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RE: Notes on scientifically comparative paleoposes
Actually Dan is right, Greg's approach is exactly how the industrial world
has dealt with 3D models for ages. I first used the approach when I was in
the 7th grade taking a drafting class that was (then) mandatory for males
who were in the Connecticut public school system. I was ok at it then but
less good at the second semester that was woodworking (but ended up with all
my digits, yeah!). Girls got stuck with homemaking classes (many really
wanted the other classes) that also had some useful skills but it is obvious
we all should have taken a combination of all of it so we would have been
better at existing as humans (remember it was the time and certainly not my
choice to segregate and, in essence discriminate against everyone so no
So, certainly Greg was smart to adapt the tried and true approach that has
allowed buildings to be built without (usually) falling down, or companies
to make widgets. But it is not reasonable to canonize him for this - admire
him yes as he is an excellent artist/illustrator. At the same time he
started doing this, many of us were already using the tri-view system for
studying 3D models of fossils - except, if you call in within an hour you
get a 4th view that you can customize for whatever you are doing right now
The biggest problem with Greg's models is that each view is drawn separately
and is not based on a single model simply viewed from those angles
simultaneously. Even a talented artist like Greg will have inconsistencies
creep in for the different views and this can lead to problems if you try
and do significant functional analysis just from the illos; as I pointed out
in an SVP talk a few years ago. I have a nicely framed pachy done by Greg
(not original but a nice print) and the inconsistencies are there but don't
read that as any knock on Greg - I really like it and like the work he does.
This is why a lot of the computer illustration done these days that will
start with a complete 3D model will work better within this context. They
will have more consistent views.
From: owner-DINOSAUR@usc.edu [mailto:owner-DINOSAUR@usc.edu] On Behalf Of
Sent: Friday, March 18, 2011 10:24 AM
Subject: Re: Notes on scientifically comparative paleoposes
"My understanding of Mr. Paul's process is that he draws elevations -
side views of the skeletons with the sagittal plane perfectly
perpendicular to the viewer's line of sight - and sometimes dorsal views
and anterior views as well. The point of this is to eliminate the
distortions inherent in perspective drawing. Each bone is drawn to the
same scale, so the proportions can be compared and trusted.
His process is a brilliant innovation."
I agree that this is a lateral, dorsal, and cross-sectional illustration
technique is a quite important and useful addition to looking at and
representing skeletons. However, this was being done long before it was
applied to dinosaurs, in architecture for example. Greg applied it to
skeletal reconstructions--- it did not leap fully formed, de novo, from his
head (to be fair, I don't believe he ever claimed it did). As a result, I
don't see how one can ask others not to use that elevational approach. It
is used universally in many other fields as a standard way of presenting
On 3/18/2011 10:01 AM, Jason Brougham wrote:
> This has been a great discussion to follow. I have a few points to add.
> 1) When Mr. Paul published Predatory Dinosaurs of the World, and we all
> got to see his reconstructions of Velociraptor (fig. 1-3) and T. rex (fig.
> 1-2), we all got it. More than anyone else, Mr. Paul brought these animals
> to life as running, kicking, vital animals, not as awkward relics. The
> standard poses we've been discussing were a big part of that, as he
> researched how these animals would appear in high velocity runs.
> No one should forget or attempt to diminish his contribution to our field,
> it is singular and it was revolutionary. We all owe him a huge debt.
> I would urge other paleoartists not to copy him.
> 2) I believe that all of us paleoartists would do best to think of our
> careers in terms of making a contribution. I think we should follow Mr.
> Paul's example - examine and measure the fossils in person, research the
> anatomy, motion, and behavior of living animals (especially archosaurs) in
> depth, research the paleoenvironments that the taxa in question inhabited,
> research and master evolutionary theory, and then come up with novel
> We can truly honor our heroes such as Mr. Paul or Charles Knight, not by
> doing work that looks like theirs or follows their conventions, but by
> striving to do work as original as theirs is. Of course few of us will
> succeed, but there is no other way to make a permanent contribution to the
> I think it would be better to study and work on one fossil for your whole
> life and really master it than to draw a thousand fossils you've never
> seen in person.
> 3) My understanding of Mr. Paul's process is that he draws elevations -
> side views of the skeletons with the sagittal plane perfectly
> perpendicular to the viewer's line of sight - and sometimes dorsal views
> and anterior views as well. The point of this is to eliminate the
> distortions inherent in perspective drawing. Each bone is drawn to the
> same scale, so the proportions can be compared and trusted.
> His process is a brilliant innovation.
> Mr. Paul's process is so obviously superior that the reader may forget
> that no three - dimensional object can be converted into a flat drawing
> without distortions. Just as quick examples, the femurs do not lie
> perfectly in a parasagittal plane and, thus, they must be foreshortened
> even in an elevation view. The compound curvature of a dromaeosaur pubis
> as it widens distally to form a pubic apron also cannot really be
> appreciated in elevation.
> Thus, in my experience, the only way to produce a representation that is
> free of any distortion is to sculpt it. Dinosaurs, after all, were three -
> dimensional. The resulting maquette can be photographed and/or drawn in
> various positions for use in reconstruction drawings.
> Consider Velociraptor. Mr. Pauls' elevation skeleton drawing (Predatory
> Dinosaurs of the World pg. 363) gives us the gestalt of the animal in one
> compelling image. On the other hand, anyone who has read "Important
> features of the dromaeosaurid skeleton" I and II (Norell, Mark A.;
> Makovicky, Peter J. (1997). "Important features of the dromaeosaur
> skeleton: information from a new specimen". American Museum Novitates
> 3215: 1-28. , Norell, Mark A.; Makovicky, Peter J. (1999). "Important
> features of the dromaeosaurid skeleton II: information from newly
> collected specimens of Velociraptor mongoliensis". American Museum
> Novitates 3282: 1-45.) has received dozens of insights about the anatomy
> by viewing photographs of the features form a variety of angles and
> having them described in the text. The amount of information in the latter
> is actually overwhelming, but I have sculpted entire dromaeosaur
> skeletons, nailing down one feature after another as I worked, and I am
> confident that I can trust the resulting sculptures.
> The Norell papers also present evidence that Velociraptor's tail was
> flexible, at least in swishing laterally, and not rigid as Ostrom and Paul
> have represented it. I have found that this information is not widely
> known among paleoartists.
> 4) In my own career my main goal is to reconstruct extinct animals as
> living organisms imbedded in their ecosystems. I read everything I can get
> on tinamous and ratites, flightless birds, bird fossils, crocodilian
> anatomy and zoology, and, thanks to the dml, I read every new paper on
> maniraptorans. I've studied the ecology of birds in monsoonal climates,
> the ecology of gliding animals, etc. I've attempted to understand the
> rules regarding feather length vs. cervical column length in determining
> whether living birds have long, slender, necks like a heron or fluffy
> tennis ball necks like a sparrow or parrot.
> None of that has much to do with whether the left or right foot is off the
> ground or not.
> There is so much new fossil information out there. Let's get out there and
> reconstruct the fossils as living organisms. I say we should be copying
> ratites and shoe - billed storks by sketching at the zoo. We should not be
> copying our hero Gregory S. Paul.
> Jason Brougham
> Senior Principal Preparator
> Department of Exhibition
> American Museum of Natural History
> 81st Street at Central Park West
> 212 496 3544