How to Draw a Dinosaur | Tips from the Illustrator of Tiny T. Rex

Apr 22, 2020 / By Leslie Jonath

We’re pairing creative challenges with tips from experts! Last week’s challenge was to make art with materials from nature, so we chatted with the author of Foraged Art. This week’s challenge is to draw an undiscovered dinosaur, so we collected tips from the illustrator of the Tiny T. Rex books!

Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug is a sweet story about a dinosaur who wants to comfort his friend but can’t (something many of us are familiar with in the age of quarantine). However, Tiny T. Rex is not stuck inside. His arms are just too short to hug his dino friend. After receiving advice and going on an adventure, Tiny finds a way to be there for his friend. Along the way, readers meet colorful dinosaurs drawn by illustrator Jay Fleck.

Image courtesy of Jay Fleck

KiwiCo: What was your favorite part about illustrating Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug?

Jay Fleck: I enjoyed everything about illustrating the book! I really liked the character, and it was fun to show his expressions and illustrate the different situations he finds himself in. My favorite part was probably where he hugs the cactus. I love cacti and it was such a funny idea. Poor, Tiny!

From Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug

KiwiCo: What are the types of dinosaurs in the book? Did you pull inspiration from renderings of dinosaurs for your drawings?

Jay Fleck: The main characters are Tyrannosaurus rexes. Tiny’s best friend, Pointy, is a Stegosaurus. On some pages you can spot a Brachiosaurus in the background. And towards the end, a Pterodactyl makes a surprise appearance! My versions of dinosaurs are much simpler and more stylized. At the same time, you can still tell that Tiny is a T-rex, so I had to look at real dinosaurs for inspiration.

From Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug

KiwiCo: Did you know that paleontologists recently discovered a real-life version of Tiny – a 3-foot tall cousin of the Tyrannosaurus rex?

Artistic rendering of Moros intrepidus (aka Tiny T-rex) by Jorge Gonzales.

Jay Fleck: Yes! That discovery was made right around when the first Tiny T. Rex book came out, so I was very excited. I think Tiny is a little sweeter, and he probably gives better hugs! To make him look friendlier than a real T-rex, I drew Tiny’s head big and blocky and his eyes large and round. Then I added eyebrows so he looks like he’s making cute expressions. Tiny says a lot through his eyebrows!

KiwiCo: What steps do you recommend kids follow when they draw a dinosaur?

Jay Fleck: When drawing a dinosaur, you don’t have to draw it all at once in one line. Instead, start by creating shapes like circles, triangles, or rectangles.

From Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug

Here are basic steps for drawing a dinosaur that looks like Tiny:

  1. Start with a rectangle for the head and round out the corners.
  2. Below the head (leave space for the neck), draw an oval for the body and a smaller oval inside for the belly.
  3. At the bottom of the body, draw two U-like shapes for legs.
  4. At the top part of the body, draw two skinny, U-like shapes for arms.
  5. Connect the head and body with two curved lined to make the neck shapes. Erase any intersecting lines. 
  6. On the bottom of the body, draw a triangle for the tail. Then round curve the sides a bit and add some spots.
  7. Draw a line mouth and two triangles popping up for teeth.
  8. Add big round circles for eyes. I like to draw my eyes farther apart. 
  9. Don’t forget the eyebrows! Try to use the eyebrows to convey expression. Rounded and raised eyebrows can make your dinosaur look happy or excited. While straight and angled eyebrows can make your dinosaur look angry or scared.
  10. Customize your creation with color! Here are the basic steps for drawing dinosaurs like Pointy (stegosaurus):
Image courtesy of Jay Fleck
  1. Start with an oval (on its side) for the body. 
  2. On one side of the body, draw a rounded rectangle for the head. Make sure it’s much smaller than the body and leave a little room for a short neck.
  3. At the bottom of the body (close to the head), draw a short, rounded rectangle for a front leg. In front of that rectangle, draw a skinnier, rounded rectangle for the other front leg. Do the same thing for the back legs.
  4. Connect the head and body with two curved lines for the neck. Erase any intersecting lines.
  5. Draw two circles for the eyes, a line for the mouth, and eyebrows to add expression!
  6. For the spikes, draw a small triangle where the head and neck meet, and then draw a slightly bigger triangle next to it. Draw one more big triangle, and then smaller triangles until you reach the top of the tail. 
  7. Add a few scattered spots and color it in!

KiwiCo: If you could draw an undiscovered dinosaur, what would it look like?

From Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug

Jay Fleck: A T-rex with wings is just about the coolest thing that I could imagine. I came up with this idea by combining two dinosaur types! Of course, mine would be super friendly and would fly around giving hugs!

To learn more about Jay Fleck, you can visit his website or follow him on Instagram @jayafleck.

Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug © 2019 by Jonathan Stutzman, illustrated by Jay Fleck. Published by Chronicle Books.

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