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The San Diego Zoo Murals – Part Eighteen

Having finished the mural depicting the contemporary wildlife of San Diego, I have returned to the San Diego Pleistocene mural. This painting examines San Diego 20,000 years ago, back when San Diego had elephants in the form of mammoths and mastodons.

Since these murals will be installed in the San Diego Zoo’s new elephant compound, I felt that the gigantic Columbia mammoth should be prominently featured in the painting. Because of its importance, I endeavored to paint a truly monumental depiction of this mighty beast.

Note that the tapir and flamingo are pretty roughly blocked in here. I decided to move the tapir as it didn’t seem to be on the same plane as the flamingo and mammoth. You can see my hasty repositioning here:

I then refined the tapir and painted out the ghost image on which the new tapir painting overlapped.

For this southern California prehistoric tapir I chose a coat pattern based upon young modern tapirs, as the coat and color patterns of the fur, feathers and scales of young animals are often vestigial throwbacks to their ancestors.

As you can see, I corrected the flamingo’s anatomy and proportions from the rough lay-in.

Note that the uniquely curved beak of the flamingo had not yet evolved.

Here’s all three animals together. I’ve also started reworking the sabertooth cats.

…and the entire painting so far:

Next: The Jaguar and Sabertooths

4 thoughts on “The San Diego Zoo Murals – Part Eighteen

  1. Bill,

    Looking wonderful! Love the CU on the tapir so we can see all that detailing and fur indications. Love the texture (and color) work on the mammoth as well.

    So great to have the opportunity to watch this all come together, including insights and pics of changes and repositions, etc.


  2. Dear Mr. Stout,

    It’s great to watch all this come together. I was wondering about the curved beak on the flamingo. Glad you cleared that up. Is it really true that the coloring of modern young mammals replicates the colors of their ancient ancestors? First time I’d heard that. I thought we were largely ignorant of the coloring on early mammals, although I know they found some preserved mammoths with hairy hides intact.

    Excuse my ignorance, but were there any prehistoric rhinos or titanotheres in prehistoric San Diego? Just wondered. They are some of my favorite animals.
    (I hope to see some modern rhinos in the wild some day too).

    Thanks again for the look at this.

    Best Wishes,

  3. Hi Rick,
    Thanks! My pleasure.

    Hi Aaron,
    Sometimes prehistoric mammal skin and hair are found preserved. I own some mammoth fur I purchased from some Siberians at the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show. They were selling mammoth skin, too (along with an entire skeleton + tusks). I saw giant ground sloth (Milodon) hair when I was down in Patagonia.

    Yes, it’s true. Often, baby animals will exhibit the markings or other artifacts of their ancestors. Baby hoatzins even have wing claws for awhile.

    That’s why I use baby monitor lizards for the striping, patterns and coloring of their ancestors, the mosasaurs.

    I painted a prehistoric San Diego rhino in my Oligocene mural for the San Diego Natural History Museum.

  4. Hello Mr Stout

    I really love your renderings of Smilodon Californicus. To me, they have a very Charles R Knight feel to them. I like how you paint them with a stocky morphology like they really were. Too often, Smilodon is not drawn or painted correctly, and many artists draw this cat much to slender, and without the large forequarters and dimunitive rear quarters that it had.



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