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February 23, 2006
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: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.

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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 ]

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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
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:iconnemo-ramjet:
nemo-ramjet Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2007
My latest dinosauroid pieces were greatly inspired by your line of thinking.
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:iconjconway:
jconway Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2007
I think they're the best attempt I've seen at what I've been trying to get across. They're really beautiful too. I hope you're not bullshitting me about being influenced by what I say, because that's pretty awesome and makes me feel all smug inside.
Reply
:iconnemo-ramjet:
nemo-ramjet Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2007
I'm definitely not bullshitting, rest assured. I'd independently gotten that hunch a while before, but reading your journal consolidated it.
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:iconbrad-ysaurus:
Brad-ysaurus Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2006
Damn, John. That's the most depressing rant I've read in a long time. No wonder I don't do much dabbling in palaeontography anymore.
Reply
:iconjconway:
jconway Featured By Owner Apr 6, 2006
Yeah, it's one of the reasons I can't stick at it either. I don't feel I'm part of something intellectually worthwhile.
Reply
:iconarchosaurian:
Archosaurian Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2006
Its not depressing, its the truth.
Reply
:iconkuwaizair:
Kuwaizair Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2006
I wish my dinos were good, I'm in one Prehistoric times but I'll never be in national geographic, how do I make better stuff my heart isnt there
Reply
:iconjconway:
jconway Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2006
If your heart isn't there, then you probably can't.
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:iconnambroth:
Nambroth Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2006  Professional General Artist
I will agree- everyone has said it much more eloquently than myself, but this is the direction I'm trying to head. My main hinderances are a lack of knowledge and skill.. but these come with time and patience (and work). Perhaps in 10 years I will be at a level where I can do this sort of thing.
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:iconjconway:
jconway Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2006
Well the skill is there, but you'd probably have to be a lot palaeo-nerdier...
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