From very early in my life, one of my main interests have always been the popularisation of the accurate (but attractive) image of the Dinosauria. Decades ago I was given a couple of books that, apart from my father’s own art lessons, were my main paleoart education. In recent times I have had a happy reunion with these popular press books and have been able again to admire the quality of some of their illustrations. They are not only affectionate memories. This Giant Funtime Book of Dinosaurs for example looked positively huge in my tiny hands in those ages…but the awesome (now defunct as genus) ‘Brontosaurus’ (AKA Apatosaurus) occupied two pages, was detachable and could stand with the aid of its bases. This little museum piece is hard to find these days but I owe it to my partner Carmen and an e-bay link found by Mike Fredericks of the essential source Prehistoric Times. Look out for my new interview and feature of new stuff in one of the forthcoming issues
Needless to say we can expect that being the popular press from the Fifties and Sixties, tails would be on the ground, T rex would have four fingers, the dinosaurs were all either green, grey or brown and the information about prehistoric animals was at best sketchy and far from what we know now… and even more unfortunately: pterosaurs, mammoths, mastodons and Dimetrodon would inevitably pass as dinosaurs!.
But one thing that is evident and shines through in these books is that the artists could DRAW. They really understood basic animal anatomy, not copied blindly other artists, even if sometimes inevitably the influence of Zallinger slips surreptitiously (or blatantly) in. Yes, their animals look natural compared to so many lavish CG atrocities I see in many books and magazines today… the colourful stamps of Matthew Kalmenoff, and the slick, simple line drawings by Robert Gartland of the Golden Stamp Book of Animals of the Past are a lesson to any paleo artist even today. For me they were the forerunners of the revolution by Zdenek Burian, my all time favourite. These were for children while Burian was for adults… but just as important!
For paleoart, as for everything else, you need a positive,accurate education. The images you grow up with always acquire a especial, transcendent dimension, so I learned it’s important that they have a real artistic quality. Here are two of my own father’s Luis Rey Valderas wash paleoimages from the sixties… volcanoes everywhere! Not too bad isn’t it?
And as times passes by, what you gave to your parents as gifts in the past are back into your hands…the first book I did myself (age twelve) suddenly came back to haunt me. It was a compilation of old images (butchering and gluing all sorts of what passes for memorabilia now, from the Sinclair album to some of the stamps from the Golden Stamp Book) with my own text. It reads so funny today, but was deadly serious then… even in those ages I was obsessed with accuracy and up-to date information, And hey, the cover was mine at least,,, it is a long way off from Extreme Dinosaurs!… here it is at last: my first real dinosaur book cover for “Vida Prehistórica”… a coloured pencil three fingered T. rex? Damn it! What was I thinking?!