Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Behind the Painting: Therizinosaurus

I've done several behind-the-scenes posts on here about art.  Today I will give you a brief play by play of how I came to finish my Therizinosaurus painting featured on here last weekend.

Many times, if I depict a creature doing something other than just standing there, it was inspired by the behavior of a living animal I observed. (Then again, sometimes living animals just stand there too so I suppose it's always inspired by living animals at least a little bit!)  In this case, it was a Two-Toed Sloth, named Eugene, I work with.  Sloths are known for being relatively slow-moving mammals that live in trees.  This guy was no exception.  One evening as I was on my way out, I witnessed him sleeping upside down...with a half-eaten piece of lettuce in his claw that he had been munching on before spontaneously dozing off.  It was pretty cute.

Here's a photo  I snapped of Eugene munching on a nice, juicy.... ZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzz

I witnessed this years ago, but it always stuck with me.  It wasn't until I decided I wanted to paint a Therizinosaurus for the last Prehistoric Beast of the Week (actually a re-do of a post from back when I worked on the Jersey Boys Hunt Dinosaurs blog), when I thought to myself "Wouldn't it be neat to show it dozing off mid-meal just like the way Eugene did that one time?"  It seemed appropriate.  It is actually no coincidence that therizinosaurids are often compared to the now extinct, ground sloths, that used to live merely thousands of years ago, in appearance and proposed behavior.  The two kinds of animals may have filled similar niches in life.  The fact that a living sloth was my inspiration was just coincidence. 

Megatherium, a kind of giant ground sloth, skeleton on display at the London Museum of  Natural History.  These heavy mammals may have behaved similarly to therizinosaurids that lived millions of years before them.

During my lunch breaks at work I usually doodle in my monthly planner.  Many of these doodle-sketches eventually get turned into full paintings, as was the case here.

I really liked the idea of a sitting pose, with one leg partially stretched out. 

Currently, I do a lot of travelling between New Jersey and New York City, often spending nights over one place or the other.  I always pack a shopping bag with my pallet of paints, jug for water, brushes, paper, rags, and pencils (watercolor painting supplies) when I make one of these trips.  One of these days I spent working on this painting at my girlfriend's apartment in Astoria.  While there, her roommate's cat insisted on..."helping" me.  Apparently this well-meaning feline believed that giving me a close-up view of her anus was in some way a source of inspiration.

Maybe she saw the mug I was drinking from and assumed I just really liked looking at butts.

Finally, about a week later, a few hours per day, I had my finished product!  I decided to make the feathers a reddish brown color, which looks good and plausible for a large, shaggy animal.  I also made the skin and scales on the face and feet blue, with small red waddle under the neck for display.  (This individual is a male.)  This was inspired by various large ground birds like Cassowaries and turkeys.


Sloths, turkeys, and Cassowaries weren't the only animal references I used for Therizinosaurus, either!  When it came to doing that quick sketch of the mating display via claws, I i turned to a living animal in which the males are characterized by having longer front claws than the females, and use those claws in courtship displays, as well.  Fresh water turtles!

Another huge coincidence is the fact that when Therizinosaurus' claws were first discovered they were thought to have been from...a turtle!

I hope you enjoyed this little post.  I sure enjoyed making the painting leading up to it!  When I remember I try to take photos of my sketches and unfinished paintings to share with you on here.  Farewell until next time!

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