Painting the Diorama
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Painting the Diorama

*theme* Hey, we are here in the future home of the striped hyena diorama which is currently being built thanks to Indiegogo supporters and fans of The Brainscoop and the Field Museum, and we’re here with Aaron Delehanty. That’s right, yeah, my name IS Aaron Delehanty and I’m an artist here on staff at the field museum. I work in the replication shop and we build a lot of components for the exhibitions here and the occasional diorama, which, I guess hasn’t come up in a lot of- many decades so it’s pretty amazing that this is happening and I’m thrilled and pretty honored to be able to paint the mural for it. *music* So it’s dusk, it’s this beautiful area in Somaliland where these hyenas were originally found In terms of, like, time of day, like, is this accurate what direction are we pointing in, and you have some stars and things and how’d you come up with that configuration? We sure- we sure do, yeah. We look very closely at when these hyenas were originally collected back in, I think it was, 1896 and it was during the dry season so we, based on that information and where they were in Somaliland we chose August 6th, 1896 and we’re doing 5:30 in the morning. A civil twilight, they call it. So, what about- but the star pattern, that’s not- that wasn’t a trivial decision as far as I understand it. Because it’s a night scene and we know the place it was pretty easy for us to decide on making sure that the constellations in the sky were totally accurate for this time in Somaliland. Carl Akeley, if he were here today, what do you think he would think about this? Ah, he’d probably… snarl. *laughing* He was kind of a snarly man. From what- from what I’ve heard he’s been very- he’s very snarly. But I know he’d be proud because he devoted his entire existence to dioramas. When you’re talking about, like, wanting to retain accuracy and all of those things and we’re thinking about Carl Akeley, and ‘what would Carl Akeley do?’ we have this huge land form in here and we’re- this- you didn’t build this. No, this was part of the original taxidermy and we’re trying to preserve as much of the original Carl Akeley taxidermy as we can and that includes this land form. So, that’s good, I’m glad that you guys are keeping all of this and keeping, obviously, like, detailed notes capturing how all of this is happening. I think that’s one of the most exciting things about this: the exhibitions department has been detailing literally every step of this process. They’ve got this timelapse of a GoPro in here to paint the scene. Yeah, the whole museum community is very excited about this project and a lot of people outside the museum are really thrilled about this project too, so we’re trying to document it in various ways to to show off to people what their contributions have done. I’m pretty excited about it. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve been a part of. Me too, and it wouldn’t have happened without Brain Scoop so I am thrilled for Emily and thrilled for all of her fans because this has been fantastic. *music* So, Aaron, can you just walk me through what’s happening in the landscape? Sure. Our main feature is the Acacia tree which we have here and on top of the Acacia tree here there are a couple vultures who are waiting for the hyenas to finish up so that they can have their piece. Then we have these boulders, the locals call them extrusions because they just kind of pop up in this weird landscape. Locals also call those plants they’re their Sansevieria but locals call them mother-in-law’s tongue oh because they’re so sharp and pointy and kind of dangerous looking that’s fabricated that one’s fabricated but that we got from Home Depot so don’t look at that that’s the place that’s just a placeholder you’re gonna make one that’s nicer than what Home Depot can offer yeah real Sansevieria they’re much sharper and they’re thicker they’re they’re not pretty like that like the Home Depot version is one of Carl akeleys photos very beautiful there’s the same lunch of aloe so yeah and then it’s just sort of desert luckily it’s the since it’s 5:30 in the morning and it’s the dry season there won’t be much dust in the air so you get this very clear line-of-sight all the way to the horizon what’s so what’s this and what’s this tree over here yeah it’s it’s still half painted people call a dragon’s blood tree because you’re such a cool tree it’s got this red SAP so if you cut it it looks like it’s bleeding blood like red blood so dragon’s blood it’s pretty awesome [overlaps] you gonna put a big splash in it and it’ll be oozing no no they don’t know that’ll just be a nod to the botanist yeah yeah Orion up there if you can see all the way up towards the ceiling use a little belt if you keep turning oh yeah Ryan’s belt Casper and Pollock the Gemini twins even though they were close to the horizon where you probably shouldn’t see them because it’s so bright and that’s an artistic license that bring Casper and Pollock I think that’s permissible, Thanks yeah and then that’s it we got our hyenas in the foreground our bat eared Fox this is just the standing this is the yep he’s the standard is right this isn’t gonna be the one that we put in here and I probably left some things out because it’s a very complicated story here yeah that’s the gist of it that’s pretty good thanks yeah. So this was one of my favorite things after the the campaign closed and we got the green light we’re gonna go up and do it and I went into your studio upstairs and you had this yeah adorable model yeah this was our first thing we did on day one was begin construction on a on a 1/10 scale model so this was great this gave us our opportunities to start talking with the botanists so that we can get the plants right to start talking to the geologist to make sure that we get the geology correct to start talking to the astronomer to get the stars correct and then talk to the zoologist to make sure that the animals are in their correct environment doing something and they would be doing in this space at this time of day and then I painted it again on this little guy and this one is this one over here with so that I can get the color yeah so the thing about this painting is that you don’t want to reveal that it’s a painting to people you know does that that would just ruin the whole effect people just want to get lost into it you know so it has to be seamless yeah that sense and glare it can’t have any glare because that there’s glare on the wall it kind of reveals that it’s right so I end up making this formula for there’s all this beeswax I had beeswax to pretty much all the oil paint mm-hmm so it kills any kind of Sheen whatsoever to it I didn’t put any beeswax in the moon no because I wanted that though oh yeah glitter a little bit that’s a pop yeah you should put some actual glitter on it it’s not a bad idea I think Karl like would have approved oh yeah but yeah he snarl in nice approving way It has still brains on it.

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