Finally got around to painting my Zbrush model of Anhanguera. I have a
huge backlog of unfinished work built up. Some of them have been posted
around on my various portfolio sites as WIP’s but most of them have not been
seen by anyone. I’m going to be working on finishing these projects up
and getting them online. The majority of them are paleo-reconstructions
of some kind.
I’ll also be using this polypainted Zbrush model as a guide to paint the 3d printed
model of the posed version. I’m hoping to post photos of that up
soon. I just need to get my hands on some new paint and brushes.
My favorite kind of art to do is “gesture drawing”. These are quick drawings, taking anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes, trying to capture the essence of a pose. These drawings tend to be simple but full of energy and life. I do it every day to warm up, and try to carry some of that same energy into my finished drawings. Usually gesture drawing is done with the human figure, but I find that paired with “book” study of any form, human or animal, doing lots of gestures is a great way to get an intuitive sense of their anatomy.
20$ slot for @theoldbone, who requested a prehistoric creature. I chose Deinonychus, my favorite dinosaur. I am not a paleoartist by any means and I took a loooot of liberties with color. I hope it doesn’t disappoint!
Othnielosaurus spent her days darting from fern to fern, trying to find cover from sauropod feet as big as she was and from the searching eyes of a gruesome lineup of contemporary carnivores. Late Jurassic USA, Morrison Formation.
So I was talking with @skollyson and @snakefeathers about ceratopsian reconstructions and we all came to the general consensus that current reconstructions just don’t seem right, specifically with the way the jugal bone is handled.
Traditionally, this feature is portrayed as a prominent facial “spike,” sometimes in a manner similar to the nasal horn. But after considering the point raised in this post, I couldn’t help but feel the jugal bone would’ve fuctioned more as a structural feature for soft tissue (i.e. cheeks and muscles):
Considering these were large herbivorous animals filling an ecological niche similar to modern rhinos, likely possessing large fleshy cheeks for handling food, the extension of soft tissue across the jugal (and/or the anchoring of neck and jaw muscles) just seems to make more sense.
I’d be very much interested to hear others’ opinions on this! As a paleoartist I feel it’s really important to remember that while bones suggest the appearance of an animal, the skin, muscles, and organs they support are just as important to consider.
What are some common mistakes paleoartists tend to make in modern reconstructions? I wanna know what to avoid when drawing dinos.
Not to intimidate you out of paleoart
or anything, but there are so many. It’s
not necessarily the artists’ fault; new discoveries about dinosaurs are made
every day, and many pieces of paleoart are quickly rendered obsolete by the
inexorable march of science. However, some
common mistakes are totally the artists’ fault, and that’s the kind I’m going
to cover here.
Here are the three big ones that always bother me the most.
“Shrink wrapping”: The practice of reconstructing dinosaur as little more than skeletons wrapped in skin, creating terrifying dino-mummies that - while quite nicely showing off the artist’s grasp of skeletal anatomy - do not accurately depict what the animals would have looked like in life. (Compare that shrink-wrapped Apatosaurus to this shrink-wrapped depiction of a cow, if you’re not convinced of how silly this is.)
Problematic depictions of feathers. Whenever a dinosaur is discovered with feathers, paleoartists will oftentimes reconstruct it with those feathers and those feathers alone, not bothering to speculate as to what the animal might really have looked like fully-feathered, while creating pitiful-looking animals that look like partially plucked chickens. Still other times, artist fully feather the animal, but keep the face scaly and bare, just so we can all remember that dinosaurs were reptiles (and not birds, you guys).
“Monsterizing.” The reconstruction of Velociraptor linked above is pretty infamous. In reality, feathered dinosaurs were probably not scuzzy movie monsters; they probably looked like this, and were potentially even more birdlike than this reconstruction. Another example of this is Microraptor, the infamous “four-winged dinosaur”, commonly depicted zooming past the viewer with all four limbs spread like some kind of prehistoric dragon monster, when in reality it was probably just a bird.
What do all these mistakes have in common? They depict the artist’s preconceptions of dinosaurs, rather than creative speculations on how these animals actually would have lived. A lot of dinosaur enthusiasts are in it for the wrong reasons; they see dinosaurs as rampaging creatures of myth, rather than what they were - animals. They depict dinosaurs as roaring behemoths and scuzzy-feathered killing machines, rather than biologically sound, real, once-living creatures that were as beautiful and graceful as any modern animal.
How can you avoid this? Do your research, and use your imagination. Keep up-to-date on the latest theories about dinosaur musculature and soft tissue, and develop your own well-informed opinions to inform your paleoart. At the same time, compare dinosaurs to animal living today. Not just reptiles and birds; compare them to large mammals that fill formerly dinosaurian ecological niches. What features do modern animals have that dinosaurs might have as well, but that we rarely see represented in art, due to lack of direct fossil evidence? What adaptations might dinosaurs have evolved, to excel in the same way as modern animals?
Here’s some good modern paleoartists to get you some potential inspiration:
It’s been forever since I painted, but I’ve been looking at a lot of paleoartists lately, so one thing led to another and well, here is an Avisaurus on a cycad…cone…thing. Very fun to do, probably a bit inaccurate, but fun! Very much based on green magpies, because they are cute as all fuck.
What do you think about the "dinosauroid" speculative model for troodontid evolution
I’ve talked a little bit about the dinosauroid before on this blog, but now I’m going to give you a much more specific and detailed answer. The short answer, for those who don’t like reading, is “It sucks.”
For those of you who want the long answer:
In 1982, a Canadian paleontologist named Dale Russell reconstructed the above creature - a hypothetical sentient dinosaur, which he dubbed “the Dinosauroid”. He conjectured that, had the Cretaceous extinction never happened, some dinosaurs might have gone on to evolve humanlike intelligence. Russell’s candidate for the dinosaur most likely to develop sentience was Stenonychosaurus (now known as Troodon), a dinosaur known for its big brain.
Russell developed a relative well-thought-out conceptualization of dinosauroid biology. He speculated that the Dinosauroid would give birth to live young, but would feed them in a birdlike fashion, due to its lack of mammary glands. He also speculated that it would have a large, human-like brain, with proportionally larger eyes in the fashion of its troodontid ancestors.
This is stupid.
First of all, Troodon may not have been as intelligent as we thought. While troodontids did have the largest brains relative to their body sizes of all dinosaurs (excluding modern birds), it’s debatable how much this would have contributed to their intelligence. My personal theory, based on the anatomy of troodontid eyes and ears, is that they filled a similar niche to modern-day owls - nocturnal predators that hunted with sight and hearing - and that their large brains were focused on processing sensory input, rather than having a particularly advanced capacity for creative intelligence.
Secondly, Dale Russell’s dinosauroid is anthropocentric to a disagreeable degree. Russell’s contemporaries criticized him for his vision of a sentient dinosaur as little more than a scaly, four-fingered human; paleoartist Gregory S. Paul called its anthropomorphism “suspicious”, and I’m inclined to agree. While I’m sure that Dale Russell meant well, this depiction of a sentient theropod is unimaginative at best, and willfully ignorant of theropod evolutionary trends at worst.
Why do I say “willfully” ignorant? Because there are sentient theropods alive today!
Crows have demonstrated remarkable intelligence, empathy, and ingenuity, leading some to classify them as sentient beings. You might also notice that crows don’t have a humanoid body plan; they’re capable of making and using tools with just their beaks and feet. An intelligent dinosaur would likely do the same, retaining a more traditional theropod body plan.
What dinosaurs would have become intelligent, had they survived? Hard to say; like I said above, brain size and brain-to-body ratio do not necessarily correlate with intelligence. However, we do know that tyrannosaurs had brains that were more structurally similar to modern birds than most dinosaurs did. If I had to bet on a potential candidate for dinosaur sentience, I’d pick a small tyrannosaur; a dinosaur with a very advanced brain, but one that needed to use it to outsmart bigger and stronger predators of comparable intelligence, not just its prey.
I think a good candidate is Dryptosaurus, a 25-foot-long tyrannosaurid from Late Cretaceous North America. Although large by the standards of modern predators, Dryptosaurus was fairly small for a Late Cretaceous tyrannosaur, and probably got muscled away from more than a few kills by bigger predators. Who knows? Had the dinosaurs survived, it might not have taken 65 million years for Dryptosaurus to get smarter…
As far as outdated and antiquated paleoart/dinosaur designs go, what's your favorite?
The depth of my love for paleoart from the 19th century knows no limits.
This image, titled “Duria Antiquior” (”Ancient Dorset”), was painted in 1830 by English geologist Henry De la Beche, and was the first piece of art to reconstruct prehistoric creatures using evidence from fossils, effectively making it the first piece of true paleoart. Even today, we can recognize these animals as icthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, and pterosaurs.
De la Beche’s vision of Jurassic-period England was a hellish nightmare, a continuous bloodbath of bug-eyed demons gnashing one another’s flesh. I absolutely love it. It’s not up to modern scientific standards, but aesthetically, it’s a dream world.
Henry De la Beche was also the first paleoartist to propose theoretical sentient descendants of prehistoric reptiles - albeit in a joking way. Take that, Dale Russell! The caption reads as such:
A Lecture. “You will at once perceive,” continued Professor Icthyosaurus, “that the skull before us belonged to some of the lower order of animals; the teeth are very insignificant, the power of the jaws trifling, and altogether it seems wonderful how the creature could have procured food.”
De la Beche’s lampooning of the popular view of extinct reptiles is still applicable today.
And paleoart from this time didn’t just depict aquatic reptiles so amazingly. Take a look at Edouard Riou’s 1863 illustration, “La terre avant le deluge” (”The Earth Before the Flood”), depicting a battle between Iguanodon and Megalosaurus.
Even though this was scientifically accurate by the standards of the time, the scientist in me disapproves of the lizardly depictions of the animals. Aesthetically, though, isn’t this brilliant? It continues the tradition of Henry De la Beche’s art, depicting ancient Earth as a constant battleground between reptilian behemoths, and sets these battles in the prototypical “primordial world” - the setting people still think of when they think of dinosaur times. Look at those gloomy, foggy cycads! Makes me want to put on a pith helmet and go look for a stegosaur to bag with my blunderbuss.
(Edouard Riou, by the way, is best known for providing the original illustrations to several of Jules Verne’s novels, including Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Center of the Earth. Spend some time on Google and familiarize yourself with his work!)
The final image I’ll post here is Edward Drinker Cope’s 1869 illustration of the theropod Dryptosaurus (then known as Laelaps) confronting a pair of Elasmosaurus, while a cheerful-looking turtle and what I’m told are supposed to be hadrosaurs frolic in the background. Literally everything about how these animals are reconstructed is incorrect, and yet that’s part of the charm. As a scientific illustration, this earns nothing but disapproval from me, but as an almost romantic depiction of a lost world, where monsters roamed the foggy forests and soaked the seas with the blood of battle, it’s something I can 100% get behind. (It’s no more of a fantasy as plucked-chicken dromaeosaurs swarming onto a hapless hadrosaur like a land-going pack of piranha, anyway.)
Do yourself a favor. Look up some paleoart from the 19th century. Go back to that lost world. Have a real adventure.