Sometimes I still paint dinosaurs…

So I’m hardly ever here but it’d still be nice to post every now and again in case anyone out there in the blogosphere is listening… somehow I doubt it! Anyhow, Dave Hone of Archosaur Musings and actual palaeontology asked me to make some artwork to go with his paper with Tom Holtz reviewing Spinosaurs.

Dave wanted something other than spinosaurus, as there was some kind of hooplah about that animal out there on the internets, so I couldn’t use my existing spinosaurus nesting image.

Instead Dave opted for a new image featuring Baryonyx, who apparently doesn’t get enough love. We eventually settled on a couple of Baryonyx doing threat displays, because who can go by a decent threat display? My initial thought was to mimic the actions of seagulls displaying dominance to get the last chip.


Don’t push me Harrison, in the future this will be a chip!

Just pretend that dead iguanodontid is a chip. I mean, have you seen the donkey on the edge look seagulls get in their eyes when it’s down to that last chip?

I did some really embarrassing  sketches like the one above, I promise the stealth wing pterosaur scavengers would get refined or painted over in frustration or something.

Eventually I settled on a ‘I’m bored of side on dinosaurs’ view looking right down the barrel. Looking back at this I think I was going to be a lot more daring with the integument. I mean look at all that stuff on the sketch.

Anyhow, here’s the final product which required a bit of 3 dimensional thinking and a lot of reference to get the shapes in the head right! Thanks go to Dave and Tom for giving me the opportunity to make a contribution!


Come at me bro.



Little raptor circle of goodness.

I rarely back Kickstarters but couldn’t resist a recently when Creative Beast studios began one for a series of different raptor species sculptures.

The first one off the block caught my eye because it looked familiar,  clearly drawing inspiration form the same source as my reconstruction of Linheraptor a few years ago. So I knew I had to have one!



The Kickstarter is done but I think you can still make orders/support the project.

A bit of Dreadnoughtus for Stanford University Magazine

In a shock development I’m posting on my blog!

Thought I’d drop a quick dinosaur picture here commissioned by Stanford University Magazine. They approached me asking for a blue whale, a minke whale, a dreadnoughtus and a person for size comparison.

Go read the story about the efficiencies of being a gigantic whale and eating all your meals in a single giant gulp online here!

The large wattle on Dreadnoughtus is very much stolen from the brilliant Brian Enge’s concept of large display features on sauropods.

Meanwhile, here’s my version of the Stanford uni image with ‘enormous aquarium effect’!

DreadnoughtusSort of wondering now if my Dreadnoughtus is a bit on the small side… hmm.

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…

What I did on my Summer Vacation #2: Swimming with the Tuna

Every couple of years we travel the 2000km to Port Lincoln in South Australia to visit with family. Port Lincoln is a big fishing town, with the last 2 decades spent ‘farming’ tuna as a value adding venture in response to lower catch quotas.

In the last few years some local tourist operators saw the tuna farming set up, with its captive fauna, as a more accessible form of this. Fun fact: Live shots for ‘Jaws’ were filmed off Pt. Lincoln.

This year we were determined to be tourists in the place we grew up, and since my daughter Gabby and I are such animal nuts we hopped on a boat and went out to a tuna enclosure to get in the water!

The set up was pretty impressive, with the main enclosure containing (delicious looking) tuna surrounding a smaller enclosure swirling with smaller (yummy) species. There were also underwater viewing areas and touch pools containing a variety of kid friendly (and tasty looking) creatures like prawns.

So we suited up…

Gabby is smaller than the fish we were about to swim with, which would make me a less tempting target if things went all 'horror movie' on us!

What you see from above...

.. the mayhem when you get in!

Once you’re in it becomes abundantly clear just how well adapted these animals are to their environment. As we clumsily flopped about the tuna moved their 60kg bulk between us effortlessly. I was surprised by a couple of things, the mobility of the eyes was much greater than I would have thought. The tuna wouldn’t allow you to touch them, if you reached a hand out even toward their tail they would slip out of the way, they could clearly see what I was up to even when I thought I was well out of line of sight.(one of the guides had been a ‘tuna cowboy’ and caught them by hand, you’d have to be bloody quick)

The other amazing bit of anatomy was the way all of the fins, including the yellow ‘spikes’ along the dorsal and ventral posterior body, all had slots to fold into. The Tuna could become bullets at will! Here are two pictures which hopefully show it in action…

Fin sticks up!

Fin goes down!

While you’re in the water you get to hand feed the tuna whole pilchards, which are tossed to you on the surface and you have to hide them until you’re ready to hold them out for the fish.

Another surprise was in store, on one close feeding pass I could feel the tuna’s teeth through the thick diving gloves I was wearing. For some reason I’d always thought tuna engulfed their prey and had only rudimentary teeth, bit wrong there!

The experience was great and they allowed us plenty of time to experience the different fish. For some reason I couldn’t help but start seeing tuna steaks and crumbed prawns, probably should have had a bigger breakfast.

Next time around Gabby and I are keen to swim with the Sea Lions, and I’m also hoping to hop in a cage and get up close with a Great White Shark.

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…..

A Great Illustrator passes..

The name Dan Varner is probably not well known outside of those who enjoy wildlife and reconstructive illustration. I’ve enjoyed his illustrations of prehistoric sea life for many years and admired his ability to approach the photoreal but maintain the beautiful qualities of paint.

Tylosaurus proriger by Dan Varner

Sadly Dan has passed on after a battle with disease, for those of us who know his art his fantastic contributions will be sorely missed.