Character #4: The Gecko

The final character that I designed for my thesis is a sculpture of a gecko constructed of sheet metal. This was one of the earliest creatures that I decided I wanted to model for my thesis; it is part of the reason that I chose the sculpture-models idea in the first place – I had a few disparate things that I really wanted to model (including this realistic creature and the highly stylized addict man) and I found a way to have the best of all worlds. My desire to model a gecko began with one image that I found when looking up strange creatures:

This image struck me with awe – I thought immediately that it looked like a living dragon. I consider myself fairly well-versed in the fauna of the world, but I had never seen one of these before. It even has an interesting (and long) name: satanic leaf-tailed gecko. I immediately wanted to model one. As such, I looked up where they lived (Madagascar) and decided to conceive an animation with the strange creatures of the country:

These boards are clearly (at least, I hope it’s clear) only partials. I conceived the story during my thesis brainstorming days, so, while I wrote down the entire tale, I only bothered to make boards for part of it. I would have finished the boards if the story had been chosen, but, as it wasn’t, it’s been shelved with only partial boards for now.

I used a young aye-aye lemur for my main character (if you’ve never seen a photo of a baby aye-aye, you’re missing out – they are very strange looking indeed) with the gecko as a side-kick to the villainous fossa. When I scrapped the project as too ambitious I still really wanted to model a satanic leaf-tailed gecko and, as previously mentioned, I found a way to do it. When I was trying to think of sculptures to model and ways to fit them into the theme of my hypothetical art exhibition (the theme being “courage”, in case I’ve failed to mention that in the past) I drew inspiration from my sister, who is terrified of lizards. I imagined an artist with the same fear, forcing herself to face her fear by modeling, in detail, the scariest-looking lizard that she can imagine. I also wanted to show the artist’s hand in the work as a bit of a demonstration to others of exactly how she faced her fears. So, what I originally had envisioned was a large clay sculpture with the gecko large and detailed sitting on a branch, with the tip of the gecko’s tail blending into a sculpted depiction of a sculpting tool in the hand of a very figurative, non-detailed representation of the human artist. When I was envisioning the models next to each other in the gallery, however, complete with the variety of materials that they would be constructed of, I somehow convinced myself that the gecko would be much better constructed of sheet metal. I really can’t recall why I decided to switch the material from clay, but I do know that as I was gathering reference I looked up a number of images of stained sheet metal as the material for the sculpt.

After gathering the reference I spent much time designing my other thesis characters and rather neglected the gecko, thinking that I already knew exactly what he would look like anyway. I drew this quick sketch of him toward the end of my preproduction course just so that I had some kind of image of him to include with the rest of the figures, but, as you can see based on my previous description of what I intended his sculpture to look like, I left something out…

When I finally buckled down to the gecko’s actual design, I realized how wrong I had been when I thought that I had him pegged down already. Not only was that quick sketch missing the representation of the artist’s hand in the work, but by changing the material I would have to change how that representation appeared. A sculpting tool at the tip of the tail would no longer work, but what kind of tools did artists working with sheet metal wield? I did what any modern human with a trivial question would do: I googled it. My search for “sheet metal tools” turned up numerous images of sheet metal shaping hammers. I copied a few of those images to add to my reference page and proceeded to re-design my initial idea for the gecko sculpture. 

I felt that a hammer beating down on the tip of his tail where I had planned to put the artist tool in the original clay version seemed a little odd, so, instead, I chose to replace the branch that I was going to have the gecko standing on with a large representation of the hammer and have a sheet metal representation of a brush painting the color onto the metal as the tool attached to the end of the tail. That brush is to be held by a bronze cast of the artist’s actual hand clutching the sheet-metal brush.

I’m quite pleased with this version of him. I think this design is much better than the one that I started with, and slightly more interesting than an actual accurate, realistic creature sculpt. It’ll take longer to create than a realistic creature sculpt, but it’s my thesis – it’s not supposed to be something that I can finish in two days time. My penchant for making more complex things than I have to is a good thing in this case I think – more work should produce more portfolio worthy pieces.

Well, that’s all of my characters. I still have my environment design and the animation concept to go over, but next week I begin my classes, so I may digress from my concept and design overview for awhile while I focus on how my work is progressing in those, but I’ll get back to the other eventually – certainly before I begin working on the environment if not sooner. Until then, I hope this look into my design phases has been enjoyable. :)