Drawing on History
Tess Kissinger in the studio
Carnegie Mellon University alumna Tess Kissinger and partner Bob Walters are using the intersection of science and art to take a new look at prehistory.
The pair have illustrated dinosaurs for the Smithsonian, Hollywood, Jurassic Park theme rides and more. Their next step — Dinosaur Channel.TV, an interactive TV station on the web dedicated to short-format children's programming about dinosaurs.
"We're hoping to nurture kids' natural fascination with dinosaurs into a continuing love of science and art and an understanding of the planet," she said.
Kissinger and Walters have 11 series planned thus far, and hope to have shows airing early next year, including the learn-to-draw "You Can Draw Dinosaurs," the "How I Became a Paleontologist" Q&A format and "Dinosaurs in the News," covering new discoveries and other exciting developments. They are planning to add Skype segments direct from global dig sites next summer.
"Direct-to-viewer interactive TV is only recently possible, and we are technologically pushing the edge of the envelope," Kissinger said.
Kissinger and Walters also recently worked on the redevelopment of Quarry Exhibit Hall at Dinosaur National Monument for the U.S. National Park Service, painting the mural and completing illustrations and graphics.
Kissinger came to CMU in 1967 from outside Philadelphia, drawn by the renowned art school. But she also was interested in science.
"I was a child of the space age," Kissinger said. "I drew spaceships and moonscapes. In America today, science and art are often artificially separated — in my opinion, to the detriment of both."
At CMU, she studied art while working in a physics lab.
"The training was key," Kissinger said. "I am in awe of people who can teach at that top-notch level."
She recalls one memorable and prescient instructor.
"At the end of art history, the professor, who had taken us from cave paintings through pop art, said, 'Do you want to know where art is going next? March yourselves over to the computer department.'"
Kissinger remained true to her dual passions as she left to build and design parade floats.
"There was a lot of math and science involved," she explained. "We didn't have Mylar then and used rubberized silk. You had to build very, very carefully and then paint. I got used to working with big art."
In 1980, Kissinger met artist Walters at a science fiction convention along with a group of paleontologists — "the Indiana Joneses of the science world." She joined Walters in creating 'big art' dinosaur murals for museums, including Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museum of Natural History, for which they won awards.
"Paleontology has been in a renaissance," Kissinger noted. "And what artist doesn't want to be involved in a renaissance? A new species of dinosaur is discovered nearly every week. It seems everywhere we dig, the planet tells us another story about itself; and Bob and I are often the first to illustrate some of that story and show the world what these things looked like."