Yesterday was Draw a Dinosaur day. Sorry to any interested participants for the late notice – you may take some comfort in the many diverse entries. (Click the image to teleport over.) Above is my favorite by Jess.
Seldom does creature design approach the credibility of paleoart. Well, the talented artist community at cgHub does an admirable job of complimenting fantasy with (albeit far-fetched) plausibility. Task: present the newly discovered Jelly Bubbled Broad Back to an eagerly awaiting world. Result: inspiring and fun creatures that show how much the fairly unconnected disciplines of paleoart and creature design can learn from each other.
At the worst of times, the difference between creature design and paleoart is a film creature that causes laughter instead of fear, because of its obvious inability to exist – or perhaps a life reconstruction that ignores the potential to fascinate an audience and instead opts for dried-out clinical presentation. In the best of times, its a mountain troll in Moria or an Alien in Sigourney Weaver’s spaceship.
What do these disciplines share? Everything from a disciplined observation of anatomy and ecosystem to a imaginative yet responsible creativity in presenting fascinating creatures within a restrictive framework of either scientific knowledge or story plot. While one primarily services the logic, the other concentrates on entertainment.
Lots to learn from each other, methinks.
Check out this Sundance festival entry by Adrien Merigeau. There’s lots to praise here… this is a beautiful film that tackles more complicated emotions. In short, a young man returns to the forest of his childhood to see his father – and confront his memories. The young man is represented as a wolf, and he is accompanied by two friends, a fox and a cat. They are all very familiar, very tame – and beautifully animated. This animation is broken by filmed sequences of foliage and this jarring stylistic change works quite well… the brutal father is lent understanding (if not sympathy) by the ironic obviousness that he’s an animal. It’s the youths that are unnatural. The photographed reality of natural elements hammers this home, revealing two worlds without judgment that tragically fail to coincide.
Ever wonder what your favorite video looks like when rendered in the cyber-glory of ascii text? Wonder no more. Click the above sample image to beam over to Peter Nitsch’s insightful blog, and make sure to stay a while. There’s some provoking stuff over there. Particularly if – like me – you’re interested in the materiality of cyberspace.
Some of my regular visitors will be perplexed by my increasing occupation with things like dinosaurs, bones and long-gone ecosystems. Well, here I reach out to you: Good ol’ 2D aficionado Alberto Mielgo does some nasty cool animations with clever social sidewipes. His colors alone are worth checking out. Camera and all-round design are the icing on top.
Yesterday, I wrote about Brett booth’s comic-style theropods, and today I encountered a small wave of images that I find relevant. First off, Brett posted some true comic dinosaurs, the first time his two disciplines overlapped. Typical in comics work, Brett had little say in story (sentient Dromeosaurs survive in Cryobooths to attack humanity) or color (“they couldn’t pull off anything but green and brown”) and the load was heavy (22 pages on a tight schedule). Check his paleoart out in yesterday’s post.
Next, Michael Ryan (Paleoblog) reviews a new William Stout book and the look is quite ‘comic-bookish’. Graphic inking pushes out contours and surface details, while pigment washes fill out surface coloration. Shadows are also communicated via the inking, so these color layers are a very flat and saturated.
What’s interesting about William Stout is that he is a very skilled and knowledgeable artist who delves into the research material and masters numerous artistic techniques. He is also skillfully diverse and categorizes his work as belonging to genres such as fantasy, fine art, comics, prehistoric and concept work (or film design). Its revealing to see what categories the artist assigns his own work to.
Below, two Glacialosaurus by Stout (not 100% sure about the first one) first in an oil painted mural style, then in comic style . Below those, a gull painted in yet a further watercolor style. The artist categorizes these as ‘prehistoric’, ‘prehistoric’ and ‘fine art’ respectively. Further dinosaurs can be found in the comics gallery – ie. Alien Worlds features a buxom-babe loving tyrannosaur.
Lastly (for now), the German magazine Spiegel reviews the artist Walton Ford (here a gallery to click through). Here is a fine artist working in large format aquarells that demand a price tag of $40,000 and hang in renowned museums around the world. And still – as the Spiegel reports – “the artist has yet to truly make a mark on the international scene. Perhaps because he seems to be a Ford among artists and not a Ferrari. Certain critics find his oeuvre too illustrative ,recalling the style of the gifted ornithologist and artist John James Audubon”.
The painting above seemed particularly relevant – almost a counter-weight to the comic style dinosaurs above. Its called Loss of the Lisbon Rhinoceros, and is based on the iconic woodcut by Albrecht Durer, who made his version based on a sailor’s crude drawing . By in turn basing his anatomy on Durer’s, Ford highlights on the popularistic portrayal of natural subject matter that hasn’t even been experienced by the artist – a subtle, fantastic surrealism and very relevant in a world in which nature is most often experienced via television documentaries. The stylistic decision is there to push the right buttons, packaging social commentary in the scientific authority of a specific figurative portrayal. Its helpful here to be familiar with the artist’s more common outright humor, so here I add another of his works. In Le Jardin, the harmony alluded to in the title is little more than a momentary respite in a battle dictated by the natural order.
What strikes me is the power of assumption that a stylistic means can create. The inked line and flat colors of a comic immediately calls up dramatized low-brow story; popular but not exactly credible. A finely worked aquarell with skillful anatomy alludes to scientific correctness, but struggles for high-brow recognition from art critics, even after proving itself in museums and art collections. Crazy world.
Brett Booth launched an interesting discussion at his blog – which is well worthvisiting for the fantastically detailed theropod drawings, as seen above. Brett comments about his work being referred to as ‘comic booky’. As he is a professional comic book artist, he says, not very surprising. But what elements of his style trigger the association with comic book art? And how does this association affect the perception of his imagery? Apparently, the association questions the credulity, and Brett goes on to explain the plausibility of the very cool-looking quills and feather-like coverings he dons his dinosaurs in. As it turns out, they are in keeping with much modern research as to the relationship to feathered specimens such as protobirds and also with proposed thermal regulation of juvenile specimens. They are also well-thought out and – quite frankly – cool.
Which is another association with comics art. Its visually exciting. And so Brett manages to package knowledge of the science with pop-culture – something I find commendable.
This music promo for Labuat shines for a number of reasons. It takes a simple, painterly stroke and fills it with life by connecting it to the viewer’s input – a simple interactive component that packs a surprisingly huge payoff. The stroke is further directed by the music, thinning out, twisting and splattering at key moments. Surprisingly simple, but impeccably executed. Congratulations to the makers:
concept & direction by HerraizSoto & Co, creative programming by badabing! and animation by Jossie Malis.
Last week, Tatjana and I departed on a long-awaited day-trip to Ingelfingen, located about half-way between Stuttgart and Nurnberg. Our destination: the Muschelkalk Museum Hagdorn. Muschelkalk is shell limestone and timewise refers to the middle Triassic. There were too many impressions and discoveries to put them all here, so I’ve selected a few highlights here. If you’d like a higher resolution of any of the specimens, contact me below.
(edit: opened up the fold for easier access)
The region represents a fossil belt of sorts, with important fossils not only from the Triassic, but other geologic periods as well. It’s also a reputable wine belt, and the vineyards were an abstract visual pleasure along the way. We took off in the middle of a snowstorm. Perfect museum weather.
For an outsider such as myself – unfamiliar with the region and unfamiliar with paleontology, it takes time to appreciate the workings and interconnectedness spanning the various participants of this field. There are the industrial interests of stone quarries, the passions of fossil collectors, the diligence of scientists and the subsequent mixture of all these that results in the museum. The result that the public at large sees is a cleanly rendered illustration of a long extinct plant or animal, at best coupled with an explanation of what what we are seeing tells us about us and the planet we live in. The truth is much less placative, much more diverse, and much more interesting…
The Hagdorn museum very successfully reveals the existence of this wealthy differentiation, planting the knowledge of long lost ecosystems with the rocks that can be found outside. And it does this with surprisingly little text. (Potential foreign visitors should note that the texts are all in German at the moment, but this is planned to change – and I’ve volunteered my services in this undertaking.) The combination of photographs, illustrations, models and fossil exhibits is carefully balanced and concisely informative.
This clarity is continued throughout the museum’s lighting concept. The museum is beautiful. It celebrates the ancient wooden beams of the historic building it’s in, and is lit with understatement. Except for key moments such as the fish above, the lighting recedes into the background until you ask yourself why all the exhibits are so clearly legible.
Here some further impressions:
The first floor covers the aquatic ecosystem, from mussels, starfish, sea cucumbers and sea lillies to aquatic reptiles such as Simosaurus, nothosaurs, placodonts (cyomodus) and icthyosaurs. Upstairs, there trip continues with archeosaurs such as Batrachotomus, as seen above. This exhibit is typical for the museum… wonderfully laid out, so that the structures and relationships are either clear or clearly alluded to. One species is presented in one space with a wealth of various fossil elements and explained via concise skeletal reconstructions, illustrations or sculptures, while text on the window fills in general knowledge about the animal. Labeling isn’t complete, yet an informed layperson such as myself found my way about just fine.
I’d been warned that its a “collector’s museum” with many overlapping examples. My impression was the opposite… each fossil was displayed within the context of an animal specimen or ecosystem (or both) and I kept catching myself wishing that the dusty side wings of the Berlin Naturkunde museum would be likewise refreshed.
top: Psephoderma; above: Callisomordax and Trematolestes
A personal point of interest was gerrothorax, as I’ve been trying to create a life construction, and now can re-approach the task with a skeletal reconstruction. But what’s one highlight among so many? The museum is populated by fantastic specimens from the region. Dr. Hagdorn’s own collection forms the cornerstone of the museum, with objects such as Gerrothorax contributed by the renowned collector Hubert Dona. Since last year, Werner Kugler’s private collection expands the museum with its considerable scope.
Tatjana and I had an unfair advantage in that the director and initiator Dr. Hagdorn showed us around in person, an honor that was particularly rewarding in getting an impression of the ecosystem surrounding cronoids, or sea lillies. The fantastic specimens are made all the more interesting by the stories of their discovery and discussions of their L-systems-like growth pattern.
If you should be in or around southern Germany, make sure the Museum is on your agenda. If not, watch the museum’s website and keep it in mind should you ever travel through. Most importantly, if you have the good fortune to live in an area with so much to offer, make sure to take part in local efforts to display and communicate them. I am in awe of Dr. Hagdorn’s accomplishment. To initiate and populate a museum as a community service is in itself a Herculean effort, to do so with a minutely researched knowledge of the content is another, and to put it all together with such a fine grasp of exhibit design and is quite simply remarkable.
Thanks to Hans Hagdorn and his wife Karin for their hospitality and inspiration!
ps. I’ve been swamped with work lately, hope to continue with other personalities form the region. Drop a note of encouragement if you’d welcome this.
When Mike Taylor from SVPOW isn’t butchering wallabees or boiling lizard bones, he’s dispersing some very fine insight into all things sauropodian. He lately tried his hand at a brachiosaur cervical out of folded paper, but with all due respect to his many other talents, it came out looking like a tissue box. So I decided to help Mike out. Mike, click the pic to download. Then print it, cut it out and fold to your heart’s content.