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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.

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:icongorgosaurus:
Gorgosaurus Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2007
Cubist Bambiraptor - no thanks!
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:iconjconway:
jconway Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2007
As I said in my last response, borrowing such ideas isn't necessary.
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:icongorgosaurus:
Gorgosaurus Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2007
An underlying theory wonīt help - look how many "underlying theories" there are about "Art"....

Better than real doesnīt exist (except in out fantasies!).

For me the name of the game is to share with others the delightful images that dance in my thoughts. With most of my Dinosaur models and dioramas Iīm trying to achieve a natural history documentary effect, striving towards some sense of realism - Iīd like you to smell their breath, feel the humidity, hear David Attenboroughīs whispered commentary as he lies only feet away....

Isnīt what makes Terence Lambert a more satisfying painter of Birds than Basil Ede is that he includes the bird-shit on the twigs, the feather out of place, the broken toe (OK, not seen that done yet, but looking forward to it).

Spike E.
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:iconjconway:
jconway Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2007
Art in a broader sense has been far more visually interesting than than palaeontological art, which is quite restricted stylistically, as well as philosophically. I think it's getting dull, especially post dinosaur-renaissance. But we don't need to borrow theories from the outside, we need to generate them internally.

Realistic recreation of the past is fine, but it seems to me that if that's what you're really into, 3D CG is where you want to be. The natural history documentary of dinosaurs has been taking to its logical conclusion (Walking with Dinosaurs, etc.) there.

Personally, that's not my bag, baby. I think with CG we're facing what painters faced with photography back in the eighteenth century - I don't want to be a photographer - so I'm going somewhere else.
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:icongorgosaurus:
Gorgosaurus Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2007
I can see that it led the way for others, but surely I am not alone in thinking Walking with Dinosaurs was disappointing, wishy-washy, stiff, same old same old, roaring-boring clap-trap?

Artistic representation of extinct life-forms is in itīs infancy, still in itīs Altamira/Lascaux phase. Weīve yet to see a van der Weyden or Holbein, let alone a Henry Moore.

Looking forward to seeing where you take us...

Spike.
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:iconjconway:
jconway Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2007
Oh sure, WWD was crud, but even if it were good (like a great David Attenborough documentary), it would still seem to me to be missing the point. Palaeontological art should be about more than that, it should be about the broad sweep of evolution, and the science that makes sense of life.

I don't think we can really say where palaeontography is at the moment -- because we are all aware of the long history of art (and are somewhat disillusioned by it). It might not go anywhere, but settle in it's own little niche of slobbering monsters roaring at the camera/viewer.
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:icongorgosaurus:
Gorgosaurus Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2007
Please, no, not that!!! Iīm so tired of Dinosaurs playing at Basking Sharks.

Spike.
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:icondracontes:
dracontes Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2007  Hobbyist General Artist
I'd have to whole-heartedly agree with you. After watching the BBC series "How Art Made The World" I am quite aware that art of any kind is a stylized representation of one's own perceptions. I find however that is were the challenge lies: to balance our own views with reality... Uh... If there's any possibility of it, that is!

In short, trompe-l'œil is awe-inspiring in a technical point of view, but generally boring in the broader artistical sense. What emotion does it stir in a person the sight of a painstakingly painted study of various household objects?
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:iconjconway:
jconway Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2007
That's the pickle... but nobody said art was easy!
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:iconsainte-vincient:
Sainte-Vincient Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2007  Hobbyist Digital Artist
My aim in restoring dinosaurs and their environments is to communicate my own sense of wonder and hopefully engender it in others. It's true I seek a level of reality, but things as close to photorealism as is attempted in movies is unsatisfactory. Like you my favourite artists are not photo-realists. Greg Paul has that crisp stylized look that you mention as well as a very formulaic approach to integumentary pigmentation and squamation.

The same things apply to any other of the widely known "paleoartists" (you're right, the word is so not right!). Raul Martin's work is fantastic, but it too has a very striking style that really has nothing to do with reality. At the other end of the spectrum we have guys like Luis Rey who's goal is obviously not realism or absolute accuracy.

It seems, then, that the goal of paleontographers is to display their own private vision of a world that no longer exists and to help "lay people" to better understand our current understanding of it; for some that vision is fantastical, for others it approaches reality seen through our own analytical lens.
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:iconjconway:
jconway Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2007
I think you've summed up how we've all (including myself) been approaching this for years now, and while it's okay, I just don't see a hell of a lot of really interesting art or ideas coming out of it. Part of the problem is that most people's visions are derived from the small group of artists that preceded them. We're inbred, and it's showing.
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:iconsainte-vincient:
Sainte-Vincient Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2007  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I would agree with that for the most part.

However, it seems to me impossible to create good art without having some sort of personal vision. For instance, when I first started displaying my art to paleontologists and other artists, many told me that it was obvious that I had been influenced greatly by Greg Paul. In truth I had seen but few of his images years ago when I was in elementary school and it took seeing the paintings again in another book recently to realize that I had seen his work long before I started down my own path (I was greatly influenced by Bakker's Dinosaur Heresies; the writing not the art). I now seldom look at other artists' work unless there is a technique that I'm trying to deconstruct in order to use it in my work, e.g. there's a great Olorotitan portrait on the Dinosauricon that has wonderful squamation, an area I've always been weak. I'm now experimenting to find my own way of coming up with a real-to-life look for scales in my work.

I do think it's time for a major revamp in the way that paleowildlife artists (aka paleontographers, both are good terms that take into account different aspects of the same process) work. The dinosaur renaissance has backfired somewhat and has resulted in the same kind of artistic constipation that existed in the early 20th century. As you say, the current standing of paleontography results from too many of the younger generation (us) following too few of the old artists in effect becoming inbred.
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:iconjconway:
jconway Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2007
The omnipresent influence of Greg Paul has been in many ways regrettable. Everyone has copied his side-on technical look without getting his quirkyness. Copying GSP is easy to play, difficult to master, and just all together too addictive.
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:iconsainte-vincient:
Sainte-Vincient Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2007  Hobbyist Digital Artist
True. Greg definitely is not so inspirational as Chas. Knight but has an influence that is far out of proportion to his actual achievements. An unfortunate reality. While I respect GSP's work and the significant strides he made for his time, I believe that, considering the state of the science now, it is far too one-dimensional amounting to eye candy.

One of the things I've noted about the field of paleontology in general is that those that are involved in the science are a bunch of immature dunces interested not in true scientific endeavor but, rather, in their own personal advancement. Therein may lie one of the fundamental flaws in the artistic branch of the field as well. A mature vision will allow people to be different and propose ideas and work in truly individual and creative ways without thought of professional advancement or fear of complete censure because of nonconformity to a body of rules. (Naive, I know, but a statement of truth.) Perhaps that is a first step to take? Art should not be a competition but a personal journey that moves others to think about the world from various points of view. (Again, naive, but true.) This applies just as much to the communication of scientific thought via artistic means as it does to pure art.
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