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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Paleo Interview 8: Peter Schouten

Yup, our next interview is with none other than Peter Schouten! I'm pretty sure he and Julio Lacerda are the only people I've interviewed who don't live in the US. Schouten does works that feature both prehistoric and modern animals, and he has quite a few books with his lavish illustrations in them. I have three of them myself; Astonishing Animals, Feathered Dinosaurs, and A Gap in Nature, all awesome books. He also has some currently in the process.

1. The first question is a staple in the interviews. When did you first get interested in dinosaurs and other prehistoric life, as well as the modern creatures you illustrate?
I have always been interested in animals of all kinds. My fascination
with dinosaurs started when I was very young, probably when my mother bought
me a copy of the "How and Why" book of dinosaurs. This was a small paperback
booklet with some very dodgy reconstructions of some of the more famous dinosaurs.
From that moment on, I had to have every book I could find on dinosaurs and
other prehistoric life.
My interest in modern animals went hand-in-hand with palaeo animals. This
was a good thing as understanding modern animals is essential for the reconstruction
of extinct species.

2. You've had quite a bit of books with your pieces in them. Can you tell us a little bit about them? 
I have 9 books that I have produced in collaboration with a variety of
authors and I have contributed illustrations to many others. My books are
usually about animals that are obscure, cryptic, or not well represented
in other publications. This is why I concentrate my efforts on extinct species. 

3. What's it like living in the most dangerous place in the world, I mean, Australia? 
Curious that you should think Australia is the most dangerous place in
the world? We do have some dangerous animals here - as you do in the US and
in many other parts of the world - however, the opportunity to encounter
these animals is rare. People living in the North of Australia know that
it is unwise to swim in water where there might be crocodiles and some of
the most venomous snakes that we have are also very shy and secretive. In
saying that, however, I should say that I live in an area of wilderness and
have an unwanted encounter with the highly venomous Red-bellied Black Snake.
This was a large and, not very happy, snake that found itself trapped in
my living room. It took quite a bit of effort to encourage it to leave.

4. You have quite a few (an understatement, I shall say) pieces with Australian animals, modern and extinct, published and out there on the web or books. Do you ever draw inspiration from the local (or even non-local) wildlife to complete your reconstructions of prehistoric animals? 
Yes I do. The marsupials on my property are an inspiration as they are
related to our extinct megafauna. Dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals
are a different matter. I have to use my experience with anatomy and morphology
as my guide for these creatures.

5. Do you prefer drawing modern animals over prehistoric ones, or vice versa? 
I love to illustrate all animals equally. I do love the challenge of illustrating
something for the first time - especially prehistoric animals or newly discovered
modern species.

6. Who taught you about art, or did you teach yourself?
 I am entirely self taught.

7. Has anyone influenced your work?
The following palaeoartists; Jay Matternes, Zdenek Burian, Charles Knight.
The following contemporary wildlife artists; William Cooper, Raymond Harris-Ching,
John Cox.

8. If you could you pick a few, who would you say your favorite paleoartists/pieces of paleoart are?
My all time favourite paintings are the large murals of prehistoric mammals
painted by Jay Matternes in the Chicago Museum of Natural History. These
paintings influenced my career.

9. According to your site, you've had quite a bit of temporary/permanent exhibitions with your art in them. What was that like?

Exhibitions do not really mean much to me. My work is principally for
publication and I get greater satisfaction from seeing my images in a finished
book - it will be around for lot longer than a temporary exhibition.

10. As if all the books you have published already weren't enough, you have even more books coming up - such as The Antipodean Ark (great name by the way) and Megafauna. Can you tell us about your upcoming projects? 
I am also looking at the evolution of Humans and possibly a book on the
prehistory of Asia.

11. Anything you would like to say to anyone interested in pursuing paleoart or any kind of art or palaentology as a career? 
Forget about making a fortune or pursuing  ladder-climbing career, just
do it because you have a passion for animals.


It was an honour to interview Mr. Schouten (as it was with everybody). Keep your eye out for his new books, and hopefully I'll get a non-paleoartist in some time.

All images are property of Peter Schouten; none are the author's.

1 comment:

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