Paleoartist Hank Sharpe Combines Art and Science to Create AR Special Issue Cover

By Sheryll Poe

The cover artwork of the special issue of The Anatomical Record on crocodiles is arresting and bold, utilizing all the skill and mastery of up-and-coming paleoartist, Hank Sharpe.

The 21-year-old artist is in his last year as an undergraduate studying dinosaur anatomy at the University of Alberta, where he also works on anatomical studies for his degree. “There are lot of medical and scientific illustration of living animals, but the number of people doing it for extinct animals is much smaller,” Sharpe said.

Sharpe had not previously worked with The Anatomical Record but he received a message from the special issue guest editors Casey Holliday and Emma Schachner expressing admiration for his work—which is often featured on Sharpe’s social media platforms. “It is a special issue so they wanted to make something that could sell physical volumes, I’m happy that they chose mine,” Sharpe added. “It’s one thing that social media has been great for is letting a young artist reach a large audience.”

The process to create the artwork was time and labor intensive, especially for a student who works part time. “Each painting took about a month of part time work to finish up, including areas that we repainted,” Sharpe said, while noting that the entire process took about two months. 

Sharpe started working off of 3D models of the skulls, sculpting the bodies and making digital skeletons. “We went deep into the scientific literature and Casey sent me folders of photos of crocodilian dissections, and we got into as much of the anatomy while still being accurate,” the artist said.

Part of his artistic success in recreating the crocodiles comes from his unique perspective on anatomy. “One thing that makes it easy,” he said. “Is that we tend to think of bone as the scaffolding that everything is built on top of,” but in actuality, he explained, “bone is the negative space” that everything is built around. “If we have the bone, we can figure out the soft tissue.”

Sharpe was so pleased with the final cover that he entered it to the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology’s prestigious Lanzendorf-National Geographic PaleoArt Prize in the scientific illustration category. “It didn’t win but having something proud enough to submit made me happy,” Sharpe said.

While this is his first cover, Sharpe has been creating arresting paleo-images for years, working on illustrations for the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and the Calgary Zoo. His artwork can be seen on Instagram at, on Twitter at @Paleoartologist and on Artstation.

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