Ok, here comes one of my longest journals, hope you have the patience to read it completely, would love to hear what you think.
Now let's take a look at the article which was published by Andrea Cau recently about a phenomenon he called "paleoartismo" (a word which no one seems to be able to translate, if there is one out there who can please enlighten us, for me it sounds like wannabe paleoart )
In this journal I few quote a few arguments and general sentences of Mr. Cau's and we will see if they will justify the coining of a word like paleoartismo.
Lets start with the symptoms he list to identify a paleoartist which suffer from "paleoartismo"
"Just published is a new dinosaur, have the urge to draw it."
He mentioned in this case especially Deinocheirus (in an older blogpost he critique that no one of this drawings match the actual animal. This argument is bit strange because all artists I saw so far who have produced a picture of the new Deinocheirus have labeled their work as "hypothetical", "without reference" or "highly speculative". When someone don't read the description of the picture it's his/her own fault. But why are so many artists I know (and myself) so willing to draw Deinocheirus in its new form, without any references and only the abstract of the paper? The answer is simple: WE WAIT SO LONG! I see this sudden flood of artwork for this particular species as something like a freeing sigh of the community. Finally we know more about this animal and there are even two specimen! My own enthusiasm was too huge to produce NOT a Deinocheirus, and I will do it again when the paper is out. The reaction of many of my colleagues was similar. Also it's interesting to see how near we will come the actual fossil. It's a game for the mind, creating a animal only from a rough description and our knowledge about its relatives. I wouldn't say that's something negative.
"- Just published is a new hypothesis paleontological want to translate it into a design "in vivo"."
The same here. Why not? we want to make us our own pictures. Every plaeoartist is building it's own prehistoric world in its head and by painting/drawing new concepts you better understand the them, and like the Deinocheirus pictures these works don't need to be labeled as true. In addition I must mention that many concepts which were known as "the truth" become later bullshit so why. So what you are producing is right or not that's the case is nearly every paleontological concept.
"- Dwelling on the aesthetic aspects of a reconstruction paleoartistica rather than scientific correctness."
This can be indeed a problem but we should also note that paleoart have "art" in it. So I'm not surprised to see sometimes pictures which are more aesthetic than scientific, especially in species which are only known by a few bones. In difference to some others I see Paleoart/plaeotogrpahy as more than just illustration.
"- Consider the works of paleoart (including skeletal reconstructions) as "palaeontological".
That's the only argument I can fully agree to. But paleontologists must also understand that we can only work with what we have, so when you don't upload own skeletal drawings, photos or personal advice we will use what we find (more on this subject down this page).
"- Mix together elements of fantasy and science dell'iconogragia paleoart (ie, draw fantastic creatures inspired by the paleontology, or draw inspiration from extinct animals to creatures of fantasy)."
Argh! That hurts! Not only because I felt addressed but also because it's completely unnecessary, paleoartists don't need to be only palaoartists. I know many very talented colleagues which do a bit fantasy art beside their main work and you see where they come from. What you do beside Plaeoart/Plaeotography shouldn't be a matter for paleotonlogits (and if this is meant irocical I don't smell the humor, it just smells caustic)
"- Drawing caricatures of dinosaurs, or comic book characters paleontological, to spread a message paleontological (more or less correct)."
Also a argument I don't understand, most cartoons are clearly cartoons:
But even if they are very stylized they can teach many things to the unknowing (I learned the dromaeosaur wing structure from a small comic which is not dissimilar to the one of Emily Willoughby.
For me there is no risk that someone could think that these are real dinosaurs, it's more a opportunity to teach children and unknowing persons about prehistoric live and to make jokes.
But there are other words in that article which let me frown:
" In recent years, mediated by the network, it has spread a disease to which all those who are interested in paleontology..."
Is that true? was it the internet which make us drawing animals only from a few bones, forming a own iconography or producing images of concepts and animals which are poorly supported by evidences. Nope.
When you study the history of Paleoart/Paleotography you see that such things are very common. Only think about the Crystal Palace sculptures by B.W. Hawkins, they had just a few bones but they had the urge to reconstruct the full animal. It was the beginning of the first Dinomania, and I think it's a event the paleontology still feed on. The internet in our present days have only accelerate these phenomenons and it has enable many artists from around the world to share their experience and work. And sensationalism was common likewise.
" This is no longer paleoart! Create an image of "Deinocheirus with a hump" without even a single picture of the new bone is a form of paleoartismo"
How I already showed (somewhere) is paleoart a wide field. I would call these "reconstructions" paleo-experiments, no one have ever seen a ornithomimid with an hump/sail, well lets try how it could work visually. But it's still within the boundaries of the Paleoart spectrum.
"I speak of the excessive production of illustrations, designs, works and images related to paleontological concepts, which are then placed online without any filter."
Naturally without filters! Google can't differentiate between accurate and inaccurate depictions of prehistoric lifeforms.
And I wouldn't prohibit any artist to post it's sketches, concepts and not completely accurate reconstructions.
"For example, enter the word on Google Images " Deinonychus ": the majority of the results are works of paleoartismo, followed by a minority of works by professional illustrators, from an even smaller minority of images of skeletal reconstructions (often in turn based on casts, not on fossil remains true), and finally, a handful of poor images of bones real Deinonychus!"
That's actual a bad example for a couple of reasons. How I said: Google don't differentiate. And the web has a memory! so beside up to date reconstructions we find also many old depictions, sketches, pictures of kids, product placement, JP fanart etc...
The context is also not shown in Google, maybe the author just wrote something about Vintage Dinosaur Art
"...from an even smaller minority of images of skeletal reconstructions (often in turn based on casts, not on fossil remains true)..."
Indeed, there are not many skeletal reconstructions, many of them are the old ones with that broken quadrate, and some of the skeletal drawings show also mistakes, but why. Actually when you google "Deinonychus fossil" you find again mostly these old skeletal casts but no real fossils of Deinonychus. But WHO has access to the fosslis? not the paleoartists, we can't make photos of the actual fossils, can not synchronize our work with the actual fossil, we can't open the drawers. Who knows, maybe the broken quadrate would have been noted earlier when more people would had access to pictures of the real fossil. We can't only improve without good visual imformations. I don't want to say that it's the fault of paleontologists when we produce inaccurate paleoart/paleotography, but when the drawers are closed the drawers are closed.
It's in addition worth to say that skeletal reconstructions are a king discipline of this genre, only a few are able to produce accurate depictions of extinct osteology
(what I would like is a visual open access database with photos of published specimens. Like libraries which scan their old, valuable manuscripts.)
"The term "excessive" denotes a number of works that are not supported by the same amount of science behind it works."
How I already indicated is the degree of accuracy in depictions of ancient life a matter of:
-the skills of the artists
-the knowledge of the artist
-how much soft tissue he/she prefer
-who is his/her adviser
-what he/she want to show/tell
"Final consideration, also to mitigate the inevitable criticism * my words: There is nothing wrong with being affected by paleoartismo"
Really? Words like "invaded (plagued?)", "disease" or "pandemic" tell another story of the authors opinion. We can't split depictions of prehistoric creatures into good and bad, paleoart and paleoartismo. Yes, we need to differ between more or less accurate but in a way that people which don't follow the path of fully accuracy feel still comfortable, everything else would feel like a constriction of creativity to those who want to draw more oldschool dinosaurs.
(warning product placement)
I wrote this journal heated (it's very warm in our kitchen in the moment) and you will sense that this topic can make me very emotional. This journal will maybe expand in the hours days because it's possible that I woke up in the night and have a few new arguments.
But that's all for now.
Edit: again my brain awake from a phase of reversible brain death and spit out a few additional thoughts:
A question came into my mind: when will be a paleoartist ready? What are the criteria that allow me to publish my work?
When I become a member of DA I thought I was ready to show my paleoart to the world, today I know I wasn't ready (better never visit the dead end of my gallery) . Maybe I'm now ready... or not. But what I know is that: if I had not submitted my art here I wouldn't be where I'm today. We learn from our mistakes, but we can't learn when we don't show our mistakes to someone who recognizes them as such.
So stop that elitism.
Today there are more Paleoartists than ever, and nearly everyone can upload his/her pictures on the web.
We are living in an era of picture floods, where the picture become less value.
There are indeed many images in the internet which show inaccurate depictions of prehistoric life, but instead of splitting the genre we should teach those who want learn and urge those who don't to label their work as "inaccurate", "not real" or in a different way which shows that their work don't depict animals based on fossil data.
(Stamps could be useful here on DA, things like "I don't care about accuracy, I just love dinosaurs" and "I care about accuracy because I love dinosaurs even more"