'How Did You Get Started?'

‘How Did You Get Started?’

Arthur Denison helps a young Giganotosaurus with a stuck foot, 
oil illustration from Dinotopia: The World Beneath.

An editor of Ranger Rick Magazine asked: “Were you crazy about dinosaurs as a kid and did you read every book in the library? Or how did you get interested in this realm?

Me: When I was about six, I saw dinosaur skeletons in a museum, but no one really explained to me that dinosaurs were real animals. I somehow thought that dinosaurs were skeletons. When I learned that people dug these bones out of the ground, I went out in my front yard and started digging with my Tonka trucks. No one could convince me that I wouldn’t find them. I was also interested in archaeology, based on my perusal of old copies of National Geographic that occupied a shelf outside my bedroom door.

Ranger Rick: Did you take lots of art classes as a kid? And then did you go to art school or what’s your educational background in the art field?

Me: I had a couple of encouraging art teachers, but most of what I learned was on my own. I set up a copy stand in my bedroom and made animated films in high school. I sketched the family dog and my parents, especially when they were asleep in front of the TV. In college I majored in archaeology, not art. After graduating college, I did go to art school for a short time. I quickly learned that they weren’t teaching what I wanted to learn: things like caricature, animal anatomy, architectural drawing, and storytelling illustration. My heroes were artists who died before I was born, so I searched for copies of old art instruction books from before 1920 or so, and that’s where I developed my way of making pictures.

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