Interview with Todd Marshall

The latest in my line of palaeoart inteviews, (following hot on the heels of that from Mark Hallett) is with Todd Marshall. Todd first came to my serious attention at least thanks to his illustrations of pterosaurs in Dave Unwin’s book and as with these kinds of things, once I had my eye in for his style I realised how much of his stuff I had seen before. Here he takes us through his potted history of artwork before ending up ‘in’ dinosaurs and of course provides some of his artwork for your edification (his property, on loan of course etc. and more is on his website here).

Pterosaurs, phytosaurs and even a drepanosaur

How long have you been an artist?

I’ve worked as an artist and illustrator for 23+ years now. It’s been a very colorful experience. I started off working for record labels and  other art studios in Los Angeles, Ca. painting album covers, logos for big rock bands, hand painting billboards for record labels and stores, then moved over to special effects in Hollywood doing character and creature designs. For a brief time in there I also worked in the tattoo industry, and for a very notorious motorcycle club (which I shouldn’t mention here!) painting their Harley Motorcycle tanks. I also worked on and off for themed entertainment companies in L.A. and Las Vegas. I have been working in the digital gaming industry now for over 10 years as a Senior Concept Artist, plus… being a paleo-artist. It’s been a wild ride and I hope I’m far from done!

How long have you been producing palaeoart?

I’ve been producing paleo-art for the last 10 years professionally and loving ever second I get to focus on it. Prehistoric vertebrate animals are my hearts pure passion and obsession. It seems like every spare minute I’m lost in the Mesozoic somewhere/sometime.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate enough to have been illustrating new dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals for science and the public for the last 7 years now. I have the honor of working very closely with Dr. Paul Sereno and his incredible team at the University of Chicago helping bring his new discoveries to the public. It’s my dream job come true. Every time Paul has me come to the lab; I’m like a little kid in a candy store… Paul hates it when I drool over rare specimens though! I can’t help it though…

Beelzebufo, the dinosaur eating frog

What first got you interested in dinosaurs and art?

I think I’ve been fascinated by dinosaurs from some of my youngest memories. My favorite story being that I remember watching “One Million Years B.C.” and being just blown away. Remember now, that was in the very early 70’s and that was top notch special effects for the time. I really believed somehow they had time traveled someone with a movie camera back in time and filmed these awesome animals! I watched the movie, got up and started drawing dinosaurs. My father came home and said, well… that’s GREAT, Todd, now let’s try learning how to write your name!

When I was a kid I would stay up to any hour of the night waiting for any movie having dinosaurs in it… King Kong (the original), Valley of Gwangi, The Lost World, just any of them! Anything with dinosaurs and monsters!!

I’ve never gotten over the magic and love I have for these animals. So, basically, I guess that also shows that drawing/art I’ve always done as far back as I can remember. They’ve both been in my heart for 43 years now. I’ve always thanked my wonderful parents though for being so supportive and encouraging though my life with my hearts fascinations.

What is your favorite piece of palaeo art that you have produced?

That’s a hard one since they all seem to have a special place and story in my heart, but if I had to pick, it would probably have to be the art I developed for the press release of Rugops primus. That was my first gig with Sereno and my first illustration in National Geographic Magazine! It is a very special thing to me that I’ll cherish forever.

Who is your favorite palaeoartist or piece of palaeoart?

Wow… that’s a super hard question! Seriously… I don’t know if I can answer that! I look up to, love and respect, basically every paleo-artist! I know that sounds like a cheap answer, but the thing about art is; every artist has something SO SPECIAL to add, contribute, and to admire and respect about their vision and talent. EVERY artist. I love seeing these magnificent animals though other artist’s eyes and minds. I find it so inspiring.

If I had to pin something down though… I guess I would say art by some of the old school artists that really made an impact on my life at a very young age. Artists like Charles R. Knight, of course. He was the ‘King’, baby. I was also captivated by the illustrations by Peter Zallinger and Rod Ruth, to name a few. I still have those old books and I’ll never be without them! I cherish them and there is still something about their art when I look at it that totally transports me away in my mind… pure magic!

Raptorex

What is your favorite dinosaur / archosaur?

Oh that’s easy, thank you… Allosaurus! It’s ALWAYS been my favorite dinosaur and I think that is also because of ‘One Million Years B.C.’! Plus, when I was a kid I got that awesome Aurora Allosaurus model I loved so much. I think I slept with that thing!

Is there any animal you would like to paint but have not?

Oh yes! There are so many new dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals to science being discovered all the time that I want to work on! (Laughing)

My greatest pleasure in working in paleo-art has been to illustrate new animal species. I’ve dreamed of doing that since I was a kid. I’ve illustrated over 19 new species now (with more in the pipeline), and each time it’s a dream come true. To actually be the first artist to put muscle and flesh on the bones of a real animal that no one has seen before; to be the first person to actually look a new animal in the face as it stares up to me from my sketches… well, it just leaves me speechless and I can stay up all night after I’ve reconstructed a new animal and just stare at it!

The recently described Kaprosuchus

What do you think is the most important part of good palaeoart?

Well, I really think it’s the special marriage of earth science and art; the ability to bring specific times and animals that have long gone from our amazing planet, to the viewers, then really give them a window to the past and a place that’s accessible and believable to their minds eye. It’s like being a guide through an old ‘Night Gallery’ episode hosted by Rod Serling.

I really believe, both science and art need each other to help educate, and to help bring young minds into such wonderful meaningful fields. You know, we are living in such an incredible time in history; this is the Golden Age of Paleontology, and I feel so lucky that I get to do what I do through art and science, to be able to contribute a very small and humble part, and I really hope it can help inspire other young artists and scientists the way I was inspired as a kid. To me, that’s the ultimate payoff, and my ultimate goal with my art.

5 Responses to “Interview with Todd Marshall”


  1. 1 Mike Taylor 21/11/2010 at 1:19 am

    Good to see this — thanks, Dave, for keeping the series rolling. Some of Todd’s pieces are among my very favourite dinosaur depictions, not least his super-gnarly Spinosaurus at http://www.search4dinosaurs.com/tm_spinosaurus.html

    This reminds me that I often find artists’ pencil sketches much more evocative than their finished, coloured pieces. For example, comparing the spinosaur above with the colour version at http://www.marshalls-art.com/pages/ppaleo/largepaleo/largepg16/Spinosaurus.htm it seems to me that there is more character and raw force to the former. Does anyone else feel that way?

    Similarly all my favourite Greg Paul pieces are pencil sketches — notably the running tyrannosaur, tiger and human in PDW, and the Giraffatitan herd scene at http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_u6CUqDWU5nw/SsAzgxbusGI/AAAAAAAAARU/KYSSxvcad3Q/s1600-h/Tendaguru_scene.jpg

    Does anyone else feel this way?

    • 2 David Hone 21/11/2010 at 8:26 am

      For me it varies with the piece. I much prefer the painted SPinosaurus here for example, but it’s all just personal preference (and in this case the two images and even styles are rather different).

      As for the series as a whole, I do have a couple more people who have promised to contribute at some point, though I don’t know when that will be, and a few other invitations / requests have been sent out too.

    • 3 mattvr 23/11/2010 at 10:49 am

      Black and white(monochrome)images can have a stronger visual impact as they’re all about contrast and value, which is usually the top consideration in artwork.
      There can also an element of ‘insert your own colour’ when viewing b&w images, which quite likely appeals to palaeontologists who’d like to image extinct animals *their own* way.


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