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Re: Clarification of scope of paleoart market and other items

"Amateur" originally had no pejorative content--it merely referred to someone who did something for the love of doing it.
Scott Perry
High Mountain Writers' House
Irasburg, VT
----- Original Message ----- From: <WilburWateley@gmail.com>
To: <Mark.Witton@port.ac.uk>; <dinosaur@usc.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 11:33 AM
Subject: Re: Clarification of scope of paleoart market and other items

I second the idea that there is nothing wrong with being considered
amateur. To give perspective (which I would say is lacking in paleoart
by-and-large, if not completely non-existent) to this subject, HP
Lovecraft, one of the greatest horror/fantasy writers of the twentieth
century wasn't even an amateur writer--he was an amateur weird-stories
writer--yet went on to influence everyone from Clive Barker, to Stephen
King, to Metallica, to Mike Mignola, to Guillermo del Toro and so on. Henry David Thoreau, Vincent Van Gogh and William Blake were also considered rank
amateurs in their fields.
Also, Lovecraft was directly and unquestionably influenced by the work of
Poe for a persistent part of his "career"--should he have been sued by the
estate of Edgar Allan Poe for the influence?

As the justifiably great Donna Braginetz pointed out, other paleoartists,
even masters, have had to find income elsewhere. I remember years ago
emailing Mark Hallett to say hi and that I hoped he was working on some
great paleoart stuff and he came back with a list of restorations that he
was doing of contemporary turtles and other extant wildlife for various
magazines without so much as a mention of a tyrannosaur or brachiosaur. As
I said, this is a niche field and so it's not surprising for people to have
a hard time finding sustainable work. This isn't how it should be but how
it is.

Instead of attempting to play the old man with the garden hose trying to
spray the kids for playing on his lawn, Mr. Paul should try diversifying
his prospects as an excellent artist--which he is. It would hurt no one for
an artist to look outside of his or her little artistic sphere and make a
change of venue. I mean is there an evil in shifting from one genre of art
to another? Can we not as diligent artists shift from genre to genre and
still make earnest, accurate and thoughtful works? I think we can. In fact
others have; the greatest example unquestionably being James Gurney, who
jumps from paleontology to fantasy to historical and so on and still does
persistently dedicated work.

On a personal note, I'm coming back to paleoart, and this list, after a
long absence and yet I know returning that the financial rewards will be
slim to none; if one of my friends asked me if I thought I would be able to
make a self-sustaining career in the business paleo-restoration I would
look at them with a confused smile, shake my head, and say, "nooo."
However, paleoart is my first love among artistic interests and I've always
enjoyed reconstructing and restoring these amazing creatures and think
there's a lot that still hasn't been said and I fervently hope to say it.
As a rank "amateur," as Mr. Paul dismisses, I've still collected info on
various Mesozoic plants, studied what papers I can get my hands on, boned
up on my comparative anatomy, bought or built models for visual references
and various others acts so I can do my darndest at restoring those amazing
archosaurs. Still, I plan to move on after a time to work in fantasy
(probably Lovecraftian though some Tolkien as well), then to restore
warriors from antiquity (gotta love those Byzantines and Sassanids!) while
still keeping informed in natural history studies and creating and
submitting at least one work to each issue of Prehistoric Times.

Gleaning a greater perspective is a great way to see both the strengths and
weaknesses inherent in any field of art and can and will strengthen and
inspire your own work if only you would have the humility to take a step
back and look around. Or don't and stay in genre and field you like most,
but either way don't impotently complain and point fingers at other artists
if you can't get enough work simply because you're not willing to take the
steps to do something about it.

On Mar 16, 2011 7:57am, Mark Witton <Mark.Witton@port.ac.uk> wrote:
"And someone was giving us paleoartists wise and sage advice about how

perhaps we should understand that because there is so much competition

(much of

which is derivative) that we should accept it being mere part time work


we do on the side. Aside from making us into mere amateurs, if I did


then I could not have produced all those nice skeletal restorations so


seem to really like (and in some cases use for their paleoart that then

competes with mines).

Think about. Really, think it through."

Greg, there is no question that people like palaeoart and skeletal

reconstructions. Whether their production provides a suitable income for

a sustained, comfortable lifestyle in the modern day is another matter

entirely. The fact that so many famous palaeoartists, many of whom

produce work of the highest quality, are also artists of other subjects

suggests that a career dedicated to palaeoart is not sustainable in the

long run. Indeed, the one very clear signal from these discussions is

that such a lifestyle can only be sustained if your living costs are

very low: making ends meet as a dedicated palaeoartist is very difficult

from the moment we aspire to a reasonable quality of life. And there's

nothing wrong, incidentally, with being a so-called 'amateur': this

label is not particularly telling of anyone's ability at all. Some

'amateur' palaeontologists and palaeoartists have and continue to make

excellent contributions to palaeontological science and communication

comparable with those made by 'professionals'.



Dr. Mark Witton

Palaeobiology Research Group

School of Earth and Environmental Sciences

University of Portsmouth

Burnaby Building

Burnaby Road



Tel: (44)2392 842418

E-mail: Mark.Witton@port.ac.uk

If pterosaurs are your thing, be sure to check out:

- Pterosaur.Net: www.pterosaur.net

- The Pterosaur.Net blog: http://pterosaur-net.blogspot.com/

- My pterosaur artwork: www.flickr.com/photos/markwitton

>>> GSP1954@aol.com> 15/03/2011 19:58 >>>

An unfortunate problem with these discussions is that persons who just


not know about the issue seem to be obsessed with making arguments that


so disconnected from reality that they are from a galaxy far, far away.


has been happening with some really silly notions on what and how

paleoartists can earn. This is bad because then those in paleontology

may have a major

misimpression of what is going on with the paleoartists they often work


Some fellow actually suggested that a certain noted artist might earn,


a quarter million on a single painting. Let me be clear about this.

There is

absolutely no significant adult market for original paleo paintings in

existence. There was one briefly after the first JP came out in Japan

and some

artists earned modest amounts, but then their economy went belly up.

Lazendorf, a famed hair dresser with top level clientele packed his

high rise

apartment to the gills for a few years, and then sold it off for a lot

of money

and switched I hear to Asian art.

There are a number of fellow paleo nerds who would love to have


Gurchie or Paul on their walls. And they can only afford posters.


the time etc involved it does not make sense to sell an original color


say 3x4 ft for less than some thousands of dollars. I have a website

and I am

easy to contact and have not sold an original to a private collector


years. As far as I know much the same applies to other paleoartists.

Many a

time I have been asked if I sell originals and when I tell them how

much they

are unable to proceed (also, because I modify old work a lot selling it


is not the best).

A quarter million for a dinosaur painting, come on. And I wish.

Now, maybe setting up a paleoartist site that includes a venue for

promoting original art will improve matters. One can doubt that it

will, but it it

might work and is worth a try. Even if it does it will take years to

build up

clientele and no one will get rich that way.

Books. Back when I did PDW, repped by top NY agent Brockman to a top NY

publisher, it was the last few years that that was possible. The only


dino books a major publisher will even come close to considering these

days is

a narrative tradebook, and the publishers actually require that it


minimal illustrations to keep down production costs and because they


they turn off readers. If you do not believe this then you contact the

tradebook agents and see what they tell you. I know the business. In

general only

university presses pick up those kinds of books these days and they

cannot pay

useful advances and sales are so limited that they are in effect vanity


But what about kidsbooks? I and others have approached a number of


book publishers and agents and no takers. (Maybe you noticed I have not

done kidsbooks, that's why). Am not entirely sure why this is, probably

has to

do with publishers keeping costs down by using derivative art that


rips some of us off. I was once on the verge of a big deal but the

publisher at that moment decided to concentrate on fiction works do to


market forces.

Kids products and other licensing. A couple of agents repped my work


got nowhere. Again producers prefer to keep their costs down rather

than pay

significant up front fees or royalties.

I have been told by product representatives that art derivative of mine

seriously impairs my ability to get work, and that I need to do

something about

it. Which I am doing.

Exhibits. This remains an important source of income. But musuem and

science center exhibits managers chronically plead poverty (because


overdesign their exhibits relative to their budgets) and drive down

payments to below

acceptable levels. Because there are so many paleoartists willing to


for peanuts many are taking advantage of this situation. Also, there

just are

not that many paleoexhibits in production at a given time.

Dino docs. Because cable programming is marginally funded the producers

always plead poverty. Because of under cost competition -- some

derivative of

my work, some not -- I don't get that sort of work these days.

How about selling stuff on the web? Ha, ha, ha, ha. That's one of the


jokes of the digital era.

Someone was going on about how some paleoartists can charge lower


because they are "more efficient." What a disconnect from reality and


common sense. Doing dinosaur art is not following Moore's Law. Using


to quickly resize elements does help a little. But doing ORIGINAL


restorations is ALWAYS a long, tedious process that takes lots and lots


research including digging through often old and hard to get

publications and

travel. Using computers for rendering basic skeletons does not seem to


time (and I seem to catch more errors when using old analog methods,

and the

computer produced skeletons out there seem prone to low levesl of


I am as efficient as anyone when it comes to doing real paleoart. The


way to seem to become more efficient in this specialty is to be


rather than original, and basically use the published work of others to


an edge on those very artists.

And someone was giving us paleoartists wise and sage advice about how

perhaps we should understand that because there is so much competition

(much of

which is derivative) that we should accept it being mere part time work


we do on the side. Aside from making us into mere amateurs, if I did


then I could not have produced all those nice skeletal restorations so


seem to really like (and in some cases use for their paleoart that then

competes with mines).

Think about. Really, think it through.

To be blunt about it, if you are considering getting into paleoart,


about it twice, three, times and then four. The paleomarket will always


too small to sustain a large number of artists. Even so, I do think

that the

situation can be significantly improved if certain steps are taken.

These discussions on these lists, although far more extensive than I

thought they would be and perhaps tedious to those not involved in the


(rather tedious to me for that matter), are very important to the field

of vert

paleo, and should have occurred long ago -- I have perhaps been tardy


waiting to bring up these issues. But one reason the discussion is

longer -- and

more vehment -- than it perhaps needs to be is because some who are not

familiar with the paleoart facts continue to feel obliged to lecture us

paleoartists, sometimes harshly -- about what we should to. Don't do

that. And if

you are going to debate me remember that I have long had contacts with


agents, attorneys etc, and of course I have little patience for


arguments from those who lack sufficient knowledge to dispute the facts

that I

lay out. Treat me and others who have been in the bizz awhile with some


And never tell me, "but Greg, your work is so good, surely there is big

demand for it if you just get the right agent" or so forth. Have heard

that one


G Paul