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In defense of paleoart (was: Re: In (premature) defense of the USNM)

 HP Brian wrote, in part:
> > Any animal observed to have feathery integument should be drawn with
> > feathery integument; any animal not observed to have feathery integument
> > should be drawn without feathery integument.
> > and
> > I have a logical argument which has not been refuted that a certain
> > of animals I select had feathery integument.
> > Which is more scientific?

To have a look at the clades IMHO. I prefer to draw all little coelurosaurs
fluffy or feathered as the fossils of _Sinosauropteryx_, cf.
_Sinornithosaurus_,... show respectively dino-fuzz and feathers.  I prefer
currently to draw allosaurids and ceratosaurs scaly: I'm waiting for
evidence of feathered (or scaly) integument among basal dinosaurs or
dinosauriforms. (I agree with HP David Marjanovic which explains it much
better than me).

HP Michael Skrepnick wrote:

> MS* This is true. There is nothing wrong with maintaining a conservative
> viewpoint,

for ceratosaurs for example

> I feel justified in letting the weight of the hypothesis ( backed by a
> growing number of diverse, feathered specimens ) allow me to move towards
> "the feathered majority".

So do I.

> The curse of this science, is the proclivity to
> which "fact" intersects with "grounded speculation".  I expect there will
> still be a balance of feathered / unfeathered versions for some time to
> come.  As time and new evidence accumulates, we should be in a better
> position to assess the look of the fauna.

IMHO paleoart is something between art - which allows interpretation,
speculation - and science.  Each artist has his style, his media, his way to
draw or paint animals and landscapes, and, as we'll NEVER know how dinosaurs
REALLY looked like, each artist has his way to imagine them.
I think paleoart is a complement to science, and the paleoartist will change
his point of view as new discoveries are made, just see HP Luis Rey's
website or inteview in PT.

> If, in the end, the fossil evidence is incomplete,
> inaccurate or distorted, it does us no favors to base further
> on reconstructions, etc. . . on the information. . . it just tends to
> multiply the initial errors.

Do you mean one souldn't draw a reconstruction of, for example,
_Sinovenator_, _Rahonavis_, _Beipiaosaurus_,  _Spinosaurus_ or

> MS* Again, both suppositions are flawed to a degree.  Inferring anything
> tricky business, when it's compromised by millions of years in which the
> "stock" evolves to meet the demands of it's environment.  While there are
> limited cases of preserved soft tissue that can help substantiate the
> similarity to modern analogs, there is also some evidence through
> paleoichnology, of "frozen" behaviour.  Neither is terribly reliable in
> establishing the "bigger picture", but it's all we've got and still better
> than nothing.  So if I'm then going to "paint" this animal back to life, I
> elect to step out beyond the containment of the facts, in order to feed
> imagination of the observer with a visual cocktail of what I "suppose"
> have happened somewhere along the course of it's lifetime.  I can then
> behind the impenetrable shield of "artistic license" to "validate" my
> version of the scenario and as long as it's backed by a reasonable amount
> research and due diligence, that is as far as I can take it.  Welcome to
> the imperfect world.

Yes, and it's not only the animals and their behaviour we try to illustrate,
but also the extinct ecosystems, and IMHO one will compare them with extant
ecosystems ether in a scientifical way, or in an artistic way, or both - see
my attempt here:

> This sort of process, however you might like to assess it,
> is still a completely different kettle of fish than what is happening with
> Jim Gurney and his world of free form fiction based loosely on
> paleontological resource.

... but this isn't paleoart.

> MS*   The problem is, if
> we restrict ourselves only to the fossil element, we are prohibited from
> attempting any sort of life reconstruction because the majority of what we
> "know" about outer appearance is beyond our ability to prove one way or
> another.  I think its a HUMAN thing spurred on by our curious nature.

May I ask to the paleoartists WHY they came to paleoart and WHY they're
drawing life reconstrucions?
I'm sure there are several reasons:
- interest in science, paleontology and dinosaurs of course,
- the need to imagine what's prehistoric life like,
- the need to illustrate wild nature and strange landscapes,
- and for me it's also an artistic CHALLENGE; sometimes, more difficult the
subject is, more fun have I to try to illustrate it.
- ... (complete yourself)

HP Phildor11 wrote, in part :
> MS: < I prefer the option of creativity nested within
> conservative interpretation, at least until the "next best thing" comes
> along.>
> In place of the word 'conservative', may I suggest something like
> 'informed'?

I agree, one has to get the best information before doing a life
reconstruction. That's why I subscribed the DML. After that, it's the
artist's job, with all that it means.

> (...)As humans we're all speculators, you're right, and I
> think we should be realistic about the quality of our speculations.


Friendly - Luc J. "Aspidel" BAILLY.

ps: and about the medium: I'll begin colour illustrations quite soon, this
year maybe.