Holy Creeping Crinoids


A winter storm came in this morning and I can reconstruct my day from the History sidebar on Firefox. I made a less than successful model of a crinoid, and for reference took many trips to a variety of sites featuring crinoids long dead and currently alive, sitting, standing and walking; sites explaining the Upper Carboniferous and the Pennsylvanian, various fossil sites here and there, and even a little side-trip to some fossil-slab kitchen-and-bath-counter sites since we’re thinking about remodeling. Google is a wonderful thing, I might add.

My day included looks at some really weird sharks- every hear of the Ginsu Shark? It sliced, it diced. My day included sharks because my crinoid painting design includes a pair nosing around the bryozoans. Ever hear of Helicoprion? That one may have been a few million years too modern for my purposes but forget the Ginsu shark, Helicoprion’s a can-opener.

In case I forgot to mention it, I’m not a paleontologist but I’m learning as fast as I can. Looking at other paleo illustrator’s work is an education, since most of them know a LOT about their subject. And my ears and imagination perks up at this stuff big time. A good artist can convince you that these things walked the earth and swam the seas, and get you wanting to see and learn more. There are a lot of good artists out there, and the fossil record is very long.

So, as the sleet came gently down outside and encased the branches of the trees in a clear frozen shell, and the pine needles turned white and dragged the boughs to the ground, and the juncos and song sparrows picked pathetically through the empty seed hulls beneath the feeders, I put on some good music and assembled a wire, paper and foil tape crinoid facsimile.

img_3508.JPGThe instructions for doing this came out of the latest Guild of Natural Science Illustrators Journal, and is actually a great technique. In Model Making as a Scientific Illustration Tool, Marlene Hill Donnelly describes her technique for reconstructing plant forms using aluminum foil tape, very thin flexible wire, a good pair of scissors and drawings of leaves, working from herbarium sheets or fossils. I adapted this for my crinoid, which is a plant-like animal, with ferny fronds coming out of a five-sided central core. For this I peeled the paper off the back of very sticky aluminum tape, burnished it down onto the back of my drawing (scanned and repeated in Photoshop and printed out on regular inkjet paper). img_3510.JPGI then cut very carefully around the drawing and taped a thin wire down the center for a mid-rib on the back side. I next spent the next couple of hours tediously cutting tiny frondlets from the edges to the midrib of each and every frond. There were hundreds of them.
img_3512.JPGFor this I used an Eliza Gilkyson cd, a streamed Studio 360 and a Le Show. When I was finished, I assembled all the fronds, stuck them into a ball of clay and took a picture.

img_3513.JPGOh well. A bit more like a palm tree than a crinoid, I think. And what’s with that ball of clay in the middle? When the roads clear I’ll go to see if I can hit the hobby shop for, um, fuzzy pipe cleaners? Egret feathers (faux, of course)? Try again, I guess. Perhaps there’s something a little more flexible. There’s always imagination. I’ll try to remember where I put it, sometimes it’s just the thing when reality leaves you high and dry.

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