Dinosaur Art – The World’s Greatest Paleoart

Dinosaur Art – The World’s Greatest Paleoart

Edited by Steve White

Titan Books

Dinosaurs have officially been with us for about 200 years, with our understanding of the ways they lived and how they looked developing rapidly over that time. An essential part of that development is taking the many pieces of paleontological jigsaw that digs present to us and using them to form a useful, informative and forward thinking picture of dinosaur life, but without the help of actual knowledge. This may seem an improbably and impossible task, but the skill and imagination demonstrated by paleoartists over the same 200 years have helped change and improve our understanding immeasurably.

“Dinosaur Art- The World’s Greatest Paleoart” is an awe-inspiring collection of just such dedicated skill. Ten artists, each hugely experienced at drawing the most out of the scattered remains that digs produce, have taken the hard remnants of a once lush and living world and, through skill and endeavour, given us a series of imaginative and detailed realisations of what the world of the dinosaurs over many tens of millions of years was like. Each of these images draws upon the latest information on the creatures depicted as well as the improved appreciation of what the landscape around them was like. If this book had been produced when I first became interested in dinosaurs, about 45 years ago, it would have been a very different book, because thoughts on dinosaur life were very different back then, but now there are many more involved theories and ideas about what, where, when, why and how of dinosaur evolution and ecology. No mere mindless beasts, it now seems that dinosaur life was complex, social and involved. Whilst the basic idea of hunter and hunted is still there, everything else about dinosaurs has changed.

The pictures in “Dinosaur Art” capture all the nuances of and amendments to theories of dinosaur living and survival from the last few years. The collection contains works from many of the latest, most up-to-date exhibitions and displays from all over the world, and therefore the most recent thoughts and ideas are on show. Vibrant action, lush colours and deep backgrounds all add to the sense of reality that exists throughout the book. The vast majority of images place the creatures in a setting, using the knowledge that is now in place with regard to flora, other fauna, topography and climate to full effect. These stunning representations in turn encourage greater thought about the way dinosaurs actually lived and died; rather than just a straightforward “survival of the fittest” approach, what we have here are images that challenge what we “know” and delight us in equal measure.

Of course, modern technology plays its part, and I find the use of digital imagery only enhances these pictures, allowing for greater detail to come through. Many of them are televisual quality, giving a sharpness and attention to close detail that might not otherwise be an automatic choice. However, the depth of clarity and insight in all of the images in “Dinosaur Art” simply draws you further into the book in order to see how different artists have realised the same creatures; and the closeness of those images is testimony to how palaeontologists and artist are working together to help each other fully understand the cycle of life and death that dinosaurs lived through.

All in all, “Dinosaur Art – The World’s Greatest Paleoart” is a collection that will have you rethinking what you “know” about dinosaurs at the same time as inspiring and amazing you. To have ten such amazing sets of work between two covers leaves you spoilt for choice with regard to whose work you will look at next. I recommend choosing one particular dinosaur and seeing how the different artists interpret that creature, not least in relation to background and overall setting. Looking through the book in this manner is an excellent way to spend time and will have you returning to it again and again.

“Dinosaur Art – The World’s Greatest Paleoart” – edited by Steve White

Titan Books – 9780857685841 – $34.95/Can $41.00/ £24.99

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About Stephen Yeardley