I paused for a second the first time I ever heard the word “Paleoartist”, even in context, I had to stop and think about it. But considering the nature of what Bob Walters and Tess Kissinger, what would you call it? Bob and Tess are as knowledgeable of dinosaurs as they are skilled in their renderings.
When you meet them, they speak with a passion so strong that if harnessed for evil, it could darken the sky and bring about another ice age. When I swung by Bob and Tess’ studio, I thought that few people would ever know two of the world’s most brilliant and talented dinosaur artists reside in the heart of Fairmount. Behind some unassuming rowhomes, they’ve got their studio where they’ve fashioned together everything from the world’s largest dinosaur mural to the illustration that would later be the Spinosaurus in 2001’s Jurassic Park III.
The path to dinosaur art was one Bob started down at the age of four, when he saw the foldout cover of LIFE magazine. It featured Rudolph Zallinger’s mural of dinosaurs from the Peabody Museum. From then on, there was no turning back. For Tess, she took her love of art and science, and gravitated toward paleontology when she met Bob. Along the way, she even became good friends with the paleo guys at the Smithsonian.
Seasoned veterans in traditional fine art, they’ve since gravitated to doing their work entirely digital. As they stated themselves, the pair work at the intersection of art, science and technology — and I’m hard-pressed to think of a finer example than their stunning work depicting plants and animals long since departed from our world.
I had to ask, what do you hope to accomplish moving forward?
“We want to take the reconstruction of prehistoric animals to a whole new scientific level and make them move as they would have in a 3D environment that they would have lived in.
We’d also like to do an ‘answering mural’ to the great Zallinger mural at the Peabody that started this whole thing off, and we turn our eyes longingly to the ceiling of the renovated Dinosaur Hall at the Smithsonian.”
While chatting with this pair, I felt like I was in the presence of unsung heroes. An entire account of all examples of their work in the wild would undoubtedly be a challenge. Their work appears in museums across the country, notably the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, The Creative Discovery Museum, and our very own Academy of Natural Sciences. The world’s largest dinosaur mural which stands 15ft. high and stretches for 186ft at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. To top it off, Bob was even the Art Editor for The Complete Dinosaur from Indiana University Press and has done some comic book art in ages past.
Currently, they’re working on new exhibits at the PEROT Museum in Dallas, TX; scientific illustrations of a new dinosaur, Auroraceratops, discovered by our very own UPenn and multi-media artwork of the fossilized skeletal remains found in the quarry at Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado.
If you’d like to see some of their amazing dinosaurs locally, got some work at The Academy of Natural Science, the Delaware Museum of Natural History, LTL Prints and occasional traveling exhibits. To see some of their work and learn more visit their website: DinoArt.com