Drawing dinosaurs: how is palaeoart produced

Long time collaborator Dr. Dave Hone has been kind enough to feature my recent Bellubrunnus painting in his Guardian Blog Article about Paleoart.

It’s been quiet around here lately as I discover just how long it takes to start a new business! Small Island Studio will be launching at the end of this week, keep your eyes peeled for some dinosaur related animation in the near future!

 

I like your old stuff better than your new stuff #2

Vintage art, circa sometime in the mid 90′s. This is the second version of a piece depicting a predator chasing two Leaellynasaurs across a river. (Acrylic on Board)

The first version had an Abelisaur, back when some research indicated a closer tie between South American and Australian fauna in the Early Cretaceous, until Allosaurus seemed to be a safer bet. Now I’d need to do a version with an Australovenator , feathered of course!

I was already stubbornly feathering my Leaellynasaurs for cold conditions back then, despite no direct evidence of any insulation.

Apologies for the poor photography…Image

Not my best work.. and probably heading upwards of 15 years old! But fun to post during a busy patch.

Bellubrunnus Work in Progress Animation.

Apologies for the lack of updates, I’ve been really busy in the background on various projects. Here’s a work in progress animation of the Bellubrunnus painting.

In retrospect I should have spent more time on the composition, it really could have used another animal in there for example.

Anyway, enjoy another peek at my scattalogical process!

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…

Listen to the Impartial…

A while back I pointed out the importance of listening to the scientist when making scientific illustration, they know their stuff, it’s their job. It’s also important to listen to a trusted friend or two, someone who brings a fresh pair of eyes, preferably they haven’t had contact with the artwork before.. You may not always like what they have to say, but if you’re making visual communication like art or illustration then having a small sample audience can give you an idea if your message is getting across. It’ll become clear very quickly when something doesn’t ‘read right’.

One of the benefits of marriage is you get a convenient audience/viewer/victim to show artwork to. I’m lucky in that Sanja, though now the best book keeper in Tasmania, used to do a fair bit of art herself. I’m also lucky that when it comes to saying stuff about my work, Sanja will just come out with something that strikes her as wrong, usually starting tactfully with “Is that supposed to be…”.

At that point I’ll usually roll my eyes in exasperation, knowing that Sanja has pointed out a critical aspect of the work that I’ve overlooked, knew I could have done better or just plain fluffed.

So with Sanja’s comment on my last post in mind I’ve adjusted the sail on the Spinosaur, which I knew wasn’t right but needed that impartial eye to sort drive it home. Here’s a little update to show the new angle, with the ‘undercoat’ exposed to see just how much the thing has shifted!

For those without a trusted feedback person, you can go far doing a few tricks that allow you to see your work in a different light.

Horizontal Flipping of the image often fools the brain into thinking it’s seeing something new. In software this is pretty easy, in the real world use a mirror to view your artwork(an old trick). It’s pretty amazing how composition issues suddenly appear!

Desaturation really helps sort out your values. I use an adjustment layer in Photoshop which I can just turn on and off to see a black and white version of my painting so I can make sure I’m using a full range of values.

The Old Squint Test, yup, narrow your eyes and look through your lashes. This obscures detail and makes the values and composition much more important to reading the image.

Take a step back. Yep, you can literally and figuratively get too close to what you’re doing. Getting stuck into the rewarding stuff like detail too early can lead to overlooking your main masses, values and composition. In software zoom out and make the image a thumbnail. Does it still ‘read’ well? Zooming out of the image allows you to assess perspective more effectively too.

Even better, take a step away from your monitor/canvas/paper, walk around the room, have a 30 minute break and come back. Does the image still work?

Experienced visual communicators will be pretty familiar with these techniques, and likely have even more to draw upon. Check out David Maas’ blog for a look at how a real pro dismembers an artwork in truly analytical fashion.

Now I just need a palaeontologist to come along and tell me the spine didn’t have that much flexibility…..

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!