Turtle vs Shark

Scientific artwork

Narrative over abstraction

My original plan was to do something somewhat abstract, similar to the Steel Kelp Shark.

Jenna Hounslow (first author) agreed that in this case, something more literal and narrative driven would better suit the study.

I produced a variety of rough sketches depicting various interactions between the two animals. These were composed to sit in a portrait, A4 format for consistency with the actual publication.

The composition we settled upon encapsulated both the crux of the story, but also incorporated a sense of drama. I settled on a pose which would demonstrate the size difference between the two animals, but used lighting in such a way that the turtle wouldn’t appear totally out of its depth (if you’ll pardon the pun).

Turtle versus Shark artwork development

A rough summary of the development process, from the initial photobash up to completed artwork.

Stylising the illustration

Illustration was done in photoshop and made use of a single, rather dirty brush. The vast majority of the artwork sits on a single layer, with further layers added for global shading and highlights once the core artwork was completed.

Towards the end it transpired that some of the reference materials I’d used for the turtle were mislabelled and featured the wrong species. Jenna advised on this and changes were made to the facial patterns to more accurately depict the species as being a Flat back turtle, rather than a leatherback.

Illustrating science

As mentioned above, this artwork relates to a scientific study entitled Animal‐borne video from a sea turtle reveals novel anti‐predator behaviors.

You can learn more about the study itself over on my research page and the publication is available online at The Scientific Naturalist.

Thank you to the research team for having me be involved with the science, in addition to giving me an excuse to draw some badass marine wildlife.