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Symbiartic

Symbiartic

The art of science and the science of art.

Future of the Big Five

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Big Five: Cape Buffalo © Robert Chew

Will our desire to hunt remain after we've stripped the Earth of its megafauna? This concept art series-in-progress by Robert Chew focuses on the future of Africa's Big Five - rhinoceras, cape buffalo, elephant, lion and leopard - and seems to suggest a future where the forms linger even if the animals in their natural form do not.

Big Five: Rhino © Robert Chew

Big Five: African Elephant © Robert Chew

Robert Chew is currently working as a freelance concept artist using digital painting and a clear love for mechanical animal forms (check out these bird mecha things). This series is still in progress with the lion and then leopard still to come, so keep an eye out. I hope to bring you an interview with Chew here on Symbiartic once the series is completed as well.

What struck me about these pieces was the skill in texturing and lighting Chew is able to employ. Rather than go for obviously sleek, shiny, futuristic chrome like Syd Mead or the battered steel we're used to from Halo-era games, Chew has swathed these mechanical animals in durable canvas-like material, with metallic and perhaps ceramic components poking out. You can imagine parts of the coverings being unfastened and washed off or grass seeds in the seams between metal plates. The dusty daytime lighting from the first two, Rhino and Cape Buffalo is different than the evening amber glow in the African Elephant.

The body language of the animals also mimics real life, giving them a sense of intelligence. Will we be more comfortable in the future around robotic constructs that mimic animals than humans? Will that help us escape the uncanny valley while allowing for biomimicry? The combination of soft and hard textures and natural anatomy bring these beasts alive.

This is what good concept art does. It springboards our imaginations and makes us ask questions.

I can't wait for the lion and leopard.

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The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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