The Animal Pt2
March 11, 2021
Task: Draw your animal in its natural environment and demonstrate the reason for its endangerment.
For this project we were asked to consider our animals in their natural habitat and represent this with a 2D illustration. The image is also supposed to include a story for their endangerment, and include text that further gives detail about the issue.
Some key factors to keep in mind for this project are: creating ground and figure relationships, integrating text and image, and portraying the animal truthfully.
There was also another twist; we are only allowed to use 7 colors!
I started out by looking up some reference photos of the whooping crane for greater understanding of how they naturally pose, and also their place within the wetlands habitat. Here are some reference photos for the habitat of the whooping crane:
Most of these showcase a wetland habitat with tall and short grasses, so I decided to do some more research on the specifics of these grasses. The tallest grass found typically in a Texan wetland is called the sweetflag this grass is thin and tall with some density to the folliage. It hits at the height of a crane’s body. The next most common grass is called the saltmeadow cordgrass, which is a very dense and thin grass. These grasses are around the height of the crane’s legs and look similar to a soft brush. The final plant I researched about was the lake bank sedge. This grass is more leafy in character and only hits the knees of the crane.
I also did some studies and research about wetland grass growth pattern to better understand it before I drew the habitat.
I learned that in order to effectively communicate the wetland grasses, I would have to consider color as a key component. When the grasses overlap, it is hard to distinguish closer and farther objects unless color or spacing is used. Since this project limits color, I would have to be careful with how I represent the grasses.
I also analyzed why the whooping cranes are endangered to construct a narrative for the piece. I found out that there are several reasons that I can explore:
Oil contamination: the winter migration habitat for the whooping cranes is the Texas shore, which is at risk of oil contamination from oil rigs in the Gulf coast.
Power lines: during migration, whooping cranes fly over vase stretches of land, and are prone to hitting power lines, which causes concussions and sometimes death.
Habitat loss: many wetlands are disappearing due to increased urbanization. The whooping cranes only have a small patch of land protected by wildlife services in the Texas coast that is remarkably small in comparison what was there before.
Hunting: whooping cranes were once shot at for sport, meat, and feathers. Now, it is illegal to hunt them, but many people unknowingly or accidentally shot them.
Here are some quick thumbnail sketches I did in class:
When I thought about different compositions for the wetlands, I could only envision a bird standing in a wetland with medium tall grasses. Because of the lack of hierarchy within these compositions, I felt they were uninteresting. Since most of the habitat photos I researched only featured one type of grass at a time, there was only a few levels to the composition: the water, the grass, and the sky. I wanted to somehow incorporate more layers to achieve better hierarchy and more depth.
Branching off of the “add more layers” idea, I started to hone in on the composition with the crane’s head underwater. I felt that this created more interest due to the addition of layers, which were now the floor, the underwater, surface water, grass, and sky. The composition was overall more interesting to look at, and I could showcase the characteristics of my animal by demonstrating it fishing.
I then created a composition where the whooping crane’s large wings would be on display. Since one of the whooping crane’s characteristics is being the largest crane in North America, I wanted to show off their scale. It also allowed me to incorporate the crane’s dancing!
I started to get ideas for the color palettes of each composition. Because I thought that the fishing composition may be too complicated, I wanted to hash out the colors to see if it would be possible to clearly represent all the components.
Turns out, 7 colors is not an unreasonable amount! I feel like the composition on the left is more dynamic but it is less clear than the one on the right. I want to adjust the colors later, this was mostly to understand how the colors will be placed.
- How can I effectively communicate the story of the piece without it being too obvious?
- Differentiate the layering of wetland grasses somehow
March 18, 2021
Task: Create three iterations of your illustration, which can be alterations in color or composition
Feedback from Q:
- Grasses in the background are distracting and busy; try to make it less detailed
- Extend the ground plane to work with the perspective better and allow more room for text
- Oil rig near the body distract eye from the bird
- Be mindful of large color contrasts (dark brown on cream)
- Make the closer objects and focal point more detailed
- Alter perspective of the bird to be more accurate
With these points in mind, I started altering my piece.
Grass and extra color issue:
First, I focused on making the grass less complex. This required altering the form of the grass to be less sporadic and a more consistent color.
I realized I used 8 colors in this! I had 4 colors for the water and 4 colors for the sky/grass/bird. I needed to decide on a color to take out.
Doing this was quite difficult since when I tried to merge the colors in the sky/grass/bird, some part of the form would be lost.
The sky and the water blended in this iteration with some help of differentiation using the green and red as land inbetween. This made the depth of the piece more shallow than it was before and made the form of the bird confusing since the shadow melted into the sky.
I moved onto trying to merge the color of the grass. Different ideas of merging the grass color:
All of these iterations caused the form to be confused. I wanted the head of the crane to have contrast with its background so it can be the main focus. With these iterations, this point become lost or muddled.
I decided to go with altering my composition and putting rocks at the bottom of the grass, so I could merge the ground color with the grass color without loosing form.
Then, I simplified the grass by reducing the amount of cuts within the form.
I think I can further simplify the grass for the next iteration.
Then, I moved onto adding details to the head and fish. I approached this by blocking in colors for the forms and also using color to suggest shading.
The fish was particularly difficult to draw since it was hard to balance simplicity without it being overly cartoonish. I tried to keep the detail to a minimal level since the focal point should be the bird, but I had to up the level of detail to make it understandable as a fish. I think I can further work on the rendering of the fish to balance simplicity and recognizability better.
I hashed out my ideas on procreate for an easier time to translate my ideas into a composition and to experiment with shape and color. Of course, I recreated this in illustrator afterwards.
After this, I translated it on Illustrator and altered the colors.
Three iterations I like most:
- Can I explore more color palettes? Branch away from blues and yellows
- How can I prevent the rocks from competing with the bird’s head?
March 22, 2021
Task: Refine your illustration based on the feedback given in class
Feedback from Daphne and Q:
- Remove the angled composition
- Change the rocks to not be outlines
- Focus more on the habitat rather than the animal
- Balance habitat and animal size comparison
- Make the construction in the background more clear
I started working on the largest issue: the angle. Daphne mentioned that the angle was not adding anything to the story and that it was not needed for my composition since it already has the complexity of a above/under water transition. I was sort of attached to the angle, but after thinking about it I agree. Without the angle, the viewer can focus more on understanding the story rather than focusing on trying understand the composition. Because of the awkward perspective, the body of the bird is greatly warped, which can hinder recognition. If I were to reduce recognition strain, the story would be a lot easier to understand. Also, without the angle, I would have more room to showcase the habitat, which was lacking in the angled version.
Here are my alterations of the angle and the process of my new background.
I decided to change the story from oil contamination to urbanization. During the critique, someone mentioned that they liked how the construction cranes were hidden by the grasses so that the story is more subtle; however, the problem was that they were supposed to be oil rigs! I realized that the silhouette of oil rigs may not be easily recognizable and that they probably needed more context to be understandable. I thought of putting in oil leaking into the water, but with limited colors and all the dark colors already being present under the water, I had no idea how I would accomplish that. The oil in the water would be another thing that viewers may not recognize, so I opted to change the narrative to urbanization.
Testing out different ways to draw the grass:
I thought that perhaps there would be a better way of communicating the grass; however, I have not yet found a suitable style that coincides with the overall style of the piece. I tried to move away from very thin strokes to represent the grass so it commands less attention, but having thicker stroked grasses seem kind of off. For now, I will stick to the first two styles, but I may experiment with it more later on.
Moving to illustrator:
I had to alter the perspective of the body, since in my previous iteration, the camera angle was downwards looking up which caused the body to be a lot smaller than it is proportionately from the side or at 3/4ths view. Luckily I used the pen tool for the body, which made altering it a lot faster.
I added highlights to the rocks to suggest an outline without actually outlining them. I also edited the text so that it can fit the new, smaller space.
- How can I make the rocks look less outlined and more cohesive?
- Are there different color values I can play with (right now it is mostly the same values but different tones)
- How can I differentiate the foreground grass from the background grass?
March 24, 2021
Feedback from Daphne:
- Two color versions: Pink/purple — can better see all the objects, clearer hierarchy, Ana’s favorite colors; Blue/orange — more contrast between objects and elements, Shannon’s favorite color combo
- Both color palettes — sky color too hazy, brighten it up
- Human intervention is taking over as the focal point — slightly hide into the grasses again
- Remove some sections of the rock outline to make it less outline like
- Text: Rag from aligned right text makes it hard to read; Spacing between title, subhead, and text is very similar — make the space between title and subhead closer; widen line spacing within the text; make the text smaller; pay attention to the period and manually adjust the placement so it is aligned.
- Suggestion from Shannon: add rocks to the right edge so that left aligned text will have rag that adheres to the contours of the rocks
First I played with brightening up the color palettes. I mostly just made the colors more vibrant and the sky color less gray.
The cityscape was too centered and took over the focus of the piece, so I shifted it to the right and partially hid it in the grasses. The green buildings and red land contrasted too much, so I opted to make them the same color.
After I made it all green, my eye was drawn to the construction crane in the background immediately, so I tried to dampen that by changing the color of the buildings to a lighter color. This reduced the focus on the construction crane, but I felt that the buildings were a bit too light and deemphasized.
I initially had the idea of having smaller islands of grasses to create the layered grass effect; however, there were a few problems with it. First it was hard to differentiate between the background and foreground grasses since they were the same color. If I changed the background grass to be green, it would be hard to recognize that it was grass since the shape was over simplified. I attempted to add some highlights to the grass to get the forms to separate, but I ultimately decided to go with another direction.
During the process of altering the cityscape, moving the city to the right left a big hole in the composition. I felt that it was too barren — the grass on the left was only one layer and the horizon line was directly underneath it and there was a new large gap between the bird and the buildings. In an actual wetland habitat, grasses make up rows that overlaying on each other, so I added another row behind the first layer.
I felt that this got rid of the awkward gap, and helped with movement of the eye and depth. This added grass helped lead the eye to the buildings in the back because it was slightly extended from the red grass and created a sort of bridge between the two elements. It also added another layer between the grass and the horizon line, which deepened the composition.
I also altered the rocks to reduce the outline.
Some extra information created by the outlines was removed. This is most obvious in the front group of rocks and the right group.
I changed the spacing between title and subhead. Before, the title, subhead, and text had equal spacing; however, grouping the title and subhead together by reducing the spacing between them made it easier to read and understand. I also made text smaller and widened the spacing between lines. Then, I fixed the hanging punctuation.
I tried a few different layouts for the text. The first one is right aligned and I reduced the rag by adding some more text. The next version was suggested by Shannon — add some rocks to the right so that I can have left aligned text. When I tried this, I had too many rocks in the corner, and the title and subheading had no room, so I decided to stick with the right aligned version.
Here is the version with more vibrant colors.
- Are the buildings too subtle now?
- Do the grass layers distract?
March 27, 2021
Feedback from Dani (before talking with Q):
- Alter grass to be shorter
- Extend some rock shadows or highlights
- Add more color/detail to the head
- Check text margins
- Make buildings and land same colo
I went ahead and made the grass height and building color alterations. I agreed with the other comments she made, but I did not have enough time to make the rest of the alterations before my session with Q.
Feedback from Q:
- Make grass form less boxy and add more detail
- Try to align text to the left
- Experiment with reducing the title and differentiate it with the subheading using color, caps, or boldness
- Don’t trap the text with rocks on all sides — move upwards and to the left
- Make the bird legs less robotic
- Pay attention to the highlight to leg ratios
- Add more detail to the bird body using the darker green
Because I knew that I would make the grasses more detailed, I had to alter the level of detail of the bird and the rocks that are closer to the viewer.
I decided to push the realism by adding beak details like the nostril, creating feathers on the top of the head, and providing some scales on the fish. These things made the head pop more as the focal point.
Then, I moved onto making the feet/legs and rocks more realistic.
When I printed my piece out, the ground scene all blended together since there was not enough contrast. The dark blue and almost black blue turned into a single blob when printed, so I had to up the contrast. I decided to make the ground color slightly lighter and add in the highlights to help signify form.
I decided to only put highlights in areas closer to the viewer since the highlights acted as further detail. Objects in the back would be less pronounced and have less detail without the highlight.
I ended up looking at some reference photos of the underside of a crane. Before, since the body was more abstract, I did not really pay that much attention to anatomy, but if I were to make it more detailed, I would have to know what is going on. I looked up several photos, but none were at this angle, which caused me to piece together several photos to get a better understanding of the underside of a crane.
I contoured the shape with the lighter green and darker green to add dimension. Because the darker green was quite dark, I ended up lightening it slightly so that the contrast between the light green and dark green was not as severe.
I have been having a difficult time with the grass.
I made the grass less squared off and more angular to reduce consistency with the buildings in the background. This made the grass draw more attention, which was a big worry for me. However, I asked around in studio if the grass was too detailed and people told me that the level of detail was not too distracting since it is only one color. So, I continued with the style of grass for the green grass in the background.
In my past iteration, I had some grass behind the green fish so that it would not blend into the background. I wanted to try and experiment with other ways to represent the fish.
I had a lot of trouble deciding between the darker version without grass and the darker version with grass. I knew that the without grass version made the fish slightly blend into the background, and that the added contrast of the dark grass would aid in visibility, but when I looked at the composition from afar, the added grass prevented the bird from being clearly seen.
With the grass made the space near the head very cramped and prevented breathing room. The bubbles and head shape are muddled with the dark color in the background. It also greatly reduced the amount of green in the underwater scene and made it overwhelmingly dark blue.
Even though the dark grass helped with defining the fish, I realized that the priority should go to the overall composition, so I went with the no grass option.
I made the text left aligned and moved the rocks to make the text feel less cramped.
The text on the right has a smaller title font and is lighter in color. Also, the rocks are moved away to give it some breathing room.
In this iteration, I decided to make the blue of the ground lighter because when I printed out the previous version, the dark blue washed out all the detail of the rocks and legs. Because of lightening up the blue, all the other colors were too dark, so I altered those colors accordingly. The one color that I changed to be darker was the sky. Because the previous sky was pale, the color would not contrast enough with the white for the shading of the crane’s neck to be clear. I opted to slightly darken the sky color, while keeping it vibrant to try and reduce the grayness it would cast.
This project really trained me to evaluate what should and should not be detailed. Because there is the background, middle ground, and foreground, all with varying complexities, I had a difficult time knowing how detail would effect the emphasis of its surroundings. At the beginning, I stuck with fairly simple shapes because I was scared of disrupting the balance of detail within the drawing. I was scared to add detail to something incase it would detract emphasis from the whopping crane, and I did not know what level of detail would be acceptable or be distracting. When I was encouraged to render the grasses more, that caused a cascade of other alterations in detail since the grasses are not the focal point. Through this piece, I was able to learn more about emphasis and the application of detail.