Over Christmas I had the urge to do something creative, but a little less demanding. Back in February 2014 I wrote about a small sculpture I’d created of Allosaurus fragilis, a Jurassic Theropod dinosaur. Frankly this had been lurking in a box ever since I made it, so I decided it was high time to get it out, dust it off, give it a decent paint job and finish it.
I tackle painting a sculpture like this with some of the same sensibilities reserved for making a traditional painting on canvas. The tools and paints may differ, but there are parallels, with careful control of hue and tone used to suggest texture, form and distance. However, I have to say I find this sort of task easier than painting because in some ways it feels a little like 3D colouring-in with clearly defined areas to tackle, the mouth, teeth, hands etc.
I’d spent a lot of time trying to ensure the sculpt was as accurate as I could achieve, and I also wanted to make sure my colour scheme was plausible. Allosaurus was a hunter, and as a rule of thumb standing out from your surroundings really isn’t helpful when stalking prey. So I decided on a muted palette with soft stripes and a counter change of lightish undersides and darker upper body to break up the dinosaur’s profile against the tree line. I originally intended to go quite light and sandy for the main colourway, but it evolved into what became a pleasant dusty, warm green.
I used Tamiya liquid acrylic paints in an Iwata Eclipse airbrush for the bulk of the work. Detail was added over the top using Liquitex Heavy Body acrylics and tiny brushes; my poor eyes! This dinosaur is at 1/30th scale, less than 12” from snout to tail, and in common with other small models or sculpts I started by applying a dark purple pre-shading layer over the primer. This informed both the position of the stripes, and helped to define shadowed areas under its limbs. This pre-shading is needed because the effect of ‘real’ light on something so small simply doesn’t always give a convincing ‘weight’ and presence.
Colour too has to be modified. When you view a 12” sculpt of a dinosaur from three or four feet away, it’s the equivalent of looking at the real thing at a considerable distance. At full size the atmosphere between the viewer and subject reduces contrast and makes things appear lighter and bluer. To replicate this in miniature the colours I used were deliberately lightened and toned down to achieve a more convincing reconstruction.
Dinosaurs, and all manner of prehistoric life, have been a constant passion of mine since I was a very wee person, and now as I plod merrily out of middle age, my interest still shows no signs of dwindling. While I’ll be getting back to painting with a new commission very soon, don’t be surprised if I start work on yet another dinosaur sculpture. Watch this space…