Thursday, October 18, 2012

Vintage Dinosaur Art: The Illustrated Dinosaur Encyclopedia - Part 2.1

In a break with convention, I'm splitting this week's post into two parts. Any complaints? No? Good.

You'll recall 1988's The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs from a couple of weeks back. Like several thousand other dinosaur books in the 1980s it was written, although not illustrated, by good ol' Dougal Dixon, or 'Dixie Doug' as he wasn't known. Illustration duties went to Andrew Robinson and David Johnston, but unfortunately the individual pieces aren't credited.

The book comes across as something of a second-rate version of the Norman/Sibbick encyclopedia from earlier in that most beloved of decades, which I covered slavishly a short while ago. Many of the illustrations look remarkably similar to Sibbick's, although it can be difficult to tell when they weren't simply based on the same skeletal mounts or palaeoart memes.

These Plateosaurus certainly look very familiar, but then it was popular among many artists to show the animal as both an upright biped and impossi-quadruped - all the better to demonstrate the animal's supposed range of motion. Whatever the case, while these obviously can't match up to the artistic flair of a Sibbick, they're nice enough - if a little wrinkly. Actually, they remind me of nothing so much as mid-range dinosaur toys from the early '90s, which often looked like oddly pointy prunes.

Speaking of pointy things, this Styracosaurus marks a welcome departure from the majority of the illustrations in the book in that it's not depicted in lateral view, heading right. Always a spectacular-looking animal when seen head-on, the creature's menacing, confrontational aspect is only enhanced by the artist's penchant for sinister red eyes. That, and it's clearly heading towards the viewer with some speed, kicking up a cloud of dust that's worthy of Sibbick himself (who was always a fan of bilious gritty stuff).

The artist was clearly aiming for a similar effect with this Panoplosaurus (or is it Edmontonia?), but unfortunately fell a little short, mostly thanks to that rather awkward right forepaw. Everyone do the Nodosaur Shuffle! Still, this is a nicely painted scene, with lovely, crisp detailing on the ankylosaur and parched riverbed.

This Saltasaurus is an odd one - unlike most of the other illustrations in the book (including the Panoplosaurus) it's rather muddy and sloppy-looking, even if the dinosaur is bedecked in yet another pattern seemingly evolved to send attacking theropods wandering drunkenly away in a cross-eyed stupor. The left manus also seems to have been borrowed from a different animal, and looks a bit like the rear scoop on a JCB. Sauropods don't tend to do too well in this book...but more on that tomorrow.

Ah, that's better! Much more careful detailing on this Stegoceras, a livery the right side of '1970s curtains' on the lairy-o-meter and, superbly, a pair of individuals going 'head to head' (ahem) in the back. But wait, what's this?


Well now...I'm quite lost for words. Was the expression of intense pain really necessary? I mean, you don't see zebras collapse in the middle of the Serengeti, their faces contorted into grotesque grimaces of equine agony, now do you? I blame Dougal Dixon for this. I bet he sneaked into the artist's studio in the dead of night, dressed in an oversized trenchcoat and wide-brimmed hat, cigarette dangling from his mouth and muttered through clenched teeth "I'll tells ya what the kids gotta see, son. Dixie Doug's gonna teach them a little life lesson right here in his blessed dinosaur book."

More tomorrow!


  1. I believe, based on the description in the last paragraph, that this book was responsible for at least part of my warped imagination. I received this book the year it came out for Christmas at the tender age of 7, along with most of the other blasts from the pasts I see on LITOC.

  2. That closing scenario involving Dougal Dixon made my week. Thank you, good sir.

  3. "The artist was clearly aiming for a similar effect with this Panoplosaurus (or is it Edmontonia?), but unfortunately fell a little short, mostly thanks to that rather awkward right forepaw."

    Is it just me, or is that a ripoff of Bakker's Edmontonia ('s%20iconic%20image,%20stolen%20from%20flickr.jpg )?

  4. I actually kind of like the battleship camouflage on Saltasaurus. Better than the run of the mill grey, brown... or grey... or brown...


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