Paleoart: Greer Stothers

Greer Stothers is an illustrator located in the Greater Toronto Area. Her risographs won the Applied Artists Youngblood Illustration award, were shortlisted for a Broken Pencil awardand have been displayed in galleries in Canada, the United States, Germany, and Indonesia. She received her training at Sheridan College, graduating in 2016 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration, and is currently studying Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto. 

As a keen paleo-enthusiast, Greer is deeply interested in the history of paleoart – her presentation on this topic won the Thomas E. Bolton award in 2016 at the Canadian Paleontological Conference. Greer’s interest also encompasses the rest of the natural world, a subject explored enthusiastically on her blog. Follow Greer’s updates on her website and Twitter and explore her for purchase art on her store Jen Bauer interviewed Greer for this article.

What form of media do you use, most frequently, to create your art? Was this the same as when you first started as an artist? Do you have a favorite media? Throughout college I worked digitally, but a month after graduation chance arranged it so that I sat beside a former classmate on the bus. She’d just turned her living room into a risograph printing studio, offered to give me a tour, and I’ve been hooked ever since. 

Risographs are produced by inking the paper through stencils, one colour at a time so that they slowly layer into a complete image. It’s enormous fun to exploit this layering, and create colours not available as inks. For instance, to achieve green I can overlay the blue and yellow at different opacities to create every shade I need. The risk is that you can’t be sure how your risograph look until it prints, but I’m quite addicted to the surprise!

Gryposaurus notabilis

Describe your path to paleoart. Did you come upon it randomly?  Jurassic World’s release in 2015 spurred dozens of enraged blog posts along the lines of “dinosaurs have feathers, velociraptor was German Shepherd-sized, etcetera,” and one bored night I stumbled on one, kept reading and reading, fell asleep in the early morning, and woke up still wanting to read. It’s the HISTORY of paleoart that fascinates me, how our perception of these animals has transformed, and how western pop culture lags decades behind. I love that in the 1850’s Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins used a French naturalist’s ‘Principle of the Correlation of Parts’ to infer a plodding lizard-rhino hybrid from a Megalosaurus femur, and I love that he was unforgivably wrong. I love that in the 1970’s Ely Kish sucked all the fat from her dinosaurs to better display her beautifully researched muscle reconstructions, and I love that it took decades for that trend to fade. I love the 2012 All Yesterdays movement, and its push for bold, almost outlandish soft tissue.  The people who paint dinosaurs are as fascinating as their subjects, and I’m thrilled to be among them. 

Ceratopsid series.

Your portfolio has a lot of variation but primarily with a theme of animals, do you draw much of your artistic inspiration from the natural world? Is heading outside a good start for aspiring paleoartists? Heading outside is a good idea, but you can also take nature inside. I recently brought home a gigantic meat-production rabbit – despite being slim, this creature is covered in skin folds, with a massive fat deposit (a dewlap, which hormonal females develop) hanging beneath her chin. Millions of years in the future, a paleoartist reconstructing this rabbit would likely leave out the fat-filled pouch on her neck, and the excess skin enveloping her forelegs. Makes you think! 

As for inspiration – nature’s designs are stranger, bolder, and more beautiful than anything we can come up with, but I’m stupidly competitive so I still try.  

really enjoyed your ceratopsian series; the coloration patterns were eye-catching and vibrant. What is your inspiration for patterns such as these? How long does it take you to conceptualize something like this? The ceratopsids were intended to be purely aesthetic, which left me free to play without fussing about scientific accuracy. I collected a stack of butterfly and moth reference photos, put on embarrassing music, and began painting (and painting over my painting) until something interesting appeared, after which I polished it into a clean risograph. I then showed it to my housemate, got yelled at for having unbalanced colours – “If one head has black,” she said, “you gotta give them all black areas,”and went back in to agonizingly balance it. 

All my best work is a product of my housemate yelling at me. 

What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects about being a paleoartist? For the most challenging aspect, my answer is cynical: money. Paleoillustration is a tiny, niche field, with not enough jobs to go around, so my income comes from running a small merchandise store. I make silly, impulse-purchase items like fetal unicorn lapel pins, or iron-on teapots stuffed with baby birds, but reconstructing extinct animals is my passion. So long as my business fares well I can devote time to it, but I cannot currently afford to be a full-time paleoartist (I tried that in 2016, and my bank account got very angry with me). 

As for the most rewarding aspect, I love reconstructing long-dead animals in small, soft moments. It makes me smile to see a Sauronotholestes with feathers puffed in the cold, a Tyrannosaurus mother keeping watch as her chick drinks from a stream, or a Gryposaurus chewing pondweed as the setting sun tints the water pink. The past was not more violent than the present, and paleoart should reflect that.

Saurornitholestes with young in tow.