A Peek Inside

Isometric Cutaway of Proposed Experimental Houses at Çatalhöyük. Adobe Illustrator, 2013.

Isometric Cutaway of Proposed Experimental Houses at Çatalhöyük. Adobe Illustrator, 2013.

Quite a while ago now I promised to share the final version of this illustration. Here it is, a simple isometric cutaway of the proposed new experimental houses. Three of the proposed buildings are from James Mellaart’s excavations and the fourth is a composite building, showing a variety of different features found in both the Mellaart and Hodder excavations. The plan is to build these house replicas over the next year for site visitors to explore. l may be overseeing the addition of the wall paintings to each house, depending on scheduling.

You can read a bit more about these experimental houses and the 2013 field season in the Çatalhöyük newsletter, downloadable here.


Çatalhöyük Update #2: Works in-progress and fun with Play-Doh

I’ve now been at Çatalhöyük for two and a half weeks and have a couple of illustration projects on the go.

Screen shot of my experimental houses cutaway in progress.

Screen shot of my experimental house cutaway in progress.

The first is a cutaway view of 4 Çatalhöyük experimental buildings which will be built this summer for site visitors to explore. We already have one experimental house, built in the early 2000s. Three of the new buildings will be based on ones excavated by James Mellaart in the 1960s and the forth will be a composite of different features found both in the Mellaart and current excavations. I actually completed a version of this illustration last summer but there have been some changes to the building plans. I am updating the illustration to reflect them. It’s been quite challenging to pour over Mellaart’s publications and photos, trying to gather enough detail to create a scaled isometric reconstruction of the buildings.

An in-progress reconstruction  of aurochs feasting.

An in-progress reconstruction of a large feast at Çatalhöyük .

I’ve also been working on a reconstruction of a large feast taking place off-site. The image depicts a group of people (90+) feasting on a recently killed aurochs. They’re located in the KOPAL area, an area excavated in 1999 just to the north of the mound. It’s a complicated image with lots of people and data to cram in and a tight deadline. I was having a bit of trouble envisioning the partially butchered aurochs that I’m placing in the background so I resorted to stealing Play-Doh from one of the kids on site and making a couple of models. (Don’t worry, I returned the Play-Doh after).

Modelling aurochs butchery with Play-Doh.

Modelling aurochs butchery with Play-Doh.

I’ll post the final versions of these illustrations when they are finished. I should also have some artifact illustrations to share soon. The excavations are gathering steam and a lot of new material is coming off the mound.

Back in Field

Tools of the trade, waiting to be organized and put to use.

Tools of the trade, waiting to be organized and put to use.

Once again I am back on the Konya Plain, organizing my pens and brushes. I arrived at Çatalhöyük this past Tuesday for my 11th field season (7th as illustrator). Excavation on the Neolithic East Mound starts tomorrow. I’m on site for 6 weeks this summer, a shorter period than usual, but I still have lots to work on. I’ll be drawing newly excavated artifacts, finishing up some reconstructions for an upcoming publication, digitizing a bunch of wall painting recordings from recent years, and inking a backlog of illustrations. I’ll post some of this work here over the next few weeks.

In the meantime, take a look at some other images and visualizations of Çatalhöyük. Jason Quinlan is the site photographer and he takes beautiful shots of the artifacts, excavations, and people of Çatalhöyük (you can see a photo of me holding a kitten in the portrait section). And Grant Cox, who completed his MSc in Virtual Pasts at the University of Southampton, has created a 3D reconstruction of the Hunter’s Shrine from the 1960s Mellaart Excavations. You can see it here.

Also, for more archaeological updates on this field season, follow Dr. Scott Haddow’s blog “A Bone to Pick“. Scott is one of the bioarchaeologists on site and he’ll be blogging about all things skeletal throughout the season.

Look Over Here!

I am currently working with Dr. Rosemary Joyce (U.C. Berkeley) to produce a series of archaeological illustrations for a few of her upcoming publications. Dr. Joyce’s research “is concerned with questions about the ways prehispanic inhabitants of Central America employed material things in actively negotiating their place in society. She is especially interested in the use of representational imagery to create and reinforce gendered identities, especially in Classic Maya monumental art and glyphic texts, and Formative period monumental and small-scale images” (Joyce). I’m illustrating some of this representational imagery, namely figurines. So far I have completed a series of graphite drawings highlighting the textile details on figurines from Playa de los Muertos, a Middle Formative site in Honduras. Below are some of these ilustrations.


Front and back of a figurine showing textile details around waist.

I think these images are a good example of how illustration can augment text and direct the viewer’s eye to the relevant details of an object or idea. Through discussion with Dr. Joyce, I decided to execute the illustrations in graphite and use different rendering techniques to show the viewer where to look.


Textile detail on the lower body of a figurine

By rendering the textiles in continuous tone and only indicating the rest of the figurine with line, I help highlight the details being discussed and remove superfluous information. A photograph of the whole figurine would not have directed the eye so effectively.

Headdress detail on a figurine.

Headdress detail on a figurine.

A Confession and Resolution


(This was supposed to be a New Year’s resolution but somehow it’s now April and the year is not so fresh anymore. BUT it was my birthday in late March so it’s a new year for me. Birthday resolutions are a thing, right?)

First the confession: I don’t like sketching. The archetypal artist always has a sketchbook on hand, ready to capture any passing idea, face, or scene that catches their eye. Me, not so much. I like planning everything out before hand, carefully transferring my layout to a clean piece of paper, and then methodically rendering the final piece with great detail. I find sketching intimidating, there’s this big blank piece of paper you have to fill in on the fly with no measuring or framework. And even worse, all your efforts are bound together in a book whether they turn out or not. You can always tear pages out I suppose, but those rough little page stubs are still there, mocking you. Yeah, I don’t like sketching.

This is not a good thing, mind you. I know all the benefits to sketching. Drawing is part muscle memory and the more you practice, the better the connection between your hand and eyes become. It also helps you work through ideas and discover new things. I want to like sketching, I really do. There are all sorts of inspirational sketchers out there. I took a whole class on field sketching during my Science Illustration Program at CSUMB, taught by Jenny Keller. Jenny keeps beautiful sketch books which she displays as artwork in their own right. She’s also written a chapter on the benefits of field sketching in the book Field Notes on Science and Nature. One of my program classmates, Kristin Link, has gone on to be a successful artist and illustrator in Alaska with a focus on sketching. And sometimes for inspiration/ego-crushing, I look at James Gurney’s blog, where he posts pages from his sketchbook.

The resolution: I will keep a sketch book and sketch in it at least once a week (hopefully building up to a daily sketching habit). While sketching I’ll keep this quote from David Allen Sibley in mind, found in the Foreward to John Muir Laws’ The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds:

Drawing is often misunderstood. Non-artists tend to focus on the end result, and think that the primary purpose of drawing is to produce pretty pictures. For one thing, as this book points out, that’s a stress-inducing way to think about the practice of drawing, since by that measure most of your drawings will be failures. More importantly, it misses the deeper and longer-lasting rewards of drawing – the knowledge and understanding that come from the process.

I’ll start posting some of my sketches here once I get my confidence up a bit. Be on the lookout!

In Progress: Female Adornment at Çatalhöyük


Female Adornment at Çatalhöyük Preliminary Drawing

This is the preliminary drawing for Female Adornment at Çatalhöyük, the companion piece to Male Adornment at Çatalhöyük, which I’ve been working on with Milena Vasic, a Phd student currently working on this subject. You can read about it and our decision process in this post. As discussed in the Male Adornment post, there is limited evidence for clothing at Çatalhöyük. This is especially true for females. There are only one or two representations of females in the Çatalhöyük wall paintings (excavated by Mellaart) and they are silhouettes with no clothing depicted. The only data for female adornment come from figurines and jewelry items such as beads.

One female figurine from the 1960’s Mellaart excavations has indications of clothing (the figurine in the upper left of the drawing). The figurine has some sort of spotted top and skirt with possibly fringed edges incised into the clay. In this illustration I’ve dressed the woman’s full-body-view in my interpretation of this outfit. Researchers at Çatalhöyük have interpreted depictions of spotted clothing as leopard skin or imitation leopard skin. Only one leopard bone has ever been identified on site making it unlikely that they had ready access to the real deal (you can read more about leopards on site in The Leopard’s Tale by Ian Hodder). I’ve drawn the top as goat’s skin with hair intact and painted with spots. The bottom has been cut to create a fringe. The skirt is also made of leather and fringed, but scraped clean of hair.

Most of the other female figurines recovered both from the Mellaart and the current Hodder excavations lack any sort of adornment. Exceptions are some figurines depicting either a hairstyle or head dress (such as the one in the lower right of the drawing, excavated by Mellaart). The woman in both the full-body-view and the upper-body-view wears one of many possible interpretations of this hairstyle or head dress. Here I’ve drawn it as a wide, flat, up-swept bun, probably one of the more conservative ways to interpret the figurines. In other illustrations I’ve shown it as in a similar fashion, but with the sides of the head shaved (see image below).

Building 55 Storage Room. Notice the hairstyles with shaved sides.

Building 55 Storage Room. Graphite, 2011.

A more structured hairstyle with some sort of internal support that is either left in or removed after construction has also been suggested (The Hopi squash blossom whorl for unmarried women is an ethnographic example of this. You can see photos of this hairstyle being constructed at this link). You can also see a variety of other interpretations in John Swogger’s illustrations.

The figurine in the upper right of the drawing (excavated by Mellaart), which was painted with red pigment in a “x” pattern, hints at the possibility of body painting. Stamp seals found on site might be one way patterns were applied to the body, though they have not been found with obvious pigment on them or in any sort of primary context. I’ve added the red “x”s to the woman’s full-figure-view.

I’ve also included evidence from beads and textiles in this illustration. Both views of the woman wear the bracelet found in the plaster skull burial. This bracelet includes the only leopard bone found on site. The woman in full-body-view is wearing a necklace found in Burial 15924. The dress in the upper-body-view is based on 5 incised torques found with a female burial in Building 50. The torques, carved from boar tusks, were distributed down the front of the skeleton’s chest, indicating they were perhaps sewn to some perishable material. I’ve drawn them stitched to a leather dress. I’ve also added a woven belt. Textiles are extremely rare at Çatalhöyük because of their organic nature and no secondary evidence for their production has been found. But small pieces have been recovered and therefore were probably part of adornment in some way. I’ve chosen to include a woven belt because narrow strips of cloth are the easiest to weave and the technology to do so is some of the simplest.

I’m currently painting the final version of Male Adornment at Çatalhöyük and Female Adornment at Çatalhöyük is up next. I’ll post both here when I’m finished.