Friday, May 2, 2014

Hatching Triceratops

I painted a hatching Triceratops for the article on baby dinosaurs in the new issue of Ranger Rick magazine.

I suppose I could have painted the scene in sweet pastel colors and bright morning light, but I imagined it more as an urgent moment of crisis, where life hangs in the balance. So I set the scene at night, as if dazzled by the intrusion of a photographer's flash.

I limited the colors to yellow ochre and a dull slate blue, leaving out greens, reds, and pinks. The whole composition includes a wider shot of the nest, with shell fragments, and mud caked on the eggs. I painted everything in shallow focus to evoke the impression of wildlife photography.

This photo of a hatching turtle provided the stimulus for the pose. I liked the way it reached one foot to the ground, and seemed to be gasping for air. But a photo like this is just a starting point.

The shapes of very young Triceratops skulls are known from fossils.

I needed to know the exact light and shadow design of the whole scenario, so I sculpted a small maquette from Sculpey. 

The egg is a thin layer of Sculpey applied over a styrofoam egg. I didn't know what would happen to the styrofoam egg when I put it in the oven. 

It was awesome! It sort of shriveled up to nothing, leaving the Sculpey shell. I spray painted the maquette a flat gray and took it outside in sunlight to figure out the best lighting. 


Unknown said...

I saw this in my younger brother's issue of Ranger Rick, and was pleased to instantly recognize it as your work. Great piece.

Terry said...

Wonderful painting! As a biologist I appreciate the non-cutesifyingness of it (is that a word? I don't think so) but as a viewer - dang, it's still cute!

An aside: I hope the oven is vented outdoors, I'm not sure the fumes from a "shrinking" piece of styrofoam would be good for you!

K_tigress said...

Very interesting proses. Thanks for sharing. :)