In this latest article in The Guide, we look at French artist Steeven Salvat’s surreal imagining of the inner workings of some fascinating critters…
While the “topside” wildlife photographer seeks to capture nature objectively—much as we observe it with our own eyes—as underwater shooters, we do more than simply document the natural world. The subsea environment is such that we must often use artificial lighting that affords our own, subjective, portrayal of the creatures we encounter; lenses that distort our subjects to our advantage; and post-processing tools that add yet another interpretative layer.
French illustrator Steeven Salvat has taken his particular interpretation of marine life to a surreal level in an intriguing hand-drawn series called “Mechanical/Biological [A Crustacean Study].” Salvat’s early life growing up in the town of Menton, on the French Riviera, was the inspiration behind the nine illustrations that make up the project. “I’ve always been fascinated by the ocean and marine creatures,” Salvat tells Adobe Create.
Before putting pen to paper, Salvat did extensive research on the Internet. “For the biological aspect of the crustaceans, I studied a lot of photos,” he says. “The mechanical aspect is completely made up to follow the shape of the subject; it’s the most challenging part of my drawings.” But he doesn’t position the mechanical gears randomly. “I try to generate a layout that might possibly work as a mechanism,” he says.
To get the look of “old biological studies,” Salvat used a Rotring pen with China ink, and he dyed his own paper—by soaking 180-gram Canson paper in a brew of boiling water and black tea for up to half an hour. “The drying part is kind of tricky,” he points out, “as you have to put heavy books on the paper to keep it from curling. The last step is to iron it.”
The marine biologists among you—and perhaps those with a keen eye—may have noticed another thing about the drawings in the series: the scientific names are inventions, too. “They’re dedications to my family and friends,” Salvat says. “For example, my father is called Alain and my mom is Corinne; their dedicated drawings are Cancer gigalain and Astacidae corinae.”
One thing is certain: Nature’s incredible creations will continue to confound and delight, and provide endless inspiration for artists of every discipline. And we’re sure we’ll never look at a crab or a lobster quite the same way again.
A time-lapse video showing the creation of one drawing from “Mechanical/Biological [Crustacean Study]”