Like all of my drawings, I must first start out with a rough sketch to make sure I am getting the proportions right. Unfortunately, Dryptosaurus is known from only several bones and not a full skeleton. When this happens my best bet is to reference close relatives to Dryptosaurus. Dryptosaurus was a tyrannosauroid but not a tyrannosaurid (confusing I know) so it was a bit more primitive than its big-headed, two-fingered cousins like Tyrannosaurus. When dealing with Dryptosaurus I look at animals like Eotyrannus and Appalachiosaurus as guides. Both of these dinosaurs are not only related to Dryptosaurus, but according to the bones on the fossil record, they visually resembled Dryptosaurus as well. The overall body type is similar to that of Tyrannosaurus but more streamlined, longer legs and longer arms with three fingers on each hand instead of two with digit one's (or finger one, the equivalent of the thumb) claw being the biggest.
When sketching the body, press lightly with the pencil. I, myself, ended up redoing this several times until I was satisfied with what I drew so erasing a failed attempt is a lot easier when drawn lightly. Also, when using watercolors, the paint is going to be the bold, hard edges you need, not the pencil lines. If all goes well, no pencil lines will be visible in the finished product.
Once the drawing is done its time to apply the first layer of paint. With watercolors, you apply the paint from the tube onto a plastic pallet and let them dry. Then, you take wet brushes and gather color from the dried clumps of paint to apply to the paper. These dried clumps of paint can last for years before depleted (depending on how much is on the pallet).
The first thing I want to do is apply a base color. I am going to make this Dryptosaurus green. I'm going to take a little bit of green paint and mix it with a LOT of water. Then I take a wet brush and apply a light layer of watered-down paint over my entire dinosaur.
I've said it many times before; nothing in nature is ever one solid color. What I do while my layer of green is still sopping wet, is add some other bits of color. Not much, just enough to make the dinosaur look not so uniform. Video time!
When my first wave of shading is complete the dinosaur looks like this.
This stuff takes practice, as does anything in life. Just keep at it and have fun. Don't be afraid to go back and re-apply shading to something that didn't come out dark enough. Generally, a layer of watercolor paint will dry much lighter than when it was applied. My finished product looks like this.
Don't get frustrated if it doesn't come out exactly the way you wanted it. I've been painting for over twenty years and to this day I don't think I have ever produced something I was 100% satisfied with. Nobody is perfect at anything! The good thing to get out of this is having the knowledge that you can only get better with practice!
Join me next week as I interview another extremely talented paleo-artist!
Cope, E.D. (1866). "Discovery of a gigantic dinosaur in the Cretaceous of New Jersey." Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 18: 275-279.
Holtz, T.R. (2004). "Tyrannosauroidea." Pp. 111-136 in Weishampel, Dodson and Osmolska (eds). The Dinosauria (second edition). University of California Press, Berkeley.
Xu, X.; Wang, K.; Zhang, K.; Ma, Q.; Xing, L.; Sullivan, C.; Hu, D.; Cheng, S. et al. (2012). "A gigantic feathered dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of China" (PDF). Nature 484: 92–95. doi:10.1038/nature1090