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Sunday, November 29th, 2009

Subject:Feed for new blog
Time:1:21 pm.
The simplest solution I could come up with was creating a syndicated account which can be watched from LJ:
The blog is at:
Comments: Read 10 orAdd Your Own.

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Subject:New blog
Time:11:59 pm.
My new blog is at http://animalshapes.blogspot.com - see you there!
P.S. I'll soon set up a sindycated account for the new blog so the updates can be tracked from LJ too, so if you are following this account you might want to keep watching for now. I'll post the new information ASAP.
Comments: Read 4 orAdd Your Own.

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Subject:Searching photos on Flickr, ostrich feet, lobate feet
Time:11:42 pm.
Flickr is becoming better and better as a source of good animal photos, there are so many photos that now even an odd search like "ostrich feet" returns lots of useful results.
Unluckily it requires registration to get the full size images, and it is necessary to use Firefox + Adblock to get rid of the annoying "protection" which normally prevents from downloading images, but now it is worth it. Also needed is the Greasemonkey extension ( https://addons.mozilla.org/it/firefox/addon/748 ) to have access to this life-saving script, which displays on the normal Flickr pages a direct link to the largest size of the image if it is available, so it is possible to download the hi-res picture with a single click:
Apparently this script also works on Safari.

Some pictures which show well the overall structure:


Full leg with tendons well visible:
It's amazing how most of the red stuff here is just bone and tendons with skin wrapped around them. Almost no muscles. The big muscles which move the ostrich's leg are nearly one meter far from the fingers they move - the largest muscles are extensors and flexors of the fingers. Yet they have some of the most powerful legs among large animals, even able to kill a predator or a human with one kick... this is due to their tendons which are are very efficient at storing and releasing elastic energy.
Also impressive is the fact the "heel" (actually it's the massive joint between the tarsus and the first phalanges) never actually touch the ground. The ostrich is basically mounted onto huge, permanently tense springs. :-) I wonder if there are similarities with the kangaroo feet, even though their gait is very different.

Just cute ^_^

How can this be considered ugly? :-<
These are the best images I've ever seen of lobate feet, it's one of the fundamental types of bird feet, used to walk on swampland.
Comments: Read 1 orAdd Your Own.

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

Subject:Honeypot WIP - 2
Time:9:03 pm.
Finishing the gryphon painting...

Several images NSFW!Collapse )
Comments: Read 5 orAdd Your Own.

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

Subject:Honeypot WIP - 1
Time:1:36 am.
I should really use this blog more. Since I like to do a lot of planning for pictures I guess I can show WIPs more often, and going a bit more indeep on the things I'm learning and trying along the way.

So I'll start with one of the pictures I'm currently working on. I have drawn a lot of birds lately, mostly because of the book "The Wonderful Adventures of Nils" and the documentaries of the series "The Life of Birds". Either of them is beautiful enough to make anybody fall in love with birds, but if you are exposed to both in the same period, you are doomed... they will make you grow feathers.

Several images NSFW!Collapse )
Comments: Add Your Own.

Monday, August 4th, 2008

Subject:Song of Uluru
Time:1:05 am.
She is a rather fast runner. ^_^ Mostly SFW but has what might be considered bare breasts (she is a bird and has air sacs on the chest with no nipples) so beware.
Comments: Read 5 orAdd Your Own.

Monday, January 7th, 2008

Subject:Feathers and claws
Time:8:47 pm.
A close up photo of two penguins with almost perfect feathers, showing the texture of feathers on their backs and how the size of feathers decreases near the flippers until they look almost like scales:

Not too much informative but still nice to see, a comparison of claws of different animals (follow the larger images link):
The cheetah's claws being not completely retractile are quite different from other feline claws... also never noticed before that an eagle's claws may be as long as a bear's!
Two more nice close-ups of tiger paws:
(EDIT: my skull obviously contains lemon-flavored jelly, because they are the paws of a leopard and a puma and the fur color shows it too.)

A model of Archaeopteryx, photos from the Wikipedia page:
Isn't it adorable? I'd like to hug it... for some odd coincidence it seems to have the same mallard-like pattern of my gryphon Siria too.
Comments: Read 4 orAdd Your Own.

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

Subject:Holding breath
Time:9:51 am.
This swimming tiger named Odin is quite popular on internet, though only now I have been looking better at his photos and they show a detail which I'm finding quite amazing.
It is relatively obvious that he would keep the nostrils closed underwater by contracting the muscles around them:
Being able to seal the nostrils looks like an adaptation for swimming that other felines may have too and it is not so surprising, but in many other photos he has the mouth fully open and yet it seems that almost no air is escaping from it:
These nice videos show that even when he swallows slices of meat underwater he is releasing a minimal quantity of air:
So appearently tigers can keep the airways in their throat shut as well, at least for a few seconds.

Quick look to the site which makes you wish to be licked (more or less):
Lions sure don't get to swim as much as tigers in the wild, but the visible part of their throat looks pretty similar:

So maybe lions can do it too? Maybe all big cat lovers already know the answers, but to me this is quite surprising. :-)
Comments: Read 3 orAdd Your Own.

Friday, December 7th, 2007

Subject:Curiosity-driven photos
Time:6:38 pm.
Now that everybody seems to have a hi-res digital camera, Wikipedia is becoming one of the best sources of unusual and "curiosity driven" photos of animals, I mean photos which show as much as possible the animal's features rather than going for a dramatic effect or for technical perfection. The flying foxes pages are a good example and have some excellent photos which show their gross wing structure and many nice details. I think it would be next to impossible to find something like this on a photo book. Not that I've ever seen one about flying foxes!
(NSFW) http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/7d/Foxbat-8.jpg
(NSFW) http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/2/2c/Pteropus_vampyrus_3.jpg

Even if slighly flawed these two are amazing, they give more anatomical information than whole yearly runs of many nature magazines. :-)

Also some cute babies:

From another site, this is the best bat skeleton I have seen so far:
Comments: Read 1 orAdd Your Own.

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

Subject:Beavers and skulls
Time:11:05 pm.
Closeup of beaver teeth. Some years ago I used to find very creepy the sight of spongy bones (and body tissues in general) like the ones at the base of these...
More photos, these can be enlarged to a decent size with right-click->View Image:
Two (smaller) views of the open maw:
Well anchored teeth appearently:
Altough some animals like the Barbirusa hog cling even more fiercely to their teeth, the lower one is so large it probably makes the jaw bone a lot stronger with its mere presence:

Also stumbled upon this page, there are some interesting high resolution reconstructions of the gross anatomy of an ancient relative of mammals with a beaver-like tail:
The shape of the shoulder blades is especially cute, appearently it had a large and rigid bone structure in place of the sternum and shoulders, much like a second pelvis and actually much larger than the lower one. The shoulder blades make me think of vertical levers. I'd really like to know how they were moved.
The back of the rib cage looks almost like a protection shell, which is also quite cute.

Excellent photo of cougar skull showing the thin bone sheets inside the nose which support the olfactory mucosa. It is so well preserved and with such perfect teeth that it makes me feel sorry for the cougar it comes from, even if it might be a reconstruction...
Same bones are also visible here, this time it is a coyote. There is a visible difference, they look much more branched and finely carved here. I guess there is quite some difference in the total surface of the mucosa (but in part I think it is due to the coyote being much smaller and needing more branching to fit enough sniffing surface in its snout).
Comments: Read 1 orAdd Your Own.

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

Subject:Two finished commissions
Time:12:02 am.
Comments: Read 4 orAdd Your Own.

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

Subject:"Happy Feet"'s Oscar
Time:10:04 pm.
I have heard very mixed reactions to this, but I think that it was a rightful choice even if my justification has probably nothing to do with the jury's.

Plot spoilers aheadCollapse )
Comments: Read 6 orAdd Your Own.

Monday, February 26th, 2007

Subject:Feathery sketches
Time:12:58 am.
This is a puffin trying to save a horribly drawn human girl after a bad dive too near to some rocks...Collapse )

This is a working class puffin at work in the market.Collapse )
Yeah, that's clichè work for a puffin, but then most people don't do original works. :-] I definitely need to finalize some of these pictures with humans now or I will never ever learn to draw them...

This is a depressed puffin.Collapse )
Absolutely NSFW.
I was just thinking that many old school furry stories were sympathetic to anthros exploited as sex slaves and dealt with themes such as liberation, becoming dignified creatures, etc. The concept of "furry liberation" was the fandom's badge of honor, actually. But now the furry fandom mostly accepts without problem the exploiting of anthros for porn and is mostly based upon it.
I know that in current western culture self-humiliation on the media is actually a way to gain sympathy and maybe even something similar to respect, but nevertheless something feels amiss. We have met the enemy, and he is really us...

And this is a baby puffin, about 3-4 years old.Collapse )
The are excellent swimmers. In fact they swim better and faster than adults since their wings develop faster than the body. They also develop swimming and catching instinct at a very early age, so a baby puffin has decent chances of surviving alone in the wild if there is open water nearby. The wing reach their final size about at the age of sexual maturity, around 13.
Fast developing wings also force babies to use a lot their pectoral muscles, thus developing them well without too much specific training required.
Comments: Read 11 orAdd Your Own.

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

Subject:Happy days
Time:10:46 pm.
I'd like to paint some more background but couldn't find anything interesting for now, so it's probably finished:
http://www.snowcovered.it/gallery_pics/2007/s_happy_days.html (NSFW!)
Comments: Read 3 orAdd Your Own.

Saturday, January 13th, 2007

Subject:Working on horses
Time:12:11 am.
A new WIP, this time gouache. Maybe horse-taurs don't have to be "stiff" and specialized like horses, I thought they could be a bit more flexible.
Sorry for the really poor looking scan, I could'nt make it any better than this for now. Ochre and sienna and blue over brown paper seems to confuse a lot the scanner. The blue is not a scanning artifact though, I've actually used it for the shadows.
I am now working on a couple commissions too, one for a painting which I've begun already and another with other taurs...
Comments: Read 7 orAdd Your Own.

Monday, January 1st, 2007

Subject:Notes on swimming anthros
Time:8:25 pm.
Some time ago I have seen the beautyful documentary series "The life of Birds" by David Attenborough and episode 4 made me notice that birds can actually be very good swimmers. I had never thought that morphs adapted for swimming and water life might be designed taking ideas from sea birds rather than cetaceans and fishes, but after seeing the swimming skills of cormorants, puffins and penguins I think that wing-propelled swimming could be the best option for a creature with humanoid legs. I'm now designing anthro puffins, a species more or less like this:

Emperor penguins are as large as a small human and can swim pretty fast. Not quite as fast as a dolphin, but an anthro dolphin with legs in the way of his tail would probably be slower and less agile anyway. Dolphins and fishes achieve their speed thanks to their very specific body shape and the flux of water around it and dolphins in particular rely on reducing turbulence to the absolute minimum to achieve their very high speed with minimal effort; their body shape and even their skin structure is adapted for that goal. They swim mostly by vertical movement of the tail.

For now I'm not thinking much about senses, only of the basic and external anatomy. Anatomical traits I would like for an anthro creature designed for water:

1) In general: better swimming skills, while being naked and not especially trained, than a trained human with fins and scuba gear. Else it wouldn't probably be worth the effort. She should be able to live a sea creature's life without any equipment or technology.
2) Either organs for breathing underwater or very good adaptations for holding breath for a long time.
3) Ability to walk and move decently on the surface.
4) Having a good top speed, probably a dolphin's speed is impossible to achieve but she should be able to catch fishes with teeth/beak, to make fast turns and to have some pretty good speed bursts, the latter two are things that a swimming human cannot do easily.
5) Energy-savy body and good endurance. They should be able to swim everyday for a long distance with a relaxed pace and saving energy.
6) Good thermal regulation ability in cold water. It is a complex problem because a big brain like a human's or cetacean's produces a lot of heat and there are blood cooling needs as well as insulation needs depending on the body part. But in general all the thicker parts of the body (head, torso, abdomen etc.) should be well insulated.

Some problems of the "classic" anthro cetaceans I've seen and drawn so far (like in http://www.snowcovered.it/gallery_pics/2004/s_haven.html ) with the above points:

1) Assuming he has legs with webbed feet:
- He could have legs which move up and down along with the tail seconding its movement. But this is weirdly redundant while the simpler solution (only the tail) works really well on most animals. The base of the tail has to be very muscular and thick, and legs need to be muscular as well in order to be useful for walking, so it seems hard to make all the needed muscles fit. Not counting the extra thickness required by insulating fat.
- He could keep the legs more or less motionless in some position which doesn't disrupt the tail's movement. But the tail needs to move a lot in order to give a good push, so the legs would probably be in a position where they increase resistance to the water flux.
- Ho could have some unusual leg structure so the legs are placed on the side of the body and can be used like the feet of diving birds (cormorants etc.) as a secondary swimming device. The tail would be the main propeller and the legs would serve for manoeuvering and for a small extra pus without getting in its way. But diving birds are all quite goofy on the ground and such legs wouldn't probably be very good for walking.

2) Cetaceans are very good at this. The blowhole on the top of the head is not perfect for being on the ground though, it is exposed to things falling from above, which is not good and can be awkward in many cases. Artist APIS has shown a blowhole in a different position, which is interesting but probably not much fit for fast emersion and breating the cetacean way:
The back of the head could be a better position for breating (by Mike T.):
Yet it is hard to reach with hands and this can be dangerous, and I think it is not easy to design a good neck with such a setup. For now I don't have better ideas yet.

3) Related to 1. Is a large dolphinlike tail good when you need to work in a office? Take the bus? Sit on a human made chair? Use a toilet made for humans? Run fast? Climb a ladder? Do a complex manual work like carpentry or masonry? Probably not. I like such tails and I'm giving it to my Elysius gryphons for now but maybe it is not such a good things.

4-5) It is very hard to do comparisons because cetaceans and humans swim in very different ways, and figuring out an intermediate model of swimming is eve harder. In general turbulence is bad and legs are going to cause turbulence with their mere presence, so basing the swimming skill on a tail movment which is further disrupted by them doesn't seem nice.
Humans are best fit for water than many other large mammals but must resort to very complex swimming techniques to minimize the waste of energy. I don't know much about professional swimming, but I'd guess correct freestyle is a good compromise between speed and energy use for a human. According to the 1991 Guinness Book of Records the longest distance covered with continuous swimming by a human was 481,5 km in a quiet river in 84 hours and 101,9 km was the top distance in a pool in 24 hours, but I couldn't find any information on the styles and equipment used for such records. Incredibly I can't even find the speed records of swimming with fins. Anyway a human's top speed is about 2,5 m/s, that is 5-7 times less than the average speed for small cetaceans:
For the above records the average speed turns out to be 1,5 m/s and 1,17 m/s, so the gap is huge even for swimmers with an exceptional endurance who probably know well how to spare energy during long swims. At this point I'd really like to know the speed and endurance records for dolphin beat swimming, but even that wouldn't give many clues on the possible efficiency of an antrho dolphin.
Penguin swimming speed is more comparable to human speed, for example a traveling (relaxed) speed of about 2 m/s and double that speed for short fish chase:
During migration they travel for days at 0,7 m/s average, but this number doesn't take into account hours of resting and fishing, so probably they can keep the traveling speed for several days:
So they can't keep up with cetaceans but they are almost twice as fast as humans on endurance swimming. Not bad.

6) The insulation is mostly given by fat under the skin in cetaceans. One problem is the neck. A cetacean has almost no neck and cannot bend the head, but an anthro one would definitely want to bend the head 90° so he can stand and look forward. So he'd probably get some strange "love handles" on the throat and have wrinkles in other places on the body. Not a problem by itself, but this means he must have a certain amount of loose skin around and this would be another source of turbulence. Appearently seals and penguins have less problems here because fur and feathers can conceal small wrinkles and trap air bubbles, which leaves the outmost surface of the body smooth.

Still looking for more information...
Comments: Read 16 orAdd Your Own.

Saturday, November 11th, 2006

Time:5:05 pm.
Uploaded several new pictures from the last few days, inluding a couple today:

They probably look a bit unusual. :-) I recently realized I am dependant on pencil and eraser whenever I want to do a complex picture. The fact is I actually do a lot of anatomy and perspective errors when drawing and spend a lot of time correcting them, but now the time required for corrections in my pencil pictures is really getting out of hand, and I correct so much that I feel I'm no longer being honest about my skills.

So I am going to set aside pencils for a while and experiment more with undeletable media, with no pencil sketch underneath. For example with India ink, which I haven't used in a long long time...
Comments: Read 1 orAdd Your Own.

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006

Subject:Meal with friends and other things
Time:12:17 am.
It's done:

Also updated the junk section:
- Kirins have three eyes, they are herm and they are Made in India. Well, my kirins do at least. Sticking a thirs eye on an equine muzzle doesn't look easy though.

- Flying foxes under test.

- Forest foxtaurs, tree climbing enabled. :-)

The last idea sparked from discussions over the Stellar Foxtaurs of Bernard Doove and how they are adapted to their respective niches. I tried to design a creature which looks more or less like a foxtaur but is even more adapted for a forest environment by having all prehensile limbs. The tail is similar to the chakasa tail, with a "finger pad" for better grip, but in this case the pad runs for the entire length of the tail. In general I think they can be more adapted than a regular foxtaur in other environments too, especially in cramped ones where being good runners is not very important but having a flexible body is good, for example in cities and inside all sort of vehicles.

The underlying idea is the old gorillataur one, but these foxtaurs are much smaller than a gorilla so I looked for orangutan and babboon references.

On the ground thought they walk like gorillas, on the knuckles of their middle hands, because it looks a quite good gait. They cannot run or march as well as most canids do, but they can still reach a fair speed on short distances. They have more or less the same mass of an average human.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

Subject:Dreamwalk Journal
Time:11:02 pm.
I've just found a really weird comic in 3D graphics (not worksafe):

It shows many crazy and very interesting ideas, and cute designs of anthro insects. I like the slightly toony eyes and bee heads, altought they could have been more insect-like as for most other insects. The spider heads and the giant dragonfly are especially well built.
Comments: Read 3 orAdd Your Own.

Friday, September 1st, 2006

Subject:Sources of good anatomical information
Time:6:02 pm.
For people willing to learn unusual and complex things this is a golden age like few others in history. I mean, before the internet how much hard it would have been for a non-biologist (and even for many biologists) to find penguin anatomy sheets?
And what about some thylacine sheets?

Got there from this wonderful blog:
The author appearently browses university and library catalogs looking for old illustrated books, among which there are often anatomy books (and many beautyful books onmany other subjects, including old fable books etc.).
As I am growing more interested in animal anatomy I find these books are invaluable. Older anatomy illustrations may not be as easy to read as modern ones, but they have some important advantages for artists:
- Illustrations were meant to be beautyful and not just schematic. Thus the authors used to portray bodies from unusual points of view and taking some (usually small) degrees of freedom in the representation. This often allowed them to show better the shape of certain body parts which are not easy to figure out basing on the standard sections illustrated in medical anatomy books. Some authors also indulged in very complex poses and compositions, especially in the oldest books:
- They were often shaded with great care, because no photographs were available and thus they needed to represent volumes correctly. Thus they are often a very good reference for understanding volumes.
- Since they were less schematic, they were more accurate and showed exactly what the author was seeing, rather than omitting details like lesser veins. Also I have found that they used to represent in a much more accurate way the blurring of cartilage tissue into muscles (e.g. in animal legs).
- They stress a lot compared anatomy.

Another source of excellent anatomy information are pages of university courses. For example this gallery (WARNING: gruesome dissection photos) has many high resolution photos of bones and organs of sea lions:
On other university sites I have found things as useful as sections of dog fingers and photos of bones with superimposed illustration of transparent muscles showing exactly where they attach on the bones.

Some sites of the trivia kind can also be useful for learning compared anatomy, for example this archive with hundreds of photos of... yawning animals.

Some pages can be more controversial. This site has an extensive collection of photos and information about cats, including many pages on deformities and mutations:
Showing in detail things like cyclopean stillborn kittens is on the brink of morbidness, but in this case it is done in a quite scientific and respectful way, and I found it useful for understanding certain things about deformities. In the end you cannot learn without noticing on your own details in real examples. The people who took the photos often had no clue on what to do in the unexpected event or didn't want or know how to suppress the kitten, so taking the photos likely didn't make the kitten's suffering longer, and seeing this site may spare the shock to other people later so they can have more resolve to do what must to be done.

There is a lot of useful stuff waiting out there...
Comments: Read 4 orAdd Your Own.

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