A 3-Year Analysis (Feat. Stegosaurus)

I’ve had a Wacom drawing tablet for a little more than four years (if I recall correctly, I purchased my first model sometime in September 2012). Ever since then, I’ve been trying to improve my technique and output – as any person working in any medium (physical or digital) should.

For some reason, I like drawing Stegosaurus.

steg-1
~2013

This Stegosaurus was drawn sometime in 2013. The exact date, I’m not so sure. This was one of the first major projects I’d set out to accomplish – a full-bodied dinosaur with a unique color arrangement. The result was a fairly decent-looking animal, conceived from my own imagination. The anatomical details, however, are fairly wonky. For one, the hands are lacking the unclawed fourth and fifth digits. The hind legs are lacking a fleshy pad that supported this animal’s feet, as in modern elephants.

The thagomizer is also glaringly vertical, hardly an adept weapon for swinging at a lunging predator.

steg-2
2015

I had a prolonged hiatus from drawing in 2014, due to people generally being assholes about the material I produced. Entering and exiting my senior year of high school, I took up digital art once more as a stress reliever. The end-result was a slightly more accurate dinosaur.

My texturing techniques had improved. Every scale on this steg was drawn by hand. The color had been reduced in “flashiness” to imply this animals’ habitat as a forested region. The thagomizers are now facing a more correct orientation. Some problems that stem from this restoration are in the head and legs: the former is much to square-shaped and bulky, and the latter elements are still lacking the finer anatomical details discussed earlier (as all archosaurs only had the first three digits of their hands bearing claws).

steg-3
June 2016

At some point between 2015 and this year, I got over a barrier most of us men seem to have issues with every now and again:

I don’t know everything.

One of the things that falls under the “everything” category happens to be the anatomy and skeletal proportions of dinosaurs. But in this day and age – with the Internet at my disposal – I came to the conclusion that someone knows what I lack. Scott Hartman & the other fellow paleo-enthusiasts with a few more years’ experience than yours truly have been instrumental in my much more comprehensive understanding of prehistoric animals.

The stegosaur above is restored directly from a Scott Hartman skeletal of S. stenops. I began the transition from solid black line art with color to pure solid color illustrations in December 2015, and by this stage had gotten comfortable. Pushing that boundary, I think, was extremely important to my maturation as an artist. There aren’t any glaring anatomical issues with this steg, but I eventually felt dissatisfied with it.

stegosaurus-v2
October 2016

Which led to the creation of this beaut earlier this month. A more confident understanding in dinosaur anatomy is now allowing me to stretch and speculate a little more. This and the steg above are restored with a blue hue, but this one is much more reduced (greyer), but the dorsal plates are also now much more interesting. The eye spots are much more intimidating, and there is a blue-pink gradient running towards the head. The placement of speculative bristle/quill structures is the result of further speculation; we don’t have evidence against it, so why should I go with the null?

I hope to look back further in the future with even more complex animals. I feel like I’m learning a new technique with every updated animal. It’s a very exciting time to be following ThePaintPaddock!

Until next time.

 

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Defining Dinosauria

This isn’t a dinosaur.

pteranodon v2.png

Neither is this.

mosasaurus v2

But this is.

velociraptor-v2

It’s a spiel that I run quite frequently in a conversation – “What’s a dinosaur?” It also seems rather contrarian to what people have been taught in primary school, when everything extinct was labelled as a “dinosaur.” People seem to recognize why mammoths and giant ground sloths (hinthint for upcoming restorations) aren’t dinosaurs. It’s pretty easy. Dinosaurs are reptiles and most cenozoic megafauna were mammals.

But when it comes to the reptiles that lived together in the Mesozoic – what should we call a dinosaur? The answer is actually rather simple.

Dinosaurs are defined – in phylogenetic terms – as every animal that is descended from the most recent common ancestor between Triceratops and modern birds.

dinosaur phylogenetic tree.png

I made a quick mockup of what this looks like. The figure above is a phylogenetic tree with several representatives of major dinosaur groups. The large branch to the left consists of ornithischians, and the right branch consists of saurischians. These are the two sides of the “dinosaur” coin. Triceratops is commonly thought to be the most advanced (“advanced” = recent/”newest”, in our nomenclature) ornithischian, having evolved just around the time of the K-T extinction that wiped out non-avian dinosaurs. Some even claim it may have been the final dinosaur population to finally keel over during said extinction event. Modern birds are the most advanced saurischian dinosaurs, and they have survived to the present.

The most recent common ancestor is an animal that existed sometime in the Lower Triassic (~250 MYA). We don’t know what it is. We may never know what it is. All we know is that it existed, and from that animal (rather, population thereof) came dinosaurs as we know them. The split between ornithischians and saurischians happened not long after.

The animals further above – the Pteranodon and Mosasaurus – are representative of other reptile groups that existed during the Mesozoic. Pteranodon is more closely related to dinosaurs than Mosasaurus, as it falls under “archosauria.” We’ll discuss more about the relationship between archosaurs sometime in the future.

Until next time!