This sketchbook sneak peak is all about the upcoming Critter of the Month! As you might have guessed from last month’s clue, Yi Qi will be joining the critters at Pete’s Paleo Petshop.
Yi Qi was a small dinosaur from Jurassic China, and is known from only one fossil. But what a find! It is beautifully articulated, with many parts of the body complete and where they should be, but it’s completely flat. It even preserves details of feathers, and hints of color called melanosomes!
Most reconstructions I’ve seen look more like monsters or dragons than real animals, so I’ve been looking to a lot of birds, more naturalistic illustrations of Yi, and even a few gliding animals like flying squirrels for inspiration. I had a bit of fun drawing a few first (messy) sketches and deciding on a pose for my new critter, and I made a few notes on details as I went along. Spelling errors exist, and will not be fixed.
So many dinosaur reconstructions don’t have enough experimental bits! Feathers, skin, keratin, all the stuff that doesn’t preserve well in fossils has the potential to change the look of an animal. I really liked the wrinkled skin on the face of the scarlet macaw. The black stripes on the white skin are actually tiny feathers, and I really like that detail, so the snout will have a similar texture. The teeth stick out quite a bit on the fossil, but even large teeth are usually covered at least a little, so this critter has a cute overbite, but not the huge honking buck-teeth you usually see. The cheek fluff is inspired by one of my chickens. My big girl immediately recognized where I got the idea lol. 😀
I found a few extremely helpful sources for the wings. A few DeviantArt artists gathered all the different papers and commonly known illustrations of Yi Qi (for example, Emily Willoughby, or John Conway), and then displayed the silhouette of the wing each artist or paper illustrated. I really liked Darren Naish’s description of a very birdlike structure to the arm, and then adopted it with the flying squirrel model from one of the papers. The bottom line is that no one knows for sure what the wing actually looked like since the bottom edge of the wing was torn from its connecting point on the body. Yi qi may have been a gliding animal, and not a powered flyer, so full-sized wings like a bat may not have been necessary.
Another bit of speculation and artistic license on my part are the fully-feathered wings. What if the parts of the wing that look like they should be skin were actually covered in smaller, lighter feathers, and so decomposed more quickly than the rest? I chose to reconstruct the wing with a thicker membrane covered in short fuzz, like a flying squirrel. This would make the styliform bone, the one jutting out from the wrist, not very obvious unless light is shining through from behind the membrane. Maybe this is too speculative a reconstruction, but hopefully it provides a little food for thought at least, and at least it is plausible speculation.
From these sketches, I’ve been working on my clay reference model. It’s been fun, but it’s taking more time than I thought it would, and I don’t think I’ll be able to post the Critter of the Month in time. I will definitely post something on the 1st of December, to let you know what is going on! 🙂
Thank you so much for stopping by! See you on December 1st 😀