Assignment 2, Part 2: The Flight of Archaeopteryx

Materials

From my preliminary sketches and explorations (presented in part 1) I decided to use conte crayons and coloured pencil for the fine fossil bone structure, graphite and tinted charcoal for the feathers, graphite and conte crayon for the stonework. I had to compromise on the paper I wanted and ended up with a sheet of grey/green pastel paper, 75cm x 55 cm (in-between A2 and A1). I discounted using frottage to create stonework effects due to the machine-lines of the paper being too evident with this method. Instead I used a large block of graphite on its side to make gestural marks that I then accented with conté crayon.

Method

Flight of Archeopteryx 1
Flight of Archeopteryx 1

First I lightly plotted reference points of the skeleton and the surrounding rock in white conté crayon on my paper then gradually built up an image of the skeleton using three shades of orange conté crayon and coloured pencil. The coloured pencil was particularly good at defining some of the edges of the fine bones, The fossil is of course an imprint in the rock so I tried to keep my marks light. I used a black conté crayon to create found edges, especially around the joints where the rock was indented. I used white conte crayon on its side to highlight the area around the skeleton.

Flight of Archeopteryx 2
Flight of Archeopteryx 2

Next I used a black conté crayon on its side (long edge) to put in some gestural marks of the area of stone that encompassed the fossilised reptile This boundary was very important as it also defined the area in which the wings would be situated. I also started to layer in some dark grey conté crayon into the highlighted areas to give them texture. I had to be careful with the layering of colour. I didn’t want to smudge the colours together and loose the grain as this would take away from the rock-effect I was after.

The next stage was to add the feathers to the wings. I used broad sweeps of a large graphite block to put them in, and overlaid this on the distal part with dark green tinted charcoal. I then drew on the feather barbs using the corner of the graphite block in quick strokes. I wanted these barbs to be free-flowing rather than  joined together as you find on a modern day flying bird.  Finally I laid white conté crayon over the top to highlight areas of the feather shaft and the barbs. To off-set these highlights I added some shadows using a charcoal pencil to parts of each feather that were overlapped by its neighbour.

Flight of Archaeopteryx 3
Flight of Archaeopteryx 3

To the rest of the image I added an impression of tail feathers using the side of a white conté crayon then darkened the rock background using graphite and tinted graphite blocks. To make it appear that the wings were peeling the top half of the fossil off the rock face I added shadows under the wings, pectoral girdle and head in black conté crayon and charcoal pencil.

I left the drawing at this stage for a few days. Over that time I became aware that the shadow of the wings was overpowering the top half of the drawing, this area needed to be balanced with darker tones in the bottom third of the paper. I did this by developing the rock texture around the tail and legs using black conté crayon. I also worked some grey and orange tones into the impression of tail feathers to reduce the whiteness of this area. I finally tweaked the wing shadows, making them a little longer, and extending the shadow down the spine a little further. I also redefined the feather tips as I had ended up with one on the right hand side a little too long. These are supposed to be rudimentary feathers and rudimentary wings so I didn’t want neat, aerodynamic edges, but two wings of similar shape is to be expected.

The Final Result

The Flight of Archaeopteryx, mixed media
The Flight of Archaeopteryx, mixed media
Assignment 2, Part 2: The Flight of Archaeopteryx

2 thoughts on “Assignment 2, Part 2: The Flight of Archaeopteryx

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