Under the Microscope

Under the Microscope ©Hollie Woodward 2017

I have been drawing these creatures based upon cell elements recently and have started to draw them increasingly. They have become my go-to doodle. If I’m asked to draw, I draw these guys. I have also been interested in microscopes and looking at cells through them, and had the idea of combining these two concepts into one image.

Using the aesthetic of a microscope image with a black circular frame, I started to draw these creatures straight into Photoshop without any sketching beforehand on paper, as I wanted to see if these doodles would turn out the same using digital technology. I used my Wacom drawing tablet to do this, using a brush with pressure sensitivity to get some nice line variation. I drew a series of these creatures and then moved them around, changing sizes slightly and distorting some to fit well together. I wasn’t worried about the affects of distorting this illustrations as they don’t follow a pre-diagnosed aesthetic, therefore wouldn’t look weird or out of place.

For the colour scheme, I was inspired by the colours seen in microscope images, where dyes are often used or digitally manipulated after to highlight aspects of the image. I stuck with variations of red for the background, as it is blood, then went for complimentary colours of purple, yellow, orange and pink for the creatures. I am really happy with this colour palette. This is something I am not confident with and I am working on building this skill, using colours to enhance the piece in terms of meaning as well as aesthetic. I am naturally drawn to bold and vivid colours, which I feel has been an issue for me as I have never really worked with softer colours and am not sure how to use them effectively. But in this instance, particularly with this project and how my style is developing, I think bright and bold colour choices lend themselves well to the subject matter.

I feel that I am starting to improve on my sense of texture through line work and highlights and shadows in the creatures. I like how I have managed to create a gooey, kind of gross effect in the body of these creatures and a bumpy texture in the tentacles through simply adding various sized dots.

The background was created using the brushed I made from my experiments with alcohol markers and surgical spirit, softer and not outlined, contrasting the creatures. I also added a background behind then using a crosshatching brush, just to add a small amount of colour variation and texture in the background.

I did want to add more texture to the creatures in the form of more handmade brushes using textures created from the alcohol marker and surgical spirit experiment, but with all the highlight and shadow details in each creature, I felt it would’ve been way too busy and over worked.

Considering this piece started out as a doodle, it did start to become quite time consuming. I did get distracted by other work before finishing it, but I think this actually helped me see new things in it by taking a step back for a while. I know I won’t always be able to do this in my practice with deadlines approaching, but as I am still in the development phase of my research and still not quite settling on a definitive research question, it did pull up a few things that may help me find the right one.

The overall aesthetic of the image is quite fun, through bright colours, bold lines, comic shading and generally quite goofy characters. This scene doesn’t strike me as a reflection of pain and fatigue, from which the creatures derived. Maybe I am subconsciously turning this into something positive.

Looking at the individual characters is quite interesting too. There were no sketches done beforehand so only had a vague idea of how this would turn out. I didn’t know how each creature would turn out, but left a lot of room for playing around with different facial expressions, how the shape of the eyes affects the expression. I had a play around with adding scars as well. this was a spontaneous thing, but made them look more evil. that could be something to look into. What visually denotes the concept of evil in illustration, or in media in general?

Whilst rendering this piece, I started to think about how this would be presented if I were to have something like this as my final piece. I think it would be cool to present it as microscope slides if possible, to be seen under a microscope. This is a personal and isolated experience, not to be shared with others. Is his what I want with my work? I need to start thinking about whether this is something to be shared and discussed with others or experienced individually with the idea to generate an internal dialogue with oneself. I guess I will have a better understanding of presentation once I am completely clear of my research question and the direction this project is going in.

Under the Microscope outline ©Hollie Woodward 2017

Overall, I really enjoyed doing this. Digital illustration is where I feel most comfortable, but to go straight into digital isn’t normally part of my process, so was interesting to see how I reacted to that and how it affected the outcome. I want to do more of this, even if it’s not finalised pieces like this. I found the drawing process interesting; the pen and the surface feel different to ink and paper, which I think affected the line work. I plan to do more digital doodles, and start to bring in other cell elements.


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