Not that long ago, Memo Koseman, John Conway, and Darren Naish published a book titled “All Yesterdays,” a volume that encapsulated a philosophy of flexibility in reconstruction of ancient life, and a short perspective on the problems facing modern reconstruction of that like and how modern animals might look under that perspective. We got into the habit of portraying animals like pariesaurs, ichthyosaurs, dinosaurs, and pterosaurs — all your -saurs, really — a particular way, and we weren’t changing much from some general perspectives. This book sought to identify problems with these reconstructions, and hoped to alleviate them by pointing at them and offering up a possible alternative.
Now, I have in the past been somewhat critical of this movement. As a budding anatomist and someone concerned with the biomechanics of an animal, I tend to work from the fundamentals outward, and part of this requires the constraints of the known. Because of this, I tend not to get so overly exaggerated, even in my art. I wrote a post about the book and the paleoartist’s dilemma and the movement towards a more rigorous, realistic, and science-based reconstruction method. In this, I criticized part of the movement as putting too much emphasis on what might be — inductive reasoning — rather than taking what is and applying what we know to it, to eliminate what is unlikely — deductive reasoning. I still feel this is sound philosophy.
Memo, John, and Darren then held a contest for artists to submit their strange, wacky, or speculative ideas about possible reconstructions of past life, behavior, or unique perspectives on life. I decided not to participate, for reasons spelled out in that post, as I felt I had done work which was satisfactory already. My posts on some strange anatomy do receive attention, and so I’ve felt my contribution with this blog is plenty effective. I’ve “met” the “All Yesterdays movement.” Still, I offered up a piece to Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs’ similar contest, done for the purpose of elegant and unique design options. My reconstruction didn’t win their contest, but it was done as a unique design nonetheless. It stretched my artist’s muscles.
In my review post, I even offered up some silly reconstructions: A woolly ankylosaur, whose armor might be buried beneath thick skin covered in heavy pelage, resembling a squat, quadrupedal sloth-dinosaur; and a pterosaur. Memo Koseman later contacted me: Despite not participating, he felt my design fit his criteria and wondered if I could allow him use of it for the follow-up book, to be titled “All Your Yesterdays.” This would the the book to feature submissions to the contest. I agreed, and the “Giraffapteryx” image I produced, of a flightless azhdarchoid pterosaur rustling up some tree-based food, wound its way within. And there it is, colored and pretty, as you can see above.
[Edit: I originally noted it was Darren who contacted me, but my memory on this is faulty; I have adjusted it to Memo, who was in fact the contacter.]
The book “All Your Yesterdays” is free for perusal. However, the authors request a donation, money in service of producing things that help paleoartistry and such. It cannot be but for the good of many, so I would suggest a submission here or there. Let me reiterate though that even with speculative anatomy, there is a degree of fiction being presented: One can imagine many things, and many things are possible; but it is still necessary to ground oneself in what is, and what cannot be. We might easily imagine flightless pterosaurs, but it seems none found fit the bill, regardless of century-old supposition they were too huge to fly. Dougal Dixon dared imagine it, but it was in a form of fiction as well, and we are reminded of the fanciful manner in which he rendered these strange beasties from another world’s other time. I also imagine things that might not be true, and will not hold my visions of fancy above those of others; I am just as prone to be wrong on the subjects of facial anatomy, or such, as right, or maybe even more so. I merely ask the reader beware: For beyond there, there might be strange, wonderful, aweful dragons.