The Dos and Don’ts of the Aspiring Paleoartist – part 1

by Carlos Augusto Chamarelli

Finally, our very first true paleoart post! Long overdue since the creation of this blog. Actually it looks more of a ranting post, but… Here I present my personal opinions of what is wrong with modern paleoart as well as giving some tips to make it right. See, everywhere I look for paleoartistic tips (from professionals, no less) they are pretty much the same, and not helpful at all. That is, from the ones I came across, but maybe some good soul out there give true helpful tips.

Instant classic image; also applies to illustrations. Taken from optimisticpainter.wordpress.com

As an enthusiast of prehistoric life, I often see myself dissatisfied with the majority of modern reconstructions for extinct animals, and dinosaurs are understandably the prime victims of being portrayed as barely living things. And that doesn’t have anything to do with this “well, see, dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals were unlike anything alive today, so they must have been really weird!” BS. True, they are different from today animals, but that doesn’t mean they are complete aliens.

So here I present some of my critics about what’s wrong with modern depictions of prehistoric life and personal tips to what can be made to improve it.

– Don’t steal it!

The most banal but useful of all tips. Maybe it’s some kind of rite of passage to copy the works of other, usually more famous paleoartists; it’s only natural since copying can give useful insight of how to develop your own style and make your own pictures later, but that’s about what it’s good for: studying.

If you downright steal someone else work, even if you try to alter a little, people WILL find out, specially the keen eyed who had seen tons of paleoartistc pictures.

Top- Robert Bakker, 1971.
Bottom- Zdenek Burian, 1976.

Left- James Gurney, 90’s?
Right- John Sibbick, 1985.

Top Left- Chris Butler, 1991.
Top Right- Mark Hallett, 1990.
Bottom Left- Chris Butler, 1991?.
Bottom Right- Whoever did the dinosaurs in The Macmillan Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals, 1988.

Top Left- Fabio Pastori, 2008.
Top Right- John Gurche, 80-90’s?.
Center Left- Fabio Pastori, 2009.
Center Right- Tony McVey, 90’s?.
Bottom Left- Mark Hallet, 1994.
Bottom Center- Fabio Pastori, 2008.
Bottom Right- Luis Rey, 90’s?.

Shame on that Pastori guy. Damn.

Previously this sort of stealing wasn’t so much a taboo for paleoart. Zdenek Burian for example, had to rely heavely in references others brought to him, so I can understand that he didn’t had much to work with when he made the Chasmosaurus painting back when there was no fancy internet and search engines. Still, even if it was out of necessity, it still sort of detracts the essence of the resulting work because it causes this déjà vu feeling.

Nowadays this problem is lessened because references are one google away, so anything that have remains other than teeth and isolated vertebrae should give a good idea as to what must be done. Still resorting to plagiarize someone else only says you’re slacking. Of course, I let one-time ocurrences to pass for certain artists. *

The extremely-obscure-where-it-wasn’t-released collection “Descobrindo o Mundo dos Dinossauros” (Discovering the World of Dinosaurs, translating the portuguese version. Originality at its peak) by the spanish publisher Salvat during the 2000’s  is the greatest example of overstealing: the entire series is composed of a seemingly unending stealpalooza, the main victims being John Sibbick and Jurassic Park’s concept artist Mark “Crash” McCreey. There are just so many obviously stolen pictures in all the 40 issues I can’t just point them all out, so I’ll just leave one where they did abstolutely nothing to try covering it up. And that’s not even the worst part: the larger one is suposed to be an Argentinosaurus.

Quality!

Quality!

Also on the same note, please, PLEASE don’t use this picture of Turok for ANYTHING.

fffff

Attack of the were-o-saurus!

I lost count of places I’ve seen this thing already.

– Flesh it properly!

The single most glaring and common gaffe of a paleoartist is taking the skeleton reference a little too literal, resulting in a creature that looks little more than a skeleton with a thin layer of skin over it. Bonus points if said creature have huge, bulging leg muscles.

One such artist known for this is Gregory S. Paul. If you’re into paleoart or dinosaurs in general you must have seen his work around. Honestly, I don’t care much about him. I know there have been some discussion about him lately, I’m not exactly sure about what, but seems to be about his skeletal reconstructions and a rather harsh commentary about other paleoartists, but I’m not going there. The real issue with GSP and people who adopted a similar style is how the animal looks like a starved walking corpse: the skull fenestrae, the vertebrae, the hips, the shoulder blades… They’re all there!

r

Plateosaurus longiceps, by Gregory S. Paul.

I mean, Ok, I get it, you used skeletal reference. That’s nice, but can you feed the poor animal now? Doing this only deprives your picture from conveying any life. If you look at any dinosaur analog you like, be it bird, reptile or even mammal, you’ll see they have a relatively “smooth” appearance- that is, if you remove the feather/fur coating. Their bones are visible only at certain parts of their bodies, and even then those are not entirely visible.

Featherless chicken breed. Taken from newscientist.com.

Don’t worry, he’s not sick and nobody pulled his feathers: this special breed combines the gene of other breeds who naturally lack feathers in certain parts of their bodies. Some argue that the lack of feathers make them vulnerable to sunburns and parasites, other says the lack of feathers is an advantage, but the point I’m trying to make is that despite the seemingly unnatural appearance, the skeleton is not visible, and muscles are balanced. I mean, the legs surely are muscular, but they look nothing like some of the monstrosities on steroids you often risk coming across when looking at dinosaur pictures.

Daspletosaurus, by an unknown artist, made somewhere around the 2000’s I think. I have no idea who the artist is, but I simply abhor his work.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that I absolutely hate everything by GSP. For one I’m especially fond of this Yangchuanosaurus picture, despite some gaffes like the visible fenestrae:

yango

Yangchuanosaurus shangyuensis, by Gregory S. Paul

Speaking of visible fenestrae, that’s a big no-no. Facial features are one of the key elements for paleoart, especially since some artists prefer to make portraits that focus on the animals head, so if you want to make a good dinosaur or any other prehistoric animal picture you should remember to make the creature having an appropriate face. Starting by not making fenestrae visible since that just doesn’t happen.

If Bakker teached me anything as a kid in Paleoworld, a true paleontology classic TV show from the 90’s (Dinosaur Revolution got NOTHING on this) is that the tiny holes you see along some animals skull around the mouth are the attachments for lips; having bigger holes near the eyes suggest that the animal in question is particularly lippy.

Green iguana and horse and their skulls, compared to Allosaurus and Diplodocus.

So taking the above example and comparing to those of dinosaurs, one can infer that the theropod Allosaurus had lizard lips (maybe even teeth-covering ones at that), while the sauropod Diplodocus had a face more similar to that of the horse, unlike the creepy, bare-toothed creature you see below…

Coming straight out of the ground is only mildy unsettling.

That’s also one of the few reasons why you rarely can go wrong when picturing prehistoric mammals: there’s plenty of analogs alive today, so you can use any of the closest related species or similar creatures as references…

All entelodontids pictures out there are variations of this one.

… Mostly. The above creature is a Archaeotherium, from a now-extinct family of omnivorous, pig-like creatures affectionally nicknamed “hell pigs”. Paleoartists have a particular penchant for making them as scary as possible, as you can see, their mouths are perpetually open, and seemingly devoid of lips. The rare occasions they are depicted with their mouths closed, they tend to show their teeth, ranging from just the upper canines to all of the front teeth… Except that if you just take a look at his skull and compare to his living close relatives – pigs and hippos- , you’ll figure it is supposed to have the same kind of fleshy muzzle these have.

Warthog, hippo and Archaeotherium skulls. Just wonder if all we knew about hippos came from their fossils.

Oh, and ceratopsians are still the odd ones: they have both big and tiny lip attachments. What does that mean? I don’t know, but my best guess is that they had cheeks, but unlike the ones you commonly see around, they probably didn’t ended right at the beak margin.

Triceratops skull. Taken from brantworks.com.

That also remind me of someone who criticized the presence of “eyebrows” on dinosaurs in certain pictures because there’s “no evidence for this”… Are you kidding me? Have you never seen an eagle?

Bald eagle and the permanent frowning. Taken from nationalgeographic.com.

One of the main features of eagles and similar predatory birds: the mean look. This effect is created by a pair of bone knobs in front of each eye that sustain the skin that form the brow. This same structure is found in other birds as well as some modern reptiles and many dinosaurs, specially theropods, although there are non-theropods examples. Interestingly enough, in lizards the knobs are smaller, but even these are able to make sizeable eyebrows.

Bald eagle skull. Taken from skullsunlimited.com. Sure it’s just a replica, so what?

So if you have the skeletal reference but don’t consider what it looks like in modern living animals, you’ll have things like these models of Mei Long from the American Museum of Natural History… I wish I could grab a better picture, but if you look hard enough you’ll see he ended up with those silly knobs right in front of the eyes. He’s not the only one from the same exhibit to end up like that either.

Mei Long from the AMNH. Photo by Roderick Mickens, taken from dinosaurs.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca.

– ….But don’t be exaggerated!

On the opposite spectrum of the sickly, skeletal creatures from the likes of GSP are the overly fleshed ones. Sometimes, at the wrong places. This happen when the artist want to make a creature more “interesting” and draws “inspiration” from living animals who sport such details, specially reptiles and exotic birds.

One such artist is the dreaded and sometimes loved (but not here, go away) Todd Marshall. The problem with his pictures is that he knows no restraint: all of his dinosaurs have huge serrated dewlaps and are covered in spikes everywhere.

Spinosaurus aegypticus by Todd Marshall. Alternatively, it could bethe devil himself. At least the sail is immaculate in this one…

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with adding details such as these. Heck, we do have evidence that Diplodocus and Ceratosaurus had a row of spikes along their backs, Carnotaurus had parallel rows of nodules and skin impressions in Edmontosaurus show he had a considerable-sized dewlap. But it couldn’t hurt to know when it’s appropriated and when it’s over the top.

Okay, so you have the (male) green iguana (Iguana iguana), and he has a row of spikes along the back and a big dewlap which too have some edgy scales. So while it may seem acceptable to recreate this aspect for dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures, one should consider these characteristics are not as common as they seem. The serrated dewlap and spiked back are more specific to the iguana genus; most lizards don’t have any of these details, some have a ridge along the back, some have dewlaps. But very few have both. Heck, that’s not even universal for other iguana species. The marine iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus), for example, have a row of spikes in their backs, but with smaller spikes and they have no dewlap, while the rhinoceros iguana (Cyclura cornuta) too have no dewlap and even smaller spikes in the back.

Green, marine and rhinoceros iguanas.

So basically what i’m saying is that it’s perfectly fine to add details, but you should do so sparingly, sometimes creatures don’t have any. If you recreate every single creature with as many details you can fit, instead of a mesozoic scene you have Pandora from Avatar.

Psittacosaurus skeleton, taken from wikipedia. Take a look at the ROW of quills at the TAIL.

Another problem with exaggeration is when you have the evidence for a detail, but decide to amplify it, sometimes to less than realistic proportions. One examples I can cite is the Psitaccosaurus. As most might know by now, he had a row of quills in their tails, as you can see in the above picture.

Psittacosaurus by Heather “Kyoht” Baeder.

…So where does one take this from?!

Anyway, for now those are the tips I have to give, but more will be posted eventually. I hope these were helpful enough for all of you who want to get into paleoart as business or just as a hobby.

Thanks for reading!

For more about paleoart, you might want to see:

*I edited out Sergey’s mention since he himself cleared his case in the comments. If any other artist don’t wish to have their work pictured here, feel free to say so.

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26 Comments

Filed under Paleoart

26 responses to “The Dos and Don’ts of the Aspiring Paleoartist – part 1

  1. Renato

    Very intersting post, and I agree with everything except for the problem of the fenestrae. I believe that’s ok to depict the skulls of dinosaurs (specially theropods) with the outline of the fenestrae, because the sides of the skull are covered only by a thin layer of muscles and skin (except of course among species that had a feathery coverage or bony plates), so the skull openings would be visible in some way. Even among people and several animals we can see the outline of the orbits around the eyeballs, so I think that it’s not that incorrect to show the fenestrae in dinosaurs.

    • Pangeia King

      Actually, the orbital fenestra is not the problematic one, I was referring to the antorbital and naris (nostril) fenestrae; in living examples (birds), the naris is only visible underneath the skin in some species, but the antorbital is never seen (altough this can be due to them being very reduced in birds?). It’s specially glaring when the artist use bright colors or skin details to greatly hightlight the fenestrae.

      • dewlap

        As for cranial fenestras, it really depends on the kind of integument on the animal (finely scaled possibly visible as in http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2120/2104720546_903e04e809_o.jpg, coarsely scaled or feathery unlike to be visible). As you can see that the animal with the jaw opened on the left-hand side, the muscles from the postorbital opening are bunched up and bulge out. While the animal on the right, having its mouth closed in a relax state the muscles from the postobital opening is more flat (neither squashed or stretched). It isn’t necessarily wrong because this also depends on the light source or the angle depicted and whether the muscle is relaxed or stretched. The antorbital opening is slightly more interesting, other than sinuses some workers believe (at least) partially occupied by the pterygoid muscles and whether this area would bulge out or not while the jaw is shut or open, it is hard to say we just don’t have anything to compare with, since birds have this area greatly reduced and the anterior pterygoids “only” attached to the roof of the mouth instead of running into the antorbital space, the area is very much occupied by sinuses, as for crocodilians, although they have the muscle occupying the area as well, they lack an opening for the area. If sinuses is the only element that occupies the antorbitals in “theropods” then some of them do have awfully large sinuses.

        As in highlighting these openings via different “skin details”, again it is hard to say whether it is necessarily wrong to do so. Looking at your example about lips (the one with the green iguana and the horse, above), it is not difficult to see that the “green iguana” has different sized scales framing its orbitals, the scales are slightly larger than those surrounding them. I’m not saying it is very well defined but it is clear enough to differentiate the scales within the orbit and on the border of the orbital.

      • Pangeia King

        Your example with the komodo dragon is a very good model to what I meant it should be done in dinosaurs (or any other prehistoric reptile, for that matter): while visible, they don’t show the entire outline of the fenestrae (which is much larger judging by the skull http://www.connecticutvalleybiological.com/images/sp2027.jpg) . You can tell it’s there, but it fits nicely.

        And the scales around reptiles eyes are smaller to allow the needed flexibility for blinking, so yes, it contrasts with the larger scales that surround then, making the orbital fenestra somewhat discernible. Then again, the iguana is not a good reference for dinosaurs overall: they go further with this because of even large scales outlining them, but that is also not a common feature in reptiles.

        Thanks for your comment!

  2. ikessauro

    Great post. I enjoyed reading it, very interesting. I too have to agree with Renato, averything you said is great and every paleoartist should take those tips in consideration. The fenestrae in dinos are a matter of great debate and I think you can draw/paint/model it as long as it’s a faint outline of the skull holes.

  3. I enjoyed this rant. I even saved it for some reminders in the future.

    The parts about plagiarism and bony anatomy are great cautionary tales, to be sure.

    I am a full-time illustrator who has completed commissioned and published prehistoric illustration. The problem with this sort of rant, is that, while you have a lot of reasonable and useful things to point out, you are doing so from a vantage point that’s got 100 years of hindsight, and correct me if I’m wrong, but also perhaps no experience with a team of editors in major publishing?

    I think a lot of folks like to imagine us sitting outside with a stack of reference, soaking in nature, shooting wildlife, and meditating on what these animals looked like all day, day after day, until we take a deep breath, gather up a huge stack of our sketches, and head in to paint in oils for the next year or so, when we hand in 30 or so phenomenal pieces of fine art for an entire year’s income.

    The reality, at least for me, and most that I know, is more like, we get an email at 4:30 on a Friday: “Hey, are you available to stay in all weekend and do 5 or 6 sketches of dinosaur scenes for very little money? We’re gonna need [cue insanely, insanely long list of prehistoric life, including dozens of plants and animals that a quick, ensuing Google search will show are not even in the same time period] but you can make this happen, ’cause you’re digital, right?”

    A modern illustrator is not awarded the time needed to nurture their best effort-there, I said it! And I’d say it again. Not usually. Worse, we are not paid enough to justify the hours of research on top of the art due. I believe there were golden days when people did research for the artists, but, that has not been my experience. It can be very difficult for someone who is not a true scientist, to try to quickly sift through years of conflicting information (just look at 1 of the only 2 other comments above! There is already a disagreement about the fenestrae)

    Not to mention, that for the last decade, books have not been profiting as much, and there is not an endless parade of high-profile prehistoric work maintaining a demand that is going to allow even the top-tier artists to earn a proper living.

    So, this kind of post is needed, but, please consider the hours and lives and effort that got us this far. It is no easy task to reconstruct an extinct animal, and to collect these artists’ work (many of which may or probably are, still out there trying to sell their skills as freelancers) and pick it apart, is a bit of a low blow. It’s kind of like me pointing out that you misspelled words on your blog.

    Just food for thought.

    Also, after the eons of research and careful sketching, and the interference of a possible committee of editors, playing up the color pallet, the drama, the action or even the “plumage” of dinosaurs can be an artist’s own little self-reward. You cannot expect an illustrator to finish art the way that you would.

    PS_Please remember that the artists are allowing you to utilize their art on this site, as you are not a copyright holder of this illustration. It’s by their good graces that you pick these corpses of late nights and stressful book deadlines.

    • Pangeia King

      First of all thanks for your insightful reply; I may have been kind of harsh in my commentary, but understand I’m in no way diminishing any of the artists, merely pointing my pet peeves.

      Also, I understand that you, as a professional illustrator, can attest in how difficult it is to actually work as one ,specially with editorial issues, but keep in mind that the work of a full-time scientific paleoartist – which where the focus of this post- is heavely based in research. It’s not expected that they give accuracy not only to the creatures but the settings. it’s mandatory.

      • Ya know-it’s a good question: How many full-time paleoartists are still out there? I realize there are still some superstars reeling in gainful contracts and prestigious book work, but, I bet there are quite a few who deserve the gigs but cannot keep it going.

        I know a lot of specialized artists who have no choice but to cross-pollinate-especially the medical artists. They are an endangered species.

    • David

      Well said. But, hee hee, I just corrected a misspelling in this post’s title so I don’t agree that pointing out misspellings is a low blow. It’s no more a low blow than pointing out a factual error. Thank you.

  4. You should not consider me a plagiarist. His argentinozavra I drew myself (I sculpt plasticine model for the reference) and Raul Amargazavr nothing to do with. A different formulation of the pose and lighting.

    • Pangeia King

      I wasn’t aware of that, sorry for implying it then. I know your work and it’s inspiring (so much it was featured as a recommendation in Earthling Nature bulletin #1), it’s just the similarities that between these that led me to think it was a case of plagiarism.

      Anyway, I’ll remove it from the post.

      • I agree that sometimes people copy other artist’s works, and I in no way approve it, but we have to remember that when you draw dinosaurs, there’s only so much you can do with the animal to make a cool looking pose without making scientific mistakes. Some dinosaurs like sauropods do not offer a great range of movement to be drawn very different of other people’s art. Eventually your drawing will look alike another one, even just a little. Of course some cases like ones shown in the post are very obvious and deserve to be treated like copies.

  5. dewlap

    Sorry for the late reply, I didn’t realize there is a reply to my comment on fenestrae (since I have not subscribed to this post). As from your reply, I guess you might have misunderstood the skull anatomy of the komodo dragon. When you are talking about the entire postorbital opening isn’t visible, you have to understand that the postorbital on these animals don’t really close up in order to increase cranial kinesis (they lack the jugal contact to form the ventral border of the fenestra, like your own example or this one here http://www.skullsunlimited.com/userfiles/image/variants_large_3666.jpg and this http://www.science.unsw.edu.au/media/pics/site/imagecache/5/D/5DD74E3A75FF309E0F177BC670752C4B.jpg , that is why you can roughly make out the top and side bars but not the bottom one.). My example is just to show the visibility of the muscles contracting and expanding occupy these areas. If you would like to have an example more relevant to the postorbital opening perhaps we can talk about the “tuatara” (like this one here, http://www.digimorph.org/specimens/Sphenodon_punctatus/adult/) which has a complete jugal contact. As to whether the opening is visible “completely”? Here are some examples where the borders of the opening is relatively visible (http://www.flickr.com/photos/sidm/5253662054/sizes/o/in/photostream/ and http://www.sciencealert.com.au/images/stories/university_of_new_south_wales/tuatara.jpg).

    My comment on the iguana was used because the picture was actually on this page (so I don’t have to copy and paste links) and on this very same post you were talking about “…it’s specially glaring when the artist use bright colors or skin details to greatly hightlight the fenestrae….”. I don’t know whether scale size differentiation in different area of the animal is a common feature or not among reptiles (since I can even see this on the komodo dragon and the tuatara pictures, without making a tally about this and from what I can see then all I can say is maybe.). Is an iguana a good reference or not? unfortunately I can’t be sure either, again, all we can say is certainly there are elements that they (dinosaurs) are closer to birds and other elements they are closer to reptiles.

    • dewlap

      After reading my comment again, I think the comment on the komodo dragon feneatra should read “They lack the jugal contact in order to increase cranial kinesis and for this reason their postorbitals don’t form a complete opening.”

  6. I like your post and agree with everything you said. I write How to Draw Dinosaurs for Prehistoric Times and I use their anatomy. I’m what you’d call a recent convert about the Fenestra not showing. For me, my thinking about it came when I looked at very well preserved large theropod skulls, and looking at the inside of the fenetstra. The inside bone texture is smooth, while the outside of the fenestra is rough. The only way the bone can get smooth (that I know of) is there had to be something there rubbing against the bone, and what ever that was extended to the inside edge of the fenestra, and for me, would negate any inference of a fenestra. Like you, I’ve tried to discourage the ‘stealing’ of someone’s ‘art/style’. Everyone needs to develop there own style. Keep up the good work.

    • Pangeia King

      Thanks forthe comment 🙂
      As for the bone texture, personally I can’t comment on that as I would have to verify if the same is observed in other animals, but if I have the chance to see skulls up close I’ll check for the texture.

  7. Stealing in art, any kind of art is a tricky subject. If we didn’t borrow ‘some’ from other artists and researches then I fear that would make thing very difficult. Obviously there are some direct rip-offs mentioned here that are unfortunate, but what is so bad about building upon a theme that someone has explored previously? I have no problem with it.

    • Pangeia King

      I think you’re misunderstanding my point with this post: I’m not criticizing a theme or the use of base references (skeletals, for example, though they can be overdone as it happened with GSP), but copies such as the ones I presented.

      • I apologize if that sounded like I was disagreeing. I fully agree with you that there are lot’s of tropes left over from earlier artists, and yes GSP is a major one. I was just rhetorically stating that it would be very difficult for any type of scientific illustration to have some degree of derivative nature. You have written a very good article, I hope to see more good stuff in the future.

      • I’ve noticed that there seems to be an upsurge in the idea that “all art is derivative” and “artists just stand on the shoulders of those who came before them.” Maybe not the OP’s point here, but nonetheless, there is a LOT to consider with this idea. It’s not the kind of thing we could hash out quickly, as it’s a spectrum of grey areas. For the sake of conversation, try thinking of it as a “grey rainbow,” if you will.

        Black / Dark Greys: Let’s make something clear for me, personally. I’m not fond of anything in the spectrum that is a direct copy, nor anything that is “too close and obvious” (black or dark grey in the spectrum: composition lifted (poses), anatomical mistakes retained). The artist was either lazy, or in love with a piece of art from the past, and just flat-out used it as their own exercise or stole. I believe the audience suffers when an artist doesn’t try to at least add on to something already out there, in the ethos. Someone above wrote that this can happen accidentally, especially if the subject has limited movement or pose-ability and I agree. *Sometimes while sifting reference an image can get stuck in your subconscious and influence you, truly without your knowledge. Even a childhood book or illustration can do this–dwell for years, idle and then somehow manifest. Before you chastise a living artist, try asking them. You can potentially damage their career and there is the slight possibility that they really didn’t see what you think influenced them. Just ask, if they are alive, the artists I know might tell you what was going on at the time. *Lastly, I have had clients flat-out TELL ME to use certain reference. I always try to talk them out of it, but every now and again, there are people who insist on something akin to a copy, or else the contract terminates.

        Mid-Greys: I would relegate this to somewhere between the land of forced reference (see above) and the start of homage. This is the part of the spectrum that makes you scratch your head at [any] piece of art and go, “Where have I seen that before?” yet you are still interested in the result. This is the area of the spectrum that too many young people are assuming controls all creativity and makes all art derivative. It’s not. A lot of art might be, but in no way is all art derivative. New major art movements and minor art movements pop up all the time unprompted by derivative notions. This can only be observed looking back, which is why I feel it’s hard for our impatient generation to consider. I’d also put the black art of formula in the mid-greys. A lot of art directors, movie-makers and storytellers believe in, and utilize tropes and formulas to sell IP. Others confuse formula with structure and vice-versa. Again, too long to tackle here and now. All other science and vocation utilize what has come before them, why wouldn’t artists?

        Light Greys / White: Light grey is the area where artists see bits and pieces of other illustration, digest it, love it, study it, and desire to build on it–or just show their expression of that tidbit. It’s not a crime, it’s actually linked to what makes folks become artists in the first place. Is “homage” a flowery word for copying? No. It’s not the same thing as writing a paper on paleontology that is based on the knowledge that came before it. It cannot be compared to other branches of knowledge and called derivative in the same ways because it is filtered through indefinable human expression. I recently finished a book of bird mythology in which I tried very hard to create a book that was felt new and different: http://www.amazon.com/Birds-Lore-Book-Silver-Paperback/dp/098409007X/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1386728339&sr=1-6&keywords=Birds+of+Lore But the “style” that I was going for, was influenced by medieval and Victorian nature art. Derivative? Only along the fringes, and only because I love that art and chose to be awash in the design sensibilities of those periods. It’s what drove the idea, so why wouldn’t it touch the art? The white side of the spectrum is where something looks / feels entirely original and fresh. The artist had their own ideas, and had to be brave to show them (though as posted here, sometimes that means criticism years later). Or, they just have an inner voice that always shows through. It can honestly be compulsory, like a lot of other aspects of the artist or the art!

        I hope my comment reduces some of the “gotcha” stuff that gets posted, because, one never knows all of the variables involved.

      • Yes, I most definitely agree with what you are saying here.

  8. Pingback: The Dos and Dont’s of the Aspiring Paleoartist – part 1 | joshuahenderson006

  9. David

    Mr. Chamarelli, the title of your article should have “Dont’s” corrected to “Don’ts.” Sorry, I’m a stickler for correct grammar; reflexive with me, but nevertheless you wrote a great article. Wonderful advice and discussion. Thank you. David

  10. I think the artist you abhor, the one who did that blue tyrannosaurid is a guy named Gabriel Lio, if I’m not mistaken. His work is really an eyesore.

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