Monday, April 11, 2011

Paleo Art or Scientific Illustration?

This is a truncated version of the latest post on my blog Paleo Illustrata, which has been suggested  might be of interest to Art Evolved readers. The full version is available over there if you want to read more.

One of the most interesting issues I've come across in the paleoart blogsphere is the question of whether pictures of dinosaurs are art or science, and whether it's reasonable to illustrate dinosaurs in any way apart from using the latest science. Of course, accessing the latest science has become a bit of a hot topic recently and anyone following the lively and passionate discussions that followed Greg Paul's announcement that he wanted people to stop using his skeletal reconstructions will understand many people hold the subject of paleoart very close to their hearts.

But what about the actual function of palaeoart; purely scientific representation or could it be entertainment too? Could it go deeper than simply illustrating past life (not that this is actually a simple task) and illuminate some of the less quantifiable aspects of being a living being on our planet?


Sarah Snell-Pym said...

I would assume that it is called paleo-art because it is a group that includes scientific illustrations of things like dinosaurs/paleo-environments. The subject of paleo art would include stuff that was just for fun so the answer as to weather it is science or art is sometimes and in those case always both - otherwise you just take photos (I say just but specimen photography is an art onto itself).

HAJiME said...

This is a non-issue that a few pretentious jurassic park hating palaeontologist wannabees make a big deal out of on the internet.

Paleo-art/illustration is quite simply some kind of representation of extinct flora or fauna.

Natural History Illustration, on the other hand, I think describes something that is supposed to be accurate to science.

I can understand why people may be concerned that inaccurate representation of dinosaurs breeds ignorance say, about dinosaurs having feathers for example, but I don't think that's a good enough reason to ever come up with the lunacy that people should only ever draw dinosaurs accurately.

I think it is the responsibility of museums and publishers of scientific material to commission scientifically accurate and up-to-date artworks to educate, not the artists themselves.

The image in this post is, by the way, stunning.

davidmaas said...

HAJiME: are you saying that the artist who creates an image purporting to be a representation of a factual once-existent animal has no responsibility for the plausibility of that representation?

daddy said...

I am a paleofiction writer..any and all paleo-artists are the most valueable people as friends and inspiration..good paleofiction comes from good paleo-fact..I was upset and dis heartened when I came across greg S. paul's selfish attitude towards others of his own kind..when will we learn that lifting each other up will take us better than slamming each other down..I respected this man very much and looked up to him...for all you paleoartists out there I love you all

HAJiME said...

davidmass: That relies on that artist first understanding how accurate or inaccurate their portrayal is. I mean, I could draw an extinct animal to the best of my knowledge and ability and tell you so, but that doesn't mean it's accurate to up-to-date palaeontology. Not only that, it's ridiculous to police creativity and impossible. We should however be able to trust images we encounter in up-to-date scientific publications, but we often cannot. it is the commissioners responsibility to provide the correct information and commission artists capable to representing accurately.