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.

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: 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!

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…..

Sketchbook: Muttaburrasaurus, is it cold in here?… and what the?

One of the benefits of rendering in 3D/AE is it gives you a little time to scrawl on your notepad while the computer makes a pretty picture. So I scrawled a Muttaburrasaurus.

I’ve been gestating this idea for a very long time and hope it’ll be an updated version of this physical painting… uh, eventually. Why is he fluffy? The highly scientific and evidence based reason that “it’s cold”.

And what the heck is this? Not a dinosaur…….?

..and what has it got to do with steampunk monkeys?

A Blast from the Past!

Sometimes going through your old art work can be a bit cringe worthy. Things you thought were really good back then are… well, not so great when you’re carrying the hard earned experience you have now.

Then again sometimes it’s just fun, and makes you realise you haven’t changed much at all. You still like the same things and probably always will.

This was the feeling I got when I was thinking of posting an old animation of Lleallenasaura
I’d done in association with a new artwork of the little Australian dinosaur. The only place I could find it was as part of an old demo reel, in amongst some other quite fun stuff. I was going to edit and just post the Lleallenasaura, then caught myself smiling at much of the stuff I’d put on the reel and thought it would be fun for more people than the 2 companies who gave me work back in the day to see it.

So if you like dinosaurs, a journey through the least carbonated beer in history, bathrooms with dodgy plumbing, rockets or fish have fun watching my Demo Reel from 1996!

Technical details: Made in Alias/Wavefront Autostudio on a Silicon Graphics Workstation.(was worth in the hundreds of thousands of $ range, lucky me got to sit in front of it!)