“Designing a Theriotype” by Sonne; 8/1/2009

One of the difficult and tricky things to identifying myself as having a non-extant theriotype is trying to figure out what that animal was—what it looked liked, how it behaved, what type of environment(s) it may have lived in, and so forth.  There’s of course some possibility of mine being a fantastical creature that never actually existed (on Earth), though from what I’ve managed to piece together, it appears to be an animal that correlates strongly to some type of extinct animal, more specifically within a broad grouping of avian-like, feathered (and winged) theropod dinosaurs.  Trying to fit things like behavior, among some other things, to the actual, extinct animal is unfortunately not an advantage I get to have with this theriotype, so I’m mainly having to go off of appearance, particularly in form and structure based on my own understanding of what I believe this animal type is like.  However, even that has been tasking because it doesn’t seem to be a well known dinosaur, proto-avian, or “pseudo-avian”, like the more widely recognized “raptors” and possible proto-avians (velociraptor, deinonychus, utahraptor, archaeopteryx, microraptor, to name a few).

I’ve wandered through visual artist renditions of many different dinosaurs in the broad categories I feel my theriotype may fall under (or be closely related to), though that’s very limiting itself because of a very small amount, if sometimes any, depictions being available online of some of the really obscurely known about dinosaurs, and even fossil photos can be hard to find for some of them (or that I may not be able to tell much from the fossil as compared to a good artist’s rendition).  Eventually I decided that the benefit this kind of searching was offering me was not in the form of finding a specific identified dinosaur that has been named and classified that I can point to and say “that’s what my theriotype is”, but instead it gave me a clearer idea of what different parts of this theriotype’s body, form, and structure likely are.  I had a basis for refining various sections of my theriotype’s form by determining what seemed to “fit”, not fit, or come relatively close to fitting what I have been able to understand my theriotype to be like.  This is a process that I also tied into extant birds, mainly cranes, seriemas, peafowl, secretary birds, and a few others, because by looking to those extant examples of birds over the past few years, I’ve been able to do a similar process of refining a “fit vs. doesn’t fit” knowledge of my theriotype’s appearance.

I saw myself—my theriotype—in the non-sickle-clawed feet of some dinosaurs, like ornithomimus and oviraptor, as two examples.  The front wings of microraptor, along with its end-of-tail feather fan, felt accurate to me, though with some differences in wings (possibly a little wider and longer proportionally for mine).  The head shape and body shape I was more unsure about, so to better assist me in putting all these seemingly disjointed parts together and being able to visually understand the remaining ones I hadn’t determined yet, I looked to skeletal drawing references that have silhouettes of the flesh and muscle around the skeletons.  As I searched through those, I compared and contrasted them to each other and to what I personally feel and understand of my theriotype, and kept up with the body parts from certain dinosaurs that I felt fit me, and moved on to look to other dinosaurs for the remaining parts.  Then I finally started to literally piece them together in a Photoshop composition of parts from different skeletal drawings until I got a creature that felt as though it aligned rather well to my theriotype. 

From there, I used that as a reference in drawing the animal—to give it flesh, feathers, scales, and eyes—although to get the proportions and certain body parts to work out right in drawing, I had to alter them some, so I feel that the body length maybe somewhat longer than it should be, the neck a slight bit shorter, and the legs a little bit shorter than they seem they should be.  However, in the finished line art of the animal (which I’ve been calling “erdvogel”, meaning earth-bird, as it is a primarily ground-dwelling, bird-like dinosaur), I feel it’s still fairly well reflective of my theriotype, even with some of its inaccuracies that I may fix in later depictions I hope to make of it.  It’s also nice to do a digitally colored version, which I feel gives more depth and “life” to the animal compared to just the line art, even though I’ve taken some artistic liberties with the digital painting and had to just decide on colors, patterns, and the shape of the head crest feathers because these are aspects I haven’t been able to determine or even get a feel much for “this seems right” compared to my theriotype.

If I do make more drawings of this theriotype, I’m preferring them to focus on presenting it as more bird-like than dinosaur-like.  I’m wanting to show some poses of its bird-like behaviors, if I can manage to capture them into drawings well at some point.  Though it’s unfortunate that I don’t have a realistic way (for me) to depict it in video/motion, so drawings of basically ‘snapshots’ of behavior will have to suffice.

After having done the basic, initial art for this theriotype of mine, I can notice even more the similarities that it holds to already discovered (and art-depicted) dinosaurs.  The closest comparisons seem to be the troodontids, yet their sickle claws don’t fit my theriotype, and from the ones I’ve seen so far, they don’t appear to have long enough and wide enough wing feathers.  However, the erdvogel looks like it may have actually existed, so I wonder if or when a very similar, fairly accurate fossil will be discovered of this kind of creature (and the hopefully subsequent artist depictions that would come of it); it’s an interesting thought I like to have.  Nevertheless though, I still will not be able to know for sure many specifics of the real, extinct animal that correlates so accurately to my theriotype (assuming it even existed), so I have to just look to and take comfort in better recognizing and understanding various aspects of this theriotype of mine based on my own experiences, sensations, shifts, and so forth, and piecing together more comprehension of it as an animal through internal and external information and comparisons.

These are the two versions (winged and wingless) I have for the erdvogel, and a picture of the unfinished colored versions (colored pencil and digital):