Saturday, February 21, 2009
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
So, late last August, I had just moved to Calgary. I had gone to Drumheller with my family that same month, home to the Royal Tyrell Museum, the pre-eminent Paleontological museum in western Canada, as far as I know. Now, most of my friends had gone to Drumheller at some point in their childhood - for whatever reason, I hadn't. Our family had a bunch of other great trips, but never to Drumheller. So when I went there, deeply suppressed feelings of paleo-wonder swept over me. I had never exorcised those prehistoric demons from my little-boy subconscious, and they began to nag at me. In early september, playing around with pen and ink, it started. I began to draw lizard-men, vaguely dinosaurian in appearance. Oh, how innocent it was. I hadn't even thought of evolutionary history or encephalization quotients yet...
Then I ran into Darren Naish and Nemo Ramjet in my journeys for a better dinosauroid. The full experience can be found at this post here, but needless to say, the seed was planted. I began to try to put together a more realistic intelligent therapod dinosaur. These following images are two of the very first corvid-like dinosauroids I drew.
The body plan was slowly changed and refined, but I simply ran out of steam. It was looking like the end result would just be a hooded crow with a deinonychosaurid tail and sereima's feet - not quite what I had been looking for. It all came to a head in december, where I flushed my system of dinosaurian thoughts with the construction of a feathered, three dimensional troodontid sculpture. I thought it was over.
But it wasn't. At the beginning of February, it all started again. After a week or two fiddling around with evolutionary history, I found a beast that I could be proud of. After a bit of chatting with the illustrious Nemo Ramjet (whose site is down right now, but when it resurrects itself, it's REALLY worth a look), I decided to dive in head-first (conceptually), and start working on developing a culture.
The results can be seen here, at my deviantart account. So here's the question:
WHAT in the FUCK am I going to do with this world once I've created it?
A comic, maybe?
Monday, February 16, 2009
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Oh, and here's the various rough covers for the comic. For marketing purposes, the name's been changed back to it's initial title - Jan's Atomic Heart. The top design will be the one you'll see on shelves, though. It'll be in trade size, too, instead of a small indie-style book.
I had the uncomfortable realization that having such limited tools of manipulation on my speculative animal would make a bit of a boring material culture. So, in the interest of trying to still pretend that I'm being scientific, the dinosauroid has forelimbs of increased but still limited dexterity. Evolutionarily, the dinosauroid's ancestors would need to be at least partially arboreal - maybe scavengers of the forest floor, nesting and occasionally hunting in the lower levels of the forest canopy. There is a species of dromaeosaur on the fossil record (named hilariously enough "bambiraptor") who did have an opposable thumb, of a sort. Now, of course, there is no real way to know a fossil animal's ecology - but they figure that bambiraptor was probably an arboreal hunter, using it's opposable fingers to snatch up fat insects and little tree-dwelling mammals. It's nice to have an actual case of dinosaurs with dextrous forepaws - it makes what I'm doing a little less of a stretch.
In terms of visual culture, I'm starting with this design - a war mask/helmet/fighting beak - suggested by the illustrious Nemo Ramjet. I'm heavily cribbing from Meso-american cultures with this one, using obsidian blades set into the fighting edges of the mask, much like an aztec sword or spear. I'll start doing more development of dinosaurian material culture - clothes, architecture, etc - soon enough.
The previous direction I was going I like, but was quite materially uninteresting. Without more dextrous hands, I would have been stuck with a dinosaur whose only technology was this:
...which I still think is sweet. I just wanted to have more (and crazier) shit to draw, which takes this from a scientific approach to a more fantastic one.
Is that so selfish?
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Honestly, I'd though that I had this problem licked. But apparently, I don't.
This picture is another try at the dinosauroid. This picture is of two adults, one with throat pouch full.
One of the big problems I was having with the dinosauroid was the evolutionary line. Because we came from arboreal ancestors, it was hard to think outside of those evolutionary restrictions. Still riffing on Darren Naish's ground-hornbills as models for post-cretaceous maniraptorans, I was caught with the paradox of a creature who would have very capable forelimbs - from the arboreal lifestyle - but yet, used the bill as the main manipulator. The two didn't fully go together. An arboreal creature would most likely have very capable hands, with a comparatively underdeveloped oral manipulator.
But thinking of non-primate intelligence helped a lot when trying to build this creature. Hyenas have monkey-level intelligence and social complexity, yet they never had to come down from the trees to attain it (not to mention elephants). So the dinosauroid didn't need to be arboreal, or ape-like at all, to be intelligent. And in terms of beak as primary manipulator, forepaws don't necessarily equal hands. For full-time bipedal mammals, like the kangaroos, the forepaws are great for digging and smacking other kangaroos, but they're not dextrous. (Thusly, this dinosauroid is tentatively placed in a strictly terrestrial evolutionary line of beaked troodontids, this line breaking from the previously illustrated herbivorous line sometime in the eocene and developing into a highly social family of terrestrial omnivores - this troodontid being one of the most intelligent of this family.)
So for the dinosauroid, the forelimbs are great for combat and grasping prey, but perhaps rather terrible for flint-knapping and the like. They are stuck with the versatile but still self-limited beak as the main tool. This creates an interesting problem for me as an artist, though - if they can’t devise human-esque tools, like spears and hand axes, etc, what visual signifiers of intelligence can you draw them with? Elaborate basket traps??