Paleoartist Ted Rechlin Helps Bring Dinosaurs to Life
The Field Museum’s Dino Days of Summer are officially coming to an end! As we look back on all of the cool things we did this summer, (like welcoming Sobek the Spinosaurus and launching our first-ever Dino Fest) we thought it would be a good time to check in with paleoartist Ted Rechlin, author, illustrator and Creative Director of Rextooth Studios.
Ted works with scientists, such as curator of dinosaurs Jingmai O’Connor, to imagine how dinosaurs may have looked and sounded as they roamed the Earth millions of years ago. The Field Museum invited Ted, his imagination, and his animation skills to suggest how predators such as the T. rex and Spinosaurus would have interacted with other dinosaurs (though not with each other; these creatures would have lived millions of years apart!) We chatted with Ted about how his career started.
Q: How long have you been a paleoartist?
A: I’ve been a paleoartist since I first started drawing, at two or three years old! I’ve been drawing professionally for about 16 years, and doing professional paleoart for about seven years now.
Q: Actually, what IS a paleoartist?
A: Anyone can draw dinosaurs, and they’re free to make them look however they want. But a true paleoartist is someone who uses the latest research to create the most scientifically accurate reconstructions of prehistoric creatures that they can. The medium doesn’t matter - sculpture, painting, digital art, comics, or cartoons, whatever - but as a paleoartist, you’re trying to portray these extinct creatures as living animals.
Q: So how did you get into this industry?
A: How I got into the industry is a hard question to answer. I’m not even sure there is a true paleoart industry. For me, as a comic artist and illustrator, I always wanted to combine that with dinosaurs and natural history. But, in order to do that the way I wanted, I literally had to create my own publishing company. The traditional publishers that I was working with at the time were not interested in scientifically accurate graphic novels about dinos. But ultimately, that was a good thing, because now there is a publisher that wants to publish this kind of stuff - Rextooth Studios.
Q: How do you make sure your information is scientifically accurate?
A: Making sure my work is scientifically accurate is a process. Even if it’s something I know well - take T. rex for example - there’s gonna be homework. I have to brush up on the latest research (scientific publications) before I get started. The science has to drive everything. It also helps that I’ve got a lot of paleontologist friends, who are leaders in their fields, that I can ask, “Hey, what do you think of this?”
Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants a job like this one?
A: My advice to someone who wants a job like mine: Draw. All the time. And not just dinosaurs, or sharks, or bears, or whatever. Draw people, draw landscapes. Draw buildings! I LOVE Stanley Field Hall. It has some of the most beautiful architecture that you’ll ever see in a museum… But I’ve also had to draw it so many times at this point. And it doesn’t matter how well I can draw SUE, the Field Museum wouldn’t have let me do multiple books about their specimens if I couldn’t draw the building they’re housed in! Draw all the time. Draw all the things.
Q: What’s your favorite part of your work?
A: I’m an author/illustrator/animator, but ultimately I’m a science communicator. And more and more, people have been telling me that what I’m doing matters. At a recent book signing, someone explained to me that their daughter was a slow reader, and that she hadn’t been interested in science books until she picked up one of mine and now science and natural history are things she loves. That means something. And that’s my favorite part of the job.
All About Spinosaurus
An introduction to one of the largest predators around during the late Cretaceous!
Dino Fight Night
Who would win a fight between Spinosaurus and T. rex? Check out the video to see!