Analogue to Digital and Back Again, Part II

By Kathryn Killackey (Killackey Illustration and Design)

This post is part of this month’s analog/digital series and the second post­ discussing my work as an archaeological illustrator in relation to analogue and digital media. In the previous post I outlined my mostly analogue workflow with some digital skeuomorphs and explored the differences between illustration and 3D modeling. Here I’d like to share some ways I’ve recently expanded my use of the digital in my workflow and explored a constructive interplay between the digital and analogue.

I am the site illustrator for Çatalhöyük, a Neolithic archaeological site in Turkey. I started working there in 1999 as an archaeobotanist, and since 2007 I’ve been the project’s illustrator. Every summer I spend about two months drawing artifacts and recording on-site features. Over the years I’ve seen the project transition from entirely analogue recording to a mix of digital and analogue, until it has become almost entirely digital in some trenches. At this point the project employs tablets, laser scanners, and even drones. Dr. Maurizio Forte’s team from Duke University and Dr. Nicoló Dell’Unto from Lund University have spent the last several years testing these digital technologies on site. Until recently my work has mostly been unaffected by this transition to digital, I’ve carried on with my analogue workflow on a parallel track (see my earlier post for some advantages to analogue media in illustration). ­But over the last couple years several situations have arisen where I have had to re-evaluate my approach and consider integrating some of these new digital methods.

For example, this past summer I was tasked with illustrating a large, fragile lump of molded plaster in the shape of a head with painted ochre designs. I sat in front of the head with all my drawing tools laid out, picked up my pencil, and stopped. The plaster feature had already been 3D modeled by Dr. Dell’Unto and photographed by site photographer Jason Quinlan from every angle. What was my analogue pencil and paper drawing going to record that these other digital methods hadn’t already? Why illustrate?

3D Model of the plastered Head (Unit 21666) by Dr. Nicoló Dell’Unto. The model was generated using Agisoft Photoscan pro version 1.1.
3D Model of the plastered Head (Unit 21666) by Dr. Nicoló Dell’Unto. The model was generated using Agisoft Photoscan pro version 1.1.

It took a discussion with site conservator Ashley Lingle and comparing model to plaster head, to answer this question. The 3D model and photographs captured the general areas of white and ochre plaster but not the fine details, such as broken surfaces and multiple layers of painting. I ended up creating several illustrations of the head, which isolated different layers of ochre painting and delineated damaged and broken areas, making clear what was the original, intended surface of the feature. I decided to forgo my own measuring process to make these illustrations and use the 3D model as a base in order to take advantage of the 3D model’s accuracy. Jason Quinlan worked with me to rotate the orthoimage into my chosen views, which I subsequently printed. These printouts became the framework for my drawings, allowing me to focus on filling in the details that the model missed rather than wasting valuable time measuring the head. The illustration below shows 4 views of the plaster head and records the latest layer of ochre painted decoration. (You can read a more detailed account of the plaster head’s excavation, conservation, and recording in Chapter 28 of this year’s Archive Report.)

Scaled illustration of the plastered head by Kathryn Killackey. Pen and Ink and Adobe Illustrator, 2015.
Scaled illustration of the plastered head by Kathryn Killackey. Pen and Ink and Adobe Illustrator, 2015.

I’m also currently integrating another type of 3D model into my analogue (or digital skeuomorph) illustration process for my ongoing reconstruction of the late formative site of Khonkho Wankane in highland Bolivia. Dr. Scott Smith and Dr. John Janusek hired me to reconstruct the site’s architecture, landscape, and use. At the beginning of the project, Dr Smith also supplied me with a Google SketchUp model of the site he had created. We decided on a view in SketchUp that encompassed the landscape and site features they wanted included. I then exported the view as vector line work to Adobe Illustrator where I fine-tuned the lines, giving the architecture a more organic look. Next, I printed out the line work and drew on top of it with graphite to add in landscape details and shading.

Top: screen shot of Dr. Smith’s Khonkho Wankane SketchUp model. Bottom: Khonkho Wankane drawing by Kathryn Killackey. Adobe Illustrator linework and graphite, 2015.
Top: screen shot of Dr. Smith’s Khonkho Wankane SketchUp model. Bottom: Khonkho Wankane drawing by Kathryn Killackey. Adobe Illustrator linework and graphite, 2015.

I’m now in the process of digitally painting my Adobe Illustrator line art and graphite drawing in Photoshop, letting some of the pencil show through as seen in the screenshot below. It will soon be populated with people and llamas; as Laia Pujol-Tost points out such peopled pasts are often missing from virtual reconstructions. (I’ll have the final image up on my webpage and Facebook page in a couple weeks.)

Screen shot of Khonkho Wankane digital painting in progress.
Screen shot of Khonkho Wankane digital painting in progress.

In my work with layering analogue illustrations on 3D models, I continue to experiment for best results. However, this work reveals the benefits of combining traditional techniques with emerging digital technologies. This constructive interplay between the digital and analogue draws on the strengths of each media. The 3D model provides accuracy, much more then I ever could with my hand and eyes alone. With my analogue and digital skeuomorph techniques I add interpretive details, people the past, direct the viewer’s gaze, and foreground the image’s authorship with brushstrokes and pencil lines. These experiments have allowed me to see my analogue work not as separate or parallel to digital technologies, but rather in a productive dialogue.

(Thank you Colleen Morgan and Sara Perry for inviting me to be part of this series and Savage Minds for hosting!)

Dr. Colleen Morgan (ORCID 0000-0001-6907-5535) is the Centre for Digital Heritage Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York. She conducts research on digital media and archaeology, with a special focus on embodiment, avatars, genetics and bioarchaeology. She is interested in building archaeological narratives with emerging technology, including photography, video, mobile and locative devices. Through archaeological making she explores past lifeways and our current understanding of heritage, especially regarding issues of authority, authenticity, and identity. She received her PhD in Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley and her BA in Anthropology/Asian Studies at the University of Texas. Since that time, she has worked both as a professional and academic archaeologist in Turkey, Jordan, Qatar, England, Greece, Texas, Hawaii and California, excavating sites 100 years old and 10,000 years old and anything in-between. She remains deeply interested in excavation methodology, high falutin’ theory, interstitial spaces, skeuomorphs and good bourbon.

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