As I finish up the work on the giant camel for the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, I begin the work on the more giant elasmosaurus, a 30 foot marine reptile from the Cretaceous. It was a plesiosaur, one of the long-necked, small-headed flippered animals that swam the seas of Oklahoma about 95 million years ago. I’m starting with a lot of research, including a wonderful website: http://www.oceansofkansas.com, and another called http://www.plesiosauria.com/. Great pics of fossils, lots of information and links to papers, including a very useful one on locomotion in plesiosaurs. I’ve been looking at a lot of photos of monitor lizards, especially the Goanna, which has a very pretty skin pattern, and which I was lucky enough to see on a trail in Australia. I was deeply impressed, as you can tell.
A morning at the OKC zoo was rewarding, as there is a tank of sea lions with an underwater window. From there I photographed sea lions as they swept past the glass, watching how they turned and banked and used their flippers, and how the rippling light filtering down from the surface played over their bodies.
I’ve done a couple of sketches from the skull diagrams the museum supplied, added flesh, skin pattern and some special lighting effects. Now I am making small models, first of the body for position and lighting, and a larger scale one of the head. Toothy smile to be added as soon as I can run out and get some sculpy clay. I’m doing the models in wire, foil, duct tape, plastic straws, plastilene clay and thin aluminum sheeting. And those glowing orange eyes? Antique bakelite beads from an old necklace I took apart. Sacrificed for science. But for the teeth, I want to make individual pieces that can be shaped, baked hard in the oven and inserted into the jaws. More to come.