Thursday, February 11, 2016

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Dinosaurs, National Geographic, January 1993 - Free poster bonus!

Those of you with a nostalgic fondness for the January '93 issue of National Geographic featured in the last post will likely recall the free poster to be found within. Happily, the copy of the magazine that I bought on eBay arrived complete with said freebie, in all of its glossy, double-sided 1990s glory. One side of the poster displays a map of North America in the Late Cretaceous, surrounded by groups of Late Cretaceous dinosaurs illustrated by John Sibbick; the other features 'Dawn on the Delta', a lovely panorama starring Anchiceratops and painted by Robert Giusti. Let's look at the Sibbick side first of all, and specifically this delightful group of hadrosaurs, because the whole thing won't fit in my scanner and my photographs of it are terrible.

Well, OK, it's actually 'hadrosaurs and pachycephalosaurs', thrown in at the back because they were bipedal herbivores or summink. Unfortunately, the foreground ornithopods easily steal Stigipachymolochosaurus' thunder, looking as handsome and colourful as they do. For the early '90s these really are marvellous, with hands made for walking (rather than dangling awkwardly) and a convincing heft. Lambeosaurus in particular looks resplendent in its lovely Sibbickian green camouflage livery, delivering a suitably disdainful look toward the viewer. In fact, all of the middle three look almost like they're posing moodily and pouting, like they're modelling for some sort of hadrosaur salon photo shoot. Glorious red balloon atop Saurolophus, too. (The slightly anachronistic groupings are deliberate, by the way, just as they were in the Normanpedia. So stop yer moaning.)

The hadrosaurs are very pretty on their own, but before we carry on I should probably give some indication of what the whole poster looks like. So here it is. As I said, I found it very difficult to photograph with my wee compact camera. Apologies. Hey, look over there, ceratopsians!

The behorned ones display a bow-armed posture now considered quite likely, although the show off on the right might just be squaring up against the viewer. The restorations are dated in some respects (the hands) and Triceratops' frill appears to have collapsed, but it's still top drawer Sibbick. The heads of the two centrosaurs are drawn from tricky angles with the utmost attention to detail. And look, there's a bonus '90s Troodon! Is it me, or does it suddenly feel chilly in here?

Time for TANKS. The perspective on Euoplocephalus is great, but Sibbick may well have underestimated just how extremely wide and flat-topped the beast was. Edmontonia is a little disappointingly brown, although admittedly the rather severe, unwieldy, unfriendly look of ankylosaurs doesn't lend itself well to colourful gaiety. Also, the TANKS we have today do tend to be brown. Or grey.

Of course, ankylosaurs evolved their strange looks and spikes as a defence against the bone-crushing mega-bites of the most awesomest of dinosaurs - the tyrannosaurs. Here, Daspletosaurus enjoys a dip as lanky Albertosaurus juveniles sprint by, whereas a slightly unbalanced looking Sexy Rexy just hangs around in the background, lest he make the rest look decidedly puny by comparison. Happily, Sibbick's habit of giving his large theropods a convincing sense of mass is very much evident here; there was a tendency at the time to draw these multi-tonne behemoths skipping around like little girls on the way back from school. The tagliatelle tails and Greg Paul-esque curled-up pronated forearms are dated now, but at least Rexy has nice short, stocky arms. Some people forgot that back in '93.

As a bonus, here are the various marine creatures hanging around above Rexy's head. Some of them haven't aged especially well - the Tylosaurus (with Chaz Knight crest!) appears particularly dated, and that Elasmosaurus looks to me, although you'd have to ask a marine reptile guy. Cool colours on the Xiphactinus, mind.

The other side of the poster is a very different affair, featuring as it does a single large, panoramic illustration, although there are still plenty of interesting beasties to look at, dinosaur or otherwise. The star is Anchiceratops, the chasmosaurine you always forget about in favour of one of the more famous ones. Elsewhere we have boring old Edmontosaurus, the stinkin' mammal Cimolestes, turtle Aspideretes, Quetzalcoatlus, a plesiosaur (just visible doing a Nessie behind the wallowing hadrosaur) and a cockroach, who wished to remain anonymous. It's a bustling scene with an admirable variety of flora and fauna, and even it it does look a little contrived it remains very informative.

The central Anchiceratops is depicted shielding a tiny baby, which is very cute with its stumpy horns and snub-nosed face and d'awww. Giusti's painting is certainly excellent, with the vegetation is especially well detailed. The dinosaurs' skin is very Sibbickian, and it seems Giusti drew quite a lot of inspiration from the Normanpedia...

...For lurking in the background are these oddly mismatched Anchiceratops, plainly modelled on different Normanpedia ceratopsians. Sibbick's Anchiceratops (fittingly enough) provided the head for the one on the left, while the individual furthest forward is clearly based on his Centrosaurus. The middle one likely draws on the NP Triceratops. Elsewhere, Sibbickian head-nubbined Quetzalcatlus fly overhead. In the end, although Sibbick only illustrated one side of this poster, his all-conquering influence pervades the other side, too! Still, it's a pleasing piece from Giusti. I'd hang it on me wall.

Coming up next time: I'm moving home soon, so it might be a while! Do bear with me.


  1. I had this poster hanging up on my wall for many years after I was fortunate enough to find this issue at a second-hand shop. I always preferred the map side, featuring Sibbick's (vaguely untitanosaurian) Alamosaurus, which has got to be one of the most copied/ripped off dinosaurs I've ever seen.

  2. I had this issue back when it was new. Kept the poster ever since.had the Anchiceratops and friends side displayed over my art desk for several years now.

  3. Delightful! Notice that Sibbick and Guisti are not afraid to place hadrosaurs in water. Most post- dino rennaissance artists keep their sauropod and hadrosaur tootsies bone-dry, lest they be accused of perpetuating the amphibious behemoth theme. But in reality I bet the hefty beasties enjoyed a good wallow as elephants do today. They may even have supplemented their diets with aquatic plants.

    I find the Triceratops especially impressive. Quite majestic. The appearance of movement in the sea reptiles and the lighting is superb.

  4. Aww, man! I must've lost my poster. I didn't even realize there was supposed to be one with this issue!

  5. "The tagliatelle tails"

    How are the tails pasta-like? Just wondering.

    1. They're a bit flattened laterally. Classic weedy tail look from the '90s. Forgiveable for the time.

  6. I might be blind, but that appears to be suggesting 50ft (49ft, if you want to be exact) Lambeosaurus. Evidently this is talking about what we call Magnapaulia today, and it was considered bigger back then, but even with that, 50ft seems a bold claim.

  7. The estimates vary but considering that Shangtunosaurus was about 48 feet, 49 feet isn't implausible.

  8. Why would I possibly mind a 90's troödon?

    Also I want to strap a gun turret to an ankylosaur and ride of into the sunset.

  9. This is really awesome. I had all these posters up on my wall when I was a ... teenager, lol. I practiced drawing all the ceratopsians from that collage!


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