Friday, June 4, 2010

Vintage Dinosaur Art: John Francis


I think it's only proper to put the spotlight on a ceratopsid this week. These illustrations of the most famous of all,Triceratops, come from a 1981 title in the Rourke Publishing series of dinosaur books. Like the Janet Riehecky series from which last week's Baryonyx title came from, each book focuses on one dinosaur. Rather than presenting a series of facts or conjectures as in the Riehecky books, the Rourke books tell stories. This title is written by Angela Sheehan, but the google machine tells me that there were a number of authors who participated in the series.

The illustrator is John Francis, who has a long record of quality work, and a special interest in natural history.

Angry Triceratops

The story begins with a female trike laying her eggs and leaving them. The nest is plundered by an Ornithomimus - an activity I doubt one would engage in - but Sheehan depicts Triceratops as a disinterested mother. She's exhausted from the egg-laying and chills out in some ferns. At one point, a T. rex rouses her ire and she takes a swing at him. Then, after watching some Stegoceras engage in some ritual head-butting, she dozes off.

Sleeping Triceratops

Francis doesn't go for photorealism or strict anatomical accuracy; the design of his dinosaurs reflect older ideas in paleoart that Gregory S. Paul would effectively put an end to later in the decade. But I like these illustrations for their vibrant, punchy quality, and the way they're embellished with details like the spider spinning its web in the last image. So many children's books on dinosaurs are quickly and sloppily put together, and it's nice to see illustrations done with care. You can check out more of Francis' dinosaurs at his site's gallery.


  1. as a kid i got several compilations of these stories. there are about 5 artists who worked on them.

    i could dig them out if you were interested in some scans of the others in the series. bernard long was my favourite out of the lot (as i still remember his name :P)

  2. Feel free! I have four more from this series in my pile of "to scan" books - Tyrannosaurus, Pterodon, Allosaurus, and I think Dimetrodon. I'll be scanning those in the scan-a-thon I hope to do this weekend. If you have any others, fell free to share! The Vintage Dinosaur Art flickr pool would be a good place to stick them, if you want.

  3. That's "Pteranodon," of course. Not "Pterodon."

  4. It looks as if the Triceratops is using its horn as a sword to cut through the rex's thigh. Haha.

  5. Yeh, remember this book really well.
    The razor sharp edge of the Triceratops horn is fantastic!
    Nice to see other depictions of Triceratops, sleeping etc. The old confrontation with T-Rex is a little tired as a concept.

  6. I remember reading these books as a kid. How could I find the whole collection?


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