I guess it doesn’t make a lot of sense that I shied away from the leaf illustration when I keep using animals everywhere. It was just so hard to keep illustrating the concepts of life without using any real life forms. Although, when I did come up with a good symbolic visual metaphor for stuff, it was usually very satisfying. While I spent a long time doing the drawing for all the bottom-feeders I probably spent just as much time thinking about and brainstorming the smaller panels. The last little panel is a shout-out for Isaac!
The factory idea wasn’t a part of the original sketch for this page. Originally I was going to draw a leaf and some chloroplasts, but I decided I didn’t want to illustrate a real plant structure because I didn’t want to be at plants yet, which I’ll be talking about in Book 3. I wanted to keep to the basic concept of photosythesis as the foundation of a sustainable food web on Earth without using the structures of real, modern life forms, although then I have the animals eating the plants in the thought bubble…
This whole part was tricky to write, the beginning of life business. From replication to variation, natural selection, a long wait, cells, DNA, proteins, genes, sex, species, biodiversity, photosythesis, scavenging, sensing, predation, the web/tree of life, bacteria, and into Book 3, it was very difficult figuring out the order and flow of the story, and then make that flow work in rhyme. The creation of life on Earth was not a step by step, singular or linear process by any means. It’s been a branching bunch of failures, with just a couple of messy successes. So in trying to wrangle a straightforward story out of it I had to make some more subjective decisions in places, and this section is one of them. I imagine someone else could easily have focused on some different things or presented them in a different order as I remember struggling mightily over these parts.
This was a pretty epic page to illustrate. Just getting together enough reference took quite a few hours. Once it was all in place it was very enjoyable to draw the plants and animals, but when it got around to coloring them in, or adding a second layer of color I started to get pretty tired of them. It was nice to go from all of those organic forms to the geometry of the safe door. I was very excited when I found that photo of the door online that I could use for reference. Also, it’s always a pleasure when I can easily reuse something I’ve already drawn, like the animals in the vault.
Tomorrow I’ll be meeting with David Christopher, author of The Holy Universe, to see if we might be able to share resources and help each other out, since we’re both creating and self-publishing books about the scientifically-based history of everything. His book hasn’t come out yet but he has some excellent excepts on his website and I sincerely suggest you check them out. It’s a wonderful message that’s he presents very beautifully.
I have to admit that drawing the deformed inter-species was fun, but I guess there is such a thing as too much hybridity. I return to the metaphor of life as a river which has now braided and formed into “gene pools” representing different species. This is why I felt compelled to explain sex, I didn’t know how to define what a species was without it.
Also, I don’t remember if I’ve linked to this yet, but a couple weeks ago Paul Caggegi interviewed me for his blog, ProcessDiary.com. He’s a fellow comic book author, illustrator and self-publisher and he has a wonderful blog where he documents his process. He’s made some really amazing, in-depth tutorials on the programs he uses and he also interviews other interesting people doing similar work. Click through to listen to my interview.
If I were a shrewd marketing professional I would probably do a better job of advertising that this book explains SEX. Albeit in a very unsexy way. But it couldn’t be skipped, as sex is a fundamental part of life as we know it. In fact, it is the origin of this blog (Hybrid Vigor).
This whole page was a delight to draw, especially two old people giving each other googly eyes, cells having sex and the three species mating pairs. If you look closely at the arrows mixing into the hearts you’ll see different colors of DNA mixing together.
Between the different designs for the machines, the quasi-flowing panel structure and the repetitive wall of shelves this was another challenging, laborious page to take on. It was a lot of fun though, and I enjoyed carrying on with the smiley face metaphor for a living organism, by having proteins being assembled inside a smiley robot. I think my favorite part was drawing the computer screens in the last panel, because they were small and easy and it was near the end! Bonus points if you can find the codons.
I remember listening to the This American Life about the NUMMI plant while I illustrated this one. If you haven’t heard it yet, it’s a good one about complacency, corporate culture, cooperation and cars.
Designing and drawing the spiraling double-helix featuring my new interlocking nucleotide letters was quite the challenge. I found a ton of DNA reference images and two proved to be particularly helpful, but they each represented one end of the DNA strand in this image, so it was up to me to figure out how I could connect them. Once I got it sketched out it was still a lot of careful drawing to realize it, but being a single panel this page went pretty quickly overall. Especially when you recognize that the effort I put into the depiction of Earth in the background also paid off when I made the cover.