Meet Paleoartist Henry Sharpe, our Fall 2017 Featured Artist

It’s our pleasure to introduce you to our Fall 2017 Featured Artist, Henry Sharpe. Check out his painting on our homepage. We invited him to write a guest blog post about his work, and were fortunate to meet him person this month at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in Calgary, where his work was featured in a paleoart show for conference attendees. 


Hi, my name is Henry Sharpe. I am a Canadian palaeoartist (someone who draws prehistoric life). I am hoping to go into a career in palaeontology, and I do think that there are several moments that made me want to pursue this path more than others. There were the standard visits to the museum and viewings of Jurassic Park that really got me excited to learn about dinosaurs, but there is one fossil in particular (that actually hailed from Mongolia) that I think really made me want to learn the most I could about dinosaurs.

Kourisodon puntledgensis mosasaur with Pachydiscus ammonites, by Henry Sharpe. All rights reserved.

When I was 10, my dad (who runs a scientific illustration firm, which is pretty cool)  was taking a short trip to New York City to meet a client. I had just finished a few weeks learning how to draw and sculpt dinosaurs at a camp at the Royal Ontario Museum, and when he told me we could visit the American Museum of Natural History (as well as a super cool long-necked dinosaur exhibit a friend of his had worked on), I was really eager to try out some of the techniques I had learned at ROM camp. We were only there for one night, so we were traveling pretty light (a backpack each with a change of clothes), put I had room for a small sketchbook, and my dad brought some pencils for the both of us. When we got to the museum, I was captivated by all the skeletons, but most, like the T. rex, the Edmontosaurus, and the Coelophysis, I had already seen at the ROM. That was why I was so enamoured with the Deinocheirus.

A pudgy scaly Gorgosaurus libratus. (No feathers means a lot of extra fat in a cold environment, even if the authors of that scaly paper haven’t realized that yet.) Copyright Henry Sharpe, all rights reserved.

At that point, 3 years before palaeontologists would describe a complete skeleton that would show just how weird this animal truly was, all that was known was a pair of gargantuan arms. I had read about them in my own mini-library of dinosaur books, each of which gave a different perspective of this strange beast. First it was a cousin of Ornithomimus, the ostrich-mimic dinosaur. Then it was a Therizinosaur, a group of massive, long-clawed herbivores. One book even put it as a massive carnivore, whose proportions indicated a massive killer twice the size of T. rex. So when I saw the arms, mounted in a grasping posture, I crouched down and started to draw them, trying to get down every detail so I could remember it back at home. This animal was my first up-close glimpse of how strange and wonderful the dinosaurs outside of common public knowledge could be. The cool ones were T. rex and Brontosaurus, because they were big and standardly dinosaur-shaped, the perfect image of what dinosaurs were supposed to be. But the Deinocheirus was different, and that was cool! It was not only much more interesting to my young mind then T. rex or Brontosaurus, but showed an opportunity to learn more, that we hadn’t learned everything about dinosaurs. I think that that fossil, combined with days roaming around the halls of the ROM to find all the dinosaurs known only from little bits, inspired me not just to try to learn everything we know about dinosaurs, but also everything we don’t know.

A Velociraptor peers inquisitively at a Plesiohadros, puzzled to see such a rare large species in an environment of mostly smaller animals. A departure from the stereotype of a ravenous carnivore in favour of its more likely birdlike nature. Copyright Henry Sharpe all rights reserved.

Anyway, now, six years later, I am in high school, drawing dinosaurs whenever I can. In the summer, I work at the ROM’s summer camp, the same one that I learned to draw dinosaurs in. I’ve also started a small research project helped by scientists from the ROM on a group of creatures who I fell in love with at the ROM; the mosasaurs. None are from Mongolia, unfortunately, but I’m trying to learn about aspects of them that no one has really looked at yet. Maybe I’ll find something new, maybe not, but I love (probably thanks to our buddy the Deinocheirus) to try to dive into these unexplored areas of their biology. Someday I’d love to join a research trip to Mongolia; my project supervisor, palaeontologist David Evans (a great guy who puts up with a lot of questions from me) conducts research on duck-billed dinosaurs from Mongolia, and I’d love to tag along when I’m a bit older and hopefully learn about the stranger cousins of the dinosaurs I grew up seeing in the ROM!


You can see more of Henry’s work and contact him for paleoart commissions at https://bonesharpesite.wordpress.com/.

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