Lonchidion, a prehistoric shark

Lonchidion

This is a drawing of Lonchidion, a hybodont shark from the Mesozoic Era. There were at least eleven different species, one of which was found in the Hell Creek Formation. I won’t get into all of the particulars regarding this genus or the Hell Creek species in particular (L. selachos). Their size depended upon the species, some being very small. Lonchidion selachos may have been three feet long, judging by the size of its dorsal spines. The drawing is based upon the preserved remains of other hybodont sharks, because specimens from the Hell Creek Formation consist mostly of teeth, well-preserved specimens of any Lonchidion species are very rare, and as far as I am aware, they looked more or less like other well-known hybodonts.

Hybodont sharks are identified by their large dorsal fin spines as well as the four large spines atop their heads, which are really overly-enlarged denticle scales found all over the rest of the body. Hybodonts first appeared during the Carboniferous Period, but it was during the Jurassic that they came into their own. However, by the Cretaceous Period, they were being replaced by so-called “modern” sharks very similar to the ones we see today. Lonchidion was one of the last surviving members of its kind before the whole hybodont group (the few species that remained, anyway) was completely wiped out at the end of the Mesozoic Era 65 million years ago.

Acheroraptor, revised

In December 2013, scientists announced the discovery of a new raptor dinosaur from the Hell Creek Formation, which they named Acheroraptor. When news first came out about it, I wrote a post, which you can read here. Ever since I put it up, it has remained one of my most-viewed posts on this website. Accompanying the article, I included a drawing, which you can see below:

Acheroraptor

I very quickly hashed this drawing out, and to tell you the truth, I wasn’t at all pleased with it, despite the fact that the post got a heck of a lot of hits. It was an improvement (though not by much) of an earlier feathered raptor drawing that I had done: Troodon. Due to the rushed need to get a drawing out as quickly as possible, I didn’t spend a whole lot of time coming up with a unique color scheme. So, the color pattern on the above drawing and the Troodon drawing are almost identical. One feature that I included right away was a fluffy feathery ridge running down its back. The head is rather scary and menacing looking, and somewhat boxy – very Jurassic Park-ish. In retrospect, since Acheroraptor was a close relative of Velociraptor, its head probably didn’t look like this.

Today, I finished a revised and probably more accurate drawing of what Acheroraptor would have looked like. I kept the overall shape, but I changed the shape of the head and I put some more detail in the arm feathers. The most obvious change is the striking black-white color scheme, which I based upon the coloration of the Northern Goshawk. If this drawing was in color, I would have given my creature transparent glassy red eyes.

Acheroraptor revised

Making this drawing was a real pleasure, and I’m surprised that doing it didn’t take as long as I had expected – only five days. Please comment on my work and on the “before-after” transition. Keep your pencils sharp!

Ornitholestes

Ornitholestes

Ornitholestes hermanni was a small 6-foot coelurosaur dinosaur which lived in the western United States during the late Jurassic Period – yet another dinosaur from the famous Morrison Formation.

As a coelurosaurid, Ornitholestes was a bird-like dinosaur, a distant cousin of Tyrannosaurus. Therefore, it might have been covered in feathers. However for this drawing, I decided to show it in the traditional non-feathered appearance.

Vietnamese Man

Vietnamese Man

This was a portrait that I had done back in high school. I recently found it while rummaging through some old papers, and thought I might post it here.

One Year Anniversary of “Dinosaurs and Barbarians”!

Today is July 1, 2014, and it has been exactly one year since I created this website to showcase my artwork and writings. I am impressed with what I have accomplished so far. I have posted over fifty entries (I should have put up more, but work and personal problems often got in the way), I have recieved over 4,300 views, and I have over forty subscribers to my blog. The top five “most viewed articles” are:

Acheroraptor: A new “raptor” dinosaur from the Hell Creek Formation   196 views
Attila the Hun   122 views
Triceratops   109 views
Tyrannosaurus rex head 107 views
Map of the Germanic tribes, circa 15 BC   82 views

The “Tyrannosaurus rex head” picture was the first picture that I posted on this website one year ago, and it has remained one of the top five most-viewed pieces of artwork. I was recently contacted by a film/photography company in Britain requesting permission to use it for a video, which I accepted.

Tyrannosaurus rex head

I would also like to thank all of you who commented on my work as well as those who replied to the comments that I placed upon their blogposts. The fact that you actually take the time to look at my material and read what I have to say means a lot to me.

Now that the semester is over and I’m off for summer vacation (all of my students passed with flying colors!), I can afford to do a little more drawing. I look foward to putting some more artwork and articles up here for you to look at, and I also look foward to your commentary.

General Jean Armand, Baron von Dieskau

2014 has been rather hectic for me, between frantically looking for jobs, pounding on the writing, and doing schoolwork. This weekend, I FINALLY found some free time to do a little bit of illustration, and the result is what you see here.

Lately, I’ve been on a colonial history kick. One of my writing projects is on the French and Indian War – I decided to temporarily shelve my book on ancient Egypt. I intend for this book to be fully illustrated, and one of the pictures that will be in it will be this portrait of a French officer. His name was General Jean Ludwig August Armand, Baron von Dieskau. He was a German-born officer who fought in the French Army during the opening stages of the French and Indian War.

Baron Dieskau

Jean Ludwig August Armand (his last name is sometimes written Erdman), the baron of Dieskau, was an aristocrat born in 1701 in the German principality of Saxony. In 1720, he came to France as a mercenary seeking employment with the French Army. Dieskau became the aide-de-camp to the French leader Maurice de Saxe. Dieskau fought in several battles in Europe, such as the Battle of Fontenoy. In 1748, he was promoted to Major-General and was made the military governor of the port-city of Brest. Prior to the outbreak of hostilities in North America, he was made the second-in-command to Governor-General Vaudreuil, the French administrator and military leader of Canada, and arrived there in March 1755, bringing reinforcements with him. As proof of his courageous (some would say reckless) bearing, his motto was “Boldness wins”.

In 1755, when hostilities between France and Britain had broken out, the British planned a four-pronged strategy to seize possession of French territories in the northeast. They would simultaneously attack Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh), Lake Champlain, Fort Niagara, and exert more control over Nova Scotia. The leader of the Lake Champlain expedition was Major-General William Johnson. In August 1755, he marched north up the Hudson River with an army numbering only 2,000 men. He established a fort along the way called Fort Lyman (on the site of the town of Fort Edward, New York), and posted 500 men there from New Hampshire and New York to act as its garrison. Afterwards, he came to the shore of La Lac du Saint Sacrement, and re-named it Lake George. he then began building a fortified encampment there.

Dieskau had planned to attack Fort Lyman on September 4. He was sure that the recently-constructed fortification would not prove to be much of an obstacle, and he also suspected that, given its size, its garrison was small and could be overwhelmed. To get the job sone, he assembled a force consisting of 200 French grenadier infantry from the Regiment de la Reine and the Regiment Langue D’Oc, 800 Canadian militia, and 700 Abenaki and Mohawk Indians. The rest of his men would be left behind at Fort Saint Frederic. Dieskau’s force swung around Johnson’s position and arrived in the vicinity of Fort Lyman on September 7.

At night on September 7, 1755, Indian scouts informed William Johnson that they had spotted evidence of a large military force in the area. Johnson realized that this could mean trouble, and so he dispatched a runner to warn Fort Lyman’s 500-man garrison to be on guard for a possible French attack. However, the messenger was killed before he could deliver Johnson’s warning. Then, a convoy of supply waggons travelling from Fort Lyman to Johnson’s lakeshore camp was captured, and the teamsters were forced to confess every piece of information that they knew about the British positions.

Dieskau still wanted to push onto Ft. Lyman, but his Indians now became cautious. They were worried that the fort might have cannons, and they did not want to go up against artillery. However, Johnson’s lakeshore camp might be an easier target. The camp was likely not well-fortified, and backed up against the waters of Lake George, they would have noplace to run. In the early hours of September 8, 1755, Dieskau agreed to turn his army around and attack the lakeshore camp.

A point needs to be made here: Dieskau agreed to act on the Indians’ suggestion. This means that Dieskau, unlike other French commanders (notably the arrogant and haughty Montcalm, who despised Indians), actually recognized the worth of his Indian warriors. He listened to their opinions and suggestions, and if they made sense, he would plan his strategy based upon them. This means that Dieskau had a much higher regard for the Indians than other officers.

What they did not know was that Fort Lyman didn’t havy any artillery – Johnson had taken all of his pieces (four cannons and three mortars) foward to the lakeshore encampment.

While Dieskau was planning his attack, Johnson was also wondering what to do. In a council of war, Johnson, his subordinate officers, and the Indian leaders debated what ought to be done. The provincial officers were convinced that Ft. Lyman was still the primary French target, and that a large reinforcement party of 1,000 colonial troops and 200 Mohawk Indians should be sent there right away to augment the garrison. Johnson and his remaining 500 men would remain behind at the encampment. At 9:00 AM, the column of reinforcements left the camp and travelled down the fourteen-mile road to Fort Lyman. Just three miles from Johnson’s camp, hiding on either side of that recently-cut pathway, Dieskau and his men were waiting in ambush.

At about 10:30 AM, in an event that would become known as the “Bloody Morning Scout”, Dieskau’s army unleashed a torrent of fire upon the colonials and British-allied Indians. Chief Hendrick, the Mohawk leader, was one of the first to be shot. Colonel Ephraim Williams Jr., the commander of one of the Massachusetts regiments, ascended a boulder with his sword drawn to encourage his men, but he was shot and killed as well. With men dropping all around them, the column called out a retreat, and began to make their frantic panicked way back to Johnson’s camp, being chased the whole way by Dieskau and his men.

The men left behind at Johnson’s camp could hear the gunfire even from three miles away. Johnson immediately dispatched 300 men (three-fifths of the men that he had) from the Rhode Island regiment to intercept the French forces and to provide covering fire for the rest of the men to escape back to the camp. Meanwhile, the remaining 200 troops were frantically fortifying their position. The Rhode Island troops did the job, buying time for their comrades to retreat, and then they too jumped behind the barricades.

At around 11:00, the attack proper began. Dieskau sent the elite French grenadiers in first. The 200 men, each armed with a .69 cal. musket, quickly formed into three ranks and began to fire, but they were too far away for their shots to be effective. Then, they charged the British position. What they then discovered was that the artillery, which they had thought was at Ft. Lyman, was actually here. Two thunderous blasts from three 6-pounder cannons (the fourth cannon was located on top of a small hill on the British left flank) virtually destroyed the French advance. Then, the Indians and Canadians began to fire upon the British from the cover of the trees.

Fourteen miles away at Fort Lyman, the men heard the distinctive thunder of artillery, and knew that a battle must be underway. The fort’s commandant, Col. Joseph Blanchard, the commanding officer for the New Hampshire troops, dispatched two companies to provide aid to Johnson.

By 1:00 PM, the battle had been going on for two hours. Both sides were engaging in a furious back-and-forth gunfight. The French attempted to swing around on the British right flan, which was deemed to be weaker, but the firing from the three mortars stopped this maneuver. Shortly after this, the British commander Maj.Gen. William Johnson was shot through the pelvis and put him out of action. His second-in-command, Phineas Lyman, took over.

By 4:00 PM, the French attack was dying down. Both sides were running low on ammo. Dieskau could feel the attack slackening off. he moved to the front to survey the situation adn to urge his men to fight on. There, he was shot through the leg. As his second-in-command tended to him, Dieksau was shot two more times in the same leg. When two Canadians attempted to carry their wounded general away, they were both shot, then his subordinate was wounded in the shoulder. Being the hard-beaded bulldog that he was, Dieskau refused to leave the field. Instead, he was propped up against a tree and continued to spur his men on to attack. Now, he was sht a fourth time, this time in the knee. Bleeding severely from four wounds, he finally ordered his second-in-command Montreuil to take over, but by now, the battle was lost. Montreuil sounded the call to retreat.

Seeing the French force turn tail and run, the British troops charged after them. Montreuil was shot and killed. Dieskau saw a man point his musket at him. He motioned with his hands not to fire, but the man shot his anyway. the ball smashed through Dieskau’s hip. he was then carried away to meet the British commander, who was lying in his tent. By 6:00 PM, the Battle of Lake George was over.

The British Indians wanted to kill Dieskau as revenge for the death of their chief, but Johnson refused to allow it. he placed Dieskau under his protection and ordered that a guard be posted to watch over him at all times. Dieskau would remain at the camp for some time, slowly recovering from his numerous injuries, until he was well enough to be sent to Albany. Afterwards, he was taken to London, where he would remain a prisoner of the British until the end of the war.

He died on September 8, 1767 in Paris, France.

 

H. R. Giger, creator of the “Alien”, dies at 74

Today, I heard some very bad news. The Swiss surrealist artist H. R. Giger, died on Monday May 12, 2014 at his home in Zurich, Switzerland. He was 74 years old. Although he undertook many projects, he is most remembered as the man who designed the alien for the Aliens movies. Beginning in 1979 with the release of Alien, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Sigourney Weaver, Giger’s work sparked a whole franchise that has only increased in popularity as the years have gone by, and has endured as one of modern popular culture’s most fascinating and most terrifying cult symbols.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am absolutely nuts about the 8-foot tall insect-like “xenomorph”, as it was referred to in Aliens (1986), the second movie in the franchise. I have seen all of the movies, I read the comic books, I collected the action figures, and the first model kit that I ever built and painted was Giger’s alien. I have even been dabbling in a writing project concerning the aliens and their home planet from an evolutionary and biologic viewpoint. So, understandably, the news of Mr. Giger’s death hit me especially hard. I have absolute respect for him as an artist and as nothing short of a creative genious. He created a unique style all his own, and there will never be anyone even remotely close to him in the future.

You can read more about his life and his death here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/14/arts/h-r-giger-swiss-artist-dies-at-74-his-vision-gave-life-to-alien-creature.html?_r=0

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