Therapsids 1982 – A Tribute To Artist Mark Hallett

When I turned to this page in Science Digest, November 1982, my life changed. The next 30 years were largely devoted to learning more and contributing whenever possible to the science of paleontology (much to the distress of paleontologists everywhere). But enough about me. Let’s talk about the artist who designed this page, the original source of all this continuing inspiration.

The March of the Mammals (actually the synapsid family tree) as illustrated by Mark Hallett in the November issue of Science Digest, page 62. This image caught my eye and changed my life.

Figure 1. Click to enlarge. The March of the Mammals as illustrated by Mark Hallett in the November 1982 issue of Science Digest, page 62. This fantastic image caught my eye, stirred my imagination and changed my life. The stains, tape and wrinkles attest to its importance over the last 30 years.

 Mark Hallett at work.

Figure 2. Mark Hallett at work.

This is the art of Mark Hallett
We all learn something of great value from Mark Hallett and his work. To see his art is to behold talent, insight and technique that is sure to inspire. To see his studio, festooned with a vast menagerie of dino-things, is to think you’ve died and gone to heaven.

The above article in Science Digest (Fig. 1, Class Struggle: The Rise of the Mammal, text and illustrations by Mark Hallett) opened my eyes to a subject I had not thought much about since the days of those Marx dinosaur toys in the 1960s. Inspired by what I saw and excited by the new world that Hallett presented, I started gathering all the data I could about dinosaurs and other odd reptiles. Shortly thereafter I started putting together “Giants of Land, Sea and Air – Past and Present” and thereafter several other books and websites. Before long there were full scale dinosaurs in the garage, papers, abstracts and visits to local schools as a guest speaker. I dropped paying clients to focus on the work, and I found my passion — all because of this one gorgeous page of therapsids.

An inspiration to us all
I learned how to illustrate by trying to copy Mark Hallett’s work and there was a lot of it back then. Today Mark has his own website at featuring on the homepage his famous sauropod family on the mudflats (I like the narrow wings on his pterosaurs!).

A poster combining many of the dinosaurs from Mark's Zoobook: Dinosaurs.

Figure 3. A poster combining many of the dinosaurs from Hallett’s Zoobook: Dinosaurs. Just drink in the glory and wonder!

Mark Hallett's art for the cover of a Seismosaurus book.

Figure 4. Mark Hallett’s art for the cover of a Seismosaurus book. Remember books? They are the phylogenetic ancestors of pdf files.

Hallett has has created dinosaur art for National Geographic, Disney, Universal Studios and many more, including several children’s magazines. His work for Zoobooks, Dinosaurs (1984), was my guidebook and inspiration for skin color, pose, etc. For many, including yours truly, it was an introduction to all that was new about dinosaurs.

I had the pleasure of meeting Hallett several times and always found him engaging and encouraging.

Sadly, Science Digest lasted only another four years, ceasing publication in 1986 under competitive pressure from two new science magazines, Omni and Discover. I have to confess, for those last four years I kept thumbing through Science Digest hoping to recapture that initial buzz. And now you know.

Looking toward the future
I hope others will likewise consider Mark Hallett as their virtual mentor and inspiration and take it all to the next level. I know many of you caught the same buzz.

Here’s an online PBS video of this iconic paleoartist:


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