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RE: Paleoart vs Fantasy (long - brace yourselves)



-----Original Message-----
From: owner-dinosaur@usc.edu [mailto:owner-dinosaur@usc.edu]On Behalf Of Michael Skrepnick
Sent: Wednesday, May 01, 2002 8:46 PM
To: Dinosaur List
Subject: Re: Paleoart vs Fantasy (long - brace yourselves)



----- Original Message -----

From: Aspidel

To: The Dinosaur Mailing List

Sent: Wednesday, May 01, 2002 8:12 AM

Subject: Paleoart vs Fantasy (was: Re: In defense of the USNM )


Scientists of the Museum can do it as well.


*** Your right, scientists could take the opportunity to use Dinotopia as a

platform to address the inconsistancies between science and fiction, however,

that is unlikely given that this could be interpreted as criticism, and counter to

"promoting" the aesthetic qualities of the exhibit as the fictional masterpiece

it truly is. <<


Lets not shoot the museum before the exhibit is set up. I have high regards for the people who set up exhibits at the Smithsonian (I know them, Mike Brett-Surman’s wife is one of them and she does one hell of a job! Not to mention Linda Deck, Ralph Champan’s wife).

> > Gurney's creation is a fictional world and while it is appealing to many
> of
> > us with a
> > common interest in dinosaurs, it still should be separated from the
> science.


Scientists of the Museum can explain why Dinotopia isn't science, if it's well done, it will perfectly work.


***That would be fine if they were willing to undertake the responsibility of explaining the differences.

It's been my experience that many museum exhibits that already exist are lacking in updated info and

sometimes include errors in everything from incorrect names or spellings on display specimens right

up to vague or archaic explanatory content.  If they can't keep the inhouse displays current, what hope

is there of addressing new and / or temporary travelling exhibits?<<


Again, lets wait and see the exhibit before it’s condemned. I wonder if the Aero Space people got upset when Star Wars was set up there?


This is a fact scientists can also explain: when new fossils are found, scientists and paleoartists have to change their way to show or paint dinosaurs, while in a fantasy characters have to stay quite the same.

In my case, I just finished a _Nanotyrannus_ drawing: it's lipless, of course, because it's the most likely. But in my comic-strip, I'll go on drawing lips on my "dinosaur-like characters" - well, all right, I don't speak about true dinosaurs here - because it's easier to give'em mimics, and because I prefer them like that.

Back to paleoart...

I began to draw paleoart after watching WWD on tv, the scaly _Utahraptor_ with wrong hands and all those kind of things, now I draw all little coelurosaurs feathered, even my _Nanotyrannus_ is a bit fluffy.


*** In the right arena or framework, there is nothing wrong with extrapolating on reality. 

I am a big fan of fantasy art when it's well executed and presented in an appropriate

forum.  I just like to take extra steps in preventing confusion amongst individuals who

might innocently come to false conclusions when the material is presented in close

proximity to science related material.  As an experiment, stand sometime in a

paleontology museum exhibit and just listen in on some of the comments and

conclusions people make based on the information before them.  You may be surprised

to see how easily they are lead astray.<<


I’m more surprised when they get it right!


MS wrote, in a previous post:


> If scientific (paleontological ) "fact" is based on physical evidence or
> repeatability, then truly "scientifically accurate" paleo art must be
> restricted to illustrations of skeletal material or paleo ichnological
> evidence.  Fleshed out reconstructions of dinosaurs, etc... although
> referenced to skeletons, myology, modern analogs and developed in
> collaboration with paleontologists STILL remain speculative in terms of
> outer integument, other external soft anatomical features, color, etc. . ..
> While this imagery remains our closest hope of experiencing a living
> terrestrial dinosaur, it is both hypothetical and speculative, subject to
> artistic taste and skill and ( as much as I might not like to admit it)
> inexorably bound to the annals of a nebulous "grey" zone, from an academic
> standpoint. 


Of course it's speculation! But IMHO it's all the fun we have, us, the paleoartists, to draw the dinosaurs as how we think they were, based on scientific evidence, and it's sometimes up to us to explain to people the difference between our illustrations and dino-fantasy (see the link below)


*** I agree.  We can only go by the best information available in assessing the "look"

of living dinosaurs and until we invent a way of retrieving live examples from the past,

or develop new techniques of recovering more detail from fossil specimens, this is as

good as it gets.  Entering into discussions with the public, based on the artwork, is a

good jumping off point from which to make people aware of the newest discoveries in

paleontology.  This is however, complicated enough in and of itself, without having to

"explain away" the false and gratuitous embellishments of movie makers. Again the

combination of movie producers and scientific advisors is a bad mix, when the advisors

are there merely as "propoganda" and the advisory recommendations are ignored in

favor of sensationalism and ticket sales.  Dinosaurs only based on information provided

by paleontologists would have been just as intriguing on the big screen as the "improved"

Hollywood versions, but would have avoided all "corrections and explanations" endured

by the academics after the fact. To avoid the confusion, either produce "state of the art"

dinosaurs using the best current information, or lose the advisors and make a glorified

Godzilla flick where there are no false impressions about what you are looking at.<<

But then when ever a new movie is done and is done incorrectly the public will be even more convinced that Hollywood is always right. I say, let them make the animals the way they want. I don’t want to start telling people that Hollywood is right J I’d rather have the opportunity to correct them (the public) which engages more dialogue then to just say Hollywood is right. Besides, the majority of the public really doesn’t care unless there’s some score involved.



Do you wanna drive little kids to the museum ? In this case the "Dinotopia" exhibition can help very much, and scientists will explain them why the Dinotopia characters aren't feathered and why we think now dromies were feathered, they can show them photos or feathered fossils, and kids will understand very well, don't worry!!!

Plus, they'll see a big _Allosaurus_, _Triceratops_ or other dinosaurs skeletons; even if they aren't well mounted (and scientists can expain them why, it takes time to correct it), they'll see 'em; maybe they'd never came to see 'em without the Dinotopia exhibition.

And it's the same for some amateurs.


***If kids are interested enough to want to see Dinotopia, they will convince their

parent(s) to take them wherever it's on display. If they make a trip to an art museum

and a paleontology museum, it will only teach them more and increase their

knowledge of the world. If the parent(s) aren't willing to make the effort to take

the kids to see both, I consider that to be a bad reflection on their function as a

parent.  Also, I don't think I remember a single instance of visiting a paleontology

museum or exhibit, where I've encountered a paleontologist sitting out in the

public galleries, addressing questions by random passersby about the content of

gallery displays.<<

Right! Do you really believe parents will take their kids to several museums instead of one? If you do you really have a lot of faith in parents. So, a paleontologist needs to be sitting in the gallery to answer peoples questions? When was the last time you’ve been at the Smithsonian? ON a really busy day? You can barely walk around! Let alone have someone, anyone, answer peoples questions. Though at the San Diego Natural History Museum they do have docents to answer people’s questions (I wonder if I shouldn’t have gone for that job…). Having a ‘professional’ paleontologist sitting at a gallery would stop them from doing their work.



Dinotopia is fantasy, it's a dream, and it's easy to see it's a dream. There's a difference with showing dino-fantasy, poesy, and going to the pictures to watch again this §#6*ù&&!! JP which is really confusing for common people and show 'em erroneous things - sorry, I definitively don't like JP.

*** Dinotopia is fantasy, but you know what, there are a lot of impressionable young kids

who have a lot of interest in dinosaurs and will "believe in" anything they're exposed to. . .

including Dinotopia, Santa Claus, the EverReady Bunny. . .you name it.  And there's nothing

wrong with indulging their fantasies ( it helps foster great creative minds), but all the same

they are susceptable to drawing incorrect conclusions based on the material they are

presented with and the context it is presented in.  Dinosaur exhibits and Dinotopia are both

valid and legitimate in their own ways, but still require separation.  I even vaguely remember

reading accounts regarding a small component of the adult population that believe there are

places on earth where you can encounter dinosaurs in the wild.  I'm not referring to people

who are dillusional, cryptozoologists, or the like. . . just misinformed everyday individuals who

didn't learn in school ( for whatever reason) that 65 mya we had a little bump in the night with

a big rock from outer space.  No different than the percentage of the population that still

believe dinosaurs and cavemen existed together. Science and media access have gone a long

way to dispel popular myths, but the information hasn't reached everyone yet, not by a long


But your putting your values onto others, you’re trying to tell people what they can and can not do. You can’t do that and not except some negative feedback from someone (Not me mind you). It seems to me that many people who have a great desire for dinosaurs are rather restrictive and selfish (to a degree) about dinosaurs. I’ve voiced my opinion on this list to a great degree, trying to ‘correct’ people and I’ve gotten rather chastised by people on this list to a point where I’d rather not voice my opinion, not correct people, and these are people who know about dinosaurs! IF we can’t do that to ourselves, then how can we do that with the public?

> > > This is why I write my How to Draw Dinosaurs articles for Prehistoric
> > Times.


OK, I don't have a PhD, I'm only an amateur paleoartist for JUST one year or so, and this discussion made me ask questions to myself, if I should go on with paleoart, and especially the following:


*** My opinion is that paleo art is still a noble endeavor.  We all want to know

what dinosaurs looked like and we're not likely to see any of the extinct ones

any time soon. So, the nice part is that by using the information available to

reconstruct the appearance of dinosaurs, many artists (in spite of their individual

styles) are developing a sort of "collective" image of what various species of

dinosaur probably looked like. As new information is made available and

processed through artistic renderings the relative inconsistencies are gradually

eliminated and the result is a roughly "reliable" impression of what dinosaurs

may have looked like. Since our choices are hypothetical imagery tempered

by artistic flare or no imagery at all, I elect to go with some visual semblance

of the truth rather than a visual "void".  A dinosaur book without illustrations or

photos is like cake without icing, you can choke it down but you better have

that glass of milk handy! (My personal opinion, but I'm biased and proud of it!)<<

The biggest problem I have is when they get the anatomy wrong. Like how many fingers or claws a sauropod has. I check that all the time. The rest of the animal can look great, but if they have that wrong, well, then how can I trust their work? How many artist (not on this list) who do layman dinosaur books get the dinosaurs done wrong? You can try to work with the publisher, but they’ll just say they have their own artist and not give you the time of day. You can work with paleontologist and many of them will tell you the same thing. Dinotopia at least gets a lot of the animals right. I have more of a problem with the professionals than with Hollywood. WE should ‘clean our house’ before cleaning someone else’s. But that’ll never happen, the majority of them either don’t care or are to busy working on their projects. How many professionals really accept what Steven Czerkas says? Or Greg or me for that matter? We have to work harder because we are artist and not in the ‘club’ as the professionals. You need to do a professional paper (really you should, you know a lot) on a subject and see how it’s accepted. Or stand back and listen to the professionals (like you said for the dinosaur gallery) and see what they say. I can tell you what some think of me (I’ve heard them second hand). If we, the artist, can’t help explain or get work with professionals (except you, not saying anything against that, keep it up!) then how can we be expected to do that with Hollywood? Or Museums as a whole. I’ve tried to work with Museums, but they keep turning me down, and I know what I’m doing, more then them! (I hope). Like get the drawings done right for the displays, but nothing, they have their own people. So if a ‘professional’ goes to the museum, to help them get their displays correct and is turned down, what hope do we have with other venues? I’ve tried in big and small museums (and only the Mesa Southwest Museum used my work).


I keep announcing on this list and Vert Paleo that I can get their animals right (I’m not doing this to boost my ego, I just want the animals done right! That’s it!) and nothing! Unless you work in color, I suppose…


Mike Skrepnick



Always friendly (I think, at least) - Luc J. "Aspidel" BAILLY.


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