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A Mural In Progress:

Click on images to see a larger version.

A project from the summer of 2000 was a mural featuring several therapod dinosaurs and several extinct birds. Scientists have recently discovered fossils which show a close relationship between the birds and therapods. The mural was commissioned by the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, South Carolina for a new bird exhibit scheduled to open in the fall of this year.


After receiving the storyline and species list from the zoo, I created sketches of my proposed mural:

A black and white sketch was created first. Dinosaur fans will notice that there are animals from various periods within the Mesozoic Era portrayed together. Several species of therapod dinosaurs and extinct birds appear in the scene. Under a spreading ginkgo tree, an Oviraptor tends its nest of young. On the bank beyond, a group of Deinonychus revisit an old kill. Compsagnathus, a chicken-sized dinosaur, investigates the beach. A pair of Archaeopteryx, the first known fossil bird, are escaping from a pack of hunting Coelophysis. Other birds in the scene are Eoalulavis, landing in the ginkgo tree; Hesperornis, swimming in the lake; and Icthyornis, flying overhead.


Next came a color sketch:


The color sketch was done at a scale of 1" = 1'.



After changing some aspects of the composition, another & final B&W sketch was produced:


The height of the mural was shortened to 8', and the horizon line was lowered. This gave the Oviraptor more prominence. A few other creatures were moved about to improve the composition. Now I'm ready to start the real thing.


My sketch was made at a scale of 1"- 1'. I put a one foot grid on the canvas, and a one inch grid on a copy of the sketch. Then I could easily transfer the sketch to the canvas at full scale. I like to use a pole with a charcoal tip to do the intitial sketch on the canvas. This allows me enough distance from the work to see what I'm doing. After the sketch is completed and refined, I can start laying in the sky.



First I paint in the base color for the sky, and then airbrush a layer of haze near the horizon. The clouds come next.




After the sky is in, I begin putting in the background. I always work from the back to the front.



The underpainting of the trees in the middleground is underway here.



Then I work to fill in the rest of the blank canvas, and begin to detail the trees in the middle ground. I also start on the ginkgo tree in the foreground.



The underpainting of the trees in the middleground is underway here, and the ginkgo is growing leaves. Animals are beginning to appear. Deinonychus on the left, crocodiles on the right along the bank.



The detailing of the trees in the middleground is nearly finished now.



Light is being established in the foreground, and Coelophysis is making an appearance on the right



More animals are appearing. Deinonychus to the left,and Oviraptor and babies in the center. Archaeopteryx is taking flight from the Coelophysis, and a Compsagnathus is making his getaway.



Below are some detail views of a few of the animals. Click on the image to enlarge.



Its done! The rest of the birds have been added, and the foreground plants have been detailed in.



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