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Re: Notes on scientifically comparative paleoposes

On Thu, Mar 17, 2011 at 11:51 PM, Steve Walsh <steve@dinosaurcentral.com> wrote:
> Greg,
> Firstly, and for what it's worth, I for one completely accept the current
> convention for drawing skeletal reconstructions is of your creation. No
> doubt.
> You keep referring to the pose (in your case e.g. a sauropod reconstruction
> with right legs on the ground, left rear leg in mid-step etc.) that other
> artists imitate as being the issue. With respect, is this the case? Are most
> clients observant enough to notice if another artist uses a different pose?
> My point is, is it not the complete convention of drawing the skeletal
> anatomy on a black silhouette the real "infringement" here? If you were to
> protect your property and income would you not require other artists to
> develop their own method for drawing skeletal reconstructions?


I won't dispute that some financiers may not distinguish between any
silhouette-based skeletal reconstruction, but the convention was
invented in the late 1940's by Charles Knight, appeared again in
Scheele's 1954 Prehistoric Animals (almost certainly influenced by
Knight) and in several publications that Bakker worked on from the
1970's through today (Greg himself has covered some of this, including
his discovery of Bakker's Triceratops skeletal reconstruction in his
lab in the late 19070s on his website bio).

No one could question that Greg has popularized the convention, but
the idea of silhouetted skeletal reconstructions has a 60+ year
history.  The pose is something that Greg added himself.  Although I
personally doubt an actual judgement could be won against someone else
for using the same pose (assuming no other copyright violation
occurred) it's certainly something that Greg originated, and he
apparently feels that by sharing it with others he's losing jobs.

@GP: I have to disagree with the idea that standardized poses are in
any way harmful to the science.  Yes, individual artists will make
their own errors in judgement, but that's precisely what makes a
standardized pose useful.  It's not that similarly posed skeletal
reconstructions have the same assumptions built in, it's that they
allow observers to more easily discover the differences.  I don't find
your analogy to airplane models built at the same scale to be at all
correct; an accurate analogy would be trying to decipher which of two
models are more accurate when you only have one photo of each - model
"A" is photographed from the front while model "B" is photographed
from a rear 3/4s view.  It may be possible to determine which model is
a better physical representation of the original aircraft under such
circumstances, but it would be a lot more challenging than judging
from photos taken from the same angle and perspective.

That you find the practical benefits of trying to maintain exclusivity
of a pose more important I don't dispute;  as I previously indicated I
plan to honor your request and alter the poses of my skeletals (as
time allows).  There are several reasons for this.  One, I suspect the
utility of your pose as any sort of standard is now severely
compromised, as most artists are controversy-averse and will acquiesce
to your request.  Since the use of that pose as a standard is no
longer tenable, I am willing to put in the (not insignificant) amount
of work to alter mine as a courtesy, out of deference to the work you
put in to benefit the field of skeletal reconstructions conceptually,
and out of a sincere (thought not optimistic) hope that it will
improve the financial situation you find yourself in.

That doesn't mean a standard pose would not be of use.  But more
importantly, I feel a similar level of courtesy needs to be extended
by you (and others) in these threads to those trying to contribute to
the conversation.  Yes, not all comments are equally useful, but it's
important that all that have a stake in it participate.  I'd also note
that you and I don't have a perfectly overlapping notion of who is
making valuable contributions.  To be sure there have been several
"instigating" sources of tension, but at the least some people I know
and respect have received undeserved abuse for participating in the

Some of the ideas presented to improve the plight of paleoartists seem
worth pursuing (e.g. to share pricing information and other employment
data, organize a website to host paleoart info, etc.), but they work
better if more people buy in to the process.  Let's hope this doesn't
become one of those missing the forest for the trees sort of



Scott Hartman
Scientific Advisor/Technical Illustrator
(307) 921-9750