STL Science Center

STL Science Center

26 May 2012

The Faces of Sinraptor

©Currie and Zhao (to the best of my knowledge)
Sinraptor is a theropod. There, I have almost completely summed up the entire illustrative world surrounding Sinraptor. All kidding aside though, Sinraptor has always been portrayed as a general dinosaur. Very typical lines and hands and face, never anything truly unique about it. In fact, the illustrations I did find that are unique took me a good deal of searching deep down in the bowels of the internet. The hands on the model here are a little broken looking honestly, but they are not that bad. The other images I dragged out are intriguing for a variety of reasons which I will get into shortly. The artists featured this week are Brett Booth and Brian Engh. I like finding artists new to our little community here and this week, I have succeeded very well. Plus all that delving into the fathoms of the internet trying to find something atypical and interesting for Sinraptor led me to new websites I have yet to mine for dinosaur gold.

©Brian Engh
Let's start with the face of Brian Engh. The face of Sinraptor by Brian Engh, I mean. I trudged around his site a bit this morning to get a feel for his art and that's normal routine for me. I know I do not really talk much about getting to know the artists unless we have a good conversation about the art (like I did with John Bindon a while back) but I felt that Mr. Engh's Sinraptor deserved a bit of justification because I know a lot of purists may balk at the eyes of this dinosaur. The nasal/prefrontal ridge is a wonderful character addition, as the skeleton does not imply its existence, and its inclusion here simply makes for a much more interesting and individual theropod as opposed to the usual variety that the word theropod creates in our mind. The same goes for the quill like protuberances about the neck and bottom of the mandible. The eyes, however, are right in line with Mr. Engh's other work and, though not the normal version of eyes we see in dinosaur illustration, convey emotions beyond the simple reptilian eat to live and lack of empathy and sympathy and even intelligence standpoint from which dinosaurs are often viewed.

©Brett Booth
Brett Booth, on the other hand, gives us a fairly normal body for a theropod, but as I said before, there is a specific reason I chose these two illustrations for today. I'm not knocking his illustration, not in the least bit. The eyes and head and body are very dinosaur, not much emotion, but the mechanics of it are what I want to highlight here. The typical running pose we see everywhere, but there are few times we see it from anywhere but from the side on and the times when we do see a theropod from either front or back, they are typically standing still or walking and frozen in a moment where the feet are on or about to leave/touch the ground. Regardless, the toes are already splayed and ready to meet the ground (linked image is ©Gregory Paul from a discussion by Scott Person on tail depiction found on Art Evolved). Here, however, Mr. Booth has given us an image of an active predator which is certainly interested in something or tracking some morsel and has picked up its foot allowing the feet to relax enough so that the toes are no longer splayed out. Your own feet do this to a much lesser extent, in case you haven't ever looked at your toes when you walk. It's a balance thing and relaxing the toes when they lift, if it does anything specifically, allows them to easily clear objects and not kick the dinosaur's own leg with its massive toe claws. Seeing it as we rarely do in an illustration is wonderful and shows a range of mechanics in this Sinraptor which we typically do not see in dinosaur illustration, which is wonderful and worthy of our praise and admiration as well.


  1. Hey, thanks for posting my art!

    Just wanted to note that the skull of Sinraptor does imply the existence of a unique crest structure on the nose - even the Curry and Zhao illustration acknowledges it with a conservative little crest flaring laterally on their fleshed out Sinraptor - I just went a little farther with piling the soft tissue on it. Here is a closeup of the skull of the sinraptor mount you posted a picture of in your last blog entry:

    That skull gave me the idea for the rippling, wavy crest tissue.

    It is my contention that the soft tissue reconstruction of dinosaur display features are far far too conservative when you consider how downright gaudy modern birds and reptiles are, despite many of them having skeletons that give very little indication of their living costume. I don't think it's a coincidence that we see an array of distinct bumps and knobs and crests on the skulls of otherwise similar theropods - these were likely adorned with various soft tissue displays that helped with species recognition and social/reproductive behavior.

    When I look at a theropod skull i'm not just looking at broad skeletal proportions over which to drape a thin layer of tightly stretched skin, i'm looking for those little protuberances and pits that give me an excuse to draw a bizarre ancient monster with a distinct character and look.

    Great blog! Keep up the good work!

  2. I haven't had the ability to read it so I was basing it off of the skeletal mounts I've found, but I trust you since you've had the ability to read the paper! I also agree that the soft tissues are far too bland, which is why I started out saying if we say Sinraptor is a theropod we automatically get a general boring picture of it in our minds and the only things left to fill in are toes, hands, and any imagined or real crests, ridges, bumps, and acne issues. Same thing goes for the eyes, which were what made me really gravitate toward it in the first place.

  3. Thanks. I'm glad the eyes work for you. My whole exploration of the possibilities of soft tissue reconstruction started with eyes. I realized that 1) i've never seen a living reptile or bird with eyes sunken within there skull the way most paleo artists draw dinosaurs and 2) it sure seems like it would impair vision if the eye were at the same depth or deeper than the bone surrounding them.

    As for the crest, I too was primarily referencing images of Sinraptor skulls when drawing that portrait (see link in previous comment). I have not read the whole Currie and Zhao paper.

  4. Very valid points and pretty much how I feel about it. Some of the few drawings I've done I feel the same way about the eyes. I think they're up in the Facebook albums and if not, I'm gonna check right now, I'll go put them in there if you want to check out how I try to do the eyes. I admit I'm a lot more cartoon-like in my drawings though!