Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Preparatory sketches - scale

copyright A V S Turner 2016
Anasazisaurus, Bistahieversor & Dinosuchus, with a human figure for scale. This scale reference is the first step in my newest life restoration project, set in mid-cretaceous New Mexico. I love this stage of a painting: really getting my head around the scale, presence and even personality of subjects and cementing an image in my head of how I want them to look. Since this image will include three subjects in close proximity, I am keen to work out now how they all occupy 3D space together.

Since Anasazisaurus is known only from partial skull fragments, I have used it's close relative Kritosaurus as an additional reference.

My next step will be to work out the immediate landscape and environment. Stay tuned for more over the coming weeks!

Monday, 22 February 2016

e-Luminate Festival: The Cambridge Whale

Very pleased to announce this week that the animation that I provided for the e-Luminate Festival of Light last weekend went down a treat with local audiences!

This restoration of Cambridge University Zoological Department’s iconic Fin Whale specimen was recreated in vector art from photographic reference. Unfortunately, I was unable to get my hands on any photos of the specimen exactly in profile, so I had to use some spacial reasoning to force the perspective slightly.

Nonetheless I am very happy with the anatomical fidelity of the restoration itself (I only had two weeks to put this guy together!) and the final projected image was pretty much life-size, which is what I was aiming for. I am very pleased also to hear that my whale installation has been a big hit with scientists and curators involved with the study and restoration of the specimen itself – always a nice bonus!

The best thing about creating an animation such as this I think is that it celebrates the medium of light whilst highlighting the environmental impact of human activities including light consumption (the central messages of the festival), but also it provides a very relatable image for audiences to interact with (light is a very abstract subject and whilst I was gobsmacked by all the beautiful installations placed all over the city, I think that visitors also like to see something with a face from time to time too and I feel privileged to have been able to provide that).

I am so proud and thrilled to have been able to contribute to such a unique festival alongside such a talented array of artists and technicians. Everyone has been so complimentary and my heartfelt thanks go out to the organizers, contributors and audiences who make this experience so unforgettable!

To see the animations, please visit:

Palaeo-Tourism: The Sedgewick Museum, Cambridge

Since I was in Cambridge for the e-Luminate festival last week, I couldn’t leave town without first popping my head around the door of the Sedgewick Museum of Natural History. This collection forms part of the University’s Natural Sciences department and is positioned opposite the Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology (which sadly I did not have time to visit, but would like to snoop around someday).

For a small museum, the Sedgewick is very well stocked and I could easily have spent a whole day there and still have left feeling that I had not quite seen everything. Upon entry the visitor is greeted by a familiar face to those of us who like spending time in such places – a copy of one of the famous Bernissart Iguanodon specimens that seem to find their way everywhere! The layout of the museum is “reassuringly old-fashioned”; with forests of wood & glass cabinets displaying a plethora of fossils from huge ammonites to tiny bivalves and brachiopods and any number of disembodied vertebrae and digits from larger specimens.
Despite the lovely Victorian layout, the Sedgewick also has a lively modern edge lent from some more recent displays including an impressive articulated Plesiosaur specimen and some very fetching models of Pterosaurs, Dinosaurs and some early fish species. Whilst the Iguanodon sentinel by the door is by far the largest specimen on display, there are some other big show-stoppers of note: a very nice cast of a Tyrannosaurus skull will keep the kids (present company included!) happy, and two lovely mounted skeletons of a Hippopotamus and a Megaceros (Irish Elk) are also very impressive.

Whilst I will probably not be rushing back again for a repeat visit, the Sedgewick is a very nice place to while away an afternoon. And, like I say, you could very easily spend the whole day there if you wanted to take in everything that there is to see.

The only downsides that struck me to the Sedgewick were firstly the lack of interactive and more child-friendly exhibits. There are some kids who will be perfectly happy just looking at fossils, but most and particularly younger visitors may get bored quite quickly. The only other downside was the seeming lack of temporary exhibits (which may just be down to restrictions on the space: they have crammed a LOT of stuff into a tiny building!). This is one of the reasons why I feel a repeat visit may not be on the cards for me.
On the plus side though, I found the restrictions on space to be more of an advantage in my case because I like small museums where I can take in a lot of information without having to feel like I’ve walked for miles by the end of it! I also like the open layout that enables the visitor to simply wander around looking at what interests them, rather than being led through a very prescriptive journey (if your thing is Palaeozoic mammals, you don't want to have to walk through the whole Palaeozoic and Mesozoic areas in order to get to them. That's a lotta invertebrates!). The building is light and airy and not in the least bit stuffy (sometimes an issue with Victorian-style displays). The range of specimens on display is remarkable and the modern elements sit very well with their more venerable neighbours.

I would thoroughly recommend anyone planning to spend any time in Cambridge to pay the Sedgewick a visit if you get the chance. If on the other hand you’re just another palaeo-tourist like me, by all means take the time to visit for the sake of seeing the museum, but maybe schedule in a few other activities for your weekend as well if that’s the case (by no means a problem in Cambridge, which is a vibrant city with plenty to see and do).