4 August 2020

#DrawnToGeoscience: Drawing a clearer picture of dinosaurs

Posted by Shane Hanlon

#DrawnToGeoscience is a series of posts by artists who draw about science and explain their process and inspiration while also showcasing their pieces. Learn more about contributing. This week, Stephanie Dziezyk.

I am an artist that specializes in paleoart, the visual reconstruction of extinct organisms and ecosystems, often found in the geologic record. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Studio Art with a minor in Zoology, and have been working between the realm of art and science since I started sketching birds and dinosaurs in childhood. I once attempted to only pursue a zoological career, and once attempted to only pursue fine art, but my true drive is to depict ancient animals. Doing so utilizes both my deep love of anatomy, biomechanics, ecology, and behavior, and my skills in rendering form and scene. My background and current life trajectory involve a lot of interaction with and espousal of the inherent importance of reptiles, birds, fish, and amphibians on our planet. These experiences help me simulate realistic scenarios in my illustrations and help people better connect to geologic time on a visceral level.

To me, being able to visualize an organism helps me understand their nature better, and this is especially important for organisms that no longer exist in the present day. I am endlessly taking in information that helps me see the larger picture of a creature within its environment and how it interacts with and within it. I often create smaller images depicting behavior in archosaurs, primarily of dinosaurs, with focused showcase illustrations to give a detailed account of anatomy and postulated integument. I integrate knowledge of the specimen’s fossils, the formation it was found in and its inferred environment, and the broad understanding of behavior, coloration, phylogenetic bracketing, and adaptations gleaned from the extant world of dinosaur relatives and the natural world at large.

In this image of the sauropod Euhelopus zdanskyi, after collating all of the information on the holotype and inferred anatomy from close relatives, as well as the species of plants native to the formation, I drew the animal and environment directly on a piece of Bristol Vellum hot press paper in graphite. I primarily used a .05 2B mechanical pencil, with liberal application of 4-8B graphite pencils, smudging sticks, tissue paper, and kneaded and polymer erasers. I spent about 17-20 hours on the image from start to finish.

You can see the image here on my ArtStation account, and see many other images I have created in the paleoart field. Thank you for your time, and if you have any questions or interest in commissions, I am open to discuss them!

Stephanie Dziezyk is a scientific illustrator with a steady focus on recreating extinct fauna and creating images of living species using up-to-date research and information. Find her @TricaudaeStudio.