Dinosaur Families Opens in Copenhagen…

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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: http://video.ku.dk/dinosaurfamilier. 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!


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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

Best wishes for 2018

Thank you all friends and followers of this blog for your support in 2017…Postcard 2018 Hats copy… and for those who don’t want celebration hats or anything to do with “holiday seasons”, here’s, by request,  the original version of the illustration for the “postcard”… T. rex might have been a good parent in difficult times too!Tyrannosaurus Mural Baby copy 2

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An Impaling Down Jurassic Fern Fields.

Allo-Steg wound project copyImagine yourself walking quietly searching for prey on a field of ferns in the middle of a Jurassic tropical forest. You have good colour vision to spot any unusual coloration in the sea of greens. You discover some  structures raising above the greenery  and approach carefully… but you should have realised (just by the colour) that the row of structures were also warning signs… and the greenery is hiding the spiked end of it. Suddenly you are up in the air with the Stegosaurus stenops spikes lethally puncturing your crotch from underneath!

This fossil was unearthed in Wyoming in 1999. By the look of the abscess Allosaurus must have died of septicemia. For years, and after some discussions with Dr. Bob Bakker (whose reconstruction of the “accident” is well known),  I have been trying to figure out and alternate vision of what on earth could have caused the actual a thin Allosaurus pubis  punctured with such precision, not from the side (as I would have expected from an attack of Stegosaurus) but from under, right in the crotch like a modern bullfighter.. The  keratinous covering of the spikes of Stegosaurus should  have made them extremely sharp to  penetrate with such accuracy.  I have come with this little story that seems to me more credible than other explanations. Here’s the genesis of the composition, from pencil study to finalised drama… as Peter Norton commented: it must have hurt!

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An addition to Dinosaur rEvolution in the future. This might become part of another  oncoming, massive, very ambitious  project that could become very important and original…  I’m still awaiting instructions to disclose more details!

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Intermission after Mexico…more inspiration for “Paleoart”.

DSC04549And this time for real… No helping Diplodocus restorations, no talks, no scientific accuracy… only  surrealism. Hope you can excuse indulging once again in my taste for Pre-hispanic Art and the fact that I keep turning  to use its influence for some of my own paleo-interests . Yes the famous Aztec symbol of the eagle and serpent over a cactus (in remembrance of the legendary origin of Tenochtitlan, the Mexica capital, famously used as the Mexican flag’s national emblem) has been of special interest for me over the years. On my annual visit to Metepec near Toluca (Edo. de Mexico),  inspired and aided by  the workshop of Israel Soteno and Blanca Jiménez, and with their priceless help,  I decided to do some more clay work inspired by a Prehispanic design I’ve seen years ago… and once again the raptor would go back in time and become a Veloci-raptor , while the serpent would have the tiny legs of a Cretaceous one. The cactus is being “vomited” by a yet even more surreal version of Tlatecuhtli, or Mother Earth ( considering how volcanic is the soil…”Atom Heart Mother”?), representing an island surrounded by the veins of water from the lake.DSC04102

I show here three stages; No. 1  still fresh and wet. As with all traditional procedures, things might go wrong… and they did:  the piece broke while drying before being burned in the massive oven… then it further broke while bringing it home to London so I had to mend it, reconstructing it with different kinds of cement and glue.

DSC04546No. 2 shows it already painstakingly reconstructed and with an enamel coating to start painting it.

No. 3  is the piece finally painted very much in the style of a three dimensional Aztec Codex, a style I learned to apply on clay from Carlos Soteno (see here the previous example I did together with Carlos two years ago in a much more traditional rendering).DSCN2008

The  Codex pictorial literature  tell  us the life and history of the indigenous Americans and look to me as  precursors of  contemporary comics and picture books.  A colourful, playful language that became very much part of my childhood and younger days in Mexico, and that I’d like to pay tribute to once again… and this  time recounting what might have been Prehistoric Mexico using familiar, traditional symbols!

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The Missing Link…

ChilesaurusC copy.jpgOnce Palaeontologists get their heads down to  revise classification things start to be seen with different eyes  and everything changes. There’s almost a full acceptance now on the newest reclassification of dinosaurs, that managed to challenge the traditional dinosaur evolutionary tree… we were used to see Dinosaurs as  “Ornithischians” and “Saurischians”. No more:  we have now Saurischia (subdivided in Herrerasauridae and Sauropodomorpha)  and Ornithoscelida (subdivided in Theropoda and Ornithischia) ,

But, just as in Darwin times, we needed a “Missing Link”… South America continues to produce wonders! Meet Chilesaurus diegosuarezi, the latest motive of confusion on one side and settling an argument on the other. This new dog-sized animal has been  called the “Frankenstein” dinosaur. For the late Jurassic, it must have been already a relic! In parts it looked like a theropod with the  backwards pelvis of an Ornithischian. The dentition showed also a vegetarian diet.  The mixture of characters made it anomalous from the moment it was discoveredend (even the pelvis looks primitive for an ornithischian!), but it is only until now that finally everything makes sense: it is a basal ornithischian with theropod characteristics! Yes it seems that this is the Missing Link the new Ornithoscelida grouping was calling for!  Ornithischia and Theropoda  are confirmed more closely related than it was previously thought, thanks to this new primitive Ornithischian with major Theropodan characteristics…  The strong, two clawed hands (with vestigial third finger) look very theropod-like,  and the pelvic differences  that defined both clades are now better understood thanks to the transitional stage of Chilesaurus,

And where did the old Saurischia go?   Well, Sauricschia now comprises Sauropodomorpha and Herrerasauridae. So the dinosaur family tree  just got more… complicated. image_2739_2e-Chilesaurus-diegosuarezi.jpg


I am currently updating to the last detail the forthcoming new opening of  Dinosaur rEvolution in several places in Australia… and I’m betting we are going to be the first ones to have a completely update, revolutionary  view of dinosaur evolution. In the meantime, this little critter is going to be prominently featured!

Of course, the external  porcupine-like external integument is my own personal prediction…Image result for Ornithoscelida

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The Art of the Dinosaur.

Presenting: The Art of  the Dinosaur.

DSC03832.jpgIt is difficult to describe my excellent relationship with a consummate professional like Mr. Kazuo Terakado, science journalist and senior researcher at the Japan Space Forum. DSC03826.jpgHis love for Dinosaur Art seems to have no bounds and has the right ideas for it. When he asked me if he could use my “Home’s Garden” for the last words of this excellent book, I understood that he knew very well what he was up to and knew the boundaries between science and “Art”. I’m very keen on the word “Paleoillustration” but as many  know, I like to think that I’m interpreting scientific ideas  through art techniques and leaving “art” in another realm. Perhaps it is true, we all develop a certain style that becomes almost a blueprint with our own personality… but illustrating Palaeontology  has certain boundaries that “Art” doesn’t have… and those boundaries  are called “science”: you have to be very careful to do your homework properly, well beyond mastering Photoshop techniques!  Dinosaurs are NOT “monsters” anymore!DSC03827.jpg

Nevertheless, as you’ll be able to still see, there’s an (almost) boundless realm of imagination for artists interested in recreating scientifically an extinct world. The competition these days  is much more fierce than it was 20 or even 30 years ago,  but every artist continues to develop  his own personality, his own blueprint… and variety is what counts when doing Paleoillustration… For me the detective work was what counted, and the fact that many many years ago, a child dreamed to live in a museum… and happened to realise his dreams after all, but with the slant of the adult researcher and the new wonder that those fabulous monuments he was in awe of at the museums, were actually living creatures again, thanks mostly to the Dinosaur Renaissance… Today the Dinosaur Renaissance has exploded as you are  able to see in the  enormous variety of artists,  apart from yours truly, that this book contains. It  is a good example that variety of talent means everything for creativity… and  it becomes even more relevant if it is compiled with the love and care that  virtually only the Japanese publishers do these days! Many thanks Mr. Terakado!

DSC03823The book is available here and now , don’t miss it!


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