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Paleoart: Changyuraptor yangi

I have finally finished my long worked upon paleoart reconstruction of the four-winged dinosaur Changyuraptor yangi. In total, the painting probably took 80-100 hours. And since it took so long, I have some thoughts about its construction, so here they are.

Bust

I gave Changyuraptor a red face because I thought it looked neat. I made the face featherless because in modern-day carrion eating birds (such as vultures), they have bald faces to limit the growth of microbes that might occur from meat caught amongst feathers. Raptors such as eagles often have feathered faces with only bald beaks. I figure that C.’s jaws would have been less efficient than a raptor’s beak, so it may have needed to get its face and teeth right in there, thus necessitating baldness.

According to another paleoartist, the nostril is in completely the wrong place. It should be much closer to the tip of the snout. The same artist says that the brows are not supported by the fossil evidence. In planning the painting, I could not discern these features from the fossil so my imagination took over.

I intended on making C. angry at being disturbed over its meal. I wanted the top head feathers to be raised in a show of aggression – similar to a mammal. However, I accidentally made them completely different feathers to the rest of the head, inadvertently giving C. a crest.

Legs and prey

The prey item is Akidolestes, a mammal that lived around the same time and area with Changyuraptor. It was quite fun painting this mammal after having spent so much time on feathers. If you zoom in, you can see little rodent-like teeth of Akidolestes.

I got the toe configuration incorrect. I missed the smaller hallux toes and accidentally placed the enlarged toe in the middle, rather than on the insides of the feet.

A defining feature of the microraptorines is their ‘leg wings’, which are almost always depicted as being constantly splayed. I imagine that to be an awkward set up, so I ‘folded up’ C.’s leg wings, like a bird’s wings might fold up. I don’t know what the palaeontological evidence says about this, I couldn’t find any.

Body

I based C.’s colour scheme on raptorial birds (owls, hawks etc.) because I assumed those animals were that colour for hunting purposes. Lighter underbelly, brownish dorsal surface/wings.

Wing

Here’s Changyuraptor‘s wing. Its hand is coming out from underneath the wing and is supposed to bend in towards the animal’s chest in a clutching motion.

Bird’s nest fern

I had fun making a concerted effort to paint a plant (which I hadn’t really done before). I doubt bird’s nest ferns were around when C. was, but I had trouble identifying smaller contemporaneous non-flowering plants. Interestingly, the best way to paint the leaves was very similar to that required for the feathers: ‘barbs’ radiating from a central shaft. I’m just as happy with the final product of the fern as I am with the dinosaur.

Here’s me and the final product, for scale. The painting is 100 cm x 80 cm. Now to find space in our small abode….