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There is no such thing as ‘scientific accuracy’ in paleoart.
“My raptors has larger feathers on it’s arms, so it is sooo much more accurate than your feathered raptor!”
We’ve heard this before.
But consider this. Dictionary.com defines ‘accuracy’ as “the condition or quality of being true, correct, or exact; freedom from error or defect.”
The wonderful creatures that paleoartists reconstruct are unfortunately often extinct, leaving us unable to ever really know exactly what these critters looked like when alive. We will never know exactly what colour scales dinosaurs had, what their mating behaviours were, or how fluffy a velociraptor’s coat was…
It is really disappointing to realize that we will never know exactly how these creatures looked and behaved. We will never know what is true, correct or exact. Unless time travel becomes possible (I’m working on it), we will never know that truth. As artists, our reconstructions will never be free from error or defect. This is just the reality we must accept. It's too bad, your paleoart will never be scientifically accurate.
What we as paleoartists can do is work towards a ‘temporal accuracy’ – the condition of being as true, as correct, or as exact as the current scientific research shows. This is not striving for absolute correctness, because absolute correctness is impossible. It is to strive to be as correct as current popular science dictates.
This means that now in 2011, it is temporally accurate for all duckbilled hardosaurs to walk with its tail off the ground. It also means that in 1905, Charles Knight’s tail-dragging Trachodon is also temporally accurate. In Knight’s time, the upright pose (and even the name) was scientifically accepted as true.
And what of our young artists bickering over whose art is more scientifically accurate? Well, neither is. As we will sadly never know what is actually absolutely accurate, these artists have to accept that they are both temporally accurate.
So stop bickering, do your homework, and make some art. With the Internet connecting the billions, there is no better time to take part and join in the fun.
ART Evolved is very interested in other opinions on this topic, and would welcome your input. If you would like to submit an article about Scientific Accuracy in Art, please read the brief introduction here, and send your essay to firstname.lastname@example.org.