Hey everyone, it's been a messy past few weeks so progress was literally snail paced. I was sick with the flu, my computer was infected with spyware (and had to be rebooted) and I had a mess of exams and other issues to tackle...
But I did want to get some artwork done, and the fact that the ArtEvolved blog seemed a bit lacking in Chasmosaurs for its Ceratopsian Gallery just screamed out for attention. Chasmosaurus itself has always been my second favorite dinosaur (after Brachiosaurus) and it's a fitting challenge for a high-detail illustration.
And instead of simply being ripped apart by a predator, I wanted to show this ceratopsian fighting back.
I'd had this image in the back of my mind for a while, a Chasmosaurus charging at a predator whose attack failed. Lunch strikes back. This concept was actually inspired by a drawing John Conway did, of Chasmosaurus belli chasing away a Daspletosaurus torosus. You can see his drawing HERE.
And the image stuck in my head. This was one of those pieces where you just look at it and you get this insane burning desire to do something like it, only with your own personal twist. I HAD to do something like that. And it would HAVE to be better than Conway's already impressive version (at least to my eyes). Now Conway's work is under a creative commons license that requires you to credit the artist if you "use" his work - so this would technically be illegal if I didn't give him credit. So of course I will. The dinoart community, as small as it is, doesn't need any lawsuits - no Sue fiasco, and no Archaeoraptor either.
Only thing is, I planned to change the Chasmosaurus belli to a Chasmosaurus kaiseni (which I still consider a separate species) because I wanted something with much more impressive horns.
Below: Chasmosaurus kaiseni in the foreground, compared with Chasmosaurus belli in the background (both skulls are in the AMNH).
Thus I completely replaced the head (BTW, in any case the original head doesn't exactly resemble Daspletosaurus either - it's a lot shallower and more crocodylian than the actual skull of Daspletosaurus - and the notch in the upper lip just looks odd on any advanced tetanuran - it's almost Dilophosaurian up close! For reference see below...)
Left: Daspletosaurus skull. Right: John Conway's Daspletosaurus. I marked both with diacritical lines added to show the discrepancies: Red = lip line: smooth in the skull, notched in the drawing. Pink = depth of the skull about halfway between the eye and the nostrils: unusually shallow like a croc or phytosaur in the drawing. Yellow = depth of lower jaw at a position corresponding to the lacrimal bone in the upper skull: moderately shallow in skull, unusually deep in drawing). Green circles = orbital horns: small, unfused, and upward-pointing in the skull, but wide, flat, and and fused in the drawing. Blue line = incline of snout just below preorbital ridges and rugosities: steeper in the skull than in the drawing, which is the only possibility considering the proportional differences in snout depth!
Of course the skeptical can always look at the untouched originals. Conway's piece is indeed detailed, well thought-out and very skillful in perspective... it's just not Daspletosaurus. Yes I know I'm being harsh; it's nothing personal, just the art. John Conway is overall a very accomplished and talented artist who I'd probably say easily outranks 95 % of paleoartists out there - his Daspletosaurus, for all its errors, is far more accurate than, say, the work of Ely Kish or Josef Moravec (...don't even get me started...). Of course, such critiques of my own work are equally welcome. It's how we all improve.
But back to Albertosaurus: it was a more common predator, had a longer snout, and is relatively easier to draw. The body was pretty similar to Daspletosaurus, but more slender - though in this seemingly subadult stage depicted in Conway's drawing, they would both have been of similar physique.
*** A NOTE ON ALBERTOSAURUS: Phil Currie and a few other paleontologists have recently re-labeled A. libratus with its original 1920s name, "Gorgosaurus libratus" - though going on Gregory Paul's more reliable classification, I decided there isn't enough difference between A. libratus and the type species A. sarcophagus, to kick the former out of the genus Albertosaurus.) I still think there are enough similar derived traits between A. libratus and A. sarcophagus to consider libratus as a member of Albertosaurus.***
Long story short, I first emailed Conway to make sure it was okay to draw the scene with the changes I have described above. He replied that it was fine, and even claimed that he probably didn't own the poses of the dinosaurs in his image... in any case he seemed pleased that I would give him credit for the original concept.
After that, I started work on the drawing. There were a number of mostly small issues that needed resolving.
*First I lengthened the predator's tail (based on the most current skeletal proportions of Albertosaurus; Daspletosaurus skeletons also had similar proportions, and Conway's Daspletosaurus seemed unusually short-tailed, and the tail looked a bit too stiff).
*I reduced the rather extreme and improbable angle of the predator's head-turning (as well as raising the head and making the neck larger) - in any case, both Albertosaurus and Daspletosaurus had eyes that faced sideways, so the ideal head position for the predator to keep its eye on the charging Chasmosaurus would be a profile.
*I curved the end of Chasmosaurus's tail more upward to stay clear of its hind legs
*I added a skin flap to enclose Chasmosaurus's shoulder retractor muscle (latissimus dorsi), which itself seems strangely absent in Conway's version.
*I also added skin flaps for the caudofemoralis muscles on both animals (look at Greg Paul's 1988 T.rex pair painting to get an idea of how this would look from behind).
*I lowered the angle of the predator's arm and made it larger to properly scale with the body (the arm angle and size on the Conway original looked more Abelisaurian than Tyrannosaurian).
*I gave the predator an open mouth with tongue showing (as if panting).
*I put sharper outlines on the Chasmosaurus frill studs and other small facial features.
*I enlaeged the corner studs on the frill (as well as re-scaling their perspective and the rest of the upper frill).
*I altered the stance of the Chasmosaurus's hands and fingers, to a more impact-absorbing one (the dinosaur is jumping and eventually will have to land on its fingers, not its carpal bones).
*I did a TOTAL redesign of the skin textures for both animals - more detail, more wrinkles, and smaller scales. I also kept in mind the presence of a very rich skin texture of large scute-scales surrounded by smaller ones for Chasmosaurus, based on known Ceratopsian skin impressions - Conway's Chasmosaurus seems unusually smooth considering this.*I also put some substantial patterns on both animals - stripes for the Albertosaurus, and blotches for his ceratopsian foe.
*I redrew the body of Chasmosaurus to be more in line with the creature's likely musculature (Greg Paul's Chasmosaurus muscular diagram published in Dinosaurs Past and Present (1987) was a very useful reference in this regard). The result was more blocky than Conway's version.
*I drew the segments for the fleshy pads under the Chasmo's toes (you'd think this is easy, but it was insanely tedious. The pads would more or less follow the pattern of the toe bones - but finding a good picture of ceratopsian toe bones was a major pain in the phalanges!) As each toe had a different number of bones, the number of pad segments was also likely to have varied. I also made the Albertosaurus's toe pad segments more defined.
Above is John Conway's drawing from his Paleontography website.
BELOW is my initial sketch.
And further below, is my progress so far. Click on the image to see the full detail. Albertosaurus is finished except for the tongue, the teeth have been redone from the initial sketch to match the skull of A. libratus. Also notice the sharper angles in Chasmosaurus's spine and torso relative to the initial sketch.
Pretty much all that's left is the tongue and the Chasmosaurus's rear half. I hope to finish this soon. And thanks to Mr. Conway for creating the original drawing, being totally cool with my reinterpretation of the scene, and answering my questions.