Thursday, November 26, 2009

Prehistoric Times Submissions

(Thanks Mike Fredericks for the image)

I am sure most of you know of the magazine Prehistoric Timesthe mag for dinosaur enthusiasts and collectors of palaeo merchandise.  For those who don't, the magazine also showcases the work of amateur and professional palaeo-artists, with each issue focusing on two specific prehistoric critters.  In fact, many of the artists seen here at ART Evolved have had their work published in Prehistoric Times!  The current issue features brachiosaurs and includes Nima's Brachiosaur Parade!

The next deadline for submissions for art to Prehistoric Times is December 10th, featuring Stegosaurus and Anomalocaris.  We at ART Evolved highly recommend submitting art - not only to be published but also for the opportunity to create discussion.

In fact, as Anomalocaris was featured in a previous ART Evolved gallery,  Craig and I were thinking of submitting some of our pieces together under an "ART Evolved banner."  What we were wondering is: does anyone want to join us in a joint submission?

Leave a comment below, or email us at artevolved at and we'll work something out!
Here is Prehistoric Times' website.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Reconstruction Tips: Extant Referencing

Welcome to yet another edition of...

Today we bring you the first ever self contained Reconstruction Tips.
I [Craig if your wondering] share some tricks that helped with my biggest palaeo-art achievement yet.
I owe it all to this piece by Julius Csotonyi entitled "Tylosaur and KT Event".
I have been obsessed with Mosasaurs for the past decade or so. I just find the idea of marine Monitor Lizards (and/or possibly limbed Snakes...) fascinating. I mean come on, a Komodo Dragon with flippers that swam around taking on sharks, how is that not the coolest thing ever?
The thing is I had never found a restoration of a Mosasaur I was ever been 100% happy with. Don't get me wrong, there are some great Mosasaur recreators out there. Dan Varner in particular deserves special mention, as do the CG ones from both Nigel Marvin's BBC Sea Monsters and National Geographic's Sea Monsters (apparently you have to name any moving picture project with a Mosasaurs in it Sea Monsters... not that I disapprove ;P ). Yet few recreations of these marine reptiles have ever completely satisfied me.
Then I found this Csotonyi piece, and the reason for this dissatisfaction slammed me in the visual cortex. No one (until Csotonyi) had ever tried to completely tie a Mosasaur to its Monitor Lizard roots. Despite the bold new direction he'd taken, I felt that Mr. Csotonyi's concept could be taken a little further...
Of course a concept is easy to picture in ones head. Getting it out of the mind and into the material world for others to see, that is the trick.
How was I to take my friend here, the Australian Perentie Monitor (Varanus giganteus), and essentially turn him into a Mosasaur? (I choose the Perentie as I have several great reference pictures of a stuffed one in the Sydney's museum, and I love its colouration. If I had better pics of the Nile Monitor (Varanus nilotictus) it would have been in close contending).

This is the answer I came up with to this challenge.
Now as I'm sure many of you know, I am typically dislike to outright hate my own work. With my Tylosaur here I'm not just pleased with this critter, I'm down right proud of it. I somehow managed to arrive at nearly the exact point I aimed for!
It was not outright luck that brought me to this conclusion either. Rather using a combination of artistic skills (I've been building through the motivation provided by ART Evolved), and more importantly the judicious application of referencing and scientific research.
Though this Tylosaur model is miles ahead of my Squalodontid whale, it owes its existence to the lessons I have been learning through my whale mistakes (read about those in my Flukes series of articles). I'm jumping the gun a bit, and this article is essentially a preview Flukes part 3 (coming soon), but with better illustrations.
As a quick aside for you more technical minded people, I accidental refer to my Tylosaurid here as a "Mosasaur" a lot. This is a force of habit from tour guiding, where I simplify rather then specify things. I use the term Mosasaur in the overall family sense, and by this logic I am correct as Tylosaurs were just a specific branch of this family. In cases where specifics I mention are only true about Tylosaurs and not other Mosasaur subfamilies compared to Monitor Lizards, please keep this habit of mine before losing it at me. Thanks :p
Before I could start on Monitor Lizarding a Mosasaur, I had to understand how both animals were put together. What were their similarities and their differences?
Skeletal references are the only way to understand these, and as of such I tracked down as many of these for both groups as possible. Fortunately Monitor Lizards and Mosasaurs have a healthy representation on the net. Not all non-Dinosaur prehistoric creatures enjoy this (like say Squalodontid whales!), and it can really slow you down with obscure critters.
When acquiring these references from the internet it can be quite hard to find pictures of the right or comparable angles for direct creatures and fossils.
Hint! Whenever you are visiting a zoo or museum take as many of your own reference photos as you can! Of anything and everything that you find interesting, as people on the web may not have the same tastes as you!
I focused most of my effort on the skulls, as I've been learning 75% of a solid restoration relies on its head, and Mosasaur and Monitor Lizards differ post cranially in some drastic ways (especially in the neck region).
As I was aiming for my Mosasaur to look as much like a Monitor Lizard as possible, I also required a fleshed out Monitor Lizard to visual focus my effort on.

So here is a rough flow chart of my initial findings of Tylosaurs vs. Monitor Lizards.
Hint! Before comparing references make sure you pick one common parameter to scale them on. In this case I picked the length of the skull, but I could have instead chosen the height. It is important to pick a single parameter, especially when using more than two references. Otherwise you may get some of the details wrong.
Modern Monitors' heads are much taller proportionally then the Mosasaur. You can see this in the middle of the chart where I have overlay en the Mosasaur skull over both the Monitor's skull and head. To accurately use the Monitor as base of a believable Mosasaur I was going to have to alter it to match the Mosasaurs dimensions.

Photoshop-like programs are an incredibly helpful tool in comparative anatomy research. I'm talking about before you ever tackle the art end of a project mind you, no matter your medium. There is just so much you can do to your references within these programs.
Here are some of the good things to keep in mind when bring your references into Photoshop:
  • Always copy and paste your references into a new file. This way if you screw up or heavily alter anything you don't have to re track down your baseline reference. This might sound simply, but forgetting it even just once can be devastating (especially with your own personally collected references!)
  • Put each element into its own [raster] layer. This way you can easily control and manipulate each reference without effecting the others!
  • Remember when saving these files to make a Photoshop file version so that your layers remain separate. If you forget to do this, and save them as a jpeg of gif your elements will merge, and you will have to separate them again (if they don't overlap!)
So the Monitor lizards were too tall (with my chosen parameter of skull length). Easy enough. I went in with photoshop and reduced the height of my Monitor so that it roughly matched my Mosasaur. You can be as picky or accurate as you like matching these up, but I just needed approximate.
All I was trying to see was how and where the skulls matched and mismatched. They had their mismatching areas I had to keep in mind, but overall they aligned spectacularly.

Hint! To really see how things align, remember your layer transparency settings! These are incredibly handy for looking through one reference onto others directly behind it. If you keep your references on separate layers, transparencies do not have to be permanent either. You can just lower or restore the transparency as needed.

A similar adjustment to the fleshed out monitor skull, and I had a solid visual of what I was aiming to create.
Here is the flow chart of the various comparisons I did with the Mosasaur skulls. I omit here the same tests and checks I did with the photoshopped Monitor Lizard skull.
With my altered fleshed out Monitor Lizard head reference I got to work sculpting and modelling this counterpart 3D Mosasaur. To follow this artistic process click here to follow my WIP posts of this work.
Along the way I of course did several double checks to ensure my Mosasaur, though modelled after a Monitor Lizard's head was still matching my Tylosaur skull. (The overhang on the chin is my saving a bad version of this comparison. The Mosasaur skull overlay is slightly too big, in both length and height in this particular image. I forgot to save one of the good takes, but you get the idea I'm hoping).

All things considered, I think I did a pretty good job. Not perfect mind you, but that is partially lighting (this Mosasaur is currently bathed in modelling light, unlike the artistically lite stuffed Monitor Head in the museum), and I still have some fine tune modelling of wrinkles and folds to do.

So look for this fellow in the upcoming Palaeo-Environment!

Hope this look at using extant references was a help, and gives you some ideas for your own restorations!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Reconstruction Tips: Flukes Part 2

Welcome back to Reconstruction Tips!

Today I bring you the next installment of my ongoing Palaeo-art adventure...

Flukes go on Whales... NOT in your Art!

Part: 2

Previously on Flukes, I'd decided to attempt a restoration of a Prehistoric Whale for use by New Zealand Palaeontologist Dr. Ewan Fordyce. I started on this mission without asking Dr. Fordyce if he wanted any such art. I'd also dove in without much idea of what a Shark Toothed Dolphin looked like or how they were put together...

Giving me this initial version of such a beast.

Looking at it right now, I can't believe I actually showed this to Dr. Fordyce thinking he'd be even slightly impressed. That alone wish me to create anything for him. Fortunately for my sake he is a very kind man, and humoured this my first (but not last) botched attempt.

I knew that the dolphin's head was the weak link, but I had hoped that the post cranial 3Ding would save me. The body for the most part, except the Dorsal fin, didn't make Dr. Fordyce's attention at all. All we talked about was the skull, and how utterly I'd gotten it wrong!

Again I hadn't referenced any material what so ever, and tried to go off my fleeting memories of the Sharked Toothed Dolphin skulls I'd seen in New Zealand museums. Sadly it showed. A lot!

For round two on the Dolphin I made sure to go and get some references before I started.

Due to its being easily accessed and photographed, I snapped about 20 pictures of this skull here (skull C from my last articles skull challenge). Not because Dr. Fordyce wanted a reconstruction of this particular animal mind you. Rather it was the easiest for me to access on that day from the University of Otago's collections. This would lead to some minor problems with the second take on the Dolphin.

As Dr. Fordyce was most concerned by my complete miss on the teeth, this was where I redoubled my efforts. Funny enough they do make all the difference in the world...

Despite the fact it is quite amateurish, the shift toward accuracy helped Dr. Fordyce take me more serious on my offer of creating a reconstruction for him. If I had to venture, though he is far too much a gentleman to have said it out loud, Dr. Fordyce thought I had nothing to offer with my first version. I don't blame him.

This new version showed I could take criticism and feedback, and fix my restoration. Granted not all at once like a pro... However Dr. Fordyce didn't give up on me, and welcomed a third take.

I even took this second edition of the whale and created a very quick and rough "scene" to show that the model could be used in a number of contexts. This intrigued Dr. Fordyce somewhat. Though the whales themselves didn't.

Understandably, Dr. Fordyce, while encouraging of my improvements, was not entirely es tactic about my products. Don't get me wrong, Dr. Fordyce has been nothing but supportive of me in these efforts. If anything he has been overly patient, and honestly the one at fault has been me with my crappy whales...

At least I write this observation in hindsight. The art did get better (I save this for Part: 3 and 4).

One of the big changes in direction that Dr. Fordyce requested was that I model my whale on this skull here.

For those of you who partook in my skull ID challenge last post, this is skull B. Oddly no one guessed it. Skull C, the challenge favourite, though not formally the subject of current restoration project, did play a key role in my early efforts (as already mention). I used Skull C in my flukes banner simply due to having better photographs of it. Skull B is so much larger I have not been able to pull it out for a good photography session... yet hopefully.

Though both skulls are similar, there are still quite a few subtle differences. Some of which I've only managed to correct in my model this month!

A slightly different view of the skull (well actually a cast). Though I've seen the skull (or cast of it) in 3 museums across New Zealand (it is on permanent display in 2 of these), the skull is undescribed and the animal does not have a proper name as of yet.

It seems at moment highly likely this animal is a species of the genus Squalodon, but if not then it is definitely a part of the Squalodontidae family. However the point is at moment it is not current recognized by science, but odds are good that Dr. Fordyce will at some point will be doing a formal study and description of it.

Meaning I have a chance of him considering the use of one or more of my restorations with such a description. That is if I can get my Dolphin correct. So we enter into take: 3.

One of the first major changes I made was to the teeth arrangement. Though I got their essential placement correct, up until this month I had some critical mistakes in the actual teeth themselves. More on that in part 4 of Flukes...
This was the version I returned to Dr. Fordyce with. You'll note superficially it looks closer to the Squalodon skull. Yet it doesn't quite feel like a whale or dolphin... Which I knew, but not having a lot of experience recreating them I couldn't figure out what was missing.
Dr. Fordyce acknowledged my improvements, but then sagely summed up the problems I was having with the model. In reference to where my whale's lower jaw connects to the body and skull, Dr. Fordyce noted. "The teeth are much better," he paused. "but the jaws are just wrong. This whole animals looks almost reptilian, how you've recreated it."
I didn't know what to say. Obviously I'd messed up, and this was still a crap Dolphin.
Yet in a way I took out of this a compliment. Up until this time I'd only really created and made Dinosaurs and Marine Reptiles. Clearly I was getting good at those, if Dr. Fordyce could pick up on their influence in my Whale.
Of course it was also a huge problem! I'd taken my pre-existing strengths, techniques, and knowledge of reptilian subject matters and squeezed the whale into that mold. I wasn't going to be able to pretend to be a versatile palaeo-artist till I could get past my reptile only skill base...
Thus teaching me a new key lesson of Palaeo-art!
Rule #2 of Scientific Restorations:
Do not force a subject into your comfort zone. Take the risk, and abandon what you usually do. Reinvent yourself and your art around each and every new subject.
So I embarked on the task of abandoning my comfort zone, and tried to learn how to make a whale of my whale! See how that went in part 3...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Sauropod Gallery

Welcome to yet another of Life's Time Capsules, this time it is...

Sauropods the largest animals that ever lived on land. They may also have had in their ranks the longest creatures to have evolved!
They are among the most famous of Dinosaurs, and despite being strictly plant eaters themselves were the close relatives of the meat eating Dinosaurs! Evolving relatively early in the history of Dinosaurs, the Sauropods would endure till the end of the Mesozoic making them one of the most successful Dinosaur groups of all. They came in all shapes and sizes, and lived on every continent.
So join us now to this effort to bring this giants of the past back to life in art form...
[If you are still working on a piece, it is not too late! We have just discovered an html trick that negates our previous formatting issue with uploading new pictures. So we will add them as they come in]
[To all our contributors, we apologize in advance if any small formatting issues surrounding your specific piece. Due to the sheer number of entries into this gallery we have been scrambling to get this gallery posted in time. If there are any errors or text omissions from your piece please just let us know in the comment section or via an email to and we will fix it as soon as we can!]

Diplodocus by David Maas

First off, this is a hopeless w.i.p. - so much to do (scales, normal map, artefact removal, illustration in scene)! Just didn't want to miss out. I laid out my diplodocus inspired by Nima. (Yes, I know this is cheating.) Anyway, that's a 2m measure there in black and white.
I thought I'd list some of the assumptions I've integrated into this guy, and some of the questions that have come up during the artEvolved challenge:
- the scutes at the tail are inspired by the whip-crack communication theory, just instead of whipping (and possibly breaking) the tail, it whistles. Also gets in the face of predators.
- neck posture... not quite as extreme as MarkWitton's, but I think this would be a standard position... could go higher
- gait; I think this would be about the extreme gait. Tried to base this with trackway images, but didn't have enough time to be very diligent about it.
- teeth/lips/cheek; I tried to create a bite that would shear while closed while respecting that weird skeleton. 3D is really helpful here because it keeps you from cheating. Rotation point respects (I hope) the skull reference
- nasal; I just followed the latest research here... tried to artistically make it look plausible but have no idea really.
- coloring; even though this is a quick hack, I want a largely monotonous coloring with just a hint of patterns from earlier, smaller times. This is too brownish. I'll make it more grey in the next version

Long Neck Sauropod by Lisa Bond

Berlin Giraffatitan by Peter Bond
This is an pen-and-ink reconstruction based on this photo, of the new Berlin Museum für Naturkunde Giraffatitan mount (previously Brachiosaurus). This beast held a special place in my heart when I visited it in 2002. Now, I have to go back and see the new updated mount.

Euhelopus' bust by Luis Perez

Brachiosaur Parade by Nima Sassani

Fourteen brachiosaurs with the largest known T. rex for scale. From left to right: Volkheimeria, Lapparentosaurus, Daanosaurus, Bothriospondylus, Lusotitan, Brachiosaurus (Giraffatitan) brancai, "the Archbishop", Pelorosaurus, Pleurocoelus, Cedarosaurus, Sonorasaurus, Sauropodeidon, Breviparopus, Europasaurus.

Cetiosaurus oxonienis - Gouache - A3 by Rachael Revelle

Cetiosaur herds roamed the mudflats of Oxfordshire in England in the late Jurassic. Strange to think of these 18 metre long creatures wandering an area now covered in equally majestic academic architecture.

A Nightmare Before Sauropods by Marek Eby

Argentinosaurus huinculensis by Mo Hassam

Bonaparte & Coria, 1993. Family incertae sedis; most likely a titanosaur. Visit The Disillusioned Taxonomist to see many more Sauropods.

Argyrosaurus by Nima Sassani

Argyrosaurus superbus - finally after over a century since its discovery, this is the first and ONLY hi-fi restoration of this giant sauropod, one of seven known colossal titanosaur species in the 100-foot range. Shown with forelimb scaled up slightly from crushed holotype, blue-shaded bones represent missing material.

The Brontosaurus from King Kong by Brian Blacknick

Patagosaurus fariasi by Luis Perez

Mamenchisaurus Origami by Jared Needle

Clash of the Titans by Craig Dylke
A pair of Giraffatitan adults squabble amongst their herd.
In this piece I am trying show a brief snapshot of Sauropod behaviour that is rarely depicted. Typically Sauropods are shown as gentle giants, but I don't believe they would have been in reality.
For starters they are so close to Theropods in lineage, the two no doubt shared some inherent instincts. We know Theropods often fought with each other in social settings, why not Sauropods too? More importantly Sauropods had such a small brain size compared to their body mass, I find it unlikely they had the mental capacity for complex social behaviour that would displace violence as an efficient conflict resolver.
Granted at the same time I'm not suggesting they were not constantly trying to kill each other. Simply there was likely little more fire and passion to them then the lumbering docile titans we often picture them as...

Efraasia minor by Luis Perez

Brachiosaurus by Teddy Cookswell

Antarctosaurus by Luis Perez

Brontosaurus by Bryan Baugh

Diplodocus by Bruce Earl

Mamenchiosaurus by Sergio Perez

I've decided to color the tail club aposematically, because that way, it could be used to warn predators of the danger, and also be used for intraspecific communication.

Amargasaurus on Rainy Beach by Bryan Baugh

Apatosaurus louisae by Sean Craven

Erketu ellisoni by Luis Perez

Sauropod vs Theropod by Brad Mcfeeters

Late Middle Jurassic of China: A Scansoriopteryx is in danger of being swallowed by a hungry Omeisaurus. I've had the idea to draw something like this for years, but I just now got around to doing it.

Hudiesaurus by Nima Sassani
The gigantic mamenchisaur Hudiesaurus sinojapanorum - mother and teenager. Work still in progress.

Barosaurus vs Allosaurus in the Rain by Peter Bond

Inspired by the incredible mount at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, I decided to recreate it, giving it a touch of lovely Vancouver weather. A barosaur is rearing up to protect it's baby from a menacing allosaur. This piece was created live on Bond's Blog during the ART Evolved liveblogging challenge.

Astrodon johnstoni by Luis Perez

Camarasaurus Head - Gouache - A4 by Rachael Revelle

Created during ARTevolved's live blog weekend and my first experience for many years of having to work in a very short time span at a constant rate. Not easy, but a useful exercise in discipline and motivation. The work can be seen in it's progressive stages at

Jobaria tiguidensis by Mo Hassan

Sereno et al., 1999. Family incertae sedis, Eusauropoda

Giraffatitan by Sergio Perez

I've decided to be conservative with the neck elevation. Personally, I think the neck was maintained in al pa horizontosture mainly, but the elevation was indeed in its range of motion, so, let's go with a 45º neck this time.

Spinophorosaurus by Zachary Miller

Turiasaurus riodevensis by Luis Perez

Puertasaurus by Nima Sassani

Puertasaurus reuili: the first hi-fi restoration ever done of the NEW "biggest" dinosaur. It likely exceeds Argentinosaurus in both length and mass. Triple axial view, all published fossil material is re-figured fully restored and uncrushed.

Jobaria by Sergio Perez

Brachytrachelopan by Zachary Miller

Europasaurus holgeri by David Tana

Europasaurus holgeri, a derived, island dwelling, dwarf macronarian from the Late Jurassic of Germany. Pen and color pencil on paper

With that we come to the end of yet another Time Capsule...

In just over a month's time, on January. 7th 2010 we launch our next gallery on Palaeo-Environments. The details are here, but this is a nearly free for all gallery and will be accepting nearly any palaeo-art content you send.
Please send those submissions to (with any desired accompanying text blurb and your website or blog's link), and see you back hopefully no later then just after the New Year...