Who doesn’t love dinosaurs? They’re stunning in size, they’re impressive in structure, and they’re altogether mysterious. Even after two hundred years of excavation and study, man has hardly scratched the surface of what is known about these prehistoric beasts.
“In most cases we’ll never know exactly what these animals looked like,” says Jenn Hall, who has made a career of depicting prehistoric life based on scientific evidence. “There’s a general agreement among paleo artists on musculature, but color and texture veer off to some degree. We have to look to these animals’ ecology for clues.”
Hall wagers that no two paleo artists got into it the same way. Her personal story is that she was working toward her undergraduate in art and geology at University of Pennsylvania. Instead of writing the final paper for her geology degree, she asked if she could provide scientific illustrations for someone else’s. A number of professors encouraged her and aided her in the challenge, and after she graduated, she went on to provide paleo art for numerous clients, including Dinosaur National Monument and the History Channel.
In 2013, Hall was working alongside Dr. Kenneth Lacavara, whose team was releasing a paper on the new dinosaur Dreadnoughtus schrani, a massive sauropod (long-necked dinosaur). At the time was the largest land animal ever discovered. Based on the team’s findings, Hall provided an illustration of the dinosaur—an image that graced the cover of scientific papers around the globe.
In 2013, Hall began spending her summers in Ekalaka, and in 2017 she moved to Montana permanently to devote her time to the Carter County Museum.
“There’s so much potential here—dinosaurs, unique culture, nostalgia. Most people are in the market for at least one of those things,” says Hall.
Her promotional art reflects this, as it often places scientifically accurate depictions of dinosaurs against the backdrop of modern-day Montana. Hall describes her unique style as being heavily inspired by the WPA posters of the 1930s, and she has produced (at least) one artwork in this style for each of Montana Dinosaur Trail facilities.
So what’s it like illustrating dinosaurs for a living? Jenn Hall answers honestly, “Cool as heck.”
(Jenn Hall’s paleo art can be found throughout this issue and at Redbubble.com. A portion of every purchase benefits the Montana Dinosaur Trail.)