Tracking a vintage toy Dimetrodon

A Permian scene. Three Dimetrodons explore a shoreline in what will one day become Prince Edward Island. (Robin Rowland)

On February 21, Parks Canada announced the discovery of fossilized tracks of the Permian sail-backed mammal like reptile Dimetrodon (Bathygnathus borealis) in the red rocks of Prince Edward Island. A Dimetrodon walked through mud about 290 million years ago.

That inspired my next project to recreate the classic paintings by artist Charles R. Knight of the primeval world. In this case, his work on the Permian of Texas for the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.

My model compared to Charles R. Knight’s painting.

As with previous projects, I used Louis Marx “dinosaur” toys that I had as a kid and found in an old box.

Recreating the Charles R Knight paintings with old Marx dino toys

A vintage toy wooly mammoth

The three toys were painted to match, as much as possible, the Knight painting. There are more colourful Dimetrdons in the current imagination of artists which can be found on Google Images.

I had two specific aims. The first was the model had to have Dimetrodon tracks. Second the mud had to be red, the same as the famous red rocks of Prince Edward Island. The fossil tracks were found on reddish rock.

Top view of the diorama. You can see tracks in the bottom left corner while the Dimetrodon on the right is walking through the mud. (Robin Rowland)

The “outcrop” is from a contemporary toy dinosaur collection from China sold by Walmart. My guess is that it’s supposed to be a volcano. But for this diorama and to be more true to the scale and the time, I turned it into a rotten tree stump. The fern is an HO scale model railway accessory.

I followed the usual diorama practice of working within a cheap dollar store frame. In this case I kept the glass to simulate the water. I painted the base brown and added some model railway scenic green foam (which is barely visible as I intended). Then I added a thin wash of brown paint on the top of the glass. I mixed plaster so that it is was thick and heavy cream like, with red and raw umber paint mixed in. I let it set for about an hour and then used the toy Dimetrodon to create the footprints.

A close shot of one of the Dimetrodon.

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