Monday, February 15, 2016

Patronizing Paleoart

How do paleoartists support themselves? It's hard enough for any artist, and illustrating ancient taxa and environments is a niche pursuit. Add to that the significant investment of time, equipment, and research effort required to make an original piece of paleoart that can stand up to scrutiny, and the challenges are obvious. It's damned hard to make a living doing it.

Some have taken to Patreon, a crowdfunding platform that allows for monthly pledges from a base of patrons to supplement, and hopefully sustain, careers. Having seen a number of my comrades take to Patreon over the last year or so, I've delved in and assembled a list of all of the paleoart Patreon campaigns I could find. Since there's not a huge list at the moment, I also included other dinosaur-related projects that deserve attention. Please feel free to add any in the comments that I may have missed.

Mark Witton

Mike Keesey

Angela Connor

Brian Engh

Stevie Moore

Darren Naish

John Conway

H. McGill

Natasha Alterici

Duane Nash

Chris Kastner

Abigail Hamaker

Nicholas Nikopoulos

Rebecca Groom

Brian Switek

A Dinosaur A Day

Not all of these are Scientific Illustration in the strictest sense, but I'm of a mind that creative work that honors contemporary paleontological science and thoughtfully depicts ancient life in a way that provokes curiosity should be part of the conversation. Can a work like Mike Keesey's Paleocene spark an interest in paleontology even though it features talking animals? Of course it can.

Paleoart is part of the larger effort of paleontological outreach, and is therefore dependent on how much money flows to publishing researchers and their institutions. In an ideal world, researchers would earn enough to live comfortably and their work would be sufficiently funded to pay illustrators enough to do the same. While it's true that we arguably have more paleoartists turning out work than at any other point in history—flooding the market as it were—we also live in a time of unprecedented discovery and description of new taxa. The public deserves to have richly illustrated paleoart accompanying many of these publications, and scientists and artists deserve the compensation to fill that need.

Until we're closer to that ideal world, most paleoartists who hope to make a career of it have to add self-promotion, business management, and website development to their already-full plate. To sell their wares, they may choose one of many print-on-demand services like Zazzle, Society6, Redbubble, or DeviantArt. If they are able, they may choose to produce and fulfill prints on their own, with the risks and labor inherent in that.

Thanks for reading! I hope this post sends a few pledges these folks' way. While I've been busy enough with freelance projects and work that I've not been able to devote much time to LITC lately, I have a couple paleoart-related projects on the burners, with which I hope to address the needs of paleoartists and the sustainability of the craft as a field. Stay tuned for more on this over the next several months.


  1. I didn't realise there were so many palaeoartists using Patreon. I'll have to look into it.

  2. If I had a solid regular income, I would definitely contribute to those artists' patreons. Paleoart is at an exciting but unstable stage nowadays and those illustrators do need support and recognition.

  3. I would gladly contribute to paleoartists on Patreon, but it would be an *awful* lot better if there were one Patreon account for a bunch of 'em. My income isn't plutocratic enough to support all of the people listed here, and it's tricky to make a selection.

  4. "I WOULD give an artist $1 a month BUT..."

    To be clear, nobody on patreon is expecting/hoping to rely on big donations. If a small percentage of the people who enjoy paleoart gave their favourite established paleo artist a $1 a month paleoart would be well funded. $1 a month. That's less than the ammount of change most people drop in their change holder every week. That's 1/3 a cup of coffee. That's 1/30th a gym membership that you're not using (and totally don't need because trees exist).

    The beauty of the internet is that, theoretically, a hard working artist with a track record of pushing themself to produce the best content they possibly can could empty out the change holders of hundreds or thousands of people and aggregate it as a living wage, while still maintaining their independence and establishing a direct connection/relationship/committment to the people who enjoy their work. But from what I've seen, the theory of it isn't easily put into practice because it's difficult to overcome the psychological block of "I would, but..." which is a thought pattern that i think persists primarily as a way to make ourselves feel better about not doing what we know would improve a given situation that we emotionally care about. "I would give change to this homeless guy, BUT he's probably an addict" "I would work out daily but I just don't have time with my work schedule" "I would quit my stupid day job an persue my dreams but I have no idea how I'll pay rent" are all valid concerns, but the "I would, but" thought pattern only acknowledges a problem while simultaneously excusing the easy resolution to do nothing about it. The internet has handed us a fun & easy solution to the problem of there being no stable financial backing for an art form that is integral to education outreach, research and general cultivation of interest in science. It will not get any easier or better for the artists if you do not act. In fact, I'll do you one better. I challenge you to do all the things you "I would, but" about. All of them. Stop bullshitting. If you really care about something you'll make it happen one way or another.


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