Dinosaur Art: The World’s Greatest Paleoart -- exclusive excerpt

There are many forms of art –- still life, abstract, landscape, digital, cubism, marine, aviation, splatter, modern, photography etc but chances are, few people know what "paleoart" is. Well, simply put, it is the illustration of prehistoric life. Its practitioners combine an understanding of such broad disciplines as anatomy, geology and botany to open windows onto the ancient past, bringing to life as best they can organisms from across the planet’s four billion-year history. Everything from jellyfish to trilobites to mammoths to the first single-celled organisms – and, of course, dinosaurs.

Dinosaur Art is a collection -- and celebration -- of some the finest purveyors of paleoart. My primary reason in assembling this host of talent was to give them a voice. Generally their work is seen in books running the gamete from children’s to the most serious academic volume; from National Geographic’s website to illustrating a report on a BBC News feature. However, I couldn’t help but notice they rarely got to talk about themselves and their art. I hoped to rectify that and in doing so bring together a collection of amazing art that you don’t need to be a dinosaur enthusiast to enjoy -- although that helps!

Here’s a selection of some of my favorite images, from the book. -- Steve White, editor of Dinosaur Art

ASTEROID

Douglas Henderson

I love the lighting on this. What filmmakers call ‘the Magic Hour’ – beautiful twilight colours. It is also preludes the event that heralded the demise of the dinosaurs (and untold other species) – the impact of a massive object, in this case illustrated as an asteroid but possibly a comet or meteor, that slammed into the area of what is now Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, unleashing a global catastrophe.

GALLIMIMUS & TARBOSAURUS

John Conway

Tarbosaurus is a very close relative to T-rex. In this beautiful shot by John, it’s chasing down the ostrich-mimicking Gallimimus, best known for its star turn in Jurassic Park, but here illustrated in a shaggy down. We don’t know for sure that Gallimimus was clad as such but here John is making use of the paleoartist’s best friend: the educated guess.

SINUSONASUS FIGHTING

Luis Rey

Luis uses the newest tool in the paleoartist’s tookbox, the computer, and produces a great piece of photo-manipulation. Using grey herons as a starting point, he illustrates a very important maxim in Life Sciences: that small, predatory dinosaurs like Sinusonasus weren’t a million miles away from birds. Chances are they were in fact just around the corner.

THE LEVIATHAN

Robert Nicholls

Bob does a brilliant job here in bringing to life the sheer terrifying mass of one of the truly giant marine reptiles, Liopleurodon. I also really love the light on this one; the rays of sun falling through the water and adding real depth to the picture.

STYRACOSAURUS

Raul Martin

Another picture that makes wonderful use of sunlight. Raul is an amazing artist who uses computer software as effectively as he uses a pencil. This is digital painting par excellence, but it’s Raul’s use of light and shade that really sold this one to me.

AEROSTEON

Todd Marshall

I love this illustration. It’s more like a medical drawing than a piece of paleoart. Todd uses the cutaway of the carnivorous dinosaur, Aerosteon, to highlight its inner workings while at the same time maintaining an air of dynamism – this really is an x-ray on the run!

TYRANNOSAURUS SEAFOOD

Julius Csotonyi

Another fine example of mixed media – the marriage of traditional and digital artwork. This looks more like someone’s snapshot from a time machine window than a piece of artwork, and the T-rex just looks plain awesome!

WOODSTONE AMMONITE GRAVEYARD

John Sibbick has an eye for detail. You may have gathered that from trying to count the number of ammonite shells he painted. But it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality: the texture of the sand and the rocks, the spines on the seed cones in the foreground, it’s all stunning complete. Little wonder John wears glasses.

Dinosaur Art: The World’s Greatest Paleoart

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