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Brachiosaurs have always been my favorite sauropods - indeed, my favorite dinosaurs period. (Although titanosaurs, especially the big basal ones, are constantly jockeying for that position in my mind...). So with the new discoveries of the past decade expanding the numbers of genera in the ranks of Brachiosauridae, I thought the time was perfect to produce a "brachiosaur parade" of the most well-known and some of the most legendary animals in this amazing group.

In fact there are over 20 genera that are likely brachiosaurs, but only about fourteen of them are solidly described. Fourteen is plenty though - the diplodocids would easily be envious of such a number. This was going to be a pretty big affair, so instead of the standard 8.5 x 11 heavy paper, I used a not-so-heavy 11 x 17 sheet. Much bigger, and I have a big stack of 'em - but these sheets are not so well-textured. But this is a small sacrifice for drawing most of the known brachiosaurs - including everyone's favorite, Brachiosaurus, and its new headline-grabbing cousin (or should I say nephew, in evolutionary terms), Sauroposeidon.

The brachiosaur family is very complex despite the remains of most species being poorly known or fragmentary. They survived for at least 90 million years, from Middle Jurassic to Late Cretaceous (there are brachiosaur tail vertebrae known from the Campanian of Mexico), before going extinct. In this respect they were the most successful of all the sauropod families, except for their titanosaur cousins. Brachiosaurs are in a sense the rare gems of the sauropod world. Everyone's heard of them (or at least Brachiosaurus) yet they are far less common in museums, books, and even the artist's portfolio than, say, Diplodocus or even Camarasaurus. They are less often studied, less often dug up, but in my view, they are far more interesting - just altogether a way more awesome animal!

The brachiosaur parade involved fourteen different genera (based on their respective type species, with the exception of Brachiosaurus brancai and Pelorosaurus, presently a jumble of unrelated specimens whose true Brachiosaur material may not be the eroded non-diagnostic type P. conbeyari).

The genera are as follows, in an order roughly from the most primitive to the most advanced (except for little Europasaurus - I only had enough room for him at the end, even though he lived before the ones just behind him):

Volkheimeria
Lapparentosaurus
Daanosaurus ( = Bellusaurus/Klamelisaurus???)
Bothriospondylus
Lusotitan
Brachiosaurus (B. brancai HMN XV2 in this case - no I am not calling it Giraffatitan. Deal with it!)
"The Archbishop" (a brachiosaur somewhat bigger than B. brancai, with a longer neck as well, it was originally mis-labeled as a B. brancai for decades. Presently yet to be officially named, it's under research by Dr. Mike Taylor of SV-POW).
Pelorosaurus
Pleurocoelus ( = Astrodon???)
Cedarosaurus
Sonorasaurus
Sauroposeidon
Breviparopus (= Brachiosaurus nougaredi? Scaled from Morocco footprints as per Ishigaki 1989, with proportions based on Sauroposeidon).
Europasaurus - dwarf basal brachiosaur from Germany - likely a "feral migrant", it made its home on a Jurassic island and dwarfed to cope with limited food supplies.

I also included the biggest known T. rex for size comparison - this is the "B.rex" specimen, not Sue. It's a little bit bigger. But notice how this stinkin' theropod's torso is so tiny compared to most of the brachiosaurs' torsos.

The initial size of the scan was gigantic - I used FedExKinko's because I had to submit this thing to Prehistoric Times last-minute, and I was unable find another scanner big enough in time (my university had one that could be used for free by students and alumni, but it was down for maintenance). So there's ten bucks down the drain. Anyway Kinko's gave me something on the order of 20,000 pixels copied onto my flash drive and I almost passed out waiting for the thing to load onto Pixia (a quick, free image editor available for download online, basically the poor man's photoshop). Only this time with these huge files it wasn't so quick.

So I resized the thing on photoscape and used a blue tint feature to bring out any smudges and smears that still had to be removed. So here's the "ultraviolet" version I suppose...




Note that I also included scaled footprints for Breviparopus, and for Pleurocoelus (the Paluxy trackway prints called "Brontopodus birdi" which were almost certainly from a large Pleurocoelus or similar Pleurocoeline brachiosaur).

Afterwards, I made several shrunken photocopies of the original and colored one of these, and then scanned it on my own puny scanner to get this, leaving the T.rex uncolored:





Then I want back to the original scan of the uncolored version, and after editing out the smears and smudges (which is a chronic problem with standard non-heavy copy paper) I undid the "ultraviolet" masking to reveal the cleaned up image. Then I refined the height scale, drew some of the tongues that were missing (*gasp!*) and replaced the sketchy human figure with a high-contrast pic of Eugen Sandow.



Wait, you've never heard of Eugen Sandow? Here you go! If you're familiar with Charles Atlas, well, Sandow came a couple of generations before him.




And here is the labeled version. The height scale it, unusually, in feet rather than meters. So if you live outside the UK or the USA, feel free to bust out the calculator and do that x feet/3.3 thing...

I don't have much more to say about this piece, other than it's huge, it took over a month to finish, and the colored version was published in the latest issue of Prehistoric Times (grab one here), and special thanks to the editor Mike Fredericks for publishing it. Ironically, the black-and-white version that I scanned at Kinko's didn't even end up getting sent to the magazine. I figured the color version would grab more attention one I finally fixed the contrast on both. But the un-colored one has much better detail.

It's also featured in the ArtEvolved Sauropod Gallery (albeit in an earlier version). Thanks to Peter Bond for posting it there.



WHAT NEXT?

Coming up soon there will be a series of works entitled....



This will cover exclusively titanosaurs, from gargantuan limb bones discovered over 100 years ago, to armored tank-like oddities that have turned up just recently. For over a century titanosaur remains have been known, yet for most of that time they have been very poorly understood, and even the record-breaking ones were not much more than huge curiosities sitting on a dusty museum basement shelf or perhaps featured in some odd photograph in a remote corner of Donald F. Glut's dinosaur encyclopedia. While Argentinosaurus is fairly well known today, many similar titanosaur giants simply never got their fifteen minutes of fame, and aside from paleontologists and dino-geeks, barely anyone knew they existed.

For example, how many people know that while Brachiosaurus was considered the "biggest dinosaur" for most of the 20th century, there already at least two super-titanosaurs known that were easily twice as massive, one of which was actually discovered a decade BEFORE Brachiosaurus?

Titanosaurs have just been largely neglected, plain and simple. Most species don't even have a decent illustration to their name - even the relatively complete ones! That's going to change. Both old and new titanosaurs, some never before depicted, will soon make their entrance HERE, in the Paleo Kingdom.

Only recently have titanosaurs begun to be truly understood, and in many ways, rediscovered and reclassified as a cohesive group - and as the research yields important details about new titanosaur species, the group as a whole is coming into sharper focus - including the older finds that have sat gathering duast all these years. So my new series of titanosaur art, boldly illustrating beasts that have been long ignored, and that the majority of paleoartists haven't even dared to touch, shall be called: FORGOTTEN GIANTS.

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WOOHOO! After nearly a month of working on and off, it's finally done. Here is the Dashanpu scene (also known as "The Impossible miniature") in all its phenomenal, stunning presence. No detail overlooked.... like a J. R. R. Tolkien novel, or a Gogol short story, or even perhaps a Rameau harpsichord suite!


The impossible Jurassic miniature - Omeisaurus tianfuensis and Shunosaurus lii,
denizens of a lively Dashanpu Quarry.



Okay so perhaps I exaggerate just a tiny slight little bit. But rarely (or perhaps never) have I seen someone cram this much detail and just flat-out stuff going on into a single 8x11 sheet! Challenging? That's an understatement. I didn't want to put this much detail at first, but then I thought, back in March my Styracosaurus herd scene set the bar pretty high, so I had to at least do something comparable for my live blogging... especially now that I have much better paper to work with. So here's the full Dashanpu quarry scene with those real-life dragons, "Omeisaurus" tianfuensis and Shunosaurus lii - and their live surroundings as they would have appeared in the Middle Jurassic, with monkey-puzzle trees, reflections in the water, and shiploads of other details that would take hours to discuss, though they're easy to spot here. Enjoy basking in the glory...

LOL, as if regular-sized detail weren't crazy enough...
and those Shunosaurus are just too cute ;)


And yes - there is indeed a crocodile.

Dashanpu quarry is mostly lake sediment, indicating that there was a large inland lake there in the Middle Jurassic (Bathonian-Callovian epochs) fed by several rivers, which washed the remains of dead dinosaurs into the lake along with tons of sediment over the millennia. The dinosaurs were certainly not water-dwellers - their corpses simply got thrown in there by rivers and perhaps floods, and those that didn't were not preserved. There are also crocodile and turtle remains, and these were obviously native to the lake.

Here, the dinosaurs are feasting near shallow, seasonally dry streams near the start of the wet season, on the edge of the lake. The first rains of the wet season flooded the area days before and choked the streams with silt and sandbars. It's not known exactly why "Omeisaurus" tianfuensis evolved such crazy long necks so rapidly, while Shunosaurus lii kept them short like the old cetiosaurid body plan (apparently as if there was never a brachiosaur-style middle ground for Chinese sauropod neck proportions!) However, the difference in feeding ranges which allowed the two to coexist without competing for the same food, is obvious.

* P.S. - I'm thinking of doing a big group reconstruction of all the known "Omeisaurus" species to show that they are probably separate genera that may have next to nothing in common with the type specimen. It's just an idea for now, though I do have other sauropod projects actually in the works.

LIVE BLOGGING: Post # 10: Correction, THIS is almost done!

Posted by Nima On Monday, November 9, 2009 5 comments

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Finally the REAL end is in sight... a bit late for ArtEvolved - but well worth the wait, methinks!



Here's the Dashanpu scene with more Omeisaurus patterned and shaded. And a lot more detail on the ground. Next I'll put in the croc, fill in a few more ground features and water surfaces, pattern the Shunosaurus herd, and that will pretty much be it!

LIVE BLOGGING: Post #9: Almost done!

Posted by Nima On Sunday, November 1, 2009 7 comments

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Here it comes.... Looks like I'll be done soon.



Already got the patterns on one Omeisaurus, now to do the rest, and the Shunosaurus herd (can't forget those little guys, can we?) and the lake up front. That lake needs a crocodile. Trees are pretty much done.