When paleoartists sit down to come up with a concept, they inevitably have quite a difficult task for two reasons. The first being that no one has ever seen a dinosaur or extinct creature, and the second that no one truly knows what color they were. That’s the bitter irony of life that a seismologist can spend their entire life studying fault lines and earthquakes and they cannot say with certainty when the next earthquake will be. A volcanologist can spend their entire life as well studying volcanoes and they cannot accurately say either when the next one will erupt. And lastly an economist can spend their entire lifetime as well studying the markets and financial trends, and they cannot say with certainty when the next crash or recession will happen. The bottom line is that no one really knows. So much of life is made up of educated guesses, and paleoart is essentially no different.
To recreate something that no one has ever seen before is no doubt a big task. But it also leaves a tremendous amount of room for creativity. I have been working with several paleoartists now for many years in and around my projects. Most recently for going on two years now, I have been working closely with paleoartist extraordinare Stevie Moore. For those of you who haven’t done so, you can check his work out at http://www.StudioSpectre.com. But for two years now he has been helping me design my book covers for the creature novels I write and also designing the covers for Prehistoric Magazine. Through his work he has literally breathed life into the projects that I have worked hard to bring to fruition.
Working closely with Stevie has allowed me to see the behind the scenes of just exactly what it is that paleoartists do. When I need either a book or magazine cover done, I give Stevie my concept. I like to consider myself a marketing person and hopefully I have and will continue to think up creative ways to push my brands forward. But when I give Stevie my concept, he then follows this up with studying the anatomy of whatever extinct creature I have given him, or in the case of several of my novels, uses animals skeletal structures that are similar in nature to the creature or creatures that I have created. Paleoart starts from real sciences, real facts, and real dimensions. Meaning the science behind the basis of it is rooted in the same type of science that paleontologists operate under. What happens after that can essentially be seen as where the magic officially happens.
Once the dimensions have been studied and the numbers check out properly, this is where the creative part of paleoart begins to take over. This is where the artist’s mind officially comes into play as well as looking at and examining the real world for examples. It’s a fine balance between imagination and what actually existed from the fossil record. But still, at the end of the day, it all comes down to what the paleoartist sees in his or her head. Interpretation, interpretation, followed by more interpretation. That’s what it comes down to, and I am a firm believer that the hardworking men and women who make up this amazing small, yet growing, industry will remain our closest link to the past.