Thursday, September 17, 2009

Baby Mammoth, Part 2

Yesterday I showed you the first steps in reconstructing the baby mammoth, known from a well preserved frozen mummy.

It would have been tempting to just find a wildlife photo of a mother elephant and baby in more or less the same pose I sketched from my head. But mammoths have important differences from elephants, most obviously the small ears and the long tusks (in adults).

So I made a quick maquette out of Sculpey, following a sketch I made from the photo of the actual discovery. I also made a head maquette of the mom and attached it to a body that was a cardboard cutout.

Now I could really experiment with lighting and angles, and after a lot of experimentation, I hit upon this pose. It has a much lower eye level than the sketch, which makes them look bigger.

After talking to the art director, Donna Miller, I decided to change the background to a light value, which made more sense for the arctic, and I flopped the layout from the original sketch that you saw yesterday.

Even though the baby was found most of its wool worn off, in life it would have had a good shaggy coat.

For the wool texture, I studied images of woolly bulls and musk oxen. I designed the lighting so that the mammoths are in bright light, with the middle ground in shadow, and the distance again in light.


eric said...

that is phenomenal! love the final painting.

do you get to keep the originals?

James Gurney said...

Eric--thanks...and yes!

--Jim, from Denver with a not-so hot internet connection...

Douglas Ferreira said...

Great work,I thought it would take longer until the final painting,I was surprised to see it done!Thanks very much for sharing!

E Colquhoun said...

Hi Jim,

I love the shadows that you got from the mother that cross over the baby. It makes it seem so much believeable.

I was also going to ask you about your choice of background colour in your rough. The brighter colour, in my humble opinion, works so much better.

Beautiful, and believeable, textures on the mammoths.

Tyler J said...

Beautifully done, as always, and the insider information is a fantastic insight into the process.

Thanks again for sharing.

Daroo said...

Very nice painting.

By changing from the original staging you sacrificed some of the sympathy of looking down on the small cute character -- but I think you made the right decision. This angle is a less contrived, more naturalistic POV and really shows the contrast in scale( after all they are mammoth).

Speaking of counterpoint, throwing the middle ground into shadow was a great compositional touch too.

How long, in actual painting time, did this one take compared to the other two?

Brian Floca said...

I'm really enjoying and inspired by this series, James. Thanks for sharing. And I hope Ranger Rick appreciates what they're getting, too! Wonderful work.

James Gurney said...

Thanks so much Brian and everybody for the encouraging words.

Daroo: I think this one took about three days to paint, and about three or four days in preliminary stages.

Eugen Caitaz said...

This news is very cool!!! It's a like Animal Planet or Discavery Channel!!! You know what my sister name is Lyuba like this little mammoth!!! :)

ocelot_eyes said...

This is such an interesting techique - making your own reference, lighting and all, and getting to study the subject literally from all angles!!

Thank you for sharing this. the painting is really beautiful!