Orca – Step by Step

I thought that it would be interesting to break down a composition into some of its stages in order to illustrate the “journey” from conception to finished illustration. Sometimes ideas form and development work starts only to be put on the back burner whilst other projects take over then, when its time comes, work starts again until a satisfyingly complete composition emerges. “Orca” was such a project.

I seem to have a bit of a fascination with Beach Buggies and exploration vehicles in general (too much time watching The Banana Splits?) so when left to my own devices with some 3D modelling software that’s what usually comes out the other end. The first experiments, pictured below, were created in 123D Design. The vehicle reminds me of the drop tank racers created by post war hot rodders using the discarded fuel tanks from aeroplanes, basically metal teardrops with wheels at each corner.

It looked a little claustrophobic in that cabin so I started playing around with an open topped version, much more like a speed boat with a radial aircraft style engine at the rear. Once a basic vehicle had been roughed out, ideas started forming about some sort of narrative. Wreckage and skeletons keep cropping up in my sketchbooks so it seemed pretty logical to model a whale skeleton to put along side the buggy.

At this point other projects took over and all this got filed away for another time. In the mean time I started playing around with Blender, an excellent open source 3D modelling software, so the project got fired up again. Below is the first stage of modelling in Blender and you can see that it really is just a collection of shapes and forms without any detail. The design has reverted to a more egg shaped version of the enclosed, original buggy idea.

A quick and dirty “paint over” helped with the design of the mechanicals and engine. I’d decided at this point that it’d be interesting to include a large metallic turbo charger at the rear… inspired no doubt by the engines of the B24 Liberator bomber on display at Duxford.

Back to the side view, you can see that the tyres and wheels are now a little more fully formed, helping greatly with the muscular stance.

Engine and suspension came next with some extra refinements to the brake discs.

This next image shows a lot more development (albeit quite roughly done!) including a new sky and some photo engine details. At this point I decided that it wasn’t quite working, the front wheels looked too big and I wasn’t keen on the colour scheme…

… so it was back to Blender for some more refinement. You can see here that the front wheels have been reduced in size. At this stage I decided to put some kind of wreckage in the background, represented by the grey cylinders sticking out of the sand. You might also notice the square panels of grey in the foreground. These are here so that I can find the vanishing point by projecting lines back if I need to at a later stage.

More modelling work on the buggy and the object in the background has become a fallen satellite. Quite how it got through the atmosphere with out burning up is a bit of a mystery…. maybe it never made it in to orbit? So now we have a reason for the buggy to be there.

Much more painting and photo collaging in Photoshop. We now have a proper sky and a dry cracked up ground surface.

Dirt, grime and more dirt. This is the really fun bit! Painting dirt and adding texture makes all the difference. Now, all of this dirt and weathering can be added directly to the model in Blender but as I’m creating an illustration I like to bring it over into Photoshop and paint and photo texture it that way. I don’t want the computer to have all the fun!

Nearly there, more details, dirt and texture. The satellite needs to be weathered and I think we need a person.

Here we have it, the finished work. Not only did we get a person… he brought his dog along! So that’s it, simple really.