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Local artist ships 'Dinotopia' themed work to Miniatures Museum of Taiwan

Zach Vance • Feb 12, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Bill Lankford is undoubtedly the “Master of the Miniature.” 

In his 78 years on Earth, Lankford has handcrafted hundreds of creative, miniature fantasy worlds. 

Last weekend, the Johnson City resident completed and shipped his latest piece of artwork to Taipei, Taiwan, to be displayed at the Miniatures Museum of Taiwan for its 20th anniversary. 

Lankford was specifically picked by the museum’s owner to complete the landscape artwork, which is an allusion to the fictional utopia depicted in the 1992 book “Dinotopia.” 

It was only Lankford’s 30th piece of handiwork he’s had displayed in the renowned minuscule artistry museum. 

“You build everything in your mind,” Lankford said pointing to his head. “Then you do it with your hands.”

Prior to its shipment, sprawled across Lankford’s basement workplace were images from James Gurney’s illustrated book, pages Lankford drew inspiration from during the months of planning prior to construction. 

“(Gurney’s) architecture, a lot of it’s Egyptian (and) Grecian. You can see that was his flavor. Here you’ve got Italian and here you’ve got fantasyland in a way,” said Lankford, pinpointing various cultures derived in book. 

Peering at the illustrations confined to two dimensions and back at the 12-foot-long creation is similar to gazing into an enchanted mirror, only the miniature masterpiece easily encompassed greater liveliness and detail.

While exhibiting his masterpiece, Lankford gleamed as he pointed to an image of a decorated bridge from the book and then to that same bridge recreated in his model, which included various dinosaurs and humans walking together. 

“This scene here is pretty much to the point. They wanted to catch the flavor of the bridge,” Lankford said. 

Hours upon hours could be spent spotting each scenario, interaction and hidden joke intertwined inside the small world. 

Lankford excitedly told a brief summary of “Dinotopia” and how, in that world, dinosaurs lived as one with humans, even utilizing their own language.

With a sincere smile, Lankford pointed to a statue with that same dinosaur language scrawled across it. Lankford said it translated to, “Bill Lankford, 2017,” a signature that will surely be seen by thousands. 

Lankford said he spent much of a year painstakingly creating his miniature “Dinotopia,” but he did receive some assistance. 

His wife, Linda, created all 100-plus figures disbursed across the scenery, including each piece of clothing. Lankford said she utilized epoxy resin to form whatever dress, pants, suit or hat she desired. 

Showcasing his latest work, Lankford’s gleefulness was apparent, despite dedicating his entire life to the craft.

Lankford’s love for the microscopic began, like many children growing up in early 1950s, with model railroad sets.  

Lankford’s passion endured through his early teens and into his junior high days. 

“Instead of writing an essay for school, I would make a project,” Lankford said. “For an economics class one time, I made a model of a car factory, where you started out with the design studio, then the place where the individual parts (were made) and then the showroom.” 

Once he finished college, the Texas-native applied his artistic gift to owning and operating his own flower shop. 

Once he became “bored” of selling bouquets, Lankford began teaching classes on creating miniature fantasy lands and model railroad tracks.

Lankford said he traveled around every major city in the United States for 20 years teaching those classes out of his motor home. 

“I traveled in a 40-foot diesel pusher motor home and carried my supplies with me. You’d go out and do maybe four classes during a two-week trip. You put 10 people in a class for three days and you charge $600 a person. It makes pretty good money for a weekend,” Lankford said with a laugh. 

Nowadays, Lankford works out of his house along Skyline Drive, creating hundreds of miniature trees for various commercial resale buyers and agreeing on the occasional commissioned project, such as the “Dinotopia” one. 

Along with his assortment of miniature work in Taipei, Lankford’s pieces can also be found in the Houston Museum of Natural Science, as well as museums in Dallas, California, Florida, Connecticut and St. Louis. 

To see more of Lankford’s creations, visit www.billlankford.com.

Email Zach Vance at [email protected] Follow Zach Vance on Twitter at @ZachVanceJCP. Like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/ZachVanceJCP.

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