Here is my new art, “Monster Maiden #3” or MM3, for short. With each new work, I try not to just add another image to my stash, but to expand my skills and cover new ground. This piece uses several new techniques I learned or developed in the process, and otherwise integrates a lot of my skills and approaches.
If you haven’t seen the first two images in the series, here they are:
There’s a big different between MM1 and MM2. For the second one I used 3D modeling software – Zbrush – in order to add three dimensionality. For the third one I was more methodical and technical in my use of Zbrush. I started off with an armature or base model.
Base model using Z-spheres.
This is a good, and proper way to go about making a form, that’s if you already know what the end result you want is. It’s a really good way to get your basic shape down, and then you can convert it to something you can sculpt on, basically by doing the digital equivalent of adding clay to it.
While in the first two monster maidens I pulled the monsters out of my imagination, I decided to use a famous 50’s sci-fi monster for the third. I thought it would be pretty whacked out to put breasts on this monster, and that people would also recognize it, which could add some interest or attract a wider audience. This also gave me the challenge of roughly replicating an extant form, and keeping it recognizably so. There’s a definite challenge to working from the imagination, and a very different one for replicating something that already exists.
As with the first two images, the monsters are intended to be so gross or frightening that they can’t be eroticized. The boobs are ironic. If you are familiar my art and criticism you know I embrace ambiguity, so, while the presence of breasts on grotesque monsters is obviously ridiculous, it also needs to be done well enough that I would get comments, such as I have, to the effect that, “gimmie a few tall beers, and …”. Referencing an actual, recognizable sci-fi creature additionally reigns in an essence of the era and medium of classic 50’s sci-fi.
I used to have a toy figure of this monster, which I kept on the top of my monitor when I temped in NYC in the graphics department of a big bank. Here’s a pic of that model, which I brought with me to California when I stayed at the Ranch, which is another long story of roughing it a bit, with a bucket of sawdust as a toilet. Usually I’m working in less than ideal circumstances, with modest equipment at my disposal. Right now it’s over 90 degrees in my room, and the humidity is at least 50%.
Replicating this creature posed various challenges, especially the veins. It’s not like I’m professionally trained in Zbrush, or ever had a class. I just search online for tutorials and experiment until I find a suitable technique to match my needs.
Zbrush isn’t an easy program, though, and if you don’t do things just right there are consequences, and even though from the get go I constructed the model intending to rig it and be able to pose it, I was never able to do so because, well, I don’t know why. Things just didn’t work the way they were supposed to, and I gather it has something to do with my having overused features like Dynamesh. Probably my laptop wasn’t up to doing the computations. Since doing it the right way didn’t work out, I had to just cut the arms and reorient them… Crude. Very crude methodology, but still amazing technology. This kind of thing is one of the reasons I keep working digitally. There’s so much to explore, and if you can get your hands on the programs and a basic computer, the rest is free.
There are other challenges, of course, like somehow making human breasts not seem extremely out of place on an insectoid, alien mutant. Making the veins creep down on to them helped. I also changed the mutant’s mouth because the original, for me, was just too blubbery, and didn’t make much sense other than that it was definitely not human. I added rows of teeth between its mouth folds, and musculature on the sides of the mouth intersecting the folds.
I got the idea of giving the monster a speech bubble. Inside the bubble I just wanted some sort of impasto painterly abstraction. I wanted it to seem as if it was painted after the rest of the image, and was on the surface. It has a couple art historical references in it: one is to the flattened of the picture plane, and the other is a nod to Abstract Expressionist painting.
To achieve this effect I devised a way of creating impasto paint in Zbrush. This is something I’ll want to explore more later.
Once I got the digital impasto paint thing down, I had to figure out how to cut my digital Expressionist canvas into the shape of a speech bubble, which you can’t do just by making a selection of that shape and deleting everything outside of it. You’d think you could do it that way, but this isn’t Photoshop. It’s quite a bit more elaborate than that, and the makeshift way I figured out to do it has some enormous problems with it. But I eventually made a passable bubble painting, and then devised how to add the drips.
Then there was the background. In Monster Maiden #2 I used a gradient, whereas in #1 I made an Impressionist landscape.
I wanted to attempt something different, and thought I’d try incorporating stills from the original “This Island Earth”. The scenes with the people in the protective glass cylinders would be the ideal option. I ended up collaging and tweaking a few stills to get a suitable background.
The final painting technique is something I’ve developed over time, and I have to consult my notes each instance I attempt it anew, and then endeavor to expand and adjust my methods to accommodate the new material. I’ve dealt with that more in posts on earlier pieces. The Photoshop techniques I use I’ve been using for many years, so nothing new there.
You can appreciate my digital impasto technique much more in the details, when it works. Sometimes it works spectacularly, and other times it’s very awkward. I haven’t found the perfect recipe to allow the kind of fluidity and control you can have with real paint, but I’m working on it, and the advantage of digital painting is if you screw up, you can undo it and try again.
The head came out fairly well. There’s some things I’d like to improve, but need to move on. If you look back at my earlier work you can see how my methods have evolved.
The speech bubble – which also seems a lot like an artist’s palette – didn’t look right with the painterly technique I used in Zbrush, so I had to paint over it again to get it to mesh with everything else.
Zooming in on the drips you can see some of my better brushwork in the background. My process is experimental and in flux, in which case I’ve used several different methods in the same piece, and there are artifacts of each.
A close up of the torso and arm.
Next is a close up of the eye. I think I could have improved on this a bit, but it was already getting overworked. There’re no tutorials for this method. If you’ve read this far, you might get the sense that I don’t necessarily use programs the way they were intended, and I especially like to attempt things that aren’t obvious, or haven’t been done before (to my knowledge).
What with the speech bubble that just contains painterly abstraction and all, a strict interpretation seems inappropriate. You could say the bubble represents incomprehensible alien consciousness, but with a certain integral universal beauty and organization, even if a bit chaotic and sloppy. Whatever it’s saying can be sinister, humorous, or sophisticated. Someone wrote in the comments before, “does this ____ make me look fat”. An interpretation for this piece isn’t really appropriate. I see it as an amalgam of genres, influences, and orientations which I hope comes off rather cohesively and seamlessly. I’d hope it would engage people long enough visually so that they’d start to ponder any meaning, or just get a novel impression.
I don’t do one-liners, so there’s no punch line to go away with. You just have to contend with its existence, and hopefully the monster maiden is a welcome addition to your universe.
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