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Re-upping and Jim Gurney



Hello y'all. 

After a couple years rest I have returned to the dinosaur list. For the last
year or two before I stopped monitoring the list- because it got
overwhelming- I was sending notices of recent pubs with short
descriptions. I may start doing that again. We'll see. It depends on the
mood of the list and how much of substance goes by. There have
always been neat people on the list and I look forward to re-making some
old connections.

To fill in for those who don't know who I am, I am a paleontologist here at
the NMNH, Smithsonian Institution. My specialty is morphometrics - the
quantification and study of shape - and I run a laboratory here at the
NMNH for morphometrics, morphological modelling, and other aspects of
data analysis. My work has been in theoretical morphometrics and in
applications to trilobites and, especially, dinosaurs. I tend to concentrate
on pachycephalosaurs and described (with coauthors) sexual
dimorphism in Stegoceras. These days I am doing lots of work on the
three-dimensional modelling of dinosaur morphology using various
three-dimensional digitizers and CT scanners. I'll fill people in as things
develop and are ready for presentation (next stop Dinofest III). I will also
stress that I speak for myself on the list, not the Smithsonian.

I must make some comments on some of the recent statements made on
this list about Jim Gurney. It was amazing to me to see people state that
Gurney does not do significant research while doing his painting. This is
a big surprise to myself and a bunch of other paleontologists who have
worked closely with him and helped in his research over these past 10
years. To be blunt, to imply otherwise not only is factually incorrect but,
in my opinion, is slanderous in such a public forum. One of the negatives
of the internet is that it is easy to make strong statements to lots of
people without thinking them all the way through. I find the statements
made by four or five members of the list recently to fit that mold and find
many of them  self-serving, false and showing a good deal of envy over
Jim's success.

To suggest that Jim Gurney is not inventive and innovative is wrong. 
Nothing could be further from the truth.  I have been in his studio and
have seen his handiwork at building his own models to help in his
painting. Jim is one of the most innovative people I have ever met. I'd love
to get him and Chris McGowan together some time.

As for the start of this, I am incredulous over Brian Franczak's nasty
and, in my opinion, slanderous assault on Gurney.  I used to call Brian a
friend and am the proud owner of one of his originals - the Stegoceras
painting (for sentimental reasons). However, I cannot reconcile the Brian
I've known for years with this e-mail. It's sad to me, really. I agree that
Mark Hallet is a wonderful talent but know that Gurney is as well.  I must
say that nothing in Brian's note rings at all true to me. I guess I'm one of
that massive group of people, who "should know better" - according to
Brian. Of course,  this also includes bucket-loads of paleontologists who
know their beasts better than anyone in the world (I'm not an anatomist,
so I'm not including myself in this specific category).  Or perhaps Brian
should become a bit more introspective and reassess his own motives. 
Just because Brian says it over the Internet doesn't make it so. It's not.

As for Ralph Miller's comments. Perhaps he should actually know his
subject and how Gurney works before making sweeping statements
about him. Gurney does not pour out works at great speeds avoiding
research. He carefully plans and researches each one. I know because I
have been part of the process and know what care he does take to get
things right. I agree that Greg Paul is one of the most influential and
copied artists in history and with good reason. He's done important work.
Many artists, including Brian from his past statements, have been
influenced by or have taken a lot from him. Despite this, Jim Gurney has
taken less and has been influenced much less by Greg than many
others.

There's lots more to say but I wanted to go on record on the list as
saying that Brian and the few others that have been assaulting Jim over
the last couple of days do not represent most of the paleontological
community and, from my experience, do not at all reflect their opinion of
Jim's work.  I think they are dead wrong on all counts. 

I am going to sign off for now by just saying that it is real easy to malign
someone's work, especially if you are ignorant of the process he or she
goes though to produce it. Just because Brian states Gurney has
plagiarized a specific model does not make it true. It's just sad how easy
it is for people to hate someone because they are successful. Jim
Gurney is good for paleontology and does nice work.

Gone for turkey day. Hope y'all have a good one. I'll see about starting up
the reference summaries again.

Ralph Chapman