Sunday, March 17, 2013

An Clarification/Olive Branch extension to Brian Engh

I just wanted to drag this out of the comment section and into a public post for all to see. As I worry some have gotten the wrong impression from my previous posts.

Just to clarification to all (Brian included) my recent commentary on Brian Engh's Sauropods in a cave piece, has not been meant to target Brian, his artwork, or even this specific piece. I was more calling into question some of the philosophic frameworks of what I see this new movement towards highly speculative palaeo-art (dubbed by many the Yesterday's movement due to the recent book All Yesterday's)...

By Brian Engh
The only reason I've been fixated on Brian's piece is that it had a focal point of great enough interest to me, that it has really boot kicked my recent palaeo apathy in the head.

His inclusion of glowworms is right up my alley, as they are a very interesting component of New Zealand natural history. As many on this site know I lived in New Zealand for several years, and was heavily involved in volunteer work for scientists and a couple local (Dunedin) institutions during this time. So it is one of those very rare fields where I can claim to know something about in a non-soft or armchair capacity. While I don't know everything there is to know about glowworms, I have read about them a bit and have seen them in wild in dozens of places frequently while living in NZ.

It is due to this I've had to be a little critical of Brian's choice in putting giant Sauropods into the glowworms environment. I haven't meant this in a malicious or mean sense, but simply in an (attempted) educational heads up capacity. I haven't articulated it well at times (partially due to time constraints, and also compounded by my still lingering palaeo-burn out), but my intentions were never to attack Brian. Simply get the information and science flowing (which with glowworms is important. New Zealand tourism has a very weird and odd monopoly on photographs of the key big caves in the country... check out this comment section for full details)

My satirical Basketball Raptor piece was meant as a response to the quoted comments I was getting from scientists (which I still think were not in any sort of spirit of discussion... they basically told me to shut up and go away... which I did coming here ;P). My Raptor piece was NOT meant to make fun of Brian's piece (and I never quoted Brian in the satire part... however again I probably didn't articulate the distinction as well as I could have). I was meaning to highlight responses from which I could derive what I think is a weak formula for palaeo-reconstruction (I would have preferred to illustrate a oceanic krill catching sauropod, but I didn't have the time or energy to do so. Thus the Raptor ball...)

While I think Brian's Caveopods as depicted here (aka with glowworms) is a highly unlikely scenario to have ever happened in real life, it has still been an excellent piece. I mean this on all levels. Above all else it clearly is a powerful piece as it has ignited passions and opened up discussion and thought on the subject.

In my opinion palaeo-art can do more than this, but this engaging people is still one of the key goals. It isn't just any piece that can get people this charged and involved in discussing prehistory. So again I just want to make clear I actually really like this piece of art (just the Kiwi naturalist in me can't believe it).

I promise I have more commentary on the "Yesterday's" movement that has nothing to do with Brian's piece, in the pipeline. So Brian, again I'm not singling you out. If anything you're piece getting me back into thinking about palaeo-art is a compliment. I've been out of the scene for over half a year now, and nothing else (including my own working being used in museums) could get me engaged again. So that speaks to the quality of the piece (I'm just sorry it had to be in a [well meant] critical manner).

By John Conway
I have an article in the works looking at various Ceratopsian restorations including this All Yesterdays one by John Conway... So stay tuned.