Who are your favorite paleo artists?


Henry de la Beche's "Duria Antiquior," an image of the carnage along the shores of ancient Dorset.

As I've been reading Jane Davidson's A History of Paleontology Illustration I have been thinking about my favorite paleo artists. Late at night, when I am settling down to sleep, I sometimes just like to pull a few books off the shelf and just look at the work of people who have attempted to "burst the limits of time" with their art. Indeed, we fortunately live in a time when there is a glut of good paleo artists, each with their own style, but before I share my favorites why not share yours in the comments?

[Also see this post on violence in paleontological reconstruction, "What Rules the World?"]

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Mark Hallett (unquestionably the best), John Gurche, James Gurney, and Doug Henderson are my favorites due to the photorealistic nature of their work. William Stout (for his distinct style) and Ely Kish get honorable mention from me. Of course, Charles Knight must be put at the top of the list as well, obviously.

Well, lessee...in the category of 2D, actual restorations (as opposed to skeletal reconstructions), just about my favorites are Raul Martin, Mauricio Anton, and Carl Buell for their near photo-realism (worthy successors to much of John Gurche's legacy). I'm also a big fan of Todd Marshall -- not quite as photorealistic, and of course the evidence doesn't support such dermally spiky dinosaurs, but damn they look cool...! I also really enjoy the work of Alain Beneteau. More recent art by Bob Walters & Tess Kissinger -- I'm thinking here specifically of their new Carnegie Museum murals -- are very attractive. I'm also a fan of Karen Carr, less for the photorealism than for the shading, behavior, and general moods her paintings evoke.

I'll also agree with JP that Hallett, Gurney, and Henderson are superb (I'll toss in there John Bindon, John Conway, Dan Varner, and Andrey Atuchin); I use pics of theirs in various of my lectures regularly. I do like Stout, but only use a couple of pics of his. I vehemently diagree on Kish -- I can't stand her work. I suppose that her technique is good, but her style is awful. Unless, of course, you specifically want pictures of emaciated dinosaurs... I like John Sibbick's style except for the dragging tails and rather bland coloring. I like the excitement and verve that Luis Rey captures, but I don't really like his cartoon-y style. Lastly, like most people, I also really like Greg Paul's artwork, though I've rarely seen it reproduced well. For its mixture of anatomical accuracy and whimsy, I love Heather Kyoht Luterman's work.

As for skeletal reconstructions, Greg Paul again, and it seems most people have followed his semi-silhouette technique in the last few decades. Scott Hartman does it superbly well.

In the category of 3D art (with which I'm less familiar since I'm financially unable to break into the market much...), I'm a big fan of Cliff Green, David Krentz, Michael Trcic, the people at Pangaea Designs, Jason Brougham, and, perhaps especially, Gary Staab. Also check out the skeletal sculptures of 'Taburin' (wish I knew if these were for sale as kits..!).

Of course, there are dozens of other, up-and-coming artists out there worthy of praise and encouragement; if anyone wants more links to various paleoartists, just e-mail me!

As a sentimental favorite, animator Willis O'Brien (The Lost World, King Kong). He counts, right?

Charles Knight has to at the top of my list having seen his art from an early age on. My modern favourite is a tie between Gregory Paul and Micheal Skrepnick who both bring Dinosaurs "alive" in different but very compelling ways for me.

I must ammend my thoughts from my previous comment, and include the fantastic Gregory Paul in my short list of top favorites.

Sibbick, Skrepnick, and Rey also pop out as favorites of mine that other commenters have mentioned.

Jerry Harris - thanks for including links to the artists' websites with your comment! I know I'll spend my evening browsing these pages.

Gregory Paul is a real favorite of mine -- I really wish there was a good collection of his paintings printed at a decent size. Doug Henderson is probably the guy whose work I've spent the most time with -- the fact that he concentrates on mood, composition, atmosphere, the landscape, and getting the anatomy right rather than doing photo-realistic renderings is wonderful. I wish that approach was seen more often.

(As an aside, I think rendering is overrated in this field and that's one of the reasons many fine-arts types regard paleo art as inherently juvenile. Of course the recto-cranial impaction currently plaguing the fine arts has something to do with it as well. I enjoy the work of Skrepnik, Hallett, Gurney, and all that lot -- but it really is kind of kitschy. Kish has a similar approach but her sense of light and composition frequently put her into another arena, in my ignorant opinion. But a lot of my favorite artists have an element of kitsch to their work so that really isn't a value judgment...)

Gerard Heilman did some fantastic line art. Zdanek Burian was pretty great and I would love to see what he and Charles Knight would have done with the information available today. William Stout is fun and lovely to behold, if a little less accurate than I'd like.

Honestly, though, I wish there was more acceptance of a variety of art styles and visual approaches in paleo art.

I don't know names but the old "The World We Live In" hardcover book from the 60's has my favorite pictures. I think it was a Time-Life book (?). It had a picture of each epoch I believe and they were some of the classics. That whole book was amazing for an inquisitive kid. I never see anything like it anymore. Geology, Dinosaurs, Astronomy. Stars with bands of gas spiraling out. Willy Ley pics of moon of Jupiter I think.

I really love the Cenozoic murals in the Smithsonian done by Jay Metternes (sp.?) I'd like to hike into those scenes and live there! Is he still alive and working? I know nothing about the man. I wish the Smithsonian would release large format prints - say, about 6' long - of those murals. I'd put one in my living room.

Damn there's too many of them to list down!

Mark Hallett
Michael Skrepnick
James Gurney
Doug Henderson
Gregory S. Paul
Scott Hartmann
Luis Rey
Todd Marshall
John Sibbick
Dan Varner
Mauricio Anton

Zdenek Burian and Charles Knight too.

At the top of the list must be Zdenek Burian (especially for his Cenozoic work...those proboscideans and prehistoric humans are untouchable),Charles Knight, Doug Henderson and Mark Witton.

Mmh...I'd say:

Raul Martin

Doug Henderson

Gregory Paul

John Sibbick

Michael Skrepnick

James Gurney

Charles Knight

Zdenek Burian


Big Cat - Jay Matternes is one of my favorites as well, and like you I wish there was a place to get large images of those Cenozoic murals. I'd be hard-pressed to come up with other paleo-imagery of that scope that have held up so well for so long.

I'm consistently inspired by everyone mentioned here, but Doug Henderson, John Gurche, Mark Hallett, and Mauricio Anton would definitely be on my short list. I am also a huge fan of William Stout's work, and for my money, his recent murals for the San Diego Natural History Museum are as good as (or better than) the best of Charles Knight.

Other talented folks who's work hasn't yet been mentioned:

Takashi Oda (hope I got his name right)
Peter Schouten
Mark Klingler
Dino Pulera

And I'm always thrilled to see paleo-themed art that tries to be more than just a transparent window into the past--the humor of Ray Troll or the biotic commentary of Alexis Rockman spring to mind in that regard...

Jay Matternes is alive and well. I hope to see a book of his work someday. Since most of his work deals with the mammalian realm with little in the way of dinosaurs, he doesn't get the acknowledgment that he deserves.

By Dan Varner (not verified) on 01 Sep 2008 #permalink

For an immersive journey back to the world that used to be, I really like:

Mauricio Anton
Mark Hallett
Doug Henderson
Raul Martin
Jay Matternes
Dan Varner

In addition to the above, the reconstructions that I find especially convincing (and that guide me in my own hobbyist attempts at drawing past life) include the very cool works of:

Carl Buell
Julius T. Csotonyi
Gregory S. Paul

John Conway too -- although, in addition, his renditions often strike me as unorthodox and challenge my preconceptions.

And even if their dinosaurs are mostly out of date, Charles Knight and Zdenek Burian did some great paintings as paintings, and which to me also have heaps of nostalgia value. Their mammal paintings still mostly hold up pretty well -- I especially like Burian's.

Wildlife artist Bill Berry also did some great old-school dinosaur paintings. They are apparently impossible to find online, but I saw some in the Scientific American Book of Dinosaurs, edited by Gregory S. Paul.

James Gurney's reconstructions are great art on their own, and their realism makes his Dinotopia fantasy all the more believable.

William Stout gets special mention as one of the first illustrators to follow and exceed Robert Bakker in portraying dinosaurs as lively, active and interactive animals -- running, leaping, hunting, feeding, and even mating and pooping. Likely or not, his illustration of a T. rex lying down, jaws agape crocodile-style, to have its teeth cleaned by small pterosaurs was one of the reasons I decided to buy his Dinosaurs book.

Finally, Felipe Elias is an up-and-coming paleo-illustrator whose work catches my eye for coolness (although for some reason it always looks a little dark on my monitor).

PS: Must make special mention of the Jonas Studio, who did the life-size dino sculptures for the Sinclair Dinoland exhibit at the 1964-65 World's Fair in NY. I remember seeing those on tour when I was a little kid, and those towering animal-monsters are seared into my memory (even though they are outdated too).

By Stevo Darkly (not verified) on 01 Sep 2008 #permalink

Oh, here's a paleo-illustrator from off the beaten path whose work deserves a look for its atmospheric style: Frederik Spindler.

His most recent Web site, www.dinosauromorpha.de, is apparently defunct now. However, you can still see some of his works (sadly, incomplete) at this page. (This link bypasses a crappy home page with an annoying pop-up ad. The page does have a distinctive "Web circa 1990s" look to it and I suspect it is no longer actively maintained.)

Some of Spindler's reconstructions (especially the some things on the now-vanished dinosauromorpha.de page) have an odd, almost "alien" look to them that I don't find entirely convincing (even though they are still cool). However, this does not apply so much to most of the limited selection linked above.

By Stevo Darkly (not verified) on 01 Sep 2008 #permalink

My favourite living palao-artists are John Sibbick, Mauricio Anton and especially Carl Buel (who is also a great and really nice guy).
My top favourite palaeo artist is probably Zdeněk Burian. Its paintings are surely in many cases no scientifically outdated (but there are still many which remain corrct, especially most mammal and other non-dinosaurs), but they are just great. They show very often a lot of dramatic art, and many of them are also so greatly painted, that they look more like old photographs of things which actually happened. Many of his paintings were comparably dark, a bit like those of Rembrandt. I have a book about the evolutionary and cultural history of mankind which was illustrated by him, and it shows some of his greatest works. Palaeo art like those of Burian became sadly extremely scarce after his death.

I have just been to Albuquerque and seen Ely Kish's mural in the Jurassic Hall at the NM Natural History Museum , its wonderful.Its a great museum.

The Stephen Jay Gould opus "The Book Of Life", mentions de la Beche, and the thing that stands out is not the quality or accuracy of his art (wanting by modern standards) but the realism of the biological functions depicted, such as the "feces descending from several of the larger animals", as Gould put it. A modern-day artist, Marianne Collins, also puts these realistic touches in her work. On page 145 of "The Book Of Life", an adult pterodactyl feeds it's hungry young in it's cliff-top nest, while pterodactyl poop runs down the sides of the cliff! Wonderful realism, which gives the illustrations an added note of authenticity.

By Raymond Minton (not verified) on 22 Feb 2009 #permalink

Back in 2005, John Conway did a full-scale clay sculpture of a 5 meter span Anhanguera piscator's muscular structure that was truly extraordinary in it's detail. It was a superb piece of work.
Jim Cunningham

By Jim Cunningham (not verified) on 23 Jul 2010 #permalink

Great blog!

The work of many women illustrators of 'saurians' is to be featured in a forthcoming book on The History of Dinosaurs due from the Geological Society, London as a Special Pub 343 later this year. Turner, Burek & Moody have covered 18th to 20th century women including such as Mrs Buckland, Alice B. Woodward and Margaret Colbert.

My childhood is too deep in to Zdanek Burjan art.
Still dreaming of his ilustrated book Life before man.

By Oskars Lapa (not verified) on 17 Oct 2010 #permalink

To all of the great paleo artists named above I must add Larry Felder my personal favorite.

I have just been to Albuquerque and seen Ely Kish's mural in the Jurassic Hall at the NM Natural History Museum , its wonderful.Its a great museum...