Look deeply into my maw!

There’s a late summer feeding frenzy in the garden at the moment, as this year’s crop of monarch caterpillars do their competitive best to turn into butterflies.   This is indeed a very hungry caterpillar, and if not quite as adorable a gourmand as the Eric Carle version certainly as ravening.

monarch caterpillar eating

Also, if you’ve ever wondered how a caterpillar manages to cling on while dangling upside down on a windy day  . . . here’s a closeup of the hairy hooks on the bottom of their prolegs (the ones at the back), which I did not know until I just now looked it up are called “crochets”.

sticky feet caterpillar

Monsters, lovely monsters

It’s been much too long since I made any masks.

And I’ve never made a classic latex mask using a plaster mould.  My masks have all been one-off creations in instamorph, baring some very early efforts with papier mâché.  I’ve always thought I should know how to work in the basic method that so many other mask-makers use.

Soo, this week, I’m taking advantage of a short course at a nearby university, run by a properly famous creature creator, Jordu Schell.  Today was Day Three, when we all finished our sculptures, covered them in casting plaster, and then cleaned our moulds of clay.

It was a pleasant novelty to take a sculpt to a really finished texture, fully creating a character in clay.  This is not my usual mask-making process, when detail is added directly on the mask’s plastic surface.   The clay we used, WED clay is also new to me.  It’s not made to be fired, and is smooth and firm and very slow drying.  I even made some new tools last night to help me create the scales on my glum reptile’s skin, inspired by a cunning tiny loop that another student made with old guitar string and a chopstick.  Mine used ukulele string, clay wire, and Instamorph handles.

I should have done more research on reptile skin techniques before beginning to hand-draw scales, as I was slightly cross eyed by the end. But I’m pretty happy with where I got to.

Tomorrow when the moulds are dry it will be time to pour the latex, while Friday will be the  fun of finishing and painting.  I am taking  many notes, which I hope will still make sense when I eventually try to follow them.

cof

Glump, ready to get plastered

 

tools_feb2017

Tiny tiny tools

 

Admirable admiral

Spike here was about 15mm long, and sitting in the middle of a plank on the deck.  I couldn’t get the camera low enough for a great angle, and hey, I wasn’t going to touch it.  A cautious attempt to encourage it on to a leaf with another leaf just resulted in a small bidibid shaped ball of caterpillar rolling around on the deck.   So, sorry, this is not the best photo composition ever, but it is a view of one of the most interestingly strange minibeasts currently in my garden, the yellow admiral caterpillar, with this one likely a little lost on a trek to find more nettles.  Photo with the 4:1 20mm lens.

spikey caterpillar

Afterhours at the zoo

My local zoo had their annual Neighbours’ Barbeque last night, so along with other humans from my zoo-including neighbourhood I enjoyed the zoo for a couple of hours after normal closing time.  And had a free sausage.  I also took my IR-modified camera, and a 55-200mm lens with a 590nm filter.  These are the ‘natural colours’ processed in ARC, with the red channel pulled back.
IR Meercat

IR Lioness

IR Giraffe

The tiny photo bomber

A photobomberpillar?

This morning I was trying to capture an image of the mouthparts on this tiny 3-4mm monarch caterpillar, using my ridiculous new 4.5:1 lens, to see if I could.   I’ve almost nearly figured out the flash settings needed, and this time almost almost had the minuscule in-focus zone right when some sort of bug started messing things up by moving around just in front of the lens.  Pulling back a bit, it turned out we were being photobombed by a much faster and tinier lava of some different species.  It seemed to just want to rear up in front of the front of the lens and wave about, firmly refusing to hold a pose long enough for a decent identifying photo.

Amusing, so long as the intruder doesn’t turn out to be the harbinger of some kind of swan plant mothy doom.  I hope at least some of the new crop of monarchs make it to the butterfly stage this summer.  Since I have this new lens and all.

Caterpillars

Hey, what is this blurry fast blob that keeps getting in the way?  Ah, that fellow.   

20mm, F11, 1/100, iso 400

Fluffy wolf charcoal technique revisted

I said I’d try some more with the recently learnt slow-wolf approach to using built-up layers of black and white charcoal as an approach to creating a more finished drawing.  So I have.   This one is  . . . okay.  I stopped before it was really done, as each time I set a layer with the fixative, it had started bringing up odd lines and marks from layers below.  The fixative was likely either too thick, not thick enough, or the wrong one. Or something about this particular paper.  One of those.

So, overall verdict: not super fond of the outcome and it’s not actually finished, but, meh, getting there, a bit, maybe. Rinse and repeat? I may try another time lapse once I work through all the kinks.  And as for glasses, they are clearly a challenge I need to set myself more often *.

Also on my list of arty challenges, a friend recently gave me a giant box of pastels which had belonged to her grandmother.  Hundreds of colours!  I don’t know if I’m ready to draw in colour, but I suspect the layer/fixed/layer approach might work well with pastels too.

dsc03949_2048

 

 

* Assume some wise words here about how the most learning comes from those tasks we loath and/or desperately avoid.