The most usual time for me to find long-lost sketches is when I am looking for something else. A few days ago while searching my old folders I came across a few drawings which I thought were lost for good. These included some discarded sketches for the murals of the 1993 exhibit “Madrid antes del Hombre” (in an earler post I shared a few sketches which I did for that exhibit).
The scene which probably changed the most during conceptual sketching was the reconstruction of the Miocene fossil site of Paracuellos. Looking at the site’s faunal list I first envisioned a forest scene where a pack of bear-dogs harassed a chalicothere mother and her young. I just chose from the list the species which looked most appealing to me.

Here is my first sketch for the Paracuellos site reconstruction. The bear-dog-chalicothere interaction is the undisputed centre of attention.
boceto paracuellos version 1 a

But the scientific advisors tought that the woods actually occupied only a small fraction of the area where the fossils accumulated, so they advised me to show a more open environment. Also they asked me to show other species which were more abundant as fossils at the site, because the bear-dogs and especially the chalicotheres were quite rare finds.

My second version kept the “stars” of the first sketch (the bear-dogs), but they were now cornered in the right-hand section of the scene, leaving room for the more abundant species. Also in this case the victims of the bear-dog attack were not chalicotheres but primitive rhinos.
boceto paracuellos version 2

Unfortunately the scientists found that even this second version did not show clearly enough the inferred environment around the site. Alluvial fans were an important feature of the arid, seasonal landscape, but it was too difficult to properly show them from a ground level perspective. So in the end an aerial view was favoured, and both the chalicotheres and the bear-dogs were totally left out of the scene!

Here is the sketch of the final version, with the reference lines I drew in order to transfer the drawing to the large canvas.
boceto paracuellos vers 3 baja

And here is the finished painting, alluvial fans and all, but no chalicotheres!

I won´t deny that all these changes implied some degree of frustration for me. I missed the opportunity to turn that chalicothere scene into a full-fledged, large format oil painting. Over the decades I made attempts to include that scene in other projects, but it simply never happened. Who knows, some ideas may be destined to remain forever at the sketch stage!


Posted on 06/05/2016, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Such a shame but glad you’re able to share the sketches with us! Reconstructing the interactions of strange (to modern eyes) and long extinct taxa is pretty awesome in my book. The internet is wanting for chalicotheres 🙂

  2. Another great series of artworks. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  3. The chalicothere Moropus and the bear dog Amphicyon are both known from the Haystack Valley memeber of the John Day formation. Someday I hope to do a book on the John Day Fossil Beds, so this wonderful piece just might have it’s day.

  4. @accpaleo Yes… sign me up! 🙂

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