This week we continued work with our animal self portraits, developing them into characters. The assignment was to expand on the self portrait by picking 5-7 traits and making a model sheet. To complement the model sheet, we had to write about the character’s environment and interactions with others.
I started this assignment by writing. I used the character shopping list and character questions to guide me and I made a list of all the things I knew, or was developing, about my character. I decided that he was observant, caring, and likes to take it easy. That he eats a lot and doesn’t go out into the open after dark. He is loyal to other thessies and will try to protect them even though he can’t do much to defend himself or anyone else. He’s afraid of being eaten and sometimes worries too much.
The next step was to translate these characteristics into a model sheet. I had to visit the American Museum of Natural History for another class so, while I was there, I took a quick tour through their dinosaur halls for inspiration. I also studied the examples we looked at briefly in class, read through Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, and watched some dinosaur videos on National Geographic. Then I tried my hand at drawing Thes from different angles and with different expressions. I didn’t get very far. My drawing skills are so limited I couldn’t convey much range and I kept getting caught up in trying to correct my mistakes. I thought about a different way to complete the assignment and remembered that at AMNH I’d seen a bunch of little dino models within the exhibition, usually positioned next to the fossils to give visitors more context. I decided I would try to model Thes and then photograph him in different postures.
I built the clay model which, while still difficult, was slightly easier than drawing. I again used the example model sheets for reference and molded the face in different ways. I set up some scenes with plants and other dinos as props and did a series of photo shoots. I can’t say the results are exactly what I would have liked, but I think it’s a marked improvement over anything I could have done with pen and paper. If I use this method again I will sculpt each head separately instead of re-sculpting the same one over and over. Also, I will use more flexible armature wire so that the body can be re-positioned more easily (that was something I had trouble with, I wanted to bring in more body movement but couldn’t get the materials to cooperate).
Here are the best photos followed by a description of the environment and interactions with others:
Thescelosaurus lived during the Late Cretaceous period and became extinct 65 million years ago. During his heyday, he roamed around a prehistoric North America with other thessies, spending time near rivers and lakes and eating vegetation such as flowering plants, magnolias, ficus, and sassafras. But life wasn’t all socializing and grazing, Thes had limited physical abilities (no armor and can’t run well) and would have been a target for predators. The dominant predator at this time was the infamous Tyrannosaurus Rex and he would have gobbled up thessies without a second thought. Because of his non-existent defense mechanisms, Thes didn’t spend much time out in the open at night. When the sun went down, he retreated to his nesting area with other thessies.
Thes takes notice. He’s observant, always looking around for predators and changes in the environment. This is a good quality and of use to someone with few means of defense, but this also leads to a kind of neurotic fretfulness and paranoia. Thes doesn’t let this get him down. Because he’s often around friends and family and eating constantly he’s generally in good spirits. Thes loves to exchange stories and just shoot the shit while grazing. One thing that makes Thes a good conversationalist is that he’s inquisitive and curious. He uses storytelling to better understand his friends and the world around him. Lately this has been a difficult task. First it was hot, then it got really cold. So cold that sometimes Thes has to huddle close to the other thessies for warmth. At times, Thes feels very afraid that the temperature changes mean something big is coming, and it’s not going to be good.