Profile of artist Ray Troll

Ray Troll is one of my favorite artists. His woodcut-inspired illustrations of the creatures of deep time, especially focused on sea creatures, combine science with a sheer sense of fun. His book, Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway: An Epoch Tale of a Scientist and an Artist on the Ultimate 5,000-Mile Paleo Road Trip, is a classic.

Detail of Cruisin the Fossil Freeway by Ray Troll
Detail of "Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway" by Ray Troll

Amy Atwater at the “Mary Anning’s Revenge” blog has done a great interview with Troll: “Trolling the Fossil Freeway with Ray”. In it, he reflects on his work and the role of art and rock and roll in the science communication world. After talking about some of the large events that reach thousands of people, he turns to consider the effects of more personal contacts:

But its also really cool to go to classrooms and do it on a smaller scale or take a whole school. It's worth the time to go do that because in an hour-long presentation you can't reach them all, but there really is this genuine thing where you can actually transform a life. I also like doing drawing workshops where’s maybe 20-30 people in the room and there's a couple hours of that. Not to get too hippie dippy about it, but I am an old hippie after all, and you connect with the audience and the intellectual pursuit is there in every single level because we are very curious animals and we are very curious about our lives, about every level of our lives. And we should always be!

Art can reach people in ways that writing cannot. When it comes to science art, the role of humor is under-appreciated. That’s ironic considering just how many scientists were inspired by Gary Larson’s “Far Side” comics, but only a tiny number of artists engage with science in that way. Troll is a real master, combining his characteristically light-hearted take on science with a visually rich style.