Archive for the 'Palaeoart' Category

Interview with Wayne Barlowe

It’s been a good while since we’ve had a new art interview, but I’m pleased to report that Wayne Barlowe has kindly pitched in. While Wanye has not been especially productive in this line of art, he has made some major contributions and his work has turned up in plenty of dinosaur books over the years. As per usual all images are on loan here and should not be reproduced without his permission etc.


How long have you been an artist?
I’ve been working professionally since 1977. Spent two years at Cooper Union and began to get called to do science fiction illustration for magazines and paperbacks. In the mid ’90’s I embarked upon a pleasant, albeit short-lived sojourn into the world of paleo art.

How long have you been producing palaeoart?
Well, the truth is, I haven’t actually done any paleo art in some time. When I was doing nothing but, I probably spent a total of 4 – 5 years immersed in that world. During that time, along with doing a few paintings for myself, I rendered the color paintings for THE HORNED DINOSAURS and AN ALPHABET OF DINOSAURS both authored by Dr. Peter Dodson – somewhere in the neighborhood of forty or so paintings.

What first got you interested in dinosaurs and art?
I had a deep and abiding interest in paleo art and paleontology, in general, since I was a child. My parents, both nature artists, had the full set of Augusta/Burian volumes and those acted as perfect catalysts for my young imagination. They actually served as something of an inspiration for my SF nature book, EXPEDITION.

What is your favourite piece of palaeo art that you have produced?
I am generally hyper-critical of my own work. With that said, a few of the paleo pieces still work for me. I’d probably point to JURASSIC SIESTA – a pair of satiated ceratosaurs – as my favorite.

Who is your favourite palaeoartist or piece of palaeoart?
While I happily admire many of the pieces I see being produced today, I’d have to say that Zdenek Burian’s approach has never really been beaten. He was a painter first and a paleo man second. For me, his dinosaur and early mammal paintings are Art. The brushwork, the atmosphere, the composition all bespeak an Old World tradition and sensibility. There is much to learn and admire in those works, despite the advances in understanding of the Mesozoic world. For nostalgia reasons, his classic T-rex and hadrosaur painting has to be my favorite.

What is your favourite dinosaur / archosaur?
I’ll always have a soft spot for ceratosaurs. So baroque and interesting.

Is there any animal you would like to paint but have not?
Given my short tenure in the paleo art world, the list is way too long. Apart from some the newly found feathered dinosaurs, I love flying reptiles – the whole idea is really too fantastic – and would eventually like to do a serious painting of one of them. I’m a big WW1 airplane buff, so these two interests might dovetail and find some expression in a pterosaur painting.

What do you think is the most important part of good palaeoart?
Integrity. Integrity towards the composition, towards the world being depicted, towards the spirit of the creature being shown.

More from the studio of Luis Rey

I spent yesterday with Luis Rey, catching up after far too long and helping him out as he wanted to start a blog. We had some computer problems, but eventually got things working and stuck up a bunch of posts. Luis has produced or modified a lot of pictures over the last couple of years that no-one has seen but now they’re starting to come online. If you want to check it, out, drop into his blog here.

The last time I visited, Luis let me take a bunch of photos of his studio and that led to the first of the palaeoart interview series. It’s packed with casts, models, sculptures and paintings and includes a good number of commercial pieces that Luis has retouched or repainted. Once again he was kind enough to let me snap away so enjoy some more of his bits and pieces.

A little more on making Fedexia

Back at the end of last year, buried in the huge mass of posts based on my superb trip to the Carnegie in Pittsburgh, I covered this lovely little display about the creation of palaeoart, based on an animal named Fedexia. The artist responsible, Mark Klingler, was kind enough, not only to supply me with the means to get hold of his DIY Quetzalcoatlus, but also provided me with some of his files on his reconstruction to show the process rather more clearly. My thanks to him for these.

Key to the above collection:
A 1–3. Fossil skull: Dorsal View, Diagram, Lateral view

B. Reconstructed skeleton as it may have looked

C 1–11. Reconstruction process to create the look of Fedexia
C1. original pencil drawing with #2 mechanical pencil on Bristol board
C2. color overlay with color pencil on vellum
C3. scanned in pencil, contrasted in Photoshop
C4. overlay C3 over C2 in Photoshop
C5. scanned in pattern outline, original in pen & ink on vellum, and filled pattern dots in Photoshop
C6. knocked out areas outside pattern dots
C7. addition of purple form midtones
C8. addition of sky blue highlights on bumps of skin
C9. shadow overlay added to Fedexia
C10. highlight overlay added to Fedexia, later lightened in transparency
C11. final Fedexia striegeli reconstruction

D 1–6. Reconstructed environment for Fedexia; 2H pencil, mechanical pencil on vellum
D1. Thumbnail sketch layout
D2. Place Fedexia in for size
D3. Final pencil Pennsylvanian time period, some 300 m.y.a., plants include:
• Calamites carinatus (after Hirmer 1927)
• Psaronius (tree ferns from Stidd 1971)
• Fallen lepidodendron trunks
• Walchia (conifer, after Moret)
• Asterophillites equisetiformis
D4. Color overlay, color pencil on vellum
D5. Assembled pencil background contrasted in Photoshop with Fedexia reconstruction
D6. Assembled colored background with Fedexia reconstruction

What’s all this then?

Well at least of what it is should be pretty obvious based on the picture (which comes courtesy of and copyright to Brett Booth, of Carnosauria fame). I’ll be explaining all more fully as soon as I get the time, but after having been sitting on this for quite some time and then suddenly getting the opportunity it seemed a shame not to put up this beautiful picture right away. More to come very soon, promise.

Carnegie mural pterosaurs

As I noted yesterday, I kept the few pterosaurs apart from the gallery. This was mostly because I simply couldn’t get very good photos of them. High up on the walls it made photography difficult (and while yes, there are balconies, I was then shooting across the entire hallway). The first two are from the Late Jurassic layout and it’s not entirely clear what they are supposed to be. That’s no criticism of the artists, the Morrison is rather lacking in pterosaur material and to be honest many of the basal pterosaur look really quite similar, though if pushed I’d probably say the upper ones were rhamphorhynchines and the lower scaphoganthines. At the bottom though is something rather more obvious, it’s Quetzalcoatlus and of course this goes alongside the mounted cast that hangs from the ceiling.

While obviously there’s the old running joke about pterosaur just being pictured alongside sauropods for scale, it’s understandable here where the dinosaurs really are the star of the show and for the Morrison especially (and this is essentially a Morrison exhibit) there’s not much and nothing in the Carnegie collections at all, so their use as ‘background’ is fair enough. Well worth showing though!

Carnegie dinosaur murals

Those who have been reading the Musings at any point in the last few weeks cannot have missed the various murals in the background of photos of the Carnegie exhibits. Indeed, some of it should be very familiar as it was pained by palaeoart team Bob & Tess and bit featured in my interview with them on here.
Till now I’ve been avoiding showing any of the murals properly as I wanted to do something like this and put them all together as one big series. (Actually, that’s not quite true, I took the pterosaurs out and are saving them to do separately tomorrow). So here they all are, pterosaurs aside, I think I got a photo of every single dinosaur (and one aeteosaur) and put them all here, and of course pretty much every one of those is actually represented by a mounted skeleton in the galleries, so it really is all delightfully linked together. Enjoy.

Models on show

Fossils, casts and murals abound in the main exhibition hall of the Carnegie, but there is also a small number of life-sized reconstructed models of a number of taxa (such as this wonderfully bristly Psittacosaurus above), especially around the small ‘Jehol’ section.Here we can see a fully feathered Caudipteryx, a deinonychosaur (I think it’s supposed to be Sinornithosaurus, but can’t remember) as well as a lovely swimming choristodere.
I really do like these kinds of thing and they seem to be rarely used in museums (I can sympathise, they can’t be cheap) and this is a great little set, that in particular complements the often 2-D nature of the Jehol preservation. Nicely done.

Reconstructing Fedexia

Today’s sign is a bit of a different one. It comes from the Carnegie’s superb family gallery that lays out a fun and informative A-Z of museums, what they do, how they work, and why they are important. Here is a lovely display about the reconstruction of a fossil taxon by noted artist Mark Klingler.

While I have seen a number of signs and exhibits about producing like reconstructions of fossil animals, but these tend to focus on fleshing out skeletons and issues of colour patterns, but here it’s devoted more to the art itself. Sure those issues are present here as well, but there’s things about composition and structure. It’s a level of depth I don’t think I have seen before for this subject and it was well presented, especially in a gallery of the museum focused at a younger audience.

Want to do some dinosaur art?


I am genuinely interested in palaeoart and the act of reconstructing representations of dinosaurs as living animals from the fossil record. Indeed for me it’s the final extension of what I do as a palaeontologist in trying to produce the information that allows us to bring these long dead animals back to life.

However, I’m well aware of the fact that a great many of my friends in this field struggle to make a living, and despite their willingness to produce works on my behalf (and those of others) they are often not renumerated to the degree they should be. This makes me feel exceptionally guilty, but there’s not much I can do about it. I simply don’t have the money available for such things and all I can do is showcase their works and talent. A number of other people have generously volunteered their services at various times and have been kind enough to produce work that links to my research. Even here though, I feel I’m picking on the select ‘few’ when I know there are many people out there (and a large number who read this blog) would have liked a crack at whatever new thing in being described.

Bearing all that in mind, I though it time to open something up to anyone. A chance for any person who is interested to get a jump on a project and produce something in relation to it. I have an interesting specimen which is being written up for a paper and I’m giving people the chance to illustrate this. If you want to join in, all you have to do is e-mail me, or add a comment below and I’ll send you what you need.

The ‘rules’ as such are as follows:

1. The images etc. I send are private and should not be published or sent around etc. to anyone until the paper is out. Nor for that matter should you publish any sketches etc. Sorry about this, but the research should be kept private and of course the museum that owns the specimen and the curators who looks after it have their rules too about such use. It’s pretty much normal practice though.

2. You should discuss this work only with me, or another person you know to be illustrating this. I’m not that secretive about my research, but equally I can’t control a disparate group of people either, so the easiest and ‘safest’ thing to do is this.

3. Any submission I get will be published on the Musings (credited of course) when the paper is out (assuming you want that!). If you have done something and it’s ready in time I will post it.

4. Assuming we get media interest in this, I will make all images available to the media (credited of course, and with your permission) and thus may get some serious online interest.

5. I will attempt to provide such scientific guidance and feedback for the work as far as possible to help this on it’s way, though of course I can’t necessarily give tons of help if I have a dozen (or maybe even many more) people to deal with.

Edit: 6. Following the first few comments I realise that just to cover myself in case of any eventuality I reserve the right to have to change these rules and especially limit the number of participants. I simply can’t help / handle dozens of people, so if *everyone* signs up I may have to cut this down / hold a lottery / something. I hope it won’t come to that, but understand that 100 people could sign up and I can’t offer the time to help them all and I’d be uncomfortable sending out this stuff to such a huge number of people.

What I really hope this is, is a chance for people who want their work to be seen and to work with me on a project (getting some real help about anatomy etc.) and, well, have their work seen and recognised. What I hope this is not and I’m trying hard to make sure it isn’t, is exploitative. I know loads of people out there simply want to paint and draw dinosaurs and rush to be among the first to do so when something new comes out. If that’s happening anyway, then here’s a chance for you to do that with the researcher in question and get a headstart and real feedback on the subject (even if there’s a whole bunch of people in the same position).

I should add at this point that the paper is really not much more than a sketch right now and I don’t expect to finish the writing for a good few weeks or even a few months and then of course there are reviews etc. I’ll be surprised if this is formally published in the next 3-4 months, and it could easily be twice that (and more if there are big delays or bad luck). Either way, time is on your side, so don’t feel you have tyo go mad and get scribbling, but be warned that I have only limited control over when the ‘deadline’ will be. The paper is not about a new species but deals with dinosaur behaviour.

So, if you still want in, drop me a line or add a comment below. In a couple of weeks, I’ll put together a package of photos and files and send them out and let you get started.



Palaeoart roundup

My palaeoart interviews have now been going for quite a while and seem to be very popular. However, if I’m honest, I’m really starting to run out of people to interview. I try to cover those who works I genuinely like or have a strong personal connection to. Fortunately a great many artists have been good enough to give me their time and loan me their works to build up my interview portfolio, but with this starting to wind down it seemed a good opportunity to create this clearing house and provide a list of all of those who have generously contributed. I do have a few more requests out there with people so I certainly hope this is not the end of the palaeoart interviews, but its might well be the beginning of the end.

Here then is the roll call (in alphabetical order):

Andrey Atuchin

Wayne Barlowe

Brett Booth

Brian Choo

John Conway

Julius Csotonyi

Mick Ellison

Brian Engh

Larry Felder

James Gurney

Mark Hallett

Scott Hartman

Doug Henderson

David Krentz

Todd Marshall

Jeff Martz

Julia Molnar

Bob Nicholls

Luis Rey

Jim Robbins

John Sibbick

Mike Skrepnick

Adam Smith

William Stout

Gabriel Ugueto

Bob Walters & Tess Kissinger

Steve White

Mark Witton

My thanks to them all and I hope to add to this list again soon.

Doug Henderson sketchbook

Yesterday, palaeoart great Doug Henderson was kind enough to talk about his artworks in an interview on the Musings. In addition to the wealth of dinosaur art he loaned me for the interview, he also sent on a bunch of his landscape sketches on which his art is built. Those familiar with Doug’s work will know that the backgrounds (and even foregrounds) are richly decorated and detailed and provides a very strong frame for his dinosaurs, so in addition to their own value as art, this provide a nice insight into how his palaeoart is created.

Continue reading ‘Doug Henderson sketchbook’

Interview with Doug Henderson

This is a really special interview for me as Doug is my personal favourite palaeoartist and I know a lot of the people currently working in the area admit something similar. His old website is no more, though fortunately some of it is archived here and actually Doug’s e-bay store has a good collection of quite high quality versions of his artwork (and of course sells prints!). I’ll leave it there and let his words and images tell the story. Oh yes, and do come back tomorrow – Doug has also sent me a selection of his field sketches of landscapes etc. and I’ll be putting these up in an additional post rather than overfill this one. As usual these works are Doug’s, he owns the copyrights to his artwork and these should not be reproduced or used without his permission blah blah etc. Now, go enjoy:

Continue reading ‘Interview with Doug Henderson’

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