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bensen-daniel's avatar

The Botanist Mendoza

A portrait of the Botanist Mendoza, from Kage Baker's Novels of the Company. Mendoza is the main character of two the Company novels, one in England in the 1550s and another in Southern California in the 1860s. This portrait shows a little of both parts of her life, as well as hints of her true nature as an immortal cyborg (look closly at her face and hand).

I made this picture by drawing a general outline for Mendoza's body and face, then scanning it into the computer. I then printed out two copies of this picture, one of which I dressed in 16th-century Spanish clothing (based mostly on a portrait by Juan Pantoja De La Cruz) while the other one I gave a sort of wild-west possibly-a-prostitute dress. I scanned both pictures back into the computer, then printed out sections of them AGAIN, blown up this time, so I could go in and get in some details of the face and dress. I also worked out some rather complex skeletal machinery to put over the face and hand, most of which you can't see in the finished piece. When I had the outlines done, I did the colors and the background in photoshop with my new graphire tablet. There were some problems, especially at the end when I had to get the whole thing to look like an integrated whole rather than two sharply-defined snapshots, but I am reasonably happy with the result.

Oh, and read the Novels of the Company. They're a ton of fun.
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© 2006 - 2021 bensen-daniel
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Lig28's avatar
This is very good. I didn't know Mendoza was a red head though. I read the book twice and didn't pick up on that. Well then again I've only read Sky Coyote. Gotta get the other books.
bensen-daniel's avatar
Well, I'm a big fan of Sky Coyote, but that one's mostly about Joseph (I've also got some pictures of him). Yes, Mendoza is a red-haired Spaniard, I think she mentions somewhere how she thinks her family were visigoths, but I may be making that up. Anyway, yeah, red hair, dark eyes, pale skin, that's Mendoza. Hopefully I draw people's bodies a little better than that, now, but I still like the face in this picture.
AngeloVentura's avatar
Like your portrait! :)
Why don't you try Lewis - or Suleyman?
bensen-daniel's avatar
Thanks for the postive feedback. There's still some stuff I like about this portrait, too :) Wouldn't do it the same way now, though.
As for Suleyman and Lewis---well, neither character has made himself visible in my head the way Mendoza, Nicolas/Edward/Alec, and Joseph have. Well, maybe I have seen Lewis a little, but the problem is that I have the recollection that Baker describes him in detail at some point, but I can't remember where or what the details were. That makes me reluctant to draw something that's "wrong."
That being said, I have wanted to do something around the scene with Lewis and Joseph getting sloshed and shouting at each other in a Ghirardeli's.
AngeloVentura's avatar
As I recall, Lewis is slender, fair-haired, and looks like a more "manly" Rudolph Valentino, or maybe River Phoenix. I loved the story in "Gods and Pawns" at Hearst's mansion, when a poor imitator of Mme Blawatski says to him "You're haunted, there's something inusual in you". If she'd only knew! Poor Lewis, so naive and fragile, and so charming!. I like Joseph, also, but Lewis is my favourite male character.
bensen-daniel's avatar
I'm much more of a Joseph fan myself, but I do appreciate how Lewis basically...wrote the plot of all the books after Graveyard Game. Seriously, read through the story he writes about Edward Bell-Fairfax at the end of the book.
(hadn't heard of Gods and Pawns...damn, she writes these things almost as fast as I can read them. It looks like there are (or will soon be) two company books published after The Machine's Child)
Piatnitskysaurus's avatar
She has a really cold, piercing expression, I suppose if I knew more about the character, I'd understand it a little more. Otherwise, I particularily like the clothes, and the deep, penetrating eyes.

Incidentally, the hands look incomplete, one looks pale, the other tanned, as can be said about the face. Is this a result of playing with the lighting? Or is this something about the character that I've missed.

bensen-daniel's avatar
Yeah, the expression comes directly from the charicterization, so you'd have to read the books (which I highly recommend) to find out why she looks so pissed.
And I spent a lot less time on the hands then I did other parts of the body, so their incompleteness makes sense. I'm glad you saw the tanning, though. That's an effect of the melange of historical periods. Mendoza was paler in 16th century England than she was in 19th century California.
Piatnitskysaurus's avatar
Ah, I had an inkling that there was more to it.
Piatnitskysaurus's avatar
Hope that wasn't a little too harsh, but I know nothing about the characters, so I'm sort of flying blind.

bensen-daniel's avatar
no no. You'll have to really work at it to insult me.
Piatnitskysaurus's avatar
Hmm. True, I'd never seen you mad back in the days of spec. It's in flux now over there. as I've probably said before, Tiina's still sick, Dave's being Dave, and the newbies are the only ones being productive enough.

Anyhoo, regards.
bensen-daniel's avatar
Ee'eee. Her awesomeniscity Kage Baker herself said she liked Mendoza's face. :boogie:
jconway's avatar
Alrighty, a negative comment here we come (well, not all negative, but a critique).

I should like this picture — it's got a lot of elements I like, interesting (if slightly lopsided) composition, detail, and colour; but I think overall it fails to work. There are two main reasons; poor drawing in parts of the image, and unimaginative lighting.

Her arms and hands are wretchedly drawn, "sausagy" is a word that springs to mind. I think you need to draw from a model, possibly yourself — especially for hands. The legs and dress are better, but still unconvincing. The fold around the knee and ground are just fudged in. Again, I think you need some sort of model.

The lighting is simply dull, and adds nothing to the picture. The light seems to be coming from the observer, with little or no ambient or reflected light. It also gives the feeling that everything is made of lumps of dough. I think you need to be either more aggressive with your shading to improve the feeling of depth, or provide some sort of overall lighting that flattens the image for a more decorative. What you have here feels like an awkward compromise.

Overall I feel your pictures often look under-worked, amazing ideas jotted down but never fully realised. Frequently I'm excited by the thumbnail image, but then disappointed by the full-sized version. I know you may be going for a slightly sketchy look, but it's not really working at the moment.

Soooo... I hope you actually did want a critique, otherwise this is going to come across a little harsh. I do really like your work — yours is the only palaeoart to get me excited in the last six years or so, and your people are promising.
bensen-daniel's avatar
:) Thanks, those sort of comments are exactly the sort of critique I've been looking for---and seeing critiques
is the only way I can improve since I'm not an art student. I agree about the anatomy of the arms---I didn't
get them right with the perspective. Part of the problem with the hands is that they're done in a simpler and
less detailed style than the face, but I agree the shape of her left hand is off.
Lighting is something I need to work on---it's a skill I haven't developed (and you can see I use very simple
lighting for all of my pictures). The specific problem in this piece was that I had a concious desire to make it
look old fashioned and two-dimensional, but my instincts kept trying to extend the background into the
distance. "Awkward compromise" is exactly right.
As for your overall comment. I have to say that I generally like sketches better than fully-realized paintings
when I'm looking at someone else's art, and I emulate what I like, especially when drawing animals. People I
prefer sharper, but I don't want to have two different styles for people and animals. I think this is something
I'll have to work out by trial and error. The other thing is that I don't have time to put much work into my art,
unfortunatly. Now that I'm working and not at school I have a little more time, but right now I'm just trying to
make _something_ and break the cold spell of the last four years.
Thanks a lot for your comments, and your praise for my paleoart is high indeed. I've had a sort of block about
drawing dinosaurs for the last while, maybe with your kind words I can break it.
bensen-daniel's avatar
Yay a comment on my favorite picture! Thanks a lot. I'm rather pleased with this picture. I'm glad you like the expression---Mendoza is pretty depressing to read about most of the time, and I was trying to get that in this picture.
Paleontologia's avatar
You show your skills not only in paleoart, but illustrating people! Great pose, beautiful clothes´ details and amazing expression! =) We can see in all image that you really research each detail to give to final work a great veracity! Congratulations!
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