Artist Interviews

As part of my project to study dinosaur aesthetics, or why we think dinosaurs looked the way we think they looked, I interviewed some of the people most involved in creating our perceptions of dinosaurs: the artists who draw, paint, design, model, illustrate, animate, and otherwise create images of dinosaurs.

These interviews took place over the phone and by email. The phone interviews are available as audio files. Interviews vary in length and topic, based on how much time the artists were able to spare from their very busy schedules, their particular areas of expertise, recent projects of interest, etc.

When possible, I have added a link to the artists’ own personal website as well.

I intentionally interviewed a wide variety of artists, from amateur to professional, including childrens’ book illustrators, professional paleo-artists who work with journals and museums, and scientists whose artistic abilities have come in handy in their line of work.

I would like to thank all these artists for participating in this project. They were all  extremely kind with their time and thoughts, which reflects just how much consideration and effort goes into their works.

The artists:

Richard Kissel, paleontologist and Director of Teacher Programs at the Museum of the Earth. He is co-author of the book The Evolving Planet, and is no stranger to the world of drawing. For this interview, we discussed his activity at the recent Dinosaur Train event at the Museum of the Earth, where he is the Director of Teacher Programs. That day, he ran a booth where he would draw a free dinosaur cartoon for anyone who asked. It was also a great opportunity for the visitors to talk directly to a paleontologist while he made their drawings. Phone interview.  Here is his online profile.

Gail Gibbons, author and illustrator of more than 135 fascinating non-fiction books on every subject in the world. She has written two dinosaur books, Dinosaurs! and Dinosaur Discoveries. Phone interview. Gail Gibbons’ personal website: http://www.gailgibbons.com/

Aliki Brandenberg, author and/or illustrator of at least 100 non-fiction books on a similarly-large range of subjects. She has written at least four incredible dinosaur books: Fossils Tell of Long Ago, Dinosaurs are Different, Dinosaur Bones, and Digging up Dinosaurs. Phone interview.

John W. Merck, Jr. collaborated in the creation of the digital skeletal illustrations in The Mistaken Extinction: Dinosaur Evolution and the Origin of Birds, and also worked on the accompanying CD-ROM, The Age of Dinosaurs. Merck is a paleontologist and is now the associate director of the Earth, Life, and Time program of College Park Scholars at the University of Maryland, College Park. Phone interview. John Merck, Jr.’s university website: https://www.geol.umd.edu/johnmerck

Michael Emberley, celebrated children’s book artist and writer, creator of the how-to-draw Dinosaurs! and More Dinosaurs! books. Phone interview. Michael Emberley’s personal website: http://www.michaelemberley.com/

Matthew Reinhart, renowned pop-up book artist, creator of Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Dinosaurs with Michael Sabuda. Phone interview. Matthew Reinhart’s personal site: http://www.matthewreinhart.com/

James Gurney, Hugo-winner and creator of the Dinotopia series. Email interview. James Gurney’s personal sites: http://www.jamesgurney.com/, http://www.dinotopia.com/.

John Sibbick, acclaimed paleo-artist who has worked with National Geographic, the BBC, and the National History Museum in London, as well as being the illustrator on many books such as The Illustrated Book of Dinosaurs and The Evolution and Extinction of Dinosaurs. Email interview. John Sibbick’s personal site: http://www.johnsibbick.com/.

Jeff Ballinger was my very first test interview, in a proto version of this project in 2005. He was a BFA student in design at SIUC and he showed a series of paleo-art drawings as his thesis exhibition. The field of paleo-art has a very wide range of practictioners, from hobbyists to highly engaged and skilled amateurs to professionals. While Jeff may not yet have achieved the level of repute of some of the other interviewees in this series, I think his thoughts nicely illustrate the diversity of points of view that can be found in this field. Live interview.

The audio files for these projects were installed on an iPod with headphones at the Museum of the Earth, along with the audio for Time Trials, so that museum visitors could listen to them. You can see the poster that describes these two projects in greater detail.

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