Artist's statement

My Palaeoart Manifesto, Or "Why I draw Dinosaurs":

For a professional in any field, it is important to know not just what you do but why you do it. When I was a kid I started drawing dinosaurs not because I felt some lofty 'higher calling' to do so, but because I loved Dinosaurs. But when I reached about sixteen and realized that I really wanted to make a career of this, I knew that it was time to get serious.

It is thus that I have developed my own 'Palaeo-art manifesto' over the years; by which to choose my subjects and how best to present them. I do not necessarily advocate that all palaeo-artists follow these guidelines, nor do I suggest that they are exhaustive (there's only three!). They are merely my own private rationale for why I continue to do what I do; my motivation and my manual for ensuring that all time spent on my own palaeo-restorations is done in the spirit of science and for the benefit of all who enjoy these images.

Iguanodon bernissartensis Copyright A V S Turner

RULE 1: Every image serves a purpose. Before beginning a new work, ask yourself "What good will representing this subject do for the wider community?". If your chosen subject is a relatively new discovery, of which few restorations have been made, then the clear benefit is in creating a new piece of reference material for a species of which few images exist. If, however the species has been long known to science, instead ask yourself "How will my representation of this species teach my audience anything new?". To restore existing species, even those like Tyrannosaurus rex, of which there are very many representations in both academia and popular culture, is a perfectly valid enterprise, so long as you can honestly say that your own representation of this subject will bring something new to the table. Maybe you can demonstrate an example of some behaviour that has been hitherto ignored (such as parenthood or social behaviour), or you might include some element in the environment that is based on new evidence?

RULE 2: Context is essential. Why spend so much time and effort getting your subject's morphology right if they then end up standing in an environment that is totally inappropriate, even anachronistic? Before setting out your composition, research carefully the kind of landscape your subject might be found in; think about what plant and animal species would have been around at the time; consider what time of day or night it is; what was the climate like in that part of the world at that point in history? Doing this will not only make the creative process easier; it will invest intellectual currency in the work as well, rendering images that are as scientifically valuable as they are beautiful. The purpose of palaeo-art is to inform and educate as well as to enthrall.

RULE 3: If there's no evidence for it, don't draw it! This is a practical measure, as much for the artist's benefit as the audience's. There's no point spending time painting or sculpting a detail for which there is no evidence. Obviously, there are times when this is necessary, but these come often enough for a palaeo-artist to make it worth avoiding having to invent details if you don't have to.
And besides the time-saving benefits to the artist, this third and final rule also enforces the first two, by ensuring that the science behind each image is as solid as it can be.

Amargasaurus cazaui Copyright A V S Turner


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