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The San Diego Zoo Murals – Part Nineteen

I refined the California condor a bit, focusing on the exact structure and shape of its flight feathers. It’s not finished yet. I need to subdue the black in those wings and give the wing farthest from the viewer some atmospheric haze to suggest size.

The cartooned roughness of the gray fox was bothering me so I painted a more structured lay-in of the animal. Then I refined it a bit more, paying careful attention to the size relationship between its body and its relatively small head:

It still needs some work, of course, but I’m very happy with its size in relation to the other animals and with its body proportions.

I put a little more work into this sabertooth cat (Smilodon). I like my sabertooths to have a real Charles R. Knight feel to them; he was the most marvelous big cat artist.

I did some very basic changes to the sabertooth by the pool, mostly general anatomical corrections.

I continued to work on the black bear. I realized that all four of the major animals on the left of the mural (mastodon, mountain lion, black bear and jaguar) were all facing the same direction and that they were pretty evenly spaced from each other, too. BORING! I had to do something to break that up. The first thing I did was to have the black bear face left rather than right. That helped the picture enormously.

As you can see, I have nearly completed the laborious job of painting this prehistoric giant jaguar’s spots. Note that they vary in size and shape according to where they are placed on the body.

Quick quiz: How can you tell the difference between a jaguar and a leopard? Jaguars have shorter legs than leopards (better for running through the underbrush of the jungle). The major spots of a jaguar have small dots in their center; leopard spots don’t.

The pelt color surrounding the spots was a bit too light in areas, so I glazed over those parts. I also wanted that in-between-the-spots color to be different in value and color from the background colors.

The bear and jaguar are still not finished but they’re getting closer to completion…

I wanted to change the pose of the mountain lion, too. I quickly blocked in this twisting gesture. The steps that follow show how it developed.

This one is pretty finished. Why the color shift? For convenience’s sake, I shot all but the last picture from the comfort of my shaded porch, hence, the cooler colors. I shot the last mountain lion image in full sun.

Here’s how the Mountain lion, bear and jaguar look together at this stage:

I turned my attention to the giant ground sloth, the southern Pacific rattlesnake and the roadrunner.

I began refining the anatomy and shaggy fur of the sloth. This big, sweet beast has become a favorite of my wife and neighborhood passersby who stop and check out the mural as I paint it on my front porch.

I moved the roadrunner’s tail down so that it no longer overlapped the ground sloth’s paw (it was confusing there).

Roadrunner feather patterns are complex. I was more concerned, though (especially after repainting the roadrunner in the other zoo mural about four times), with establishing the proper size of the bird in relation to the other animals so that I would only have to paint this little guy once. I nailed it the first time out and then added the feather detail.

I had more leeway with the rattlesnake as they can vary greatly in size. My attention became focused on the snake’s color and scale patterns, as this is what differentiates this rattler from other rattlesnakes.

Here is how the three creatures look together at this point (the rattler and roadrunner are pretty much done):

Toward the end of the day yesterday I started refining the giant prehistoric camels.

Did they have humps or not? Llamas, guanacos and alpacas are camel family members that don’t have humps. I am thinking about showing them both with and without. It might make for some interesting paleontological discussions.

Most of my new work on the mural was painted on the left half of the picture. Here’s that half as it stands today:

This is the full mural (you can click on any of these images to make them larger):

It’s coming along!

Next: The Bobcat Gets a Do-Over

2 thoughts on “The San Diego Zoo Murals – Part Nineteen

  1. Its coming along quite well. The jaguar looks great, and you really nailed the pose of the rattlesnake. I feel like if I look at it long enough, it will strike! Oh, and your roaring saber-tooth cat is fierce. I feel sorry for the creatures that fell victim to its hunger.

    I’d often wondered how effective a saber-tooth’s bite could be with its extremely long canines. It seemed like the teeth would be in the way of getting a good bite. But, then I learned that the saber-tooth’s jaw could open 120 degrees for a really deep bite! Teeth like knives and hundreds of pounds of muscle….what a combination!

    I’ll check in from time to time to see how its progressing. Its very impressive!

  2. I agree, Lee. I’ve always loved sabertooths, and the sloth, rattlesnake and jaguar are really wonderful.

    And I continue to appreciate Bill making time to shoot stages, showing how the painting of the animals develops. It’s like watching magic happen before your eyes.

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