We live in a wonderfully weird world, in which life has taken forms more spectacularly bizarre and varied than the imaginings of any fantasy or concept artist (which, given the talents of many of those amazing artists, is saying something).
Nature has provided us with a record of some of the wildest experiments of the past, most notable among them might be the dinosaurs, which have captured the public’s imagination since the first artistic reconstructions of them in the 19th century.
But there are many eras of geologic time and restless evolutional experimentation in nature’s vast fossil scrapbook, from long before the dinosaurs as well as the epochs between their demise and our short time on the stage.
William Stout, a multi-talented artist who I have written about previously, has created murals of several periods of prehistoric life for The Houston Museum of Natural Science, Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, and the San Diego Natural History Museum (see my previous post on William Stoutâ€™s murals for the San Diego Natural History Museum).
Flesk Publications, a terrific independent art book publisher that I have also written about before, has published a lavish, beautifully designed and printed book devoted to displaying all of Stout’s prehistoric life murals.
The book is 144 pages in nicely large horizontal coffee-table format (10×12″, 25x30cm), crafted with with Flesk’s usual meticulous attention to quality and detail, and features reproductions not only from the finished murals, but from the preliminary half-size paintings submitted to the museum paleontologists for approval before the final paintings ere undertaken, as well as the sketches on which they were based and even some of the briefly notated thumbnail sketches that preceded those.
In fact, as much as I admire Stout’s final mural art, which displays a painterly approach rarely found in scientific murals, it is often his beautiful pen, ink and watercolor drawings that I find most appealing.
As I mentioned at the outset, there are wonderfully strange animals from many periods of life on Earth represented here, from the time before the dinosaurs up to our own ancestors, arrayed in dramatic scenes teeming with life and alive with color.
The book attempts to show not only the range of the mural subjects, but the range of artistic approaches Stout applied to the various tasks involved in the process of creating the murals. There is a pleasing variety to the formal and informal pencil drawings, ink sketches, watercolor renderings and finished oil paintings within the overall continuity of Stout’s recognizable style.
The Flesk Publications page devoted to the book unfortunately only shows a couple of images from the book, so you don’t really get a feeling for that variety.
You can see some of the paintings for the San Diego Natural History Museum in high-resolution here, and you can see a brief look at one of the ink and watercolor drawings in the animation on the Museum’s Fossil Mysteries page (from which I extracted the low-resolution image above, top), but there is no other web preview I can find to show you the character of the pencil, pen and watercolor renderings.
William Stout: Prehistoric Life Murals is available through the usual book channels, but can also be ordered directly from the Flesk Publications site in either a regular hardcover edition ($39.95), or a limited signed edition ($49.95).