SONSI Interview: Dino Pulerà

Message from Webmaster Glendon: In this series of interviews I’ll be doing with our SONSI members, I hope we’ll learn more about what drives each of us in our new, diverse, organization.  A great place to read about an illustrator you’d like to commission, or who inspires you.  Anyone can post a question or comment, and please do!  We love the feedback.

SONSI Interview with Dino Pulerà .

– — –

Good day, Dino!  Please introduce yourself .

Hello my name is Dino Pulerà and I’m an associate art director by day and a freelance
scientific illustrator by night and weekends.
I have a B.Sc. in Zoology and an MSc.BMC in Biomedical Communications, both
from the University of Toronto. After graduation, I worked as a medical and scientific
illustrator and animator producing visuals, predominately for undergraduate textbook
publications. Since the Fall 2003 I have been working for Artery Studios, a medical
legal & animation studio, as an art director and medical illustrator. My current freelance
projects include illustrations of North American and Asian meat-eating dinosaurs
and completing the second edition of my book, The Dissection of Vertebrates.


Do you consider yourself a fine artist, or a science illustrator?

I definitely consider myself a scientific illustrator. I have very little formal art training
compared with my science training.

As illustrators’ many of us are blown where the wind takes us, so to speak, in taking
on jobs.  Do you have a favourite subject?

I love illustrating animal anatomy and vertebrate paleontology subjects, especially
theropods (two-legged meat-eating dinosaurs). I have been very fortunate to have met
two key people before becoming a scientific illustrator, that allowed me to pursue these
interests. After completing undergrad, I enrolled in comparative anatomy. This is when
and where I met my good friend Gerry De Iuliis, the primary author of our book, The
Dissection of Vertebrates which is in its second edition. He is currently a professor of
anatomy and vertebrate paleontologist and at the time we met, a PhD student and TA in
comparative anatomy. The second person I met was Thomas Carr, who was a Master’s
student at the time. He is currently a professor of biology and vertebrate paleontologist.
I met Thomas in my first year of BMC. I was working on an independent research
project comparing the cranial anatomy of three closely related tyrannosaur species.
While working on my illustrations at the ROM I met Thomas and discovered that he
coincidently was working on tyrannosaurs and was looking for an illustrator to depict
his research. Since then we have become very good friends and have produced many
illustrations of tyrannosaurs.

Do you have a favourite medium to work with?

I like using graphite pencil for my sketches and “painting” in Photoshop. I also really
enjoy traditional carbon dust, but it seems like it’s becoming impractical. I have been
experimenting and trying to develop a digital version of this great technique. The results
look promising so far.

Carbon dust is tricky to work with, but your results are stunning.  Can’t wait to see the digital version.
Tell us about the image that’s made the most impact.

I highly doubt any of my images have made an impact. There may be one image that
people, at least in the paleo community, might recognize. It is a carbon dust illustration
of an Albertosaurus skull. This illustration was my first professional carbon dust
illustration. I had to over come many obstacles and challenges to complete this image.
When I look at the illustration today, I still like it and am very proud of this piece.

A. libratus, by Dino Pulera. Click to enlarge!


An impact on the scientific community is a useful impact in my books!
Why or how did you get into this field?  What do you hope to do with your work?


I didn’t always want to become a scientific/medical illustrator. In fact, it was almost a last
minute decision. The first time I had heard about medical illustration was from a high school
science teacher but never thought I could make a career from art other than teaching it. I went
to university with (good) intentions of becoming a medical doctor. After my first two years of
university I realized that I just didn’t have the grades to make it to medical school so I had to
think of an alternative career path. After graduating, I still had no idea of what to do with my life.
I contemplated graduate school with in an interest in vertebrate paleontology or teaching either
art or science or both. I really didn’t want to teach and I knew getting a job in paleontology was
extremely difficult. I spent the next two years taking courses that I always wanted to take (e.g.
comparative vertebrate anatomy, vertebrate paleontology, intro to paleontology and geology)
but never had time to take in order to raise my GPA. I volunteered at the Royal Ontario Museum
in the vertebrate paleontology department (preparing and restoring fossils, molding and casting
and even assisted in mounting a dinosaur!) and did some volunteering teaching at some local
elementary schools in preparation for applying to teacher’s college or grad school.
During this two year sabbatical, I also enrolled in three non-credit scientific illustration courses
offered through the School of Continuing Studies at the University of Toronto and taught
by our very own Celia Godkin. I took these courses purely for fun and personal interest. I
absolutely loved these classes. When all the courses were completed, I asked Celia if she taught
any other similar courses. To my disappointment, she did not. But she did think my work
was good enough to apply to the Art as Applied to Medicine program (which is now called
Biomedical Communications or BMC) where she coincidently was an instructor. The deadline
for applications was in a few months. I quickly put together a portfolio and submitted my
application and around the same time I had also applied to teacher’s college. To my astonishment
and elation, I was accepted into the Art as Applied to Medicine program. Within that same
week, I was also accepted into teacher’s college. I was able to defer my acceptance to the faculty
of education for one year. I took advantage of this to see if I truly was cut out to be a medical
illustrator. I haven’t looked back since.
In an ideal world, I hope that my work makes a real and lasting contribution to science,
especially in the fields of comparative anatomy and vertebrate paleontology. It is always
my wish and goal that my work is good enough to have some staying power because of its
usefulness and will be around for many years to come. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how
things turn out …


Where can interested art fans and institutions find you online?


What’s your favourite colour?

I have a particular fondness for yellow for no particular reason, but ironically nothing I
own or draw is yellow, except for nerves of course.

Thanks for your time, Dino!

Watch for the 2nd Edition of The Dissection of Vertebrates!

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