In 1515, German artist Albrecht Dürer drew a rhinoceros. Dürer was influential in the art world at the time, and his piece was shared widely. Prints of it served as the basis for many other artists’ depictions of the animal. But there was one big problem with Dürer’s rhinoceros—he had never actually seen one.
A few months before Dürer sat down to put a rhino on paper, a Portuguese diplomat had returned from a trip with an Indian (or greater one-horned) rhinoceros among his cargo. Word spread quickly about the exotic new animal, and a German man in Lisbon sent a description and a quick sketch back home. Dürer, intrigued, created his own interpretation. The general shape is right, but there are some odd choices among the details: crustacean-like body plates, scaly reptilian legs, a small extra horn stuck to its nape.
This was a relatively common occurrence of the time before photography. Even the most talented artist might struggle with drawing something she’s never seen before, especially on the basis of a few limited details. (Others, like 12-year-old Yincheng Qian, who drew the image at the beginning of this article, seem to be pretty adept at it.)
Now we’re challenging you—or your friends, or your parents, or your kids—to pull a Dürer: Make your best drawing of some wondrous place on Atlas Obscura using only a brief description, with no photos and few details. Below you’ll find descriptions of a few of our favorite places and things in the Atlas. Grab your art supplies or a tablet and draw what you think it looks like without peeking at the real thing.
Once you’ve made your masterpiece, share it with us in Atlas Obscura’s forums, on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, or by emailing it to email@example.com. We’ll feature some of the most interesting takes in a future article.
- A collection of multiple cone-shaped formations sitting on top of a tall mound. Each cone is about six feet tall, and the entire mound is around 30 feet in height. Each cone-shaped formation shoots a jet of water out of an opening at its top.
- A kind of algae that flourishes in moist, hot environment covers the mound and makes the surface unusually bright and colorful.
- The geyser sticks out of a large pool of water like an island.
- This menacing beast is described as having “the head of a frog, the grinning face of a giant elephant, thick short legs set off by huge claws, the back of a dinosaur, and a long tail with spears at the end.”
- A larger-than-life sculpture of it stands outside a visitor center in Wisconsin. According to local lore, it was 30 inches tall and 7 feet long, and subsisted primarily on a diet of white bulldogs.
Wat Samphran Temple
Khlong Mai, Thailand
- A tall, cylindrical tower, 17 stories high. Its exterior is painted bright pink, and there are a number of small white windows.
- A green dragon with a long, narrow body and spines down its back seems to entwine the tower. Its legs cling to some of the windows, and its head rests on top. The dragon has large white horns and its mouth is open, as if it’s about to breathe fire.
Wellington, New Zealand
- A large statue of a hand with a human face that has a blank expression, with one eye brow slightly raised.
- Some of the fingers point down like legs. The hand’s thumb is bent and touches the index finger, like a person putting their hand on their hip.
- The statue stands on the roof of a building.
El Cemi Museum
Jayuya, Puerto Rico
- A building in the shape of a cemi, an important spiritual object among the Taíno, the indigenous people of the Caribbean. Scholars believe that the cemi’s three-part shape was inspired by the Tres Picachos (Three Peaks), a mountain that the Taíno hold sacred.
- The central part is the tallest, and represents a mountain peak, about twice as tall as the other parts.
- At the front, a shorter part represents Coabey, the land of the dead. It has a face carved into it, with two round eyes, a small round nose, and a large, mouth-like opening that holds a door. A decoration with large round beads arches over the head.
- At the back, a low, round part represents the land of the living. Two round eyes match the eye on the front of the building, but there is no mouth or opening.
- A blood-red waterfall emerging from a massive white glacier, over the rocks at its toe, and into the water.
- Below the glacier lies the ice-covered is the surface of West Lake Bonney.
Swing at the End of the World
- A small wooden treehouse stands on the edge of a steep slope. Hanging from one of the tree’s branches is a swing made from a wooden plank and two long ropes. It swings out over a forest-filled canyon.
- Beyond the canyon, an active volcano towers above the forest in the distance.
- A gaping, seemingly bottomless hole sits along a rocky shoreline of the Pacific Ocean.
- Ocean water spills into the hole and occasionally sprays back out, like a fountain.
Quinta da Regaleira
- An elaborate palace and gardens fill a massive estate. The palace is decorated with an octagonal tower, and all kinds of turrets, gargoyles, and mystical symbols.
- The ornate gardens are set on a hillside, and include a multitude of fountains, grottoes, statues, caves, and tunnels.
- The grounds also include a chapel, an aquarium built to look as if it naturally emerged from a large boulder, and a well that appears to be an underground tower lined with stairs.
Garden of Cosmic Speculation
- This garden covers 30 acres filled with lawns, ponds, bridges, sculptures, and buildings inspired by concepts from science and mathematics.
- Some of its features include snail-shaped grass mounds, double helix sculptures, and a water cascade that recounts the story of the universe.
- One of the larger features is a terrace covered in alternating squares of grass and metal that is meant to show how black holes distort space and time.
If you really can’t stand the suspense and just want to see what these places actually look like, we’ve got your back: