If I have been to sum up EX|TERRA, Welsh artist Andy Frazer‘s compendium of his 2022 palaeo-output, in a single phrase, it must be: caruncles. Make no mistake – in case you are in any respect perturbed by the extraneous fleshy appendages current on the necks and faces of turkeys (and varied different birds), you then’d finest keep an ideal distance away from this ebook. Frazer is avowedly a fan of ‘bizarre’ dinosaurs, and on this case, ‘bizarre’ would seem to imply an terrible lot of folded flesh dotted with ever-so-slightly unsettling hairlike filaments. That stated, even in case you are the form of one that felt fairly sick on the sight of that Luis Rey Deinonychus all these years again, I’m certain you’ll nonetheless discover loads to get pleasure from right here.
Along with offering “freelance palaeoart providers to lecturers and publishers”, Frazer additionally illustrates loads of dragons; that’s why he goes by ‘DragonsofWales’ in quite a lot of locations on-line. It’s solely becoming, then, that EX|TERRA does – by the writer’s personal admission – comprise a component of the fantastical. The truth is, within the ebook’s introduction, Frazer notes that he didn’t actually need to use the time period ‘palaeoart’ in any respect, however couldn’t consider a greater time period. He goes on to notice that
“You’ll discover quite a few depictions of prehistoric creatures in these pages that embody options unsupported by the fossil document. In most situations such options fall inside the bounds of what could be thought-about cheap hypothesis, however there are a couple of that don’t.”
Frazer goes on to say the detrimental reactions that he has often obtained to such photos. However I’m on board with him, for probably the most half, at the least – and he can hardly be faulted for not being up-front about it. Admittedly, it does assist that many of the artwork on this ebook isn’t particularly outrageous by trendy requirements; we’re nicely over filamentously ornamented ornthischians at this level, and quite a lot of artists have had a stab at crazily-wattled theropods, with various levels of success (and Frazer is unquestionably on the extra profitable facet).
The place I did balk at a reconstruction, I used to be at the least intrigued by it. It prompted me to suppose what my issues have been with it, and if it would truly be believable, or if I used to be just too closed-minded. (However no, you’ll be able to’t have your beaked sauropods, I’m very sorry.) This wouldn’t be the case if Frazer was just a few hack churning out pure fantasy dreck, or maybe tracing over the Papo T. rex, however as a result of he clearly does put nice care into his reconstructions – even after they have fanciful elaborations – they do immediate the reader to concentrate, to ponder.
Moreover which, the work in right here is kind of stunning even when it isn’t outright gnarly (and infrequently, when it’s). There are one or two situations of creations which might be clearly primarily based on extant birds, which is usually a little tiresome, however aside from that, one can’t assist however applaud the diploma of experimentation right here. Naturally, Tyrannosaurus pops up a number of occasions, nevertheless it by no means appears to be like the identical twice. The Rexies right here vary from a quite ‘vanilla’, however nonetheless very superbly painted, particular person striding by way of the forest with a juvenile, to a facially disfigured punk-rock model, to others which have Frazer’s trademark warty growths throughout their faces.
There’s additionally a quite fabulously brightly-coloured particular person wandering by way of a swamp, which might be filed alongside the Carnotaurus with peacock-like plumes on its arms. Whereas such reconstructions do stretch incredulity, they very seldom really feel like completely pointless flights of fancy. I’m definitely not a fan of the theropods and hadrosaurs with warty growths the place they might sometimes be depicted with keratinous horns, however then, as Frazer says in his introduction,
“…Such illustrations function a reminder that the misplaced world of our previous was definitely extra alien, extra stunning, but additionally in some way extra acquainted than we are able to ever actually know.”
There’s an terrible lot to love on this ebook, and all from an artist that I wasn’t acquainted with till David talked about him just lately (in all probability as a result of I eschew most social media, for higher or worse). It’s undoubtedly price a £16 buy from Frazer’s Etsy store – the standard of copy is great, and I might gladly have paid £20. I don’t suppose anybody will probably be a fan of the whole lot in right here (I’m not), however that it gave me a lot to consider, and to speak about (with Agata, largely) could be very telling. Strive it, you may prefer it.
P.S. It amuses me no finish that Frazer produced one other ebook that fairly actually represents what a commenter on right here accused Jed Taylor of doing, years in the past.
P.P.S. It will be fantastic to talk with the artist and be taught extra about what influences his work. (Hinty trace trace.)