e36: The Crunch
The Detective (It_9) ~ Concept Exploration 13.11.20
Writing While Drawing
From Trees to Pastures:
With all said and done - I wasted no more time and got straight onto drawing! The idea for The Antlered Tree, was one I have been sitting on for a while ever since I visited the Virginia Water Garden on a trip back home to visit mum. Something about all those tree stumps just had me seeing deer in every crevice. I started this image by drawing a tree stump and trying to conceptualise how a deer might be folded up into it, in order to have its antlers sticking out.
I, of course, got consultation from my trusty roommate and colleague Calyx Allerton-Bullard, who kindly lent a hand on showing me how to draw cervid anatomy, and even sketched out an alternate perspective on the image (00:19 - 00:43 & later involvements at 00:51 - 01:07). I took their beautiful render of the bent shape, reoriented the perspective and adjusted it to the vision in my head.
The idea would be that the protagonist had been chopping down wood, and had unintentionally discovered a deer, somehow trapped inside the tree, as if swallowed alive as trees often do with discarded items left in their branches (and then freshly died before she had arrived on the scene). This concept had a few questions/flaws to it such as: how far into the wood would she chop until she noticed the deer? Would she really keep chopping until the wood was a stump before taking the picture? How huge is this tree she's chopping to hold a whole deer? If the tree loses stability and teeters over (as trees often do when being chopped by hand) would the resulting tearing of the remaining wood fibres then tear the cervid apart? If yes, could I even hope to achieve such a high level of gore and texture at my current skill level?
I began to contemplate various solutions as I drew, such as having a very tiny tree with just a deer head in it, or having her stumble upon a tree already cut, until I stopped, looked at my deer, and realised (01:28) that the strongest thing about the concept was hardly the tree... but this crushed tortured looking animal inside it. I decided to follow my instincts, omit the tree completely and change the concept of the case to a (vertically) crushed deer, as if trapped between two invisible walls, laying out in a completely open, empty field. The uncanny sell was obviously the confusion as to what had actually caused it to die this way in such an open space with no near obstacles, and no sign of predator interference like, and the harrowing, fearful expression on its face.
It still needs some tweaking, but I'm already a lot more excited about this development than I was the previous one! It appears that allowing the project to progress organically rather than forcefully may be working already.
Pencil to Brushes:
Alongside working on the aforementioned crunch concept, I also started fiddling around with the other ideas that were both on my mind and in previous entries. Not much absolutely mind-boggling happened during the development of these early sketches, but I wanted to summarise some of my progress here, nonetheless.
I started strong on the sketch front with my minotaur dog, using an image of a Scottish Deerhound sitting in this exact position as reference, and free-handing the facial expressions loosely and poorly from memory on purpose to take advantage of natural flaws of recollection in the service of the uncanny. Originally a tip from Iain McCaig which I bastardised to my horror agenda, this worked beautifully, and gave me this unnatural tense expression to play with.
Upon further analysis, I realise the head is a bit too big for the breed - as they notably have slightly different proportions to regular dogs, due to just how massive they are physically in relation to their skulls. As of yet, I'm still on the fence as to whether I will adjust this or not, as I'm absolutely loving the emphasis on his face, and I like the idea of giving this bulbous swollen head (as if full of blood which rushed to his skull) as part of the gore and discomfort element.
A personal note: I need to look into wounds and bones to ensure I have the snap on that arm done correctly. Former NUA student, Mohammad Musbah Sablouh would be an excellent source of information on this due to his time spent studying forensic imaging for a previous qualification.
Stepping away from the Procreate Pencil, and much farther out of my comfort zone, is The Bait - a scene which I conceptualised to be the last in Deccker's series of mysterious images, following which, she would ambiguously disappear.
It is unclear to me why she took this image (if she did indeed take it), other than perhaps a drunken, mockery of her previous obsessive behaviour, but the overall gist of this scene is that it follows the events with the dog.
Grief-stricken from what she witnessed (whether the hound died or is simply critically injured, awaiting treatment at the vets is unknown) she completely loses her composure. Setting a 'trap' consisting of a large metal bucket filled with cervid blood, pelt and meat chunks, Deccker simply reclines in her chair and waits for whatever monster is in the forest to come and get her. The previous story beats of her pointing the gun at the camera while waiting in her seat can now be reconceptualised and adapted to this scene, as it would no longer fit in a situation where the dog is bleeding out and urgent care is needed (juxtaposing the hours she would've spent staring at it). I believe it actually works better to show her so dishevelled under her palm following the issue with the dog as opposed to during and is a better time to fully antagonise the player by pointing the gun at them.
I'm not sure if in the grand scheme this scene will ever become a fully rendered piece or if it might just be re-converted back into a simple story beat instead, but I saw an opportunity to practice my lighting and textures and leapt at it. I really enjoyed the result! I used special wood panelling and metal grate brushes for the very base layers of the floors, door and walls, and then used soft air brushes to layer on depth and detail overtop.
Unsurprisingly, it took a very long time as it was my first attempt, but I'm very glad I did it as I am now super optimistic and excited to render the other shots!
Considering my thoughts on the Crunch (both referring to the deer and to the rapidly approaching deadline), I think it would be wise to halt the majority of my efforts on my reflective journal entries and switch completely to a retrospective form of note-taking, to help me churn out more practical work. I have a few more drafts I want to quickly wrap out before going fully for it, but once done, I'll be rounding up this project with one mega entry per finalised digital painting, each containing the summary of all the last steps I conducted to pull it all together.
As sad as this is for me personally, given how much I've enjoyed noting my progress as I go, I think my future self and the examiners will thank me for economising on word count now before it becomes too late!
- R Cipolletta