Is Greg Paul serious about 100% originality?

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Paleo-King's avatar
Those of you who have been keeping track of Gregory S. Paul's complaints and sometimes frustrated rage on the Dinosaur Mailing List may have noticed that he has made a big issue of people whose art happens to resemble his or even uses similar poses. His demand is basically:

1. Don't use any of my skeletal drawings for reference unless you pay me for the right.
2. Don't undercut me for paleoart jobs and contracts
3. Don't copy the "Greg Paul look" (whatever that is..... if you don't use soft oil pencil on coquille board, along with exactly identical skin textures and musculature, you can't possibly mimic the Greg Paul look).
4. Make your own original skeletals. Don't use my poses, make up your own, do all your own direct measurements, go the the museums and measure out every bone (yeah right, like they'd allow just anyone to do that!) and draw the whole thing from scratch.

The problem is, he's often violated this formula himself. If it's not good enough for Greg Paul, why is is good enough for everyone else?

He co-authored a paper which basically goes through the entire process he uses to produce his skeletals and life restorations of dinosaurs. And the ironic thing is, he's recently posted the thing to his website's CV as a FREE download, even though there's a TON OF DIRT in the thing that basically gives away just how "original" a lot of his illustrations really are. Here's the link: Read this bad boy, my friend!

Ironically the paper's filename is "Guild".... it seems he's giving away all the secrets to his competitors despite wanting to form a guild to prevent undercutting. (Keep in mind that I too am in favor of a paleoart guild, though for totally different reasons since unlike Greg, I do not turn a crisis into an ego trip, alienate fellow artists while expecting them to form a guild for my sole economic benefit, or currently derive the majority of my income exclusively from paleo-art.)

In any case, as you read the paper at the link I posted above, make sure to focus VERY CLOSELY on the pen and ink drawings of the skeleton of T. rex by Irwin Christman (the main fossil artist of the American Museum back in the early 20th century). Christman's drawings of the articulated vertebrae look exactly like Paul's skeletal. Or rather, Paul's skeletal looks exactly like Christman's drawings. He makes no secret in this paper that he used SOMEBODY ELSE'S SKELETAL DRAWINGS as the basis for his own. He did not actually go to every museum for every specimen to measure everything by hand!

And logically, why should he, when there's a perfectly good scientific drawing or engraving of the bones that is near-photographic in its precision, available as a resource for scientists to use? Christman got paid for his work back when he did it. He wasn't trying to charge royalties on scientific information. Greg Paul benefited enormously from such diagrams, by not having to travel to museums in person and spend thousands on plane tickets, gas, hotels, etc (though sometimes he did actually fly to faraway museums, as with his work on Giraffatitan). But now he's claiming we shouldn't have the benefit of even using a similar pose to his in our skeletals, much less using them as a scientific reference for our own art, when he did the very same thing with Christman's stuff?

There's a thick line between indirect reference and outright plagiarism or copyright theft. There's very little outright stealing of Greg Paul's work in the paleo-art world. If the problem of Greg Paul ripoffs and "clones" was truly as big as he claims, we'd actually see a lot of popular illustrated dinosaur books that didn't SUCK beyond belief.  Indeed, what Paul did with Christman's work comes far closer to skeletal plagiarism than anything most of us have ever done. Except that it was not "illegal" for scientific purposes, to do scientific reconstructions for scientific books and papers, or technical presentations and lectures at trade conventions like SVP. It wasn't a for-profit endeavor with most of Greg's skeletals back then. But suddenly it is now? What are these bloody things? Scientific open-access diagrams or for-profit art? Maybe if Greg really wants to make some cash, and keep his credibility, he can run a site like Tracy Ford's, where you pay a fee to access skeletal restorations of specific dinosaurs and then you're free to reference them as long as you give him credit. Want another dinosaur? Pay another fee. Tracy seems to do pretty well with that system. And I've never heard him complain about Greg Paul "devaluing" his work due to all the years Greg hasn't been cracking down on visual referencing and "underground" sharing of his papers and skeletals.
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KirbyniferousRegret's avatar
This may be old but it was good read! I recall John Conway being inspired by Greg Paul at a young age and 'copying his look'. His older paintings look very similar to Pauls (Except better *Cough*). Now Conway is one of, if not the best Paleoartists out there. Greg Paul best leave him alone.
Paleo-King's avatar
Greg Paul is in a position he does not envy. He pioneered the "new look" of highly accurate dinosaurs (at least in posture, locomotion and skeletal proportions if not in soft tissue), so much so that he is now basically "textbook" reference for any serious new paleo-artists. He wants to be known for that. Yet he does NOT want to be imitated, which every true pioneer in any field ALWAYS is. Ironic, eh?

Interestingly there was once no shortage of people who would have helped him market himself or even been his acolytes much as Jack Horner (who has ZERO artistic skill but decent social skills) has a huge crowd of literal acolytes. Problem is, all the people who liked his work, ended up being repulsed by the demeanor of the man himself. I have met him. A good lecturer, but not the sort of person you could have a normal non-technical conversation with. And terrible at self-promotion. Spends more breath pushing everything from atheism to the official government account of JFK, than he EVER does in promoting his own brand. He didn't even have a website for the first 10 years of the internet... and his behavior simply drove away the people who would have been more than willing to build him one for free.

If he were to license his images then people could pay him for the privilege of creating derivative works... but he never did that, so now he gets ripped off a lot and makes nothing off of the imitators. Whereas he could have made money off of them. Heck, he could have tried taking his art mainstream and promoting the heck out of himself to galleries. Or have one of his admirers do it, the way Jack Horner has HORDES of admirers giving him free publicity all over the net and parroting his scavenger theory without question, without him having to do anything. Much as I don't envy his situation, he hasn't done much to inspire sympathy. His art once had a cult following which he could have used to promote and profit. But those days are gone.
Roninwolf1981's avatar
I'm sure this is a late chime-in, but is it possible to invoke the Fair Use Act if we do use his skeletal drawings STRICTLY for references?
Paleo-King's avatar
It may be, depending on your state and country and which fair-use act we are talking about. Do your own legal research first if you are going to do a commission project.

If you are doing non-commercial work then I doubt Greg Paul is going to go after you for that. Mainly his big beef was with people who compete with him (i.e. artists hired to do museum murals and exhibits, or those who illustrate books). Some people ripped commercially off the Greg Paul look to make money with books and museum exhibits (Raul Martin, Dave Marrs, and a number of Portuguese artists who are virtual unknowns). Others like Oyvind Padron and Ville Sinkkonen are more like tribute fans, they don't seem to be making money off their work but simply imitate the style pf GSP because they agree with it (or once did, anyway).

If it's just for fun or for your own research or portfolio, then you should be okay, cite the reference and I highly suggest that you use other references if possible. He's not perfect, and while his reconstructions were good for their time, there are mistakes you can spot in his work, particularly the sauropod stuff which appears rather hastily done. In restoring (and re-restoring) Giraffatitan I have found that much of Paul's reconstruction (regardless of which version) is completely off.

Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.
Megalotitan's avatar
So GSP won't sue anyone if they use his skeletals as a reference for non-commercial purporses (like hobbies)?
Paleo-King's avatar
I think I've heard that he backed down from suing non-commercial users (especially hobbies) but don't quote me on that. But I did read on the DML a lot of artists warning hat such measures are not practical especially as being copied by hobbyists is to be EXPECTED every time you publish a book or become a famous artist.

All the same, I'd recommend using my skeletals instead of Greg Paul's if all you're looking to do is hobby art. Just give me credit for the original and we're cool. I have no interest in suing hobbyists over non-commercial tributes (I mean come on, you really have to be a jerk to do that), and mine are more detailed and accurate anyway. And I always welcome free publicity! :XD:
Roninwolf1981's avatar
It's been a while since I've viewed this journal entry.  I thank you for the generous gesture in regards to your skeletal diagrams, and I'll be sure to name you should I upload any more of the Prehistoria.
jongoji245's avatar
Would this count for cartoons that have dinosaurs? Often people would see dinosaurs not completely accurate but just enough to tell that it is a dinosaur. 
Paleo-King's avatar
Naah... I've never seen any dinosaur cartoon that even comes close to resembling Greg Paul's work. Like I said before, if his stuff was really being ripped off so much, then all the popular dinosaur paraphenalia (cartoons, kid's books, toys, stuffed animals, hobby excavation kits/model skeletons) might actually not SUCK beyond belief. If Greg was being plagiarized, in a weird way it would actually be a good thing for the public's understanding of dinosaur shapes and lifestyles. No more tail-dragging lazy reptiles. No more tacky elephant hands on sauropods, no more excessively long/fat tails on ceratopsians, no more web-footed duckbills or tripod-theropods. The dinosaurs would actually look like active animals with a real life story that isn't always full of tacky plastic volcanoes and palm trees.

Based on what I've seen over the years, 99% of the dinosaur-related entertainment and merchandise out there has NOTHING whatsoever in common with the work of Greg Paul. So I'd say the majority of cartoon animators are safe.
SpinoInWonderland's avatar
I just ignored his rant for the reason that poses and scientific/accurate animal illustrations can't really be claimed.

Now that I've read this, I have even more reason to ignore his crackdown.

Nevertheless, I try to keep GSP references at a minimum, and in the very rare case that I do, the outlook is going to be really different(mostly because his dinosaurs are anorexic/shrinkwrapped)
Paleo-King's avatar
I don't care what the pose is, it's easy to tell my skeletals apart from GSP's. For one thing, I leave in a lot more detail. For another, I reconstruct many animals he wouldn't touch.
SpinoInWonderland's avatar
Well, nobody should care about the pose unless it contradicts anatomical limits. What's GSP's problem, really?

Also your skeletals have more meat in them than GSP's.
Paleo-King's avatar
True. There is more meat in mine. Narcissistic personality disorder perhaps?
grroselli's avatar
You cant capitalize on an extinct animal, at least not that way. you can't just say that you have to pay to use scientifically accurate measurements, what's true is true. why is it plagiarism if it's fact? you don't see people getting pissed off because they drew a zebra and someone else did too. there are no lawsuits over drawing a lizard with the same pattern. it was a living thing, it's measurements and proportions don't belong to the artist. the style may be individual to each artist, as it usually is, but honestly, it you don't want people to use it, don't put it on the internet.
Paleo-King's avatar
Well don't you see, that's the point. He puts stuff on the internet, including his published papers complete with skeletals, to bait people to "copy" his work so he can sue them.

The standard pose is the standard pose. He didn't create it, it existed in live animals. Look at how elepants walk, he based sauropod poses on that. I still use standard pose, it's a lot easier for comparisons than Hartman's new poses. And my skeletals don't look like Greg Paul's, mine have a lot more detail straight from published photos and diagrams in description papers (free use for scientific purposes since they're academic papers) and I use gray to fill in gaps in the fossils where he just lets bones free-float in a sea of black. Plus nowadays I put my signature and seal on all my skeletals so there's no mistaking a Nima Sassani skeletal for a Greg Paul skeletal, just in case people fail to notice the vast difference in detail quality.
grroselli's avatar
I think I liked art better when you could just draw whatever you wanted and didn't have to worry about copyrights and stuff. honestly, unless people are going to sell it or claim it as their own, it shouldn't make a difference what they draw.
Paleo-King's avatar
Good point. But I also liked art better when people drew their own dinosaurs and actually had to master the 3D shape of the animal from different angles instead of just copying popular scenes - whether from Greg Paul or from outdated "old-school" painters like Knight. Personally I find copying others to be a real drag because you end up copying their mistakes or exaggerating their trademark features, instead of really understanding the subject matter.

At the very least, people who just copy someone else's work should not be getting commercial contracts or museum projects. If there's no money being made off of it, then fine who cares. But at least if you base you work on someone else's, have the courtesy to openly say so, there's no shame in it. And then people can say, "look he improved upon the original" or "that's an interesting take on it", instead of "that guy is just a scammer who rips off other people's work and labels it as his own".
grroselli's avatar
exactly my view. I personally have been trying to take the jump from just making small changes to a copied drawing, to taking tips from multiple sources and building one from scratch. the hardest thing is drawing anything that isn't profile.
Paleo-King's avatar
Good point. My best advice is just do it and then refine and improve it as you find out more, get better photos to work from, learn what museums get right and what they get wrong, etc. With a front or top view, if you've never done one for a member of a particular family, expect to go through five versions at least before you sort it out. With Futalognkosaurus it took 8 versions and 7 of them were just the side and top views. But that's mainly because most of the bones were not photographed from good angles when I started and the published measurement numbers didn't match the scale bars in the published photos.
grroselli's avatar
thanks for the advice, i hope to post some of my work as soon as i get a decent scanner
Riechstag's avatar
You know.... I dont think Tracy makes a lot off his site. He mentioned in the vertpaleo list that the site has very very few subscribers.

Quoted from mailing list: "I have three subscribers, THREE!!! Its $5 a month or $55 for a year. There is no other website like it. "

Paleoart is a small niche field.
Paleo-King's avatar
Wow that's interesting.... I was aware that paleo art was a small niche, but I didn't think that small! If Tracy gets so few subscribers even when the price is so low, then perhaps there are other ways to improve the setup.

Maybe build a more attractive website, arrange things differently, show a sample of the work so people aren't just buying a "mystery box" file. It sounds like a good idea, admittedly Tracy doesn't make the best show of it but I have a feeling the niche could be a lot bigger than just 3 people.

The biggest problem in paleo-art is we just don't know HOW big the niche is, or how many people would be interested in buying high-quality paleoart if they actually saw it. There are lots of casual dino-fans out there who DO have some money, problem is I'm pretty sure most of them don't take dinosaurs seriously as art because all they've ever seen are cheesy cartoonish illustration in books their kids borrow from the school library. The niche may be small, but I suspect much of it is still unreached. We wo't know how much until we make an effort.

The obvious fact is that even though the niche is a lot bigger than it was 50 years ago (and statistically it should keep steadily growing with population growth), the increase in the number of paleoartists has far outpaced the growth of the niche market. As much as I like other artists and teaching people about dinosaurs and paleoart, this NEEDS to stop. I don't necessarily want there to be fewer paleoartists out of some egotistical reason - but simply the objective, amoral FACT that there are to many paleoartists for such a small niche, and worst of all NONE of the newcomers have any clue how to reach a wider audience for their work, despite having knowledge of so many internet applications which the older, more experienced generations tend to lack. The pond is just too small to take any more fish!

This is one part of Greg Paul's advice that I paradoxically find myself agreeing with - think really hard about going into paleoart as a job. In fact, I'll go one step further in advising new artists: DON'T go into paleoart - unless you are really really good. The niche is just way too crowded with cheap inferior talents that don't have much business sense or even basic economics. The result - they're all desperate to at least get their name in the credits of a book, even if they're practically working for free, since there are so few jobs relative to the number of artists, they'll take ANTYHING to get their name out there. Now I know it sounds harsh and brutal, but until we can somehow expand the niche or reach buyers who previously weren't even thinking about paleoart, then anyone who CAN'T produce original work to a level comparable with the seasoned pros (Greg Paul, Doug Henderson, Luis Rey, Mark Hallett, Larry Felder, Wayne Barlowe, and even Raul Martin, for all his faults) should STAY OUT of professional paleoart. Do it as a hobby. Some day you may get good enough to sell of publish some of it. And for goodness sake, learn a few things about the biz before you get involved at the mercy of some crooked miserly project manager. If there wasn't such a surplus of supply (mainly of very low-grade artists who don't even do a minute's worth of research) then paleo-artists wouldn't always be out of work or having to work three other jobs just to pay the rent on some squalid side apartment on the edge of the ghetto.
pyroraptor86's avatar
Henderson, Hallett, Rey and Paul are all struggling financially.. I'd say the market even for seasoned pros is quite bad.

"I was aware that paleo art was a small niche, but I didn't think that small!"


Are you aware that SVP has under 3000 members? The community is INCREDIBLY small, not to mention paleoartists are marketing to researchers who are usually very strapped. It's not like paleontologists are in biotech or medicine or computers where there is substantially more cash usually.

I agree with Riechstag, crippling overspecialization indeed.
PRIDEofKENYA's avatar
Don't let these haters get to you Nima... I'm sure you have what it takes to make a comfortable living as a great paleoartist. Everybody likes dinosaurs and you have some GSP-caliber stuff. I can't tell the two of you apart sometimes!

Really enjoyed your SVP posts by the way, it's as if I was there!
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