I came away from the desert roadside foray with three photos (head, body, and calf) that could be combined into the image I wanted. They were taken in different lights and from different angles (see previous post), so a bit of artistic licence was needed to mash them together into something credible. I had to imagine how the vertebrae might sit at the join between head and neck, changing each component to be as if viewed from the same place, and giving them the same depth of field.
This is the bit I find hardest, my love of rules and fear of authority leave me feeling I have transgressed by presenting fiction as fact. There is composition to work out, leading the viewer's eye round the picture, shadows, and all that jazz. A more patient person might use a sketch for this (a commission would requre it for approval), but I prefer the white-knuckle ride, even though it can go pear-shaped, with bits of camel extending beyond the edge of the page. Luckily this imaginative patchwork assembly process seems to facilitate putting some life back into the otherwise flat images.
So then I start drawing, working on paper stuck to the wall with masking tape, sharpening pencils frequently with a craft knife. I wanted to demonstrate something less stark than graphite pencil on white paper, so out came my new packet of brown chalky pencils from the local craft shop. The first third of the drawing process is like starting a conversation with a stranger - you throw in some opening ideas, see what happens, test your understanding, and get a feel for where it might lead.
The next third is like your second serve in tennis - you need to stay positive to succeed, but a lack of accuracy can cost you the match. During this stage I use a mirror or reversed snapshot to take frequent objective looks at progress. Two things that help keep that positive energy are working large scale and working fast. Actually three, but the third involves grapes and chocolate, and warrants an entire blog entry.
Lastly, you have to know when to stop, pick out the focal point (s), check the shadows, use a putty rubber to erase anything downright embarassing, and count to make sure everyone has enough legs.
The finished picture is 1m x 1m, and took about 6 hours of drawing. Once the picture is done, it gets a few coats of fixative (taking great care to avoid fumes and splodging). I seek critiques from any family members still awake (guaranteed positive, they know on which side their bread is buttered), post a snapshot on my Facebook page, then go to sleep dreaming of the next project...