Vintage Dinosaur Art: Dinosaurs (Identifying) – Part 2

Vintage Dinosaur Art

Because I’ll wring two blog posts out of any old thing, here’s another round for 1997’s Dinosaurs, part of the Identifying series from The Apple Press. In my previous post, I mentioned that The Mighty Graham Rosewarne had only contributed a single sauropodomorph (Anchisaurus) to this book. But – as so many people have in the last 20 years – I’d forgotten about Saltasaurus.

Saltasaurus by Graham Rosewarne

Naturally, there are certain details we’d change these days, but Rosewarne’s Salty looks very sharp for the 1990s. It’s not rearing up just because Mark Hallett (or Sibbick after Hallett) drew it that way, nor is it grey. I do love the typically Rosewarne-ish speckliness of its hide. Nice work.

Brachiosaurus by Elizabeth Sawyer

Of course, most of the sauropods were illustrated by Elizabeth Sawyer, and so the above Brachiosaurus is far more typical of the sorts of reconstructions we see; slightly pudgy in that 1980s sort of way, with rather formless tree-trunk limbs and tails still dragging here and there. As with Apatosaurus, the Brachiosaurus illustration is rather spoiled by the inclusion of a plant that appears completely out of proportion. It gives the piece the air of a toy posed in someone’s back garden.

Centrosaurus by Elizabeth Sawyer

Ah, that’s better – varied foliage that’s in proportion to the animals, and varying terrain, too! This is Sawyer’s illustration of Centrosaurus, and keen-eyed Normanpedia spotters will notice many similarities with the ‘short-frilled’ ceratopsian spread in that book. The individual in the centre is clearly based on Sibbick’s Centrosaurus, but flipped, while the one immediately behind it owes a lot to Sibbick’s Triceratops, and the stance of the beast in the back takes after his Styracosaurus. Still, they’re far from direct copies, and this rare occurrence of an illustration of a whole group of dinosaurs in different postures is definitely to be commended.

Deinonychus by Elizabeth Sawyer

Another such illustration by Sawyer is this one, in which a Deinonychus pack gathers around a carcass. There’s definitely something very familiar about the flesh-tearing one in particular, but I don’t recognise any of these as direct copies, even if that wobbly-necked Bakker-inspired look is very typical. The stripes are natty, and again, I like that this is a scene depicting animals in different postures, just kinda loafing around and looking a bit mean (so at least Tenontosaurus gets a break). Their heads in particular are very crudely drawn, though, with haphazard teeth that vary widely in number. Actually, it’s interesting that their upper teeth continue right under the orbit, as in so much ’80s and ’90s palaeoart and unlike every tetanuran ever. Is Sibbick to blame for that trope, which carries on even today in the Jurassic World films? Answers on a postcard.

Stegosaurus by Graham Rosewarne

Back to Rosewarne, now, and here’s another very-competent-for-the-1990s reconstruction of Stegosaurus, depicted pushing over some cycad thing. I often don’t have much to say about Rosewarne pieces, mostly because they’re just so dreadfully good. They’re well researched, well observed, and well painted. The animal’s underlying anatomy is respected, the artist makes excellent use of highlights and shadow in showing muscle tone, and keratinous sheaths have a beautifully subtle and realistic colour blending. His reconstructions are inevitably exceptionally good for their time.

Stegoceras by Graham Rosewarne

Here’s another lovely Rosewarne piece, this time depicting a pair of Stegoceras. One of them spilled the other’s pint, and now they’ve gone outside for a quick brawl before the plod arrive. This piece seems to intentionally invoke that moment when battling caprines (and other mammals, but I immediately thought of sheep and goats) rear up before clashing their heads together, as opposed to older artworks that depicted pachycephalosaurs simply running at each other at full speed. There’s a real tension to it, and excellent use made of perspective to show the animal’s wide hips.

Ceratopsian evolution by Elizabeth Sawyer

This book isn’t entirely a ‘spotter’s guide’ type of affair, of course. Here’s a charmingly dated evolutionary tree from a time long before anyone floated the idea that Triceratops and Torosaurus were so alike that they might even belong in the same genus. Here, we’re following the old model of Triceratops being a ‘short-frilled’ ceratopsian that might have been related to the centrosaurines, as opposed to a ‘long-frilled’ chasmosaurine. It’s almost the ceratopsian equivalent of tyrannosaurs being thrown into the carnosaur skip because they were, like, really big. In fairness, both ideas had long been the subject of scepticism at this point (David Norman expresses doubt about Triceratops’ relationship with the short-frills in the Normanpedia, i.e. 1985); it was just a matter of waiting for someone to Do The Science, because there simply weren’t the insane glut of dinosaur researchers back then that we have now. These days, a new dinosaur is named in a paper, somewhere on Earth, every 20 seconds on average. I’m not making this up.*

"Ultrasauros" limb by Elizabeth Sawyer

And finally…I couldn’t resist including this page on U L T R A S A U R U(/O) S, the superhumongous brachiosaur that never was. But, for a brief time in the 1990s, we dared to believe. I simply must compile a blog post all about it, sometime. Until then, here’s an illustration that curiously omits the shoulder. Bonus points for the mention of “Seismosaurus“, long since sunk into Diplodocus. Those were the days, my friends, those were the days.


*I totally made this up.

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  • Reply
    April 9, 2021 at 9:10 am

    Ultrasaurus, Seismosaurus… all we’re missing is Supersaurus and we’ve got the whole damned family of early ’90s sauroimplausibles.

    • Reply
      Marc Vincent
      April 9, 2021 at 9:16 am

      It would have to be Supersaurus as a brachiosaur, though. Supersaurus the diplodocid is valid.

      • Reply
        Gray Stanback
        April 22, 2021 at 2:54 pm

        Actually, according to Matt Wedel, Supersaurus may be a junior synonym of Barosaurus. The type specimen is non-diagnostic at best, and most of the other material assigned to it seems to belong to other genera.

  • Reply
    Jamie Proctor
    April 10, 2021 at 9:38 am

    I’m legitimately surprised and sort of happy to hear that; somehow I’d thrown it down the memory hole of my childhood’s dinosaurs-that-weren’t along with the other two and stuff like scary apex predator deinocheirus.

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