Friday, June 21, 2019

A Sivatherium for World Giraffe Day 2019

Today is World Giraffe Day - an initiative set up by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) to celebrate giraffes and raise awareness for their conservation on the LONGEST day of the year (get it?). Yes, you may not be aware, but giraffe populations across Africa are on the decline. The total population has dropped almost 40% since the 1980s. While the conservation of other iconic animals like elephants and rhinos has gained a lot of attention over the years, the giraffe decline isn't as well known to the public, and even came as a bit of a surprise to science community. But it's true. Giraffes face issues related to habitat destruction and fragmentation, poaching, and human conflicts in various areas of the continent.

So for World Giraffe Day 2019, I have something special for you. You may recall for the past few years I've been creating digital paintings in Adobe Photoshop to benefit animal conservation, including giraffes. The awesome people from the Los Angeles Zoo have been running an annual event for the last four years specifically dedicated to giraffes, called 'Laughs for Giraffes.' It is a live comedy show/fundraiser, which benefits the GCF mentioned above. To help with this effort, I've created a few paintings for this event. The first year I painted a giraffe, and the next year I painted the only other member of the giraffe family, the okapi. For this year, I realized I was out of  living giraffids. Sure I could just paint more giraffes or okapis, but instead I took this opportunity to delve into my paleoart roots.

While the only living members of the giraffe family are giraffes and okapis, you may be surprised to learn that in prehistoric times, the group was quite diverse. Not only that, but many of them looked very different from what you might think of as a giraffe. Modern giraffes are quite exceptional and extreme animals, even by prehistoric standards. Most of the extinct giraffids did not have exceptionally long necks, for instance. The species I decided to focus on for my giraffe conservation painting this year, was Sivatherium giganteum:

Sivatherium giganteum by Evan Boucher
Click to Enlarge


I would like to take the rest of this post to discuss some of my research process and how I came to some of my decisions and interpretations in this piece. I think the painting is far more interesting if you understand what's going on in it, and hopefully this blog post can be a nice companion text to the painting for those who are curious to learn more about this bizarre animal. Just a warning, it's a long post, so I hope you're ready to learn about all the prehistoric Himalayas! For the TL;DR version, don't leave! Just skip to the 'Results' section below.

Restoring Sivatherium giganteum


At 2.2m (7.4ft) at the shoulder (3m or 10ft in total height), with thick forelimbs, and an estimated mass of around 1246 kg (2746.96 lbs), Sivatherium is thought to be the heaviest ruminant ever discovered. One thing that drew me to it as a subject is the fact that it had a shorter broader snout from the living giraffids, and very extravagantly shaped ossicones (horn like projections of bone that remain covered in skin and fur - unique to the giraffe family), that are quite different from what you see in giraffes and okapis - superficially looking somewhat similar to a moose's antlers.

I set out to paint this bizarre animal in its ancient habitat, and wanted to do it justice, so I put in the time for perusing the scientific literature to learn as much as I could about the anatomy, ecology, and geologic context of the animal. While the process was certainly involved, I thoroughly enjoyed it, considering it's been quite some time since I've went all in on a paleoart restoration. It was also a fun challenge in that typically my paleoart interests tend to focus on various Mesozoic archosaurs, and I'm not usually as familiar with the nitty-gritty details of extinct mammals. 




With all good paleoart, it's best to start with the fossils.  For my reconstruction, I based my proportions on photographs of the original fossils, as well as the original drawings and description by Falconer and Cautley in 1836. The technical description and skillfully drawn figures were incredibly helpful. But in addition to this, London's Natural History Museum even digitized the holotype specimen described in the paper, and uploaded the 3D model to interact with online! You can even play with it here:


 This was a really great reference to help understand the form of the skull in three dimensions. It isn't a complete replacement for the original paper and figures, however, as using all three resources provided valuable insight that couldn't be deciphered from only one source. Being able to see this thing from different lenses, and read the insights of the original description was all invaluable. Since the original description focused mostly on the skull, the body proportions were based on the Basu et. al. reconstruction and mass estimate from 2016. This provided the insight into the the thicker proportions of the front legs, and helped to plan out general body proportions. 

Reconstruction from Basu et al. 2016 (anterior view)


Reconstruction from Basu et al. 2016 (left lateral view)

Many older restorations of this animal have been depicted as very moose-like, no doubt because of the larger snout and extensive headgear. I didn't want to assume this to be true for my restoration, however, as moose have very specific anatomy in their snouts to give them their characteristic bulbous nose. Their skull's nasal opening is also much more receded and enlarged than what is seen in the Sivatherium skull. I read up a little on modern mammals with particularly bulbous snouts, like moose, and the saiga antelope, and determined a stout, but not particularly bulbous nose was the most logical way to go for Sivatherium. The skull nasal opening just didn't seem to fit what we find on animals like moose, saiga, or any sort of trunked animal. 

A classic moose-like Sivatherium. Image in the Public Domain

Since giraffes are particularly strange, even among their own family, I didn't want to give my Sivathere an overtly giraffe-like pelt. After all, okapis have a completely different pattern on their hides than the famous spots of giraffes, despite being each other's closest living relatives. I ultimately decided to give my subject a somewhat okapi-reminiscent look, but wanted it to feel like its own animal. After all, it's not uncommon for even closely related animals to have completely different color patterns based more on habitat and ecology than what is related to them. While some of the colors on my subject match those found on the okapi, I wanted to make the shapes of the leg stripes and patterns on the head unique to this animal. The torso of my Sivathere is somewhat loosely based on the eland, which is a very large living antelope (which are also ruminants). I chose the eland because Sivatherium was a very large animal, and I decided to depict it living in a similar type of environment as the eland. I considered perhaps using the nilgai as a reference, since they currently live in the geographic area that this Sivatherium was found in, but decided to go with the heavier eland, since the environment of the Himalayan foothills has changed quite a bit in the last 2.5 million years. 

The ossicones on the head were fun to restore, since, unlike horns, they are covered in skin and fur. I made the ones projecting above the eyes very giraffe-like (including the worn-down hair on the tips from intraspecific fighting common in older bulls). For the large-flat ossicones on the back of the head, I gave it a short velvety fur (I've had the pleasure of petting an okapi once, and this was somewhat based on the amazing feel and sheen of their coats), with some longer hair tufts near some of the fringes. These tufts are speculative, but my idea was that they could help emphasize the size and shapes of the ossicones when advertising status to females. 

My idea was that the individual in the foreground is an older more experienced male, with a younger male behind him - the start of what are known as bachelor herds in the social structures of many types of animals, including giraffes.

As far as postures go, I had played with a couple ideas. I always wanted the one in the foreground to look somewhat alert, similar to poses I've seen by giraffes surveying their landscape. For the one in the background, I originally wanted to have it foraging. I went down a research spiral trying to figure out if Sivatherium was a browser or grazer (Most of the sources I found suggested it was more of a grazer, but I found differing opinions and interpretations in different sources). Partly since I couldn't find a definitive answer to this question, I ultimately decided to instead depict the animal taking a drink. 

One main reason for this was to help hammer home the giraffe relationship. Since this painting was done for a charity auction, I wanted it to be as educational as it possibly could be from just the visuals, since I wouldn't be around to explain the whole thing. The rendering of the animals looked somewhat okapi-like - which was a good start, but I thought it best to hammer home the giraffe family connection by depicting one of the animals in the iconic giraffe drinking posture. Not only does this help sell the familial relationship, but it's also probably how the animal actually behaved. This awkward legs-splayed posture is also found in the okapi (which is even closer related to the Sivatherium than the giraffe is), which implies that this drinking posture evolved in the family before the comically long neck of giraffes did. 

One part of this project I found enjoyable was building a simple 3D model in Maya and taking an hour or so to throw in a really rough rig to help me experiment with volumes and poses, and to help me understand this bizarre animal in perspective. For the reconstruction I converted the figures from the above-mentioned skeletal reconstruction (Basu et. al 2016) to image planes in Maya to help with proportions when making my rough volumetric model:







The Paleoecology of Sivatherium giganteum


With my subject animal picked, early on I decided to take this further than my previous paintings, and attempt to restore the full environment. This required more extensive research, and helped inform some of the decisions made for the restoration of the animal itself, as all animals are a product of their environments. 

Sivatherium giganteum (meaning 'Shiva's Beast') comes from the late Pliocene to early Pleistocene boundary of the Sivalik Hills of the Himalayas in what is now India and Pakistan. The genus lived from around 5 million years ago to around 8,000 years ago (which would have had it overlap with modern humans - and we even have ancient rock art that might be depicting it!). The specific locality I restored in the painting is at around 2.5-2.6 million years ago, from the late Pliocene Pinjor Formation. 

preliminary planning sketch

The Sivalik Hills at the time was a warm, humid environment, with seasonal rainfall, including summer monsoons, and wildfires during the dry winter periods. It appears as if there were grasslands with freshwater ponding conditions, adjacent to upland montane regions (indicated by pollen of more temperate flora). Sivatherium shared this environment with other animals like ancient species of elephants, hippos, rhinos, as well as hyenas, mongooses, rodents, lizards, and more. Around the time period depicted there may have been a faunal turnover event from an even wetter environment, where there might have been a large freshwater lake opposed to smaller ponds (as indicated by slightly older fossils of darters, pelicans, crabs, crocodylians, etc). The environment was slowly trending toward cooler and drier, especially later, as the Pliocene gave way to the Pleistocene around 1.8 million years ago, when increased tectonic activity occurred in the region. This changing climate, along with the barrier-free migration of fauna from Europe and Africa into the Indian subcontinent had a part in the extinction of some of this unique Sivalik fauna. 

environment color work in progress

To depict this environment, I decided to render a lowland grassland, adjacent to the mountains to the north. The idea of a seasonal monsoon was appealing to me, as it felt like a unique idea to depict a grassland that was recently flooded by the storms, creating well established ponds. I kept a mixed savanna transition to woodlands in the background, as the environment was still in transition to extended grasslands. Everything is bright green thanks to the recent storms, and the freshwater ponds have green algae from the family Zygnemataceae growing in them (zygospores of this algae have been found in deposits, suggesting stagnate freshwater).

I depicted a darter in the foreground and a few pelicans taking refuge in one of the temporary ponds in the background. These are based on fossils found from the area. The pelican and darter bones that were found weren't complete enough to confidently assign to any current or known extinct species, though. I therefore left the pelicans somewhat ambiguous as to their affiliation, and rendered the darter in the plumage of the modern Oriental Darter (Anhinga melanogaster), mostly to help indicate the Indian setting. I also found it enjoyable to show now extinct animals coexisting with modern species, which is something that happened regularly throughout the world, but we don't always think about. I particularly liked the idea of adding birds that depend on large bodies of water to these seasonal flooded grasslands. Animals will take advantage of available resources, even if they are temporary, seasonal phenomena. It made me think of my time living in the Bay Area of California, where I would see American white pelicans hanging out in the salt ponds along the bay only during certain times of the year. 

blocking in color before adding lighting and removing line work

One final detail I would like to point out, is in trying to restore a full ecosystem, I added a fun little flourish I don't usually see in paleoart. If you look under the drinking Sivatherium, you will see its droppings. One thing that I instantly noticed when I went to South Africa four years ago was how easy it was to tell there were lots of big animals living in the area by the various and plentiful droppings you would see - even if the animals weren't present. I felt it necessary to include this crucial part of the ecosystem into the painting.

Results


So with all of that, we have a painting of a pair of Sivatherium who emerge out of the woodland onto a flooded grassland after a summer monsoon, to take advantage of the newly deposited freshwater ponds for a drink.

I added a built-in white matting around the composition to evoke the feeling of a classic Victorian naturalist plate, often paired with scientific texts on 'exotic' animals in the 19th century. 

Since this is a more obscure subject for many viewers, and all of this information might not be immediately apparent to someone bidding on the painting at a conservation fundraiser, I got a custom engraved plate to add to the picture frame, so that the future owner can have some context:

Sivatherium label giving just the broad strokes

My training as a museum docent has taught me that interpreting natural history isn't all about regurgitating facts or teaching someone everything about a subject, but rather giving them just enough to steer them in the right direction to discover more. So in this case, the painting is the way to pique their interest, and the engraved plate gives them the tools to learn more, if they so choose.

The final framed print at a gallery event, where I had the pleasure to discuss my work with viewers.

I would also like to note that depicting an extinct giraffe relative isn't only to satisfy my own interest in prehistory. I hope it also helps people to think about the plight of the modern giraffids. With giraffes on the decline, and their okapi cousins endangered, it's quite possible that sometime in the future there won't be any members of this unique family on the planet anymore. I hope by showing what used to be here, I can help people understand what amazing creatures are at risk, so that we can do something about it. Hopefully it can inspire someone to think "I wish I could see one of these crazy things living today. Maybe I should support efforts to save their cousins so they don't have the same fate."

So please, help support the giraffes on this World Giraffe Day! Either by supporting the GCF directly, or, for those of you in Los Angeles, consider registering for the upcoming Laughs for Giraffes event, where you can have a great time watching stand-up comedy, and maybe even be the one to take home a framed copy of this piece of original paleoart. 

References

  • B. Clifford, Andrew & M. Witmer, Lawrence. (2006). Case studies in novel narial anatomy: 2. The enigmatic nose of moose (Artiodactyla: Cervidae: Alces alces). Journal of Zoology. 262. 339 - 360. 10.1017/S0952836903004692. 
  • Basu C, Falkingham PL, Hutchinson JR. 2016 The extinct, giant giraffid Sivatherium giganteum: skeletal reconstruction and body mass estimation. Biol. Lett. 12: 20150940. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2015.0940
  • Clifford, A., & Witmer, L. (2004). Case studies in novel narial anatomy: 3. Structure and function of the nasal cavity of saiga (Artiodactyla: Bovidae: Saiga tatarica). Journal of Zoology, 264(3), 217-230. doi:10.1017/S0952836904005540
  • Dennell, Robin. (2008). The taphonomic record of Upper Siwalik (Pinjor stage) landscapes in the Pabbi Hills, northern Pakistan, with consideration regarding the preservation of hominin remains. Quaternary International. 192. 62-77. 10.1016/j.quaint.2007.06.024. 
  • Estes, R. D. (1991). Behaviour guide to African mammals. Berkeley etc.: California University Press.
  • Falconer H, Cautley PT. 1836 Sivatherium giganteum, a new fossil ruminant genus. Asiatic Res. 19, 1 – 25.
  • Franz-Odendaal, Tamara & Solounias, Nikos. (2004). Comparative dietary evaluations of an extinct giraffid (Sivatherium hendeyi) (Mammalia, Giraffidae, Sivatheriinae) from Langebaanweg, South Africa (early Pliocene). Geodiversitas. 26. 
  • Khan, Aleem & Akhtar, Muhammad & Sarwar, Muhammad & Saeed, Muhammad. (1991). Vertical distribution of Siwalik Giraffids. Acta Scientia. 1. 145-152. 
  • Khan A, Khan M, Iqbal M, Akhtar M, Sarwar M. 2011 Sivatherium (Artiodactyla, Ruminantia, Giraffidae) from the Upper Siwaliks, Pakistan. J. Anim. Plant Sci. 21, 202– 206.
  • Mcgraw, William & Hayek, Lee-Ann & Werdein, L. (2000). The paleodiet of Giraffidae. 
  • Murie J. 1871 II.—On the systematic position of the Sivatherium giganteum of Falconer and Cautley. Geol. Mag. 8, 438 – 448. (doi:10.1017/S001675 6800192970)
  • Patnaik R., Nanda A.C. (2010) Early Pleistocene Mammalian Faunas of India and Evidence of Connections with Other Parts of the World. In: Fleagle J., Shea J., Grine F., Baden A., Leakey R. (eds) Out of Africa I. Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology. Springer, Dordrecht
  • Prothero, D. R., & Williams, M. P. (2017). The Princeton field guide to prehistoric mammals. Princeton (N.J.): Princeton University Press.
  • Solounias, Nikos & Teaford, Mark & Walker, A. (1988). Interpreting the diet of extinct ruminants: the case of a non- browsing giraffid. Paleobiology. 14. 287-300. 
  • Stidham, Thomas & Krishan, Kewal & Singh, Bahadur & Ghosh, Abhik & Patnaik, Rajeev. (2014). A Pelican Tarsometatarsus (Aves: Pelecanidae) from the Latest Pliocene Siwaliks of India. PLoS ONE. 9. e111210. 10.1371/journal.pone.0111210. 
  • Stidham, T., Patnaik, R., Krishan, K., Singh, B., Ghosh, A., Singla, A., & Kotla, S. S. (2017). The first darter (Aves: Anhingidae) fossils from India (late Pliocene). PloS one, 12(5), e0177129. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0177129
  • Witton, M. P. (2018). The Palaeoartists handbook: Recreating prehistoric animals in art. Ramsbury, Marlborough: The Crowood Press.


Sunday, October 21, 2018

Jack-O-Lantern Designs 2018

It's that time of year again! I bet you thought I'd forget, didn't you? Well I DIDN'T! Here's another batch of fun goofy Jack-O-Lantern Designs for you all!!

(click to enlarge)

The same deal goes as every year: if anybody actually decides to attempt to carve any of these (like StephanieNicole, and Josh, Megan, and I did) please send me pictures at evan.m.boucher@gmail.com and I'll post them up here! That goes for previous years' pumpkin designs as well. You have until the end of the month! I will post all physical Jack-O-Lantern carvings together on Halloween.

Previous Designs can be found here:


And last but not least, I realized I forgot to post the two physical ones from last year!!! They made it into some Facebook comments, but like a liar, I never posted them on the blog, so I'm going to fix that this instant!

Here's one from Laura Rooney:


And here's the one I did last year (it's the happy one in the middle):


Both of these are from last year's batch:




I can't wait to see what you come up with! Happy Carving and Happy Halloweeeennzzz!!!!

-Evan


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Okapi Love

I realized I never posted this on the blog, but thought today was an appropriate day to do so:



I created this digital painting for a raffle prize last year at Laughs for Giraffes, a comedy show organized by the folks at the LA Zoo to benefit Giraffe conservation.

Why an Okapi? Well, I painted a Giraffe for the previous year's event, and the Okapi is the only other surviving member of Giraffidae. I may have to look more into weird extinct species or get more creative for future events...

Here are some in-progress studies and brainstorms:





Saturday, October 21, 2017

Jack-O-Lantern Designs 2017

Hey Guys! It's that time of year again! I hope you've been looking for more Jack-O-Lantern Designs!!! Here's 2017's Batch!

(click to enlarge)

The same deal goes as every year: if anybody actually decides to attempt to carve any of these (like StephanieNicole, and Josh, Megan, and I did) please send me pictures at evan.m.boucher@gmail.com and I'll post them up here! That goes for previous years' pumpkin designs as well. You have until the end of the month! I will post all physical Jack-O-Lantern carvings together on Halloween.

Previous designs are here:

2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016

Happy Carving and Happy Halloweeeeen!

-Evan



Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Woolly Rhino for Conservation

 Another May, Another Bowling for Rhinos! After the success of last year, the kind folks at the Los Angeles Zoo asked me if I would do another painting for them to use in their silent auction. I was thrilled to do so. I wanted to come up with something thematically similar to what I did last year, with the idea that over time these rhino portraits might make a good series. Here's what I came up with:

Portrait of Poruchik Anatoli Volosatyy (click to enlarge)

'Portrait of Poruchik Anatoli Volosatyy'

Original Digital Painting, 2017.
Poruchik Volosatyy was one of the last of a long line of defenders of the Mammoth Steppe in western Siberia. He was a bit of a lone wolf, and disappeared some 10,000 years ago. It is unclear what happened to him, but it is thought he died in a skirmish - defending his grazing lands from the bipedal invaders often seen roaming around at that time.

As with last year's portrait of Mr. Eustace Simum, I wanted to do a piece that would look nice on the wall of whoever purchased it while also trying to highlight some conservation issues. I liked the idea of doing an extinct rhino species in order to subtly highlight that rhinos have gone extinct before, and it is likely to happen again. I also liked the idea of doing an extinct woolly rhino in the form of an old portrait, like you might find of a distant relative on a wall in your grandparent's house. I originally wanted to make it look like an old Civil War photograph, but I realized that Woolly Rhinos never made it across the Bering Strait to the US. So Instead of mixing the US Civil War with a species that never lived in the Americas, I decided to make him into an old Napoleonic-Era Russian soldier, since remains of woolly rhinos are often found in that region of the world.

After doing some research on the life appearance of the woolly rhino, and a bit into 18th-19th Century Russian Military equipment (I admit I probably didn't go far enough into this to get something that was truly accurate, but I did at least look at a bunch of things) I did some initial sketches to think this out: 


Just kind of thinking out loud here

 I took the first drawing and refined the shape language a bit to get a cleaner silhouette

I tried a few different compositions to see what I liked the best, but ultimately went back to the previous one.

...and here's a work in progress of the digital painting process
 
The painting was another success! It sold at the silent auction for a couple hundred dollars, all of which goes to benefit conservation of rhinos and the other animals in their habitat. It was a good time of bowling, drinking, and hanging out and catching up with people who care about conservation. If you are interested in this sort of work, but missed the event, I believe you can still donate to the cause here. And if that link is closed, some other reputable organizations I fully suggest you look into and consider helping are the International Rhino Foundation (who I support regularly through AmazonSmile) and the Global Conservation Force (who had an awesome presence at Bowling for Rhinos this year thanks in part to their partnership with Pacific Plate Brewing Co.) Thanks for tuning in, and I'm already thinking ahead to next year!

-Evan

Monday, April 17, 2017

Learn to Draw Dinosaurs: An Introduction to Paleoart - My first event with Pincelbox!

Hey gang!

Last time, I talked about a great website that my friends run, called Pincelbox. It's a site where people can find fun artistic workshops to do in the LA area, which are run by various local artists. I was lucky enough to host the second ever event for the site on Saturday, April 8, 2017- And if that wasn't exciting enough, it was all about Paleoart!


It was a great chance for me to take the research and experience I've gained over the past 7 or so years, and put together a workshop that hopefully inspired those who came. My main goal was to give people an appreciation for the mutualistic relationship between science and art, while also instructing an introductory course on drawing from life.


The workshop took place at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and involved a mix of interpretive talks, a drawing demo by me, and one-on-one instruction for everyone in the class. It was pretty cool to get to directly apply many of the techniques I learned at an intensive Certified Interpretive Guide training I did back in February.

Here I am giving a talk on the history of Paleoart.
Keen observers will see how I'm indirectly giving a shout out to Philadelphia during this portion.

Overall, It was a really  rewarding experience. All of my obsession over what prehistoric animals looked like, and trying to be true to those animals in art suddenly felt validated. A lot of people jokingly give me crap about caring too much about the accuracy of animals in movies. So it was nice to share why such things are important with people who were willing to listen. As a whole, everyone was actively engaged in my theory and history of paleoart presentation, and asking some very good questions. It was an absolute joy to see.

I took about 5 minutes to demo restoring Camarasaurus from a skull on display, before sending everyone off to draw what they wanted

When it came to the actual drawing instruction, it was so incredibly exciting to see people apply techniques discussed in my demonstrations successfully. Seeing light bulbs go off when giving various tips and tricks was very cool.

Priyes checking the proportions on his Majungasaurus


Asking questions and sharing experiences after the first of two class working sessions

I was pleasantly surprised at how many people were brave enough to tackle entire skeletons!

Kirsten's fantastic Edmontosaurus

The T. rex trio was a popular subject




The workshop seemed to get a really great response, with most of the class staying afterwards to continue to chat about various related topics! It was a very inquisitive group of people. I really couldn't have asked for a better first group! Congrats on your first steps into a larger world, everyone!


I will definitely be setting up more instances of this class, so if you missed out, there will be plenty of chances in the nearish future! Just make sure to follow Pincelbox on facebook, twitter, and instagram to stay up to date on upcoming events!

-Evan

Saturday, February 18, 2017

I Draw at Museums, and So Should You!

Hello, All!

I'm glad to see you're all still here. Clearly I need to start posting much more often....

For those who don't know, for almost two years now, I've been spending my Sunday mornings Volunteering at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. I'm a Docent, where I do interpretive work in various halls, answering questions, showing people around, and more importantly encouraging people to make their own discoveries and connections from their own observations. It's great fun, very rewarding, and (I think) extremely important work considering the seemingly growing amount of people these days who don't understand how the scientific method works. So I figure if I can help show people how science works, and let them lead their own understanding of it, it will be a more lasting impression than someone simply saying 'you're wrong, this is what it is!'

Anyway, you may be wondering, what the butt does this have to do with Evan's art blog??

Einiosaurus skull sketch by me

Sometimes on Sunday mornings at 9am, the Museum can be pretty empty before people start to trickle in. I'm still stationed in various halls during that time, so what do I do to pass the time?

Sometimes I just really take time with specimens to observe. You'll be surprised that if you spend enough time really looking at something, you'll start to come up with ALL sorts of great questions to look up, even if you're a very knowledgeable person (and if you can't find the answer, then THAT, my friends is how scientific research starts!)

Other times, I take the time to sketch. Often wondering about various things as I do it. Here are just a few of the drawings I've done over the years (as always, click images to enlarge):


Triceratops in the main Foyer, trying not to be attacked by Tyrannosaurus

Sauropods like this Mamenchisaurus have REALLY interesting feet! They are definitely NOT like the over-simplified elephantine feet you often see people depict them as

Often I will try to use mounted skeletons as a starting point and sketch life restorations on top of them. 

Young Tyrannosaurus based one one of the mounts. I added a little tortoise to give it a bit of a story.

Sometimes I'll draw the bones themselves though. Not only does it help to understand the underlying structure of these animals better, but they are filled with all kinds of amazing aesthetically pleasing shapes:

This is the same young Tyrannosaurus the above sketch was made form, just a different angle

Ceratopsians like this Einiosaurus have such cool shapes!

I don't exclusively draw dinosaurs though:


Waterbuck (and the top of a cropped Great Blue Heron's face)

Sometimes I'll even take things I'm looking at and caricature them or just use them as inspiration for my own mind's creations:

Like this Maniraptoran!

I'll try to post more museum sketches as I do them. Museum Drawing is a fun way to work on life drawing skills while also opening your mind to wondering about the natural world. There are infinite questions to ask, and through that combined observation and tactile experience of recording what you see, you never know where you may end up!

Shameless plug time! My activities have been noticed, and I was contacted by my friend and fellow museum volunteer, who runs a website called Pincelbox, a cool new site that helps you find interesting artistic learning events in the area! They asked me if I would be up for developing a class, and so I've reached back to my roots to come up with an event to draw dinosaurs and learn about the very rich (but often overlooked) world of Paleoart in the process! 

Click the image for more information!

The class is being developed to be mindful of people with no artistic or science background, so everyone is welcome! It will be part drawing demonstration, part lecture on history, paleoart theory, and dinosaur anatomy, and mostly hands on drawing time with me giving pointers here and there. It should be fun!


 If it goes well enough I'm hoping to do a series, because there is SO much information on this topic that just can't get crammed into a casual 2 hour class. So don't be shy! This should be a good primer for anyone interested in learning more about how scientists and artists work together to come to the conclusions they do about Dinosaurs and their appearance. You can find all the information you need here.


Until the next time!

  -Evan