Monday, 29 September 2014

Dorsal fin

I'm doing the Red Serpent's dorsal fin in sections, because it's much easier that way.  This photo shows four different sections in place, and they're made the same way I made fins for the fish project a little while ago.

Topsell described the animal as having hairs growing along the ridge of its back and under its belly, "or at the least thin small things like hairs".  He knew that fish don't have hair, and the "Red Serpent", with its gills and fins, is clearly a fish of some sort.  So what are these hairs?

I've interpreted the "hairs" as thin spines that project out from the animal's fins.  I'm not sure that they look much like hairs, but they are somewhat bristly and do at least look like something that belongs on a fish.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Not much progress this week

This is one of those weeks where I just don't seem to get much done.  I've made the armature for the Red Serpent and started on the skin texture underneath its head, which is quite fun.  With the armature in place you can get a sense of what it will eventually look like.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Can I fix the serpent head?

Seems the answer is yes.  I didn't change the shape of it very much, but I think it was enough.  It looks a lot better now.

You can see how much better it looks than last time.  In fact all I've done here is to add a little more definition around the nose and cheeks, but I think it makes all the difference.  Sometimes small alterations do change everything.

I've also started to texture the skin under the serpent's neck.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Something's not quite right here

The serpent head is just not working, and I can't figure out why.  It's okay from some angles, but from other angles it doesn't look right at all.

Obviously it needs more skin texture, but that's not the only problem here.  The problem is a lot more fundamental and has to do with the shape of the beast's head, and I wish I could put my finger on exactly what's going wrong.  I can't start on skin texture till I have the right underlying shape anyway.

I think the face is too narrow, and needs to be wider.  I also need to re-shape the snout, but I don't know what shape I want it to be.

This is frustrating.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Red Serpent

I want to make one of these.

This is what I was drawing in the margins of my meeting agenda.  I have no idea whether the "red serpent" is a real animal or if Topsell made it up.  I have an idea that Topsell knew a lot of the animals in his book didn't really exist, but he put them in anyway.  The History of Four Footed Beasts and Serpents is kind of old fashioned even for its time in that it often uses animals to illustrate religious precepts.  It's more interested in imparting moral lessons than what we would call natural history, and it's interesting to compare it with Conrad Gesner's Historiae Animalium from the 1550s, or Linnaeus' Systema Naturae from 1735.

So, back to the Red Serpent.  Topsell says it has a smallish mouth and lots of little teeth like a saw, and that's what I've started with.

It'll look like a serpent soon, I promise.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

When life gives you lemons...

When life gives you a really boring meeting,  you make preparatory drawings.   They always provide you with at least one bit of paper you can draw on.

I want to sculpt something based on the woodcuts in Edward Topsell's 17th century book The History of Four Footed Beasts and Serpents.  My favourite part is the section on "serpents", which includes dragons, sea serpents, eels, lampreys etc.  That's the sort of thing I want to make, but the whole book is chock-full of weird and wonderful beasties illustrated with woodcuts.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Framed fish specimens

I don't usually frame my pieces.  Partly that's down to laziness, but it's also hard to get hold of box frames without spending a lot of money.  I can turn a regular frame into a box frame, but that's a pain in the ass.  In this case though, I found a box frame for $5 in a second hand store.  Win!  It had some seashells and suchlike glued inside it, so I scraped those off with a knife and covered the back of the frame in fabric.

This is a fairly sturdy wool fabric, so I could attach the fish to it with a loop of thread at each end.  The thread is very hard to spot. 

In fact you can't really see it at all unless you look for it.  

So there we are.  The fish now have a nice display frame.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Two painted fish

Here they are!  I've tried to make the colour and texture of each fish similar, but very slightly different.  Fish number one has a lot of red and black in its colour scheme, while the little eel-y fish it tried to eat has blue-grey and yellow tones.  Both use a lot of burnt umber paint, which helps to make them look like they belong together.  Both fish have a coating of clear laqcuer, but there's a lot more of it on fish number one.  Fish number two just got a light spray and has a more matte texture as a result.

Here's a close up of fish number two:

Here's a close up of fish number one's skull and fins, as well as a good look at fish number two: