Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

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Carboniferous
Step 1.  Research Step 2. Composition Step 3. Painting Step 4. Critique Step 5. Final Art/Home
Research Composition Painting Critique Final Art/Home

Steps in preparing a scientific reconstruction: 4. Critique

Painting continues 3
by Mary Parrish under the direction of Tom Phillips and William DiMichele


During each phase of work Mary scanned the illustration as it progressed and emailed the files for Tom Phillips and William DiMichele to check. Painstaking scientific critiques are one of the many ways a scientific painting differs a from fine art painting. In a critique of the image above, William DiMichele requested that the leaf cushions and leaf scars on the Sigillaria in the right foreground be reduced in size.

Critique 1
by Mary Parrish under the direction of Tom Phillips and William DiMichele

In his critique of the illustration above, Tom Phillips pointed out that a Calamites of this large size (seen fallen on its side) would not be green. It would be woody, and therefore brown.

Critique 1
by Mary Parrish under the direction of Tom Phillips and William DiMichele

Zygopteris, a sun-loving fern, is shown scrambling across sun drenched patches in the middle ground with its fronds stretched out like solar panels gathering light. Additional tree ferns were added to the middle ground per request by the scientist. These plants were painted separately and added digitally, using Photoshop layers, so corrections could be made easily if needed.

A subsequent critique of this scene required the removal much of the Zygopteris Photoshop layer. The scientists said that the fossil evidence did not support such a large number of this plant at this locality. The percentage of each species seen in this illustration needed to represent the actual data gathered from the fossil record.


Painting continues 6by Mary Parrish under the direction of Tom Phillips and William DiMichele

Litter began to be added in the foreground. Adult Sigillaria trees, with leafy forked branches, can be seen in the far distance on the right.

William DiMichele requested a significant increase in the number of tree ferns in the middle and background based on fossil evidence. As the image appears here, the scientists thought the scene looked “a bit too much like an Atlantic salt marsh” and not enough like a tree fern forest swamp. They said there was still not enough litter in the painting to form the amount of peat needed to create the immense Carboniferous fossil deposits found on earth today.


Step 1. Research Step 2. Composition Step 3. Painting Step 4. Critique Step 5. Final Art/Home
Research Composition Painting Critique Final Art/Home

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