20 December 2015

It Came From Dinovember

Firstly, I would like to apologise for the total lack of content here over the past several weeks months. I've been busy transitioning back to college life and I haven't really given Noah's Ravens the attention I'd have liked to. I've got a lot of ideas for some new posts so the plan now is to begin posting regularly with a lot more content!

Now then - last month I participated in what some have called 'Dinovember,' a 30-day celebration of dinosaur art; I produced a drawing a day.* I'd like to share them here (click to embiggen, of course), with a little bit of background on the animals pictured and how I restored them. Click the break below to continue...

* Well, I produced 30 drawings. I got behind several times and had to play catch-up, but did get all 30 done by the end of the month. Haha! My most productive bout of artiness since I was about nine.

Aquilops americanus gets a better vantage point.
[by the author]
Day 1: Aquilops americanus - My gimmick for Dinovember was to work through the alphabet, one dinosaur per letter in order through the 26th, and then pick four random dinosaurs for the last four days. To start off the run, I selected Aquilops. Aquilops was a small dinosaur published just over a year ago by Andy Farke, Rich Cifelli, Des Maxwell, and Matt Wedel - one of the lovely chaps over at SV-POW!. Aquilops's claim to fame - besides being tiny and adorable - is that it is a very basal neoceratopsian, and the oldest one from North America. The neoceratopsians are the 'advanced' horned dinosaurs, like Triceratops, although I don't think Triceratops would be scrambling up any toppled tree trunks like Aquilops here! I figured a small herbivorous creature like Aquilops would often take advantage of vantage points to keep a better eye out for predators.

Possible-Becklespinax altispinax approaches a pond.
[by the author]
Day 2: Becklespinax altispinax - From a very new dinosaur on day 1, I picked a very old one for day 2. Becklespinax suffers from what I believe we should begin calling 'Victorian dinosaur syndrome.' It was discovered in the mid-1800s, based on scrappy remains that were initially assigned to a different taxon and have since been shuffled around while remaining poorly-known. The best-known remains of this animal is a set of vertebral spines that look like they would have created a raised sail on the back, but appear to be broken off. 

Becklespinax has often been considered a potential carnosaur, and recent discoveries in Spain support this idea, as well give context to its weird spines. The Spanish carnosaur Concavenator corcovatus also has a back sail - but a very abbreviated one, over only the hips and part of the tail - very similar to the known material from Becklespinax. As it turns out, Becklespinax probably didn't have a broken sail, just a short weird one. Of course, it is still known from scanty remains so new discoveries could always show this to be wrong...

Cedarosaurus weiskopfae walks on cracky ground.
[by the author]
Day 3: Cedarosaurus weiskopfae - The brachiosaurids are pretty distinctive dinosaurs, with a classically giraffe-like shape - very tall necks with high shoulders and long forelimbs that give them a strongly sloping back. Cedarosaurus is a smallish/mid-sized brachiosaurid whose natural habitat appears to have been pretty dry for most of the year, so I've given this plains-dweller some fat rolls along its neck and tail to serve as an energy store in lean times, as well as thin, veiny skin flaps along the neck to shed heat, and dark 'eyeliner' markings to reduce glare.

Dryosaurus altus has a nice sit-down by a drying creek.
[by the author]
Day 4: Dryosaurus altus - Amherst College's very own Beneski Museum of Natural History is home to one of the best specimens of this beautiful creature in the world. Dryosaurus was a plant-eating dinosaur built for speed, with huge, muscular hindlimbs and a powerful, counterbalancing tail. Some illustrations of Dryosaurus show it with very fetching soft-tissue ornamentation. I quite like this and was going to go for some pretty fluff and lappets on mine, but as an animal especially evolved for running very quickly, I felt it more reasonable to leave Dryosaurus pretty sleek.

Like Cedarosaurus, the native range of Dryosaurus was highly seasonal, with months at a time being quite dry. Our specimen appears to have succumbed to a drought, expiring in a dried lakebed. Maybe the fellow in my drawing will be more lucky...

In the Late Cretaceous, Einiosaurus procurvicornis got
a lot of work opening bottles with its nose horn.
[by the author]
Day 5: Einiosaurus procurvicornis - While overall I'm pleased with my Dinovember work, this drawing is one of several that had results I'm less than thrilled to look back on. I initially just drew the head of this interesting horned dinosaur, but noticed how much empty space I had around it. I then drew in the body... which looks very off to me. After I'd finished, it looked too big compared to the head. Maybe sometime I'll digitally remove the surrounding and just keep the head and neck.

Fruitadens haagarorum was cute, but probably a bit nippy.
[by the author]
Day 6: Fruitadens haagarorum - Fruitadens is one of the smallest nonavian dinosaurs known, at only about 60 cm (23 in) long. It belonged to a group of small but fascinating ornithischian dinosaurs called heterodontosaurs. These dinosaurs were capable of walking on their powerful back legs or on all fours (our museum has kitty-sized footprints showing such behaviour). They were herbivores (or more probably omnivores) that possessed a nasty set of 'tusks' and - following evidence from China (where else?) - a coating of fluffy dinofuzz/'feathers'.

Galeamopus hayi: the new face of Diplodocidae.
[by the author]
Day 7: Galeamopus hayi - You may remember back in April I covered an enormous specimen-by-specimen review of the Diplodocidae by Emanuel Tschopp, Octávio Mateus, and Roger B J Benson. While the result everybody remembers from the paper is that Brontosaurus Is Back (more on ol' bronto in another post...), the paper also gave us Galeamopus, a new genus for a species of diplodocid sauropod once put in Diplodocus. Galeamopus is, unlike most sauropods, known from good skull material and as such I chose to restore only the head* in my drawing. In fact, the completeness of Galeamopus means that in the future, it will probably be Galeamopus rather than Diplodocus that is used as the main point of comparison among the diplodocids. This Galeamopus has fleshy nose and throat skin, as well as some fetching wattles over its eyes. Since all dinosaurs had very good colour vision, these soft-tissue display structures would've probably been a bit flashy in life.

* That, and the whole body would be kind of hard to fit on one of the small art cards I was using.

Huayangosaurus taibaii looks wonky when seen from the front.
[by the author]
Day 8: Huayangosaurus taibaii - I didn't want all the dinosaurs I drew to just be headshots or side views. For the early plated dinosaur Huayangosaurus I thought a front view would be interesting. I was probably right, but it would take someone of a higher artistic calibre to pull that off. Ultimately, I'm just not pleased with the proportions and how depthless this looks. However, I did notice a few things about this more primitive relative of Stegosaurus: its legs are really very long, and its plates are really pretty tiny and spaced out. Weird. I'd like to do more drawings of this animal soon.

Iguanodon bernissartensis has been a classic member of the
dinosaur pantheon for over a century, and I don't see any
reason why this should ever stop being the case.
[by the author]
Day 9: Iguanodon bernissartensis - Swingin' cats Darren Naish and John Conway often mention on the Tetzoo Podcats that people often take 'familiar' animals for granted and that we often don't appreciate how interesting and often outright bizarre many commonplace taxa are. Among dinosaurs, it would be hard to think of an example more commonplace than Iguanodon. It's certainly a fascinating creature, and often criminally under-appreciated, especially over recent years. For one thing, Iguanodon are huge - the largest individuals are longer and far more massive than T. rex (about 13 m [43 ft] or so and maybe as much as 16 tonnes [17.7 tons]!). Additionally, it's got very strange hands with surprisingly long fingers fused together into a sort of weight-bearing 'mitten,' a nearly-prehensile pinkie, and an absolutely awe-inspiring thumb spike. In life, Iguanodon must've been an imposing animal indeed.

I wanted to restore this familiar dinosaur with a certain gravity about it, to highlight just what an amazing creature it was. Initially it was sitting on its (unbelievably deep) haunches, until I had to consult my ever-useful copy of the Princeton Field Guide To Dinosaurs and realised I'd inadvertently nearly-directly copied a Greg Paul illustration! So I changed my animal to a bipedal standing posture, looking slightly downward (note that head is meant to be just slightly turned and tilted toward the viewer), brandishing thumb spikes with PermaFlex™elbows as a nod to the weird and wonderful world of vintage palaeoart. Out of all my Dinovember drawings, this remains by far my favourite.

Who's a pretty birdy? Not Jinfengopteryx elegans...
well, at least not quite a birdy, anyway.
[by the author]
Day 10: Jinfengopteryx elegans - Having put it off for long enough, I had to face it eventually: drawing a very birdlike, completely feathered dinosaur. Drawing wings is something I've always found nearly impossible to do and while I'm not exactly thrilled with this result, it's a step up from usual. Matt Martyniuk's A Field Guide To Mesozoic Birds and Other Winged Dinosaurs was my guide here.

This little (roughly raven-sized) guy is a troodontid called Jinfengopteryx. Troodontids are very birdlike dinosaurs; in fact, recent revisions suggest they are the group most closely related to true birds. I gave this fella a rounded, fan-shaped feather crest atop his head; known from the primitive troodontid Anchiornis huxleyi, I reckoned it would be nice to try it as the vogue headgear for the whole group. To fill up some space, I added the leaves of a ginkgo in the top corner and a mossy stump at the bottom, the sort of things this small dinosaur would move around every day while foraging for tasty bits of plant and animal matter to eat.

... Well, this post has dragged on long enough. I'll break the remaining drawings between two more posts and have them up shortly, I hope.

Thanks for reading! Up next: more Dinovember art? Mastodons? Mammoths? Brontosaurus? Who knows...

-- M

1 comment:

  1. Matthew, thanks again for being such a great guide today at the museum. My son Isaac and I loved these drawings.