Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Evolution of Man and Woman + process

This is a project I did for my figure illustration class in which we had to fill a 16x40 inch composition with human figures in a procession across the page. The subject matter was left up to the students, and my mind immediately fell on an evolution of man poster. I've always found the subject fascinating, and love to draw hominids and other ancient creatures. I've also often thought about doing reconstructions and scientific illustrations as part of my future career, and instantly saw the potential for learning with this project.

I started with my own research online and in books from our school library, but that was only to get my initial sketch done. I went to the University of Calgary's Archaeology department to get critiques and further information from an expert. I didn't see any point in making this piece unless I tried to make it as accurate as I could get it.

I ended up meeting 4 or 5 experts while I was there, and was even allowed to take photos of, and handle samples of fossilized hominid bones for helping with reference, along with the wealth of information I was given by the professors. It was an incredibly stimulating process, and I learned a lot about this most-interesting of subjects. I left with a lot more information than I thought I would, and was really excited to move forward on the project. After discussing the piece with Dr. Anne Katzenberg and listening to her critiques and insight I was inspired to start over from scratch, only using my previous sketches (which had been critiqued) as reference, and all the books and information I was given for a whole new drawing. Two of the main ideas Dr. Katzenberg left me with was her desire to see the Neanderthal stereotype broken. They weren't hunched-over half-beasts, but were just as able and intelligent and cultured as "we" were (at that time). They had language and would even burry their dead (and decorated the grave sites with flowers!). She also wanted to see a friendly Neanderthal, and really, so did I. She also mentioned how she thought the idea of making an "evolution of woman" poster would be a real breath of fresh air, and I felt I could really sympathize with her point of view. I thought it was a very stimulating idea, and that along with all the other amazing information I gathered, I resolved to start my piece from scratch.

I was welcomed warmly and patiently, and was thrilled with my experiences at the University of Calgary

(There's a larger version down below, with more accurate colors. Blogger always seems to dull my colors)

I regret not being able to meet with them again to go over the progress of the illustration above, but I tried to take their input and information and apply as faithfully as I could, and hopefully I didn't horribly misrepresent these wonderful hominids.

I'd like to formally thank Dr. Katzenberg for her incredible insight and input, Dr. Russel for escorting me and helping me with finding samples, as well as the books she lent me, Dr. Mercader for his welcoming attitude and generosity with his information, Dr. David for his input and also for the books he lent me, and to Nicki Engel for helping guide me and help me find valuable and fascinating information, and to all for taking time out of their hectic schedules to help me with this long-time-coming project! I couldn't have done it without you!

****here's a way-huge version for anyone who wants a closer look:
Large version!

(I hope I didn't do a horrible job with these figures, and that if I did, you could someday find it in your hearts to forgive me.)

Here's a record of my process on the piece, including development sketches of the old version:

This is my first preliminary sketch, trying to get my first idea on paper. I had a lot more different "sub-genres" of homo, all very innacurate, all male
First sketch

These are refined, individual sketches of the figures above, minus a few that I chose not to include pretty early on
H. Habilis
H. Rudolfensis
H. Georgicus
H. Ergaster
H. Erectus
H. Cepranensis
H. Hiedelbergensis
H. Rhodesiensis
H. Neanderthalensis
H. Sapiens
H. Floresiensis

These are some pictures of my trip to the University of Calgary
Some samples
Me with a gigantopithecus skull reconstruction

Here's the process/development of the final piece in it's main steps
Line work
Base colors
Rendering and type (finished)


mclean said...

It was neat seeing the process on this in the other places you posted it. I am really jealous of how you can take such simple and nice line drawings to start with, and really make them blossom into something incredible with the application of color and form. I felt the same way about your Narnia image.

zoe said...

Hi Tom,

First of all, let me say that I'm in complete awe of this piece. The anatomical accuracy might be the best of any hominid reconstruction I've ever seen (human evolution was my college major and I saw a lot of crappy artistic interpretations of the fossils).

But the one thing I find troublesome is the fact that your hominids are mostly getting whiter as they go along. It's endemic to these images. They almost always show dusky pre-humans and white modern humans, even though our species was fully anatomically modern by the time the first communities traveled north from Africa 150,000 years ago.

Obviously I know you don't have any racist intent. But I still feel I must comment on the subconscious themes that seem to occur over and over in the world of human evolutionary biology.

Again - I am an enormous fan of your work and this piece is simply gorgeous.


Tom Rhodes said...

Hi Zoe, thanks for your input

Going into this project, one of my biggest concerns was how people might interpret the darker-to-lighter aspect of the skin tones. I really wanted to avoid any sort of racial significance as far as how the figures were represented. The last thing I would ever want to say is that darker people are less advanced than lighter people, or that light skin is "progressive" in relation to dark skin. I wanted to avoid it entirely at first, but only for that reason. The reason I felt it was important two include was for 2 main reasons. 1, it's simply the case that as time went on and humans migrated north, skin got lighter so they could absorb more vitamin D from the sun. It's an important aspect of our adaptations we've gathered as a species, and it only seemed natural that this was the case. Also, many apes seem to have rich, dark skin tones, and I thought it would be a nice way to tie the figures to the past. I couldn't go too far back in time, since the project was for HUMAN figures, and I didn't want to push it, and I felt that would be a good way of implying distance and time, without needing to draw anything too unfamiliar. It's a way to exaggerate the time scale. There also needed to be more change than just shape and size, and I feel scientifically justified in doing it. Number 2 is that it looked better in the composition. Not as important an issue, I feel, but it helped add to the flow of the image.

I didn't want to make it too crucial though. You might notice I made it an uneven progression. The tone isn't a perfect gradient across the piece. Also, the sapiens are darker than the neanderthals, but they come after in my picture, and hiedelbergensis has tanned skin, making him a bit darker. One of the other reasons the skin get's darker and darker is because I couldn't imagine a naked human living outisde their whole life without being tanned, and the further back in time you go, the closer to the equator our ancestors were, and would then be darker.

I found it unavoidable, but I did try to dodge any sort of racial implications. In my case it wasn't a subconscious theme, I even looked for ways to avoid it at first, but I felt the subject demanded it, and I was trying for accuracy.

Thank you for your input, and for your compliments!

Epic said...

Regarding the skin color tone, not only the factor of the sun will be present, also the humans were very dirty and hairy too, and that makes the skin tone darker. (If we consider the Darwin's theory of evolution). And the fact that Africa is the source of the human gene pool,and sedentary population emigrated to different parts of the world, and therefore habits and aparience changed.

And yes Zoe, unconsciously most of the books shows human evolution in the way you mentioned. :S

Thanks Tom for scan a lot of your images, dedication and investigation to give us these great pieces of art.

Regards, Fabian

Gabriele Pasqualino said...

hey man, really awesome stuff here! and cool that you posted the process.
keep it up!

Jelter said...

great stuff! those H. Hiedelbergensis don't look like a very happy couple!

Mike Bear said...

Always impressed by your skills, Tom. It's nice to see an artist with your style taking on scientific related subject matter, a very fresh take on what is usually a very technical and dry type of work. These figures have souls, that is good art.

Eric Z said...

Another great pic I love how specific you've been with each evolutionary ancestor and the treatment for each. Good use of poses too unlike the lifeless mechanical illustrations you get in text books.

Juhani said...

Very good article reports why evolution can't be true:

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nemesisonline said...

I love this. I really like the fact that you show that females and males evolve alongside each other, which is something that some people still don't understand, which is why the constantly ask questions like "if evolution is true, how did the first man to evolve find a mate?"

Mike Goodstadt said...

Tom, I was hunting for an image to explain evolution to my 5 year old - fun, honest, clear - and found your great sequence! Many thanks - now all that's missing is the link to before :) would love to see your take on this, apes and backwards from there...
All the best, Mike
PS the image links are not working - are you able to upload them again somewhere as I am intrigued to see the work you put into this.

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