Inspiration from Viktor Deak

August 20, 2009

Anyone who’s as excited about the union between science and art as I am should certainly browse and appreciate the work of NY-based paleoartist, Viktor Deak.

Viktor Deak's Lucy

Viktor Deak's Lucy

I discovered his work after reading this blogpost, and was thoroughly impressed not only by his work, but also by the attention and publicity it has received. Now an internationally renowned paleoartist, Deak’s long list of collaborators includes many big names, institutions and companies.

For more info / content, click the following links:

interview w/ NY Times

Viktor Deak’s Portfolio

panorama of Deak’s studio

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A Canadian Hero Revived: Sir Isaac Brock

July 25, 2009

Earlier this year, A private client contacted me expressing interest in commissioning some fresh portraiture of the famous Canadian Major-General, Sir Isaac Brock (6 October 1769 – 13 October 1812).

Brock was the leader of the Upper Canada (Ontario) leg of the Canadian Army militia during the breakout of the War of 1812, responsible for mobilizing Canadian troops and defending Upper Canada against the United States, most memorably at Fort Mackinac and Detroit, as well as the Battle of Queenston Hieghts, where he was ultimately shot in the chest and killed.

After communicating and establishing a proposal & details, I am now proud to say that I am working on contributing to Canadian history by recreating visions of Sir Isaac Brock, based on the only two accurate likenesses of him known to exist. Although other artists have made other portraits of him, many of them are actually elaborations based upon the most common image of him: this painting of his bust in profile by an undetermined artist.Isaac Brock SR

Variations of this original image include the following pieces:

Isaac-brock-gr Picture 7Although each of these variations are obviously skillfully executed elaborations upon an original work, neither of them venture very far into detail about the likeness of the man himself outside of his profile. This is where I come in.

Working from minimal reference, my task, as an illustrator, is to recreate Brock’s likeness in a three-quarter-view perspective, in order to view his face as he might have actually looked in life.

To accomplish this task, I have utilized various methods to help me visualize Brock’s face. Based on my research, the adult painting of him was done circa 1809, making him around 40 — three years prior to his death at 43 — making it my primary infleunce to draw upon. I have experience working with cadavers and muscle anatomy (including dissection), as well as 3D studies and character concept art; As a result of this experience, when working with organic subject matter I have been conditioned to constantly consider tissue structures and placement, as well as  how these parts move and interact within their areas of movement and influence. The self-portrait below is a visual example of this experience.
mattdanko_thumb6

My first effort to visualize Brock involved drawing horizontal parallels from the original work, and translating them carefully into simplified linework and facial landmarks, as shown below…

Picture 2

… From here, I worked on a head-on facial reconstruction (not posted here), and eventually produced this preliminary 3/4-view portrait sketch…

IMG_3582

Personally, I feel there is something a little off about the eyes (for now), and the uniform is partially inaccurate, but these and other improvements are to be remedied before the completion of the final image. For now, my working sample of the current sketch is featured below.

IMG_3585

Although I cannot post any images of the progress of the project beyond this point upon this blog (for copyright reasons), I have found this piece to be both interesting and challenging in its own respect, and look forward not only to completing it, but to also have it utilized as a commissioned illustration.


Halley’s comet is going to hit Iowa… in about 3 or 4 million years.

July 7, 2006

I am currently rereading (as well as occasionally listening via audiobook) to Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Nearly Everything.” primarily a science and history based book, this work is a phenomenal piece of literature, not only for its factual and interesting content, but for its ability to clearly convey and illustrate intimidating concepts (that would otherwise be lost on many readers) through modernized examples and comparisons. Although I have only listened to half of the book, I have already learned more in just over two hours than I have during the entire summer. Already the book has covered topics ranging from physics to quantum physics to astrophysics, biology and chemistry, geology and geography, entomology, cartography, archeology, astronomy, mathematics, philosophy, radiology and palaeontology (just to name a few that readily come to memory). It is full of astounding facts and information about many interesting and incredible scientific fields, and deals with the discoveries, failures, legacies and conflicts of such famous figures as Pythagoras, Newton,read Cavendish, Marie Curie, Einstein, Bertrand Russel and Stephen Hawking.

Interesting fact derived from the text:

Were another planet capable of supporting sentient alien life, similar to our own existence, it would have to be based on a planet postulated to be at least 200 light years away. This means that, assuming this alien race were (right this minute) able to view our species upon this planet, they would actually be watching what we refer to as the 17th or 18th century, because of the spatial lag in light travel between locations. It would take centuries of viewing for them to reach what we would presume to call the ‘present.’

This phenomenon also means that in turn, were we to discover the same thing on a planet far, far away, that the effect would, of course, be the same for our viewing. This applies not only to planets, but to stars… which entails that any given star visible at night from anywhere on earth could, in fact, be long dead. The last rays of light emanating from its hypothetical death toward your eyes would still take an astounding journey through time and space to reach you, depending on its distance from your position. The North Star, for example, is about 680 light years away, according to Bryson’s research. Thus, if it were to burn out today, it’s death would go unnoticed until around the year 2700.

Interestingly enough, that also means that the North Star could have burned out sometime in the 14th century, and we just haven’t realized it yet.

Nuggets of grand information and knowledge such as this are contained within this piece of literature. It is a thinking book, and gets you wondering about tangents that lead you past imagination and wonder, and into the fantastically endless and insane realm of science.

Obviously, I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys both the scientific mystery and the tragedy of history… as well as an inspiring read.