The Paleoart of Julius Csotonyi Reviewed

A Review of “The Paleoart of Julius Csotonyi”

Julius Csotonyi is one of those rare breed of scientific illustrators who is able to combine anatomical accuracy and scientific detail with vivid imagination and a flare for the digital medium.  His artwork has graced a number of natural history museums around the world, his pictures helping to inform, educate and inspire.  Titan Books has just published a hardback book which gives dinosaur fans and general readers alike the opportunity to learn more about this artist, how he works and to view a collection of some of the stunning images that he has created since his hobby turned into a full-time profession.

Launched this Week – “The Paleoart of Julius Csotonyi”

The front cover of this new hardback book.

The front cover of this new hardback book.

Picture Credit: Titan Books/Julius Csotonyi

Co-written by Steve White, the book showcases the drawings and digital artwork of Julius Csotonyi.  Visitors to the Royal Tyrrell Museum (Alberta, Canada), the Houston Museum of Natural Science or indeed to the newly refurbished Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County will already be familiar with a lot of Julius’s work as he has been commissioned to create murals and back drops for a number of exhibits in these museums.  However, the lighting in many galleries is quite poor and this book permits the viewer to appreciate the craft of the palaeoartist in glorious colour.

There is a brief foreward written by Dr. David Evans (Royal Ontario Museum, Canada), which helps to set the artwork in context.  With a doctorate in microbiology and as a pioneer in merging true-life photography with digital images, Julius has been able to bring a unique set of skills to the drawing board of scientific illustration.  The equally eminent Dr. Bob Bakker chips in to explain how images are created using a meticulous study of fossil data and a case study is provided focusing on how the diet of Dimetrodonts was interpreted.

Creating Images from the Fossil Evidence

Permian scene (Texas Red Beds)

Permian scene (Texas Red Beds)

Picture Credit: Titan Books/Houston Museum of Natural History/Julius Csotonyi

An ” In Conversation” piece follows, an in depth interview which discusses early influences, outlines the creative process and explores aspects of Julius’s work.  There are also some handy tips and advice on hand for budding artists trying to break into the field of palaeontological illustration.  The rest of the book, the vast majority of the 156 pages or so, showcases the artwork and illustrations.  The images are laid out by geological Era, starting with the Palaeozoic, the Mesozoic follows and then comes the Cenozoic.  By far the largest portion of the book is dedicated to illustrations of Mesozoic fauna and flora and much of this features the Dinosauria, so dinosaur fans will have plenty to view.

Bringing the Early Permian to Life

An early Permian landscape.

An early Permian landscape.

Picture Credit: Titan Books/Commission: Gondwana Studios/Julius Csotonyi

 Brief notes accompany the illustrations helping to provide context and to explain what is being depicted. One small criticism, there is not much of a key for the casual reader to help them interpret what is being shown.  A simplified drawing with a number key would help point out some of the subtle nuances depicted and assist with the identification of the various prehistoric animals and plants that make up the scene.

Fantastic Dinosaur Illustrations

Bringing "three horned face" to life.

Bringing “three horned face” to life.

Picture Credit: Titan Books/College of Charleston/Julius Csotonyi

Throughout the book, there are short sections that focus on how one individual animal or group of animals are depicted.  For example, information is provided on how Tiktaalik, a fish that possessed anatomical characteristics that link it to the first Tetrapods, was illustrated, more detail is provided on how a Utahraptor assemblage was interpreted and there is a special feature on the early Chinese Tyrannosaur known as Guanlong.  However, the real stars are the artwork and imagery, credit to the publishers here for reproducing the pictures in such high quality.

Plenty of Illustrations of Theropod Dinosaurs Too

Tyrannosaurs on the beach.

Tyrannosaurs on the beach.

Picture Credit: Titan Books/Julius Csotonyi

In the picture above, a pair of Tyrannosaurs (Lythronax argestes) inspect the carcase of a large prehistoric shark (Squalicorax), whilst two enantiornithine birds hope to pick up some scraps.  Many of the illustrations included in this book had been commissioned to help publicise news stories featuring recent fossil discoveries to the general media.

A spokes person from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“As well as commissions for various exhibits at natural history museums, this book contains a number of scientific illustrations that had been specifically commissioned for use in press releases in order to help boost public awareness of recent fossil discoveries.  Julius has a rare talent for helping to put flesh on bones and bring back from the dead ancient, extinct creatures.  He portrays long disappeared environments in an imaginative way and through his work he is helping to inform and inspire the next generation of scientists.”

Newly Described Pachycephalosaur (A. audeti)

Acrotholus audeti disturbs a freshwater turtle (Neurankylus lithographicus) which had been soaking in a dinosaur footprint.

Acrotholus audeti disturbs a freshwater turtle (Neurankylus lithographicus) which had been soaking in a dinosaur footprint.

Picture Credit: Titan Books/Evans et al/Julius Csotonyi

This book may be divided up into sections based on geological Eras, but within each section the illustrations themselves are not shown in geological time scale order.  For example, a mural showing the environment from the Campanian faunal stage as represented by the Dinosaur Provincial Park Formation of Canada, precedes illustrations on the armoured dinosaur Sauropelta and the Early Jurassic Pterosaur Dimorphodon.  For fans of the age of mammals, the book concludes with a number of illustrations depicting fauna and flora of the Cenozoic, from Sabre-toothed cats to Arctic camels.

The Prehistoric Whale Dorudon Cruises into View

Digital painting and photographic composite showing Dorudon.

Digital painting and photographic composite showing Dorudon.

Picture Credit: Titan Books/Look at Sciences/Julius Csotonyi

There is a useful, but short glossary at the back of the book along with a geological time scale.  Putting aside the fact that this book has utilised the American spelling for a number of terms, not surprising really given the focus on artwork from North America and Julius’s Canadian nationality, this makes an excellent addition to a dinosaur fan or general reader’s book collection.

Highly recommended.

One Response to “The Paleoart of Julius Csotonyi Reviewed”

  1. Herman Diaz says:

    After having seen the book in person, I’m very conflicted about whether to add Csotonyi’s new book to “My Serious Dino Books” ( http://www.amazon.com/lm/R2H4F8H299AK8M/?_encoding=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&linkCode=ur2&tag=dinoshop-20 ). I really want to, but there are a few things that make me unsure.

    1stly, I’m unsure of whether there’s enough scientific commentary (from both Csotonyi himself & the paleontologists) to make the book a worthwhile read. Don’t get me wrong as paleoart is very important to me (Besides being a visual learner who needs visual aids, I love seeing fleshed-out dinos interacting w/their environments like living animals). However, the text is just as important, especially when it puts the paleoart into a scientific context.

    2ndly, a lot of the text is ridiculously tiny, which makes me unsure of whether reading the book will be too much trouble. Seriously, whoever’s idea it was to make the text that tiny should be punched in both eyes.

    3rdly, I’m unsure about the foldouts, which make it easier to damage the book. Maybe they wouldn’t be an issue if I didn’t have to open them to read some of the ridiculously tiny text.

    AFAIK, Lanzendorf’s “Dinosaur Imagery” is still the overall best paleoart book.

    -Hadiaz

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