Monday, 21 February 2011

At last! An actual drawing . . .

As this is the first art post proper I thought I'd start with the image used in the design of the Paleo Illustrata header. Chirostenotes pergracilis is an caenagnathid oviraptorsaur from the Late Cretaceous, (Late Campanian) of Dinosaur Park, Alberta, Canada. It's known from several partial skeletons, an articulated hand and an articulated foot (Currie, 2005) and according to Currie et al in life would have been around 2.3m long. 

I created this sketch of Chirostenotes pergracilis after being impressed by the mounted specimen of a large oviraptorsaur which I saw in the Black Hills Institute Museum in South Dakota last year. This striking mount is actually an replica acquired from Treibold Palaeontolgy, and the caption accompanying the exhibit states it was found in Harding County, South Dakota in 2000. This skeleton is actually a composite; two separate fossils of the same species were found within a few hundred feet of each other and these two have been merged to make the single skeleton, a cut-and-shut caenagnathid. I believe these specimens both remain undescribed and I seem to recall seeing a documentary regarding this skeleton on UK TV some years ago, and there was some controversy associated with it.

The BHI Oviraptorid - a biggie to be sure.

The sketch was based on one of Scott Hartman's excellent skeletal illustrations and the pose is taken directly from there, as the image was originally intended to try out the integument rather than be a finished work in itself. Whilst looking at the skeleton and speculating about how the feathers might have been arranged on this animal I was struck by it's superficial resemblance to extant ratites, and with its distinctive crest it occurred to me that the image of Chirostenotes pergracilis reconstruction based on the plumage of a ratite might well work - specifically a Cassowary.

In the end I was pleased enough with the illustration although it's essentially a working sketch, and another is in the 'concept stage' (artist speak which translates as "thinking about it") which will put Chirostenotes pergracilis in an actual landscape, and in colour.

Currie, P.J. and Koppelhus, E. B. eds (2005) Dinosaur Provincial Park. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. pp 379-380

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