This was posted as part of an ongoing thread on The Fossil Forum. I am putting it here for those who are not members of the Forum.
I thought I'd show the steps in how I go about drawing trilobites. I usually begin by sketching one of my bugs from different angles, and experimenting with lighting. Once I hit upon the angle and lighting I like, I get to it.
Here is the simple setup at the dining room table: adjustable neck lamp, the subject, magnifier, an array of pencils, tunes, and water.
At this stage, I've already gone about four hours.
I spend a ratio of 4::1 in terms of putting my eyes on the subject and putting the pencil on the paper. Each area and segment must be treated as unique to ensure some relative degree of realism; to draw what one thinks is there is liable to produce a result that looks... not so real. At the same time, it is important to stop often to check against the entire drawing lest the myopic focus of a slight deviation result in some wide variance later. Using the magnifier, I can check in on the finest details of each crack and bit of microsculpture.
I lay down very faint guidelines once I have the proper scale down. In this instance, the trilobite is not very big, but I want it to fill the page. The pencils are all sharpened at different lengths, which only vary so minutely (and why I use so many at a time). I lay down the more detailed work as I go, working top to bottom so my hand doesn't smudge it.
I use erasers very sparingly, so I need to get it right the first time. No matter how careful I am to remove eraser rubbings, it can make fainter penciling too dark if the pencil tip is going over microscopic grit.
Once the rougher detailing is done, I spend an hour fine tuning and checking against the subject. Another hour or so is spent blending. I don't like the smudging technique to burnish as it is much harder to control, and the result looks a bit, well, smudged. Instead, I use a harder graphite (H to 7H) to try my best to remove or mask more obvious pencil strokes, while also working in the fainter areas and incident lighting. I then use a softer graphite (3B-5B) to darken the shadows a bit, and blend it in with a basic HB.
In this drawing, I've put in all the cracks, mottled areas, and imperfections. This one was in the process of a moult, and so you can make out the little gap from the cranidium and the cheeks, as well as the slight separation between the two last pleurae on the bottom right.
After carefully removing any remaining guide lines with an eraser tip, at 8.5 hours it is complete.
Been a while since I updated the blog, but winter is a slower time on the fossil front. Compared to last winter, even purchases are down as I either have most of the stuff on offer, it's too expensive, or it's not in pristine condition. But I do have a trilobite coming in a few weeks, and one other I received not long ago. This post will be a potpourri of odds and ends. Lots of stuff coming up...
Pictured here is a wee Acastoides sp. from Morocco. It was cheap and very nicely articulated, so I added it to the trilobite family. I've also had a bit more cash in the PayPal account due to selling some surplus trilobites.
I also managed to spend an afternoon adding to my trilobite sketchbook with these two Russian beauties.
It's a rock! No, not just a rock, but a Russian rock, and a Russian rock containing an asaphid I am currently preparing. Due to the nature of the matrix, and my current tools, this is a 100-200 hour job. I'll create a separate post when it's done.
Hobbling my preparation efforts has been a clogged air hose, likely in the built-in moisture trap for my Paasche AECR. One might think a basic air hose with a 1/4" - 1/16" would be a cinch to replace, but three hours of hardware store visits and plenty of time searching the web says otherwise. I finally got my part and am ready to get to the next critical phase in the prep, which involves swapping between scribing and abrading due to the stickiness of the matrix.
And that wasn't the whole of my prep equipment frustrations, either. I had just been talking with my friend Kevin, saying that I've gone over a year without needing a filter on my lines. Well, no sooner than I said that, the scribe starts acting more like a garden hose. So a trip to Princess Auto to fix that, and to locate a replacement hose (see above). I was also having serious air leak issues, and teflon tape for my big clumsy fingers usually results in my exhausting all the blue words I know, so I've gone for thread sealant instead. The filter/desiccant has already made for a much drier scribing experience. Nothing can be more frustrating than doing precision work under the scope while maintaining critical control of the tool than when it sprays water all over the fossil, turning scribing dust into cakey, opaque mud. And also pictured is a resupply of those handy nitrile gloves.
So when is the first dig of 2019? I'm hoping this weekend, weather and opportunity pending. I've got some other trips planned, too. It will be fantastic to get this season rolling and spend time with my favourite field comrades again as we swing hammers as spring clamours!
What else can one do that is fossil-related when collecting is not possible and the prep queue is virtually empty? More drawing, of course. Here are the results of a lazy Sunday afternoon (+ Tuesday):
All of these were done using just a standard HB pencil. I wanted to focus on the more "dynamic" trilobite poses as opposed to the straight-on-from-the-top sketch. By drawing these bugs from my collection at different angles and poses, it means relying on more looking at the subject than relying on assumed symmetry. In other words, drawing what one sees, and not what one thinks is there, which is pretty much the standard first lesson of any life drawing class.
Until winter clears, I can foresee doodling up a few more of my bugs. I can't say I mind the practice, and the results generally satisfy me. It isn't preparation, but almost as painstaking.
Snow-free until January 10, and then it clobbered us. More time spent indoors and thinking that it will take a while for this snow accumulation to melt and get the collecting season back into gear. So that leaves prep and postal formation.
This is a return engagement with a bug I started a few months ago. It is a giant for the location (Penn Dixie) that measures over 45 mm from genal to folded over genal. What is not shown in this image is the folded over/under side that took a ridiculous number of hours. I also took the time to level and smooth the matrix -- something I am learning to get better at, and which also takes a lot of time and patience.
A very lovely full prone Scabriscutellum furciferum from Morocco.
The seller was also kind to add an unexpected brachiopod surprise to perk the package.
My 100th trilobite species! Asaphellus fezouataensis from a really nice seller who also threw in a little enrolled phacopid.
Still trying to relearn my old drawing skills that have been neglected for nearly 20 years, a pencil rendering of an Isotelus.
A Greenops widderensis...
And an Eldredgeops rana with all the crush/distortion flaws.
So, for now, that's about it. I'm somewhat running out of trilobites to prep, and only expecting one or two bugs in the mail. I really hope winter won't be too long!
I just came off a fairly disappointing dig in the field where the group of us pretty much got skunked. It would appear our grand bench we created and extended so well this season has been tapped out. It was tough work, and several visits, but I think we extracted some real gems there this year, so I'm not too sad. But between that, my own nearby honey hole tapped out as well, and a quarry that is now shuttered to collectors, the trend moves steadily toward collecting sites going the way of the extinct arthropods I collect. That doesn't leave many local options, and so more trips to the US become an inconvenient necessity.
But apart from the doom and gloom of all that, a few items of note on the home front.
I haven't really taken pencil to paper in about 20 years, so sketching feels as natural to my hand as trying to sew a button with my toes. This was a 15 minute sketch of Asaphus punctatus using a 9B pencil. I can see where I goofed, but to be fair I am out of practice. Perhaps this is something I should take up again? I gave it up long ago with the advent of art-making software that seems to have rendered obsolete the old hand/pencil/paper triad.
What is this strange box sitting on top of my prep bench? That is a much-needed blast box so that I'm not filling the air (and our lungs!) with dolomite powder when using my air abrader. I needed a blast chamber with a flat top, not on an angle, but stores like Canadian Tire and Princess Auto only sold the latter type. I got in touch with my collecting comrade Malcolm who custom made this box using his ingenuity and an affordable array of parts. Using a double-sided press-board, getting the cuts just right, using weather-stripper and latches on the side to secure the top, adding picture glass (you never use plastic as it will scratch and fog), and sealing in an attachment for a shop vac to create negative pressure, this box is ready for some serious work. I'm going to need a sectional on the right for some of my other tools etc., but I've already connected my air tools that are now sitting ready in the box.
About 7 bucks in parts here. This is definitely something that makes preparation that much more convenient. I purchased a manifold blue block and two double-ended male 1/4" attachments so that I can run both my scribe and eraser from the same line without having to swap them out all the time. Now the only thing I have to do is remember to adjust the pressure when switching between the two (I run the scribe at around 100-110 PSI, and the air eraser at 10-50 PSI).
I'm almost there! The last big thing I need is a much bigger capacity air compressor. Other things like a Chicago Pneumatic 9361 for bulk matrix removal would be nice, but I can probably get by without one for the time being. I still need to do a serious reorganization of the prep area to optimize on the small space.
So with site locations drying up, not quite sure when my next dig will be. Still, there will likely be fossil-related activities in the offing, so stay tuned and thanks for stopping by.
I'll end with a nod to Don McLean:
Bye bye, Devonian pie,
Drove my chisel in the Widder, but the Widder was dry.
Us good ol' boys who hunt Arkona now cry
saying 'this'll be the shale that won't supply.'