Today we have an interview with illustrator (and friend of mine) Niroot Puttapipat. From his bio on his facebook site-
"As a child in his native Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, Niroot shared his time between drawing, devouring books, and playing out stories, leading to a lifelong interest in art, literature, history and the natural world. He studied Illustration at Kingston University. Whilst there, his illustrations for the Russian fairytale, The Firebird, were exhibited at Kingston Museum. He is passionately fond of the 'Golden Age' illustrators, Oriental art, and silhouettes. Niroot has illustrated several books for Walker Books and The Folio Society. Several of his illustrations for Folio's 150th anniversary edition of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám were exhibited at the British Library in late 2009/early 2010. He was also awarded the bronze prize in the Books category of the Association of Illustrators Images awards in 2010. He now lives in London."
What I love about Niroot's art is that it has such a whimsical and elegant style that isn't seen that much anymore in illustration. Professionally, most of his work is actually not dinosaur-based but when he does decide to do paleo-art in his free time the work is never short of beautiful. I'm not just saying that because I know him either! I had the pleasure of finally meeting up with Niroot and fellow blogger Marc Vincent who writes for Love in the Time of Chasmosaurus when I visited London in 2011 after knowing each of them via the interwebz for a few years. Okay enough mushy stuff, on to the interview!
Question 1: At what age did you become interested in dinosaurs? Were they always a subject of your art?
NP: I can't quite recall exactly, but I think I first became interested in dinosaurs when I was about six or seven. They certainly formed one aspect of my artwork ever since in varying degrees. Predictably enough, they took centre stage in the wake of Jurassic Park, but became almost entirely dormant for a number of years before my interest in them was awoken again in earnest a little over two years ago.
|Ouranosaurus; Coloured pencils, markers, sepia ink and gouache on recycled paper; 28.5 x 18cm.|
Question 2: What medium do you most prefer to use for your art? Any particular reason why?
NP: For paintings, my favourite medium is watercolour. I love its transparency and just enjoy working with its rich, watery flow. So many of my favourite historic art traditions and artists have employed watercolour, so I'm sure that has a strong bearing on my preference too. For drawing; ink, pencils (graphite, carbon, and coloured), tinted charcoals, markers and Conté are what I frequently use, whether individually or, more often, in combination. I have a penchant for using sepia and earth tones and these materials lend themselves very well to that approach.
|'Crown Dragon', Guanlong wucaii; Watercolour, 11.5 x 8.5cm.|
Question 3: Is there any particular artist who particularly inspired you growing up? How about today?
NP: In terms of palaeo art, I think the artists who inspired me earlier on remain largely the same ones today: John Sibbick, Doug Henderson, Ely Kish, and Mark Hallett, just to name a very few. In recent years, Julius Csotonyi, Angie Rodrigues and Paul Heaston are among my favourites; as well as a host of others that we probably won't have time to list! My own interests and work outside of palaeo art also mean that I have been strongly influenced by artists and disciplines from those other areas. One may not necessarily imagine the Renaissance, the Fin de siècle, 'Golden Age' illustration, or Oriental art as having much to do with dinosaurs, for instance, but they certainly influence my palaeo art just as much as anything else I do.
|Citipati; Watercolour, 24.5 x 17cm.|
Question 4: When did you decide to pursue a career in illustration?
NP: I think I always knew I wanted to pursue a career in art in some form, but hadn't been sure which at first. Perhaps illustration dawned on me when I was about eleven or twelve. I have always loved reading and enjoyed storytelling, and all these things seem to come together so perfectly in narrative illustration, which is the main focus of my work now. Natural history is just one of a myriad of aspects in which I get to dabble too in the process. I would of course love to have a stronger body of palaeontological illustration, if for no other reason than my own personal satisfaction, and that's something I'm working on; but if I don't, I still love the work I presently do.
|Olorotitan Studies; Graphite, coloured pencils, and sepia ink; 29.7 x 21cm.|
Question 5: Art and illustration is such a diverse field. It has also changed dramatically within the past decade or so. What advice would you have to give an aspiring artist today?
NP: I am probably one of the last people anyone should seek advice from! Certainly those dramatic changes you mention are things I myself need to adapt to, too, particularly with regard to the Digital Age and the change not only in the creative process itself, but how the end results are consumed. I do know that being able to make a living from palaeo art alone is a rare success. I can't yet judge how well I may do with mine since I have only recently returned to it; few people know this aspect of my work and I haven't yet been formally commissioned for that. However, as I mentioned in my answer to the previous question, I think I'm quite lucky in that I still have a fairly robust background in my other illustrative work. Having a relatively broad range of interests which will reflect in your work is certainly no bad thing. It isn't being a Jack-of-all-trades as such, but having a sincere love for a small number of things to which you can devote yourself. And the more you can give in that respect, the better you become in time. Do what you love and eventually there will be someone who will care for it too.
|Allosaurus; Watercolour, 11.5 x 8.5cm.|
Question 6: What was your favorite dinosaur growing up? How about today?
NP: My very first favourite dinosaur was everyone's favourite generic sauropod: Apatosaurus. With perhaps Parasaurolophus in second place. I'd always been especially fond of sauropods and hadrosaurs. These days, I appear to have shifted my affection, sauropod-wise, to Diplodocus (if I were a dinosaur, that's what I would be); with Olorotitan as my current hadrosaurian obsession.
|'Gibran', Olorotitan infant; Watercolour, 11.5 x 8.5cm.|
Question 7: Jurassic Park and Land Before Time (opposite ends of the spectrum I know) were the movies I remember as a kid that fueled my passion for dinosaurs. What was your most memorable movie?
NP: The Land Before Time was the first film to fuel my dinosaur passion too. I had always loved animals and dinosaurs were simply a natural progression for me. My father had a series of general encyclopedias at the time, and I remember frequently taking out the 'D' volume to look at the dinosaur entries. Seeing the film and falling in love with it probably sealed it altogether, as it were. As for Jurassic Park, I don't think there is a dinosaur enthusiast alive for whom the film didn't make an impact in some way. We are aware of its many flaws now, of course; but nothing like it had been seen before, and in terms of reach and reawakening of interest among the general public, I don't think there has been another dinosaur film that has had the same kind of influence since. It's why so many people continue to cling to the appearance of the dinosaurs in the film as the 'definitive' one even now, twenty years later, in spite of the inaccuracies.
|Niroot likes to create portraits of people as their favorite dinosaurs. Here is me as a Triceratops. He also included my beloved dog, Zeus and some of the birds from my work! I have a print of this over my desk at home.|
Question 8: Dinosaurs and the animals that lived at the same time as them were amazing creatures. Why do you feel dinosaurs continue to fascinate us?
NP: For me personally, that's quite simple: dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals carry a beguilingly mythical aspect, but they were entirely real. Learning about them is fascinating and frustrating in equal measure. We may never truly know what they looked like for absolute certain, but trying to restore them makes for a beautiful union of science and art; fact and imagination.
|'Thesis', Thecodontosaurus; Sepia ink, 28 x 15cm.|
Question 9: What is your favorite time period?
NP: I'm surmising you mean a period of prehistory in this instance (haha; you are after all speaking to a history enthusiast too). A few years ago, I would probably have answered the Jurassic period without delay; but now I'm less certain. The Jurassic because it saw the emergence of the wonderful sauropods. However, the Cretaceous did have all those hadrosaurs! Besides such an abundance of dinosaur 'superstars', not least among which is that most famous tyrant reptile of all, but who cares about that overrated beast, eh? ;) May I leave this one unanswered?
|'The Mighty Handful', Albertosaurus and Ornithomimus; Coloured pencils, sepia ink, marker and gouache on recycled paper; 28.5 x 21.5cm.|
Question 10: Do you have any other hobbies?
NP: Some of my other creative attempts include sculpting, origami and papercraft. I collect a rather disparate range of things which include: netsuke, small wood carvings, Chinese painting materials (such as inkstones, carved paperweights and chop seals; works of art in their own right), prints and other reproductions of historical paintings and illustrations, first or early editions of illustrated books, especially those of 'Golden Age' illustration, and a small number of fossils. I also have a significant collection of animal toys and models, with horses and dinosaurs numbering the most among these. Occasionally, I find time to customise and paint some of them, but not so often as I would like.
|A rather humorous group portrait of Niroot (Diplodocus), Marc (Deinonychus) and myself's (Triceratops) day together at the Museum's cafe.|