Bellubrunnus: Cute Fuzzy Death from Above

In the midst of painting my first pterosaur for Dave Hone he approached me asking if I could do an ‘emergency painting’ for another little critter who’s description was much closer to publication. Bellubrunnus rothgaengeri is a fossil of a juvenile pterosaur closely related to Rhamphorhynchus.

As usual it was hard to say no when Dave showed me the fossil. I’m not at the bleeding edge of pterosaur knowledge but I could recognize several interesting features I couldn’t recall seeing in other animals. The first thing to leap out was the forward curving wing tips, giving the wings quite a different shape from classic pterosaurs. Dave also pointed out that Bellubrunnus had more flexibility in its tail than related species. Be sure to check out Dave’s post on Bellubrunnus at the Musings which I’m sure covers more of the anatomical detail.

So I began sketching away.. actually this sketch was what I sent Dave as a reply when he asked if I wanted the task!

Which he liked. I then made a few more to try out positioning and posture, keeping in mind we needed to clearly show the important anatomical features, the shape of the wing and the flexibility in the tail. I took inspiration from bird photography for the next one.

I really liked it but Dave pulled the whole scientific thing, turns out it was primarily a piscivore(preyed on fish), curse you evidence! I certainly wanted to avoid the old skimming pterosaur trope, and Dave was quite happy with the first gestural sketch I’d done as it showed the features that differentiated Bella from its relatives, so we went with that as a general guide, though we needed to lose the tree as the fossil indicated a coastal habitat.

Fleshing out the initial anatomy went pretty well, though we hit a few snags with the orientation of the fingers and my new favorite body part the ‘uropatagium’. Yup, I spent much time on Skype stuttering trying to pronounce ‘uropatagium’… which is the broad skin between the legs. It’s a bizarre bit of anatomy that attaches to the outside toes which then fold back over the sole of the foot.

Anyway, after much too-ing and fro-ing we got the anatomy in a happy place and I could render it all up. Here’s the final piece.(click to embiggen)

I did joke that I was incapable of producing a painting without an approaching storm in the background.. seems to be holding true for now!

Spinosaurus Mum takes a break..

Well, I couldn’t leave well enough alone and kept throwing more time and energy into the Spinosaurus sketch! In some ways it touches back to the first paleo gig I did a few years ago for Tor Bertin who was reviewing Spinosaur material.

Back then I’d hoped to paint the living animal, but had to satisfied with doing some studies of the jaws instead.(I still had more fun than any sane person should have)

Recently inspired by the skeletal reconstruction by Scott Hartman with Andre Cau and Jamie Headden I thought I’d have a stab at painting the new look properly.

Hopefully I did the guys’ hard work some service, the new sail extends much further down the tail. The pose has no scientific verification, though I did opt for something different than the usual explosive action poses we usually find Spinosaurus in.(at least it isn’t beating up Tyrannosaurus!)

What can I say? It’s a mum, eating a snack on her break. With a cheeky Ornithocheirid pterosaur waiting for some scraps. You might have noticed the little guy has changed since the last post, well, I discovered there wasn’t really a way for it to be clinging on with the wings in that position. Here’s a before and after…

Animated Idents

I had the pleasure of doing a smattering of smaller animation jobs here and there over the last few months. These have been fun as often they call on a variety of skills and the whole project needs to be put together quickly, so you’re usually with it from start to finish.

The two Idents (essentially moving logos) in this post were produced at Blue Rocket Productions under the direction of David Gurney. David is fun to work with and has a spontaneity that can take projects in fun directions.

The first is for Tasmania’s government funding body for film Screen Tasmania.

The soundtrack in the Screen Tasmania Ident was produced by the talented Nicholas Storr.

The second animation is for The Australian Script Centre. There is no established audio for this one so I grabbed some music from freestockmusic.com/.

Both of these Idents were made using 3DS Max, After Effects and Photoshop.

Little Tip: I really like adding grain to the things I do but find the film grain in After Effects takes far too long to calculate. I’ve found making a grain loop created in Photoshop does the trick, simply overlaid on top of the footage in Multiply mode then adjusting the opacity to taste. For all I know this could be the oldest trick in the book!

Hello Cocky! (extant therapods for the paleo crew)

A little while back during a project at Blue Rocket Productions I was given the job of painting some parrots in the style of a bird book. My usual role at Blue Rocket has been very much the ’3D animator guy’, and though I’ve done some illustration work and concept art there before it was nice to be the ‘go to guy’ for some illustration style painting. I’m pretty sure this blog may have had a little to do with the decision too.

In any case, I didn’t have much time so I knocked these out over a day and a half and had a great deal of fun doing it.

Galah

Major Mitchell Cockatoo

Black Palm Cockatoo

Thanks to Blue Rocket for allowing the use of the images!

Playing in Grading Land..

Someone mentioned that I should have spent a bit of time doing some colour grading on the Tin Dragon animation to make it a bit nicerer. After scowling a little I saw it as an opportunity to mess around a bit in After Effects and you know, learn something.

I checked out the slew of tutorials on the interwebs and each seemed to do it a little differently. After trying out a few techniques I settled on a combination I thought looked nice. So here are the obligatory before and after images:

Original.

Graded.

While I like it on one level, this effect is so common to achieve a film appearance it might be worth looking for other options.

Some Tin Dragon Animation

I can finally post some of the animation done for the Tin Dragon project, an installation with a short film component housed in St. Helens, Tasmania. The project is about the Chinese Tin Miners who came to Tasmania in the 19th Century. The Dragon comes along for the ride.

This animation was a proof of concept which doesn’t appear in the final film. The landscape was a still photo, which I separated out the sky and painted in some more clouds so I could make them move subtly.

The project was developed by Virtual Reality Entertainment Systems and the soundtrack for this clip was created by George Goerss of Sonic Solutions.

Quetzalcoatlus: Big Bird goes Postal

Welcome to a dinosaur free painting!  Nup, no dinosaurs here! And before I’m lynched for suggesting Quetzalcoatlus is a bird in the title, there are no birds in this painting either.

Quetzalcoatlus is a Pterosaur, and so far as we know, the largest animal known to have flown. Once you start  imagining something as tall as a giraffe with the wing span of a Cessna flying about it begins to boggle the mind.

When I decided to make this painting on a bit of a whim I didn’t realise what a contentious animal Quetzalcoatlus was. Since its discovery more than 30 years ago it has yet to be properly ‘described’ by science, in part because its discoverer has hoarded it away and allowed only a tiny few workers in the area to examine the fossil. Despite 30 years of promises to spill the scientific beans, the beans have remained in their er.. scientific tin….

Pterosaurs as a group of animals are also contentious. Debate flows back and forth about many aspects of their anatomy, how they walked, how they flew, and what they ate.

In the end I was inspired by recent work carried out by Mark Witton and Darren Naish which suggests the family which Quetzalcoatlus belongs to may have had a lifestyle similar to ground based predatory birds like Hornbills or Storks. Mark is a talented illustrator in his own right and several inspiring images accompanied the release of the paper. Giraffe sized killers stalking around gobbling stuff up? What’s not to like?

A big thanks to Dave Hone for advice on the bizarre anatomy of these creatures.

PS: The little guy about to be dinner is Champsosaurus, he’s weird in his own right, if you want to know more I’ve discussed him elsewhere.

Daddys version #2

My just turned 5 year old son presented me with this awesome picture the other day.

Being the brilliant father I am I’ve since forgotten what he said it was… ahem.

Of course, all I saw was what I wanted to see, so to me it was the most awesome abstract expressionist drawing of a giant robot in a forest I’d seen.

Being an old hand at ripping off my kids’ ideas I couldn’t resist.


I traced over the lines I liked and embellished a bit, but when Isaac handed me the picture this is pretty much what I saw.

I shocked myself by drawing it in Flash(not my favourite software). Colouring was done in Photoshop. The giant robot in forest theme is pretty reminiscent of the Iron Giant. (if you haven’t watched ‘Iron Giant’ watch it now, it’s bloody brilliant)

I dunno, maybe the death ray should have been shoulder mounted……

Weapon: Tarbosaurus

It’s been a few months since I did a painting for Dave Hone’s paper on selective feeding behaviour of tyrannosaurs. When Dave first approached me I have to admit I was looking forward to painting some dinosaur carnage. Instead the paper was about a Tarbosaur delicately nipping stuff  it had found lying around, so I had to satisfy myself with a quick and dirty scrawling of reptilian mayhem….

Until now.

click for enbiggenment

I think the title is self explanatory.(must resist explaining) Sanja found this one a little uncomfortable to look at, especially the look in the poor Saurolphus’ eye….. not a good place to be.

When Dave’s paper was released much of the media jumped all over it as if it was all about Tyrannosaurs exclusively scavenging. So I thought I’d do my bit to tip the scale, at least artistically.

Luckily a bit of science came out just in time for my Tarbosaur reconstruction, with W. Scott Persons and Philip J. Currie detailing how Tyrannosaurs had some serious ‘junk in their trunk’ with massive tail muscles adding some serious er, horsepower(?) to therapod locomotion.

To the huge number of people who participated in last week’s competition, ‘What the heck is this?’ the truth is now revealed, it’s a big fat dino-callus. Dr. Mark Witton nailed it!

Mark wins a poster print from my new poster/art/print store over there ——->

The rest of you can buy things if you fall down and bump your head and suddenly feel like owning posters of prehistoric things.(it might happen)

While you recover, here’s a couple of full res images from the painting. (actually, you might have to click on them, they don’t fit in the blog!)

I’ll be back soon with some work in progress shots and making of stuff…..

War Paint: Styracosaurus

Argh! Angry spiky lizard parrot thing! Run away!

This guy has been slow going as I’ve been spending my days waving the digital brush at Blue Rocket Productions, so it’s been a little difficult motivating myself to do it all over again after the kids have gone to bed.

Styracosaurus has been a favourite of mine since I was a kid. The bizarre combination of spikes and scales and beak all brought together in a rhino sized bundle of weirdness is just so appealing.

My references were as wide ranging as Rhinos, Chameleons and Black Cockatoos, and of course some scientific literature about ceratopsian anatomy. I did play with the markings quite a bit before settling on the pattern you see for his ‘war paint’. I wanted to do something different to what I’ve seen elsewhere but keep it well within the realm of reality, so I found some great existing lizard markings which were similar and expanded on them to keep it functionally realistic for something this big…. I hope.

This painting started out as only a few gestural lines on paper, scratched down as I walked through the office on the way to do something else…The final image was already resolved in my head, and I knew I wanted to do it, but being time poor I didn’t want to lose it when I ran out of time and/or the next idea came stomping through and swept it away. It was almost like a post it note to do that thing, you know, right between doing the shopping and putting out the bins.

I’ve got another 3 paintings on the back burner, for those of you tired of seeing dinosaurs, at least one of them isn’t about large scaly extinct animals (it has an actual person and…uh…. angry clockwork monkeys!),  though I’ve committed to do another dinosaur pic before Xmas over here so it’ll be a little while yet before the blog sees something less dinosaurish!