Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Dinosaurs and How They Lived - Part 2

Time for some more Fornari and Sergio (see also: part 1), and I think it would be pertinent to begin with what seems to be one of the most fondly-remembered illustrations from this book (based on Facebook comments) - an oversized Stegosaurus skeleton, swarming with diminutive museum workers.


It's obvious that the artist never believed that Stegosaurus was really this large - rather, it's a choice made for striking (and quite comic) effect, making liberal use of artistic license. This piece would appear to be one of Sergio's (although, again, no works are individually credited), and indeed the tiny people exhibit the wonderfully individualised and careful touches also seen in his 'sauropods in the city' illustration. The knowing smile of the woman in the foreground hints at the playful nature of this illustration - it's not to be taken too seriously, even if it is quite handy for showing the various techniques used to mount big dinosaur skeletons.


More serious is this illustration, by the same artist, of a dig site. Again, the human figures are wonderful, and it's possible to spend an enjoyable while picking out all the tiny details. However, I'm sure readers of this blog will be with me in their eyes being drawn to the (remarkably complete and articulated) skeleton in the centre, which seems to represent some gigantic new psittacosaurid. It'd probably end up being called Psittacotitan, or Megapsittacosaurus, or something equally lame. Of course, the idea of a gigantic Psittacosaurus-like beast swatting theropods and squishing cheeky mammals to a gooey mush, or maybe just fighting Rodan, is utterly fantastic - so I can hardly blame Sergio for his flight of fancy. In fact, should any readers care to illustrate such a scenario, I'd be more than happy to pack this book off to them. The glorious work of art that makes me laugh the most will surely win. Bonus points for inventing a brilliant scientific binomial for your implausible beast.


I'm pretty sure the 'dig site' painting appeared in Dinosaurs!, but I'm absolutely certain that this slightly off-putting Iguanodon-in-a-sleeping-bag illustration appeared just about everywhere (except Dinosaurs!, oddly enough) back in the '90s. There's something just ever-so-slightly wrong about it, which I'm going to put down to that strange skin texture - it looks more rubbery reptiloid alien than newly-hatched dino-sprog.


The eggy Iguanodon is unmistakably Fornari, and he also provides a number of illustrations of adult Iguanodon, some of which stretch over a number of pages - like this one, which begins on the contents pages, and tails off (hurr) during the foreword. The unusual skin texture reminds me of nothing so much as Normanpedia-era Sibbick, although Niroot has also compared it to Waterhouse Hawkins' Crystal Palace hulks. Beautifully painted, but rather strange. And shouldn't Iguanodon have a beak? The all-round lizardy lips add a touch of the retro.


At least Sergio can be relied upon to provide a much finer, altogether more dinosaurian scaly skin texture, even if his creations are rather derivative. The posture of this Deinonychus is lifted entirely from Bakker's famous illustration, but there's no denying that the carefully shaded skin folds and bulging muscles look fantastic. It has a pleasingly lifelike quality in spite of its scientific obsolescence, which is a significant achievement.


This, on the other hand, is just bloody shameless. Sergio did make the colour scheme considerably nattier, though, so I'll give him that. There's nothing quite like a dandy dinosaur, hence the popularity of illustrations in which monocled theropods where dapper period costume. Speaking of which...


...I am quite in love with this spread, and that's in spite of the fact that the Coelophysis is yet another obvious Sibbick knock-off. When one is required to present dinosaurs alongside human figures for size comparison purposes, why not indulge a little and dress them up in late Victorian outfits? (The humans, that is. Dressing up the saurians would be frowned upon in an educational book, although not by me.) Over on the Facebook page, Niroot dubbed this piece 'The Age of Plateosaurus Innocence,' and the Plateosaurus isn't so bad, even if it is quadrupedal (considered likely at the time) and a little overweight. Of course, I'm really just distracted by that darling hat and the elegance of the parasol. Swoon, etc.


To finish, may I present a particularly indulgent final course in the form of this Late Jurassic panorama by Sergio, featuring any number of both labelled and anonymous contemporaneous creatures. Some of the animals here - like the man-in-suit Ceratosaurus and 'armoured pasty' Stegosaurus - reach near Knightian (as in, Charles R) levels of palaeoart-retro (palaeoretro? Retralaeoart? I should probably stop). Others, like the Allosaurus, I really rather like, even if their heads have been tampered with - it's down to those lovely skin textures again, I think. In fact, the fine line detail evident in this piece is quite something to behold.


On the other side, we have a troop of straw-necked brontosaurs that look uncannily like the Invicta toy - down to the uniform grey colour - and yet another appearance of the 'How literal I am!' bird-grabbing Ornitholestes meme.The tiny add-on hands on the Archaeopteryx are unfortunate, but the feathers are quite lovely, if a little garish. It's always struck me as odd that artists have traditionally seen fit to deck out Archaeopteryx in such a flamboyant fashion. Perhaps it's 'cos scaly reptiles are always really boring shades of Elephantine Grey and Steaming Swampy Brown, while birds are inevitably so fabulously colourful that merely glancing at them induces crippling migraines, hence the need for twitchers to wear those protective visors. Yes, that'll be it.

Next week: something else entirely! But I can't leave Dinosaurs and How They Lived without mentioning that it's been an enjoyable book to review, and there is some quite fantastic artistic talent on show, for all the copycatting. I look forward to despatching it to one of our mad readers.

31 comments:

  1. The Iguanodon neck scales are weird, but perhaps not so weird! The new Edmontosaurus mummy with the soft-tissue crest also had very weird neck scales, where small 'normal' scales are clustered into upraised ovals. The result looks a bit like the Iguanodons here! Julius Csotonyi's reconstruction shows this off well: http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2013/12/12/surpise-well-studied-dinosaur-actually-had-a-cocks-comb/

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  2. I like Psittacotitan gigas and Megastegosaurus kaiju. Almost sounds like an upcoming Sci-Fi Channel movie.

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  3. The real question nobody asks: Are the Stegosaurus and Psittacosaurus at scale to each other? Because that would mean those are paleontologist garden gnomes, in which case I'd like to buy ten of those. My rough estimate would be that they are.

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  4. Stegozilla and Psittacotitan FTW!!!

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  5. "I'm really just distracted by that darling hat and the elegance of the parasol."

    Everything looks better with a hat. Even other hats. I must say, I have an odd fondness for otherwise serious drawings dinosaurs with people in turn-of-the-previous-century clothing next to (or riding) them. There's something vaguely steampunkish about it.

    That Stegosaurus with all the little people in the spaces shows that "Sergio" must be none other than Sergio Aragones, famous for his margin-doodles in MAD comics. Yes, it's definitely him.

    The quarry dig is certainly busy. You wouldn't want to be working under the scaffolding while the people above you chip pieces of cliff onto your head. Also, they should get rid of the person responsible for placing the ladders - the ones on the scaffolding appear to be unsecured and the ones on the left are either right on the edge of a drop or being held in place by a fossilised tibia.

    However, the most unbelievable thing is that there is a woman standing in the middle wearing nought but a bikini top and shorts and nobody is gawking at her.

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    Replies
    1. 'I must say, I have an odd fondness for otherwise serious drawings dinosaurs with people in turn-of-the-previous-century clothing next to (or riding) them.'

      Mark, you may be one of the few people who do. I get the impression that many earnest dino-folk haven't any truck for that sort of thing. There is this from a few years ago, which is not so much turn-of-the-last-century as a few centuries earlier (17th, if we wanted to be more precise). Or, more recently, there was of course the Christmas card.

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  6. If you ignore the Victorian boy's hoop, it looks like he is yelling bloody murder and slapping the Ceolophysis.

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  7. Giant Psittacosaurus coming up: http://edaphosaurus.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Carnopsittac-2.jpg

    Meet Carnopsittac!

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    Replies
    1. We're off to a good start with that one! Nice work.

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  8. Who am I to resist a silly dinosaur challenge?
    Here is Psittacozilla, and, as an extra bonus, a more stylized giant Psittasaurus.

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    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Gah, Nicole left herself logged in again. :P As I was saying, those are absolutely sublime (I particularly like the first one). Thanks too for posting the comment (I don't look at Twitter that often, see).

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    3. I might have been first but you certainly are, without doubt, the better artist

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    4. I should perhaps point out that Talcott shared his on Twitter within hours of Marc posting, so I think he might have been first, though not the first to comment here.

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    5. Though I'm just realising anew that the criteria for the 'contest' (as it were) are not speed of submission, so never mind!

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    6. Marc: Thank you! I tend to forget that not everyone browses Twitter as obsessively as I do.

      James: Thank you, but I like yours a lot. The Hetrodontosaurus-esque fangs were a nice tough!

      Niroot: It doesn't really matter. I already have a copy of the book, and just wanted to run with the idea.

      Delete
  9. Oh, my!
    I had this very book as a young girl some twenty years ago (although translated into my native Polish). I loved it so much!

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  10. Had to draw this because one of my friends owned the book when we were kids, and I badly wanted it!

    Eh, Hoplopsittacus! http://oi40.tinypic.com/10n8fww.jpg

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    Replies
    1. Marvellous! I love a bit of gratuitous violence.

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    2. Fantastic and fierce, great job!

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  11. OK, Michael, you get the book. Could you send a message the LITC Facebook page with your address? Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
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