Guest post: the genesis of Davide Bonadonna’s Spinosaurus painting
September 16, 2014
In the last post I pointed out some similarities between Davide Bonadonna’s new Spinosaurus painting and Brian Engh’s Spinosaurus painting from 2010. I also suggested that Davide might have borrowed from Brian and might have crossed a line in doing so. I was mistaken about that, as this post will show, and I’m sorry.
I woke up this morning to find that Mike and Davide had a very fruitful and collegial discussion going in email, which they had kindly copied me on. Davide had offered to send his in-progress sketches, Mike had offered to put them up here as a guest post, “because it’ll be a fascinating post — NOT as any kind of defense” (his words, with which I fully agree), and Davide had kindly assented (Brian’s post on how his Spinosaurus came to be is on his own blog). Davide and I corresponded directly this morning and he’s been very gracious and generous with his time, thoughts, and art.
We are always thrilled when we have the opportunity to show how awesome paleoart came into being (like this and this), and this case is no exception. Best now if I just get out of the way, so — over to Davide!
About the illustration:
In early November 2013, I was commissioned by NGMag, via Nizar Ibrahim of the University of Chicago, to create an illustration for a page in the October 2014 issue.
Working for about six years with Simone Maganuco, co-author of the study, on the Spinosaurus (I made the digital model from which the model exhibited in Washington was printed, Nizar left us carte blanche.
Some key points were essential, however: showing the Spinosaurus while swimming, his webbed feet, show its prey in the environment of Kemkem, possibly including all the major players in the scene, Mawsonia, Alanqa and Carcharodontosaurus.
Problems: the Spinosaurus is very long, the subjects to be represented too many. It was decided first of all to exclude the Carcharodontosaurus and then framing a foreshortened Spinosaurus, which would allow us to make room for the actors. Given the size and shape of Spinosaurus we knew that we would inevitably get what I call the “Luis Rey-effect” style. So, after gathering plenty of references, I made my sketches, suggesting a frontal dynamic sight (4) and a back view (1-2-3), presenting both solutions to Nizar at last SVP in L.A.
Meanwhile the size of the final art had to be changed because from the mag they asked for a double opening page of the article. And in the same time, thanks to a friend suggestion, I drew a third version (5), with the Idea to put all them together (8).
But the scene was too crowded and we decided to use just two animals, so I tried different combinations (6).
And the best one was to put both frontal versions together, one close to the other (7).
And again the two-pages image had to be changed because NG decided to turn it in a three-pages wide illustration, something that helped me to put Mawsonia in the background (9).
When finished, before approval, the NG editorial staff asked me to put an animal familiar to the modern public, which could help the reader to feel how big was the Spinosaurus, and a turtle was the chosen one (10).
Brian Engh’s illustration:
I vaguely remember I once had seen Brian’s illustration before today and I did not put it in my archive as a reference. All my main references are these: crocodile photos, patchworks made with my 3D digital model and Dinoraul one (11).
The water view comes from an NG poster about marine reptiles (12).
Most of my illustrations have a fisheye distortion, this is not the first one I make (see on my website Scipionyx, Neptunidraco, Diplodocus–Allosaurus and others).
You can easily see from the sketches progress how a traditional vanishing point becomes gradually a curve.
This is a case of illustrative convergence. ;-)
That’s all folks, I think. If you have any other doubt, just ask. I’m at your disposal.