Dutch science illustrator Mieke Roth works just like any artist, putting imagery on a canvas. Except in her case, the canvas is entirely digital and has been such since 2005. She started out as an artist in traditional media, but over time made the switch – for several reasons:
If I wanted an easy life I would have stayed with traditional media. Anything I imagined when I still worked with traditional media I was able to make. But it always gave a mess. Pencils have to be sharpened, paint can be poisonous and spill over clothes and hands. Cats, kids and other people can mess up your papers and canvases, there’s always something. Plus: oil paints gave me a headache.
It took Roth several years to master 3D sculpting and painting programs such as Blender and ZBrush to create highly detailed and accurate illustrations informed by her extensive knowledge of anatomy and biomechanics. It is a different workflow to that of a painter who works in the physical world:
I can start making props in 3d without thinking about the composition or other aspects of the final 2d illustration. In 3d I can make sure the anatomy is correct, as well as the material, skin tone and other aspects that make a subject come to life. Only in the end I have to think about composition, angle and other aspects that make a 2d illustration great.
This approach is what Mieke Roth used to create the illustration of a griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) you can see featured in today’s post. Here is a close-up.
This striking image was created by first developing a base ‘mesh’ or wireframe sculpture of the bird in Blender, then adjusting it, detailing it and ‘dressing it up’ with skin detail and feathers in ZBrush, and then tweaking the final illustration in Photoshop to get the lights, shadows and colours to the desired effect.