Sunday, November 19, 2017

Akeley's Fight with a Leopard

When artists and scientists produced the dioramas for the American Museum of Natural History, they went to Africa in search of suitable animals. But sometimes the encounters didn't go as planned.



In Ethiopia, taxidermist Carl Akeley was hunting warthog and ostrich when he took an ill-advised shot toward a noise that he heard in the bush.

Unexpectedly he had injured a leopard, which pursued him and later attacked him. He knew that once engaged in a fight, a wounded leopard would never give up, and it would be a fight to the death.
"A leopard, unlike a lion, is vindictive. A wounded leopard will fight to a finish practically every time, no matter how many chances it has to escape. Once aroused, its determination is fixed on fight, and if a leopard ever gets hold, it claws and bites until its victim is in shreds. All this was in my mind, and I began looking about for the best way out of it, for I had no desire to try conclusions with a possibly wounded leopard when it was so late in the day that I could not see the sights of my rifle.”
Read the rest online at Mental Floss: The Time Carl Akeley Killed a Leopard with his Bare Hands.
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From Akeley's book In Brightest Africa

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Doré's Caricatures of Communards

Gustave Doré (1831-1883) is best known for his illustrations of the Bible and Dante's Inferno, but he was also a caricaturist. 


In this 1871 sketch of a Communard prisoner, He emphasizes the wild hair and beard by downplaying the eyes and making them mere smudges.


He pushes the sweeping curve under the chin and the aquiline nose. 


This guy has dots for pupils and a triangular face.


After their failed uprising, many of the Communards were executed or exiled. Doré portrayed them as the pitiful souls that they must have been. The sketches were done under intense conditions: "In the evening, among his friends, to the repeated sound of the cannon at Mont-Valérian and the heights of Montretout, thundering incessantly against Paris; at the striking memory of those long processions of Communard prisoners brought back from Paris to the avenues of Versailles, at the sight of those wretches, their brutish faces contracted with hatred, rage and the suffering of a long march, under a burning sun he took pleasure … in making these sketches.

Dig Deeper
Book: The Dore Illustrations for Dante's Divine Comedy
Flickr set with more of these Gustave Doré caricatures
Images: from Versailles et Paris en 1871, which also includes magistrates and members of the National Assembly
Previously on GurneyJourney: The other side of Gustave Doré
Wikipedia on Communards and Doré
Thanks, John Holbo and Mme. Bruyére

Friday, November 17, 2017

Robot jumps and does backflips


The robot "Atlas" by Boston Dynamics has moved beyond walking to jumping and doing backflips. Atlas is 5'9" and weighs about 330 lbs. (Link to video on YouTube)

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Planning a Picture with a Large Group of Figures


Karen Robinson says: "I had just been looking at work by Wilhelm Gause. I was looking at the Vienna Ball one - and puzzling over how you would even begin to render a piece with multiple figures. Do you make a really detailed drawing, pick the focal person and kind of fan out from there? What if there isn’t really a focal person, the point being that there are LOADS of people..."

Wilhelm Gause, Hofball in Wien 
Karen, when you want to show a whole lot of figures in a scene, I think it's important to work out the design in black and white preliminary sketches first.

Wilhelm Gause (German, 1853–1916)
Hofball , 1897, grisaille on paper laid on cardboard
Size:69 x 46 cm. (27.2 x 18.1 in.
In the case of Gause's Vienna Ball scene, there appear to be a related work done on tone paper. I'm not sure whether it's a preliminary sketch, or how he proceeded, but I would guess that he sketched the figures loosely at first and then worked them out individually based on models in costume.


One of my favorite Viennese multi-figure scenes is this early one done by the Gustav Klimt and his brother, before Gustave went into the more abstract work.

"Friday at the French Artists' Salon" by Jules-Alexandre Grün (b.1868)
Thanks, Damian
Some of the best painters of crowd scenes conceive of the figures as part of larger tonal masses. If you do that in the early planning stages of the picture you'll avoid the tendency for a broken up or spotty effect.

Alphonse Mucha, one of the Slav Epics
You can get that right by keeping the sketch a little out of focus, and then you can begin to differentiate the individuals. You can see this done well in the work of Alphonse Mucha, Rembrandt, Joaquin Sorolla, Tom Lovell, F.R, Gruger and others.

If you put those names in the search box of this blog you'll find posts about their compositions and design process, or this link will aggregate all posts about composition.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Dalí and Halsman capture a moment

"I have an idea for a photograph," Philippe Halsman said to Salvador Dalí. "In it, you, the easel, and the subject you are painting...in short everything—is in suspension."


Using invisible wires, Halsman suspended a chair, an easel, and a print of Dalí's painting Leda Atomica. Three assistants stood ready to toss their cats in the air. A fourth assistant held a big bucket of water.

Halsman counted to four. At "three" the assistants threw the water and the cats in the air, and at "four," Dalí jumped. Flash bulbs froze the action. Halsman quickly developed the film and announced that the composition was not perfect. 

They must try again.


They kept trying for 26 attempts, each time wiping the water off the floor, catching the cats, and drying them off with towels in the bathroom. 

But each time there was something wrong with the composition. This was 1948, long before the era of Photoshop. So, as Halman's daughter said, "Everything had to be done in one shot."


Five hours later, totally exhausted, Halsman declared they had a success, a photo he called Dalí Atomicus. The only thing added was the painting on the easel, which the artist painted on a small piece of paper that was pasted in.

The photo was published in Life and has made Time magazine's list of most influential photographs.



Recently, photographer Karl Taylor recreated the photo setup, sans cats (link to YouTube).

More
From the book: Halsman: Sight and Insight
Dalís Halsman's daughter recalling the photoshoot.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Mrs. Basher versus Social Media

Mrs. Basher is fed up with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, so she's going to let them all have it. (Link to video)



In the new end credit sequence, the three main characters in the Clementoons universe are Clement, Mrs. Basher, and mini-monster Sprocket. 

Each of them is represented by a set of a dozen or so different sculpts, and each sculpt has a specific range of movements.  


The style of action is inspired by video games. You might notice flashes of light with the zap rays (using mirrors), and little cloud puffs (using sculpted white blobs on wires) when Clement lands.

To get those little power-up gemstones moving, I turn beads on wires a fraction of a turn with each new exposure.


I puppeteer some of the poses with the camera set for a slow shutter speed to get motion blur in each frame of the fast action sequences. This gives the stop motion a different look and opens up a range of possibilities.


This kind of animation is fast to execute. You can animate about 10 seconds per hour, while in normal hand drawn or stop motion animation that much footage would take a week or two.
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