Vorax

This is one of my earliest digital paintings. I meant to post it earlier but sort of forgot about it, then I realized I haven’t posted in a while because some super exciting things have been happening (I will post more on that in the near future) and life in general has been busy lately. It has also been quite warm in the apartment, and summer heat poses a problem that is unique to digital painting. That big screen gets warm, and when I’m already sweating to my seat the last thing I want to do is to lean over a hot screen for hours at a time. Even on a cool day I paint wearing a glove with the fingers cut off so I can more comfortably slide my hand around on the screen without it sticking.

I don’t love this painting actually, I think the detail is good and I am happy with how the skin texture came out, but overall I think it’s actually a bit boring. The composition is not as interesting as it could have been. The subject is too centered and there is too much dead space in the upper half. The lighting is also a bit off so the creature doesn’t quite merge into the environment. I still have a lot to learn about lighting and shadow, and here I think it really shows that I was just starting out. I was more focused on painting accurately than painting well. I have been trying to learn how to loosen up and consider reference photos as guidelines rather than detailed instructions.

Since this scene took place in a naturally dark environment (underground), I think it would have been cooler if it felt as though the viewer suddenly encountered this monster creeping out of the shadows in a dark tunnel, perhaps with a flashlight or lantern kind of effect. Some pale shafts of light coming down from above, or more of those glowing plants might have been cool too. One thing I do remember from painting this was that after spending many days on the Vorax itself, I was eager to be finished and definitely rushed the background. I am now learning to like painting environments and enjoy the whole process rather than just focusing on the subject and treating the rest of it like a necessary evil.

vorax final

The vorax is an aggressive carnivore from Ryzom. This particular one is found near a teleporter in a place called Prime Roots, which is an underground zone with many dangerous, high level predators like this one. The teleporter provides a small safe zone, but I had to go just outside that area to get screenshots of these guys, which means my poor character was killed many times for the sake of this artwork!

One thing I love about Ryzom is how original the creatures are. I don’t play the game anymore, but I still miss exploring it and discovering all these interesting animals. There are no bears or deer in this game, only wildly unique and imaginative new plants and animals with special traits and characteristics.

We are soon putting the apartment up for sale, which means most of our stuff has to come out so we can make it look like we live in Ikea. It means our life will be turned upside down for a while and I probably won’t be posting any new art for at least a few weeks (or I might have a lot since we will have no stuff and I’m bored, who knows). I might dig up some old sketches or something while packing, so there could be posts here and there if I get the time and inspiration 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Oops…

Technology is amazing, until it breaks and suddenly you’re feeling helpless without it.

I accidentally dropped my Wacom stylus while working on a new drawing today. It just slipped out of my hand. I’ve dropped this thing plenty of times before, but this time it fell perfectly straight down and landed directly on the nib, pushing it up into the tip of the pen.

The pen comes with this handy little tool for switching the nibs, but it was pushed up just far enough that I couldn’t grab it. I thought ok, no big deal, I’ll just pull it apart and push the nib out from the inside.

Well, I got it apart, but now I can’t get it back together. It’s stuck like this:

IMG_6802.JPG

I did manage to get the nib out after pulling the whole thing apart (not completely on purpose), but I really can’t understand why it won’t click back together and there’s a crack in the plastic. It seems like nothing good will happen if I try to push it harder, and it’ll definitely break if I try any kind of twisting. I have no idea why it won’t reconnect. If anyone out there has had this problem and wants to share a tip, please do!! Otherwise I guess it’s back to the old pencil and paper until I can get a new stylus. *sigh*

Update: Woot! Tux managed to fix it. The interior electronic board thing was jammed up into the back end of the pen, somehow preventing everything from fitting together properly. He managed to pull it out by using a bit more force than I was willing to try. When he got that part out he was able to reassemble it and it seems to be working… I haven’t tried drawing yet but the monitor did detect the pen as usual so hopefully everything is working normally. I had no idea the pen was so delicate and complicated inside. This made us realize that we should probably buy a second one so that we have a backup laying around, just in case. It was painful to have to stop just as I was making some good progress!

The Amoeba With a Home

At4.pngThe testate amoeba (“test” means shell) is one of the single celled creatures we commonly find while looking at soil in the microscope. It’s a type of protozoa, just like regular amoebae, but it lives in a shell like a snail. Some eat bacteria, algae, or other protozoa, and some live on decaying organic material. As with all soil protozoa, they live in the thin film of water that surrounds soil particles.

We normally see them like this (photos from my phone):

They can come in many different shapes and sizes. Some have beautiful scale patterns on the shell, some have spiked shells, some are just smooth and simple. As with any soil creatures, people who aren’t used to looking at things in a microscope often have difficult putting them into perspective. I purposely painted this one looking and moving like a snail to hopefully make it easier to relate to.

It’s extremely rare for us to see the actual body of the amoeba, which is why I painted the shell to be more prominent than the amoeba itself. I’ve been looking at soil and water samples in microscopes since 2011. In that time I’ve seen literally thousands of testate amoebae and I think I’ve seen them coming out maybe three times.

There was exactly one time that I actually saw a very small one moving around in a soil sample, and I was super lucky to catch  a video of it with my phone. Here is a link to the video. This is the only time I’ve ever seen one like this. Normally the ones we see are like the photos above, and they are sitting still.

The amoeba extends what are called “pseudopods” (pseudo=fake, pod=feet). You might already know that amoebae are shapeless creatures that move by flowing and changing form. They can stretch their bodies out to form pseudopods and use them to move, anchor themselves, or catch food. They can create many of these fake feet at once, and they can be thick and globby or thin filaments like hairs. Watching an amoeba move around is one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever seen. It looks exactly like a glass of milk or some liquid soap that spilled on the floor, then started crawling around. Sort of a creepy image but that’s really how it looks. They move slowly and watching them can be mesmerizing.

Naked amoebae are difficult to spot because they are usually completely clear with only a faint outline and some inner contents of the cell visible, and the distinct movement giving us a clue to its presence. If disturbed I imagine they would squeeze themselves into the nearest crevice like a clump of soil to hide, which is why it’s rare for us to see them at all. Testate amoebae are easy to spot because of the shell, but since they can withdraw and hide inside their shell it’s extremely difficult to see the amoeba itself. That makes it hard to tell if anyone is home or if it’s just an empty shell.

We see these creatures in the highest numbers in forest soils and some composts, but they can be common in garden and agricultural soils as well. It is very rare for us to have a soil sample that doesn’t have at least one testate amoeba in it.

This is the second piece in my soil life series of paintings which try to show microscopic animals in a way that is more familiar.