I recently wrote a piece for the SciAm Guest Blog. It was called "How To Name a Dinosaur," and it was a joy to be invited, a joy to write, and a joy to have some nice words said about it. It was also a joy to be able to include the work of one of my favorite up-and-comers in the paleoart world, Matt Van Rooijen.
See, my favorite recent dinosaur name is Diabloceratops. Matt's drawn Diabloceratops. I remembered that, wanted to put his name out there, and as we have a relationship already, asking permission to use it was a formality. Hear this, bloggers: it's good to have friendly relationships with artists. Credit them, link to them, purchase them tasty beverages and cozy knitted outerware. They are your collaborators.
Diabloceratops, illustrated by Matt Van Rooijen. Used with his permission.
Then, a funny thing happened. One of the commenters was Jim Kirkland, who happened to have been an author on Diablo's description. It was really cool to see - any time a real, honest-to-gosh scientist looks my way, I feel real nifty. But I was a bit dismayed when he wrote that Matt's art was "...nearly identical to Brad Wolverton's original art for our press release on Diabloceratops."
I don't agree. I don't think that Matt's illustration looks anything like Brad's - which, it must be said, is fantastic - save for the fact that A) It's the same animal, and B) it's viewed from a similar angle. "Nearly identical?" I don't see it. Compare Matt's, featured above, with Brad's for yourself.
My point here is most emphatically not to disparage Kirkland. I have a lot of respect for him, and hugely appreciate his ability to do public outreach. It's heartening that he's so willing to stick up for the artist who helped him publicize such a cool dinosaur. I also felt the need to stand up for Matt and left a comment of my own to that effect. I also notified Matt to let him address it, which he did, quite graciously, in the comments. It's a non-controversy, really. A nontroversy, if you will. A nontro, for the brevity-inclined.
Still, that gulf between Kirkland's perception and mine is fascinating to me. What do you think? Are they really that similar? Does the fact that Kirkland is a scientist have anything to do with how he saw the two? As moderating a panel at ScienceOnline is more about listening than talking, I'd like to hear the perspective of scientists on this - how do they view the relationship between themselves and the artists and designers that help communicate their research? Does this apparent Mama Grizzly urge to defend her cub seem familiar? If I get to touch on this during the discussion, and anything fruitful comes of it, I'll be sure to expand on this in the near future.