New Chinese Dinosaur Art #2: Xixianykus zhangi

Xixianykus (She-she-ah-nye-kuss) was the first dinosaur I was asked to do by Dave Hone over at the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology & Palaeoanthropology in Beijing. The paper was released after Linheraptor, so poor little Xixianykus had to wait his turn.

This guy was a very small dinosaur, around half a metre long. Xixianykus is from a family of dinosaurs called alvarezsaurs. They’re lightly build fast runners, with Xixianykus looking to be the speediest so far due to the proportions of its long legs. I had to resist the urge to send Dave a picture of the Road Runner and pretended to be an adult long enough to get painting.

The other special feature of these animals is the large claw they have on the end of their arms. Alvarezsaurs appear to be insect eaters with a talent for digging up juicy morsels or extracting them from under bark.

When I was shown the paper and the fossil remains I did wonder what I’d gotten myself in for:

Xu et al., 2010

Very quickly dubbed ‘the roast someone sat on’ it did little to inform a layperson like me about the elegant creature it turned out to be. Thankfully there was plenty of input from Dave and Xixianykus has some well known relatives. As usual I used a ton of reference of animals and environments, there’s no better way to see how things work and look.

Did a few sketches along the way, though we went for Xixianykus running as one of its main features was those fast legs. There seem to be lots of dinosaur illustrations done from the side, so I deliberately picked one from another angle and higher up, to help the sense of scale.

Xixianykus was found in a floodplain environment so I started out with a quite open background, this changed when we realised there was little to scale Xixianykus against so I opted for a more enclosed copse on the edge of the floodplain where I could add trees, mushrooms and ginko fruit and leaves.

Thanks again to Dave Hone over at Archosaur Musings for giving me the opportunity to paint yet another fantastic animal.

Matt