Friday, July 31, 2009


Whew, it sure took a while, almost a month late, but these were my INTENDED submissions for the Pterosaur gallery. It's not easy doing three of these but one was already begun YEARS earlier just for fun, and I decided to revamp it, and the other two were far too tempting not to do. (Check out the full story here.) Pterosaurs get exponentially more fascinating as we learn more about them. So here's what I ended up with:

Thalassodromeus and other mid-Cretaceous pterosaurs over South America
(Larger version HERE.)

Here, the spectacular crested pterosaur Thalassodromeus soar over a herd of Argyrosaurus. Ornithocheirus and Tapejara are also present. This perspective was tricky since I wanted to capture a bit of "telephoto lens" effect with the vertical axis especially beneath the mountain.

Quetzalcoatlus - Sailors of the skies
(Larger version HERE.)

Not much to explain here. The giant azdarchids are soaring over a floodplain with three Alamosaurus below. The hardest part of this thing was the landscape, not the animals.

Anurognathus - the Definitive Version.
(Larger version HERE.)

Say what you will about this odd little pterosaur - I wasn't satisfied with any of the existing restorations of this fellow, so I did my own. Not the typical bat-like image most artists do, but something a lot more mobile and nimble in dense forests. I largely consulted Mike Hansen's skeletals for reference, but I tweaked the proportions a little bit to make the neck less snaky, and put the pteroid bones in a more extended position (I don't endorse this for most pterosaurs but in the case of tiny Anurognathus, I can see how it could have been useful for increasing thrust and lift rapidly). I also put some fuzz on the ankles, using the type specimen of the closely related Jeholopterus for inspiration.

As ugly as this genus seems, I can't help but adore that little fuzzy face.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Making of Arambourgiania Family Unit: Composition

Arambourgiania Family Unit by Peter Bond

The Pterosaur Gallery was quite a success with some amazing pieces of Art. I thought I'd take a minute now and show you how I created "Arambourgiania Family Unit" and used digital tools to finalize it's composition.

After doing a quick image search online, I found that there was a lack of pterosaur baby restorations. Probably due to a lack of pterosaur baby fossils! Thus I had a mission. After doing some research, I decided on a family unit of two adults and three hatchlings. And to create the composition of the piece, I thought I'd use a technique Glendon (of the Flying Trilobite) used to create a web banner - done through manipulating painted elements in Photoshop.

First, I created the separate elements using acrylic paints on paper:


Adult Pterosaur 1

Adult Pterosaur 2

Baby Pterosaurs

With each element a layer, I used Photoshop to experiment with the composition of the piece. Moving each one left and right, up and down, blurring them, enhancing the colour, contrast and brightness. I went through quite a few versions before I was happy with the final result:

Composition #1

Composition #2

Composition #3

Composition #4

And Composition #5, the final completed piece that I was happy with.

Having the freedom to move and manipulate each individual element of the reconstruction really helped get a final composition I liked. As discussed on Glendon's post, the final result is something digital, ethereal. Even though I can't just put it up on a wall like a regular painting, I really like the amount of control one has over an image. Did I make the right compositional choice? Which do you like?

Now it's time to sit down and get the Anomalocaris ideas flowing...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Making a 3D Pterosaur Flap

Despite not being overly happy with my piece for the Pterosaur gallery, it did result my in learning a lot about posing a non linear 3D structure. Or in other words, it was really hard to make the wings flap!

Here is the finished piece, for reference.

So you'll notice that each Eudimorphodon is in a different and unique pose from the others.

They didn't start this way!
This is what and each of the three looking like in the beginning. Flattened and rather boring. I built them like this so I had a nice default model to start with, and thus not have to rebuild each individual Ptersaur from scratch.

The simpler solution to posing three different Pterosaurs would have been resculpted this model three times. Now I say simpler, in the sense of 3D knowledge. All you have to able to do is create objects in the program, as opposed to knowing the tools and options the program lets you use on these objects once they are made.
The resculpting approach is a lot of work, and would leave me with only the three poses. I'd have to repeat the process again for each and every new pose I might want in the future.

Making this resculpting option even more unattractive for a Pterosaur are its wings. Being made of both the arms and wing membrane, sculpting and modelling these two to match was a pain in the neck in the flattened pose (getting their front curvatures exactly the same in particular). I don't even want to think about having to worry about the bend in the wing too!

Lucky for me there is pretty powerful weapon in my 3D arsenal that was going to make things easier. A 3D "skeleton" rig...

Before I jump into the complex problem that was a Pterosaur wing, I'll give you the quick 101 on rigging (I personally have only just graduated to the 200 or 300 level... I'm aiming to enter my post grad level by this time next year :P).

Let's say I build this nice Dinosaur leg... funny enough I actually did, come to think of it ;)... The leg itself and the individual toes are all solid pieces. Apart from where the back end of the toes meet the ankle there no inherent joints in this model. Meaning as is there is no way for me to pose anything other than which way the toes will be pointing from the ankle.

Here is rendered, but it does not look very life like.
I could manually resculpted the pieces of the leg to simulate joints. Do not mistaken me though. This is not to say my model actually gains joints out of the process. Rather all I've done is go into the legs model and put a kink in it were I think a joint should be.
As this is not a real joint, many things happen. If you look at where the knee and ankle joint bend they just just don't look right. Unless you spend a lot of time with this sculpting a leg is not going to look like it is bending properly.
Another problem is that when I make my bends I can easily lose the length proportions I established on the unposed version. Meaning that if I'd put in proportions I'd measured from references (which on this model to be fair I just eyeballed... from a skeleton mind you, but I didn't precisely measure) my model can quickly become inaccurate.

Lastly my detailing doesn't move with the resculpting. So all the individually modelled toe scales don't follow or reorient with the leg and toes when I repose them. Meaning I have to go in and manually reposition each and every single one of them back onto the leg and toes...
Which adds up to a lot of wasted time, when you consider there is an "easier" way. Well easier for linear things like legs anyways.
That is of course skeletal rigging. What it does is allow you to define specific points within a 3D object that now act as points of articulation and rotation. In short it creates a real joint.
Each of the blue diamonds you see in this screen shot are called "bones". It is better to think of them as bone ends though. The diamonds becomes the point of rotation, and are where you model will bend at once the rig is "linked" to the objects. The lines connecting the diamonds function like real bones in that they are in movable (beyond the diamond points of rotation) and are solid.
Bones come with their own costs though sadly.
The first and foremost is that you can no longer modify or resculpt any 3D objects connected to the skeleton. Meaning you have to make sure the model is exactly the way you want it before rigging it.

The other big setback is that rigging a model eats up a lot of computing power and memory. So not only does it take longer to do things within the program, but your model tends to triple in file size.

Despite these inconveniences they make posing animal models SO much easier in the long run!

Once applied to a model you simply have to grab one of the diamonds and you can instantly and conveniently bend your model at the desire points.

Bones also simulate the manner in which you body moves. If I swing hip bone then everything connected below it move... Though if I just move the ankle then only the toes should move with it.
After rigging and posing we get something much more life like!

Skeletal rigs take care of all the problems I mentioned before.

The first and foremost is the ease of bending the model. Resculpting each piece takes forever! Plus if you don't get it right you have to start all over again... With the skeleton you can create a new pose within a few seconds!
Another huge difference, which wasn't obvious to me till I made the change over, the limb proportions are strictly maintained. When manually changing a model it is easy for you to get the length of limb segments wrong when their angled. Just compare this rigged leg to my resculpted one from before you'll see how wrong I was when trying to rescultpt the ankle.
Lastly all my detailing are locked onto and part of the whole rig. So the leg and toes move their detailing claws and scales move with them.
However if you look closely at the killer claw on this particular render you'll notice the one glitch I'm fighting to still overcome.
Bones and their points of rotation are fantastic on single linear objects. However when they interact with single small or non linear objects they have a tendency to stretch them in none realistic manners. It makes sense in the computer world, but takes some retooling of your logic as it is completely at odds with what you are used to in the material world.
My Pterosaur become the greatest challenge to my mode of thinking 3D vs. real world. When you think about a Pterosaurs wing membrane it is about as non linear an object as they come!
A Pterosaurs wing would have been an elastic object, and thus would have been effected and moved by many conflicting parts of the body (unlike the nice linear leg, the knee bone to the ankle bone connected to the toe bone etc.). Sure the majority of the wing should rotate up and down with the arm. However what about the bits that connect to the side and the leg?
Above is the first rig setup I tried on my Pterosaur, wishfully thinking that the wing membrane would behave like a perfect elastic if I merely defined the arms natural range of motion. Sadly I was about to learn in the virtual world you have to define a lot more then just the "real" points of rotation in a creature.
Not defining any "bones" in the membrane meant the computer could just bend and stretch it wherever it was easiest to do so. Resulting in this bizarre tenting effect.
Lesson learned. I was going to have to stop thinking of the wing membrane as real life elastic substance, and more as an extension of the wing through which the skeleton was going to have to expand and define.
I had my fears that this was going to get complicated (I hate it when I'm right, but we'll get to that in a bit). Just so I would knew, I tried a minimal fix to the problem.
I tried a single extension straight out from each major joint (except you'll not the top of the wing flap... which is a preview to how I was going to have to solve this) to see if it would define the bending and stretching seams for me.
The reasoning behind my logic is that each of those lines connecting the diamonds is an unbendable unmovable (except through rotation) section of the 3D object. If I bent the mid wing joint my hope had been that the tenting of the first rig would be force onto my now defined unbendable seam. In other words the tenting wouldn't look weird, because it'd be on the point where all the bending should be.

I was half right it turns out. Yes the wing bent perfectly at the midwing seam both on the arm and by bone extension all the way out to the edge of the membrane at the middle of the wing. As the computer didn't have any definition for the surrounding membrane however it found it easier to bend the wing bend just outside where I'd rigged!

Well the solution was "simple" enough, in logic, not in action. I was going to have to completely define and rig the whole surface of the wing membrane. Resulting in a rig that didn't so much resemble a vertebrate animal, but rather a weird exoskeletoned creature of some kind. If you were to think of all my 3D "bones" as a real skeleton that is.

The trouble there was I'd only been worried about the tenting and distortion with the wing in relation to the arm moving up and down. I hadn't paid any attention to the membrane's interaction and manipulation where it linked to the legs and body...
I was getting terrible distortion.
So once again I had to go in and add a dozen branching off membrane "bones" to help define and control the distortion along the legs.

In the end I had a pretty good "simple" rig that allowed me pretty good fluid control on my Pterosaur. I say simple in its use. I only have 5 major points (outside of posing the toes) to worry about.

It wasn't perfect (as none of my 3D skeletoning jobs are... remember I'm only a beginner to intermediate in their use so far). I couldn't bend the legs too much or the tenting would come back along the back edge of the wing. I also found that if I curled the inside toes to much a really weird tug line would appear all the way from the toe up to the chest...
So I had to be a little restrained in my poses.

Despite all this, and the mediocre piece it produced, I did learn a TON about my program's 3D rigging!

As a very quick aside, the inside joke of the photo these Pterosaurs are flying over is that they are fishing over top of some petrified trees. This is a photo of a famous petrified forest here in New Zealand.

There is a long fallen fossil log running between the far left Pterosaurs, a circular tree stump just above the bottom Pterosaur's left wing tip, and another circular stump in between the top two Pterosaurs in the upper middle.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Anomalocarids in Art

With the subject of September's upcoming Time Capsule being a little more obscure, I thought it'd be best to get their summary post up sooner then later.

These would of course be the Anomalocaridids. A group of enigmatic arthropod that were not only one of the most alien looking creatures to have ever lived on our planet, but were one of the first to do so!

I have tracked down as many pictures of these creatures as I could, as though well known within palaeo circles, it is virtually unknown to the public.

For anyone wanting to do research on Anomalcaridids, Sam Gon's website is an excellent source of non technical (and some technical) information. Also though 20 years old now, Stephen J. Gould's book on the Burgess Shale, Wonderful Life will certainly give you an excellent introduction to why these animals have had a big impact on palaeontological studies in the last 3 decades.

All the pieces included here are the most popular and accuarte depictions of Anomalocaridids currently on the web. I have tried to track down the artists of these pieces as best I could, however in many cases I could not find them. This is a sad case when websites use other peoples' work to enhance their own site without proper acknowledgement. A stance we here at ART Evolved do not endorese. Though we have used this art (without permission) we are attempting to remedy this lack of credit by tracking down all the "unknown artists" who have found the their work posted on the web.

If you know any of the "Unknown" creators of the pieces below please let me know. It is important that all art used on the internet be credited to its proper creator. If your work appears on this website, and you wish us to take it down, we will do so immediately. Email us at .

We at ART Evolved are working on collecting and documenting all these piece's creators for a definative virtual record! Please help us...

Before "Fame"

The Burgess Shale by Charles Knight.

This is the first popular reconstruction of the Burgess Shale environment by none other then Palaeo-Art legend Charles Knight. This painting and the ideas it manifests are a central argument in Gould's book Wonderful Life, and I can't recommend reading it enough (especially this month!).

Interestingly despite the fact that no Anomalocaris is clearly visible there are arguably 3 of them in there. Up until the 1970's Anomalocaris was not recognized as the large mega predator it is today. Various disarticulated bits and pieces of it had been found and misidentified as other types of animals. In this picture you see its arm reconstructed as the strange purple shrimp in the upper left hand corner and its mouth as 2 jellyfish in the top right.

The First Iconic Image

This is the first correct popular rendition of an Anomalocaridid to circulate. As it was the first such picture of the entire bizarre creature together, it has been very influential on many of the reconstructions that were to follow.

Drawn by Marianne Collins for Gould's Wonderful Life, the only major flaw with it is despite being labelled as an Anomalocaris, this is a different genus of Anomalocaridid called Laggania. It was an innocent enough mistake at the time, and neither Collins or Gould should be held accountable for it. Laggania was only recognized as a seperate animal many years after Gould's book.

However sadly this mistake has been carried on in recreations ever since (especially on the internet) mistakenly labelling Laggania as Anomalocaris. A simple correction in current reprints of Gould's book would do wonders to fix this. That and our gallery could be a first step to trying to spread the word on this mix up.


A very rare Anomalocaridid from the Burgess Shale, British Columbia Canada. Only one or two specimens have been thus far been discovered.

It is quite unique among Anomalocaridids due to its triangular head shape and lack of tail fans.

Also compared to others in the group Laggania had very short arm tentacles lined with very long bristle like spines. These are thought to have been used for passive filtration feeding on very tiny creatures, as opposed to traditional active predator of larger prey normally associated with Anomalocaridids. Supporting the more passive feeding strategy Laggania's eyes are set much further back on the head then other Anomalocarids. It has been compared to the baleen whale of the Cambrian.

A close up on Laggania from the famous Burgess Shale reconstruction in Time Magazine by John Sibbick. Based heavily on the era of Gould's popularization of the Shale, this Laggania is incorrectly labelled Anomalocaris, and here depictacted being an active predator. Which is most likely incorrect, but again forgivable at the time of the pieces creation as it was thought to simply be a variant of Anomalocaris.

Lagginia by Karren Carr
Laggania by an Unknown Artist, but this is unacceptable. They deserve credit for this great piece of work. If you know the artist behind this piece please email us at

Underside of Laggania by Sam Gon

Side Profile of Laggania by Sam Gon

A comparison of the head structures and anatomy of Laggania (on the left) to Anomalocaris (on the right) by Marianne Collins


The most iconic and famous of the Anomalocaridids. Found not only in Canada at the Burgess Shale but also in China, America, and Australia. Making it the most widespread and common of Anomalocaridids so far found.

Different species occur in these different regions. The most pronounced differences between those so far described being the Chinese Anomalocaris saron having 2 pronounced thread like tail fins where the Canadian species Anomalocaris canadensis did not.

Anomalocaris canadensis by Yukio Sato. Cover of Simon Conway Morris' book
The Crucible of Creation, his counter to Gould's book Wonderful Life. Though I personal disagree with Morris' ideas, his cover art is second to none.

Anomalocaris canadensis by an Unknown Artist, but this is unacceptable. They deserve credit for this great piece of work. If you know the artist behind this piece please email us at

Anomalocaris canadensis by Sam Gon .

Anomalocaris canadensis by an Unknown Artist, but this is unacceptable. They deserve credit for this great piece of work. If you know the artist behind this piece please email us at

Anomalocaris canadensis by Nuko

Anomalocaris canadensis by an Unknown Artist, but this is unacceptable. They deserve credit for this great piece of work. If you know the artist behind this piece please email us at

Anomalocaris canadensis by an Unknown Artist, but this is unacceptable. They deserve credit for this great piece of work. If you know the artist behind this piece please email us at

Anomalocaris canadensis by Sam Gon .

An Anomalocaris canadensis menaces the Burgess Shale by uncredited artist at . They deserve credit for this great piece of work. If you know the artist behind this piece please email us at

Burgess Shale ecosystem by an Unknown Artist, but this is unacceptable. They deserve credit for this great piece of work. If you know the artist behind this piece please email us at

With an Anomalocaris canadensis about to menace its small contemporaries.

You'll also note how the far Anomalocaris is depicted here having proper body segments, where the majority of the other restorations in this post lack these. This is an interesting topic, and one I plan on touching upon in another post soon.

This image of the Anomalocaris overshadowing the rest of life in the Cambrian was so strong it was recreated in Anomalocaris' only Television appearance...

Anomalocaris saron by Impossible Pictures from Walking with Prehistoric Monsters.

Anomalocaris saron by uncredited artist at Unknown Artist, but this is unacceptable. They deserve credit for this great piece of work. If you know the artist behind this piece please email us at

Note the Chinese species tail fins in the following pictures versus the lacking Canadian species in the previous pictures.

Anomalocaris saron by Craig Dylke, which is yes me. I do not include my own piece out of ego, but due to the fact it (or an alternate version) appear within the first 1-5 pages of google image searches using the terms "Anomalocaris", "Burgess Shale Anomalocaris", or "Anomalocaris Burgess Shale".

Anomalocaris saron by Impossible Pictures

Anomalocaris saron by Impossible Pictures

Anomalocaris saron by Sam Gon .


The most recently described (but not technically discovered) Anomalocaridid. Though first recognized from a complete specimen from the Burgess Shale, incomplete specimens of this genus are known from the United States, China, and Europe.

The most remarkable and unique feature of this genus is the giant spiked hollow shell on the front of the head. Otherwise the head configuration behind this shell was very similar to Anomalocaris, though Hurdia's tentacles were slightly reduced, and it is believed this genus was a scavenger or hunted weaker prey then Anomalocaris.

Hurdia by Marianne Collins


A rather small Anomalocaridid, compared to its relatives, but was still quite large for a Cambrian animal. Amplectobelua is so far only known from the Maotianshan Shale (often referred to incorrectly as the Chengjiang Shale) of China.

Amplectobelua is for all intents and purposes a compact version of Anomalocaris saron, most notable for restorations sake smaller arms and body.

Amplectobelua by uncredited artist at Unknown Artist, but this is unacceptable. They deserve credit for this great piece of work. If you know the artist behind this piece please email us at

Amplectobelua by Sam Gon

Amplectobelua by Sam Gon

Amplectobelua by Sam Gon


One of the strangest Anomalocaridids by far, if it was a true Anomalocaridid. Animals such as Parapeytoia and Kerygmachela (the next animal included in this post) challenge the defination of the Anomalocaridids (which has not been updated since the recognition of Anomalocaris in 1985) and require workers in the field to come up with a more precise and definable criteria for the group.

Calling into question just how closely related Parapeytoia was to the Anomalocaridids, was the fact it had legs underneath the traditional Anomalocaridid fin lobes. Additionally its feeding tentacles branched off into 4 spikes (very similar to the strange yet-not Anomalocarid arthopod Yohoia).

Parapeytoia by Sam Gon

Parapeytoia by Sam Gon

Parapeytoia by Sam Gon

Parapeytoia by an Unknown Artist, but this is unacceptable. They deserve credit for this great piece of work. If you know the artist behind this piece please email us at


Another uncertain relative of the Anomalocaridids. Despite being blind, having much finer tentacles arms, and its ring like mouth in the front of the face as opposed to below it Kerygmachela shares a huge number of anatomical similarities to the Anomalocaridids. It is from the unique Cambrian era Sirius Passet Lagerst├Ątte of Greenland.

Kerygmachela by Sam Gon

Kerygmachela by Sam Gon

A HUGE discovery this year (which is saying something considering some of the fossils described in 2009), Schinderhannes was an Anomalocaridid from the Devonian! Up until this genus the group had only been known from the Cambrian. This extended their reign for an impressive 100 million years. It has seriously challenged the Anomalocaridid's place in the Arthropod family tree and calls into question the theory Stephen J. Gould presents Anomalocaris as the linch-pin for in Wonderful Life (but again it is very much worth the read!).
For an Anomalocaridid Schinderhannes had very large eyes, small feeding tentacles, and a pair of strange ridgid fins behind the head. Additionally its fin lobes were underneath the body as opposed to sticking out the sides.

The pictures that accompanied the formal paper, with a restoration by an Unknown Artist, but this is unacceptable. They deserve credit for this great piece of work. If you know the artist behind this piece please email us at

Random Pictures

Not all the pictures I encountered were of, shall we say, scientific quality, but I thought warranted some attention. Afterall here at ART Evolved we're not just about scientific accuracy.

Interesting head configuration Anomalocarid by an Unknown Artist, but this is unacceptable. They deserve credit for this great piece of work. If you know the artist behind this piece please email us at

Anomalocaris by Ray Troll


Lastly for those of you who like to reference the remains of the animals themselves here are some snap shots of various specimens I stole off Sam Gon's website.
Anomalocaris canadensis.

Pay attention to this specimen's "neck" closely. I'll be doing a post on how this fossil seems to counter nearly every restoration of Anomalocaris seen in this post.

Anomalocaris canadensis

Anomalocaris canadensis

Anomalocaris canadensis