Okay, so I've worked on Whaiao since ~summer 2009, and the real inspiration boom came half a year later *cough*Avatar*cough* (yes, I'm guilty), and has stayed with me since.
But my style, knowledge and "pickiness" have of course developed a lot over the almost-three-years that have passed since. And the topic I'm getting to, is the Screvx (which I'm thinking of renaming "Niao" - scientific name has to wait until I've settled for a design, which is what this is about).
Take a look at "Screvx evolution" (evolution in my sketches that is). It started out as just a 4.3 meter long, blue Steller's Sea Eagle. I didn't have much focus or intent on making my creatures "alien" back then, and even less so, the ability.
During summer 2010, I had dropped that design and made them into "featherless birds" - still extremely bird looking, but without the feathers. Redesigned some details in January and February 2011, still just a featherless bird, nowhere near alien enough, even by my (still today) very low standards.
In July, I tried another wing-type (Screvx and Tikao, that picture), which I wasn't certain about anyway, but still... it's a bird. I left it, until April 2012 (Screvx 6.0). Now it had four eyes, and is covered in pseudo-feathers (that are NOT used for flight, they are just like primitive proto-feathers). Still, I'm not satisfied, it looks too birdy.
It was sometime early this year that I first saw a picture of a Sharovipteryx. I thought it was some silly thing creationists had made up to mock evolutionists, but no, dammit, they were real!
And about the freakiest things I had seen in a long time.
A while later, in May, I started trying ways to make a "bipedal flier" (one that flies with its hind limbs, and the front limbs are used mainly for walking or handling objects), that could replace the birdy-looking Screvx. I tried it walking with its "ass in its air" (kind of like a Hadrosaur actually), with the hind legs being crazy long. That way would never work for a ground-bound, heavier creature, but this one was supposed to be mainly a flier anyway, and they are rarely very good on the ground (pterosaurs, bats...).
But no matter how many times I tried it, I couldn't make it work, because at the same time it needed to be able to carry a rider at the front of its body, and I wanted the front limbs free from "flight membrane", to attach a saddle.
But it always ended up being too front-heavy, too much body in front of the wings.
Wings are simply much better just being put in the front, since then, the wing membrane (or feathers) can carry the whole body coming behind it, but the opposite doesn't work.
I tried a design where it does have flight membrane connected to its front limbs, with the saddle attached to the ribcage instead (this sketch has not been scanned, but it "drags its hind limbs behind itself" when walking, like a couple of examples in "Hind-limb fliers").
This design *might* work, but I'm still afraid it would be too front-heavy, and have found no way to draw it in flight.
In June, I made a photo-collage of different flying creatures on Earth. They are modern birds, Microraptors, two designs of Sharovipteryx (one having four wings, the front limbs being secondary wings, and the other design flying with its hind limbs only), Pterosaurs, Bats, Draco-lizards (flying with fake ribs), flying fish, Dragonflies and Butterflies.
Birds, Pterosaurs and Bats have to go because that general shape is already used for the Okaiwa and its relatives. The Microraptor-style is *cough*Ikran*cough*, so I'll try to stay away from it (especially since the Screvx will have four eyes too, even worse).
Sharovipteryx I've tried. Dragonflies - nah. And I want to try that design for a very different creature (on a different continent). Flying fish - four "wings", same as the Microraptor in that sense.
So, then (all the while *mangling my brain* writing long chapters in my documents, as I always had to figure out how this would work with the evolutionary tree), I tried to combine Sharovipteryx with the Draco-lizards and Butterflies. O_o Yeah.
A creature that big (10 meter wingspan is what I want for the Screvx), flying only with "fake ribs" like the little Draco does, seems unlikely to say the least. But what if it used its hind limbs as main wings, and then the fake-rib-wings as extra lift, but not for actual flapping?
I tried it, but it just felt too unlikely. This creature would have to evolve two completely different sets of wings, and what for? Just flying with all four limbs, or just the hind limbs (which could work, but it could not be ridden, because you could not attach a saddle, and it might not even get big enough), would make more sense.
Then I tried four wings... but making it look roughly "butterfly-like" in flight. I never got very far with that design, and quickly gave up. (Note to self - try again.)
Then I tried a version of the Draco-design - but instead of flying with ribs, flying with huge, thin, modified scales. Instead of the extremely short body you see in birds and pterosaurs (to minimize weight), I gave it a rather rectangular body, long and slender, thinking that the increased wing surface it would create, would make up for the extra body mass.
(Since it was structured so differently from birds and pterosaurs.)
I couldn't see it working. It would have to be covered, all the way through, with muscle attachments for the "scales", and how it would ever work for powered flight, for such a large creature, I wasn't sure.
Many months ago, I had speculated in making a creature that flies only with its front limbs - and has no other limbs. Like a Quetzalcoatl, or Amphithere. It was never meant to be ridden, or replace any existing design, just to be another creature. Back then I had thought it was going to grab onto tree branches with a long, prehensile tail, and the idea died because I couldn't see it flying with that heavy tail dragging behind it, and anything helping the tail to gain lift, would prevent the tail from coiling.
Now, I had two ideas. First, to make it a walker (since it, as with the Sharovipteryx-designs, is supposed to be related to the bipedal creatures, like the Xeheke and Nuri), but then I was unsure how it would gain lift, jumping up and flapping with the same two limbs.
(Birds take off with their feet, and flap with their wings - Pterosaurs had the advantage of taking off with all four limbs, then using the front limbs to gain lift.)
Then I looked up the Quetzalcoatl (please note I am NOT talking about Quetzalcoatlus, which was a real creature), and went back to the more serpent-like flier. Now the idea is (I started sketching just yesterday) to let it have a rather long but lightweight tail, to attach the wing to and as a rudder, and it never walks, it just uses claws on its wings for hanging onto trees and cliffs.
It spends most of its time in the air, and never nests, but rather reproduces like a marsupial.
That is the preliminary idea, but I still don't think I will keep it.
I STILL can't make it work. It drives me nuts. I could "sort of" keep trying with the Quetzalcoatl-design, or "sort of" keep trying with the Scale-flier (four legs for walking, flies with modified scales) or "Butterfly" (four wings = Ikran warning), but no design seems likely to work.
And I don't want to give it a Bat-Pterosaur-Wyvern-design, because then it will look too much like the Okaiwa, and it would just be a variation on a theme.
Suggestions are welcome...