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Creodonts of the Chuckanuts…as told by a Tapir Toddler – Marlin Peterson
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Creodonts of the Chuckanuts…as told by a Tapir Toddler

I am finished with my paleo painting!  It was quite the diabolical time sink, but I am quite pleased with how it came out.  I have painted many discrete subjects over the years, but creating a fully rendered environment in and around a given creature is a full-on leap in complexity and dimensions.  Gotta “cut your teeth” on a project of this magnitude at some point…might as well be when you should be packing to leave for Sulawesi and have no time anyway.

I worked on this digital painting in ways that I never could on a traditional (i.e. gouache or acrylic) painting.  For example, I painted all the characters first, and created the background around them.  What are perhaps my favorite benefits of pushing pixels on a monitor- rather than traditional art- are the endless ways to manipulate specific layers.  One has the ability to work on a background behind the foreground, play with the nuances of opacity (so awesome), and pick the perfect color immediately.  But perhaps most valuable of all is being able to experiment in a direction for a time, to realize it isn’t going how I want, so I can delete what I did or backtrack and continue in another direction.  These 4 aspects are invaluable.

What I lose in doing a digital piece are the tiny little accidents of color and form that happen in traditional painting.   And perhaps better posture?  I became a hunched vulture laboring over my wacom tablet.  Click these words to check out another painting I did of a: Diatryma in the Chuckanuts This was entirely acrylic paint so you can contrast these two pieces.  What do you prefer about each?

I tried very hard to turn the whole process into a video, but sadly it wasn’t to be:  I was unable to find the right automated screenshot recording software (anyone know what I can use?).   While I was squandering my time researching software instead of painting, the videos I had used in the beginning were really poor resolution and I gave up.  But I had the idea to make each flattened layer a different frame of a time lapse video, so stacking all them together will be an upcoming project.

I loved thinking about this incredible time to be on the planet.  Washington in the tropics teeming with tapirs, creodonts, and giant flightless birds- wickedly sweet!  The creatures that evolved to fill the Cenozoic vacuum left by demise of the dinosaurs are endless daydream fodder for me.  If anyone knows anyone with a time travel device, we need to talk.

Please let me know what you think!   Enjoy!


  • Christine

    Incredible! Stupendous! What a colossal effort…and it absolutely paid off. I am continually amazed by your talent and attention to detail. A few of my favorite aspects of this illustration: The creative perspective with the one creodont in the foreground and the light dust that really captures the action in the scene. Great job!
    I’m your number one fan!

    December 14, 2011 at 9:49 AM
  • Johanna

    holly sickness Marlin you rock!!!!!!!!!! these creatures look super viscous too!

    December 14, 2011 at 10:43 AM
  • Rod Rood

    Awesome portrayal/depiction of what our environs were like how many million years ago?! Now discover Whatcom “man” and you will be on the front page although your current works are first class and deserve national recognition!
    Thinking of a Jurassic coleopteran project to rival Spielberg!

    December 14, 2011 at 12:50 PM
  • Andy

    Dude! Well done! I can just picture the grade school version of myself getting in trouble in class for flipping to all the sweet pictures like this and not doing any of the actual “learning.” (That’s a sign you’re doing great work 🙂

    Not sure about any automated screen capture software … I’ve used Snapz Pro for a lot of things – maybe it has an automated feature?

    Great job Marlin!

    December 14, 2011 at 12:51 PM
  • Jonathan

    Amazing work Marlin. If we had a time-machine, would this be a good scene for a human to enter? Looks like we would last about 2 minutes.

    December 14, 2011 at 1:52 PM
  • Maureen

    Really a Great Work, Marlin. I can’t imagine what that mother was thinking when she looked around at the vicious prey. I can actually feel her tachycardia….and poor baby! I don’t need a time machine to take me there – you transported us to the edge of the circle!!! Now, time to straighten your back, square those shoulders and get ready for a few months on another hunched over adventure – bicycling in SE Asia. GAP – WOW!

    December 14, 2011 at 4:17 PM
  • Nicolle

    Truly Epic! Really great animal postures and fur textures. I’m sorry I haven’t had a chance to talk to you these past few weeks to hear how it was going and discuss the joys of PSD. I’ve been stretched thin… but I can’t wait to hang out (when you’re back from your trip?), even if it means driving across the mountains (better than across the country) :-).

    December 20, 2011 at 11:54 AM
  • Diane Peterson

    What a privilege to see the final product as I was able to observe you as you worked. You not only painted the credonts of the chuckanuts, but managed to share the chestnuts (roasting on an open fire) of the “Chuck”anut family here at home. Your research and implementation of that research into a stellar body of work is awe-inspiring.

    January 2, 2012 at 9:44 AM

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