Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Bit of a Funk...

Well, the demands of college, work, and life in general are combining with a general lack of muse, and I'm having difficulty generating energy or ideas to put together my next batch of nereids. As usual, this will likely pass before too long, but I just thought I'd take advantage of the creative downtime to post here and just air out my Nereus-related thoughts...

First thing I should probably mention is that my ambitious goal of 100 nereozoans has expanded to a somewhat more ambitious 150. This was done mostly to better reflect the biodiversity of the different biomes (the savanna in particular, which currently has only five representative species), but it gives me an opportunity to round out the different phyla and classes. Factoring landmass percentage with an arbitrary but relatively informed biodiversity factor, I determined how many nereids should be in each biome. I discovered at this point that in some biomes I have more nereids than should proportionally be present, but I'm not about to get rid of any of them, so I had to just subtract those slots from other biomes. As usual, I pored over these numbers to a point that is probably beyond the interest of anyone else, so I'll just conclude with saying that the Lantern Forest will be getting 11 more nereids in it, the Sog Basin a whopping 19, the oceans will be increased by 15, and the savanna (the biome which clinched my decision to add more nereids to the list) will be getting five more. New representatives from most if not all nereozoan classes will be present.

I'm currently working on the "tide pool" biome, which may be given a more unique name as it develops. You can expect to see life that's similar to what's found in the terrestrial equivalent, but I hope I can at least present some ideas that are unique to nereid life. I also hope, as always, that they will be plausible enough to pass the scrutiny of those who view it...

...which I guess leads me to the other topic on my mind. Whenever I go through these perennial funks my mind often focuses on the negative, and the smallest things can fan the flames, as it were. The folks over at SE, bless their hearts, aren't completely responsible for my dissatisfaction with the site, but so often I feel like people are wasting time on irrelevant material, arguing for the sake of argument, and practicing internet behavior that I have a hard time condoning. Not for the first time, and perhaps not the last, I have inclinations to part company. Of course, every time I say that something keeps me around, so I doubt I'll be leaving any time soon, but there may come a day in the reasonable future when I move on from that site.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Good Hair Day?

After much deliberation, and a lengthy hiatus due to college finals, I finally set out to rescue several chilly nereids. If it isn't apparent at this point, I'm trying to maintain a certain degree of plausibility with these creatures, which means that sometimes my aesthetic preferences for the project have to take a back seat to believability. Try as I have, I just couldn't justify a completely hairless Nereus, so many of the species in the colder biomes will now sport fur.

Since several of these species have already been drawn some reworking was called for. I balked at some of these at first, mostly because I was so pleased with the originals, but my muse took over and some truly spectacular fur patterns started to form in my mind. I'll get to them all one day, but in the meantime enjoy the six redrawn species:

Banded Conker. This is the one I least wanted to redraw. Thanks to feedback from the Speculative Evolution community it was made clear to me that even with their hyperactive metabolism the conkers would probably still freeze. The community also suggested a bison-like mantle pattern for the fur, but I felt that a 'mohawk' style of mane would be more artistically interesting for the species. If it still doesn't seem like there is enough fur on the conkers, then consider the individual strands of fur to be hollow, much like the polar bear, which gives even more insulation for the amount of fur grown.

Barmanou. I had some difficulty coming up with a pattern for these predators, and ended up turning to the barmanou's inspirational earth animals-- the gorilla and mountain lion-- for ideas. I also took the opportunity to correct what I always felt was a major flaw in the barmanou's design: its hind limb, stout and muscular as it is, was propped on top of a foot that rested on its knuckles. I conceived of this design to reflect genetic heritage with other europsids, but the more I thought about it the more I was convinced those digits would collapse under the barmanou's weight. So in the redraw I replaced the rear foot with a more traditional appendage.

Blueback Chaparro. This was another redraw I struggled with, and consequently left it for last. Even though this is a flying species I wanted to avoid feathers; draconiforms are already bird-like enough. So I turned to bats for inspiration of the fur design. I hope that it still retains the sleek aerodynamic design of the original as well as able to survive the cold continental highlands of Altai.

Colossus Carm. The obvious inspiration for this species' coat of fur is the wooly mammoth. There was concern expressed regarding exactly how the fur would lay along the body, but I think it all turned out surprisingly well. I left the head and feet relatively glabrous, but counter-current blood circulation can take care of extremities, and I felt that the area surrounding the nostrils would be somewhat hairless, especially in females; hair around these orifices would likely just get clogged and filthy.

Kitsune. Named after the mythical Japanese fox, this nereid always looked a little strange to me without fur. That's been remedied now, but there are still nothing that can be described as tails, something the namesake is known for. Oh well.

Pom. Ironically, this was the first nereid I redrew. I always knew it could benefit from a coat of mousy fur, but was maintaining a hairless aesthetics for nereids at the time. I used the pom as a sort of test subject (or guinea pig, if you're into puns) for a method of drawing fur in a Photoshop tutorial I found, and was so pleased with the results that I gave the redrawing project the full go-ahead.

In general I'm pleased with how the new images turned out, but you can draw your own conclusions. Have I solved the problem of giving subarctic species sufficient insulation? Are the redrawn nereids still artistically interesting? Or have my efforts for this little subproject been in vain?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Long Silence and Hairless Insulation

Blogs have always been a tricky thing for me to keep updated. Thankfully, my site hasn't been so neglected. Content continues to accumulate, as if in some adamant protest against everything else going on in my life. I'm not going to give an itemized annotation for everything, as that would be a lot, so I'll just settle with saying I've had a lot of fun with this project so far, and hope to continue developing it to the best of my abilities.

One thing I will mention at this point, however. When I began the project, there were several design parameters I established to guide my creativity: tripedalism, mouths located somewhere other than near the brain and senses, and no hair. In their development and publication, two of these three criteria have had a certain degree of critical approval, but the third, hairlessness, has been regarded as one of the project's points of implausibility. The argument is that hair is such a simple structure to evolve that it would likely be present on extraterrestrials for insulation. I don't disagree with the probability, but it means going back and rethinking/redrawing several species I've already taken care of.

So I guess I've been trying to think up different ways that my endothermic nereids can combat loss of heat in environments where that's an issue. One idea I have cooking up is adapting a pair of lung-hearts (hey, they have six of them, who's going to miss two?) into some novel organs specialized for thermogenesis. In a nutshell, when things get cold they will kick into gear and pump hot blood into parts of the body to keep temperatures up. I'm not sure what kind of side effects or challenges there are for such an idea, but that's the idea I'm working with right now.