Craig Dylke is known on the Internet as Traumador the Tyrannosaur (the name of his Dinosaur puppet). He’s a Canadian born primary teacher, currently residing in Hong Kong where he teaches English and Science at an international primary school. He integrates scientific topics and themes into most of his lessons, and in his off hours he is a very prolific palaeo-artist (someone who tries to recreate long extinct prehistoric life through art).
Why the palaeo-art?
I try to help connect the science of palaeontology to a larger audience. Palaeo-art lets me do this in a way that combines my childhood obsession with palaeontology and my love of digital art. I’ve become so interested in the the philosophy, and methodology of palaeo-art that, together with Peter Bond, I co-founded the community blog ART Evolved where we discuss and encourage palaeo-art of all forms.
How is published research useful to you in your art?
When you scientifically reconstruct an animal, every detail of its physical appearance is important. For most prehistoric life, the only place to get details about fossilized remains and informed speculation on what that extinct life might have looked is in the scientific literature. From my perspective as an artist rather than a researcher, the most useful part of papers is the diagrams and photographs of the fossils
How about in your day-job?
As a primary teacher I don’t need technical scientific literature on an everyday basis for my students. But there are times when I would love to have it to check “facts” in popular children’s books. The number of factual mistakes in these books is sometimes quite alarming. Being on top of the most recent publications can also lead to good discussion topics for my students: news outlets only report a fraction of new science discoveries.
What are the biggest barriers you face?
The most obvious barrier is that most papers are behind a pay barrier. The fees for subscriptions, or for single papers are simply outrageous. Many of my digital art software packages cost less!
Limited access to scientific literature has also created an interesting problem in palaeo-art. Without access to source material, many artists resort to referencing other artists. Then you get artistic “memes” in which organisms are consistently shown with characteristics that we have no actual evidence for. (Since the art is the closest thing we have to photographs, they gain an implied credibility when repeated enough times). This runs completely counter to my science education goal.
What changes would you like to see?
Frankly that answer is simple. Either researchers only publish in free access journals or the publishers get with the times and open access to their content.
I’d also like to see more journals offer unlimited illustrations for authors. On any given subject PLoS papers are almost always the superior source material for me as an artist, as the authors tend to fill them liberally with photos and diagrams of their specimens. Too often I’ve been disappointed to track down a critical paper on topic from a mainstream journal only to find there are no diagrams or photos, leaving me at square one on my restoration.
Artwork on this page: top, the lambeosaurine dinosaur Corythosaurus; bottom, the mosasaur Taniwhasaurus.
Copyright and licence
The artwork on this page by Craig Dylke (“Traumador the Tyrannosaur”) is licensed differently from the rest of the Who Needs Access? site under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.