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:

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Not painted yet, but you can see where I'm going with this

Now this thing is starting to come together.  Most of the assembly is done, and fish number two is inside fish number one.  This, of course, is the reason fish number two had to be painted first.  With its mix of painted and unpainted bits, fish number one looks like a piece of cow hide.

Monday, 25 August 2014

The second fish in detail

This weekend I finally got a chance to work on the second fish, and I got it done.  Result! 

This photo should give you a better look at the gill pouches, which became less obvious once the fish was painted.

Jawless fish like lampreys don't have complex gill arches like other fish; instead they have little gill pouches supported by cartilage.  For the same reason, its fins are a lot simpler than the ones I did for the first fish.  Lampreys and hagfish don't have fin rays, so I left out the fin rays on this fish.  These fins are just little folds of paper.  I've also given it little feelers around its mouth like a hagfish has, because why not?

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Starting on the second fish

I debated making my second fish the same type as the first, but I get bored easily and I didn't want to make another fish skull.  Instead, I thought a cyclostome would be interesting.  Cyclostome means "circular mouth", and they're a kind of primitive fish that have teeth but no jaw bones.  The lamprey is a cyclostome, as is the hagfish.

The paintwork needs a lot of revision.  The teeth need to be more yellowy and the flesh needs to be less yellowy.

What you're seeing there is the mouth of the second fish.  I haven't yet shaped the head or any of the body.  It's easier to get the mouth done before I start on the outside of the head because once it's tucked away inside the animal it becomes hard to reach.  There isn't really much detail inside the mouth.  It's a primitive sort of animal, so its anatomy really doesn't need to be too complex.

Looking straight into the mouth.  You can see I haven't put much detail inside it.

I quite like this last photo.  For some reason my fingers are in focus but the mouth is slightly blurred, so it looks as if it was moving when I photographed it.