Rough Beasts In Eden

The gorilla's teeth represent a high-water mark. Natural history illustration will be feeling that blow for some time to come. Illustration by Earle and Bonnie Snellenberger, copyright 2001 by Ken Ham, from Dinosaurs Of Eden.

Dinosaurs Of Eden is a children's book by Ken Ham. He is a young-Earth creationist, and his work is everything you could ever ask from a young-Earth creationist educational dinosaur book. If you're curious, I've got got a post concerning it over on my blog.

Oh, and the lemons? It's not stated specifically, but my guess is that in Eden, lemons were sweet. Which suggests that Ham believes that quinces were likewise edible -- but what do you suppose his position on pine cones is? I'll bet it's something surprising!

ROBERT RIGGS (1896 - 1970)

Nobody talks much about Robert Riggs anymore, but he was once one of the nation's most highly regarded illustrators.

As Walt Reed wrote, "Robert Riggs was awarded the Gold Medal for Excellence by the New York Art Directors Club for ten consecutive years and received many additional awards." He was elected to the Society of Illustrators' Hall of Fame.  His work is in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Fine Arts and the U.S. Library of Congress.

What made Riggs so special?  If you went through a checklist of factors that normally make an illustrator stand out, Riggs seemed to have none of them.   His work was not flashy or innovative or glamorous.  He had no special talent for anatomy or facial expressions.  His compositions and colors weren't stylish or bold.  If anything, he favored basic, symmetrical compositions with conventional color schemes:

Note how frequently Riggs plants his subject right smack dab in the middle of his canvas.

Furthermore, his subject matter was hardly topical or crowd-pleasing.  No one would describe his work as romantic or witty or trendy--  no pretty girls, no heart-warming family scenes, no attractive couples in passionate clinches.  And Riggs didn't try to show off with a lot of details and frills.  To the contrary, he simplified and stripped away unnecessary detail.

For me, the special appeal of Riggs' work is in its distinctive weight.  He imbued every subject with a great feeling of solidity and substance-- what Reed calls "monumental" compositions.  Riggs' figures in the following picture are made of the same granite as the mountains behind them.

Riggs didn't follow the recipe for popular illustrations of his day.  He viewed the world in a powerful, muscular way and conveyed his vision as honestly as he could.  That was enough to capture audiences and the respect of his peers. 

Riggs had very few imitators, perhaps because other illustrators just didn't see the world through his eyes.

Comment Moderation Moderated :P

Given the recent hot topics we've been hosting this month there's been a lot of discussion. Sadly for non-members their comments have been getting caught up in our moderation. As we haven't had any spam for a while, we're once again going to try limiting comment moderation on ART Evolved to older posts.

So enjoy free commenting everyone! (With a warning if we start getting spammed again this moderation could go back up...)

Philosofossilising- Is it Science or Art?

This is a reply to the question:

Just how important is scientific accuracy in Palaeo-art? Is palaeontology, and by association those who follow the technical side of the science, becoming too judgemental towards the artistic efforts of palaeo-artists?

This is an individual opinion on this topic. To read a number of different peoples' answer to this question click this link here. If you have your own answer, read the last paragraph of this post for details on how to get yours posted on ART Evolved.

This post is brought to us by guest contributor Taylor Reints of the blog Beasts Evolved.

I've never really discussed palaeoart, or paleoart, which is the art (or science) of reconstructing, restoring, drawing, sculpting, painting and even animating prehistoric creatures before. We do know, however, that paleoart is restoring prehistory, but its a subdivision of... what? Art... science... paleontology - all of these come to mind. Is paleoart science or is it art?

Science or Art?

The amount of scientific involvement, paleoart's necessities and criteria are all discussed here. It seems that paleoart is a type of science and should be more like that, being cut to the scientific edge of correctness and accuracy. When paleoart is associated with art, usually there is more inferred speculation or even just some fantasy drawings. I'm a believer in science-paleoart, for without science and paleontology what is it?

Speculation in appearance, behavior and even coloration needs to take serious consideration into the science-art of paleoart. Without accuracy, what would the purpose of paleoart even be? This reminds me of Andrea Cau's wonderful ten commandments of paleoart:

I - Science is the source of paleoart.

II - Thou shalt have no other reference to the outside of the living creatures, because they represent the first extinct animals, you must be able to represent existing.

III - Thou shalt not make any idol, model or inspiration from the past or living paleoartist, because only nature is your inspiration.

IV - Do not call a work "Paleoart" in vain

V - Honor the anatomy and ecology

VI - Do not plagiarize

VII - Do not create mythology

VIII - Do not create false reconstruction

IX - You shall not covet other technique

X - not the desire to impress others

It is important paleoart is not biased towards art, for what is the reconstruction without science? Stu Pond of Paleo Illustrata wrote an excellent post in April about the purpose of and what is paleoart. Two commandments surprised him, as well as many other people,

VII - Do not create mythology

VIII - Do not create false reconstruction

Mythology refers to inferring behavior and extra ornamentation. Reconstructed behavior, in my opinion, is fine and adds pizzazz to a paleoartistic piece. "False reconstruction"... you wouldn't place an Iguanodon and Coelophysis coexisting in a grassy field, right? That's the thing being described here.


There should be much scientific involvement in restoring a prehistoric animal. All of reality should go into it, in my personal opinion. There are various differentiations in this term's definition from artist-to-artist. I just like restoring animals with a white background, not guessing or inferring a lot. However, behavior can be inferred, coloration can, ornamentation... As long as its not too extravagant.

Taylor Reints- Coauthor of Beasts Evolved

ART Evolved is very interested in other opinions on this topic, and would welcome your answer to this question. If you would like to enter an article on "Just how important is scientific accuracy in Palaeo-art? ", please read the brief criteria here, and send your essay to

Philosofossilising - Setting Criteria, Drawing the Line (David)

To start off with, everyone is right and everyone has the right. Scientists are spending great efforts at their own cost on outreach projects to educate a Hollywood-brained general audience, enthusiastic bloggers are blithefully propagating the f*cking awesomeness of dinosaurs, including the flying ones, and artists are duefully filling the full pallette of niches from bone transcriptions to viking-ridden, frothing-at-the-mouth theropods. Everyone has the right and nothing is being forbidden. Animated series are announced with Sin-City press posters and theropods pruned by the scissors of budget efficiency and yeah - its all in good spirit. No body is proposing a prohibition of featherless raptors. But the cooler the medium the more convinced will be the generations that come, and the more futile the efforts of the scientists that consulted the film that - hey, they did have feathers and they belong within a lineage that includes the ancestors of our modern birds.

Apologies & Accomodations

Craig pleads for leniency, Glendon defends the freedoms of paleoart from tut-tutting scientists and Pete also seems to be excusing inaccuracies. At the risk of sounding harsh: why? Why should artistic license have such priority over hard-earned, tested and double-tested knowledge of likelihood and probability? Why should those of us interested in taking the long road to understanding and communicating the riddling complexities and inconsistencies, the fascination of interlinked ecosystems and 3rd or 4th level deduction of probabilities be extra accommodating to those whose interests don't go much beyond a kick-ass T-Rex?

I'm more than willing to accept the issue as a matter of wording: I'll happily surrender the term paleoart to a realm of anything-goes artistic freedom. Or at least part of me would... the other part of me recognizes how long the battle would be to establish whatever new term then stands for the same thing in the minds of a public disinterested in differentiations and shades of gray. But okay - I'm willing to talk palaeontography (explain that to your grandma) or paleo-illustration. But I suspect this path leads to an elitist ghetto of those in the know talking down to the enthusiastic plebes.

The goal has to be to transfer the kick-assedness from the brand names of roaring T-rexes and rearing sauropods to the encompassing processes of knowledge and respect. An uphill path, but the only one that leads to an inclusion of the masses on a basis of shared knowledge. All the downhill paths lead to frustrated enclaves and endless diaper-changes - poo-pooing the stubborn, and yes - talking down to people because they're simply not interested in the basic premise of paleontology. Dinosaurs are not organic Transformers. They were not created to sell merchandise or satisfy your creative urge. Being a dinosaur freak obliges one to a passion about the natural sciences as a whole, and ultimately to a respect for the systems within the planet we live on. Point.

Webster says...

Peter referenced ‘accuracy’ as meaning “the condition or quality of being true, correct, or exact; freedom from error or defect.” More or less an absolute state, as there is no perfection in the real world. Interestingly, plausibility is defined as having an appearance of truth or reason; seemingly worthy of approval or acceptance; credible; believable. The definition is all shades of gray, reeking of questioned authority: well-spoken and apparently, but often deceptively, worthy of confidence or trust: a plausible commentator.

That actually appeals to me... we're creating images that are worthy of trust but not above questioning, and ultimately, knowingly wrong. New discoveries will prove them so, but the images will still be admired as historical documents and
- if we manage to climb to the heights of the form, still ooze fascination.

NEWS FLASH - Pixar Dinosaur Movie Announced

This just in (two days ago):  Pixar has announced it's next four movies - Brave, Monster University, an Untitled Pixar Film about Dinosaurs, and an Untitled Pixar Film that Takes Place in Your Mind!

They specifically say,

"What if the cataclysmic asteroid that forever changed life on Earth actually missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct? This hilarious, heartfelt and original tale is directed by Bob Peterson (co-director/writer, "Up;" writer, "Finding Nemo") and produced by John Walker ("The Incredibles," "The Iron Giant")."

Cool, right?  Let's hope it's similar to the first 5 minutes of Disney's Dinosaur (2000)...


Also, Ted Moskovich has created this homage to Allan Grant's speech from Jurassic Park!

Raptor from Tal Moskovich on Vimeo.

Philosofossilising- Scientific Accuracy in Art (Peter)

This is an individual opinion on this topic. To read a number of different peoples' answer to this question click this link here. If you have your own answer, read the last paragraph of this post for details on how to get yours posted.

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. 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.

 (from wikipedia)

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


Illustrator James Gurney wrote:
"Yesterday I took my car to the shop because it needed an inspection. The rain was pouring down. There wasn't much space in the waiting room. So I sat under the awning out back between an old rusty engine and a forklift.
While I waited, I sketched the mud puddle beside me. The rain streamed off the corrugated roof  and splashed the water, making big bubbles. The puddle was a sea of overlapping ripples."

I love this little study, not just for how it looks but for what it signifies. 

Gurney is the creator of the famed Dinotopia series, whose books, calendars, posters, prints and collectibles have become a publishing sensation.   He is renowned for his illustrations for National Geographic and his more than 70 book covers, as well as stamps and animated films.

Gurney working on one of his carefully researched illustrations for National Geographic,
with his parakeet on his shoulder 

He authored two excellent books on art, Color and Light and Imaginative Realism and in his spare time he writes one of the best, most informative art blogs around.    I get exhausted just reading about his accomplishments.  Here is his work plan for the 160 illustrations he created for Dinotopia: The World Beneath:

So when Gurney finally gets a few minutes of respite from the easel to take care of routine car maintenance, what does he do?  He becomes so intrigued by the effect of rain drops in a mud puddle that he pauses to produce the lovely study above.

Gurney's fans ask him about his work habits.   He tells them, "I typically work from 8:30 to 5:30 five or six days a week."


The problem with Gurney is that he can't distinguish between work and play.   Robert Frost wrote about that state of grace, where the thing we need to do and the thing we love to do "are one."
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future's sakes.
Some of the most successful artists are the ones whose eyes can't help but see-- and whose hand can't help but investigate-- the beauty of a rain puddle even while they are waiting in a dreary line for their car to be inspected.

Philosofossilising- Scientific Accuracy in Art

Dinosaur Revolution artist Pete Von Sholly has had enough of the uninformed preemptive criticism that the show has been taking a month before the full program airs. You can read his "rants" (more like very restrained polite counters to the nay saying) here, here, and here.

By Pete Von Sholly

This is just the latest criticism against artists by scientific "purists" I have noticed going on around the web lately. While the majority have been against "amateur" artists, seeing it now extending to professionals I think this is a very interesting and important topic we examine on this site.

What do you think? Is palaeontology, and by association those who follow the technical side of the science, becoming too judgemental towards the artistic efforts of palaeo-artists?

While it can be agreed that many artistic reconstructions often include many inaccuracies (some well known, others contained only in technical articles), how certain are we that our current understanding is absolute? Is the line between accuracy and inaccuracy as black and white as it is conveyed by advocates of the technical literature. Or is accuracy merely a probability drawn from our current understanding, and that this probability could easily dwindle with future research and discovery (just as our old understandings of the past 150 years have?). So how accurate is palaeontologic accuracy (or for that matter palaeontologic inaccuracy)?

So expect some posts, and hopefully a series of ARTicles about this issue. We would very much like to read your thoughts on this topic. If you would like to write an essay to be seen on ART Evolved, but aren't a member of this site let us know at, and we'll make it happen!

Above all definitely let us know your thoughts in the comment sections of this post, and future ARTicles on this issue.

Person's Race!

So this afternoon, I got out my ArtBin, threw a couple episodes of Science... Sort Of on the 'pod, and drew these:

Preliminary sketches. Part of me wanted to go with greyhound/horse racing inspired imagery and the other part could not leave the Boston Marathon alone. (If nothing else, I love, love, love the marathon logo.)

The second requested illustration. Doing the research for this, I learned that the default photograph of racing animals is to show one just tearing out in front of everyone else.

And the hadrosaur triumphant. Good luck to everyone involved! This was wikkid fun!

The Lights are going on!

Over on Weapon of Mass Imagination I am currently taking on 3D lighting in all its glory and fury... It is a part of my CG art I've never really tackled seriously before, and I'm learning some interesting (and hard) lessons.

I'm engaged in a rather large (and some have rightfully claimed ambitious) attempt to break down 3D lighting to all its various isolated elements and catalogue what each can do. You can visit my current breakdown of ambient lighting here. Other variables of lighting are coming soon.

I've also made some amusing mistakes. Check out the rather silly and sci-fi blooper I got from trying to light this Gorgosaurus here.

There really isn't much point to learning 3D lighting if I have nothing to use it on. So follow my efforts to build up the following scene above from the ground up (quite literally). I'd love feedback on my somewhat unorthodox choice of Dinosaur social behaviour.

Next Gallery Poll is up

Hey there palaeo-artists, just a heads up that the poll for our November gallery is up on the right side bar. Make sure to choose your favourite possible gallery themes (you can select multiple choices!).

Also a quick reminder about the Turtle gallery coming up here in September!

If you're new to the site, we accept any and all artwork submitted that is themed around any of our gallery topics. Just send your submission(s), along with any accompanying text you'd like with them, and the link to your website/blog/online picture gallery to our email, and we'll post them!

Persons' race

I've joined this challenge... put some paints up at and thought I'd share the two half-way finished ones here. Would love to see what others are doing!


A superb new book about illustration, written by the well known expert Fred Taraba, has just been released by Dan Zimmer's Illustrated Press.

An instant classic, the book describes the art and the working techniques of 41 great illustrators in loving detail. It provides a wealth of information you won't find anywhere else, including preliminary sketches, reference photographs and other helpful materials.

The reproductions are beautiful, many from the originals. The production values are excellent.

Taraba wisely chose to sidestep the illustrators who have already been covered exhaustively (such as Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish or N.C. Wyeth) and focus instead on brilliant but slightly lesser known illustrators who deserve greater recognition today.  Austin Briggs, Joe de Mers, John Gannam, Andrew Loomis, Alice Barber Stephens, Saul Tepper, Coby Whitmore... this book is a goldmine of under-appreciated talent.   I recommend it highly.  It is available through the publisher.  


Every year at Comic-Con I check in at the booth of Craig Elliott, a talented artist who works for Disney and Dreamworks on animated films such as Mulan, The Emperor's New Groove, Treasure Planet, Shark Tale, Flushed Away, Bee Movie, and Enchanted, Monsters vs. Aliens, and The Princess and the Frog.

I like the strong designs in Elliott's visual development and layout work for the movies.

But  I especially like that Elliott is one of those artists with the ambition, energy and curiosity to keep growing after his day job is through.   Every year when I see him, he seems to have broadened his horizons further.  

His core style is in what he calls "the grand tradition of American illustration, Japanese scroll paintings and woodblock prints, fantasy illustration, and great artists of Europe."  He works in both digital and traditional media, including oil paintings (for exhibition in Paris and the US), sculpture, landscape architecture, and he has now started designing jewelry as well.

Elliott is one of the artists featured in the new Flesk Prime book from Flesk Publications and is the subject of the upcoming book, The Art of Craig Elliott.  If you don't know his work, it's certainly worth a look.

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