Monday, November 17, 2014

The Cretaceous Tortoise and Hare

Once upon a time, in the autumn of 2011, I submitted an artwork requested by one Scott Persons of the University of Alberta via Art Evolved...

Three years later, the resulting set of three illustrations -- a race between an Olorotitan and a Tarbosaurus -- was finally published in the press release for a study of hadrosaur locomotion by Dr. Phil Currie and Scott Persons, which I expect a number of our readers are already familiar with, either independently or via the Chasmosaurs Facebook page. There is also a podcast about the research. Here, for your delectation and privilege (or indeed indifference and ennui, so please you) are the illustrations at a much larger size, which can be opened out in a new tab/window for full-view if you wish. Much of the comic expression in the dinosaurs' eyes are missed in reduction -- something which I hadn't accounted for when I drew them.

The Aesop analogy subsequently repeated in the article was one which had actually occurred to Scott as a result of my original submission, as quoted in my linked Himmapaanensis post above: '...this is a charming twist (and one I had not anticipated). I like it very much!' I readily confess that my simple little ego was considerably flattered by this.

There is also a story behind the flag-waving Protoceratops, who was originally accompanied by a much more incongruous figure (again, for the sake of this post's conciseness, please see the first link for this). I don't know, you'd think I had a penchant for such a thing...

Prints of the illustrations were donated to the silent auction at the Alberta Dinosaur Research Institute fundraising dinner this past weekend. Sean Willett of the Dragon Tongues podcast (whom Marc and I had the great pleasure of meeting and speaking to at the first TetZooCon, and for whom David recently completed a new logo) had very kindly placed a bid on them. He informs me that the prints finally sold for over $100.

Photograph by Sean Willett

Of course, given that it has been three years since their creation, there are several things I would do differently now. So consider this the appropriate disclaimer/apology for any obvious shortcomings. I do know, however, that I would relish more such opportunities for playful pictures accompanying serious research in formal publications. Can we make this A Thing, please?


  1. Absolutely gorgeous, Niroot. You are truly gifted.

    I love all of your artwork that I've seen but this particular style - Victorian era meets Silk Road - is my favourite. The "pack hadrosaur" pics that you linked to, they're like a wonderfully textured cake, with the protagonist dino the sponge, the ladies in their finery and feathers the cream, and the little guy in the extravagant turban the cherry. Yum yum.

    Perhaps oddly, my favourite bit of the third of the Oloro/Tarbo race pics is the tape marking the finishing line. Stylistically, it's perfect. It has echoes of many other pictures that I have seen, none of which I can pin down right now.

    1. Thank you so much, Mark. I'm going to put your comment into my little box of treasures.

      I love your 'Victorian era meets Silk Road' coinage. Though the human characters in these are chiefly Renaissance, hopefully you will see more actual Victoriana in the project Marc and I are planning (as mentioned in Marc's reply to Hadiaz's comment below).

  2. "I do know, however, that I would relish more such opportunities for playful pictures accompanying serious research in formal publications. Can we make this A Thing, please?"

    Personally, I'd love to see a dino book illustrated by you, fiction or non-fiction (preferably the latter). Now that I think of it, you should be the 1 illustrating the "How Do Dinosaurs" series, then the illustrations would be both playful & accurate (as opposed to just playful).


    1. Niroot and I have discussed the possibility of working together on such a thing (maybe starting out as a series of blog posts). Now that you've brought it up, I might have to forget all my chores etc. and actually sit down and work on it (damn full time job!). We have a plan to make excellent use of Niroot's penchant for characters in period costume alongside dinosaurs...

    2. Thank you so much, Hadiaz. As Marc mentioned, my hope is that we might eventually graduate towards a project that will be both playful and accurate, if we can make something of just the playful first.


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