We picked sketch #2 (Décollage nocturne) from yesterday, mainly for the light, color, and mood. I liked the idea of a giant insect vehicle departing at night, but I wasn’t happy with the design of the aircraft. It looked like a cricket with wings. It was too much like a real bug and not enough like a fantastic flying machine. It needed to look both more believable and more magical.
I studied a great book called Insects in Flight by John Brackenbury. It’s loaded with super high-speed color photographs of all sorts of insects in flight postures. With these photos as a starting point I did many pages of sketches. These sketches are made in pencil, fountain pen, watercolor pencil, and water brush.
At this stage I try to absorb as many new ideas as possible, and just draw the scene over and over again, looking for unexpected variations. Some sketches show two sets of wings working in opposing pairs.
The breakthrough was learning about the unique flight mechanics of butterflies. Mr. Brackenbury explains in great detail how they use a “clap and peel” (also called "clap and fling") system for generating lift. The wings are brought up together vertically, and the leading edges pulled down, creating a cone-shaped funnel that draws in a vortex of low-pressure air.
I was surprised to learn that butterflies, along with dragonflies, are among the most adept fliers of the insect world. They’ll maneuver in high winds that will ground other insects. I had to revise my notion that butterflies are capricious or random aeronauts.
Anyway, the butterfly breakthrough also helped with the problem of appeal. Everybody loves butterflies. Who wouldn’t want to fly in a butterfly ornithopter?—(OK, it would be a pretty bumpy ride).
So now my job was to draw up plans for the maquette. I looked not only at butterflies, but also flying fish, old trolleys, and WWI aircraft.
The next task will be to build a 3D maquette.
Part 1: Initial Sketches
Part 2: Researching Insect Flight
Part 3: Maquette
Part 7: The Painting