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Bēhance

New Scientist ~ Hive Brain Illustration

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  • After a successful Cover Illustration last Christmas/New Year New Scientist asked for a second image to be produced, for an article about clever bee research. The article called "Hive Brain" was about the research that has been uncovered to how much more intelligent bees are to what we first thought they were.
    With some art direction from New Scientist's Craig Mackie, it was decided that the layout should be of a anthropomorphic bee character, with the trimmings of a graduate student. The touches of the scroll and the tossed miter board were added by the artist to utilise the additional limbs of the insect.

    The following animated gif shows the process by which the final render was completed. The whole process from rough to final image took five full days, over a week and a half period. The image has been generated out of a graphite pencil rendering and then scanned and painted inside Photoshop.

    1) The very basic composition layout was mock-up and sent to New Scientist, in order to confirm the rough ideas about how the illustration was to look. Whilst this was being OK'ed, there was some research into the necessary components needed to make the illustration work. These involved graduation outfits, tweed suits and of course bumblebees.

    2) Once the concept was agreed (with the secondary addition of placing bee hives in the background), the second stage rough was implemented and designed. Although not a complete render out, the second stage showed the detailing that would go into making the final composition. The pose and posture of the insect was corrected, the clothes gained detail and the arms were placed in a realistic way. After some study of a real bumblebee, the head was appropriately humanised and attached (see detail below).

    3) One of the process that is carried out, is the analysis of the pre-render rough. On looking at the image for some time, it was noticed that the far arm was in fact incorrect and came across the chest too much. This was corrected, and the additional hands added to the design, so the full character could be visualised. After this stage was OK'ed, the image was taken to render.

    4) Using Daler Layout paper a light trace is made of the original clean rough. This is then slowly shaded in using B3 graphite pencils from Faber-Castell. This is a time consuming process as the method of shading needs to be precise. Also, there was the added complexity of the bee having hairs across it's whole body.

    5) Once this render was completed. The whole image was scanned into the computer in three sections (to allow for the overlaps on the A3 page). This was then joined together in Photoshop and positioned over the top of a vintage paper texture, that has had some layer effects applied. As the original sketch had not included the miter hat and the hive boxes, these where drawn separately and added to the design. All the pencil layers are then set to 'multiply'.

    6) Then starts the process of rendering the colour aspects of the artwork. The insect is broken down into grouped areas, to make it easier to effectively build the colour and control it. They are then positioned in such a hierarchical order that the necessary top elements float over each other (such as the hair follicles). Any given section of the colouring groups could include as many as 10 layers. With highlights and shadow being separated from the base colour.
    After a three day strecth the colour was completed, and the final rendered sent off for checking.
  • This was the first stage head design. It was designed to give a foundation to the rest of the bee man figure. As bumblebees are quite rounded characters, it was decided to generate a figure with a thick neck. In order to appreciate the qualities of the humble bumblebee. 
  • This is the final render. Two versions were created of the final piece. The second had the slight variation of a blur being placed on the hives, to add a little  depth to the image.
  • The final spread!!