By Carlos Augusto Chamarelli
Hey everybody, PK here once more. It was LONG time since my last proper article, but it’s not like my life (or yours) exist solely around EN. I, for one, enjoyed the break. Today I’m here to review one of the spotlights of the year for dinosaur publications; like other dinosaur blogs out there EN was granted the chance to receive and review Dinosaur Art – The World’s Greatest Paleoart by Titan Books, containing the artwork of 10 contemporary paleoartists ranging from veterans like Gregory Paul and John Sibbick to newcomers like John Conway and Julius Csotonyi.
It was originally going to be a collaboration post with RSN, but since the mail agencies in Brazil went on strike (which is pretty much the standard situation at this point), his copy might take some more time to arrive*, so I’ll just go on and make my review solo so I don’t disappoint anyone.
Right off the bat I can say the cover is a good indicative of the quality level the book offers, with a gorgeously detailed and a now somewhat classic scene of a supercroc attacking a dinosaur in the dustcover, in this case, Deinosuchus and Albertosaurus, by Raul Martin. While he’s certainly one of the best choices of cover for this book (as opposed to… I’ll talk about him in due time). It strikes me as odd though because the scene seems to emphasize the crocodile more. It’s DINOSAUR Art after all, and the star is about to be eaten by his humongous cousin.
But hey, that’s just the dust jacket. Removing it will reveal two superb illustrations in negative: on the front there are two Homalocephale skeletons fighting by John Sibbick, and a group of Albertosaurus, one Edmontonia, one Edmontosaurus and what seems to be a Velociraptor super-jumping above them in the back by Julius Csotonyi. I thought it looked beautiful in the glossy-black paper and deserved to be shared.
The text about the history of paleontology and paleoart is relatively short, or may feel so despite spanning through four pages, three columns each, but the reading is so fluid that you’ll be at the end before you notice. That’s not to say it’s bad, I really liked it and thought it did a good job in giving a little of backstory about the changes in our views on dinosaurs and the mission paleoartists are tasked with in a concise manner.
Each artist interview has a collection of pictures that in some cases occupies the entire page, some are two-page spreads, and some even have folding pages that open to reveal a much grander scene. From sketches and studies to museum murals depicting various species together, the quality of the pictures is also impressive: most of them you find around the internet, but see, their resolution make them no justice since you can’t see the finer details that compose it as they appear in the book. I mean, just looking at the cover with the Deinosuchus, a picture so easily found by googling it, I realize that even the higher resolution available fails miserably to show the level of quality the picture really possess.
In the interviews we get to know about the artists own history, from the first attempts at drawing dinosaurs with nothing but a pencil, paper and loads of child-like imagination to the pursuit of professional career (with art being or not their main goal), their opinions on different media and the adaptation to the digital tools, influences and opinions of their approach in their own work. Along the interviews there is usually a profile for a specific creature that’s important for the artist in question (i.e. Giraffatitan for GSP, Smilodon for Mauricio Antón), but they’re unfortunate for being placed right in the middle of the interview, messing with the reading flow.
Now, I was going to make a more elaborated critique on each artist, but I decided it would take too much time and/or delay this review even further than it needs to be, so I might still do it as a separated post, so for the time being I’ll just say I feel disappointed about the choice of one of them: Todd Marshall.
I mean, I can see the reasons he probably was included. I know about some complaints about many other great paleoartists like Mark Hallet and Larry Felder who were left out of the books, but I understand this was probably done because the book focus more in contemporary paleoartists, and we don’t hear much, if at all, from these artists nowadays; Peter Schouten is also a notably absence despite still active, but that could be because (much for RSN’s utter disgust) he’s comparatively more of obscure and very much underappreciated. Even though they included this Robert Nicholls person who I’ve never heard about before (but I was pleased with his work nonetheless). Still, I’m not much of a fan of Marshall’s reconstructions since I think they aren’t on par with the rest, I definitely wouldn’t have included him. Well, more on this on the later post.
In closing words, considering the overall quality of a book this size with high-resolution illustrations in high quality paper (man, that paper), it’s absolutely great value for money (but that could just be me since it would cost over 200 bucks if it was ever released in Brazil) and a real treat for anyone who’s into dinosaurs or is yet to discover is into dinosaurs.
Just go and see it for yourself, it’s really worth it!
* As I wrote this the strike seems to have ended, but they still might delay the delivery. Efficiency.