Illustration Friday: Fierce

Years ago when my daughter was about a year or so new, we moved to Ocala Florida courtesy of Time/Warner (this was the pre-AOL days). Having lived in metro areas most of my life, I was unaware of the dangers that lurked in the grass just outside my door.

On this particular day I was sunning in the back yard, minding my own business when I noticed an ant on the filter of my cigarette (hey, it was 90s, everyone smoked). I crushed the filter and the ant, lit a cigarette and didn’t give it another thought. A short time later the girl child starting fussing about something so I stood up to bring her in the house. In the process of walking towards her, I felt something sting my toe.

When I put her down in the house my toe was throbbing and my face felt like it was swelling. A quick check in the mirror showed that ‘swelling’ was an understatement—I looked like an Italian blowfish. Things happened fast after that–it was painful to move my foot and my eyes were swelling shut. I remembered putting up the child gate so Sara couldn’t get too close—I still didn’t know what was happening—for all I knew, this was some strange Florida disease. I called my wife and suggested she come home from work if she wanted to see me before I blew up.

The doctor in the emergency room said I had a ‘reaction’ to a fire ant bite. A reaction? Seriously, a reaction is the scream you get when you jump out of a closet and shout ‘booga booga’ at someone. I was well beyond reaction and into terminal response. Anyway, I’ve been bitten since then but I’ve never had a ‘reaction’ as severe as that first incident. I’ve also wondered what possible evolutionary purpose could these little bringers of pain serve? I am still waiting for a satisfactory answer.

Based on this experience, I think fire ants are fierce little monsters and therefore qualify for my Illustration Friday entry this week. I realize that the scale in the picture above would make the fire ants the size a small dog or a large rodent—a Fire Chihuahua perhaps—but, if you’ve ever been bitten by one of them, you know that the scale is psychically correct.

I did this piece completely in Illustrator. I used several different reference pieces as models for the ants and drew the body using a standard brush. Then I filled the bodies using the mesh tool, copied them, and created a red transparency (multiply) over the original body. I created the grass using a custom brush generated from 3 pieces (I read about this process in the Illustrator Wow Book). The sun is a yellow circle with a flare placed over it.

Your comments are encouraged.

9 thoughts on “Illustration Friday: Fierce

  1. \”Based on this experience, I think fire ants are fierce little monsters and therefore qualify for my Illustration Friday entry this week.\”:0)I agree totally! I've been bitten by those as a kid too! Wonderful illustration. Am sure the ants will feel honored!


  2. very awesome Tony! I love the way the sun looks and i love how the ants look air brushed and have a transparent quality like they really do! Very neato, thanks for telling how you did it too 🙂 The story was painful for you but hilarious in retrospect and I really enjoyed it!


  3. Thanks for your nice comments. I love this illustration! I hit my tennis raquet against a fire ant mound in Florida as a child sending a shower of these creatures all over my best friend. We are still friends today but it took alot of groveling.


  4. wonderful illustration and a terrifying story.. I thought that our English red ants were scarey but they're nothing like those monsters!!


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