SFcrowsnest

Dinosaur Art: The World’s Greatest Paleoart edited by Steve White (art-book review).

It seems it isn’t just ordinary people who have a fascination with moving dinosaurs and illustrations of such. As Paleobiologist Dr. Philip J. Currie points out in the first introduction to the book ‘Dinosaur Art: The World’s Greatest Paleoart’, artists brings flesh and bone to fossils. In other words, it brings them to life in much the same way that space artists use the information from astronomers to give realistic presentations of other planets.

In this book, editor Steve White has brought together ten artists who specialise in such art together to show their work with interviews about their work, amply shown, technique and influences. They all generally agree that to draw a dinosaur from fossils is helped by having an understanding of muscle placement and drawing same before putting on a skin. If you’re going to follow in their footsteps or indeed any other type of art, understanding shape and structure is always important.

Of them, Gregory S. Paul was technical advisor on Spielberg’s ‘Jurassic Park’ and dinosaur based TV series but all of them have been involved with media dinosaur projects since, including Robert Nicholls who is working on the upcoming BBC2 series, ‘Live From Dinosaur Isle’. The reference to Greg Paul is especially interesting because his study of fossils proved that some dinosaurs were not the same species using comparative anatomy and which has now been accepted and changed how we view the thunder lizards. Score one for the artists. It is probably why we have moved so far from the original depictions of heavy creatures to something that is more elegant and fast as we see them today.

Just in case you did a page flick looking at the art, unless there’s a show copy that would be unlikely as it comes sealed in plastic film, you would spot a section of mammals not reptiles. This is the work of Maurico Antón who decided it would make sense to explore the over-looked Tertiary fossils. Seeing early elephants, zebra, antelope and giant sloths is a sharp reminder of evolution at work.

The interviews with all of them are fascinating, especially as they are adding digital to the mediums they use and something I’m still getting the hang of and reassured that it took over a year for them to master.

I should also point out that these paleoartists hail from across the world, with several of them living in the UK. Like the space artists, they are a relatively small number so it’s also inevitable that they admire each other’s work, mostly I suspect to ensure also that they keep up with what the scientists they work with have learnt.

These days, kids and, I hope, adults don’t see fossils as being dusty relics from the past but as a guide to what it was like millennia ago, it is invariably the artists who bring it to life. There are also several fold-out panoramic pictures that are truly jaw-dropping.

This book is truly magnificent, both in terms of art and the technique in how it was created and the interviews with the artists themselves. It really does have it all and the sort of book you will have to chain to your coffee table to prevent your ‘friends’ from wanting to ‘borrow’ it. Tell them to get their own copy. Truly awesome.

GF Willmetts

(pub: Titan Books. 188 page horizontal illustrated hardback. Price: £24.99 (UK), $34.95 (US), $41.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-85768-584-1)
check out website: www.titanbooks.com