Tuesday, August 16, 2011

We Just Keep Reading _The Humongous Book of Dinosaurs_!

First off, thank you for the shout-out, Dinosaur Tracking!


Continuing our magical journey through The Humongous Book of Dinosaurs! I should have mentioned this last week, but I am aware that many readers have a lot of nostalgia for this series. As you may have noticed, I haven't said much about the text. This is due to there being a serious case of text/illustration dissonance (and I have nothing but the deepest sympathy for the illustrators; it thankfully hasn't happened very often to me, but I wasn't kidding when I say sometimes you get the equivalent of a tiny notecard describing what you are supposed to draw). Please do not take offense to my snarky attitude towards the illustrations. Thank you.

You have to admit, my fellow paleoartists (or paleontographers if you want to get all fancy-pants - though you should read Traumador's epic deconstruction of the term in the comments below before you do; if anyone wishes to discuss this issue further, please do so here), that part of the appeal of drawing dinosaurs is very simple: sometimes you get to depict giant murderbeasts fighting and maiming each other. The many, many illustrators of the oftentimes truly insane HBoD took unusual glee in such things. Check it out:

The Humongous Book Of Dinosaurs

My favorite part of this piece is how mildly peeved that tyrannosaurus looks after
being gored right in the privates (even though this tyrannosaur appears to be totally neuter, because this is a children's magazine).

The Humongous Book Of Dinosaurs

You often see 80's Deinonychosaurs ganging up on animals twice their size. But you don't see them having the privates to tackle a big ceratopsian... ever, really. I think this is the first time I've seen such a thing.

The Humongous Book Of Dinosaurs

A very 80's Spinosaurus messily chows down on an Ouranosaurus carcass. I'm more distracted by the huge, fat ass on that spino. Damn, that is a big fat ass! Maybe the artist is partially going by the "spine was really supporting a giant hump" theory?

The Humongous Book Of Dinosaurs

I love this painting of a very weird ornithomimid because it shows a paleoart meme from my childhood that you almost never see anymore: supposedly egg-eating dinosaurs sloppily splattering and dribbling around the delicious yolk of the egg they are apparently trying to eat. We'll see a lot more of this later.

The Humongous Book Of Dinosaurs

And here's Ornitholestes making off with a hunk of... somebody. At least he isn't chasing a flyer around for once.

The Humongous Book Of Dinosaurs

Another very weird ornithomimid is taking care of that for him.

Next Time: A look at some of our favorite dinosaurs!


How about this? To liven things up a bit during our journey through this crazy book, I'll share something I just watched recently and is just way too incredible to wait. I give you the lost "Jim Henson Hour" episode, "Living With Dinosaurs"; I'll be serializing it over the next few posts. Do be a dear and watch along with me.

Now, if you're a regular reader, you may remember me discussing how I was a little desperate for dinosaur-related film as a kid. That's why I was so very upset when "The Jim Henson Hour" was cancelled before I got to see this episode. In my mind, and based entirely on the title, it'd essentially have been the same idea as "Dinosaur Revolution" (which, by the way, looks very good).

Within two minutes of finally seeing "Living With Dinosaurs" now, I am unspeakably glad I didn't see it for the first time at eleven years old. Let's begin shall we?


Sketch of the Day!

Feather studies!

7.21.11 - Feather studies


Albertonykus said...

I have a children's book from 1994 that's filled with illustrated two-page spreads depicting a certain ecosystem. (The idea was that you had to try and find a given number of the various species of animals in each image.) Most of the ecosystems were modern ecosystems, but the first puzzle was of Late Cretaceous North America. Among other problems, that illustration showed a small handful of Dromaeosaurus attacking an adult Triceratops. With a juvenile Triceratops standing around just nearby...

Traumador said...

That was one heck of an egg! That ornithomimid has the same expression on I'd have if an egg exploded on me like that!

I don't know if I'd be going around identifying palaeo-art as paleontography so casually without consulting its exact defination.

"Palaeontography is the reconstruction and depiction of fossil organisms (this is often called "palaeoart"—however, this is both pre-occupied by ancient art, and horribly mal-formed). My main interest is trying to formalise many of the methods for reconstructing fossil organisms, in an attempt to bring a cohesive and critique-able methodology to the field. " (From John Conway's site)

I attempted an intellectual examination of palaeontography and its defination on ART Evolved a while back: http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/search/label/Article-Philosofossilising%20What%20is%20Palaeo-Art.

In short this defination doesn't work, and if the defination doesn't work why use the term?

No matter how much research you put into a palaeo-reconstruction it will be wrong (if we ever got our hands on the real animal I'm sure no would have nailed it exactly). More to the point old works of palaeo-art are considered "mal-informed" and to be discarded as essential worthless. That means Charles Knight was not a palaeo-artist. Seriously?

More to the point work like ours (I adore yours by the way Trish), would probably not fair very well under these criteria (frankly no one's would for long when you think about it). Research and our knowledge is constantly changing what all these things looked like. How can we hope to stay accurate for long in this great age of discovery?!?

To me palaeotography is sort of an elitist term which I feel is trying to pass judgement on other peoples worthless "palaeo-art" (again when you read the defination it is riddled with accusations about people who aren't into the palaeotography mind set). Elitism alienates people, and drives them away from things. Do we want to drive people away from palaeo-art?

So long as a piece connects people to the prehistoric past it is good palaeo-art.

Even the artwork you've just covered in this post from those old Dinos books aren't too bad from this point of view. They accomplished that mission of connecting our imagination with the extinct animals and times long gone. Sure it could have been done better (that's hopefully where people like you and I come in :P), but it still worked when we were kids (I owned this book way back when, I think... or at least got it out of the library enough to feel I owned it!).

So yes it is fun to look at these clearly ripped off, and poorly researched pieces. However to think ourselves above the work is a bit self important on our part. It worked for kids back in the day (I know I was one of them), and to be recognizable as Dinosaurs they actually included a lot more reality and science than we often give them credit for.

On that note I conclude. I do aplogize for the rant. I just get very irrate at the term palaeontography due to the defination... More to the point there is plenty of room for not serious palaeo-reconstruction in palaeo-art (which I know you very well know Trish... Please keep up your fantastic stylized work!)

So please any hostility you get from my rabble here, direct it at the term palaeontography, and not any people. Even those who coined or even just use the word. I just don't think they've fully thought through what their actually doing to the art of palaeontology by trying to get that term to take off!

Trish said...

Al, now that you've described it, I think I may have that book buried in a box in the attic somewhere! My version is somewhat different from what you describe, but I will hunt for it when I get a LOT of free time.

And Traumador... woah. Uh, I should say that the only reason I even brought the term "Paleontography" up is because I happened to see it somewhere before writing this post. And what crossed my mind after seeing it was, "that is maybe the most pretentious term for animal art I have ever seen." I had no idea it was so loaded.

So thank you for the epic post and for the kind words! I've made a note of it in the main text.

Neil said...

When Conway says "palaeoart is horribly mal-formed" I suspect he's not trying to tear down the work of Charles Knight, or anyone else. Rather he means, as a word, "palaeoart" is rather awkward with the mash of vowels and dipthongs in the middle. I guess this might be more noticeable in the British spelling/pronunciation than in the American equivalent: "Paleoart."

No doubt Conway is being a bit brash by trying to rename the genre, but I think it's done quasi-self consciously. It is actually kind of an elegant coinage: replacing "logy" - words with "graphy" - drawings. But I think it's meant more to define his own aesthetic and ambition rather than dismiss everyone else's work.

raptor_044 said...

"You often see 80's Deinonychosaurs ganging up on animals twice their size. But you don't see them having the privates to tackle a big triceratops... ever, really."

IIRC, the text refers to it as Anchiceratops.

"And here's Ornitholestes making off with a hunk of... somebody."

Next to "Allosaurus attacking Diplodocus" ( http://www.johnsibbick.com/library/display.asp?product=D1# ), that's my favorite Sibbick illustration.