What if feathers, fur, and scales were nothing more than flower petals and leaves? Josh Dykgraaf, an Australian photographic illustrator, reimagines animals made completely of discovered natural elements. Terraform, his digitally produced work, is inspired by the observable patterns seen in nature. His most recent pieces, in particular, emphasize the form similarities between petals and reptile scales, as well as leaves and feathers. Each creature appears to be a hybrid species from an extraterrestrial world.
Terraform’s motivation stemmed from a simple understanding. “I was looking through some photographs I’d shot for a completely other project when I noticed that some rock formations in the Swiss Alps looked like elephant skin,” Dykgraaf tells My Modern Met. “That became the project’s first piece, Ourea.” “I then started extending that notion to other shapes,” the artist continues, “noticing that some leaves resemble bird feathers, for example, or some magnolia flower petals resemble scales.”
Dykgraaf began working with flower petals and leaves during the Australian lockdown since the natural materials could be found nearby. “Basically, I was finding anything I could in the little radius we were permitted around my home since we couldn’t go,” he explains. Each arrangement replicates the scaly texture of Dykgraaf’s subjects, from a curled-up pangolin made of magnolias to a snake built of overlapping protea petals. In other pieces, the artist recreates bird plumage with various sorts of leaves.
Dykgraaf’s work is extremely complicated and demands a great deal of time. The average artwork takes 30-60 hours to produce and includes 2,000 to 3,000 layers in Photoshop! “Of course, the initial obstacle is the amount of time that this approach requires, but I’m becoming much more efficient at it the more I do,” the artist continues. “The main problem, though, is shooting all of the stuff I require.” I need to be more comprehensive in the perspectives I obtain of different settings, maybe waiting for the proper time of day—which isn’t always easy to locate anything that suits all of an animal’s anatomy.
Sometimes I need to think outside the box for solutions.” Dykgraaf was able to set up a home studio in his kitchen during the epidemic. He has a modest lighting setup there where he can shoot the leaves and flower petals from various perspectives.
However, Dykgraaf’s Terraform series does more than just look good; it also emphasizes the value of our planet’s species. “As the project progressed, I went on to focus on other causes that I care about,” Dykgraaf explains. “The destruction we witnessed here in Australia with the bushfires last year killed three billion creatures and is anticipated to drive koalas extinct in the wild in the next decades, which drove me to visit to the fire fields and develop a series of work based on the material I photographed there.” “I have a few more series in the works along these lines that I want to debut later this year,” he continues.
Josh Dykgraaf, a photographer and illustrator, produces digitally generated portraits of animals and birds made completely of natural flowers and leaves.
The artist’s Terraform series is a visual reminder of the visible patterns found in nature.
Overlapped petals look just like scales!