January 21, 2021

View to a kill - Jaguar vs caiman vector drawing


Recently I discovered a stunning photograph shot by Justin Black, showing a view to a kill; a jaguar catching a caiman in the tropical rainforest of the Amazon. This predator hunt predator moment has a vigorous impact on those looking at the image (this would be a normal person's reaction anyway). Being a witness of a kill, has the tendency to cause neurons to fire a barrage of impulses, generating gamma brainwave patterns in response to perceiving the brutal event, especially when watching the motions in a video that accompanies the photo on the National Geographic website. Such things did occur within my upstairs department, after which I felt compelled to make a vector drawing of it. At the time of the most recent update - January 24 2021, it is still a work in progress, but at this stage it is already visible where it is going. As usual, I created this vector art in Affinity Designer, Serif's magnificent vector drawing program, that can be purchased for just 50 Euro, a one time fee without the rip off recurring subscription payments.

Like I usually do, I changed some features of the image, to enhance its optical affect. I altered some of the jag's facial traits (made its eyes look more leopard like) to make that part of the drawing easier on the eye and will arrange the background in such a way that it does not interfere with the battle of the beasts. Also I placed the jag's tail on the opposite side of its body relative to how it was in the photo to make the composition more balanced. I am still undecided about the cut out format; the photograph is taller, showing more of the scene, but I assume this matter will sort itself out in time or I could simply make more than one version of this work. For the moment I chose a panoramic lay-out, because I may use it as a header image in my website. There you find my portfolio that is distinguished from most vector art collections, by the way, in that I use vector drawing programs to create mainly organic shapes, for which these types of applications are unfit as most 'experts' would say. I am also considering to make both a graphic version and a more realistic version, if I ever get around to draw the latter, which remains uncertain even in times of lockdowns that cause people to become bored senseless.

Upto now, I've exclusively used the mouse to draw (it is a slow tool, but very accurate), but at a later stage I may use my Huion 610 Pro tablet to add the jag's fur texture and perhaps some of the caiman's scales to elevate the image quality and give it a near photo realistic appearance. Before reaching that phase, I focus on establishing the base, which already has some level of detail intricacy. A thing to take into account is that at stage 12 already over 500 layers (curves or objects) have been created, a number that will rapidly increase when using a tablet. It is necessary to give key layers a name and colour code them to keep control over where I am working in Affinity Designer's Layers Panel, and it requires alertness and a logical approach to properly navigate and draw in the complex object hierarchy. When the drawing will be completed, I will add the vector outline image, from which those familiar with vector drawing will be able to get an idea of the power of the Affinity Designer program.

Click the image to see all of them in Google's lightbox, a manually operable slide show. It allows you to swiftly flick through the various stages by turning the scroll wheel of the mouse. This lightbox allows to compare the stages visually like nothing else does and quickly see the changes applied. Unfortunately this function can only be accessed on PC's, Macs or laptops and not on tablets and smart phones (as far as I am aware). Newest stage is on top, oldest at the bottom. Please check in regularly as I continue to post new stages in this article, until the image is done. Text updates will be placed below Stage 1 at the end of this blog entry. Enjoy your visit to this page and feel free to do some more browsing in my blog and if you like it, spread the word and perhaps even blog about this blog. I will of course return the favour. Have a nice day. 

Update February 18 2021

Below you see the next version, edited in RawTherapee, an absolutely brilliant open source image editor, that gives Adobe Lightroom a run for its money. In fact, in many respects it is better than the industry standard, while offered for free. Besides offering outlandishly good and easy to operate editing and batch editing functionality, it allows to catalog images, which are the same functions Lightroom has. Artists chased away by Adobe's wretched subscription model, should definitely give this excellent program a try, most of whom certainly won't be sorry for giving it a test run.

I removed the foreground drawings (the snake and the monkey), because I felt it took the focus of the main part of the image, to which I did some more vector detail editing.

I saved the drawing with history, which should make turning it in to a tutorial in the future somewhat easier. But I still have to familiarise myself with video editing. Plus, as usual, the future remains at least as unpredictable as winning lottery numbers. Which particularly applies to the future in these sinister times. 

Stage 27 - edited with RawTherapee

Stage 21 - graphic version

Stage 15

Stage 14

Stage 13

Stage 12

Stage 11

Stage 10

Stage 9

Stage 8

Stage 7

Stage 6

Stage 5

Stage 4

Stage 3

Stage 2

Stage 1

Stage 16 vector outline

Update January 31 2021

After stage 21, I think I went a little bit overboard, which probably is something many designers recognize. To stop drawing at the right moment, remains a difficult decision (for me at least). Fortunately, Affinity Designer is a non-destructive program that allows to revert to previous stages without problem; layers can be switched on and off at will and the history function allows to remove any step necessary, apart from the 1000 standard undo's. I will therefore leave the design for the time being and later focus on enhancing the textures somewhere in the future. Meanwhile I will start drawing other things.