Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Paris Sketches - Os (Part 2)

So, here is my overdue update on my sketches from the Comparative Anatomy gallery at the NMNH!  I've been there two more times on the day it's closed to the public, and I'm going again next Tuesday.  Is it weird that this has become one of my favorite things to do in Paris?  I don't think so.
bird skull - 10min
young kangaroo skull - 20min
male orangutan skull - 13min
boto dolphin skull - 10min
(top) narwhal fin - 5min, (bottom) beluga whale fin - 4min
I have no idea what this is - 25min
buffalo skull - 7min

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Paris Sketches - Scorpions (Part2), Églises et Sculptures

After two more visits with the illustrators and some Photoshop adjustments at home, I now have a full scorpion drawing!  Well, it would be full if had drawn the rest of its legs... but just imagine they're there for now.
Cephalothorax of scorpion in Pen and Ink
Tail of scorpion in Pen and Ink
Full scorpion put together and edited in Photoshop

For my next visit, I get to bring in whatever I want to draw.  Since it's been rainy/freezing/disgusting for the past month here, I have managed to find one fully intact leaf and a misshapen feather outside... so we'll see how that works out.

Aside from the scorpion, here are other random sketches I've been working on:
copy of a scorpion painting (yes, another scorpion drawing)
"Psyche Being Revived by Cupid's Kiss" by Canova, at Musee du Louvre
(left)"Les premieres funerailles" by Louis Ernst Barrias, at the Petit Palais --- (right) Interior of Cathedrale Alexandre Nevsky de Paris

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Paris Sketches - Os

The Gallery of Paleontology and Comparative Anatomy here at the National Museum of Natural History is one of my favorite places I've seen in Paris, and something I highly recommend seeing to anyone who goes to Paris.  It contains an incredible collection of skeletons, fossils and replicas of extant and extinct animals, and holds nearly one thousand skeletons on the first floor alone (there are three floors...).  Being a lover of science and drawing, this gallery was a dream come true for me.  But with bones filling the rooms from floor to ceiling, and people walking around very narrow walk-ways, it is pretty impossible to sit down and draw anything on a day when it's open to the public.  Therefore, for my first visit I just decided to take a bunch of pictures and draw them at home.

{reference pictures}

I was content with just being able to see this amazing collection for free, but with unbelievable luck I actually got the opportunity to draw in there on the day it is closed to the public!  WITH actual scientific illustrators from the museum!!  The gallery is closed to the public every Tuesday, so employees at the museum often take that as their opportunity to draw for fun without having a dozen people blocking their view.  As I mentioned earlier, I've been meeting with some illustrators from the Paleontology department, and they invited me to join them every week if I want!  This past Tuesday was my first time, and it was as amazing as I thought it would be.  Some people were shooting a movie on the first floor, so for this visit we just roamed the Paleontology for an hour.  Here are my sketches!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Paris Sketches - Scorpions

After emailing and bothering everyone at the National Museum of Natural History for weeks, I finally got the chance to meet some scientific illustrators!  Last Monday I met with an illustrator from the Paleontology Department at his studio, where he generously showed me some of his published work, his colleague's amazing fish illustrations, some of their equipment, and nearly every book ever written about scientific illustration.  After that whirlwind visit, he invited me back to actually use one of their drawing scopes called a camera lucida, which is a common tool for scientific illustrators that superimposes an image of the object you're drawing directly onto your paper.  This allows for precise illustrations of the specimen, and for my first time using it I got to draw a somewhat frightening specimen - a SCORPION.  It was Halloween, so I guess it was fitting.  Drawing with this scope took a little while to get use to (I had to keep one eye closed for the most part), but in the end it was kind of relaxing tracing every little detail.  Well, as relaxing as looking at a magnified scorpion could be.

For my first try, they suggested I draw the head and thoracic region of the scorpion.  The scope had a pretty limited view of the object, so first I had to draw it in sections.

After I had all the pieces sketched, I put it all together by using a light table and drawing on tracing paper over my original sketches with pen and ink.  Here is my final product after four hours of work!

After I finished this, they let me draw under the scope a little longer, so I sketched the ominous tail:

Since everyone at the museum has been so busy, I thought this meeting was going to be a one time thing, but after my visit they told me I can come by their studio once or twice a week to practice using the drawing scope!  And as if that wasn't awesome enough, they also invited me to come draw with them in the Comparative Anatomy/Paleontology Gallery in the museum when it is closed to the public!  Which means, I get to draw all the bones I want without one million people in there.  How did this become my life?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Musée du Louvre (Egyptian Antiquities)

In my eternal quest to conquer the Louvre, our third visit was dedicated to the Department of Egyptian Antiquitites.  The Louvre contains the world's second largest collection of Egyptian artifacts - first being the Cairo Museum - with over 50,000 pieces dating from the late prehistoric era (4,000 BC) to the Byzantine period (4th century AD).  Writing a thesis on the history of Egypt is probably the only way to truly appreciate this mass of artwork, but simply being surrounded by these ancient objects is an experience on its own.  And unfortunately, no amount of pictures can capture the full scope of this collection, so you'll just have to see it in person.  But until then, here is small glimpse into the unique history of Egyptian civilization.

The Book of the Dead!! (parts of it)

Speaking of the Book of the Dead, I put my limited Egyptian mythology knowledge to use and tried to find depictions of Osiris as we walked around.  Osiris was considered to be both the King of the Dead, and King of the Living, since the Egyptians believed true life was in the afterlife.  He was typically shown having green skin, being wrapped like a mummy, and wearing a hat with two ostrich feathers on each side.

From the little education I had on Egyptian art history, I went into the Louvre with a few objects picked out that I really wanted to see.

First, The Seated Scribe.  I mainly love this statue because it is an individualistic piece, which was very uncommon for Egyptian art.  His body is not idealized, his face is human-like and recognizable, and he is shown doing the work that defined him in society.  But ironically, with so many distinguishing qualities, nobody actually knows who this man was, or even the time period in which he lived.

Next, the Apis Bull.  This bull was a sacred animal in Egyptian society and thought to be the earthly manifestation of the god Ptah.  This statue was once covered in black and white paint, of which only a few marks can be seen left behind.  The Apis Bull also became one of several Egyptians gods adopted by the Greeks under the rule of Alexander the Great.

And finally, Amenophis IV, also known as Akhenaten.  Akhenaten was the first Pharaoh to drastically change Egyptian ideology and iconography, and considered by some historians to be "the first individual in history."  While Pharaohs in the past were depicted as powerful, masculine, athletic figures with stylized facial features, Akhenaten demanded a more naturalistic and rather unflattering canon for royal artwork.  This artistic movement known as the Amarna period is distinguished by alien-like faces, slouching posture, and round, misshapen bodies.  He is also the father of basically the most famous Pharaoh ever - Tutankhamen.

Now I just need to see these other pieces from the Amarna period and I'll be all set:
Akhenaten and His Family, 18th Dynasty, at the Neues Museum, Berlin - image via
Bust of Nefertiti, 18th Dynasty, at the Neues Museum, Berlin - image via