Warning - huge rant behind the cut. Proceed with caution.
Apart from a few comments on other blogs and on my Facebook, I have kept pretty quiet on the matters that have come to the forefront in the past few weeks on the Dinosaur Mailing List regarding Gregory S. Paul and his ultimatum delivered to other artists regarding using his skeletal reconstructions as the basis for their artwork, mainly because of how shocked I have been. I couldn't think of the words to express the intense depths of disappointment, dejection, and disillusionment I have felt after reading what has transpired (archived here). I have recently moved past the "disappointment phase," but I feel I must relate to you, dear reader, the absolute rage I have tried to quiet over the past few weeks regarding this matter.
First and foremost, I am a graphic designer that has the dubious distinction of being from Alaska, and all that entails. Dinosaurs are often thought of by the general populace as "mere fantasy", a trick put here by the devil to mislead us. I have even been informed by certain people that live here that the only dinosaurs they give a damn about are the ones they can put in the gas tank of their pickup trucks. Couple this attitude with the general attitudes towards "the arts" lately, and you can begin to see the depths of how frustrating my position is.
Very little fossil material that is pulled from Alaska remains in the state. More often than not, it is shipped to Texas to be "studied" - which is a nice way of saying that these fossils are locked in a back room and forgotten. Very rarely do we get the opportunity to draw, let alone measure and proportion, fossil material. The local "natural history museum" here in Anchorage isn't accredited and is a complete disaster, with only F-grade casts (or at the most, low B-grade only because of hours of work that myself and my friends put into it with no credit) to work with. The next closest natural history museum in Fairbanks is 300+ miles of hard driving away. The paleontological selection of books at the local libraries and bookstores consists primarily of Greg Paul's books and very little else of scientific merit. This means that, as much as I would love to, I cannot create my own accurate restorations. Even with the internet, I am hard pressed to find the angles I need, or see for myself how the bones relate to one another.
Secondly, we are ALL struggling. All of us. Every last one. Myself, I share a cramped trailer with my equally artistic and dinosaur-loving boyfriend, his cat, our collection of dinosaur books, and jammed in there tighter than tight, all our art supplies. We have so little space, we can't even paint properly - there is barely even room for an easel, and when there is, only one of us can paint at a time, uncomfortably at that.
We have been forced to take on other forms of employment just to make ends meet. And now, the one consistent source of reliable, accurate reconstructions that I can find in this god forsaken place has put his foot down, looking down at people like myself and my boyfriend who, through no fault of our own, are unable to go through the incredible effort that Mr. Paul undoubtedly has for their own research.
All well and good, I suppose, but then came the incredibly callous, infuriating, and bombastic quip "don't do your own reconstructions, but don't use mine either." His reasoning? Because he is the best.
Nothing about this incident has utterly inflamed me more than that statement right there - it implies that nothing any one else can ever do will be half as good as ol' Greg Paul's work, so why bother going through the trouble of researching the material yourself when you can just pay him for his reconstructions.
How am I supposed to react to something like this? I can understand Mr. Paul's frustration at being "ripped off" (which, unfortunately, he has been on more than one occasion), but it's misguided at best, and downright mean at worst to blame his financial troubles on other people who are struggling just to make the rent every month.
It's hard enough to get paid for any kind of art nowadays, let alone dinosaur art. When the average response to your sales pitch is "Well, why should I pay for this when my little nephew is quite the artist himself?", what can you do?
So, my final word on this matter is in the form of the picture below, lovingly named by the wonderful Scott Elyard.