Thursday, August 16, 2018

Scientific Illustrator? Part 4 : Ferox Trout

After finishing the sockeye salmon, I was off to Europe.

Not literally, but in the sense that I was drawing European salmonids, in this case three varieties of brown trout (Salmo trutta) that diverged in a single waterbody: Lough Melvin, Ireland.

The first such variety was the ferox trout, a brown trout variant that I eager to draw, simply because of the size, beauty, and power of these lake-run brown trout that consume a diet of mostly fish and grow to extreme size.




Historically, ferox trout have been described as S. ferox, a distinct species  and reproductive isolated from S. trutta, but current literature suggests that they are not in fact a distinct species because separate populations in various lakes may have arisen independently in their respective waterbodies.


Regardless of taxonomy, however, I was absolutely floored to have the opportunity to draw this fish, and so I got to work on it immediately after finished the salmon.

As per usual, I began with an outline of the fish to make sure proportions were in order.


Then head work commenced. With this fish in particular I payed much attention to detail, probably because I was so invested in making sure the final product was as good as it could be.

The file sizes on these documents are huge; I think this one was 6000 x 8000 pixels. The large size allows me to work with a very high level of sharpness and detail.

As head worked continued, I found a challenge in illustrating the metallic nature of parts of the opercle, but I believe the final effect I decided on was the right decision with the addition of some light blues to complement the grays and whites and to give it a silver effect.





I started the flank by setting a base color gradient before scaling.


Then came the arduous process of laying out each scale, one by one.



In the meantime, I adjusted the body coloration some. Another advantage of digital media: I was able to manipulate color settings of layers and groups very easily and quickly, something unattainable with traditional mediums.



Once the fish was fully scales, I began work on the trout's spotting. I chose a rather densely spotted specimen, and added blue-grey highlights for the halos around the spots.


If I thought the scaling was hard, this part was a whole other level. With the salmon, I had managed to get away with not adding detail to each individual scale because the scales weren't defined enough to warrant that kind of attention. With the brown trout, however, the scales were defined quite markedly and thus each scale needed attention.

Below you can see the beginning of scale details.


A mid-scale detailing shot, before adding layers of color in various places between and on top of existing layers.


Here the scale detail is nearing completion. For this particular ferox I chose a buttery-yellow coloration, but the actual coloration of ferox can vary greatly, from nearly orange to silver to very dark brown.


Once scale work was complete, then came the fins, which at this point seemed like a piece of cake after drawing out every scale.


The caudal fin—note the scale work around the fin rays.




How fins are generally layered:




And the final version... or was it?


Upon further talk with professors, the student, and experts it became apparent that the particular ferox of Lough Melvin were generally more silver in coloration than yellow.

However, digital media made this adjustment as easy as changing some values on a slider, and brushing up some other minor changes like the addition of darker pigment on the belly.


There you have it; the ferox trout. From the salmon to this fish, I felt like I had made a leap in skill; from a technical standpoint the brown trout illustrations are, in my opinion, far superior. Two more brown trout are to follow.

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