Paleo artist shows us new feathered dinosaur species, “The Chicken from Hell”

New feathered dinosaur, Anzu wyliei, paleo art by Robert F. Walters
When new discoveries are made in paleontology, most interestingly in the realm of dinosaurs, it’s up to paleo artists to interpret the findings and give them a visual form based on the available scientific data.

In this case, a new dinosaur species was discovered by scientists from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the University of Utah — not by digging in the earth, but by digging through existing fossils in the collections of several museums and piecing together the evidence.

Anzu wyliei, as the new dinosaur is called, sports some jaunty feathers and looks a bit like the nightmare chicken of your worst post bar-b-que dreams; and some of the scientists on the team have nicknamed it “The Chicken from Hell”.

As reported in the article, “One Scary Chicken—New species of large, feathered dinosaur discovered“, on Smithsonian Science, the name is taken in part from the name of a feathered demon from ancient Mesopotamian myths. The beast was about 5 feet tall at the hips and 11 feet long.

The new find is here brought to life by noted paleo artist Robert F. Walters, who I have profiled before. Walters and his partner, Tess Kissinger, created the dramatically large mural of the Hell Creek Formation at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and are well versed in the visual reconstruction of animals from this period.


James Gurney's How I Paint Dinosaurs

James Gurney's How I paint Dinosaurs
Long time readers of Lines and Colors will know that I’m an admirer of the work of illustrator and painter James Gurney. I also love dinosaurs and paleontological art, an area in which Gurney is one of the foremost artists working today, so I was delighted to receive a review copy of Gurney’s instructional DVD How I paint Dinosaurs.

In the hour long DVD, Gurney goes through his process of creating two dinosaur illustrations for Scientific American magazine, from initial concept and composition thumbnails through to the finished paintings.

He discusses and demonstrates the process of working out compositional variations, developing them from thumbnails to initial sketches to be submitted to the art director for approval. From there, he details the process he uses to create a maquette, or clay model, of his subjects for determining lighting. He moves on to the initial block in of the painting, refinement and development of various stages, and the eventual finish. He goes through this process, emphasizing different points along the way, for two different paintings.

As is sometimes the case with good art instruction videos, the techniques he presents go beyond the specific subject, and would be of value to nature and natural history artists (of which paleo art is a subset), as well as concept artists who base their work on realism, and illustrators in general.

If you’re familiar with Gurney’s other instructional material, particularly his books Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What doesn’t Exist (Amazon link, my review here) and Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter (Amazon link, my review here), you will find examples of the same kind of fundamental principles here of methods he has found successful. For example, the use of a limited gamut (color range) to achieve a certain kind of color harmony, and the advantages of pre-mixing piles of some colors in ranges of variation in value and chroma, to allow less distracted focus during the painting process.

Illustrators who have never worked from three dimensional models may wonder at the time devoted to constructing and painting the maquettes used as reference for the paintings here, but when you see Gurney searching for the best value arrangement in his composition by turning the models in the light, you’ll easily see why he and others at his level of expertise often find it worth the effort.

There were places I wanted to ask for more detail — to run the video back and say “Wait! Wait! How did you make the wrinkles on the dinosaur’s neck look so convincing?” or “Let’s hear more about that brush-pen you’re using to block out the thumbnail sketches!”; but there is plenty of detail to be had.

Like many of the best instructional art videos, on a second viewing, you’ll find little nuggets that you may have cruised over on initial viewing (like doing a pencil drawing on illustration board with the pencil held horizontally, so the point doesn’t indent the board, making it easier to erase and move lines). Much of the detail is visual, beyond the verbal instruction, in good close-ups of brush work and paint application.

Depending on your inclinations, you may also find some helpful examples in Gurney’s studio practices.

The video includes a short mini-feature on brushwork (that I would like to see expanded on in the future), and the DVD version includes a beautiful little print of one of the finished paintings.

There is a video trailer on YouTube, and additional information about the video (and a treasure trove of fascinating material in general) on Gurney’s blog Gurney Journey.

James Gurney’s How I Paint Dinosaurs is $32 for the DVD, available from Kunaki or Amazon, and $15 for a digital download through Gumroad.


“Picturing Dinosaurs” on

Picturing Dinosaurs on Charles R. Knight, Robert F. Walters, William Stout, Rudolph Zallinger, James Gurney, Zdeněk Burian, Peter Schouten,  Douglas Henderson
As the latest installment of her wonderful ongoing series of themed “Picturing…” posts on, Irene Gallo has posted “Picturing Dinosaurs“, a theme near and dear to my heart (or more accurately, near and dear to the fevered brain of the 10 year old kid in me that still holds major sway over what I like).

For someone who is a self professed non-expert on dinosaurs, Gallo has pretty much covered the bases, with nods to paleo art greats past and present, as well as some fun and essential pop culture dinosaur references like Moebius’s Arzach pterosaur, Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes T-rex in a jet and Kirby’s Devil Dinosaur.

What fun!

(Images above: Charles R. Knight, Robert F. Walters, William Stout, Rudolph Zallinger, James Gurney, Zdeněk Burian, Peter Schouten, Douglas Henderson)


New improved blog list (well, updated anyway)

From the Lines and Colors blogroll: John Macdonald Aiken, Ivan Generalic, Duane Keiser, Hans Versfelt , William J Aylward, Bob Eggleton, Kazu Kibuishi, Jacob Stålhamma, Elanor Kish, Mark Hess
In the left hand column of this blog, about halfway down, under the long lists of categories and the longer list of archives, is a list of links under the heading “Relevant Blogs”.

This has long been ignored, both unduly so by myself, and perhaps rightly so by those who have clicked on many of the links only to find they were out of date, broken or otherwise less than useful.

In response to a little recent pestering by a couple of readers (to whom my thanks go out for bringing it up into my field of attention), I squeezed out some time over the past few weeks to weed out the dead links, blogs that have not been updated for a year or more and less interesting destinations that were left over from years ago when the pickings were slimmer.

I’ve also included a number of fresh new destinations, to which I will continue to add.

The list is divided into generalized categories of blogs (which I may also eventually refine a bit) that hopefully make it a little easier to browse.

It may not look like much — it’s just a list of links — but as I’ve tried to demonstrate with a few examples above, there are treasures to be found.

Images above, from the blog list categories:

“Art, Painting & Sketch”: John Macdonald Aiken from Underpaintings and Ivan Generalic from Art Inconnu

“Painting a Day”: Duane Keiser

“Other Painting Blogs”: Hans Versfelt

“Illustration”: William J Aylward from 100 Years of Illustration and Design

“Sci-Fi & Fantasy”: Bob Eggleton

“Comics & Cartoons”: Kazu Kibuishi

“Animation & Concept”: Jacob Stålhammar from Animation Blog and Peggy Chung from Concept Art World

“Paleo & Scientific”: Elanor Kish from Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs

“Tools & Techniques”: Mark Hess from The Tools Artists Use

Considering that many of these blogs are in themselves both extensive resources and jumping off points for even more great sources of art, I’ll issue my Major Timesink Warning should you choose to jump down any or all of these rabbit holes.



Alfons and Adrie Kennis

Alfons and Adrie Kennis
Dutch artists Alfons and Adrie Kennis are twin brothers who work professionally under the studio name of Kennis & Kennis.

They are highly regarded in the field of paleontological reconstruction art, where their paintings and sculptures portray prehistoric mammals and pre-humans.

What delights me about their paintings in particular is the blending of rendered images of the foreground subjects with graphic background elements, and a more daring sense of design and composition than is usually expected within the field.

In addition, their use of texture is just wonderful — neither slavishly realistic nor deviating from reality. They manage to convey a tactile sense of an animal’s fur or hide, or the skin of proto-humans, within the framework of an expressive technique that has a great deal of visual appeal.

Keep in mind when viewing their work that as artistically vibrant as the paintings are, like all scientific illustration, they must conform to the task of representing their subjects with scientific accuracy.

[Via National Infographic]


Dinotopia: Art, Science and Imagination at Lyman Allyn Art Museum in CT

James Gurney, Dinotopia: Art, Science and Imagination
Long time readers of Lines and Colors will not be surprised that I am an admirer the work of illustrator/writer/painter James Gurney. (Let’s see.. beautifully painted illustration with influences from great 19th century artists and Golden Age illustrators, fantastical adventure stories with lushly imaginative settings, Hudson River valley landscape painting and plein air painting, and of course.. terrific dinosaurs — what’s not to like?)

I was pleased back in 2010 to have the opportunity to see an exhibition titled Dinotopia: The Art of James Gurney at the Delaware Art Museum at which I got to see many examples of his original artwork.

In addition to surprises in scale, his work reveals characteristics up close that are not always evident in reproduction, much of it, for example, is surprisingly painterly. Another aspect that comes through in person even more than in reproduction is the degree to which Gurney’s experience as a plein air landscape painter informs and enlivens his fantasy art.

Gurney also works from life in the form of models for his compositions, and a new exhibition that opens at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in new London, Connecticut this Saturday, September 22nd, Dinotopia: Art, Science and Imagination, not only showcases Gurney’s original art for the well known series of illustrated adventure stories, but delves into the creation of the works and the science behind them. The show includes sketches, preliminary versions, maquettes, photos used for reference and plein air studies.

This show is more extensive than the already large show I saw in 2012; it features 135 works, most of which are not the same as in the previous exhibitions and much of which has not been on public display before.

Unfortunately, the museum’s website, as is usually the case with museum websites, is not good at generating any visual excitement about the show.

Fortunately, as is also often the case, artist and blogger Matthew D. Innis steps in and does a superb job of just that, with an extensive post on his blog Underpaintings that includes links to much larger versions of many of the images I’ve shown above.

You can also see more of Gurney’s work on the Dinotopia website, as well as Gurney’s own website and his blog, Gurney Journey.

The latter has developed over the years into one of the best go-to destinations for art instruction on the web, much of which has been condensed into two superb art instruction volumes (so far), Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn’t Exist and Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter (links are to my reviews, the books can be purchased directly from Gurney’s shop).

Two volumes of Gurney’s classic Dinotopia adventure stories have been rereleased in deluxe, expanded 20th Anniversary editions by Dover Publications’ Calla Editions imprint. I reviewed the Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time 20th Anniversary Edition in 2011.

The new Dinotopia: The World Beneath 20th Anniversary Edition has just been released this month and I was delighted to receive a review copy from Dover.

James Gurney, Dinotopia: Art, Science and Imagination
In themselves, these Dinotopia editions have reframed my impression of Dover books, which used to be “terrific because they were inexpensive art books with fairly decent reproductions”. Now they are making inexpensive art books with very good reproductions.

The new version of The World Beneath, in fact, is better looking than my copy of the original edition — the colors richer and more vibrant, and, according to Gurney, truer to the original artwork.

If you’re not familiar with these books, they are wonderful adventure stories, profusely illustrated (I love that phrase) with Gurney’s lush and imaginative portrayals of a fantastical city atop a waterfall (which served as an uncredited inspiration for the the city in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace), adventure heroes, engaging steampunkery and, of course, a cornucopia of dinosaurs.

Adventure stories, yes — but heavier on illustration than text, they also serve as coffee table art books, showcasing Gurney’s terrific paintings in large spreads.

The new edition, in some ways analogous to the current exhibit a the Lyman Allyen, features an additional 25+ pages of behind the scenes drawings, painted sketches, photo reference, maquettes, and other goodies. The book also features an introduction by noted paleontologist Dr. Michael Brett-Surman.

I will take some consolation in this edition for the fact that I don’t know if my schedule this season will let me get up to the exhibition, though it runs to February 2, 2013. For those who can make it, you’re in for a treat.