Animal Project Part 1
As I began researching endangered species in Georgia, these were a few that stood out to me.
After a lot of careful consideration and thought, I think I’ve decided to go with the the West Indian manatee. I’m choosing this animal because I feel the most affinity for them. They are gentle and slow-moving animals. Most of their time is spent eating, resting, and traveling. Manatee are mostly herbivorous, however small fish and invertebrates can sometimes be ingested along with a manatee’s normal vegetation diet. I also have an emotional connection to manatees. As a child, I used to take trips to Florida in the summer and I would go with my dad to look for manatees. I think I’m drawn to manatees because of the fond memories and positive association I have established with them.
This is the story I wrote about the West Indian Manatee.
It’s a hot and sunny day on the coast of Tybee Island, Georgia. The summer sun glimmers in the water and illuminates the ripples. I live in these shallow, coastal waters where it’s warm. This is one of my favorite spots because I get to watch as kids splash along the shore and people fish. As a manatee, people call me a nomad. I prefer the term “free spirit”. I move from place to place, motivated by the search for food and warmer waters. It’s a common misconception that manatees are fat. We may look well insulated with a lot of blubber, but that’s actually just our stomach and intestines. When the water inevitably gets too cold here, I will migrate to where it’s warmer, probably somewhere along the coast of Florida. You could call me a snowbird. But I’m not a bird, I’m a manatee.
There are good things about every place I’ve lived. For example, people I meet in Florida are usually crazy, but they’re lots of fun. Humans always seem so interested in seeing me, but I’m more curious about the behavior of humans. Recently, however, I’ve noticed that humans don’t get as close as they used to. They don’t pet or poke me as often. Sometimes it makes me sad, but maybe it’s for the best. Seeing humans all the time used to make me less scared of them and their big boats. It all changed one fateful day, however. I watched as my friend got too close to a boat where he thought he could get some food, and was then stricken and killed. Ever since then, I have avoided boats at all costs. Sometimes it’s hard, though. The number of boats in Florida waterways has increased exponentially over the past few years. When there are a lot of boats in one place, there’s a complicated mixture of sounds that makes it impossible to detect a specific boat that might pose a threat. Put yourself in my fins with five or ten boats zipping right around you! Humans are also destroying my habitat through their housing developments along waterways and runoff from these developments.
As a female manatee, I’m responsible for my young. I gave birth last year, so I will continue to nurse my calf until next year. I will also teach her travel routes and the location of food, rest areas and warm water refuges. Most days, my calf and I spend our days eating, resting, and traveling. My lack of predators makes us confident and means we don’t have to swim fast very often. We could swim up to 15 miles per hour if we really wanted to, but most of the time we stay in the 1 to 4 mph range. We spend about 5 hours a day eating. Our feeding patterns and diet earned us the nickname “sea cows”. Personally, I take offense to this name. Manatees are actually incredibly graceful and intelligent. Even though we have the lowest brain-to-body ratio of any marine mammal, we’re just as smart as dolphins. We can differentiate colors and perform experimental tasks just like them. As herbivores, we often dine on cordgrass, turtle grass, and eelgrass. If we’re feeling wild, we’ll even eat non-native water hyacinth and hydrilla. Occasionally, I’ll eat small fish and invertebrates by accident. I always feel bad for the fish when this happens. My favorite food is when humans feed us lettuce, though. They rarely ever do that anymore either, though.
For my first iteration, I watched a lot of videos of manatees swimming, like this one.
I also used these as reference photos: different ones for the face, fins, and tail.
I was satisfied with the way I used plastic forms to shape the face of my manatee. I think its true to the animal, although it could use more development. I need to work on the body form and correct proportions more.
Even though I was mostly satisfied with my first model, it was interesting that my classmates moved my model closer to the unsuccessful side. It needs further development so that the manatee concept is better translated to the viewer.
For my interactive element, I think I want to have the tail or fins move. Manatees don’t move in that many different ways, so I think this would be true to the animal.
between Tuesday and Thursday, I spoke with Connor and Daphne about my model. Connor told me that the larger Tide pod body portion was not currently serving me in the ways it needed to, and that I should change or expand that to fit the manatee better. They also suggested that I remove the label of the container because it was distracting.
Yesterday, Daphne suggested that I abandon the body altogether and just make a bust of the manatee. While this was not what I had originally imagined for my model, it made sense after I thought about it more in regards to proportions. Manatees are extremeley large and long, and with the size I had started in the face, it would have to be incredibly large to keep proportions correct. The face of the manatee is also the most visually interesting part of the animal. The rest of the body is essentially just a smooth cylindircal form and and a tail. In regards to the the facial area, Daphne suggested i find a longer piece to go down the middle of the face to make it look more connected and smooth.
This is what I came up with at first, but I wasn’t happy with how it looked from the front view. I think the lotion pump I used for the connective piece has an interesting shape, but it wasn’t what I needed in terms on connectivity and visual translation:
After some readjusting, this is what I came up with:
The critique on Thursday was very helpful in guiding me in the right direction for my manatee. This is all the info I got from Daphne:
I’m excited to make my final model.
Helpful videos I used for reference:
More reference photos:
This is my final product.
Over the weekend, I found a mustard bottle that I thought would work well for the jowls since the coffee creamer caps made them too pronounced. I also replaced the black piece under the chin with a deodorant bottle. While I couldn’t find a white deodorant bottle, I thought light blue on white would be less distracting than black on white.
Another significant change I made was in the fins. I cut two conditioner bottles in half to add more dimension and muscle to the fins. Then, I used a rectangular milk gallon bottle for the bottom half. At first, I planned on adding two pieces to the bottom part, but Dani came into studio and said that the milk pieced had enough dimensionality on their own. If I had more time, I would probably add dimension to the bottom half of the fins. I think the two sections of the fins look disconnected and too distinct from each other. I would have to be careful since this is also where my interaction is.
For the chest/body area, I wanted to add more dimension to the body and make the form more true to how the manatee’s body expands as you move through it. I used two containers of Tide Pods positioned inside of each other to achieve this.
I really struggled with taking the label off of the mustard bottle. I didn’t know that food labels were so intensely stuck on the bottles. I used a combination of sandpaper, Goo Gone, and hot water to try to get it off.
Overall, I am satisfied with my manatee. If I had more time, I would make the transitions in the face more seamless and focus more on general craftmanship.