Interview with Scott Hartman

Deinonychus4articleWell it’s been quite a while but this was never forgotten, so I’m delighted to get the palaeoart interviews rumbling to life again by bringing you a one on one with Scott Hartman, most famous for his dinosaur skeletals but also well into the more ‘traditional’ branches of life reconstructions. There’s plenty on his website and DeviantArt pages, but Scott has also been good enough to share some new and upcoming stuff too. As ever, everything is copyright to Scott so play nice and no sharing without asking him first, it’s his work not mine.

How long have you been an artist?

I’m afraid I don’t have a straightforward answer to that – while I drew a bit growing up I never really kept up with it. For a long time I approached technical illustration as a tool rather than art; even my life reconstructions were originally little more than a way to show off anatomy for quite a while. I guess the transition probably occurred when I started to do artwork regularly to help supply the Wyoming Dinosaur Center with imagery for displays; since I was doing “arty” things on a regular basis I started to learn new techniques, began to think more about composition, lighting, etc. So in terms of when I felt I had personally become an artist then it’s been a decade or so.


How long have you been producing palaeoart?

Based on my previous answer I have to say that it’s been for longer than I’ve been an artist! The first paleoart pieces I produced that were shown in art shows was back in 1995, but they were…well, let’s just say I still had much to learn. The first skeletal reconstructions I produced that I would consider sufficiently professional so as to stand on their own was 1997, while the first life reconstructions that I would still want to take responsibility for probably date to around 2001-2002.

scelidosaurus WIP

What first got you interested in dinosaurs and art?

I have always been interested in dinosaurs – some of my earliest memories include having the Little Golden Book of Dinosaurs read to me (often several times a day). I guess from there I never really grew up. Art, on the other hand, was really just a re-occuring fancy until my work with dinosaurs demanded I take it more seriously, and from there it has grown into its own interest rather later than I imagine occurs from other artists. I expect this put me at something of a disadvantage compared to the many talented young artists I see out there that dedicate far more time to honing their craft, but luckily I’ve play a bit of catch-up later in life.


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

I guess it would be Dawn Fisher (above), which depicts Unenlagia fishing in the early morning hours. It’s not really a complicated painting, but it’s one of the few pieces where I truly approached it as a compositional piece rather than a technical reconstruction, and lo and behold it turned out with the tone and feel that I had originally envisioned. I have a few others pieces that I’ve also been working on from an “art-first” perspective, but alas they are also more complex and I haven’t had time to finish them (so far!).

Othnielioaurus rutting sneak peak

Who is your favourite palaeoartist or piece of palaeoart?

There are just so many ways to take (and answer) who my favorite paleoartist is – my favorite as a person? My favorite in terms of technique? In terms of accuracy? I’ve done this long enough to have several paleoartists that I am lucky enough to enjoy as friends, while the internet has also allowed for an even larger influx of new talent to be seen that perhaps would have been missed in previous decades. All of which sounds like I’m wussing out really. I guess if I had to pick one name it would be David Krentz, as I’ve always found his artwork delightful and he’s been a fantastic coworker on a myriad of different projects, from education to film and TV. My favorite piece of paleoart requires no such beating around the bush; it’s Mike Trcic’s Daspletosaurus sculpture that he did back when he was working on the original Jurassic Park dinosaurs. I’m sure a lot of it was timing (I originally laid eyes on it at my first SVP way back in Seattle), that it was one of the first paleo sculptures I’d seen in person, and the way it encapsulated much of the paleoart revolution up until then, but no other piece has made such a strong visceral impression on me. I’m just sad I didn’t have the means to pick one up back when they were available.


What is your favourite dinosaur / archosaur?
I always have a soft-spot for the animals I’ve spent time working with, including Archaeopteryx, Supersaurus, Camarasaurus, and Medusaceratops. I’m also pretty darn fascinated with all things archosaurian in the Triassic (and even the synapsids, but this clearly is neither the time nor place to talk about those one-window wannabees).

Darwin speed painting

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

All of them? I really love coming up with new visions of prehistoric life, but there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to get it done. And I’m about to have a lot less free time this fall.

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

Obviously good technique is important, but I feel that what makes paleoart fascinating is that it’s always in a state of tension between what constrains an artist (data and plausibility) and the freedom to follow his or her imagination. Being able to navigate that tension to produce something that is simultaneously data-driven yet fresh and imaginative is the intangible “it” that the best paleoart has in my view.

Ceratosaurus vs Allosaurus - juvenile smackdown web-sized

12 Responses to “Interview with Scott Hartman”

  1. 1 George Hancock 18/08/2013 at 8:27 pm

    so this is the mastermind behind the wonderful pictures of dinosaur skeletons, and the unenlaigia fishing is a true master piece

  2. 2 mark graham 26/08/2013 at 11:15 am

    Respect to Scott – his work is wonderful and a very interesting article.

  3. 3 Stefan 03/09/2013 at 2:58 am

    Those “juvenile” therapods are just adults scaled down, aren’t they? Shouldn’t the proportions be different, e.g bigger heads?

  4. 5 Stefan 04/09/2013 at 1:55 am

    Thanks David. They may have been drawn as juveniles but they do not have the proportions of juveniles that I thought they would. At that size of juvenile for such large species, I thought they would have bigger heads and other differences. Do we have fossils of the illustrated juveniles that show that the proportions etc are the same?

    • 6 David Hone 04/09/2013 at 8:14 am

      I don’t know about Allosaurus, but there is a Ceratosaurus that size (there’s a photo of it here on the blog somewhere) and while I’ve not checked it, it looks like Scott has done it here and I know how much time and effort he puts into these kinds of details. I think you’re expecting too much of them as ‘juveniles’. Sure they do have proportionally large heads, feet etc. when hatching like any amniote, but really these are about right and they are probably half grown or more. I don’t see anything inconsistent here in the art.

      • 7 Stefan 04/09/2013 at 2:23 pm

        Thanks David. I certainly agree that Scott’s work is fantastic.
        So the proportions even out while theropods are still fairly small compared to their adult size? Good to know.

      • 8 David Hone 04/09/2013 at 3:32 pm

        I think so. If anything, adult tyrannosaurs have bigger heads than do juveniles for example. I’ve not sat down and gone though this in any detail, but knowing his work, Scott has for these at least.

    • 9 Scott Hartman 26/10/2013 at 8:33 pm

      Sorry I didn’t see this earlier – those are both restored after existing fossils. As Dave says the ceratosaur is based on a specimen at Thanksgiving Point, while the juvenile allosaur is based on a specimen that is currently looking for a museum home (it was dug on private land) but is quite complete.

      I agree that they don’t appear as “juvenile” as one might expect, but they’re well past hatchling size and, well, the data is what it is.

      Thanks for the comments!

  5. 10 David Krentz 04/10/2013 at 4:43 am

    Wow! Thanks Scott, feeling is mutual! See you at SVP, and I’ll have the envelope with your money.
    Picking Trcic’s Daspletosaurus is a great choice. I remember getting the mailer ( remember those?) with photos and an order form when I was an animation student. It just blew me away.

    • 11 Scott Hartman 26/10/2013 at 8:35 pm

      I do remember getting that mailer. And I remember sitting right down and trying to calculate how many weeks I’d have to save (I was waiting tables at the time) to purchase one. Obviously the answer was “too many”, but either way it was my “first love” of 3D paleoart.

      P.S. See you there – you can pay me in beer if you’d prefer 😉

  1. 1 Palaeoart roundup | Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings Trackback on 17/08/2013 at 4:49 pm
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