interviewsINTERVIEW with Zach Coker

How long have you been an artist?

I've been an artist all my life. My father is an amazing painter/illustrator, and he put a pencil in my hand when I was 2 years old and I never looked back. Art has always been a big part of my life with my father's work and my mother being a song writer. My parents have always been extremely encouraging and raised my siblings and I in a very creative environment.


What made you decide to depict paleo animals in your work?

Not to sound cliché, but I attribute my desire to work with prehistoric life to when I first saw the movie Jurassic Park. I was 8 years old when the movie came out and even though I already loved dinosaurs, I was completely hooked. The main thing that inspired me to pursue paleo reconstruction from an artistic view was The Making of Jurassic Park. It's a great documentary hosted by James Earl Jones. I remember being fascinated with the artist's ability to recreate the physical aspects of dinosaurs from the ground up.

How do you begin to draw these animals?

I start with as much research as I can possibly do. I pore over books and scientific papers. If I have the option, I'll go to a museum and photograph the specimens from as many angles as I possibly can. I speak with experts on what I'm trying to accomplish and then start working on the concept sketches. Once I have a good idea of where I'm going with each animal, I begin to refine the sketches. From there, I start to create the final piece, and once that is complete I ask several experts to critique the project to make suggestions for changes. Once I make those changes, the piece is complete. Sometimes I go back and ask for a second round of critiques to be sure the work is scientifically accurate.

How much research goes into each work?

I put a great deal of time into my research. Reference is the MOST important first step in any reconstruction. I strive for scientific accuracy in my work because it's important to me to have scientific value. I want people, including top paleontologists, to look at my work and say, "Wow...that's a beautiful piece of art, ...but it's also completely scientifically accurate."


Do you paint and draw?

I am what some of my friends call a "Jack of all trades" when it comes to art. I draw, paint, digitally paint, sculpt, 3D model/sculpt and animated in both 2D and 3D platforms. I'm also formally trained in graphic design and photography.

Any plans for a book?

I have several ideas for a book, and I'm in the beginning stages of my first one.



Do you have a favorite species?

I am a Tyrannosaur nut. They're such a diverse group of animals, and while they are so different from one another in many aspects, they have so many similarities. The Dromaeosaurs (raptors) run a close second.

Why do you believe it is important to study and provide a visual representation of these animals?

I have two reasons. The first is simple-by studying our (Earth's) past we can learn about our future. And, when I comes down to it, dinosaurs are very cool. Bringing them to life for younger generations to enjoy may just inspire children to pick up and read a science book. And, it may just add fire to their imaginations to become artists and scientists.

Who are your mentors?

First, are my wonderful parents for encouraging me to be creative and allowing me the freedom to think like a scientist. They always encouraged me to be myself, no matter what. Beyond them, I have always looked up to several paleontologists/experts- Dr. Philip Currie, Dr. Thomas Holtz, and my good friend, "Dinosaur George" Blassing. All of these people have been very inspiring with their work and have shown me a tremendous amount of kindness by lending me their expertise in scientific discussions.


What is your educational background?

I have formal education in art, geology and paleontology, though my main degree is in art.


**All Images are property of Zach Coker and under no circumstances can be reproduced or copied without the specific consent from artist.

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