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Give the Gift of Paleoart!

One of my favorite things about the Internet Age, among many favorite things, is the way in which it facilitates access to some incredible paleontology-themed art. The talented artists who illustrated the dinosaurs of my childhood reached their audiences through books or magazines. Now, a quick Google image search, or a brief stint on Twitter, or a browse through deviantART, turns up countless creative and compelling works by artists around the globe. We are living in an age of incredible abundance. Yet, as noted by many paleontologists and paleontological artists, it is still incredibly difficult even for well-known artists to be compensated appropriately for their talents.

Want to make a difference? Support artists by purchasing their work! During this time of the year when many have their eyes towards mass-produced “stuff”, find something a little more unique for someone in your life. What paleontology fan wouldn’t want a compelling print to hang on their wall, or a t-shirt depicting their favorite prehistoric beastie?

Support Original Palaeoart: accuracy, creativity, history
A cause I can get behind! From Witton et al. 2014

Towards this end, I’ve put together a list of a few artists whose work I think is worth highlighting! Of course, this list is not intended to be comprehensive, and I’ve generally gravitated towards people whom I know in real life or on social media, and who have a strong web presence with easy ways to order their work. If I missed anyone, it is not intended as a personal slight–in fact, please add more artists in the comments!

Acheroraptor, by Emily Willoughby. CC-BY, via Wikimedia Commons.
Acheroraptor, by Emily Willoughby. CC-BY, via Wikimedia Commons.

The List (Alphabetical Order, with Twitter handles when available)

Raven Amos (@alaskanime) has a fun, almost Art Nouveau style to her work. I love the clean lines and bright colors that she brings to the table. Check out her stuff on her deviantART page or her RedBubble page.

Michelle Banks (@artologica) focuses on squishy cells rather than paleontological topics, but her science-themed work is so compelling that I have to include it here! Check out her website or her Etsy shop for more.

Biscuithead and the Biscuit Badgers (@biscuitbadgers) also are not paleoartists per se, but captured my heart with their musical ode to dinosaurs. The video is something special, and the rest of their tunes (available via their website, iTunes, or Amazon) will appeal to anyone who likes quirky, geeky music.

John Conway (@nyctopterus) is well-known to many as one of the core people in the “All Yesterdays” movement. His work captures mood in a way that few do (an unhappy Hypsilophodon is one great example). Visit his website here.

Julius Csotonyi (@JCsotonyi) blends “traditional” and digital media for breathtaking renderings that frequently reach a global audience. My personal favorite is his collage of ceratopsian heads. See more work at his website.

Scott Elyard (@notdeadorgone) creates some truly delightful, original work; perhaps my favorite is his robotic, electronic Triceratops. But, he also has pterosaurs, and…well, just check out his Redbubble shop.

Rebecca Groom (@PixelMech) has gained fame as the creator of Paleo Plushies–prehistoric animals in cuddle-able form! She recently had a successful Kickstarter campaign for a stuffed Velociraptor, and has a variety of other stuffed organisms here.

Doug Henderson painted many of the dinosaurs of my childhood, and has done more than just about anyone else to set high standards for reconstructing dinosaurs within their environments. Look at one of his works, and you are transported to the Mesozoic. See his amazing portfolio here.

Glendon Mellow (@FlyingTrilobite) has established himself as someone who does “Art in Awe of Science” (to quote his website), and is also a positive advocate for artists. As you might guess by his Twitter handle, trilobites hold a special place in his repertoire (and his “baby trilobite” graphic is totally adorable on a onesie).

David Orr (@anatotitan) has produced a series of fun, whimsical logos–dinosaur family crests, as well as Protoceratops rendered in a vaguely tiki-bar motif. Learn more at his website or his Redbubble store.

Niroot Puttapipat (@himmapaan) brings a Victorian sensibility to paleontological art, and it is delightful! Picture Triceratops on a tricycle, or the fable of the tortoise and the hare recast with Cretaceous characters. You can order prints via his Redbubble or deviantART shops.

Sharon Wegner-Larson (@Omegafauna) has work that spans a variety of zoological subjects in paint and textiles, including some gorgeous interpretations of Dimetrodon and Triceratops. See more at her website or her Etsy store.

Emily Willoughby (@eawilloughby) captures the birdy nature of carnivorous dinosaurs–in no small part due to her hours spent observing and photographing today’s birds. And a “Caffeinated Raptor“? Sounds like a recipe for trouble (and some fun art)! See here for links to original art, prints, and shirts.

Mark Witton (@MarkWitton) is widely known as a pterosaur researcher and illustrator, as well as an advocate for high-quality paleoart (err…palaeoart). Just about everyone I know loves his “Quetzalcoatlus chowing down on baby sauropods” piece (below). This link tells you how to get prints of this and other work by Mark.

Pterosaurs feasting, in a classic image by Mark Witton. CC-BY, from Witton & Naish 2008.
Pterosaurs feasting, in a classic image by Mark Witton. CC-BY, from Witton & Naish 2008.

What else can you do to support artists?

Supporting artists isn’t just something for the holiday season–you can (and should) do it all year long! Here are a few ideas:

  • If you’re a researcher, commission an artist whose work you like to depict your latest fossil discovery. Great artwork can be key to capturing media attention, as well as telling your scientific story to a broad audience. Original, high-quality art is worth the investment!
  • Tell your friends about the great art that you’ve seen. Spread the word on social media, and encourage others to support artists.
  • If you are giving a public presentation, use work by up-and-coming artists to illustrate your points (of course, make sure that you have permission to use it, and credit it appropriately!).
  • Decorate your office or home with paleontological art!
  • If you’re looking for something really special for yourself or someone special to you, consider commissioning a piece of original art. This might be a painting, a t-shirt, a logo, or maybe even a tattoo!
  • Be a good citizen — always credit work appropriately, make sure you have permission to use art, pay fair prices for original work (“exposure” doesn’t pay the bills!), and encourage others to do the same. Remember: “Wikipedia” or “The Internet” isn’t a proper citation.

Witton, Mark P., Naish, Darren, and Conway, John. 2014. State of the Palaeoart. Palaeontologia Electronica Vol. 17, Issue 3; 5E: 10p.

Update: David Orr has a fantastic gift guide over at Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs, with some overlap, and a few great artists not mentioned here. Go check it out [and part 2 also]!

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