Saturday, May 30, 2015

Wishful thinking: feathered dinos in Jurassic World

Ok, admittedly the raptors from the first Jurassic Park were cool. They were cool beyond reason, and I wouldn't change the 1993 film (though I would be interested to see a remastered feathery edition ...). You've probably heard by now that the raptors of that film are now outdated, and that many scientists and dinosaur aficionados are upset that the look is not being changed for next month's Jurassic World release. However, it may surprise the layman to learn that the raptors were out of date even at the first release of the film in 1993. Many scientists believed as early as the 1980s and even 1970s that dinosaurs had feathers. Darren Naish, paleontologist, science blogger, and co-host of the Tetrapod Zoology podcast recently recounted attending the release of the original film in his youth wearing a t-shirt protesting the featherless raptors. Even then, the view was becoming prevalent and only very conservative paleontologists envisioned raptors without feathers.

Then, 3 years later, we found the first feathered dinosaur fossil in Northeastern China, which has since produced feathered dinosaurs by the cartload. Feathers have now been found on nearly every family of carnivorous dinosaurs (including a large Tyrannosaurid), and even on some herbivorous ones. 1993's reluctance to put feathers on the raptors was a conservative decision. 2015's decision removes the film from scientific reality entirely. In the words of Tyrannosaur Expert Thomas Holtz:

"The original movies brought the dinosaur research of the 1980s to 1990s viewers, and the latest one seems to bring the dinosaur research of the 1980s to the 2010s viewers."

The 1980s to 2015—more than a 30 year gap, guys! That's the equivalent of Spielberg showing up  to the theaters in 1993 and instead of blowing our minds with the new vision of active, birdlike dinosaurs, opening a dusty film reel canister of 1962's Reptilicus:

Heh. "An annihilating Mastodon Immune to all known weapons of warfare," not to mention all suggestions of the scientific consultant. Ok, so maybe that's a bit harsh. Jurassic Park has much more scientific integrity than a 1960's B-movie, and in all honesty more than any dinosaur film before it and many after. That's what's saddening though—audiences came to the first film and saw dinosaurs as we knew them, something they could believe. In the words of Hammond, Jurassic Park's founder, "I wanted to give them something real." The filmmakers of Jurassic Park did their best within the constraints of storytelling to give the audience real dinosaurs; that's the Jurassic Park legacy. Now, there has been a conscious decision not even to try. I understand as a filmmaker that continuity is important, and that to the public at large feathered dinosaurs are still tough to imagine as being cool. However, for me at least, refusing to update the animals is a betrayal of the spirit of the original film, of the original book, and of Michael Crichton. I never knew him, but I grew up on a steady diet of his books—Sphere, Prey, Timeline, The Andromeda Strain, and countless readings of both Jurassic Park and The Lost World. Crichton, a medical doctor by training, was a man of science as much as he was a man of imagination, and it was the combination  of the two that made his books so compelling. He fed readers so much reality that they had to believe the illusion. He did exhaustive research on the topic of each book he wrote, rubbed elbows with the best minds in the fields of those topics, found the boundaries of human understanding, and it was there that he planted the magic. Just as the medieval map makers placed monsters at the edge of the earth, so Crichton placed his at the edges of human understanding. In each book the reader learns something, really learns something about science, and that is what makes the wonder of the unknown Crichton presents so much more sublime.

I am still incredibly excited to see Jurassic World. I love the world of Jurassic Park and am very excited to go back there. However, as I make my living creating dinosaur imagery, I recently indulged in a bit of speculative fan  art for a contest hosted by (top). The prompt was to design the cover for my ideal Jurassic World video game. Hence, the feathered raptor.

I made the concession that the raptor was a large Deinonychus rather than a Velociraptor, as the creatures in the film are actually based on the former animal. Deinonychus is known to be a pack animal, while Velociraptor has thus far always been found alone. In addition, Velociraptor was about the size of a golden retriever (see image below, taken with a handsome 6' (1.8 m) red-'froed guy for scale).

If I haven't destroyed your childhood image of Velociraptor enough, here are a couple of pictures from The Making of The Lost World: Jurassic Park by Jody Duncan.

Page 50

Page 153

Kudos to the filmmakers for bringing us back to Jurassic Park! Naked dinosaurs or not (should that factor into the MPAA rating?) I'm sure it's going to be a fun ride.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Ute Lore

Last year, my friend Jesse Draper and I received a grant from Brigham Young University to create a concept art exhibit based on the legends of the Ute tribe of Native Americans. The Ute lived here in Provo, Utah before the pioneers founded our city. We co-exhibited with Japanese American artist Shu Yamamoto, who does hilarious and thought provoking reproductions of paintings in Western art history with all the characters replaced by cats (Shu's site).

A newspaper article about the show by Provo's Daily Universe can be found here:

Below are some of the images I contributed to the show, along with some shots from the reception. You should really check out Jesse's work as well—he's an AMAZING painter and sculptor. His portfolio can be found at:

With Jesse and Shu at the premiere

Thank you again to all who made the premier and reception a success! If you didn't get the chance to attend, the show will be open until April 24th at the Utah County Health and Justice Building in  Provo. For directions, click here. To see more upcoming shows from the Utah County Arts Council click here.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Velociraptor sketch

A quick Velociraptor sketch from imagination. In retrospect the 2nd 2 fingers should be longer, but overall I'm happy with this one. Maybe I'll fix it in a paint up :)

Monday, February 2, 2015

Draw Snoop Dawg Tuesday

Hi all! Someone posted a notice in the studio declaring it "draw a dog tuesday." And so, smart alec that I am ....

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Speed-paint from figure drawing

Today's speed-paint from figure drawing class. Huzzah for drapery! It's nice to finally have some work that I can kosherly post to Facebook lol

Monday, June 2, 2014

Figure Drawing Class quick sculpts

Check it out, another post! And it hasn't even been a geological epoch. It's like I'm a responsible blogger or something.

 It's been a while since I've gotten to do real figure drawing. Over the last couple of years I've been doing lots of figurative stuff from imagination and reference, but nothing beats a live model. This spring term I've been taking Michael Parker's advanced figure drawing at BYU; it's been a blast and a revelation; I'm learning a ton. 

Traditional figure drawing uses traditional media, usually a waxy conté crayon or a chalky NuPastel. However, Mike has encouraged us to experiment with different media and has been very supportive of doing some of my work digitally. Here are a couple of Zbrush sculpts done live in class these last few days:

60 Minute head sculpt from sphere. Lighting matched to model.

20 Minute hand sculpts (+10 minute zsphere armature).

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Howdy all, long time no post! I've been MIA largely due to my semester-long BFA final show scramble about which I will be posting soon. In the mean time, here's a dinosaur!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Honor Park

A quick piece for my friend Andrew's Kickstarter project, Honor Park! He left his job at Dreamworks to make a show that teaches boys and young men about honor. If you believe in honor and want to help the young men in your life to be awesome, check it out and donate!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Ute Tribe Legends: Horned Snake

Created in ZBrush and Photoshop

First creature for the Ute Tribal Legends project! The Ute (former inhabitants of Provo) claim that a giant horned snake lives nearby in the mountains. He has poisonous breath and took five hunters to kill. I imagine him at 80 ft long, with a head as big as a Smart Car :)