I absolutely love it when an illustration project gives me the opportunity to learn. Another commission from Bloomsbury’s popular science imprint Sigma, Dr Louisa Preston‘s brilliant book Goldilocks and the Water Bears: The Search for Life in the Universe was a real joy to illustrate.
Louisa wanted the illustrations to have a magical, fairy tale feel to tie in with the title, which refers to the search for a planet on which the conditions are ‘not too hot, not too cold, but just right.’ To help bring some of the (often quite hardcore) scientific information to life my plan was to pack the images with lots of stars and draw creatures in threes whenever possible to echo the ‘daddy bear, mummy bear and baby bear’ repetition of the original fairy story.
I also got to draw four water bears (or tardigrades) – amazing tiny beings that can survive in some of the most hostile environments and look out-of-this-world when seen through a microscope.
With every commission I find there is always one image that proves more of a challenge than the others, and this time it was a heading illustration for a chapter speculating on how aliens might look. Imagine having a catalogue of adaptations and body parts to pick from to design your ultimate alien life form… What would you choose? Bat wings? Opposable thumbs? Bio-luminescence? After a couple of false starts with ideas that were a bit too out there even for a book about space (glowing six-legged space bears anyone?), the final alien I designed was sort of a cross between an octopus, jellyfish, star fish and snail…
I had so much fun and the book is a great read 🙂
Goldilocks and the Water Bears: The Search for Life in the Universe by Louisa Preston was published by Bloomsbury Sigma on the 16th of June 2016.
Greys. Kind of your bog standard alien, these are the type of creatures that spring to mind when we start thinking about extra terrestrials.
E. Coli Bacteria. For this chapter, I pretty much got to choose to draw the weirdest looking bacteria I could find, and I went with the surprisingly pretty looking E. Coli.
The Big Bang. This is one of my favourite images from the book, and it was really interesting to try and capture that feeling of ripples exploding out from a huge flash of light…
Hallucigenia. These strange looking beasties are ancient organisms that have been found in the fossil record.
Penguins. Animals like penguins are extremophiles – adapted to exist in conditions that would be almost like living on another planet compared to the habitat of most creatures.
Water bears. These gorgeous creatures are the eponymous water bears of the book – strange looking and microscopic, they are able to completely dessicate and then revive when they come back into contact with water.
The Mars Rover. Drawing a machine was a bit of a departure for me, but from looking at photos and diagrams, it became clear that the Rover was actually quite characterful and it was easy to imagine it pottering about on Mars 🙂
My own personal aliens. Part jellyfish, part star fish, part octopus, this was my vision of life on another planet. Gravity would have to be pretty low for these guys to get around, with the atmosphere being quite a lot moister than ours to help sustain their slimy skin…
SETI’s Allen telescopic array. The Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence involves all kinds of tech, including an array of cyclops-esque radio telescopes.
Tim Peake. We knew there would be an astronaut in the illustrations for the book somewhere, and rather handily Tim Peake did a space walk on the International Space Station just at the right time!