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Old 06-19-2011, 10:08 PM
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OcelotEyes OcelotEyes is offline
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Painting a Mammoth - ideas, brainstorm, WIP thread

I think I'd like to start a new pet project - to work on inbetween my usual pen/watercolour work for QLD Wildlife Artists exhibitions. This of course would mean that some time will pass between sessions of working on it while I'm busy doing something else, and it may not be finished for a whiiiiiile. But that's what pet projects are for, right?

I'd like to paint a realistic scene with a woolly mammoth.

Probably digitally, in Photoshop, as that's the easiest setup for me for picking something up to work on it at random moments. I don't like oils, I was thinking about doing it in acrylics, but and a large canvas would require storage space etc.

I've been obsessed with mammoths long before I was obsessed with elephants - I grew up in Russia, and loved visits to museums of Natural History. I think humanity in general may have a racial memory of living alongside these amazing animals, which is why we're so fascinated with them. Of course I dream of the day science could clone a mammoth - and did you know there is already a Pleistocene Park in Siberia, a scientific experiment that would provide a re-born mammoth with the perfect habitat? How amazing is that thought?
It also helps that I just added "A Book of Mammoths" to my collection of inspirational art books, with gorgeous illustrations by Zdenek Burian, whose paleo-artwork I've admired since I was a child.

So! All I've got at this stage is a vague idea, some imagination, a reference image, and some bits of research. But dang it, I'm going to paint a mammoth.

The idea is a sort of art homage in honour of Burian's works, in a similar style. It's likely not going to be exhibited, as the artist group I belong to concerns itself with raising awareness for conservation of living animals (and rightly so!) So I can have a bit of fun with it.

I am thinking of using the pose of this elephant (a frame from a video taken by my father, so of course I have his permission to use it), modifying it to be a mammoth, and putting it in a more appropriate scene. I'd sort of like it to be a mammoth matriarch, protecting a herd or a baby mammoth (I've always wanted to paint a baby mammoth) so one might be in the scene somewhere just behind her.

What is she looking at? This elephant matriarch was looking at my parents photographing her - in their enthusiasm coming face to face with an elephant herd, they inadvertently stuck the camera too far out the car window - and she paused to face them and swung her trunk around for a good sniff. I don't think I want the object of the mammoth's attention in the picture, I want her to be looking directly at the viewer - protecting her herd and baby from us. It makes me sad that our distant ancestors hunted the mammoths and I want to see if I can capture that confronting feeling in a painting.


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Last edited by OcelotEyes : 06-19-2011 at 10:28 PM.
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Old 06-19-2011, 10:14 PM
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Re: Painting a Mammoth - ideas, brainstorm, WIP thread

The interesting part will be of course, the reconstruction - there are lots of famous paintings of mammoths, but I've never done one before. I want to make it look natural by using the pose of the elephant, but of course want to take the mammoth's unique physiology into account, from what we know of it anyway. Their heads were domed, their backs sloped more, their tusks were larger, etc.

I was just reading on Google Books, a preview of a book I'd like to get my hands on - "Mammoths, mastodonts, and elephants: biology, behavior, and the fossil record" By Gary Haynes. It mentions some ideas about the mammoths' threat displays - such as this one. Ears figure prominently in modern elephants' threat displays, making them look larger - exactly what this female is doing while she assesses my parents' threat level. Mammoths, of course, had much smaller ears, so they couldn't make themselves look more threatening using their ears... but I still like the alertness of her pose.

http://books.google.com.au/books?id=...arance&f=false

I would welcome all ideas and brainstorms and critiques and criticisms, and if you've ever painted a mammoth - I'd LOVE to pick your brain
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Last edited by OcelotEyes : 06-19-2011 at 10:17 PM.
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Old 06-19-2011, 10:25 PM
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Re: Painting a Mammoth - ideas, brainstorm, WIP thread

Showed this thread to my Dad, who suggested I share the video he took of that moment when the elephant turned to look at him - the one I am using as reference.

"Watch the elephant reaction! My reaction was: "Should I back up, or just play dead??" "

Here it is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39c-LZe8AIQ
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Old 06-20-2011, 07:51 AM
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Re: Painting a Mammoth - ideas, brainstorm, WIP thread

Dont look elephants too much. Mammoths had totally unique look.

Here is some reference from fellow artist
http://www.vantaa.fi/binary.asp?guid...2F&field=image

http://cc.oulu.fi/~zoolmus/Mammutti.jpg

http://mammoth.psu.edu/societyPics/society4.jpg
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Old 06-20-2011, 08:15 AM
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Re: Painting a Mammoth - ideas, brainstorm, WIP thread

Thank you - those paintings are amazing, never seen them before! I appreciate your thoughts.

I'm only planning to use the elephant matriarch's pose, as a guide - of course will study mammoth appearance. I have books with a lot of illustrations by Zdenek Burian, and photographs of museum skeletons to guide me as well. I'm in Australia, so I can't go and visit my favourite museums with mammoth skeletons The only continent with no mammoths.. heh.

Some museums put their mammoth skeletons' backs in a very straight line, though - I wonder why? Did they arrange their skeletons this way before the sloping back appearance was discovered?
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Last edited by OcelotEyes : 06-20-2011 at 08:18 AM.
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Old 06-20-2011, 08:30 AM
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Re: Painting a Mammoth - ideas, brainstorm, WIP thread

Sounds like a very interesting project!

I think you're starting off the right way - by doing a lot of research first. I think that's the only way to create a believable image. I might also suggest that you take a peek at James Gurney's book, Imaginative Realism (if you haven't already). He writes about ways to paint what doesn't exist (for folks unfamiliar with Gurney's work, he's the creator of the Dinotopia series of books).

If it were me I'm be doing exactly what you're doing - tons of research, both in books/periodicals and at museums. Might not hurt to view/sketch some skeletons if you can find any near you.

Good luck and please be sure to keep us posted on the project

Nancy
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Old 06-20-2011, 08:57 AM
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Re: Painting a Mammoth - ideas, brainstorm, WIP thread

I did actually happen upon James Gurney's blog the other day - and saw how he painted his mammoths for one of his projects! He actually sculpted mammoths out of sculpey clay first, posed them together to get the lighting and shapes right, before painting them. GREAT idea. And he is amazing. I've been seriously considering getting his "Colour and Light - guide for the realist painter" book. Will look up "Imaginative Realism" - thank you.

http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/20...th-part-2.html

Yep I'm definitely doing a ton of research first and will be posting sketches here before I start doing any painting. (Plus since it'll be digital, if I mess up, it won't be too hard to change!) Hence it'll take a while, but as a personal challenge it will be worth it

Unfortunately can't find any skeletons - heh, I grew up in places with tons of mammoth finds, Russia and Canada, but ended up on a continent with no mammoths at all. The local Natural History museum has a skeleton of a giant wombat - but that's not too helpful So, books and photographs it is.
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Last edited by OcelotEyes : 06-20-2011 at 09:07 AM.
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Old 07-07-2011, 07:05 AM
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Re: Painting a Mammoth - ideas, brainstorm, WIP thread

Here's a very rough beginning in Photoshop... no background yet, just trying to work out the pose and anatomy.



I looked up several mammoth skeleton photos from museums, which had the right perspective for the skull, and started by sketching over the skull where the face would be. (and looking at elephants and other reconstructions) It's REALLY interesting actually, to see the difference in the length of the skull and face between the elephant and the mammoth.

Then found another lucky reference photo from a similar perspective of a mammoth skeleton from the side view, and matched it up to the elephant's pose, to get the sloping back. Not sure if it's TOO sloping though. Ahhh what I wouldn't give for access to a museum with a mammoth skeleton!!

I found a wonderful thread on some Russian paleontology forums, and they have some great reference images of the Pleistocene Park landscape in Siberia, and some other pleistocene-like scenes.. I may try to piece together a landscape from that.

Next up, I want to sketch in the baby mammoth next to the adult. Then I'll try to figure out the landscape and herd in the background.
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Old 07-07-2011, 08:33 AM
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Re: Painting a Mammoth - ideas, brainstorm, WIP thread

Looking great so far! How long do you expect to be working on this project? If I get a chance to visit Boston soon, I'll be happy to get you some reference photos from the Harvard Natural History museum or the Science Museum. Unfortunately I don't live close so getting there can be iffy

Perhaps if any other WC users live in NYC, one of them could head to the American Museum of Natural History and do the same thing...? Or perhaps if someone lives near Chicago, they could visit the Field Museum and get some photos...?

Fun project - I'll be following your progress!

Nancy
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Old 07-07-2011, 12:02 PM
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Re: Painting a Mammoth - ideas, brainstorm, WIP thread

Looking good! In my eyes head is bit too high compared to shoulders.
There is shape variantion in tusks by age and sex. Try to find good reference for right lenght and curvynes.
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Old 07-07-2011, 05:41 PM
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Re: Painting a Mammoth - ideas, brainstorm, WIP thread

midcoast:
Oooh - thank you, if you get the chance to visit the museum that would be amazing!! I'd really appreciate some reference photos from a few different angles, also info about what species of mammoth they have and what gender if possible. I can trade you refs of a giant wombat skeleton?
So many reference images online are just labelled "mammoth skeleton"... I'm a biologist's daughter, I like to have a latin name on everything, haha!

orniodesigns:
Thank you - that's a really important critique for me. I actually thought that might be the case, and had the head on a different layer than the body just in case I needed to move it around! It's good to make adjustments while it's all still in the rough stage.

And yep, I know, it's the same with elephants - also head shape and size variation. Males have larger, smoother heads, etc. However it's difficult to find information online - people just snap pictures of mammoth skeletons without labelling the gender or species. That's if the museum labels their display, too.
I got the skull reference from a photo in the Odessa Museum of Paleontology (which doesn't list the species on its website) but it SHOULD be a woolly mammoth based on the location, which is what I want. I'll try to find some more scientific sources to get an idea about the tusk variation with female vs male mammoths.

I live in the only mammoth-less continent in the world, so I'm stuck with books and online references - so I really appreciate the help of others with this project!
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Last edited by OcelotEyes : 07-07-2011 at 06:19 PM.
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Old 07-08-2011, 01:15 AM
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Re: Painting a Mammoth - ideas, brainstorm, WIP thread

Remenber too that many skeletons mitght be wrongly assembled...
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Old 07-08-2011, 03:51 AM
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Re: Painting a Mammoth - ideas, brainstorm, WIP thread

Have you tried London's Natural History Museum? They have several mounted skeletons of extint pachyderms including mammoth: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/

And I believe Oxford's Ashmolean has a mmammoth too: http://www.ashmolean.org/collections/

It's funny I've been dreaming about making a life sized mammoth sculpture. I've got a friend who makes wonderful animal sculptures out of scrap metal - if I win the lottery tonight (£166000000/$265,120,238) I'm going to commission her to make one or two for my estate. I thought that stainless steal tusks would be nice. If I win I'll be able to afford an entire herd of them. She's called Harriet Mead: http://www.thelandgallery.com/artist...ts/mead_h.html


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Old 07-08-2011, 10:30 PM
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Re: Painting a Mammoth - ideas, brainstorm, WIP thread

Worked on it a little bit more - still no background yet, but we have a baby mammoth!



The pose is from one of my photos of an African baby elephant, but the physiology is adapted to hopefully be a bit closer to Asian ele, which mammoths are more closely related to. Now that I look at it, I think the ears need to be a bit smaller.

I haven't done anything to the mother yet aside from lowering her head a bit, following advice, which I think looks better.. let me know please if anything else looks out of whack at this stage?

Her tusks will also be getting smaller, but I haven't worked on them yet. I may email a museum or two and ask the specialists for advice. They help students with homework research - why not wildlife artists trying to paint extinct animals for the first time?

Any and ALL critique is heartily welcomed! If something looks off, please please tell me, it will help me improve the painting.

Closeup on baby mammoth (you can still see bits of elephant underneath, in the trunk area, which were painted over - it's my own photo so I can do that, lol).
The reference books say that baby mammoths had tiny tusks from early in life, but I'm not sure if these are too big (or if the baby is too small for the age that he appears to be?) Baby elephants ARE quite small compared to the adults until at least a year of age, so...

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Old 07-09-2011, 05:01 AM
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Re: Painting a Mammoth - ideas, brainstorm, WIP thread

Okay, so much for side project, it's my main project, at least for the moment! I can't get these mammoths out of my head.

Mama-Mammoth is getting a face:




I am also in the process of fixing the baby mammoth a bit - shrinking the ears, and I also read my mammoth books some more and realised that the baby wouldn't have his skull dome quite so pronounced at a young age (the known baby mammoths had smoother heads).
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