Monday, 17 November 2008

Art Monday: Gryposaurus skull sketch

Went to the Royal Ontario Museum last Friday, and spent some time with the museum's original dinosaur skeleton, Gryposaurus incurvimanus.

Sketching in a public space is always an interesting activity. I throw on my iPod to draw only if I'm on a secluded bench outdoors. Otherwise, you can miss the comments from curious passers-by.

I was asked if I was a student, or there with my art class, about 4 or 5 times. I'll take that as a compliment that I look younger than I am! Kids are funny, they are so-o-o
curious about what you're doing, but inherently polite enough to hover until they're invited to have a look. Some young guys told me they like to draw and think dinosaurs are interesting too: I hope they're inspired. It's nice to chat with parents, teachers and students on trips about why I'm there.

I think the reason I'm there is mainly because it's relaxing and challenging to try and accurately draw an animal skull or fossil.


Drawing in public is one of those times an artist can receive immediate feedback. Thanks to my fellow visitors for the encouragement. My one wish is that the museum's hours were a little different. The only night they're open later than 5:30pm is Fridays, which is a tough night to commit to drawing every week.

The gryposaurus was the R.O.M.'s first fossil dinosaur, collected in 1918 from Drumheller Alberta, and installed in 1920. A nice, big, honkin' duckbill. I was standing kind of close, looking up at it, so the drawing is not entirely a side-view. I spent more time on it than I had for some of the other images I've drawn from the R.O.M., and I'm mostly happy with the proportions.

Here's some other fossil skull sketches from my gallery. I've thought abo
ut offering prints in my repro shop...perhaps in the new year.

Hmm. Which fossil in the R.O.M. should I tackle next?

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20 comments:

Heather M. Ward said...

Very nice skull! I have not done any drawing from life - or at least from anything other than a photograph - in a long time. Do you get anything out of it that you don't get in a studio (or a desk in the corner of the room)?

Peter Mc said...

Triceratops. Is there any other dinosaur?

Glendon Mellow said...

Heather- yeah, I got a sore back from the weight of my shoulder bag.

Other than that, sometimes I feel a different pressure, a bit of an edge when I'm drawing in a public space. On a bench, in a cafe, or in the museum, I seem able to focus more clearly. Provided I'm not pining for reference sitting at home.

Peter - what's a "triceratops"? I haven't heard of that one.

Traumador said...

very nice.

did they redo his mount with all the others in that big dino hall reno (i thought i heard about them doing at the ROM a few years ago)?

Glendon Mellow said...

Yes, the Gryposaurus is in the first prehistoric hall in the Crystal, along with the other hadrosaurs.

Every time I go in, it seems they've added more and more information, but I couldn't figure out which was real, and which a cast - there seems to be a Gryposaur half-entombed in fake sandstone, and another freestanding mount.

I drew from the freestanding one.

leslie said...

Drawing in public places... Hearing from the young guys that they like to draw and think dinosaurs are interesting had to be a high point.
Of course you inspired them!!
Very cool Mr. Trilobite!

Raptor Lewis said...

EXCELLENT Work!!! You are VERY good. Where do you get you're inspiration. Another thing, what's a Gryposaurus? Never heard of that Hadrosaur.

Glendon Mellow said...

Leslie - yeah, that was a high point. Drawing is healthy.

Unless you use chalk pastel, that can make you wheezy.

Raptor Lewis - thanks for the compliments!

Inspiration? Well, still life is always challenging, the interplay between contours and shadows...

And hey. It's an animal that went extinct millions and millions of years ago, and here I am holding some crumbly graphite and dry pulped wood, and I can comprehend a few things about those contours and shadows.

It's why I do what I do.

Zachary said...

Lewis, Gryposaurus is a sister taxon to Kritosaurus. The two were synonymous for a long time, in fact. It is a hadrosaurine hadrosaur with atypical "Roman nose," or an arching of the nasal bones. Whether the arch is not present on Glendon's reference or not is hard to tell. Gryposaurus is one of the best-known hadrosaurines, with plenty of nearly-complete skeletons and good cranial material. Apparently, some specimens show rough bone texture along the nasal arch, suggesting a horny covering of some sort.

Glendon, wonderful sketch. I'm going to suggest a non-dinosaurian reptile, if they have one. I've never been to the ROM, only the RTMNH.

Glendon Mellow said...

Thanks Zach!

I thought either you or Craig would jump in with the in-depth information. I hadn't realized Kritosaurus was so similar.

There is a nasal arch, but it may not be as prominent in this drawing because of the angle I was standing in relation to the mount.

I was about 11' away from the forelimb, able to see the underside and back of the skull. The new R.O.M. Crystal has some fairly stark lighting on an overcast day. When it's sunny, they light diffuses through part of the room in a neat way.

One of the worries and hopes I harbor each time I do a skull like this, is that it will pass muster with professionals and enthusiasts.

Thanks, Zach.

Prehistoric Insanity said...

As usual Zach's got it well in hand.

I was just going to add for Glendon's sake, that Gryposaurus and Kritosaur are so similar that Gryposaur was originally described as a species of Kritosaur. The type specimen of Kritosaur is not a very good leading to some room for interpretation. However being found in New Mexico while Gryposaur of course (like 90% of the ROM's Dinos) is from Alberta means they lived fairly distant from each other. Also there is a slight difference in their geologic timing, but they do coexist at the upper and lower extents of our known fossil record of both.

The debate isn't totally over on them being the same or different either (as it typically isn't). For a reference manual on Alberta Dinos I had to threw together a couple years ago from various books, I had to include profiles on both as my two main books on just Alberta dinos (from the 90's) listed Grypo as Krito.

Than there's the whole debacle on where Brachylophosaurus fits in with both of them (though it clearly came before either).

Funny how little attention and publicity the non-crested Hadrosaurs get. Not that I am surprised. After a fossil hunting career of finding mostly Edmontosaur material you get sick of them quickly ;p

Glendon Mellow said...

Interesting! Thanks Craig.

I wonder if an artist (perhaps myself) would be able to spot the differences in skull structure the way a hadrosaur expert could. Without knowing beforehand what they were looking at.

There've been some studies that track eye movement in artists, and have found that they actually do take in more of the details. We could be like species-sniffing hounds for palaeontologists.

(hat tip to Cognitive Daily.

chris zenga said...

I would love to see you produce a whole book of your dino art "a fossils life" by Glendon Mellow.

that has a nice ring to it!

Later days,

Mo Hassan said...

I never really thought about drawing in a museum before, but I might give it a try. Thanks for the idea!

Sean Craven said...

As a non-paleontological aside, I was fascinated by your use of pencil here -- at first I thought these were wash drawings. In my pencil sketches you can tell that they're lines on paper while you get those lovely areas of tone...

Glendon Mellow said...

Thank you Chris!

A book would be wonderful. I'd love to do have a collection printed, bound and lurking on coffee tables.

Glendon Mellow said...

Mo, I heartily recommend it. It's something I've done for a while now, and it's always interesting.

Both our museum and art gallery here in Toronto even provide stools - or at least did before their renovations. You should ask at you local repository of learning.

Glendon Mellow said...

Sean, they are pencil, but I usually tweak the brightness and contrast. That little dark dot in the corner was my attempt to give the drawing a 'black' point for when I adjust the 'levels' in Photoshop.

In some of the others, like the Parasaurolophus, I also adjusted the colours, to give it a sepia feel. But it is regular HB graphite pencil.

I use a .3mm mechanical pencil, and tortillons (paper smudgers).

Claudia said...

How cool to come across another trilobite / fossil loving artist. Thanks for the kind remarks on my site. Your drawings are great, skulls and bones are brilliant to draw, aren't they? I used to blag my way in to the veterinary school in Edinburgh to draw their bovine and equine skeletons. Must do some dinosaurs though.... I like your precambriam rabbit too!
Cheers, Claudia

Glendon Mellow said...

Thanks for checking it out, Claudia! You've got some impressive work. I love the atmospheres in your city and landscapes.

Fossils are a joy. You can lose yourself in the contours and curves.

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