Interview with Jim Robins

Today Jim Robins kindly submits to the rigour of a Musings palaeoart interview. He also near buried me in art so while there’s the normal selection through the interview, some of the extras are included at the end. And Jim also has a blog where you can see still more images.

How long have you been an artist?

I graduated from Brighton College of Art in 1971 as an illustrator, husband and father….a traumatic condition requiring income, and substantial quantities of it. Art college education in those days didn’t really prepare one for the harsh world of commerce ( still doesn’t, I understand ) but I was up for anything and, sadly, still am. Was launched into the world of encyclopedias – Mitchell Beazley, Joy of Knowledge – which would require in short order drawings of anything and everything, from Dinosaurs to steam locomotion, from political analysis to psychological problems. Then to DK, cookbooks, gardening books, health books, sex books, DIY books, a phenomenal variety of stuff. Early in my career, in fact as a student, I fell in with Giovanni Caselli, who was a strong influence over my style of working. Haven’t seen him for decades, but manage to stay in occasional e-mail contact.

How long have you been producing palaeoart ?

First Dinosaur book was 1974, but I think we ought to skirt around that one….by the 1980’s, because my favoured technique tended to be line and wash you’d most often find me in the add-on ‘technical’ sections of palaeontological publication, the skeletons, the muscle structures etc, especially in a ground breaking series of books for Kingfisher ( I believe then still Grisewood + Dempsey ) authored by a young fellow by the name of Michael Benton…..The line and wash thing was then a bit of a bug-bear, publishers disliked it because if the printing register was off by a micron you had a nightmare, or they did. I tried to be John Sibbick, but it just didn’t work…..

What first got you interested in dinosaurs and art ?

For the former, being dragged around the Nat.Hist.Mus. on wet Sundays…..for the latter, there’s not much else I’m competent at……..

What’s your favourite piece of palaeo art that you have produced ?

Don’t think I’ve done it yet. There are odd things that I’ve felt happy with as a job competently done, Caudipteryx four-view for instance (shown below), drawn from the first published fossils, in need of serious reappraisal now, but at the time satisfyingly close to the mark. There was a time in the mid 1990’s when I was energetically proposing that this was the way to read Dinosaurs, four-view aviation style diagrams, much in the style of Profile publications much beloved of airheads and motor-nuts in the ’60’s and ’70’s. Unfortunately this coincided with the first ‘Walking with….’ where they did just that, digitally and in motion. Fortunately by that time I was a political cartoonist…….

Who is your favourite palaeoartist or piece of palaeoart ?

Difficult, there are so many, over the long term I guess I’ve been most in awe of Burian, then John Sibbick, a singular talent ( maybe coloured by not being able to do it myself ), Carl Buell, Anton, Csotonyi, Rauol Martin, Gurney etc etc. Luis Rey for brave ( and predictive ) eccentricity, of course Greg Paul – although I fear I’m well beyond the pale in reference to his recent palaeoart criticisms on DML. Similarly in awe of the digitalists, some of whom are also above, but I worry about an ‘over-plasticity’ ( probably ‘cos I can’t do that either ) but I also like Mr Witton – who makes it look like he didn’t use a computer at all.

What is your favourite dinosaur / archosaur ?

Love’em all……It’s the constantly evolving / reappraising thing about this branch of the study I enjoy. I have a long term unfinished project here on Australian Megafauna which is an occasional preoccupation. This also started in the mid 1990’s with a Platypus analysis – only hampered by there being no Platypi in the UK – but I’ll get there one day. In the meantime I’m a political cartoonist….or did I mention that ?

Is there any animal you would like to paint but haven’t ?


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

I guess to describe the beast as completely as possible according to the available information. To make the viewer believe in what they’re looking at, if possible to place it convincingly in it’s environment…..not, as it would seem so many publishers want, to be constantly rushing at you out of page or screen, red in tooth and claw.

Perhaps at this stage I should declare myself a fraud and a charlatan…..there have been many years when most of my income and future aspirations were derived from palaeontological illustration……I have to admit it’s been a while since I earned a red (green, or gold) cent from palaeoart. Probably not talkin’ to the right people…….list me amongst the political cartoonists……  J.

4 Responses to “Interview with Jim Robins”

  1. 1 Eric 15/06/2011 at 12:13 am

    The last image is the best.

    Grats on the artwork and interview Jim.

  2. 2 anarchosauromorpha 15/06/2011 at 3:27 pm

    From a long-time lurker…

    @Jim: Congrats on the interview. Remember your artwork from an insanely long mid-90s series of dinosaur-themed folder-formatted series of stuff released in Germany (sry for my awkward English). Ah, ye old days of being proud to see stuff as new as Afrovenator and going all nuts over it…

    Seriously, insanely good paleoart. It included some of the multi-view reconstructions, including a Velociraptor.

  3. 3 Giovanni Casselli 02/10/2011 at 10:06 pm

    Good boy Jim, you have done well.
    Come and see me, I am still at it
    Good luck to you

  1. 1 Palaeoart roundup « Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings Trackback on 06/10/2011 at 9:15 am
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