I’ve never really considered myself the sort of illustrator who will utilise 3D objects in their work, I’ve always stuck with 2D; it’s easier to reproduce if need be, I can do it anywhere, it’s more inside my comfort zone and I’m sure lots more reasons. But I felt like my display plans for the Degree Show were lacking something when I had planned with just 2D elements/prints.
The project as a whole felt more like a museum exhibit rather than a gallery piece. I, personally, have always enjoyed museums far more since I have a particular dislike for galleries, so I really felt like I should follow this museum-esque path my display was going down. If my project were to fit into any museum or exhibit, it would most definitely be natural history, and what’s a natural history exhibit without some organic material? A bone perhaps?
With all my pieces for the show being long and thin, horizontally, a vertical piece to break up this pattern would work well. The bone itself would be painted in a colourful manor, much like the skeletons in the book itself. I wanted to mirror the illustration style of the skeletal studies, with the same use of colour and patternation inside the subject itself. I began sourcing…
Twitter was the first port of call. With all the amazing sciency folk that follow me on Twitter I thought it would be the best place to start, and I was not wrong. Within ten minutes of tweeting about my need for a large animal femur, I had loads of responses!
Most notably of all, I will say, was a message from the awesome Ben Garrod, offering to send me a 100 year old brown bear humerus! Naturally, I was pretty damn excited by this news, so you can only imagine my excitement levels when this arrived in the post a couple of days later…
It was perfect. The bare bone itself was really interesting, I’d never had the chance to see one so old up close, so before I even thought about going about my plans I had with it, I made an extensive study of it.
Every nook and cranny needed to be drawn out, captured before I covered it in colourful goodness. A nice soft graphite stick was perfect for this. Next I had to plan exactly how it was going to be painted.
As I started to cover the surface in the yellow gouache, I found myself accidentally contouring around the loops and holes. So with some added deep browns and reds, I started to accentuate the curves and forms of the bone’s surface, exaggerating its shape to draw focus to the structure of the object itself. This took quite a while of indecisiveness and waiting around for the paint layers to dry, but it was worth it. The end result of the base colour was exactly what I wanted.
After the base was dry and finished, I started applying the tiny patterned details to the bone. The pattern was a simplified version of the Myriophyllum Aquaticum, or Parrot Feather Plant, native to North America where brown bears are often found. Using undiluted white gouache, the pattern was painstakingly painted onto the entire surface.
And this was the end result! I’m super happy with how it turned out, it’s exactly how I imagined and hoped it would look. So glad I now have something to accompany the 2D work for the exhibit. Below is a photo of it in context with the rest of the work up around it! I mounted it using a double pronged rubber hook, not to dissimilar the sort often used to hang guitars from walls. It was perfect for the bone, the head of it fitting perfectly onto the hooks.