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Re: creating skeletal drawings

Jordan Mallon <j_mallon@hotmail.com> wrote:
> So, does 
> anyone have any tips of hints as to how to create original skeletal 
> drawings?

One place to start is, of course, by taking photographs of skeletal mounts
and fossils in museum and university displays and collections.  (Most of a
museum's holdings are not on display, but may be accessed by special
arrangement with the museum staff).  You may wish to photograph the
specimens from a variety of angles, and some photographers get up on
ladders to get just the right angle (by special arrangement again).  Of
course, incomplete skeletons are often "reconstructed" using casts of the
bones of related species or original (and speculative) sculpted bones.  It
is a good idea to learn and document what you can of the subject's
relatives, in the case of incomplete skeletons.  The mounts themselves are
sometimes quite old and often do not reflect current views for posture or
behavior.  Usually, the more recent reconstruction will be the most
reliable.  It's always a good idea to read up on your dinosaur subjects
before attempting the necessary revisions.  And get copies of the original
papers on a given dinosaur, and any other books or articles you can get
your hands on.  These documents come in handy.    

Once you've taken your photos, you can use a light box to trace the bones,
and then photocopy the resulting drawing to whatever size you like.  Or you
can take slide photos and project them onto your paper for tracing.  Or use
a camera lucida.  There are many variations on this.  If you wish, you may
make photocopies onto clear acetate, enabling you to flip the image, to
make the dinosaur face the opposite direction, for instance.

If you don't like the pose of the skeleton, you have some options for
changing that, too.  You can take your photocopy of the skeleton and
strategically place thin strips of masking tape on the back, following the
spine with your tape, for instance.  Then you can perform careful cuts with
a scalpel or X-acto knife around each bone that needs to be repositioned,
being careful not to cut through the tape.  After you move the pieces into
a pose that you like, you can apply a bit more tape to the backside, or
just carefully place the bones when you glue them down to a fresh piece of
paper. (I suggest mounting with a photo mount type spray glue).  This is
something I have done; I have no idea if other people do it this way.  It's
a shortcut, and you may need to touch things up a bit with your pen. 
Alternately, you can separate all the bones and carefully glue them back
down one by one onto a fresh piece of paper.

Gregory S. Paul sets the white bones against a black form representing the
shape of the restored living animal, so there is not the thickness of black
outlines surrounding the bones, because the outlines themselves otherwise
make the precise size of the bones unclear.  (Does the bone end at the
inside or the outside of the outline)?

I strongly recommend you consult the following references, which have a lot
more to say about this than me!  And recognize that the more that you know
about the anatomy of dinosaurs and vertebrates in general, the better your
work will be.  Good luck! 

A couple of references you should look up:

Paul, G.S., and T. Chase.  Reconstructing Extinct Vertebrates.  _The Guild
Handbook of Scientific Illustration_, ed. E. Hodges.  Van Nostrand
Reinhold, New York.  (Don't have the year; 1988?)

Paul, G.S. The Science and Art of Restoring the Life Appearance of
Dinosaurs and Their Relatives: A Rigorous How-To Guide.  _Dinosaurs Past
and Present: Volume II_, ed. Czerkas, Sylvia J. & Olson, Everett C. 
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, University of Washington
Press, Seattle and London, 1987.
(Volume 1 also has a nice article by Mark Hallett on dinosaur restoration).

Paul, G.S.  _The Complete Illustrated Guide to Dinosaur Skeletons_. 
Published by Gakken Mook, Japan, 1997.  ISBN4-05-400656-6.

-- Ralph Miller III     gbabcock@best.com