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For the Love of Science and Art: Julius Csotonyi’s Dinosaurs

It's been a summer of dinosaurs! Over the last few months our prehistoric pals have enjoyed the spotlight at TELUS World of Science with our feature exhibition, Ultimate Dinosaurs. One of the creative minds behind the exhibition and painter of the impressive dinosaur murals is paleoartist, Julius Csotonyi.

Have you ever wished you could draw dinosaurs for a living? Julius has found a fantastic way to express his passion for science and his love of art in a profession. His unique academic background in ecology, environmental biology and microbiology, combined with his artistic abilities has led him to a career as a paleoartist and natural history illustrator. We think he has a super cool job, so we asked him to weigh in on art in science and how he thinks creativity fits into the scientific equation. 

Having read a bit about you, I can see that you have always been inspired by dinosaurs. What is it about dinosaurs that you find so intriguing?

Largely, it’s their difference from modern animals. I love diversity and discovery, so the weird and wonderful appeal to me. In the case of theropods, it is also their gracefulness: a large animal gliding along on two legs, elegant neck balanced by a long, slender tail.

You’ve done a lot of work in the sciences and even hold a PhD in microbiology. Do you consider yourself a scientist who does art or an artist who does science?

Currently, my work is more supportive of scientific research rather than directly research itself. Therefore, I am best described as an artist who relies on science, or a scientific illustrator. My scientific training has been instrumental in informing my artwork, and I am also happy to retain one foot in both camps of art and science as I work closely with scientists.

How do art and science fit together in your opinion?

Art and science engage in a mutually beneficial interaction. This is especially true of paleontology and paleoart, where visualizing the life appearance of the subjects of paleontological study is only possible through paleoart. Paleontologists increasingly commission paleoartists to prepare artwork to accompany press releases of their scientific papers, which helps to garner more attention (and ultimately funding) for their work. In turn, paleoartists derive all of their reference material from the productive work of paleontologists. Each helps the other to excel.

Do you see science as a potentially creative pursuit? If so, how?

Absolutely. Scientists are well known for their use of logic and deductive reasoning, but designing the experimental studies in the first place to acquire the most informative empirical results requires a lot of creative thinking, as does searching for explanations for intriguing results.

What is your ideal, blue sky project? If you could work on anything, what would it be?

Scientifically, it would be the search for life beyond earth; not intelligent life necessarily, but the much more likely signs of microbial life, either by directly sampling our solar system, or by indirectly sampling extrasolar planets for spectroscopic signatures of biochemistry in the light reaching us.

Artistically, my dream (come true) is to continue illustrating the bizarre newly described life from Earth’s ancient past, and (because I have a passion for conservation) to create fine art that helps inform people about species that desperately need our help to survive. Currently, I am using my artwork to help raise awareness about sharks, for example.

Come see these murals while you have the chance! Science World’s Ultimate Dinosaurs goes extinct September 7. To see more of Julius Csotonyi’s work, you can visit his website.