On paleoart and paleoartists with Andrey Atuchin

Paleontology and art are inseparable. It’s the paleoartists who bring us back to the past. Undoubtedly, their view of fossil organisms has an enormous impact on how people perceive the history of life.

Andrey Atuchin (*10 September 1980) is a Russian paleoartist – one of the most talented of his generation. You might be unfamiliar with his name. But if you are into paleontology and especially dinosaurs, you certainly know his reconstructions.

Daniel Madzia: Andrey, where can we see your illustrations?
Andrey Atuchin: My illustrations have appeared in many magazines and books. Also, my works are the part of the design of fossil exhibitions in several museums in Russia, the USA, Australia, and other countries. In recent years, you can often see my work in the scientific press releases. In addition, I sometimes draw technical illustrations for scientific papers, such as bones and skulls. I had a personal site but abandoned it with the development of various social networking and blogs which are much more effective in promotion of your work.

Lately, there is a struggle with the internet in my country. I think, they ideally would like to do something similar to the North Korean system, as they have already blocked LinkedIn. And Facebook is in the queue. If this trend continues, it will be impossible for me to work. For instance, I received the first offer to illustrate a book thanks to the internet; it was Dougal Dixon’s “The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs”.

DM: How did you get to paleontology and paleoart?
AA: I got interested in paleontology and dinosaurs in early childhood. Later, I began to search for various fossils and to collect them. When I was somewhere in my 17 to 20, I started to actively do paleoart. I was inspired by the illustrations in encyclopedias, which had just begun to fill in Russian market due to the growing popularity of dinosaurs after the Jurassic Park movie. The main motive was to do something like this, accurate and based on science. I went to the Biological Faculty of the Kemerovo State University (Department of Zoology and Ecology), as I wanted to engage myself in paleontology and dinosaur digs. However, because of the lack of scientific leaders in paleontology at the university, I had to study insects. In fact, I collected different insects and drew them in a scientific way during the same time I had been keen on paleontology. Through this hobby, university professors took notice of me and helped me to join the Biological Faculty of the University. After 14 years, I participated in the excavations of the dinosaur bones in my region at last.

DM: How did you learn to illustrate?
AA: I am mostly a self-taught person. I began to learn how to paint on my own. When I began to draw paleoart and insects, I realized that I want to do it better; and asked the Children’s art school №8 in Prokopievsk if its teachers could help me. The teachers took up my call and they had taught me a lot for a couple of years to improve my artistic skills. After that, I continued to amend my skills by myself as it is an endless process.

DM: What techniques do you use and why?
AA: My techniques have changed over the years. I started with pencil drawings and thought I would never use colors and paint. Nevertheless, one day I tried gouache and oil. By a strange quirk of fate I illustrated my first book using watercolor and I was very fond of this technique. Finally, I commenced to use computer graphics as it makes possible to implement into reality things I could not do using traditional techniques.

DM: Which of your artworks are your favorite and why?
AA: Honestly, I have never thought about it. There are artworks that I got the joy and pleasure working at and was totally satisfied with the result. There are those, which I am not satisfied with and do not really like them. It is hard to choose something favorite though.

DM: Do you have a favorite paleoartist – living or deceased?
AA: I like the work of many paleoartists. Recently, many new artists have appeared whose work I am pleased with. If I had to make a list of my favorites, it would be a huge list. However, if I should try to select only one, I would have called Douglas Henderson with its stunning ambience of bygone eras and the combination of animals and the landscape.

DM: What do you think is the future of paleoart?
AA: I think that with the development of computer and visual technology we will be able to immerse people in paleoart as in virtual reality. Everyone will be able to have a virtual dinosaur alive at home or to keep Anomalocaris in the aquarium. Classical paleoart will also remain as paper books will. We will just expand our horizons in the returning of prehistoric creatures to life and showing them to people. Also, I believe that paleoart and professional paleontology should go together supporting each other.

DM: How should the cooperation between scientists and artists look like?
AA: As I said in the previous answer, paleontology and paleoart are working, supporting each other. It is useful and great when paleontologists and artists cooperate. Definitely, an artist has to be partly paleontologist (or a paleontologist should be able to draw). There is no paleoart without paleontology, while paleontology acquires support and public attention owing to paleoart. I often work with professional paleontologists and should say that this is my favorite type of work. We cooperate with experts in various fields of paleontology; correcting, discussing ideas, which allows us to produce a scientifically accurate result. As an artist, you can be really well-educated in paleontology, but you would never have such enormous sources of knowledge and material that a professional paleontologist has. If there are more than one of them, it makes the work absolutely fantastic!

Featured image © Andrey Atuchin.
Picture of the ceratopsian Psittacosaurus sibiricus © Andrey Atuchin.
Picture of the tyrannosaurid theropod Lythronax argestes © Andrey Atuchin.

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