Friday follies: Raiders of the lost scap

March 4, 2011

Back in 2005, I made this drawing of the scapula of what would become Brontomerus. By the time we actually got the manuscript together to submit, I completely forgot that it existed! Which is just as well–I like the color photos of the bones in the PDF better than line drawings. Also, I traced this from a photograph of the medial view of the scap that was also at a sort of wonky angle, so the ventral “step” in the scapular border is not apparent (see Taylor et al. 2011: fig. 8 to see what I’m talking about).

Still, good or not, this does illustrate the danger of letting projects drag on forever.

Anyone else have horror stories of completely forgetting about work you’d done? The comment field is open.

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8 Responses to “Friday follies: Raiders of the lost scap”

  1. Boesse Says:

    I literally just posted something nearly identical to this last week:

    http://coastalpaleo.blogspot.com/2011/02/new-artwork-ii-rediscovered-specimen.html

    The article this would have gone in is coming out in the next JVP, and about a month ago, I ‘rediscovered’ this drawing; I ended up with photos of the specimen instead.

  2. Nima Says:

    Yeah Matt, I’ve got some art that I totally forgot about. most of it being sauropod-related BTW. In years past I’d get distracted by a cool picture of a ceratopsian or a tyrannosaur in a book and I’d get jealous and want to do one better. Then some brachiosaur or mamenchisaur would always gather dust until months later I dug it out of the shelf.

    These days it doesn’t happen much, though my Hudeisaurus scene was almost such a victim. I’ve still got some Tarbosaurus and (shocker) Estemmenosuchus drawings that have been lying around for at least a year, and though not forgotten, I’ve just been too busy to finish them.


  3. I definitely have projects left by the wayside, and those I’ve been planning (for years now) to return to.

    But here’s a tangential question: what’s the forecast in vert/dino paleontology for technical illustration? It seems that user-friendly camera equipment can be written into grants where professional technical illustrators may have been provided for. Finances being equal, would you include technical illustrations of skeletal elements in your papers, or prefer photos? Or both?

  4. Mike Taylor Says:

    Without a moment’s hesitation — both! Now that we have venues such as PLoS ONE that have no limits on illustrations (colour, too!), there’s every incentive to raise the bar on illustration. The issue of course is cost (whether money or, more likely, time).


  5. What?! Time is more expensive than the actual cost? Hire me!

    I’m not trying be be smarmy, just being serious with levity, because I have heard a lot of people cite budgets over time as the most constraining factor (and not just when I’ve been rejected :-) ). And I know that both time and money cost, well, money.

    But you’re answer is heartily optimistic, and that’s great to hear. In The Great Paleoart Debate of 2011 that raged on the listserves a couple weeks ago, many of the financial arguments ultimately centered on life reconstruction. It’s easy to observe how quickly-produced digital paintings have proliferated in the market and might fetch more jobs than traditional media. Photography has been the digital medium which could most easily upset the technical illustration market, because in its history, illustration of skeletal elements served the function that photography now works in. On the other hand, I think the parallel developments of photography and illustration in the 20th c. have shown that both have mutually beneficial strengths. It’s awesome and affirming to hear that y’all also think so.

  6. Mike Taylor Says:

    Demetrios, I am probably the wrong person to talk to about budgets. Remember that I am totally unfunded — I have never applied for, let alone landed, a grant. (Exception: I once got my travel costs paid for a conference.) So I just don’t have the mental habit of thinking in terms of trading off grant money for help. To paraphrase Brian Adams, Everything I Do, I Do It Myself, except where someone kindly contributes their work at zero cost — as Paco did for the Brontomerus life restoration. As a result, the notion of hiring a scientific illustrator is just not on my radar.


  7. That makes sense, and is definitely consistent with what I’ve heard of how other artists produce and other scientists receive quality restorations. When good restorations are paired with good science, the artist often gets kickbacks from secondary sources later using the art work. It’s a system with drawbacks, but it ensures that amateurs almost always have a chance to have their work seen.

    To bring the discussion back to left behind projects, it’s really hard to find time to return to previous projects while foraging. Here’s an example of a sauropod piece that Nima kindly critiqued a while back and I still haven’t gotten back to updating:

    http://vitalcreations.carbonmade.com/projects/2210878#11

    Sadly, it’s one of many.


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