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?