Guest Post: Illustrating Zhuchengtyrannus:

Yes another guest post and yes we’re back on the tyrannosaurines again. While I’ve already talked somewhat about the impact of the artwork (that by now everyone is familiar with) I’ve not talked process. Here is a chance to make that up as Bob Nicholls returns to the Musings again (see here, here and here for starters!) to talk about how he created this piece. My thanks once again to him for his superb work:

Being the first artist to illustrate a new species of extinct animal is a great honour.  The series of events that are required to successfully fossilise a dinosaur and for that individual to be revealed to the world millions of years after death is an epic story.  In brief, the dinosaur first died in a location where its remains were covered by sediment rapidly.  The animal’s remains then hid within the Earth and lay undisturbed for a length of time we cannot imagine.  During this vast period the dead creature’s species will evolve out of existence and new life forms will survive catastrophes to colonize our planet.  Eventually a species of energy hungry ape developed an interest in investigating planet Earth’s history and against the odds our fossilised dinosaur was discovered. One of the apes, let’s call him Dave Hone, then decided to reveal the dinosaur to his entire ape species and asked a friend, let’s call him Bob Nicholls, to illustrate the wonderful discovery.  It may sound like a simple tale, but if you really think about it, it is astonishing.  To be a small part of it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.  There is no greater honour for a palaeontologist than to be the first to show the world what a long extinct animal looked like.  Especially a tyrannosaur!

Sketch for the life reconstruction of Zhuchengtyrannus. Courtesy of Bob Nicholls.

The illustration of Zhuchengtyrannus took me about eight hours in total, from the first preliminary drawing to e-mail delivery.  The first sketch was a satisfactory pose but four re-draws were required to make small adjustments to the teeth, snout, nostril and eye.  When Dave was happy for me to render the colour artwork I painted it with acrylic paint on illustration card.  I chose to paint the colour scheme of a show-off male with an eye stripe and blood red patches for impressing the tyrannosaur ladies.  I wish Dave and I could have worked on the piece a little longer but it was an excellent and most enjoyable day’s work.  Zhuchengtyrannus is dead, long live Zhuchengtyrannus!

Zhuchengtyrannus life reconstruction by Bob Nicholls

6 Responses to “Guest Post: Illustrating Zhuchengtyrannus:”


  1. 1 Mike Taylor 15/04/2011 at 11:45 am

    Holy bsdgers, Bob — you did this in ONE WORKING DAY?

    Well, I am astonished. And humbled.

  2. 2 Mike Taylor 15/04/2011 at 11:46 am

    Er, make that “badgers”.

  3. 3 David Hone 15/04/2011 at 1:20 pm

    Makes me think of the old story about Picasso, Mike. It takes years to be able to do that.

  4. 4 mattvr 16/04/2011 at 12:16 am

    Someone who knows the Picasso story and can appreciate *outside* of the artistic world? I’m gobsmacked Dave.

    It’s a great piece Bob, all the more impressive for your decisive and rapid rendering!


  1. 1 Zhuchengtyrannus art II « Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings Trackback on 17/04/2011 at 4:48 pm
  2. 2 Interview with John Sibbick « Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings Trackback on 09/06/2011 at 8:17 am
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