Friday, March 10, 2017

The Stomping Grounds: A Dinosaur Art Zine

Recently, there has been some back-and-forth on Facebook about what capital-P paleoart is, as John Conway proposed some guidelines for the Paleoartists group. While certain genres of dinosaur art - for instance Jurassic Park fan art - aren't too hard to rule out, other forms are a harder call. The group has been debating whether fantastical pieces based on close anatomical study of ancient life are allowable. Others have mused about how stylized something can be and still count as paleoart. I've certainly wondered that about Mammoth is Mopey. And it's a balancing act we've played at LITC, for instance with our 2013 All Yesterdays competition. But while we may debate the place and the value of Rigorous Paleoart vs. "mere" illustrations of prehistoric life, I think we can all agree that it's good for pop culture to be permeated with more depictions of prehistoric beasts based on contemporary paleontology.

This leads us to the subject of today's post. As I was traipsing through the dinosaur realms of DeviantArt recently, I came across a wonderful stylized Amargasaurus illustration by Tanya Kozak, AKA Virsiris. It looked like it could have been a still from a dinosaur cartoon I'd definitely watch. The description said that the illustration was part of Stomping Grounds, a dinosaur art zine. I followed the link to Gumroad and picked up a copy. It's sold on a pay-what-you-want scheme.

Carnotaurus © Tanya Kozak, shared here with the artist's permission.

Released about a year ago,Stomping Grounds couldn't be simpler in its execution. It is focused solely on illustration, without any text besides credits for the creators. I'd have appreciated a bit of background information on the species and the artist's rationale for each illustration, and I'd think it would justify a bump up from pay-what-you-want to a set price to cover the additional layout work required.

The zine is decidedly not filled with capital-P paleoart, but that's not the intent. This is a celebration of dinosaurs. Kozak invited a range of artists, many of whom work in animation, to contribute. So it's not surprising that the art bursts with character, like Squeedge's slavering Cryolophosaurus in pink plumage or Kari Fry's Dracorex standoff. My personal favorite was Neogeen's Troodon flock, dramatically rendered in red and drab green, all fully feathered. More than any other piece in the collection, Neogeen's suggests a wider world and I'd love to see it stretched out into a comic or animated piece. Kozak, whose Amargasaurus led me to the zine in the first place, has a few pieces in the zine, with standouts like a fierce Mosasaurus , a Carnotaurus with subtly but effectively exaggerated features, and a fuzzy, ready-for-cartoon-villainy Dilophosaurus.

The zine is well worth picking up and throwing a few buck the artists' way. It's heartening to see artists who aren't scientific illustrators continuing to absorb the good news of our current paleontological golden age. Head to Gumroad to download for free or name your price.

3 comments:

  1. NEOGEEN!! Holy cow, I remember her furry art back in the day. Glad to see she is still doing awesome work.

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  2. Wow, this stuff looks incredible! I love the brightness of color and the designs of these critters.

    "Recently, there has been some back-and-forth on Facebook about what capital-P paleoart is, as John Conway proposed some guidelines for the Paleoartists group."

    To be frank, I found that more than a little annoying, since my work wound up afoul of the new rules (I did ask for—and eventually received—clarification from a moderator).

    My takeaway from all of it is that if John wants to set rules for the kind of art being posted there—and of course, I see no reason why he shouldn't for his own group—he can, but vague or muddy guidelines aren't good guidelines, especially if one is setting policy for moderation. (I'm also not going to ask for an exception to be made on behalf of my own work, because, really, what's the point? The rules need to apply to me, too.)

    So I might be out of the PaleoArtists group, but I don't believe for one minute that this or similar work isn't Paleoart (capped intact), considering the lengths I honestly go to maintain accuracy. I'm pretending it's photorealism, but that wasn't ever the point of a calligram (science-educational graphics) or a Triceratops covered in lights (an unsubtle ploy to talk about extinction—debatably a function of art). I regard that as plain if not obvious.

    "I think we can all agree that it's good for pop culture to be permeated with more depictions of prehistoric beasts based on contemporary paleontology"

    Totally agree. Hey, if we want the idea of feathers on theropods to spread, it can't hurt to add more voices to the idea, visually speaking.

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    Replies
    1. Honestly? Keep sharing your work in the group. No one's telling Stephan Dartevelle to stop! And as far as I can tell, rule 4 is being completely ignored.

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