You can see my painting of Titanoboa, the largest snake on Earth in the April 2012 edition of Smithsonsian Magazine. The biggest, at least as far as we know: it lived a safe 58 million years ago.

When the editor from Smithsonian Magazine contacted me with a rush job, they had tried photography of a scale model of the largest snake in the world. But it just did not look real or threatening enough. A tropical snake, related to modern boas and anacondas, Titanoboa was large enough to first crush, then swallow  the giant crocodiles of the day, only a couple million years after the disappearance of the Dinosaurs, 60 million years ago.

Their layout called for a close-up to avoid any scientific controversy about the details of this prehistoric snake, reconstructed from a few fossilized bones in a fossil-rich coal mine in Columbia. They wanted to focus on the eye, and the emotion generated by the image of a snake as long as a bus.

I decided to add menace by placing the Titanoboa in the water, it’s probable environment. The close-up direction seemed to only enhance it’s mystery and horror. I used reference material of boas and anacondas, but since so little was known for sure about this giant snake, I was free to engage in a little informed fantasizing.

Titanoboa, tha largest snake in the world.
Titanoboa, by Paul Mirocha for Smithsonian Magazine
The art director's first layout
My first sketch, adding the water.
Second, chosen sketch.

Here is the final printed spread, just in the news stands.

smithsonian magazine spread
Final printed magazine spread

Smithsonian scientists enjoyed a little informed fantasy of their own in this 3d animated clip Titanoboa Meets T-rex.

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