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Hey palaeo deviantARTers, if you have been living under a social media rock for the last few days, you might not know that I have co-written and illustrated a book on dinosaur art which you might like. Find out more about it here: irregularbooks.co

Also, just a reminder, I don't upload to dA anymore, you should visit my site johnconway.co for details on how to keep up with my latest stuff.
Okay, probably not really, but I noticed that I barely ever check dA. Partly this has to do with having two accounts, splitting my focus. So I've decided on a massive web simplification: I have a new website, johnconway.co , and I will be using the twitters to update nyctopterus. There will no longer be a split between palaeo, and non-palaeo stuff.

If you have a twitter account, follow me, because I have an embarrassingly small number of followers now (11). I'll even follow you back! Get it while it's hot
  • Mood: Mad
I thought after my last journal, I should clarify my position on the whole GSP dealy.

I think his statements on the extent of his copyrights are just wrong. Hilariously wrong.

On the other hand, I think his statements about his grandiose position in palaeontological art are true, especially if we consider dinosaurs. His influence is vast, as an excursion into the galleries of nearly all of you will attest. I even think the he is more influential, and better, than Charles Knight (gasp!).

I've never understood this reverence for Knight. It's like every time he's mentioned, we have to reaffirm him being the best palaeoartist of all time hallowedbehisnameamen. Horseshit. Knight sometimes drew living animals and mammals very carefully, but he was frequently lazy and cartoonish with his dinosaurs. As for his painting prowess, yeah sure the guy could paint, but compared to his influences in the late nineteenth century he was--at best--dull. He had a mediocre feeling for light, fussy uninspired brushwork, sometimes awkward posing, and very conventional compositions. Not that he didn't have him moments, but Greg's claim to be his equal or better is certainly plausible.*

So, yes, I think Grey can be silly, but making fun of his hubris flies in the face of how most of us have approached this whole palaeontology thing. Yes, he's an arrogant fuck. But shit, so what?


*To continue on the theme of Knight bashing, I think Doug Henderson is clearly better than him too.
Okay, so it appears that some of you have been looking at some of my pictures here on dA without my permission, and without paying any royalties whatsoever. Since I am a reasonable man, I will let these past trespasses on my (copy)rights slide. In future, however, I will require £1 per glance at any of my artworks, plus an in-brain copying royalty of 10p per throught/memory recalled.

Please pay be through paypal and the email address below. Cheers!
I've been a busy boy the last couple of months. I've been to two conferences Flugsaurier in Beijing in August, and SVPCA last week. I've also been preparing content for the launch of Ontograph Studios, including some spiffy animated paintings which should be appearing on dA at any moment (dA says it is 'preparing' them).

I've also been interviewed on Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings --  for godssake go over there and comment and make me look popular!
Soooo, I haven't uploaded anything in a while, but I do have new stuff on the way I promise. One is a video, of sorts, which was waiting on my film submission application to get approved. Now that has come through, I have to render the dang thing, which might take a few days (anyone in London got an octacore machine with After Effects they want to lend me?). I never thought working in HD would be so... serious. 6 minutes of video will take something like 120GB of disk space, and transcoding that will be a nightmarishly slow (days maybe).

Rhamphorhynchus might be dead, but I'm not!

Journal Entry: Wed Mar 25, 2009, 1:52 PM

<img class='logo' src='palaeo.jconway.co.uk/_images/l… / width='75px' height='100px'>John Conway's Palaeontography
Visit my palaontographical website, and get a free dinosaur!


I am not dead, I have even submitted something! A dissection series of Rhamphorhychus:

Dissecting Rhamphorhynchus by jconway

It's a little... odd, I guess. I'm not sure where I'm going with it, but it gave me the feeling of painting something real and alive (even though it's dead!) than all the natural life restorations I've done. I hope it conveys the same.

8 Random (palaeo) facts (about myself)

Journal Entry: Thu May 1, 2008, 2:45 PM

<img class='logo' src='palaeo.jconway.co.uk/_images/l… / width='75px' height='100px'>John Conway's Palaeontography
Visit my palaontographical website, and get a free dinosaur!


Tagged by Sphenacodon

I've decided to make these (vaguely) palaeo-related in keeping with this account.

1) I get very drunk at conferences and talk dense incoherent philosophy (sometimes of science) to whoever I happen to bail up toward the end of the evening. Then I sleep though the talks the next day.

2) I can rarely keep interested in a palaeontogical subject long enough to really get to grips with it.

3) Sometimes I do paintings to prove to myself I'm still better than the other guys if I put my mind to it (in this I have a mixed success rate).

4) I would rather my palaeontography be interesting than right.

5) Same goes for all my ideas really.

6) At SVP 2004 I only went to three talks (see #1).

7) When I was thirteen I wrote a letter to Bob Bakker suggesting that the way hadrosaurs defended themselves was by digging burrows (in Raptor Red he has therizinosaurs living in burrows, I've always wondered if I inspired him!).

8) Shortly thereafter I phoned Greg Paul (Australia to the US) to ask him all sorts of stupid questions. Like "what the deal with the sprawling ceratopsians thing, why aren't they listening to the LIGHT OF THE DINOSAUR RENAISSANCE??" (Okay I didn't actually say that last bit, but I meant it!), and "where can I get a copy of Predatory Dinosaurs of the World?" (even though I'd photocopied the entire thing at my local library).

Okay, I'll tag Archosaurian and MattMart.

On Greg Paul-styley Skeletal Poses

Journal Entry: Wed Feb 6, 2008, 4:30 PM

<img class='logo' src='palaeo.jconway.co.uk/_images/l… / width='75px' height='100px'>John Conway's Palaeontography
Visit my palaontographical website, and get a free dinosaur!


Greg Paul's running pose seems to have become the standard posture for skeletals of dinosaurs, and although I don't particularly like it, I've got no real gripes with it, and that's not what I'm going to complain about.

It's his posing of pterosaurs that worries me - the wings up, one foot pushing-off pose. A lot of people have followed his lead on this, so I think it's important to point out that it's probably wrong. Pterosaurs did not launch like that, they almost certainly launched quadrupedally, with the hand being the last thing to leave the ground. This was Jim Cunningham's idea originally, but others have picked up on it. There's one paper out (I think it's in Chatterjee et al. 2004, Posture, Locomotion, and Paleoecology of Pterosaurs. geosociety.org), and several more in the works on this.

So even though it looks cool, it's doubtful they ever struck such a pose, and hence it's not really good for skeletals. That's why I don't pose them that way, and instead always do a dorsal and lateral view, and removed the legs in the lateral view. It's not the only way it could be done, of course, but the Greg Paul-styley ones have to stop.

Let&#039;s fix Velociraptor

Journal Entry: Thu Jan 3, 2008, 4:34 AM

<img class='logo' src='palaeo.jconway.co.uk/_images/l… / width='75px' height='100px'>John Conway's Palaeontography
Visit my palaontographical website, and get a free dinosaur!


People, this is a disgrace! images.google.co.uk/images?q=v…

There is only one accurate depiction of Velociraptor on the first page of a Google image search for "Velociraptor". The rest are absolutely terrible!

As palaeontogaphers, we should all be concerned about this - if we take what we do seriously at all, we want people to have a reasonable idea of what prehistoric animals look like.

But don't despair, we can make a difference! Google works by links - so let's have a link-to-an-accurate-Velociraptor day on the internets. Simply link to your favourite V. image or page using the word "Velociraptor" in your journal , website or blog, and help bring the popular image of V. (and by extension prehistoric animals) more into line with the science.

Here's a nice page at Scott Hartman's SkeletalDrawing.com that I plan to link to a few times: www.skeletaldrawing.com/veloci…

Today, Velociraptor, tomorrow, the (palaeo)world!

Flugsaurier

Journal Entry: Wed Sep 19, 2007, 10:16 AM

<img class='logo' src='palaeo.jconway.co.uk/_images/l… / width='75px' height='100px'> palaeo'jconway'co'uk AKA palaeo'pterus'net
Visit my palaontographical website, and get a free dinosaur!


Well, I'm back from the Munich Pterosaur conference - I bet you didn't even know I'd gone. Nevertheless, a report. I'll stick to the things that interested me most, which are to do with anatomy and flight mechanics that affect appearance. For a  broader view, check out  Darren Naish's blog scienceblogs.com/tetrapodzoolo…

Muchos thankos to Dave Hone who organised the thing, which not only went off without a hitch, but which was wall to wall awesome.

Just as an example, he had managed to collect the two finest specimens of Pterodactylus plus the holotype, the Zittel wing, the Darkwing Rhamphorynchus, a gob-smacking new specimen that I'm not sure I'm allowed  to talk about, the Tapejara with soft tissue crest, Ludodactylus, a freakin' Archaeopteryx and the really famous Compsognathus, plus a whole bunch of other specimens that blew everyone's socks off all in the same room. If you now anything about pterosaurs, you'll know how amazing that was.

I presented a poster on the forelimb musculature of Anhanguera, in which I reached a very similar conclusion to Chris Bennett who did a talk on the very same thing. Chris's paper will be out mid next year, my poster is available to anyone that asks under a creative commons license.

Chris and I both independently reached the conclusion that the wing finger flexes into flight position, and hyperextends to fold. The hand is essentially palm forward during flight (rather than palm-down, as is common in pictures). Chris also pretty convincingly argued that the pteroid articulates on the back underside of the preaxial carpal not on the top, as has been shown in countless drawings -- if true (and I'll bet my bottom dollar it is), it pretty much sinks the notion that the pteroid could point forward during flight.

Laurence Browning and the Bristol crew presented work on the flexibility of the wing spar using beam theory, and finite element analysis. The results were pretty similar to what I remember of similar work done during the Stanford Pterosaur Project - the outer wing was quite flexible. It would have flexed upward during flight quite a bit, though I don't remember the exact numbers. I have known about this for some time, and largely failed to incorporate it into my drawings. This has given me the nudge I needed, and I have updated my paintings where appropriate.

O'Conner, Classens and Unwin presented some pretty cool air sac stuff - most interesting to me was their diagram showing air sacs all throughout the wing - in front and behind the wings spar, just as I've been drawing it for ages now.

Mark Witton gave an interesting talk on pterosaur mass estimates. He found a really tight correlation between skeletal mass in modern birds and mammals to their overall mass (birds do not have lighter skeletons than mammals, they just have more voluminous bones). Applying that to pterosaurs, he got pretty high estimates for pterosaurs, considering how low some have been in the past. They are generally in line with Greg Paul's estimates, although the manner in which they were derived differs substantially. Quetzalcoatlus northropi came out at 250kg - which is the highest estimate yet (some have ranged as low as 70kg!), but not so heavy for an animal that could look a giraffe in the eye. Check out Mark's drawing, and more detailed explanation here => www.flickr.com/photos/markwitt…

Lastly, Helmut Tischlinger's photographs of the fossils under UV light is amazing, and brought a few new things to, erm... light. But you'll have to wait for the paper on that one.

There was lots more, but I'm sure there are better people to hear it from than me.

The Theory

Journal Entry: Fri Mar 23, 2007, 11:38 AM

<img class='logo' src='palaeo.jconway.co.uk/_images/l… / width='75px' height='100px'> palaeo'jconway'co'uk AKA palaeo'pterus'net
Visit my palaontographical website, and get a free dinosaur!


I'm going to take a stab at something positive, rather than just moaning about the lacklustre state of palaeontography. Let's start building a theory:

It seems to me that there are two basic approaches to palaeontography, firstly as a personal account of how we see nature; lets call it "personal naturalism", and secondly, as a visual representation of science; we'll call that "scientific visualisation".

i. Personal Naturalism
The first we've all been doing for quite some time, but without any guts. A lot of leading artists these days (not naming names), have virtually indistinguishable styles. No one's style is "out there". The solution is probably to have more faith in ourselves as artists, and develop styles as if no one were looking. How we see nature is as much about what we think is unimportant as what is important. Reality is not a photograph, and what we perceive is base more on what we focus our attention on than what is out there.

Traditionally palaeoart has done some playing with this: think Doug Henderson's emphasis on landscape versus Greg Paul's emphasis on anatomy. Both often leave out, or simplify the other concerns. We need more of that, too many people are thinking "if I could put Greg Paul dinosaurs in a Doug Henderson landscape, it will be twice as good!" Surpise! Wrong! And there are themes to be explored in this way, that so far haven't been: behaviour being an obvious one off the top of my head.

ii. Scientific Visualisation
The more conceptual and challenging approach is to take the science and make it visual. What does evolution look like? What does homology look like? How could we represent palaeoecology visually?

The trick is to make this an aesthetic experience, and hence art, rather than just make neat diagrams and graphs (although that would certainly be one way to approach it). The scientific visualisation approach is about conceptual reality, not visual reality. The game is to sneak new concepts into people's brains while giving them aesthetic experience.

The two approaches are not mutually exclusive, indeed, one will inform the other. If a piece of art lacks in both regards, it shall be regarded as vacuous and be derided as drivel by all serious palaeontographers. Thoughts?

The Game

Journal Entry: Wed Mar 21, 2007, 8:34 AM

<img class='logo' src='palaeo.jconway.co.uk/_images/l… / width='75px' height='100px'> palaeo'jconway'co'uk AKA palaeo'pterus'net
Visit my palaontographical website, and get a free dinosaur!


A while back, when I was working for Hall Train, we were discussing what palaeontological art was all about (as we often did), and he said that the game was to make the animals as real as possible, indistinguishable from the real thing if possible. I nodded my agreement, even though I suspect we both thought, well, that's what we're doing now, but it surely isn't the game.

Now I'm convinced that it's not. None of my favourite artists produce things that look real, most a highly stylised. Greg Paul's dinosaurs with their crisp-clear anatomy, for example. His animals don't look real, they are better than real.

The question remains, what is the game? Few palaeographers communicate  a clear notion about what they are trying to achieve, which suggests to me that they don't know. I don't. I have got as far as thinking that reality isn't what I'm after.

The problem is that palaeontological art has no underlying theory. Perhaps the first step to having a theory is to recognise that a replication of reality x-millions of years ago isn't what any of us are trying to do. It might very well be part of it, but it's not the game.

Palaeontography (again)

Journal Entry: Tue Dec 12, 2006, 6:14 AM

<img class='logo' src='palaeo.jconway.co.uk/_images/l… / width='75px' height='100px'> palaeo•jconway•co•uk AKA palaeo•pterus•net
Visit my palaontographical website, and get a free dinosaur!


Good evening ladies and gentlemen. This evening, I wish to talk to you about palaeontography and reciprocal links. The google ratings for my website are abysmal (partly due to my losing pterus.net for nearly a year because of a credit card debacle), and I want to get them up. Specifically, I want to get the top spot for palaeontography and it's american equivalent paleontography.

So, the deal is this — link to me with the word palaeontography in or near the link, and I'll give you a return link on my website. Deal? Okay good. Now I want you to send me all your worldly goods, and your eternal soul. In return I will give you all I'm worth†, and my soul‡. I regret to inform you that am not able to accept first-borns at this time.

Devious Journal Entry

Wed Apr 12, 2006, 4:31 AM
:iconnyctopterus: - The not-the-dead-animals-account.
:iconpaleoartists: - Palaeoartists group.
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Palaeontography

Help me hijack this largely disused word and use it as a synonym for the awkward and poorly formed "palaeoart".

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My work at Paleoartists:

Solos:
[ Deinonychus antirrhopus ] [ Kakuru kujani ] [ Kronosaurus queenslandicus ] [ Leaellynasaura amigrapica ] [ Rhamphorynchus gemmingi ]

Collaborations:
[ Arizonasaurus + TarryAGoat ] [ Daspetosaurus torosus + jslice ] [ Parasaurolophus walkeri + Gondolendian ]

.................................................................................................

Palaeoartists on DA:
Andalgalornis Archosaurian aspidel Beast-of-Chaos briankroesch chasmosaur dustdevil Gondolendian Hairen Hotherym jeffquinn Khaan little-al MattMart Outlier tuomaskoivurinne Qilong Red-Dilopho Sainte-Vincient danieljoelnewman TarryAGoat unlobogris
  • Mood: Mad
:iconnyctopterus: - My other account.
:iconpaleoartists: - Palaeoartists group.
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To whoever bought an the Anhanguera piscator print, I am your best friend forever.

The Failure of the Palaeontographical Tradition

It is said that a lot of great art was religiously inspired, and I don't know whether that is true or not, but it's certainly true that a lot of great art has religious themes. Or more to the point, religion is backed up by a lot of great art. It worries me that  by comparison the scientific artistic tradition is poor.

Illustrating the story of creation from a scientific standpoint we have palaeoart (or palaeontography as I like to call it). And while there is a lot of palaeontological art I like, and some which I think is very good indeed, I think that it has largely failed as an artistic movement. There are failures on two levels, one one level it's quality as illustration is not high, and indeed is getting worse. On another level even the very best palaeoart fails to be what would once have been called sublime, and lacks the higher concepts one would expect in great scientific art.

Most palaeontological illustration is fairly crass, aesthetically speaking - largely made to shock the eye, and monstrificate* the subject. This is a failure of the artistic tradition of palaeontology. I understand there are time constraints, and expectations from editors and publishers that make it difficult; but the internal culture of palaeontological does nothing to resist the drift toward the crass commercialisation of style. Indeed, their is no internal criticism of style at all. Criticism focuses on the technical aspects of scientific accuracy, never on aesthetic merits. This has to change.

The other level (the one I find more interesting because I think it applies to me and all the palaeontological artists I really like) is that virtually no palaeontological art is conceptually or aesthetically innovative. When was the last time you saw a piece of palaeontological art that changed the way you thought about evolution? I have never seen such a thing, which seem to me to be a disastrous failure of the intellectual underpinnings of our tradition.

To become conceptually and aesthetically innovative, I think palaeontological art has to explore more abstract styles, emphasising conceptual aspects of palaeontology, and focus less on the straight representation of ancient life.

That's where I'm headed anyhow.

*Another new word.

.................................................................................................

Palaeontography

Help me hijack this largely disused word and use it as a synonym for the awkward and poorly formed "palaeoart".

.................................................................................................

My work at Paleoartists:

Solos:
[ Deinonychus antirrhopus ] [ Kakuru kujani ] [ Kronosaurus queenslandicus ] [ Leaellynasaura amigrapica ] [ Rhamphorynchus gemmingi ]

Collaborations:
[ Arizonasaurus + TarryAGoat ] [ Daspetosaurus torosus + jslice ] [ Parasaurolophus walkeri + Gondolendian ]

.................................................................................................

Palaeoartists on DA:
Andalgalornis Archosaurian aspidel Beast-of-Chaos briankroesch chasmosaur dustdevil Gondolendian Hairen Hotherym jeffquinn Khaan little-al MattMart Outlier tuomaskoivurinne Qilong Red-Dilopho Sainte-Vincient danieljoelnewman TarryAGoat unlobogris
  • Mood: Mad
:iconnyctopterus: - My other account.
:iconpaleoartists: - Palaeoartists group.
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My new word Palaeontography has hit a snag - it is preoccupied. Nevertheless, I have decided to highjack the word and broaden it's meaning.

Creationist arguments I don't want to hear anymore

1. Evolution is just a theory, not a fact or a law.
Evolutionary theory is a theory like Quantum theory , and the Theory of Relativity. Theories in science are well corroborated explanations of aspects of nature that involve laws, hypothesis and facts. It would make no sense to talk about "the law of evolution", but nearly all biologists think evolution is a fact. No serious advocates of creationism use this argument, because it is a just a word-game.

2. The second law of thermodynamics.
In closed systems entropy always increases. The earth's ecosystem is not a closed system.

3. a. Recombination and Natural Selection alone can't create new information.
No, but mutation can.
b. Mutations are always harmful.
There is absolutely no evidence backing this up.  Some mutations by chance alone will be beneficial given the always shifting boundary conditions of ecosystems.

4. There are no transitional fossils.
The fossil record is absolutely full of transitional fossils. Anyone doubting this should look at the startling array of theropods and birds. There are thousands of other examples, at macro and micro levels.

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My work at Paleoartists:

Solos:
[ Deinonychus antirrhopus ] [ Kakuru kujani ] [ Kronosaurus queenslandicus ] [ Leaellynasaura amigrapica ] [ Rhamphorynchus gemmingi ]

Collaborations:
[ Arizonasaurus + TarryAGoat ] [ Daspetosaurus torosus + jslice ] [ Parasaurolophus walkeri + Gondolendian ]

.................................................................................................

Palaeoartists on DA:
Andalgalornis Archosaurian aspidel Beast-of-Chaos briankroesch chasmosaur dustdevil Gondolendian Hairen Hotherym jeffquinn Khaan little-al MattMart Outlier tuomaskoivurinne Qilong Red-Dilopho Sainte-Vincient danieljoelnewman TarryAGoat unlobogris
  • Mood: Mad
I am hereby making up a new word: Palaeontography - the representation of old life.

:iconnyctopterus: - My other account.
:iconpaleoartists: - Palaeoartists group.

"Palaeoart" (a term used for art representing fossil life forms) means "old art". This is undeniably silly, because much of it is brand-new. The word comes from jamming together 'palaeontology' ("study of old life") and 'art' in an incoherent fashion. Really, it should be "palaeontoart", which means "old life art", but which unfortunately sounds silly.

So, I've been thinking, and I think I'm going to found the new field of palaeontography, and call myself a palaeontographer. Rolls of the tongue, and gets rid of "art" in the word, which is English, and sounds less professional and mysterious.

Palaeontographer I am then.

Palaeoartists on DA:
Andalgalornis Archosaurian aspidel Beast-of-Chaos briankroesch chasmosaur dustdevil Gondolendian Hairen Hotherym jeffquinn Khaan little-al MattMart Outlier tuomaskoivurinne Qilong Red-Dilopho Sainte-Vincient danieljoelnewman TarryAGoat unlobogris
  • Mood: Mad
This is nyctopterus's palaeoart account, for drawings and paintings of dead animals. Who doesn't like bit of dead animal now and again eh?

Well if you don't, visit :iconnyctopterus: where there are fewer dead animals.
  • Mood: Mad