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March 21, 2007
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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 won´t help - look how many "underlying theories" there are about "Art"....

Better than real doesn´t 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 I´m trying to achieve a natural history documentary effect, striving towards some sense of realism - I´d like you to smell their breath, feel the humidity, hear David Attenborough´s whispered commentary as he lies only feet away....

Isn´t 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 it´s infancy, still in it´s Altamira/Lascaux phase. We´ve 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!!! I´m 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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