Three Unforgettable Days in Copenhagen…

It all started with Mogens Trolle chairing the important, traditional Danish event Wine and Science … this year inside a much more massive auditorium (250 people at the Christian Hansen Auditorium).  “The True Looks of Dinosaurs” event would be shared  by Jakob Vinther and yours truly… It was a special day at every level: not only the very receptive audience was simply magnificent, but it was also Jakob’s firs conference in Danish with his whole family present!… we talked  about colours in very different terms: scientific discoveries  paired with history lessons and imagination… But also mostly we talked about how the image of dinosaurs has changed our collective perceptions through the years. Monsters? Not anymore.


Jacob surprised u with this very fine cast of Sinosauropteryx, finished with an extraordinary “painting” technique that transfers the actual information of the fossil. We really enjoyed the curious and inquisitive nature  of the Danish audience. A privilege talking to them!


As planned, next day I landed  at Gondwana Studios  “Dinosaur Familier” that is having yet another unprecedented success at the Geology Museum. A successful drawing marathon session that was the second I’ve done in Denmark over the last two years. I liked to see the progress of many  burgeoning paleo artists and I even had some collaborative games: someone may draw something and I’d finished it!


Since it was snowing outside as soon as I finished I revised once again the magnificent exhibition… those  troupes of Protoceratops and Psittacosaurus are so special!… Plus the Tarbosaurus juvenile… and massive adult skull (as admired by Carmen here). But nothing compares to the children’s art being exhibited… great colouring of some of my sketches, but mostly great new, original artwork.


The next day, the second marathon sitting and even better! Happy customers, and I got some feedback that I will cherish the rest of my life. Job done. The cast is vast and I don’t have the name of everybody unfortunately… Special thanks for their support  goes to  Mogens Trolle and his team, including our special friends Thomas Bang Holm, Bent Lindow, Cæcilie Ryhl OlssonKatrine Hansen and Marie Rubæk Holm. I’d also like to give special thanks to cinematography ace Anders Drud Jordan and his family, and very specially also Christopher Ries and Lisbeth Petersen.


And for those who would like to join us colouring… here are some old samples!


Posted in Dinosaur Familier, Natural History Museum of Denmark, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Next Bone of Contention…

Trex Tri copy 2

Yes, that is what feathering T. rex is becoming! Once again I’m feeling the same as what was happening  in the 80’s and 90’s when several madcaps like some of us  confronted the hard core scientists that claimed they had the hard evidence for dinosaurs NOT being related to birds… after all we did not have any fossilised dinosaur with feathers… at least “dinosaur” by what was considered dinosaur in those days, a motley crew of reptiles unrelated to birds or at best distantly related to them (birds as we know were closer to crocodiles and all those “thecodonts” of old). Now  I hear the same clamor: “we have the hard evidence that T. rex did not have feathers!”… and I answer: perhaps yes…or perhaps not, because even if we have minuscule scaly or bumpy patches (that I have the view they might have been even subcutaneous) of fossilised skin attributed to T. rex from rather dubious or indeterminate  parts of the body, we do also have the fully feathered Dilong, Guanlong and  notoriously the seven meter long Yutyrannus (admiteddly basal tyrannosaurs or proceratosaurs)… The genes of  ancestors can manifest any time anywhere in the subsequent generations… so Evolution, albeit not fossilised skin, is on our side for the time being, at least in the shape of argument!  Same as having Deinonychus and deducting it was an relative of Archaeopteryx, and it might have had feathers (even if we still don’t have hard evidence for them)… never mind, another raptor, the dog-sized Velociraptor  was found with  preserved  knob marks of the feather quills on its arm bones.

Even Thomas Carr and his article  on the distribution of scales in the head of Tyrannosaurus is telling me something different: look at Nature’s reconstruction. There’s a clear delimitation, a sharp contrast  in what the snout scars on the bone is telling us  about external integument . The reconstruction shows two very differentiated types of scales… while I interpret it in a different way: scaly “crocodilian” snout sharply limited by the possible protofeathery rest of the head. Raise eyebrows? Certainly…


Imagination overriding evidence?  Dr. Bob Bakker knows a thing or two about predicting and imagining… if not he wouldn’t have asked me to do T. rex feathered for The Big Golden Book Of Dinosaurs, since at the same time he was sending me pictures of the pebbly skin of the famous “Wyrex“… He knew about those minuscule patches of tyrannosaur skin… and it didn’t deter him!

So… I’m still inclined to reconstruct  T. rex with protofeathery stuff… will time prove me right or wrong? Or is it a non-issue like some have argued?  Some have even betted that we, the feathery tyrannosaur people, will be notoriously vanquished at the end. It sounds just as childish as what happened in the 90’s… let’s see who “wins” at the end… but I can tell you that science will always be a winner in these discussions, no matter how childish they might be. For more on that please have a look at Thom Holtz view  in this article

And yes, you guess it, the new artwork featured  here is another of my exercises over a classic picture I found in the net… I love to work right on top of mounted skeletons and bring them to life! You can almost hear the crunch of the chance bite of Tyrannosaurus rex over these Triceratops horns!17758272_1372372606215472_6297997436336597342_o copy

And I leave you with some volcanic explosions to lighten your day!                                     Tyr SexB

Posted in Archaeopteryx, Birds, ceratopsians, Raptors, Theropods, tyrannosaurs, Uncategorized, velociraptor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Transforming a classic model.

About twenty years ago I was collaborating with the famous Kaiyodo label from Japan, trying to promote their wonderful models here in London. They were so advanced for their time that I really wanted to have them all and customise them according to my own colourful patterns… something that they appreciated so much that meant I started to receive all sort of samples… this was one of my favourites.  A Velociraptor over a vanquished Protoceratops.

Velokaiyodo Old

Unfortunately Palaeontology has been changing at a vertiginous pace in these last twenty years… I had never dared to touch this model in particular, because among other things it would have meant to remodel the arms and specially: add the corresponding feathers! I must admit I’m not the greatest model customiser… but when I appreciate something I can only pay tribute to it doing my best to enhance and modernise it accordingly. The Kaiyodo models have proved durable and sometimes timeless… what to do?

Using Milliput  is a rather lousy clay substitute… but it was all that I had at hand. I discovered that feathers could dissimulate some of the inadequacies of the old-fashioned construction of the arms and hands and actually remodelled it. Sometimes feather by feather… same happened with the tail!


After the modelling came the paint… and I just followed my original pattern, the same I have use all these years for Velociraptor. I like to keep things personal



So here it is … finally revamped, update and its in its rightful place… With modelling and customising, fun never stops… Pure enjoyment!DSC05297


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Dinosaurios Hechos En México opens in Monterrey (Part 2)… now for real!

7500 visitors in two days can’t be wrong… ! After the preview in my last blog,  we have had the opening of Dinosaurios Hechos En México. As this little photo tour shows,  I think Planetario Alfa and Gondwana Studios have excelled in the set up of this exhibition.20180223_123740_resized03.jpeg05.jpeg

For me, the main aim was to highlight a  the enormous amount  of carefully researched information on Mexican prehistory that most of the Mexican public is not regularly  aware of. There is no arbitrary sampling of dinosaurs here.  Care was taken to name and give credit to all researchers whose discoveries were featured.  Given the circumstances and scope the task was always bound to be incomplete though… but we tried our best to select the elements that would be most popular. And dinosaurs have no competition!  Obviously, the animatronics (as adequate or inadequate as they can be)  and the  trademark of Gondwana Studios (and StoneCo) exhibitions  of adding  playground  sandy areas for children, where they learn to excavate hidden fossil treasures, just add to the popular attraction in the whole.

Casts and fossil material are scarce and difficult to find or borrow.  However,  the murals fill in and interact with the exhibits, guiding you into the world of the main Mexican dinosaurs: Coahuilaceratops (and its animatronic counterpart and skull cast) in its Parras Eden landscape with the hadrosaur Latirhinus.  The Aldama ceratopsoians, Huehuecanauhtlus and Tanycolagreous. Totlmimus and  the (possible) Mexican T. rex.  Agujaceratopattacked by a tyrannosaur and surrounded by nodosaurs and titanosaurs.   We had the fortune to have the skull cast of the best known Mexican hadrosaur Velafrons attacked in the mural by dromeosaurs and given the animatronic treatment too. There is a massive Magnapaulia herd attacked by albertosaurs,  the Parras hadrosaur and the  “Sabinoaurio”. Even Yehuecauhceratops came in two versions: the animatronic one, looking more like Héctor  Rivera-Sylva‘s traditional one, and the mural reconstruction  based on my collaboration with Angel Ramírez.   The contrast of the animatronic tyrannosaur and my own tyrannosaur murals (Labocania with its colourful feathers and  a feathery T. rex against the grey nakedness of its counterpart) couldn’t be more evident here… and is striking. Face to face.  I think it works in a kind of provocative way! Great food-for-thought to tickle the audiences.

If you look carefully even the Mexican heteredontosaur and coelophysid are present. The exhibition harbinger is this fairly well-sized animatronic sauropod (purportedly a titanosaur…) and the exit corridor is surveyed by the only pterosaur of the exhibition.

But what really counts is the public… and the reaction has been massive:  I got news that there were 7500 visitors in only the first weekend. Can we ask for more? The Mexican audiences deserve this and more… impeccable organisation!  Thanks to all of them we can say “mission accomplished!”.

Special thanks to Rosy Bustindui for these great photos…and special thanks also to  Peter Norton of Gondwana Studios and Planetario Alfa that did such great job mounting and printing the murals and making this exhibition a really dignified effort for all the people in Mexico… and at the same time opening an educative space like no other, guiding them right into the enigmatic Mexican Prehistory. Hope to see you all there in October!

Posted in Casts, ceratopsians, Dinosaur Models, Dinosaurios Hechos En México, Dinosaurs, hadrosaurs, Heterodontosaurs, maniraptora, Mexican Prehistory, Museum Displays, Nodosaur, Ornithischians, ornithomimosaurs, Planetario Alfa, Pterosaurs, Raptors, Sauropods, Theropods, Titanosaurs, tyrannosaurs, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

And Now… Monterrey, México!

20180223_123740_resized.jpgFor those who have seen them this might not be come as a surprise, but the spectacular way Planetario Alfa in Monterrey and Gondwana Studios are mounting the Mexican Dinosaurs murals, is really a surprise even to me! 20180223_123818_resized

The great opening of Mexican Dinosaurs will be  the 10th of March. It is the product of our efforts this last year, finally on monumental display! There’s going to be more to it that simply the murals… loads of accurate, detailed  information rigorously consulted with some of Mexico’s top palaeontologists.  It will show also some skeletal material and animatronics, but  in the meantime Rosy Bustindui, Manager of Museography from the Planetario Alfa has graciously sent us these sampling pictures of how the massive murals are being mounted.20180223_123939_resized

I bet René Hernández, Angel Ramírez Velasco and Ricardo Servín Pichardo are also going to be pleased. Will have more news and pictures as the exhibition is set and finally completely unveiled… in the meantime: Thank you  Planetario Alfa… outstanding job! We will all see you there in October for what promises to be a good talk.

Posted in Mexican Prehistory, Museum Displays, Planetario Alfa, Proto-mammals, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dinosaur Families Opens in Copenhagen…

DSC04957 copy

It took two years of brainstorming… And finally they they did it!  Copenhagen is the new site for a fabulous new version of Hatching the Past: The Danish team from the National Museum of Natural History  have worked very hard adapting a venerable ancient building (originally the Museum of Geology) notoriously difficult to re-adjust for events like this. But with  the magisterial Scandinavian knowledge of the use of  space and light, they have helped highlight Peter Norton’s Gondwana Studios work. which includes my own, turning the exhibition in yet another different kind of Dinosaur eggs and babies event.

Two days ago I had the privilege to be invited to  attend and talk at the opening, together with (among many others)  the Museum Director Prof. Peter C. Kjaergaard, Head of Exhibitions Dr. Juliette M Frisch, Director of the University of Copenhagen Jesper Olesen. I’m glad I hadn’t lost my voice by then… later I wasn’t that lucky!

Right from the start,  crowds of kids were already colouring some of my own sketches  that I had adapted from the Holtz/Rey Dinosaurs. The Most Complete Encyclopedia… some of them were doing a better job than myself!…

DSC05063 copyWhen the Magovern’s  (Charlie and Flo from StoneCo.) started this exhibition many years ago in Colorado,  I bet they didn’t dream things would go this far! Our friends in Copenhagen also have been specially kind to me and this is the first time I even get to be photo-credited (scary as that might look!)…

The illustrations  became perfectly printed murals once again, as good and as big as any of the previous efforts in Cardiff, London and Glasgow … with some newly requested additions as you can see!

But the greatest reward is seeing all this work so much appreciated by so many kids, They will keep coming every day relishing every minute of the activities… including not only painting dinosaurs but a non-digital, hands-on exhibition, touching the eggs and specimens, something that is very much appreciated in places like Denmark. As you can see my partner Carmen Naranjo was having also a field day there!DSC05058

So THANK YOU Peter C. Kjaergaard, Mogens Trolle, Rikke Sanderhoff Mørch, Christina Ritzl, Søren Ajspur, Finn Storgaard,  Karsten Elmose Vad , Rasmus Jangaard, Jens Astrup, Rikke Riemann, Gert Balslev, Anders Drud and his media team, Bent Lindow, Maja Balle and the kids Vitous and Mingus, Marie Rubæk Holm, Christopher Jacob  Ries  for their care and hospitality …and so many others, specially the people that worked in the design and construction of the new galleries… good job!


Posted in Dinosaur Familier, Dinosaurs, Hatching The Past, Natural History Museum of Denmark, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Swerving across the path of controversy… Sinosauropteryx and Yi Qi.

Yi Qi and Sinosauropteryx New copyWhile we know a lot about Sinosauropteryx, to ‘almost’ even the level of colouration, we don’t know enough about Yi qi, the famous bat-like feathered dinosaur… its remains are not well enough preserved to be certain of many details like the extent and size of the wing membrane  and its flying abilities… was it like a flying squirrel or a bat? For me it remains the proven, real first flying dinosaur but… Could it flap its wings? Scott Hartman tells me he doesn’t think it could fly battering its wings (the humerus proportions and the short deltopectoral crests wreck the leverage of muscles that would power the up and down stroke)… Scott is not even sure that it had bat wings! If it had them he says it instead used its wings to clamber trees in short jumps propelled by the wings… but he can’t be sure because the specimen is incomplete. Same happens with the shape and length of the legs. But one thing is almost for sure, this was not constructed as a flying squirrel because, dinosaurs are constructed differently: they were NO sprawlers, instead they had a combination of erect legs for running while using its arms for something else… like flapping perhaps?Yi Qi and Sinosauropteryx New copy2 So what you see here is a compromise…And, while we are still trying to find morphological solutions and more evidence,  these two animals are for me  yet another excuse to exercise my fascination for feathery colour possibilities. Even if I acknowledge the evidence regarding the “ginger” colouration of Sinosauropteryx (and have changed my previous green versions accordingly), I think there’s much more in dinosaur feathers than reducing them to the current “black, white or ginger” orthodox patterns… nature is never as clear cut, and as this article provided to me by Thom Holtz

 It stresses, that the melanosome evidence is just a little part of what makes a feather of certain colour… and if you add  that the fact that fossils never show the complete picture, well, you can imagine. The colouration possibilities continue to endlessly fuel our imagination, even if we now have a few more constrains than before. Proof of that is the new rage about Caihong juji, the ‘rainbow dinosaur’(more on that in a future post) The argument regarding colours of dinosaurs (being feathered or not) continues, but as usual, I find my models in nature together with the possibility that even big dinosaurs had colour vision and cannot be compared to mammals… Time will tell! Yi Qi and Sinosauropteryx New copy 3

In the meantime, in preparation to the great opening of  Dinosaur Families (AKA Hatching The Past) in Copenhagen the first of February and my joint talk with Jakob Vinther (also in Copenhagen) at the end of March… my second “Science And Wine” event with my excellent friends there, here I leave you a couple of Yi pi’s frolicking with a feisty Sinosauropteryx…  and a Dinosaur Familier  poster…


Posted in Birds, Dinosaur colouration, Dinosaurs, Hatching The Past, Raptors, Sinosauropteryx, Theropods, Uncategorized, Yi qi | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments