Museums are where dinosaurs rest, but art is where dinosaurs live again. No press release about a newly-discovered dinosaur, or some new fact about an already-known dinosaur’s lifestyle, is complete with a beautifully-rendered artist’s restoration. And dinosaur art keeps improving. Since the time of the Dinosaur Renaissance in the late 20th century, artists have taken ever more care in rendering the prehistoric creatures and the habitats they called home. Truly, dinosaurs have never looked better, and the new coffee table book Dinosaur Art: The World’s Greatest Paleoart showcases some of the best fossil restorations by today’s foremost paleoartists.
When I first received Dinosaur Art in the mail, I wondered how it was going to set itself apart from similar books. The glossy Dinosaur Imagery showcased some of the most exquisite dinosaur art created since the 1970s, Allen Debus’ Paleoimagery tracked the changing images of dinosaurs during the past century and Jane Davidson’s A History of Paleontology Illustration documented the scientific and popular aspects of accurately portraying dinosaurs. Where Dinosaur Art differs, I found, is that the book puts the emphasis on the artists themselves–from their favorite prehistoric creatures to the techniques they use. And while veteran paleoillustrators such as the incomparable Doug Henderson and the highly-influential John Sibbick are included in the book, the focus is on relative newcomers who have only recently started to shape our image of dinosaurs.
Dinosaur Art speaks to two audiences. If you can’t get enough restorations of prehistoric life–the book focuses on dinosaurs, but also includes ancient mammals and other non-dinosaurs–then Dinosaur Art is an absolute must-have. Even though I had seen much of the artwork before, I didn’t fully appreciate Raúl Martín‘s gorgeous Mesozoic landscapes or Todd Marshall‘s spiky, intricately-detailed dinosaurs until I saw them laid out in high-definition right in front of me. There are even a few fold-out panels, showing the stunning murals by artists such as Julius Csotonyi. Dinosaur Art is an absolute pleasure to pore over, and almost every page is a window into a vanished world.
The book is more than a gallery, though. For many aspiring dinosaur artists, the artist interviews make this book an essential resource. Each artist describes their process, preferred materials, whether digital or more traditional, and how they fill out creatures that we often only know from bones. Many of the questions asked to the artists are consistent from one interview to the next, which easily contrasts the styles and personalities of each. While Gregory S. Paul‘s answers are short and curt, the interviews with Douglas Henderson and Luis Rey feel warmer and more conversational. Together, the lavish art and interviews will undoubtedly inspire the next generation of great paleoartists.
But there’s another reason why Dinosaur Art is an essential book for any dinosaur fan. The collection is a printed milestone of what we currently understand about dinosaur lives, and will act as a baseline as our knowledge of prehistoric life changes. Artists have been altering their work and racing to keep up with the latest discoveries for well over a century; that trend will almost certainly continue. As we discover new dinosaurs and investigate the biology of those we already know, dinosaur art will continue to evolve.
Dinosaur Art is set to debut on September 4, 2012.