Customising A Velociraptor.

A collaboration of McGrady Studios and Luis V. Rey.

 

My first proper dinosaur painting came late... it dates back to 1988, four years after I started frantic studies of the fascinating Dinosaur Renaissance. I didn't dare to get into it until I felt confident enough.
Dinosaurs were always 'there' since my childhood, but from the early eighties I could see them for the first time not as hieratic figures in dusty, venerable books... but now they were breathing, live animals.
Inspired by Bob Bakker and Greg Paul I decided to devote as much energy as possible to dinosaur restorations.
Obviously, what mostly captured my imagination was the daring (for that day) restorations of dinosaurs with feathers. So what I did was a painting of a fully feathered Deinonychus pack. Bakker spend a long time in front of the artwork the first time he saw it... he obviously was pleased with it and recognised my tribute to his heresies.

 

The vision of a feathered dinosaur was outlandish and heretic and got many people into trouble (including myself). Dinosaurs were traditionally restored with scaly skin under the rigorous label of "Reptilia" and most paleontologists dreaded (and still dread) what was considered more Sci-Fi or Fantasy than Science backed with hard data. Archaeopteryx was reluctantly accepted as a dinosaur but the boundary was clear: it was a bird since it had feathers. A whole class was delimited by a characteristic that today is mostly considered as a typical archosaurian trait and as an ornithodiran synapomorphy (as Peter Buchholz and George Olshevsky have recognised).

A whole array of new evidence has been piling since those old days, making the heresies more and more believable. The dromaeosaurs' hands were modified and recognised as homologous to the Archaeopteryx wings. The study of the skeleton of Velociraptor and Deinonychus turned them to be a close relative to the primordial birds. In fact, Greg Paul argued for Dromaeosaurs being recognised as flightless descendants of Archaeopteryx... and George Olshevsky went a bit further: all dinosaurs were flightless 'birds'.

More dinobirds and primitive birds were appearing in every new scientific publication: Mononykus, Confuciusornis, Iberomesornis, Patagopteryx, Protarchaeopteryx, Sinosauropteryx, Shuvuuia, Scipionyx , Rahonavis (the sickle-clawed bird) and lastly Philip Currie's new stars Protarchaeopteryx and Caudipteryx, the rage of the latest National Geographic conference in New York and Nature's paper. They are the latest nail in the coffin of the 'birds are not dinosaur descendants' theories about theropods.
From the above mentioned, evidence of keratinous protofeathers can be found at least in Mononykus,Shuvuuia and Sinosauropteryx. The two specimens of Protarchaeopteryx and Caudipteryx have clear impressions of fully formed symmetrical feathers (with that strange tuft of feathers at the end of the tail of Caudipteryx)... and while nobody doubts that Confuciusornis, Iberomesornis, Patagopteryx and Rahonavis were true primitive members of the Avian clade, they are well confirmed now as dinosaurs.

And if all this wasn't enough, recent ichno-evidence of a resting big non-avian dinosaur (possibly Dilophosaurus, early Jurassic from Massachusetts) show clear body feather impressions left on the petrified mud.
And I've been assured that there are even more feathery dinosaur specimens to be described and published in the near future. The heretic visionaries were right. This is just the beginning. The positive evidence is now for middle and small sized feathery and protofeathery theropods and negative for scales. The defenders of scaly, reptilian middle-sized dinosaurs will have to find new evidence to rebuff this evidence.

In the meantime, I must say that I've loved Charlie McGrady's Velociraptor sculptures since I saw them for the first time at the SVP meeting last year.
His model work has that natural quality that makes you feel in front of a live animal (And his reconstruction of the hands is just right, all claws and the flapping motion of a modified wing!). I decided to ask him if he would like a joint effort; a collaboration that would fulfil my ambition of seeing the three dimensional animal that I had always dreamed. Thankfully he eagerly agreed. Next thing I know I received a bunch of pieces of a Velociraptor life-size model. I didn't know where this project would take me, but I had to try. Due to lack of space and resources, my work has always been limited to the two- dimensional world of painting. Now, thanks to McGrady's talent I'm able to realise my dream. I have spent many hours of carefully building and patient, almost taxidermist restoration (which has included carving, remodelling, painting and feathery skin reconstruction) and was able to get to this point in the realisation of a feathered, life-size Velociraptor mongoliensis.
My original Deinonychus painting has mutated in Velociraptor and come to life!

As a way of 'signature', I have used the colouration that can be seen in most of my 'raptors'. The different kinds of feathers (mostly in real skin patches) have been carefully distributed for more realism. It is a work in progress (the tail is not finished, but will include a fanned, double row of feathers).

The results until now give us a completely different vision of a very different kind of animal.

Dinosaurs have Class.
They were like nothing we can see today, and at the same time they are birds. Or is it birds that are dinosaurs?
The long lineage of modified archosaurs that came down from the trees in different stages of arboreal adaptation and evolution has only one surviving branch that we recognise as Aves.
The intermediate stages and side branches were ancient Darwinian triumphs that we are barely starting to understand today.

And here's my two cents on it!

Luis Rey, London 1998.

 

Charlie McGrady can be contacted at:
CM Studio
600 N. Adams St.
Gillespie, Illinois 62033
T. 217 839 2593
FAX. 217 839 2558

 

How it was done! click for pictures of the step by step creation (note this page is not complete yet)

 

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