Michael Berglund is the artist behind the beautiful illustrations of Leonardo the mummified dinosaur, helping to bring Leonardo to life in his new home in Dinosphere. Michael has been a commercial special effects artist, designer, and sculptor for over 27 years. He's participated in dinosaur digs as a volunteer and has contributed art to museums for the past 15 years. His mother claims he could say "Tyrannosaurus rex" before he could say "mommy."
I first met Leonardo at a paleontology conference way back in 2005. As an artist interested in the finer points of muscles and skin on dinosaurs, I was astonished at what I saw when the pictures came up on the screen! It looked like he had just fallen over, well, not yesterday—but you get what I mean. You could really see the living creature in the rock!
Afterwards I approached the people who gave the presentation and struck up a conversation. They looked at my work, and so began my long association with Leonardo. I have done pictures and graphic design for the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum in Malta, the Houston Museum where Leonardo was briefly displayed, and now, here, for The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. It’s almost as though he’s my "dino-buddy" at this point, we’ve been through so much together.
The renderings that I've done for the Children’s Museum represent the collected wisdom of scientists and artists through the years, thinking about Brachylophosaurs, and Leonardo in general. I've had the great fortune to be able to learn from, and have my work improved by, association with Dr. Robert Bakker, Dave Trexler, and Peter Larson, to name a few experts in the paleontological world.
The image I created is a 3D model—a computer graphics rendering. I started by using measurements and skeletal diagrams to get the proportions and overall shapes. Creating a "low polygon, low detail" model is almost like building a sculpting armature (or frame), to refine the overall forms and shapes. Scientists know about dinosaur musculature by studying the fossils—which bear traces of muscle and tendon attachments—and by studying living creatures today. With Leonardo, there's even more information, in the form of preserved muscle and tendon structure!
Leonardo’s skin is also preserved in large sections, and that's really exciting to me as an artist. While imagination is key to any art, it’s a real thrill to be able to create something with the evidence backing it up, and to be able to stand back, look at it, and think, "Wow, this is probably what he really looked like." All of that detail was added in a 3D sculpting program.
The most speculative thing about the picture is the coloration. We may never know what dinosaurs were colored like, but we can make educated guesses based upon living animals and habitats. Leonardo’s patterned, brownish color is reasonable given the environment he lived in. The coloration was done in a paint program and wrapped around the digital sculpture.
It’s been great fun helping to bring Leonardo back to life, and to contribute to the wonder and discovery of recreating our Earth’s prehistoric past.
Images: Michael Berglund, 2013