Critter of the Week: Pterodactylus

Meet Terry. She’s a chipper little flyer who would love to scramble up onto your shoulder and nibble your ear (just a little nibble, it tickles).  And could she please, pretty please have a tiny bit of that sandwich?

Terry update

Terry always likes a snack, especially small morsels like snails, grubs, and worms she digs up.  That sandwich looks quite tempting though, and she won’t turn her nose up at an opportunity to snatch it out of your hand, so keep an eye and a firm hold on it. 😀

She might not look it, but this little pterosaur (not dinosaur), is very good at walking and running around on the ground.  She spends a lot of her time poking her sensitive snout in the dirt for all sorts of burrowing creepy crawlies.  When she feels one, she nabs it with her tiny teeth and gulps it down.  Yum!

These flying reptiles have a layer of furry fuzz covering their bodies. To make a long (and possibly boring) story short, we know this covering is not fur, but we’re not 100% sure if it’s some kind of feather or not. It might be something totally new.  If the fuzzies are feathers, as some paleontologists suggest, then that says a lot for how many dinosaurs probably had feathers.  Pterosaurs aren’t dinosaurs, but they’re like 2nd cousins. 🙂

Also notice how the wings are not saggy skin.  The wings are actually super awesome (insane genius levels of cool!), and they deserve their own post, but I’ll try to give you the short version.  They’re “smart” wings with layers of muscle and inflatable air pockets, and they behave a bit like the wings on a plane.  I can tell you this for sure, they’re not anything like bird or bat wings.

email incentive

Making progress…

Did you notice?  Terry got another update. This time her eyes got the new style.  I didn’t like the soulless black eyes, and on larger dinos with smaller eyes they tend to disappear.  It just doesn’t really work with the texture and detail in the illustrations…so slightly more realistic, yet stylized Pixar eyes it is. 😀

Here’s the old version, just for comparison.



I think the new style has more expression.  Which I like.  From the beginning I wanted more of a Pixar vibe to it.  Stylized with a sense of realism.  Like Finding Dory.

I would like to think that my style would lend itself well to animation, and when brainstorming an illustration I always think of an entire scene.  Then I just choose one moment from that scene that best illustrates the story. 🙂

It starts off with the imagining how the scene would “play out” in my head, almost like I’m watching a movie.  From there, I “freeze” the scene to where the action would be most clear.  Then I thumbnail the scene, like this…

sauropod thumbnails

Once I’ve drawn a few thumbnails, I choose the one that seems to tell the story best and redraw it as a sketch.  In this stage, I tweak positioning, draw the best I can without reference, and basically figure out what I need more research on.

sauropods page.jpg

Right now I’m in the “dummy” stage, and preparing all the illustrations to print out a “dummy” book.  Something I can hold, look at, and show others for review. 🙂

I’m tweaking things, experimenting with fresh new layouts…doing whatever I can to get a “fresh look” before I start the final drawings.  After staring at the same thumbnails for so long, it really helps to put in color, flip the image upside down or backwards…whatever I can do to force my eyes to see it like it’s the first time.  This way I catch mistakes in composition, or can figure out better compositions to tell the story.

A big part is figuring out what overall mood I want to convey in the colors, and experiment where the light is coming from.

You may notice that the words keep changing a little.  Just like the illustrations get updates and improvements, the words also change as I find better words.  I’m still not quite happy with them, but it’s a little closer to what I want.


See how I flipped the page from the rough sketch version?  I found that the illustration had better flow, and leads your eyes to the next page better this way.  Biggest problem here is how the Brachiosaurus just trails off the edge.  Those markings are like arrows off into never never land, so that needs to change.

This is something I will fix in the final illustration.  Without a reference, I couldn’t figure out what Elmer’s head and neck would look like if he was bending down to look at the visitors (hopefully they have treats).  In the next stage, I’ll make a little model in the position I want him to be, so we’ll be able to see his head. 😀

I’m not 100%, but I might paint his markings on the model so that I know what they look like on a 3D form.  Markings like stripes can really help the illusion of a 3D critter, but with unusual stripes like Elmer’s I need a little help figuring out where they go!  Right now they’re all over the place, so break the illusion of form.

Here’s the progress chart so far.  I’m halfway through!  I’ll see you next week. 🙂

dummy chart4.jpg


Coming Next Week…

This giant likes to bask in warm, sunny waters.  He’d be super easy to care for if only the tank didn’t need to be the size of the Mediterranean…

Share your guess in the comments! He’s one of the critters over on the critter page. 🙂

4 thoughts on “Critter of the Week: Pterodactylus

  1. Umm,this is Kaprosaurus from the forum,sorry if this not related but just testing the comments,first time. 😛


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