What are some good ways to render cybernetic implants that are integrated into the human body?
Mathilda Dennis, Canada
Looking at a lot of cyborg art, I notice how much of it has an emphasis on revealing a simulated body. I want to find a different angle. Wearable tech and early forms of implants are certainly already here, and it seems this technology will initially be centred around fashion and wealth. The current thinking is that implant technology will be mainly accessible to the rich, so I decide to approach the concept from that direction, and to aim for an air of privilege and elegance in my image. I also want to blur the line on where the implants actually become part of the body, so it’s a melding of replaced body parts and wearable technology.
There’s an old 1960s Star Trek episode featuring Diana Muldaur as a blind woman who uses a beautiful jewelled sensor mesh worn over her clothing to see her surroundings, and I use that as a stylistic starting point. I also drape some rich fabric to create a fashionable feel. Instead of being brutal in design, the implants and wearables are delicate and ephemeral: the optic interface seems to become glitter eye shadow. Does it penetrate the skin? Is it sprayed on? I like the ambiguity here.
The figure’s hand, however, is clearly partially artificial. I think a stylised technique here works better with the overall theme, because my main goal is to show that the character isn’t only comfortable with the cybernetic implants, but also graceful and perhaps even proud. I sketch the idea out, looking for a more posterised, almost comic-like treatment. I let lines and colour areas stay loose. I like the impact of more graphic compositions, and so I work at simplifying the lights and darks into larger, unified shapes. By keeping these areas flatter in tone, I’m hoping the lighting hot spots of the tech will jump out more. The headpiece/eyewear is deliberately vague about where it ends or how it even connects, appearing almost as a fashion accessory. I add the same specular sparkles to her tunic, and I like being deliberately obtuse about what these devices and wearables might actually do, rather than conveying an explicit, obvious function to the viewer. For the cybernetic hand, I decide that a highly rendered surface won’t fit the painting style and so I treat it more as a flat, knockout-type area. I make a rough mask for the hand and fingers, and try brushing on different textures and images for a more stylised look. The bright tips tie the focus with other specular points around the image.
I look at progressive fashion trends in prosthetic technology to get a sense of how real-world people form relationships with their artificial body parts and extensions. Elegant wearable tech combines with body
implants for the completely connected trans-human... The fact that she looks like the
Bride of Frankenstein is just a coincidence!