Monday, September 10, 2007
Birds have been on my mind a lot lately.
Even before I heard paleontologists calling them “avian dinosaurs,” I had a hunch that birds were linked somehow to dinosaurs. The fine-grained fossils that have been pouring out of the Liaoning province in China show clear evidence of well-developed feathers.
When it came to illustrating small two-legged dinosaurs, all my old painter’s tricks for rendering scaly skin were not going to cut it anymore. My old paintings of Oviraptors look naked now.
I realized I would have to learn to draw birds. I would have to watch them like hawks to see how they behave. I hung out at zoos, pet shops, county fairs, and chicken coops.
Did dinosaurs have a preening ritual in a definite sequence as birds do? Did they have a preening oil gland near the base of their tail? Were their feathers for flapping or warmth or social display—or all three? Could they fluff up their feathers to look impressive or to release tension, as birds do?
I started wondering: what did dinosaurs look like during a moult? Did some dinosaurs have wattles and combs like roosters?
These are the questions that all of my friends who are paleoartists are asking, and it makes right now a very exciting time to be doing dinosaur art!