Tuesday, 2 December 2014

A new blog necessitates an introduction

Hi, and thanks for checking in on my blog. I daren't say anything too earth-shattering here, as this is my first post, but I'll say enough so as to introduce myself and let you know my master plan or, as homage to recent Doctor Who developments, 'Mistress Plan'.

I graduated in BA (Hons) Scientific & Natural History Illustration in 2002, having spent a good deal of it drawing, painting and modelling Mesozoic reptiles. It was during this time that I also began illustrating commercially, but I'll save those details for a CV page in the near future. Suffice to say that I've continued to illustrate, occasionally for money, but recent months have seen me change direction slightly. Whilst straightforward one-offs, or occasionally batches for publishers, are great, there simply isn't that much work out there for the would-be full-time palaeoartist and it is for that reason that I'm going the self-publishing route. And this time I'm not jacking in the day job. I've done that before. It didn't end well.

So, I'm writing a book, doing it all myself. I don't have to hunt down that rarest of things: a palaeontology book project without an illustrator. This is actually my second book. The first was a compilation of email correspondence between me and a real-life email scammer. It came about by accident, after I sent a throw-away reply from a redundant email account to one of those dodgy emails from someone in Burkina Faso. Inexplicably, the exchange continued for several weeks and, at the suggestion of a couple of people following the updates on Facebook, I threw it together and uploaded it to a print-on-demand service, here.

It was one of those annoying little distractions, but it was a good learning experience. As far as books go, it won't share shelf space with Dickens, but you might find it next to The Heart Felt Letters. My current project is palaeontologically themed, focusing on those famous cousins of the dinosaurs, the pterosaurs - hence the name of this blog. Now, there are many excellent overview-style books, such as the slightly-dated Wellnhofer's Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Pterosaurs or Mark Witton's must-have Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy, and I am keen not to repeat that format. So I can't cover pterosaurs as a whole, but I can pick one and tell its story.

And tell its story I will, literally. And graphically. Imagine a wildlife documentary, set in the Late Cretaceous but storyboarded as per a graphic novel. That's what I'm aiming for. And the star? Nyctosaurus gracilis, which is a smallish pterosaur, closely related to the giant Pteranodon. Like Pteranodon, it possessed a crest, though Nyctosaurus's crest is proportionally much larger; the distance from its beak tip to the top of the crest is approximately equal to the length of one of its wings. It looks weird. Weird and magnificent and perfectly adapted to a life on the wing. Uniquely (as far as we know) it had lost manual digits I, II and III, retaining only the long wing finger, and even this was reduced to three phalanges. Crazy head gear and crazy wings. Surely the perfect candidate for a graphic novel about the life story of a pterosaur?

The book's already well underway, suffering the usual bumps in the road which life likes to throw at worthwhile projects. The next stage is the tough bit: getting on with it.

Nyctosaurus: Life and Death of a Late Cretaceous Pterosaur is scheduled for release some time in 2014, and hopefully before Flugsaurier '15.  It will be published by Ecen Books.

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