Artist, Buck Buckinghams break down of the 'Tree Sitter Photo'

Tree Sitter - Ray Doherty photo
Artists reconstruction and breakdown
Buck Buckingham

The Request

It was mid August and I was in Melbourne. I was a long planned holiday with my beautiful wife to celebrate her 50th year. We had had a great day at the Melbourne aquarium and I was lying bed looking at the photos I had taken. I was musing over the possibility of a new art project when Ray Doherty’s request for an artist came on my feed in facebook. I replied - read to draw.
Before long we were communicating via facebook messenger, text and phone calls. Ray sent me me the enhanced photo you can see above and I based my work in the above image.

It was and is still striking to say the least. Having had my own experiences, ready numerous eyewitness accounts and having seen countless blobsquatches (my own included) I was taken aback.

Here was clearly recognizable image of a face with everyday features I could recognize. It was out of focus but there was more than enough strong visual clues for me to latch on to to interpret.

My first impression was a strong male face with lips closed. Ray and I had different impressions, he said a grimace with bared teeth. I saw lips. I felt it important to draw both as I thought it was a fair interpretation for the viewer. Ray’s mission for me was to enhance and demonstrate and detail I could
extrapolate out of the image. This also would include some artistic license to insert assumed detail to get a clearer picture. In fact the whole mission was to get a clearer picture.

The Process

While I happily put up my hand to take on this task, I told Ray that I was already midway through vacation and needed to finish a Ten metre dragon for a school I used to work at in the 80s and 90s. It would be a little while before I could would able to draw.

While I am quite capable of digital art, I felt it was also important to take the time to study the image and commit to graphite to paper. Paper is a tangible medium and I wanted to reward Ray for his hard work with something he could hold and admire.

In the meantime I took every opportunity to examine this image in minute detail and make a list of what I could actually see. This required me to

- print large format prints in black and white
- view the image in large format on my i Mac in a darkened room
- toggle the exposure back and forth to reveal and latent details.
- project the image to roughly a meter high in a darkened room.
- make a list of what I could see.
- make a list of interpretations of what I would infer.
- find examples of details on this face that I can see in the real world.
- do a rough sketch to get my eye in.

The List
Tree Sitter Face - consists of these reasoned observations

- Sloping forehead
- Eyebrows left and right
- Left eye - part of the sclera, a gradient of iris, a gradient of pupil and
  border of lower eye lid
- Right eye vault - heavily darkened and obscured
- Left and right nostrils
- Big rounded nose
- Septum
- Philtrum - the channel that connects upper lip to the bottom of the
  nose or septum
- Lips upper and lower - cupids bow on top lip
- Teeth - can be viewed either way on first impressions. Closed or open
- Strong jawline
- Beard - tightly wound, dark color variegated with grey
- Mustache - dark color variegated with grey
- Hair - Beard extending into course thick hair, variegated from dark to
  grey and thinning on top.
- deep set wrinkles and ridges on nose
- smile lines or vertical creases
- an expression that is open to interpretation: annoyed, disdain or
  aggressive pending if you view with mouth open or lips closed. It is
  however a dynamic expression and neither static nor passive in my

Perceived details Some perceptions

- Right eye - I can assume where it is but it is obscured. I have
  approximated its position and entirety based on parts of the left eye I
  can identify
- Left eye detail - While I can see parts of the left eye as I understand it I
  cannot see the whole eye as I have drawn
- the hair follicles themselves. While I have rendered hair details, I cannot
  see them individually as I have drawn
- any sharp detail such hair, iris sclera borders, pupil iris border, top
- Tonal qualities - while it is enigmatic and dramatic to draw this subject
  with all his dark brooding shadows i chose to lighten the image to
  accommodate a better portrait for the viewer
                                                First Sketch

On September 29, I started getting
my eye in and sent a rough treatment
of how I was going to approach the
subject to Ray. I was happy with
aspects of this rendition and left it
unfinished as time was precious and
I wanted to get cracking on a larger
image. This drawing is roughly on the
size of an A3 piece of cartridge. In
this version I am still working on lips

Second Drawing

I embark on my first impression of lips closed drawing on October 10th

Third Drawing 
After many hours of looking at Ray’s working image I can honestly say I see the teeth quite clearly. I wasn’t a case of being convinced by Ray, he let me make up my own mind. I started this drawing on the 18th of October.

By now I was becoming ver familiar with face and enjoyed the task immensely as the drawings took shape. In one of my daily contacts with Ray
as to my progress with the project he mentioned that he wanted a life-size replica or bust of the Tree Sitter and would try and source one for the future. I
happily told him look no further as I majored in sculpture at art college, and while I never finished my fine arts degree, I have been very active using it in the film, tv and theater industry all my working life. So it was agreed that I
would do the bust after I had finished the drawings. 

A Yowie Conference that had been planned for ages was taking shape like my drawings and it would
be great to have a 3D version to look at. I finished this last drawing on

October 23rd. 
I met Ray at a service station on the 24th after a three shift day and handed over the drawings. It was our first face to face and we hit it off
straight away. Both of us were burning the midnight oil to earn a crust and find time for this project in whatever spare time was available.

The Sculpture

Time was running out and the Nana Glenn conference had been booked. I had a few mates I was busting to tell about this work but real life was throwing extra shifts at me and bills have to be paid. I bought a ton of special effects resins and silicone's from Barnes at the Gabba. I love that place, a
dear colleague with 30 plus years in the special effects industry recommended a list of products that would get results in the little time I had left. It was good advice. I started on the 27th of October.

Basically the task at hand in step form was to:
- sculpt a head out of clay
- make a two part mold of the head
- de-mold the head. this would result in the destruction of the clay
  head. There would be no second chances if the mold process failed.
- cast the head in 8 mms of silicone
- fill the head with a two part rubber foam
- paint the head with a siliconised paint
- insert eyes
- punch hair into the silicone to match the beard and variegation's as
   best as possible.

It was immensely pleasurable to see the drawings bring this clay to life. I kept
ray updated with key steps in the progress. The ears are a construct, I
assume it had ears and this is where ears go normally.

The mould construction was daunting as we were temperatures in the 30s
and it greatly reduced an already fast cure rate of the resin which was used
to pull the details of the clay.

It was a bit of a Hail Mary but it came away and left me with a workable
mould with which to cast the head. This was done by layering up the mould with layers of silicone until I had decent skin to work with. I filled the rest of the head with expanding foam rubber to keep the integrity of the head firm but not rigid.

Painting the head

While I had a good result in the time given, I realised that I had gone down the path of using the enhanced image to base most of my work on. Ray’s Original image has our tree sitter with darker, redder, browner tones. I was unable to source better matching colours in the time given. Ray talked me through his take on the colours and I used some off the shelf Halloween wigs, a curly black mullet and a granny wig, it had some spectacular grey in it and was ok for the purposes of this demonstration.

I had also attempted match the colour a bit better but in my own opinion I think I went backwards in some of the rendering of the skin. The beard while it looks good is a synthetic fibre and highly reflective. This changes the image when its seen live and when it’s captured in an image.

The beard I left long as it’s hard to tell from rays original photo. We both concur that its tighter to the face and probably shorter by about 15 centimeters. The teeth were inserted at the last moment. They were carved rather than cast. Casting them out of resin would have been my preference
but I needed to make do.

Left Eye detail - Left to right.

Heavy brow, dark mass - assumed pupil and shadow, lighter band bordering pupil - assumed iris, much lighter band of contrast - assumed sclera.

These details are where you
would expect to find them.
please not that there is gradation of tone in the sclera which suggests a curve and t h e r e f o r e a sphere a n d presumably the shape of an eye ball.

I have toggled the hue and contrast to illustrate how I
arrived at this conclusion. The
other interesting thing about the
eye interpretation is that it fits
with the nose and nostrils in

If you run two fingers from the centre of your eyes they
will straddle the nose as this image suggests. Bear in mind
that this is a 3/4 angle of the face but it still works as a guide for the basis of my illustration
and sculpture.

Expression Lines - Examples stitched together

I perceive that the subject’s expression is anger or annoyance at Ray’s presence or simply that he has been made out and discovered by Ray. Either-way as Ray went to reset the camera the subject was gone. In all of the subjects image you will note a crease under the left eye. In most
faces this will deform when compressed in an expression. It’s actually the bottom of the eye. With no where to go a crease usually forms.

It can also be a well worn feature of age.

The Teeth and Lips

Again this is an area where perception is subjective. Pending on the color, warmth or coolness of filters, the idea of a mouth open or closed can change. Even the white background of this document
can alter the way in which it is viewed. I lean towards mouth open now rather than my first impression. I base this on how wrinkles and lines on the nose would appear when a snarl or a grimace
is employed on a face. It makes perfect sense that teeth would be viewed in such a scenario.

Project Summary

The drawings
I am content with the first pass on these drawings. As with most of my work I end up doing multiple versions and will continue to press on and produce other versions that narrow in on matches Ray’s image.

Areas of improvement
I felt that the nose was a little off the mark and perhaps not flat or broad enough to match the subjects. The gaze of the eyes is actually a little more forward in my drawing and would be better served with a more extreme sideways glare.

The Sculpture
I am very happy with the early mock up of the face in clay form and subsequent casting of the silicone head.

The coloring
The earlier silicone paint seemed closer to the mark than my last attempt to guild the Lilly. I should have left it alone. I also used a brush for the silicone. An airbrush approach would be a better way to apply it.

Hair and beard
The hair and beard are alright but I know I can do better with another version and the benefit of time and peer reviewed art work. I will color match the hair with a color sample of the original hair collected and sent off to another researcher. This will render a more complete experience of the subject for the viewer. I will purchase Yak Hair in the future and avoid synthetic fibers if I can.

The Eyes and Teeth
The eyes were an off the self purchase. They worked well in a fashion but I will make complete eye balls with sclera and a more detailed iris. Again I can do much better with the teeth. My preference will be to redo the mouth of the subject on and adapted cast of the original. And finally a big thank you to ray Doherty for this unique and wonderful
opportunity to bring more meaning to this amazing face in the bush - The Tree Sitter.

Editors Note:
I cannot thank Buck enough for his work that he did on this project, his tireless efforts in the face of a huge workload in such a short time only speaks volumes for the level of dedication and professionalism he exhibits - Thanks Buck 

Buck putting in the hair 
Buck with the Bust

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