This is my video summary of the major steps in the process of making it all look right. It was simple, but difficult and technical at the same time…is that believable? Hope you like it…HUGE THANKS to Jonathan Jackson at jhjackson.com for his skilled editing and technical help! He is the best.
Perhaps if you are wondering, it took:
about 12 trips up into the Needle
about 2 weeks to make the models and create the digital plan of action
about 3 days making the outlines by dragging fat lumber crayons over the rough composite roof
about 6 gallons of house paint of about 7 colors
about 2 weeks of rolling paint
about 15 4-inch rollers
about $120 dollars of spray paint that I never used because it was too windy (!!)
The widest span between leg tips is about 100 feet
Number of times they are referred to as “spiders” vs “harvestmen”: 287:1
I made this graphic to showcase the incredible evolution of venom-injecting structures that these major groups of arachnids have independently arrived at. The scorpion thru the telson, or the tip if the “tail”; the wolf spider (you can tell by the eye arrangement- check out the lower row of 4 eyes!) injects via fangs at the tip of its chelicerae. Lastly the pseudoscorpion has venom administered via its vestigial pedipalps- it even evolved an opposable thumb to compliment it! And we thought we were special?
This extremely tiny spider (~1mm across!) is called Silhouettella assumptia and is from an elusive and little known family of spiders called Oonopidae. They are known to lay people as the “goblin” spiders, but to latin linguists in labcoats the Oonopidae means egg-eyes.
3/4 view of the Oonopid Silhouettella assumptia
Illustrating a spider requires special techniques. They are different from insects in that their exoskeletons aren’t as hard all around- many parts will shrivel up so they must be stored in alcohol. That’s why you don’t see all the gorgeous spiders of the world mounted in cases next to insects in Natural History museums! (…but not to discredit the world’s bias for insects and against all things arachnid- it is real!! you must teach the next generation to love them!) For example if you try to dry and mount a spider, likely the abdomen will quickly resemble a raisin. A terrible inconvenience.
For this project I had to keep the specimen submerged in liquid so that it wouldn’t dry out, and surprisingly (to me) sand is used at the bottom of the liquid petri dish to help steady it. This enables me to study under a stereo microscope and a powerful light. I also had access to “stacked focus” digital images if many different angles. I had the experts around me at the Cal Academy to help me come up with the illustrated posture, (and crucially) the relative lengths of the legs.
I rendered the image in gouache, and stroked the many different colored hairs in colored pencil right over the paint…a great combination! The original drop shadow I painted underneath was quite disappointing, so I opted to make a subtle digital one instead.
Are there any other spider lovers out there on the WWW?
I am super excited to attend (as a guest of Charles Griswold from the from CAS) the American Arachnological Society yearly convention held this summer in Berkeley! Pretty convenient…I whipped up this collage to throw down on the odds and ends table for researchers to gnaw on.
Fascinating presentation topics coupled with crazy vocabulary, my favorite being footage of the hyper-flamboyant courtship displays of a certain male Salticid- it was somewhere between a bird of paradise, a crack junkie, and an alien vibrating back and forth, flashing all manners of iridescence. And also super sweet were the slowed-down audio thumps of Lycosids drumming on substrates.