You could’ve been looking at something new right now…

National Geographic recently released a slew of gorgeous new paleoart and other press images with the announcement of a new paper on the awesome and enigmatic dinosaur Spinosaurus aegyptiacus. Though the imagery is awesome, the paper and the new reconstruction of Spinosaurus has proven somewhat controversial, and in discussing the new paleo art with a friend, he pointed out to me that one of the illustrations bears remarkable similarities to one of my own…

Here’s the press image released by National Geographic

…and here is my old Spinosaur image I did for Tor Bertin’s 2010 paper reviewing the Spinosauridae which can be found on PalArch here:
Kem Kem Assemblage by Brian Engh

I think the new piece is technically gorgeous, and I’m pretty smug about the fact that my first published piece of paleo-art is the first image ever made (to my knowledge) of a Spinosaur hunting while swimming in an underwater ecosystem and that it might be influencing (some say even getting ripped off by?) the good people at National Geographic (who I’ve looked up to for years!). Admittedly, the similarities get me a little riled up, but I know all too well that, as an artist, an image or sound that took someone else hours or days or years to create can so easily be dropped into a folder full of reference material where it dissolves into the sea of human experience that everything we do is drawn from. That’s just part of the process, and partially derivative works naturally result.

Like most paleoartists, when I do an illustration I amass piles of images of wildlife and fossils taken or prepared by hard working and skilled photographers and paleontologists and museum staff and I never even think to give any of those people credit if I don’t know them personally. For example, here’s an awesome image of a crocodile, gleaned from somewhere in the sprawling reaches of the internet that definitely influenced my Spinosaurus illustration to some degree…


So, whether something is derivative doesn’t really matter right? Maybe not. But there is a distinction to be made with regards to how directly derived a work is. To me at least, the more directly derived an image is from a previous work of the same or similar creative medium, then the less artistic integrity that piece has. When that photographer took that picture of a crocodile their end-goal was presumably to take a picture of a crocodile. When I grabbed that Image I wasn’t thinking “ooh goody, I’ll paint this crocodile almost exactly as I see it!” Rather, I absorbed information from that image into my imagination in order to accomplish a completely different end goal: depict something nobody has ever seen before.

Reference images of living animals and fossils weren’t the only information I took in. In an attempt to figure out the ideal perspective I also made a quick little sculpture of a Spinosaurus out of polymer clay, and then photographed it in a little aquarium partially submerged in water. Here are a few of those shots.

SpinosaurSculpture2 SpinosaurSculpture1

Then, to figure out the lighting, and get a really good feel for the environment, I went to a river near my house with a GoPro camera and took a bunch of video footage of fish and turtles and light coming through the water. Here are a few frames that directly translated into the look of various parts of my image:

It was a great day, I saw amazing things that filled me with ideas and surprised me, like this male Western Pond Turtle (Actinemys marmorata) who was so focused on trying to mate with a hunkered down female that I was able to put my camera right next to them to take this video (please forgive the blurriness, the early generations of GoPro had a major design flaw such that they couldn’t record clear images under water):

Going outside to explore a modern riparian environment with my Spinosaurus illustration in mind inspired me to incorporate snails feeding on algae, fish feeding (the one in the foreground of my illustration is eyeing a snail), as well as the turtles hanging out casually, despite large predators cruising through. If I moved slowly, like the Spinosaurus in my illustration, carp and turtles would swim all around me, even brushing past my legs and arms. One western pond turtle even tried to eat me!

The curved fish-eye lens perspective was also inspired by the ultra-wide angle lens of my little GoPro camera.

The reason I share all of this is because it was all essential to making my illustration different from any illustration of Spinosaurus that came before it. I’m not smart enough to just blast out a totally new perspective on an extinct animal without first doing a ton of research and exploration first. Yet finding that new perspective, and breathing life into new hypothesis is exactly my goal. Credit, reference, payment and financial security are all nice, but I really don’t care that much about any of that stuff (possibly to the detriment of my career). What’s important is art and science, and pushing both to the next level by gathering more evidence, exploring deeper into the imagination, and coming back with new ideas, insights and questions. The problem with the new Spinosaurus art is that it doesn’t do anything I didn’t do four years ago, other than display a slightly newer (albeit questionable) reconstruction of the animal. As people who enjoy science and art you all should be disappointed not that my image (maybe) got copied, but that the new image fails to contribute a new perspective or idea to the body of Spinosaurus paleo art. You could be looking at something totally new, from a different angle, or depicting a different hunting strategy, or at least with a substantially different composition. Instead you’re looking at a bluer, slightly better drawn version of my old ideas.

But at least lots of people get to see it.

To any paleontologists reading this: if you discover something new I hope you will consider contacting me to do a reconstruction or life restoration for you. If you are limited by budget but have a fascinating paper, article or discovery that would benefit from a compelling illustration I will still work with you. Also, bear in mind, I am four years better at art than I was when I made that Spinosaurus illustration, and I am brimming with new ideas I haven’t yet had the opportunity to illustrate. I have some new stuff in the works that I’ll be posting on when it’s published, and in the meantime here are a few of my more recent works.

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Earth Beasts Awaken Posters ON SALE NOW!!!

If you liked Earth Beasts Awaken part 1 and part 2 and you want to help part 3 be as epic as possible, you can help fund the upcoming video by buying some Earth Beasts Awaken posters!

The posters are 12″x18″ (30.48cm x 45.72cm) and are printed on nice heavy cardstock.

You can order them INDIVIDUALLY FOR $15 EACH, or if you scroll to the bottom of this post you can order ALL 5 FOR $65.

Prices include shipping within the United States. If you are outside of the US I’ll send you a paypal payment request for additional shipping once your order has shipped.

Old Mountain Back
Old Mountain Back:


Finskull The Poisonous!
Finskull The Poisonous:


Terrorsoar In Cave
The Terrorsoar in the Cave:


The Snow Painter
The Snow Painter:


King Gingko Crest
King Ginkgo Crest (to be featured in part 3!!)


Like them all?? BUY ALL FIVE POSTERS for the discounted price of $65!


Want to support the project but don’t have any wall-space? You can donate directly to the project here:

Thanks again to all of you for your ongoing support and feedback. If you can’t afford to support my work financially, sharing the link to this post is probably just as helpful. The more people who contribute, the less each individual needs to give. And of course, the more money I can raise, the more monsters I can bring to life. Thanks again.


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EARTH BEASTS AWAKEN PART 2: CALL TO AWAKEN IS FINALLY DONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Many thanks to everyone who helped make this project possible. I am honored to have friends who are willing to help me make things, and that there are people in the world who like my work enough to support it by sharing it and giving me feedback and buying my art!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! BIG UPS!!!!!!!!!!


download Call to Awaken 2014 REMIX.mp3
(right click to download)

…And you can also download the instrumental (with monster SFX) here:
download Call to Awaken 2014 INSTRUMENTAL REMIX.mp3
(right click to download)

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In Mountains – EARTH BEASTS AWAKEN Part 1

Back in 2009 I released my first musical album, a project called Earth Beasts Awaken. I had basically no idea what I was doing, but I knew I really wanted to make music videos that incorporated epic storytelling, rap, thunderous beats, and giant monsters. It wasn’t made well – it was my first musical effort – but for some reason people on the internet didn’t totally hate it, and even a few people found it, enjoyed it, and let me know.

Now, years later, I’ve finally developed the skill-set and pulled together the resources to make those music videos. The video you see below is the first installment in three part series of music videos based on tracks from that album. The tracks have been re-mixed and re-recorded, and the videos are all shot on location with practical creatures and environments… Enjoy…

download In Mountains 2014 REMIX.mp3
(right click to download)

Thank you all for your ongoing support and feedback, especially those of you who bought the hand painted CDs I sold to get this project off the ground. It’s been immeasurably important to my development as an artist and has helped me to stay the course even through projects like this one that take many months or years to complete.

…and stay tuned for a teaser trailer for part two…

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i came to stack the carcasses

This video has nothing to do with my upcoming album Gather Bones. It’s one of several tracks that I put together last spring in order to sharpen my skills for finishing Gather Bones, but I never got around to finishing it until recently. Part of the reason it took so long is because my timing wasn’t great and I could only get baby mantises, so I had to raise them until they were big enough to film killing and eating things.

download Stack Carcasses (beat by Buddah Killah).mp3
(right click to download)

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Old Black Coffin (Gather Bones preview track)

Download Old Black Coffin.mp3

download Old Black Coffin.mp3
(right click to download)

This track features Drew McGowan on fiddle and Kim Megowan on backup vocals. Beat and lyrics by historian.

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Gather Bones album teaser

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Help fund my next album – buy a piece of original album art

In order to fund the finishing of my next album ‘Gather Bones’ I’ve been hand painting album art which is now up for auction. If you like what you see here, head over to the historian facebook page where you can see the current bids on each piece, and make me an offer either by commenting or sending me a message. Bidding ends December 7th, and the highest bidders will be contacted on December 8th to arrange payment (generally via a paypal payment request). Once I’m paid, I’ll ship you your art, and get back to finishing the album.

Thank you all for your kind and generous support so far. In the hopes that this art spreads out into the world I have kept the starting bids low, but if you feel the work is deserving of more , make me an offer.


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Gather Bones album art

My new album ‘Gather Bones’ is nearing completion, and for the last week I’ve been painting a series of pieces of album art which I plan to sell to fund finishing the album. The online art auction will begin December 1st, and the prices will be very reasonable… mark your calendars!!

'your king is coming'
‘your king is coming’
12″x13″ acrylic and marker on weathered plywood

Stay tuned for more details about the upcoming album art sale and new music.


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The “Shellback” beast that will be featured in the upcoming Earth Beasts Awaken music videos originally started as a creature I came up with for one of the hand painted CDs I sold to help fund the project (which was derived in part from this earlier Earth Beast artwork for the initial album release).

Shellback Earth Beast Design Progression

Shellback Earth Beast Design Progression

As you can see, in the process of adapting that original idea into a costume design a few things change, and in adapting that costume design into the physical pieces that will be worn by the performer, things chance a bit more. I’ve found that the best end result is achieved when I can strike a balance between making the best physical shapes and textures with the available materials and maintaining the overall “concept” or “soul” of the character. I used to think it was kinda weak that my original concepts don’t look exactly like the finished sculpture or puppet, but lately I’ve been thinking it’s really important to let a character design evolve as you actualize that character, because then the natural aesthetic and structural strengths of the medium or materials you’re working with can add to your original design and ultimately make it into a way better design (both functionally and aesthetically).


Finskull Earth Beast Fabrication Progression

Finskull Earth Beast Fabrication Progression

One of the primary reasons I prefer to root my work in physical mediums as opposed to strictly digital is that the paper and ink, paint and clay all contribute something to the thing you’re making and (if used well) can actually make it much better in ways that no human artist would have ever thought of from the start. There is vast intricate genius in the fabric of every physical substance and no human could possibly think of all the little details and expressive qualities these materials naturally contain or produce. A paintbrush laden with water color, or a groggy clay, or sawdust sprinkled on a mess of paint and glue are all such immensely complex physical phenomenon that we artists should be humbled by them, and grateful for their contributions to our work.


While this approach may require surrendering yourself and your vision to the limitations of physical materials the payoff is twofold: the final object being created is potentially richer in detail and life than you could’ve ever conceived in a sterile digital workspace, and the discipline learned from working with physical media can help develop your ability to creatively flow in concert with forces outside yourself, which for me has improved my life in general. I’d be willing to go so far as to say that an artist with total control of their medium, social circumstances and surroundings is neither learning anything from the world they are working in, nor has any reason to be an artist.


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