to Carly's fondness for Pino Grigio.  

And here's one for Mummy, last Sunday having been Mothers' Day (at least here in Britland).  The allusion is to two of the strongest features of home life at Carney Towers; Mother's addiction to "cream horns" (why do they always make me think of Peter Cook..?) and the daily ritual of watching Bargain Hunt, with the one and only Tim Wonnacott.  Honestly, if you haven't been compelled to watch the show as I have to on a daily basis as part of Quality-Time-with-the-Folks, you're missing out on a truly surreal experience.  The contestants invariably have some dark secret, like belly-dancing, female impersonations or writing appallingly bad poetry, and demonstrate their skills whilst the delightfully OTT Mr W fixes the camera with his desperate "for God's sake get me OUT of here!" grin.  Neither Mummy nor I has the slightest interest in antiques, but we hoot with laughter as the hapless contestants buy a load of rusty old tat from the market stalls and go on to make humungous losses at auction, while Mr W rolls his eyes in despair.  Though he always rallies by the end of the show and exhorts us, with an impressive high kick that will one day land him flat on his arse, to "join us again soon for some more Bargain Hunting, yes?  YES!!!

And here's one for my adorable friend Emma, who was most unusually in the country for her birthday a couple of weeks back.  The reference here is to an incident last year when I was due to go out on a "dating" situation at an Indian restaurant in the baddest and most inadequately lit part of Peckham.  Getting hopelessly lost and/or injured would have made a poor impression on my "date" (who was already noticeably underwhelmed by my endearing habit of colliding with lampposts and other lurking obstacles), so lovely Emma came to the rescue and offered to take me there on a practice run a couple of days in advance.  Now usually Emma can make herself virtually invisible at will, which was sort of what I had in mind, as I was due to reappear there two nights later with a different woman.  Sooo, imagine my alarm when she showed up in a radioactive hat and engaged the staff in a half-hour conversation about Indian cooking.  Sure enough, on the Big Night, I was getting some odd looks from one of the waitresses, who asked my "date" "do you know about Indian cooking too?" which I assume is girl-code for "he's two-timing you, the bastard!"  Actually it was a really nice restaurant, but there's no way I would ever have found my way to it through the Wasteland without Emma's uncanny route-finding skills.

2/22/09 11:05 pm - Don't know...

It has been brought to my notice that at the beginning of next month, the college I attend is holding a Disability Week!

God help us all...

It seems there will be "drop in" sessions for staff and students to discuss the issues involved, because, get this; "Making the arts truly inclusive is central to the mission of the University..."   It actually says that.

Back in the real world, my experience of the situation regarding disability issues at college has been pretty much what you would expect, really.  On an unofficial footing, individual members of academic staff and fellow students, particularly my Subject Leader, have been extraordinarily kind and considerate, and a huge amount of goodwill has made it possible for me to function, up to a point, in an extremely difficult environment.  

It's a slightly different story, however, when you come to admin and technical staff, and official college policy.  Just after enrolment last year, we were inducted into the alchemic mysteries of the college's print studio facilities. Rooms full of toxic chemicals and man-eating machines.  Definitely pretty high on the list of most terrifying experiences of my life.  I timorously asked whether there was any provision in place for the needs of visually impaired students, and the head technician just snarled back at me that his staff didn't have the TIIIME!!!!  Which seemed a little odd in view of the fact that his colleagues in admin had had all the time in the world to take my life's savings off me the day before.  Never been back to the print rooms, but last year I was so naive that I thought the course would actually be structured, and that compulsory screenprinting might be a part of it.  I can't forget how worried I was at that time.  It was horrible.  I got me an appointment with the head of student welfare or whatever the hell she was, to see if something could be worked out.  Let it not be said I didn't try to meet 'em halfway!  But she just cooked up some laughable scheme whereby I could be accompanied by other students on a voluntary basis.  Like I would  ever be prepared to put that responsibility onto another student!  

Sooo, as things stand, having paid as much as anybody else, I find I am attending an establishment that, so far as I am concerned, offers access to no resources whatsoever.  3/4 of the way through the course, and so scared of the building in which this year's degree show is to be held that I will probably just drop out before graduation.  And now they want to have a "Disability Week".  Too little.  And way too fucking late.  Should I actually "drop in" and try to reason with these people?  I even thought about it, but I'm so tired now... 

1/30/09 04:56 pm - Leavin' town...

Some more very-rough stuff from a recent bout of storyboarding.
Civilization has had to start over (the only remnants of the past being a few fragments of the works of Desmond Morris) and is still at a pre-industrial level of technology.  So if you need to make a long trip, animal-drawn transport is the only way.  But with horses long-extinct (or are they...?) what kind of beastie are you going to use?
Okay, so the choice was influenced by recent total immersion in the work of genius illustrator Mauricio Anton in  The Big Cats & Their Fossil Relatives which I got for Christmas (Yay!)  Carnivorous mammals have been used to pull things before, of course.  And not just sledges.  My dad has researched the history of milk floats (God help us all...) and apparently, although horses were the norm, some were drawn by teams of dogs.  I bullshit thee not, for I have seen the photos...
So... a cat big enough to pull a carriage, with an appropriately docile and compliant temperament.  Why the hell not?  Well, it seems there are good reasons why in the real world dogs pull things and cats don't.  Cats, large and small, are essentially sprinters and pouncers.  Long distance trotting is not their thing.  So it was fun to do a little delving and find out why.  It turns out that the all-important differences lie in the relative proportions of the limbs and, crucially, the length and flexibility of the vertebral column.  It is the relatively short, rigid back that allows a dog or wolf to lope for miles without wasting energy or getting tired.  Therefore a cat that can pull a carriage will need to be rather un-moggylike in its proportions, though there's no reason why the old sabre-teeth condition shouldn't re-evolve for old times' sake.
See, I don't just get pissed and draw whatever comes into my head, you know.  I think about this stuff.  Wonder if anybody ever notices...     

I love organic shapes!  But the moment it comes to drawing any manmade object, be it a vehicle, a building or whatevr, I start to fall asleep.  I was quite chuffed with this carriage thing, though.

Oh, now I get the hyperlink thing!  Actually I don't think it's changed.  I've just been away so long I forgot.

1/29/09 08:56 am - Symbiosis

My tutor thought these creatures were having sex.  (Rolls eyes)  What's really going on here, as I thought was perfectly bloomin' obvious, is a symbiotic arrangement between two species that allows them to function on land, in water or in the air.  The fish can't walk so he hitches a ride on the frog, who in turn cannot fly, so the fish carries him through the air. 
I was trying to be imaginative here, but what was striking was just how little I had to adapt the fish, who is of course based on the West African Butterfly Fish; a species that really does possess the capacity for true flight as opposed to passive gliding (the fins are powered by large pectoral muscles) and really does have the fins on its underside modified into fingerlike projections, which in real life are used by the male to grasp the female during courtship.

What is going ON with LJ at the moment????  I miss my hyperlinks!  And now it takes about half an hour to post anything because the page keeps crashing.  Bah!  

1/27/09 02:57 pm - Endless Farewell


Possible panel for my MA graphic novel project.  The idea here is that the larval form of the strange insect-creature that my hero has been sent to study is infested by  internal parasitoids that slowly drain its bodily reserves.  Their feeding on its brain tissues alters its behaviour so that when it is close to death it climbs into the higher branches of a tree and spins itself a sort of resting-place of solk where it lies down and dies, while the parasites complete their development.  After which they burrow out through the host's head and fly away like lost memories.

This is meant to work on a number of levels which won't necessarily be apparent.  but obviously a lot of recollection from childhood when I used to breed moths and other insects.  When you're keeping caterpillars collected from the wild, sooner or later you find those that have been parasitized by those tiny black wasps that eat them from the inside.  Never forgotten how horrible that was.

I thought that  these parasitoids should look as simple as possible.  One pair of legs, one pair of wings, a pointy ovipositor and one big eye.  But they just didn't look right until I made them hairy (which doesn't show up particularly well at this resolution).  Wonder what Desmond Morris would say, bearing in mind his wonderful theory of why girls don't like spiders.  The world would be a duller place without Desmond, which is why in my future world he has been elevated to the status of a deity.

It's also a nice instance of Paul dodging the issue.  Originally the creature was going to meet its end on the ground.  Climbing to a high place as its final act seemed rather more evocative, but it had more to do with the fact that it was the only way I could find to put the scene together.  This way there doesn't have to be any marriage between foreground and background.  I had an idea that the MA course would lead me to some mystical means of getting around the pinhole vision and creating whole scenes.  I now believe this is impossible, but that's okay if there are clever ways around it.  Feels like cheating, though.  Like Lowry, who apparently couldn't draw horses' legs and so, er... didn't.

Must admit I'm having some trouble pulling together pieces like this and the storyboard roughs I'm working on.  Thematically they're from the same source, but I'm still troubled about the look of the thing.  Whether I could put this much work into every panel and ever get the project to any kind of conclusion is highly doubtful.  I can see why so many graphic novels are drawn and coloured in quite a simplistic way, which is probably not the best of what the artist could do, given unlimited time.  Some would argue that any finished product is better than an interminable work-in-progress, but I'm profoundly repelled by the thought of going around forever afterward explaining that I could have made it look really cool if only... blah blah.
In my very limited experience of the genre, it does seem that part of the graphic novel's "coming of age" is that people seem to be taking more care over making them look really great.  Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's Lost Girls is a case in point, though the look they've gone for is not to my taste.  I think I have no choice but to throw everything I've got into every panel.  Apparently I don't need a full set of finished spreads in order to graduate at least, which is just as well.  This piece brought on a recurrence of the headaches that crippled me throughout the bee book, although nothing like as bad, now that I know I need to keep one eye covered at all times when I'm working.   

BTW, why won't LJ let me do "hyperlinks" anymore?

1/24/09 10:58 am

Hello all!  I have been truly abysmal at posting and commenting for sooo long.  So sorry about that!  Stuff was going on, but Paul is determined to make some sort of comeback...

Well, then, here's just a wee samplette from a batch of storyboard roughs I was working on over Christmas.  Having lost all critical faculty by now, I had no sense whatsoever of whether there was any merit in the work, but I've just had a tutorial with best-art-tutor-of-all-time-EVER  Janet Woolley (http://www.arenaworks.com/artists/janetwoolley.html) and it seems things are going rather well after all.  Apparently I can get away with my own short-attention-span approach to narrative and pacing, and even my inevitably minimalist approach to backgrounds.  Yeeha!  Not that there isn't room for improvement of course, and I now have a batch of genuinely exciting suggestions to work with, particularly in the areas that were giving me problems like use of colour and more interesting ways of juxtaposing text with images.  The future's bright...

8/4/08 12:25 am - Shakin' that ass...

I'm slightly miffed that I have allowed standards to get the better of me and spent well over a week on a piece that ran to about 40 Photoshop layers and several bouts of fairly acute eye and neck strain, for which I will not retain copyright.  Bah!
I've checked my terms and conditions, and I am definitely okay to post this on a blog or website, but please be mindful that anyone caught nicking and re-publishing this will be hunted down and exterminated by a certain publishing house.

This is the "waggle dance" performed by a worker honeybee if she knows the whereabouts of some particularly juicy flowers and wants to tell her fellow colony members where to find them.  The intensity of the waggling tells them how far to travel, and the direction of the dance indicates which way to go, with the present position of the sun as a point of reference.  Some brave souls working with the Asian Giant Honeybee (a species that was never domesticated because they have an annoying habit of defending their nest and are fully capable of killing a man) have recently discovered that this species sometimes forages at night but still communicates in exactly the same way, with reference to the sun, being somehow aware of its precise position on the other side of the world.

Ideally I wanted the dotted line to be a series of elongated dashes, but every single dash would have had to be rotated to exactly the right angle according to its position on the curve, and it would probably have taken about a month. 

7/15/08 01:02 am - KATIE SPEAKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Genius children's author and Goddess Katie McAllaster Weaver has just been interviewed on radio!!!!  Catch her words here

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