Critter of the Week: Castorocauda

Meet Cassie.  All she wants in life is to get her feet wet, and perhaps a fish or two.  Yes, she would really like fish.  Do you have some?


Pretty please with cherries on top?

Can’t fool her, she knows I brought some of those little dried fishy treats.  Look at that face, she might even snuggle for some.

But please don’t Cassie.  Down girl.  Thank you.  I don’t really want to smell like river mud at the moment.

Have a treat!

I’m sure you must be wondering what she is…

She is a small mammal from the middle of Jurassic China, just a bit smaller than a modern platypus.  She has a lot in common with platypus, such as a love for water, strong digging paws, a thick fur pelt, and probably even laid eggs like a platypus (though it’s tough to know for sure with the fossils we have).

But she’s not actually related to platypus, beavers, or any modern mammal.  She is from an extinct group of mammals called docodonta.

You can find out more about Cassie and her family here.


Making progress…

Actually, not much progress this week, because the eldest of my three chillens turns 5 today!  We’re getting ready for his birthday party this weekend, so what free time I usually dedicate to Picture Book Progress is being used for Party Preparations. (I love alliteration 😛 )

I haven’t been neglecting my dear dinos completely though, so here’s a teaser for the next color sketch I hope to have finished next week.


This one’s taking me a bit longer.  Not just because of the party prep, but also because I wanted to try a completely different angle.

You see, I want to make as clear a distinction between what the boy imagines it would be like to have a certain critter, and the scenes where the family is going through the pet shop.  For example…

scene differences_flat

Just in case you can’t see the picture (or I made the text too small to read)…

  • Pet shop scenes have a landscape perspective.  A little more distant, like we’re observing what’s going on– Imagination scenes have a perspective to make us part of the scene, like we’re in there with the characters.
  • Pet shop scenes all have the same lighting from a noon-day sun– Imagination scenes have different lighting depending on scene, mostly that warm afternoon glow.
  • Pet shop scenes, the family all wears the same outfits from scene to scene (of course)– But in Imagination scenes the outfits are always different.
  • Pet shop scenes have a more natural color palette– Imagination scenes have brighter colors, with more tonal color to set the mood.
  • Pet shop scenes the critters are in natural and realistic poses to give an idea of size and overall character– Imagination scenes the critters behave how the child expects it to be behave, and appear larger than life.

In the color sketch I’m working on, the original thumbnail I liked the most had a perspective from above.  Like this…

flyers page.jpg

But that was before I decided to make all the pet shop scenes a little more…like a painting.  Like we’re watching a movie of something that is happening in the shop.  The imagination scenes are from the boy’s perspective, a look inside his head on how he imagines having these critters as pets would be like.

Seeing the flyers from above, from the perspective of the flyers themselves, is interesting, but doesn’t really fit with the style of the other scenes.  So as much as I like the unusual perspective, I’m trying out other layouts to match the other pet shop scenes.

Haha, this is actually the first time I write down all the differences between the different scenes. 😀  With this handy chart, I know there are a few changes I’ll make to the final illustrations, especially the imagination ones.  With those, I can be more exaggerated, bigger, larger than life, with brighter colors.

Not so far as to be garish of course, but I think I’ll really have some fun with those scenes.  😀

Thank you for stopping by, I’ll see you next week! 🙂

Coming Next Week…

This gentle giant will do anything for a treat and a belly rub.

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

11 thoughts on “Critter of the Week: Castorocauda

          1. I don’t think she could. Beavers are highly specialized animals, and aside from a similar texture to her tail and loving water, doesn’t really have anything in common with them. She might’ve been a bit more like a water tenrec or platypus as far as behavior or ecological niche goes. 🙂


  1. I hope your child will have a great birthday! Will it have dinosaurs?
    And for some reason I never noticed the differences,I guess I just don’t focus on the details as much as other people 🙂 Wait,is that Ajax riding the COTW train? (It’s my guess)


    1. Thank you! No dinosaurs, unfortunately, but plenty of (almost) equally interesting sea creatures. He’s really into a show called Octonauts these days. 🙂

      To be honest I haven’t been very clear on the differences between the two types of scenes myself, so they haven’t been very clear in the color sketches. They are there, but it’s only in the more recent ones that I realized what I was doing.

      Turns out my “muse” was trying to tell me this the whole time! Plus the conscious need to be clear on what is “real” and what is going on in the boy’s imagination…I figured I’d best make a chart so I can make sure to have all these differences in the final illustrations.

      Readers may not consciously notice what I did, but that’s ok. The mind notices they’re different on a subconscious level. Hopefully. 😛

      I’ve never had any schooling on this stuff, or illustrated a book before, so I’m experimenting as I go. 😀

      And yes, indeed he is! Wave your tail for us Ajax! 😛


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