Dan Droid and Autism – A Digital Art Design

This week I worked on a simple greyscale digital art design of an android. I called him Dan because if you say Dan Droid it sounds close to Android (which I thought was funny) and also he reminds me of Asimov’s Daneel Olivaw who was my favourite robot as a child. (I think I also rather unconsciously modelled his human looks on a Euphonium player I knew at school called Daniel.)

I began with a simple sketch. One of the things I’ve been working on recently is how to better use my drawing tablet to get nice tapered lines. I really tried to work on that here. It meant drawing faster and having more faith in my hands to do the right thing without the constant supervision of my brain. Here’s the sketch…

Next I planned out a basic elecronic look for the part of his face which is showing his internal structure. I looked at reference for the muscles and bones of the face for this so that I could mimic real human anatomical structures with electronic equivalents. So the group’s of wires you can see, for instance, model muscle groups in the face.)

After that I added my darkest shadows. I really do love the way solid blacks look in comic art. At this point I gave him black hair to balance the image tonally, even though my Euphonium friend had blond hair.

Then I added 2 levels of greyscale tone using a cell-shading approach.

Finally to finish off the image I surrounded him with a background reminicent of electronic circuit diagrams. I though he looked really great amongst all of that.

So here is the final image…

Reviewing the art

Looking at this drawing, I like the way he’s walking across the frame but turning to look the viewer in the eye. I think it engages the viewer a bit more and also reveals his inner nature. I also like the simple cell-shading style although that’s really just a matter of personal taste.

If I wanted to add more I think I would render the background into 3D and make some parts of it look like matte metal and some parts look like chrome. I could then drop a shadow behind him onto the background to really make him stand out.

Reflections on Androids and Autism

In terms of the meaning of the art, I personally think people draw their own meanings from things like this. For me, this is all about what it feels like when I suddenly make a mistake and reveal my autistic nature. It’s very much like I have suddenly turned my head and now they can see what I really am. The electronic background he seems to carry with him is like the label of autism which other people then see.

There are some folks who think autistic people shouldn’t be compared to robots, but personally I think it’s a good metaphor. In order to do the normal social things that neurotypical people find automatic I have to set up a whole raft of decision-making flowcharts in my head, remember them in detail and follow them. This feels like having to build and maintain external circuitry to my regular self in order to hold simple conversations. The huge extra work of managing this circuitry is one of the things that makes socialising so draining.

For a long while I have felt ashamed of being this way, sort of deficient. However now, through counselling, I am beginning to believe that being my own self might be OK (with the same caveat as everyone else in the world, which is that a person acts decently).

I follow Terry Pratchett’s Granny Weatherwax on this one. She says. .

It’s not my place to tell β€˜em what to believe, if they act decent.’

8 thoughts on “Dan Droid and Autism – A Digital Art Design

  1. Awesome to be your friend! 😁😁😁 I expereince the same thing with blogging. I started it to push my art a bit more, but I stayed because of the wonderful people I have found! It really makes a difference. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Right back at you, Jo. One of the real blessings I’ve found in blogging is finding an avenue to new friendships and, through them, all sorts of inspiration and support I’d never have found without it. You are absolutely one of those friends to me :). Our conversations about everything, from the “big” stuff to the everyday stuff, always bring extra light into my day.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, Michael! I’m so glad it touched you like this! I was having a regular day, but now you’ve put a huge grin on my face and I feel lighter inside!! Thank you for sharing your response and for you kindness and friendship. I really value your words. 😊😊😊

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jo, I loved your piece just as I saw it (and I chuckled at “Dan Droid,” too – something I’ll share with my brother who adores puns) but then I got to the bottom and read your connection of this work to your experience of autism and I found it even more beautiful. It makes my heart happy to read how your journey in counseling is helping you love and appreciate that part of yourself. And I know we’ve had several conversations where we talk about our own journeys with therapy and our relationship to our selves and all that. I always take great strength in what you share. As you tell me, it’s an act of courage to open up like that and I echo that back to you. It normalizes the whole process too and I think that’s so important.

    So thank you for another beautiful piece of art and a reflection along with it that touches my heart and lifts my soul all at the same time :). I was having a pretty good Sunday and now, after having read this, I’ve got all sorts of great feelings within myself. So thank you for sharing and thank you for all the beautiful, radiant light you put out into the world with your art, your words, and the incredible person you are.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As a so-called β€œnormal” person I have a very cursory knowledge of what it must be like to function as an autistic person. The idea of circuitry and building it and maintaining it and remembering it in order to function (and it being a draining task to do so) definitely put a picture in my mind. Now for a little levityβ€”I think you should take one more step in the drawing and make the resistors color coded so we know how many ohms each one is!

    Liked by 1 person

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