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Someone You Should Know: Dino Sculptor

Tyler Keillor sculpts a model of a prehistoric creature. (CBS)

Tyler Keillor sculpts a model of a prehistoric creature. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — He’s an artist who is passionate about teaching us all more about extinct animals.

His expertise is dinosaurs, and CBS 2’s Harry Porterfield says he’s someone you should know.

When Tyler Keillor graduated from Lyon Township High School 20 years ago, he didn’t know that one day he would be among a select few in the world to do what he does.

He is a paleoartist at the University of Chicago — an artist who makes models of prehistoric animals. It was an interest he had even before high school.

“It really started as a kid being taken to the Field Museum, seeing the dinosaur skeletons and then coming home and trying to draw what I saw,” the 38-year-old Brookfield resident says.

At the university, Keillor works with the world famous paleontologist Paul Sereno and other scholars. Keillor himself, however, does not have a degree and is self-taught in what he does. 

He describes his training this way: “Personal study and exploration, asking questions, working with researchers, collaborations, learning on the job.”

One drama Keillor has sculpted shows a snake about to devour a baby. It was frozen in time as fossils until Keillor reconstructed it.

Not everything can possibly be known about the fossils, particularly the skin texture. That’s where Keillor has to be creative. He often will look at how living animals appear, and he gets clues from the fossils themselves.

“There are marks on the skull that indicate where the soft tissue in life was attached,” he says. “You have a sense of whether there were lots of flesh, gums, lips, cheeks or whether there was a beak.”

As accomplished as he is in his work, he says there’s so much more he wants to learn about creating the illusion of life in extinct animals. But he clearly loves what he does.

“At the end of the day you don’t want to go home and you wake up excited to get there the next morning,” Keillor says.