Exposing the Occult Alchemy of Paleo-illustration!

Posted by Nima On Saturday, April 30, 2011 6 comments

This will be hopefully my last post on the Greg Paul situation for now. It's also my repository for the distillation of a LOT of twisted and confused thoughts I've been having on this subject recently... so bear with me if some of this doesn't make sense. I really need to get back to grinding out those dinosaurs. Especially those Forgotten Giants.

But one more issue remains to be raised - moving beyond the bitter rants of one man.

Practically, how will this fiasco affect paleo-art? Honestly, probably not that much. People are furious with Gregory S. Paul, but the majority of artists aren't going to change how they do things just to please him - largely because they weren't doing anything illegal in the first place! Those who genuinely want to rip him off will continue to do so. Those who felt bad for him now largely don't want anything to do with him. And even scientists who used his skeletal restorations as the basis for their own non-commercial published skeletals in peer reviewed journals, are seriously considering never consulting his work as a reference again.

And thus he will eventually implode and fade away into irrelevance rather than dominating the bizz.

In fact, in the same vein as what Zach Miller coined as his internet meme: "No Greg Paul skeletals were referenced for the production of this illustration", I have made a neat little logo to go with the meme which you can stick on ANY dinosaur artwork you produce which does not use any Greg Paul references (preferably high-quality accurate work than can be compared with Paul's in the same paragraph, but hey feel free to use it however you want, I'm not copyrighting this bad boy).

I took a random picture I found online of one of those cheesy old-school "NO MSG" neon signs you see in Chinese restaurants in most big cities in North America. Then I just messed around with it a little bit in MS Paint and Pixia. And voila - NO GSP!

That's right kids. Use this logo every time you want the world to know you didn't use any reference from GSP. But don't use GSP. Don't "steal" the magician's secrets!

So first let's finally evaluate Mr. Paul's claims and demands in a nutshell.

1. Plagiarism is horrible and should be punished, stop copying Greg Paul works for profit! VALID. Even so, I have never seen a single book or museum illustration that was a ripoff of Greg Paul's work - most are just lousy rehashes of either Jurassic Park dinosaurs or the same old tail-dragging slop by obscure Knight-clone painters from 50 years ago. He's exaggerating the pervasiveness of the problem.

2. Stop undercutting and devaluing paleoart! VALID, to an extent - new artists need to have complete information. And total newcomers to the industry can't realistically demand veteran wages.

3. Companies and museums, STOP gouging artists and running way over budget on excessively large projects, pleading poverty, etc. and if you want the Greg Paul look, hire Greg Paul for a fair price. VALID.

4. Artists, stop imitating the "Greg Paul look". IMPRACTICAL - just as some artists are Jurassic Park fans who only draw Horizon/JP-style dinosaurs, there are other artists who consider "Greg Paul" style the most appealing or accurate (Oyvind Padron/Dewlap/John Conway/etc.). That said, most artists are not making money from dinosaurs, their "Greg Paul look" isn't even competing on the market and is no threat to Greg Paul!

5. Stop using Greg Paul skeletals as references unless you're prepared to pay a fee for each skeletal! BOGUS. Many paleo-artists have already bought Paul's newest book, the Princeton Field Guide, just so that they can have a big source of reference skeletals for future projects! Now they have to pay extra for right to merely get creative ideas from them? Get real, Greg. Even the IRS doesn't tax the same thing twice.

6. Do your own skeletals if you need anatomical references for your dinosaur scenes! FAIL. There isn't even one artist who did skeletals for every single dinosaur before doing it in a scene, including Greg Paul. Everyone has used the schematics of others before. It's just how science works. You can't privatize anatomical knowledge - that's like the Gray's Anatomy publishers saying nobody can use their book as a reference to draw humans!

7. When making skeletals, go to the museums and take your own photos, measure every bone inch by inch - don't reference anyone else. INSANE. Nobody can afford to fly to every museum, measure it all by hand. Greg Paul himself doesn't do this most of the time - he actually copies and traces bones (surprise, surprise!) from other people's scale diagrams published in scientific papers. Here's proof, copy it and pass it around!

8. Don't use the same poses as Greg Paul in your skeletals (left foot pushing off, alternating strides in quadrupeds), invent your own pose or he will sue you! NONSENSE. Greg Paul can't sue anybody for using a pose, there are NO legal grounds for it -  they are natural poses that represent the natural extremes of limb movements in dinosaurs based on living animals! Good thing Scott Hartman isn't thinking of "owning" whatever new pose he decides to go with.

9. If you think all of the above is unreasonable, get out of paleo-art, you all suck anyway, leave it all to Greg Paul! IRRESPONSIBLE AND PARANOID. The Paleo-art field is in need of unity, not division. Nobody has a monopoly on poses, referencing, or science. A scientist should actually appreciate that others reference his schematics, rather than stealing the credit themselves! Some people never use Greg Paul skeletals as reference, this doesn't make them crappy painters. Others do, this doesn't make them frauds or plagiarizers.

Science versus art is not the issue here - art is depiction, it can involve science or not. Science however is not a vacuum or a sealed box. When you consider that Greg Paul skeletals have been published in his peer-reviewed scientific papers, it becomes impractical to privatize them when it comes to non-profit uses.

If I want to use a specific copyrighted Greg Paul image for commercial purposes I will be glad to cough up royalties. But we're not talking about that anymore. Now we're talking about general things like poses, and indirect anatomical referencing using Greg Paul as merely one reference out of many in original works by others (NOT Greg Paul reproductions). Many of which are non-commercial in nature in any case. Charging for similar poses? SUING for similar poses? Really?

Craig Dylke of ArtEvolved had this to say about Paul's legal threats:

As for the lawsuits I wouldn't worry about them. Talking to one of my lawyer buddies (yes I socialize with lawyers!) about the philosophical and legal implications of Paul's emails, he informed me this is CLEARLY a case of a desperate man with no legal leg to stand on. If he could successful sue people, he WOULD be sueing them instead of mass emailing vague and insane threats to scare people away from his industry. If he had a real case he'd have lawyers more than eager to launch the proceedings. 

Don't take the threats seriously (unless you really are plagiarizing and profiting from his work without permission). Drawing a dinosaur that just happens to look like it could be a Greg Paul dinosaur is not a crime, and good luck trying to prove to a judge and jury that have no clue about dinosaur anatomy that the thing was actually copied from a specific genuine Greg Paul work.

So the confusion is that Greg Paul seems to be unable to decide if skeletals are devices of science (i.e. freely available for educational and anatomical reference purposes that do NOT involve copying or reproduction of his work), or should we treat it as forbidden trade secrets like the recipe for Cola-Cola?

Consider that for 30 years Greg Paul has published his work and inspired a whole "school" of budding paleoartists, and even pro artists with radically different style STILL use his work as anatomical background reference rather than digging through libraries for scientific journals and papers (I'm not naming names, but most still do). Now suddenly all that free exchange of information and acknowledgments is to be stopped?

Greg Paul the scientific artist vs. Greg Paul the occult Alchemist!

If the skeletals are indeed forbidden trade secrets like the formulas of a Dark Ages alchemist (ignoring the fact that you can buy them in book form so they're not really secret at all) then there's basically a dead-end to their usefulness. People may buy and look at these books, but can't use the illustrations for reference... so it's just supposed to sit and look pretty on a shelf! Reminds me of people who buy a fancy gold-edged history book or even a holy text, and they never read it, it just sits on their shelf gathering dust. The tomes of medieval magicians and alchemists still exist and you can even buy English translations of them some places - but will anybody ever use them in our time, apart from the fringes?

I'd love to avoid that fate with the Princeton Field Guide. But as it stands, it WILL gather dust on my shelf.

I'm not afraid of getting sued for referencing Greg Paul - rather, I'm just so sick of this charade, of confusing indirect referencing for outright plagiarism, of condemning legal "homages" as immoral, and of all the antagonistic drama that hangs around the guy both on and off the DML, that I'm not going to use GSP skeletals as references any more. Not that I ever used them to any great degree, much less for any of my recent work. Even despite the fact that he gave me a huge pile of large-format skeletal printouts of his as a free gift in 1998, ostensibly to do with as I pleased, I'm not going to use those as references in my works either. But as a matter of moving past this mess, I'm going to make it clear that Greg Paul is now superfluous as far as referencing is concerned. I just don't want to be tangled up in his problems. Maybe the same isn't true from you point of view - that's just mine.

*I will post scans of GSP skeletals on this blog WHEN RELEVANT for purely educational purposes, as many science bloggers already do. Most of them are ones he gave me in person, but I'm not using these as reference. I can already draw my own full dinosaur scenes without references, thank you very much. Don't rip him off, but don't feel guilty about learning from his work either.

*I will NOT use them as primary or even secondary references for my skeletals, regardless of how the finished product ends up looking. I don't need tertiary references.

*I will not cave in and adopt a different pose. The pose is not GSP's property, and I already draw my dinosaurs facing the other way, with SHADED speculative bones, that's as far as I'm willing to go aside from adding my own logo to my skeletals (which I will do in the future).

*I will expose his current errors at every turn. They are there, and you do deserve to know WHAT they are before you go ahead with using Greg Paul's often over-simplified and stylized skeletals for reference.

You want source material for your drawings? Ask for papers on the DML or email any of the PhD's you are fans of. They're overall very nice people and won't bite your head off like Greg might. In fact, if I have what you're looking for (thanks to some very generous people I have a pretty good sized cache of dinosaur papers), I can email you the paper you want too. Then you can have ORIGINAL published reference figures that are not privatized or "trade secreted", and you no longer need Greg Paul's (sometimes erroneous) skeletals. And you won't be charged money for any of it!

Which brings us to the meaty point. Look here, Greg Paul's methodology has become one that suppresses the free flow of scientific information in the form of visual schematics of dinosaur anatomy. He's suppressing it by default because nobody's going to pay a fee for every species they need a skeletal reference for. Most artists are far from rich, they're struggling (ironically the same predicament Greg Paul is in, which led to his initial outburst of rage at being underbid and cheated). So they can't pay. And he doesn't have a wealthy duke as a patron. In the end this vast store of skeletal drawings becomes simply a form of forbidden occult knowledge like the formulas of medieval alchemists or the secret engineering methods of the master masons who built Europe's great cathedrals.

But they lived in a time when science was not freely accessible, and those with specialized skills guarded them jealously. They were paid by kings and nobility. There was no free access to information, no peer review, no scientific method. Any science that was known was tangled up in secret initiations and occult rites, and you had to pay a pretty high price to use it - and then, only through the medium of the trade-guilds or individuals that controlled this knowledge, who kept secret how they were able to do what they did. Discovering new methods of making strong alloys was simply a by-product of their search for the elixir of life, or the formula for making gold. And if the secret got out, the person who learned it could be arrested.

But wait.... that sounds oddly reminiscent of some things in Greg Paul's own portfolio. There are plenty of arcane inconsistencies whose symbolic meanings one can only guess at, and the ultimate reason for this is unknown. For example, his standards for illustrating a complete skeletal when much of the animal is not known. I'm talking skeletals with every bone drawn, nothing shaded to indicate it's speculative, but the real fossils are only a small fraction of the body. Why does he do that? How can we explain things like his Huabeisaurus? Only a handful of bones were listed in the description paper, yet there's a complete skeleton in the Princeton Field Guide. How about Pleurocoelus? That thing's far from complete, it's basically just fragments of juveniles, and yet we see a nearly complete skeletal from Greg Paul, with FOUR toe claws on each foot, no less! Yet other dinosaurs that are far more completely known (like Phuwiangosaurus and Isisaurus) are things he refuses to draw skeletals for, claiming that they're "too incomplete". Malawisaurus only got a skull pic from GSP, even though it's known from 90% of the skeleton, from at least 6 specimens!

So is the Circle completed? It the Great Work still uncapped and misunderstood? Is Greg Paul's sacred geometry only achieved by slashing up and re-arranging everything we thought we knew about holotypes and description papers, seemingly without rhyme or reason to the evidence? Does the alchemist simply lead us on a wild goose chase for consistent science, only to feed us a sometimes beautiful artifice that only mimics its appearance (or at least did back in 1995?) Are his constant changes to his mysteriously haunting schematics really anatomical updates, or simply a dark process of continual change to detect plagiarism and keep jealous demons banished and rival alchemists confused every few years? What are his methods for determining when to do a speculative full skeletal and when to leave parts blacked out? Is this some kind of hidden secret art, which one must be inducted into for years before becoming an Adept? I've heard some very conflicting figures and reasons for why he decides not to do skeletals for some very complete and taxonomically significant dinosaurs. Anyone who knows some details of what he at least claims are his standards is welcome to post it in the comments.

April 11, 202 A.D. (After Darwin)

The Vatican, ROME* - Today His Pauliness, Pope Gregory Paul I, expressed dismay that his recent inspired addresses to the world regarding the consistency and autocracy of paleo-art have been taken out of context and misconstrued, in his words, to be an instrument of stifling the progress of art and science.

In a newly sealed and distributed Papal Encyclical signed immediately following Sunday's Tridentine Mass, the traditional form of the liturgy re-popularized by Benedict XVI, the pontiff made no bones about the steps that have become necessary for him to take in the regulation and enforcement of standards of the Pauly See's standards of paleoartistic supremacy in all matters black-and-white. Called "Assertio Sacrametorum ars Paleontographica", the encyclical laid bare for all Faithful to see the extreme hazards of not abiding by the conventions enacting the hegemony of the Paulian papacy in the rigid standards of originality in paleo-art. Anyone caught producing similar skeletal diagrams to His Pauliness, even in ecumenical matters as seemingly simple as pose, is to be excommunicated and his works seized or burned at the pontiff's displeasure. All those attempting to sell such work without having first purchased the necessary Papal indulgence, are sentenced to immediate burning at the stake. Those making rival interpretations of the Fossil Word completely from scratch were denounced as vain pagan revisionists and advised by the Holy Office on Sunday to "just give up".

"...When will you fools learn?"

"This is an extremely pressing matter," stated the Pope, the first American to be elected to the office and at 56 the youngest pontiff since Benedict IX in 1032  (777 Before Darwin), who was infamous for having served three non-consecutive reigns as Pope, and for selling the Papacy itself. "Not since the days of Luther, nay, of the Pornocracy itself, have we faced such besmirching festering threats to the Divine Order and righteous light of Archosaurian Truth!" Gregory Paul I reassured the public that this confusing state of affairs would not repeat itself: "We are in need of a guiding light to make sure that the future of knowledge, in particular, my knowledge of extinct animals, does not become diluted or copied without permission by heretics and intellectual doppelgangers. It is my Pauliness's sincere wish that age not be used as an accusation against me; for though I am a youth by the modern standards of my Holy Office, I aim to abide by the strict parsimonious  doctrines of the mother Church, and avoid the past cold-blooded, bestial, and simonious excesses of Benedict IX, as well as the seizure-inducing Palpatinic stares of his recent frightening namesake, that dratted German - and no, I do not mean Heinrich Mallison."  

Come and get me!

When pressed for an explanation of his recent stern policy for dealing with competing visual interpretations of dinosaurology, the pontiff had this to say: "In the days of Michelangelo, artists were bound to serve the Church as de facto servants of the Lord's glory. In fact, whether there be a Lord or not, the Church still set the text and regulated certain standards of accuracy and in the end it all became property of the Church and could not be reproduced without Church permission using any of the basal technologies available then. WE approved the science and poses, the artists followed. And relied on Our patronage. But now, with heretics of every hue, not just one or two but entire armies of them running amok in this secular globalist world of scanners and digital programs, our supreme authority over Paleotheology is under dire threat! These modern-day Luthers and Calvins, cursed blasphemers like Raul Martinvs and Fabivs Pastorivs, are threatening the financial stability (and thus ability to pray for the faithful) of My Pauliness and Darwin's True Church worldwide, and worse yet, loud-mouthed apostates like the notorious ex-novice Zacharias Armstrong, and independent hi-fi infidel freewheelers like that imperious Persian Nima Sassani, alias "Rex Palaeos", have been undermining the supremacy of the heavenly light of the Word of Paul everywhere from Brisbane to Isfahan, and what's more, making their rival creeds and depictions freely available on the internet without confession! Not that Our Pauliness ever had much of a presence in Isfahan, but still, one can dream, no?"

(....don't count on it.)

Pope Gregory Paul's longtime representative and part-time horned nemesis, Cardinal Per Christiansen, vice-vicar of St. John Lateral, commented thus on the current state of affairs: "For many years his Pauliness has been content to let his divinely informed representations of dinosaurs and other extinct life-forms be the gold standard for the entire sphere of paleo-illustration without calling fraudulent practices into question. However with an increasing number of corporations and projects turning away from the Pauly Truth of the pontiff to embrace cheap and readily available alternative faiths and their top artists, he has decided to lay down the LAW. Those besides the pontiff have no right to pontificate - about things they do not know, and even things they do know, for whatever they know about cnemial crests and Lateral running profiles, Rome has established that His Pauliness has known these things earlier, and better, and therefore has exclusive international copyright and claim to them by way of Divine Authority and unaccepted unaccredited PhDs."

 Assertio Regnus Retroactivus (curriculum vitae manus predatorium pronatum circa 1989 CE)
Assertio Regnus Retroactivus (curriculum vitae cervicx cygniformus macronarens circa 1995)

In two accompanying and shorter documents, the Papal Bulls "Damnatio Paleontographica Extraneo Pontifex" and "Assertio Regnus Retroactivus Pontifex de morphus Cervix Cyngniformus Sauropodicum et Hadrosauricum et Manai Pronatatum Theropodicum", Gregory Paul I documented in bullet points the main abuses against his holy authority in the realm of scientific illustration. All current Gregory Paul skeletal poses, and in addition, all abrogated ones from previous years, are subject to postural exclusivity of his Pauliness. That means that to copy any body pose, or even any one of the classic though abrogated swan-necked macronarian poses or pronated hand theropod poses from the pontiff's output of the previous decade or before, is strictly forbidden just as is the outright reproduction of any of his work without first buying a writ of absolution for the sin.

It is rumored that as a result of all this, the price of an original papal masterpiece is now extremely high, as many rival artists can no longer afford the entirely reasonable absolution/indulgence fees and are leaving the paleo-art profession outright, the majority of them passing out on their couch at the end of the day bloodshot, shrouded in vodka fumes, and listening to endless playback loops of Enya interspersed with Kraftwerk. However by contrast, the situation at the Sauristine Chapel is said to be improving, with the Papal presses hard at work grinding out series after series of new indulgences for repentant formerly renegade artists seeking to reconcile with the Church and shed the shame of the heretical pasts. Famed illustrator and dissector of prehistoric corpses Scott Hartman set a precedent by making a solemn vow to change all the poses on his dinosaurs to avoid falling afoul of the pontiff's second Bull, the Assertio Regnus Retroactivus Pontifex. Other heretics still eking out their miserable living in the trade seem poised to capitulate likewise.

Which begs the question that has been on everyone's mind these days - is there going to be a revival of the Inquisition? Opinion is frantic and mixed. David James Marrs, maverick conspiracy expert and paraplegic ex-Paul plagiarizer of the last decade, claimed in a secret interview whose transcripts were obtained through legally gray means, that "there still is and always has been an Inquisition. The only difference is now they present One Eye and One Ring. Add the Roman cross in the center of that eye/ring and what do you get? Opus Dei. The modern Inquisition in disguise, waiting for their chance. I'm sure any free thinking person will see they have their fingers in something to do with it!" Others are more skeptical.

Rogue paleoartist Zacharias Armstrong, a wanted man with excommunication and the threat of inquisition  hanging over his head, had this to say in an intercepted secret communique to his comrades in the underground:

"According to Pope Gregory Paul, you need to be able to "document" how you produced your restoration, then, in order to "prove originality". But the fact is that there are already so many people (even in his own circle) who use his skeletals as a devotional/inspirational guide, that in practice, he probably won't be able to torture or burn very many people. Also, the burden of proof is on him to prove the imitative heresy and/or apochryphal nature of the work.... So basically, as long as your outline or restoration doesn't look like it was simply traced from papal diagrams, you should be safe from the inquisition and its wrath. "

Others have taken a bolder stance still: Henricius 'Heinrich' Mallison, chief skeletal legate of Berlin, bluntly burned the papal threats and decrees in a huge bonfire outside Wittenberg and posted 95 stinging Dinosaur Mailing List responses to the papal bulls from the computer servers in the rectory of All Saints' Church. Within a few days, his objections had spread like wildfire across Deutschland and the entire blogosphere, and at the pope's orders he was summoned on Saturday by Luis XIX, Holy Gondwanan Emperor, to trek to Worms on foot and swallow said worms whole at the point of a spear. He angrily retorted: "So what? Now his Pauliness thinks he also has a monopoly on mastication?!?! I can do no other, Gott hilf mich!" In the shocked silence and disarray that gripped the guards as they attempted to digest his iconoclastic statement, Mallison fled the scene with live worms frantically crawling everywhere - even on the emperor's face. He has barely been heard from since.

Scott Hartman, widely regarded by reformists (as well as the British) as a much safer alternative to the Papal skeletal hegemony, has carefully worded his own address to the Pope during this very sensitive time:

"I suspect the utility of your pose as any sort of standard is now severely compromised, as most artists are controversy-averse and will acquiesce to your request. Since the use of that pose as canon is no longer tenable, I am willing to put in the (not insignificant) amount of work to alter mine as penance, out of deference to the work your Pauliness put in to benefit the field of skeletal reconstructions conceptually, and out of a sincere (thought not optimistic) hope that it will improve the financial situation the Papacy finds itself in.

That doesn't mean a standard pose would not be of use. But more importantly, I feel a similar level of courtesy needs to be extended by your Pauliness (and others) in these threads to those trying to contribute to the conversation. Yes, not all comments are equally useful, but it's important that all that have a stake in it participate. I'd also note that you and I don't have a perfectly overlapping notion of who is making valuable contributions. To be sure there have been several "instigating" sources of heresy, but at the least some people I know and respect have received undeserved abuse for participating in the discussion."

No word yet on the Vatican's response to this message.
It has been rumored by some flying pigs in Alaska that across the Atlantic, the legendary deceased American Paleo-artist Charles R. Knight has risen from the dead to proclaim Pope Gregory Paul as the true savior of paleontography, devouring a creationist in the process and disintegrating into dust upon hearing the mighty Word of Paul. So far the Vatican has yet to endorse or verify this miracle, though a team of priests has reportedly been sent to examine the remaining corporeal dust that allegedly was once Knight. Knight himself, though unlikely to be canonized, was ironically and rapidly awarded a posthumous, post-decompositus Papal Knighthood, the Holy Order of the Golden spur, a distinction awarded to Mozart, Casanova, and many other illustrious though only marginally Catholic figures whose outrageous talents in some area or other flat-out flabbergasted the other 99% of humanity.

At the end of his Easter homily, the Pope concluded the speech by exposing the danger behind giving even the softest platform or credence to criticism of his policies:
"It is a common tactic (often used by biased media reporters) of setting up a false argument by making a false and remarkably outlandish claim. I did not come close to saying that I should be the only one doing dinoskeletons. I would never do that. I said that it is a SIN for a paleoartist to miss building up their own distinctive brand by patterning their images after someone else’s. Yes, all homages are pure evil and all who do them should die! As for others' current dinosaur work I admit I am really biased towards my stuff. I am so not ashamed."

Finis expositus quod dixit pontifex megalomagnus supercilious.

* L'Osservatore Romano takes no credit or responsibilities for the content, authorship, or any potential distortions real or imagined arising from this article. This article is for humor and entertainment purposes only and not meant to offend. The statements of real people and people based on real people have been comically distorted for gag value only. If you are a hard-core Catholic or a Greg Paul admirer (never thought I'd say those two things in the same sentence, did you?), or one of the persons mentioned above, don't take any of this personally. Read the archived DML posts on the Greg Paul controversy (if you haven't already done so, then absolutely do it!) and then sit back and laugh a little at how the author dragged his feet for 10 days after April Fool's.