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Endangered Animal Project

SCULPTURE, ILLUSTRATION, ANIMATION

A three-part case study to raise awareness about the endangered Greater Prairie Chicken.

We are now in the midst of the sixth mass extinction. Human impacts are wiping out species at a rate about 25 times faster than normal.

 

To raise awareness about this issue, I created a recycled sculpture, illustration, and animated video about the Greater Prairie Chicken, a vulnerable species from my home state. Through these exercises, I sought to highlight its unique appearance, habitat, behaviors, and endangering factors to connect viewers to the lives and fate of these animals.

SKILLS

Storyboarding, Animation, Illustration

TOOLS

Sculpture: Recycled materials

Illustration: Adobe Illustrator

Animation: Cut paper, After Effects

About the Species

With a population of about 400,000, the Greater Prairie Chicken is currently threatened as a result of habitat loss and human settlement. Of it's three subspecies, one is highly endangered, and another is extinct.

Recycled Sculpture

To start, I created a sculpture of the prairie chicken to get a better understanding of its features in three dimensions. I collected plastic containers that were to be thrown away, and looked for similar forms in the designed objects and the animal.

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Physical Interactions

One of the behaviors particular to the Greater Prairie Chicken is it's mating dance, where the male chicken flips up two ear-like feather tufts and produces a booming sound. I captured this quality by constructing movable ear flaps.

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Poster Illustration

As non-migratory birds, Greater Prairie Chickens are dependent on the grasslands for nesting, food, and protection from predators and weather. An understanding of the animal is incomplete without an understanding of the place it calls home.

Through the sculpture, I was able to get a sense of the prairie chicken's personality and appearance, but I also wanted to depict the species in the context of its natural habitat.

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Composition

I wanted to create an illustration that still focused on the Greater Prairie Chicken while hinting at the threats they experience as a result of human settlement. One of the challenges I faced was capturing the characteristic feeling of the Midwest, and balancing that with the right amount of detail and depth.

Color + Style

I used a warm color palette to capture the feeling of the grasslands, but added in a subtle purple to contrast with the orange on the Greater Prairie Chicken and prevent the colors from coming across too monotonous.

Since the prairie chicken has a very recognizable form, I used an abstract style to exaggerate those qualities.

Cut Paper Animation

The Greater Prairie Chicken has a unique mating dance that benefits from being shown in a time-based medium like animation. In this exercise, I used cut paper animated in after effects to highlight the prairie chicken behaviour. I then layered in my own Foley sounds for the final touches.

As with the illustration, I wanted to show the human impact on the species, but this time with more emphasis to drive the point home.

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Sequence

I started making a storyboard to work out my narrative sequence.

 

I chose to follow the story of a female prairie chicken, demonstrating an interaction between two members of the species before sobering the viewer with the dangers of human roads nearby.

Sound Design

For this video, I recorded my own sound effects. I didn't want the sound to overpower the animation, so I used audio sparingly. Some of the tools I used were shuffling papers, crinkling plastic wrap, and a friend's whistling.

FINAL VIDEO