Saturday, 13 June 2015

Called back to the Ba

This week we continue the struggle to make something coherent from this Ba bird idea, and - I've changed my mind pretty comprehensively on how it should look.  I decided at the end of the last blog that the original is too big, the body too elongated, and that it must conform more to the proportions of a bird.  I said that I would base the bird body on that of an Egyptian wagtail, but now I've begun to doubt that choice.

There are all kinds of needless things that you can worry about with this sort of thing, and one of the worries I continually trouble myself with is ' is it authentic, is it accurate?'  In fact it doesn't matter at all, but now I began to ask, 'what kind of bird was it that the Egyptians really used?'

I think I mentioned last week that they used a variety of birds such as stalks and falcons, but I now found myself going back onto the internet to search through all the Egyptian images of the Ba bird available.  And the answer is that mostly they seem to be hawks - falcons in fact.  Some depict a very long legged bird that I took to be an Ibis, but the colour the Egyptians show the bird seems darker than that of the actual bird.  It might of course be one of those birds that change their plumage at different times of the year - and there you are, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

The basic shape of your basic Ba bird.
So I have gone back to the Egyptian work and trust the original source.  They worked out how to make this crazy idea make some visual sense and so I now accept that my Ba bird will have the appearance of a falcon, and I dutifully sourced some good photos of falcons that showed me not only the size and proportions but also the feather formation. But another problem is looming on the horizon, the arms.  I can see they're going to be awkward because of where they emerge from the body of the bird, but they are an important part of this characters appearance.

That struggle is yet to come however, as next I'll concentrate on the wings, using a reference as a guide for the size and shape of the feathers that change in size as they go down a bird's wing.  The wings of the peregrine  falcon are a bluish grey with soft almost metallic effect light grey edges to each feather so blending and softening the hard edges of the lines I use is important.
Starting the task of placing in the feathers.

 The feathers have almost a tessellated look to them which is important to get right at the start, so that the pattern can continue correctly.  Another minor problem is understanding how the wings of the bird fold together, but artists are past masters at faking this kind of thing, and if there's something they don't understand they put it in shadow or blend it into something near, but only when they judge that they can get away with it.

Most of the feathers in, and some of the black marks on the breast and legs.
It's in the blessed knowledge of my fellow human's ignorance that I can fake the way the wings actually come together at the end of the tail, and be happy with the percentage of bird mad experts who will spot the discrepancies right away.  And now I can start on the peculiar patterns the falcon has on its chest and legs, strange cross like striations of black that cover all the light parts.
The subject through it's different stages.  Click on the image to see it slightly bigger.
The downright 'oddness' of this subject is not lost on me, in fact it's one of the things that drew me to it but putting the elements of bird and human together in a more realistic way then any ancient Egyptian would have done has thrown up a lot of problems.  The slow progress has even underlined for me what a dull image I've made of it, without even a turn of the head in a dramatic posture to relieve the boredom.  I could have chosen something more dynamic to do with the wings for instance.   But you begin with an 'interior' vision of what you want and work towards it, and sometimes you become fixated on an idea without re-evaluating enough.

Next week - those dreaded arms!

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