You know, doing science tattoo designs is an aspect of my current career I never would have guessed I'd be doing 10 years ago. They're challenging and fascinating. Each time I feel really honoured someone would like their body graced by one of my images. When author of Written in Stone Brian Switek asked me about designing a tattoo, I was really excited. Brian's one of my favourite bloggers, both at Wired's Laelaps and the Smithsonian's Dinosaur Tracking, and who I have also been lucky enough to meet at ScienceOnline the past few years. Great guy. Right away, he knew what he wanted: allosaurus in the death pose in blackline. I headed to the Royal Ontario Museum, which has an allosaurus mount scurrying under the new signature barosaurus named Gordo.
I took these photos since they're backlit, and that's helpful for a blackline tattoo, but in the end I didn't reference them.
While I was drawing this from the original skeleton, Gregory Paul patted me on the head, gave me a doggy treat and said, "Good boy!". Then he whacked my nose with a rolled up newspaper. Yeah, I was confused too.
Instead, even tough it was to be a blackline, silhouette design, I like to start by standing in the museum and drawing a detailed sketch of the skull, hands and feet
I drew the body separately, and Photoshopped the head on. For those not familiar with this pose, most terrestial vertebrates, from dinosaurs to rabbits can be found in this extreme back-arched pose after they die. The thinking is that it's likely ligaments and tissues around the deceased animal's spine tend to dry out first, tightening and contorting the body.
Above is a screenshot of me inking the skull using ArtRage Studio Pro, my favourite digital painting program. I found the basic billboard marker gave me the lines I liked.
Brian was getting this tattoo in part to mark a transition: from his home state of New Jersey to Utah, and the allosaurus is Utah's state dinosaur. So as I neared completion of the skeleton drawing, I started thinking about different ways to make this tattoo design more personal to Brian, and not just a random dino fossil.
So I sent him this image below in an email, and asked if he could find the Easter Eggs:
Do you see them?
The coloured-in portions are in the shape of a tiny New Jersey (green) and Utah (coral).
After looking at a few variations, such as all-black with no outlines, a broken tail, and so on Brian settled on the image above. I like this one too: the solid black ribs, leg and skull are offset by the outlined vertebrae. I think it breaks up the image in an interesting way, and visually makes the image clearer to someone who may not be familiar with the dinosaur death pose.
Here's Brian with the finished piece, done by Jon at Heart of Gold Tattoo.
Thanks Brian! That was really fun and I love how the final version turned out. Badass allosaurus.
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For more of my science tattoo designs, check out the following links:
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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.
Find me on Symbiartic, the art+science blog on the new Scientific American Blog Network!