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This artist brings dinosaurs back to life

March 15, 2017 at 6:20 PM EDT
In our NewsHour Shares moment of the day, a childhood love of prehistoric creatures inspired a unique and prolific career for artist Julius Csotonyi, who uses his skills to bring fossilized bones back to life.

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In our NewsHour Shares series, we show you things that caught our eye recently on the web. What about you? Leave your suggestions in the comments below, or tweet to @NewsHour using #NewsHourShares. We might share it on air.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to our NewsHour Shares, something that caught our eye that might be of interest to you, too.

Nothing captures the imaginations of children and adults alike quite like dinosaurs. But, for one artist, a childhood love of prehistoric creatures inspired a unique, and prolific, career.

Special correspondent David Biello explains.

DAVID BIELLO: Julius Csotonyi is a paleoartist. His job is using his artistic skills to bring fossilized bones back to life.

JULIUS CSOTONYI, Paleoartist: We can’t go out there and photograph it anymore. So, I think that this is why paleoart is crucial to communicating certain aspects of the science.

DAVID BIELLO: Csotonyi’s skills are highly sought after by paleontologists such as Michael Ryan, the curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

MICHAEL RYAN, Cleveland Museum of Natural History: It takes our research one step further than we could do it on our own.

DAVID BIELLO: Ryan’s specialty is horned dinosaurs, known as Ceratopsians, of which Triceratops is the most famous example.

When Ryan discovers uncovers a new Ceratopsian, he often calls on Csotonyi to bring it back to life.

MICHAEL RYAN: Julius is one of the best of the current crop of new dinosaur artists. He did a beautiful piece when we named a new horned dinosaur from Southern Alberta called Xenoceratops.

DAVID BIELLO: When a new dinosaur is identified, Csotonyi and Ryan discuss its major anatomical features and what its living environment may have been. Then Csotonyi gets to work.

JULIUS CSOTONYI: I mostly start at the head. Over several rounds of revision and review, we come to a rough sketch that is agreeable to everybody, and then I start to add the color layers to it.

DAVID BIELLO: The final piece shows what a dinosaur like Xenoceratops might have looked like in real life.

MICHAEL RYAN: We’re trying to get our research out to the public. We can do that by writing scientific papers. We can put the bones that make up those fossils on display in museums.

But one of — the best way to get images out of what these things look like is to work with artists. People visually cue off a nice colorful painting of a dinosaur.

DAVID BIELLO: Every year, millions of people see Csotonyi’s work in books, in magazines, and at more than 20 museums around the world.

JULIUS CSOTONYI: I would be doing it in my free time anyway, even if it wasn’t a job. I do my best at visualizing what these looked like when they were actually alive and to try to take people through this world that is no longer accessible to us.

DAVID BIELLO: For the PBS NewsHour, I’m David Biello in Cleveland, Ohio.