News from the Ray Troll Universe - Category: Ray Troll in the News

My Russian TV Debut

In 2021 a Russian film crew came to Ketchikan and filmed me working in the studio and wandering about our little seaside town. The director & producer was the amazingly talented Liza Goroshnikova and her husband Vladimir. It’s called Alaska: Eight Love Notes. You can check it out at

I show up at about 40 minutes in. Enjoy!

News from the Ray Troll Universe - Category: Ray Troll in the News

Halcyon Daze of the ‘Borg: the Photos

Halcyon Daze of the ‘Borg: A Photographic Memoir by Ray Troll
The small town of Lindsborg, Kansas is known as ‘Little Sweden USA’. It’s also the home of Bethany College where I went to art school and earned a Bachelor’s degree in 1977. After earning my MFA at Washington State University I returned there to teach from 1982 to 83.While living there I took many a ‘formal’ portrait of my fellow students, professors, working artists and town characters. In 2021 I exhibited this collection of photos at Lester Raymer’s Red Barn Studio and Museum and the Sandzen Memorial Gallery. It’s a truly unique glimpse into the art revolution that took place in this prairie college town.

Lindsborg’s Seventies art scene left an indelible mark on my life. These images, hopefully, convey the spirit and flavor of that unique time in a very small town in Kansas.

I moved to Lindsborg in January of 1974, to study art at Bethany College, a small Lutheran liberal arts school nestled between the expansive wheat fields of eastern Kansas and the winding banks of the Smoky Hill River. I had heard good things about the town, the college, and the art department. I was nineteen at the time, cocky, a bit arrogant and naively self-assured in my artistic abilities. I’d been raised in a family of six and was desperate to get out on my own and to make some sort of mark in the world.

I was eager to leave the big city of Wichita behind me, too, having spent a frustrating, unfulfilling semester at Wichita State University, unnoticed and lost in the crowd. I wanted to explore the creative life at a smaller school where I could make genuine connections with my professors and fellow students.

I bought a 35 mm camera and immersed myself in the world of photography, a form of artistic interpretation and creativity that resonated deeply with me at the time. There was a small darkroom in the art department that soon became my second home. I loved capturing moments from the world around me and seeing them magically reappear in the Dektol developer under the red light of the darkroom, thick with the acrid smell of the stop-bath and fixative. I was awestruck seeing images appear in the plastic trays as I rocked the chemicals back and forth.

I liked the idea of taking formal portraits, of trying to capture the essence of a person in my lens, sometimes with a touch of theatricality. I’d direct my subjects with minimal instructions, most often with a request to simply “go blank” and not to smile at the camera, to simply look at me. Smiles were too easy, too posed. I wanted something deeper, a connection of some sort. Maximize the mystery.

Was there something there in their expressions that revealed their inner thoughts, a flicker of emotion or bemusement? Were they tense, at ease, smirking just a bit, happy in the moment, or trying to figure out who I was and why I was pointing a camera at them?

Taking a breath, I pointed the camera.

It’s a vulnerable moment, preparing oneself to be studied, looked at closely. Our gazes met, the subjects judging me as well, assessing me and the awkward situation.

The visual conversation between the model and the artist is captured as the shutter snaps. We’ve been taught that to stare is rude and intrusive. A photograph though, allows you to linger and study the lines of a face, to stare into a stranger’s eyes, observe the curve of a nose, the slouching posture, the open shirt, the unkempt hair, all there in that one frozen moment of openness.

My subjects were all friends to some degree or other. Some were merely acquaintances, or people I admired or wanted to know better, a couple were much, much closer than that. Some were role models for me, artists making their way and I wanted to glean the secrets of their survival in the creative world. All of them affected my life, in the sense that we are all “who we meet.” Some became lifelong friends.

I don’t pretend to think I captured all the important artistic figures in town, far from it. These photos represent my small corner of that bygone scene. I regret that I never “formally” photographed Steve Scott, Bob Bosco, John Murphy, Lee Becker, Rip Carlson, Randy Just, Richard Klocke, Kim McLelland, Cindy Schott and so many more that were also important people to me.

My recollection of that era and my attraction to photography took on even more import when I realized that many of the people in this series of images are dead. As we age and lose people around us, facing our own mortality, I think of the adage that the closer you are to becoming history yourself, the more you appreciate history. I felt the urgency to share this body of work to commemorate their memories. I also want to acknowledge how much my time in Kansas transformed my own artistic DNA and the roots of my artistic style.

Something special happened in little Lindsborg back in the Seventies and early Eighties. Then, there were over a hundred studio art majors at Bethany College and four to five full time faculty. Now there are only a handful of studio art majors and two full time faculty. The diminishing numbers say one thing, about the world getting to be a tougher place and turning more toward “practical things” but there’s more to it than that. Maybe it was the cultural residue of the Sixties lingering in the air, but the excitement of creativity was palpable in that town, in the streets, in the bars, in the raucous parties in the “slums” above Main Street, the “keggers” down by the river and “re-has” out in the country.

The artistic tension was there for sure, inspiration drawn from one another, feeding off each other like artistic cannibals. Subtle rivalries played out over the years with attempts to outdo one’s peers, just enough to inspire them to fire right back with something bigger and bolder and maybe just a bit more outrageous.

I feel lucky that I knew this rich cast of characters who swam through my life like some half-forgotten dream now. Townies and gownies, all making beautiful things, lost in the countless paint strokes, cranking out prints, throwing pots, making jewelry, the young and the old alike, making music, partying, skinny dipping, making love in dark rooms, smoking pot in the back alleys and drinking Coors nonstop, like it was the water of life. Goddamn it was fun.

It’s easy to sound like a generational narcissist, extolling the vaulted and overly inflated reputation of the Sixties and Seventies crowd. I think the artistic fires that sometimes ignite in small towns are bound to burn out… for a time. They come and go, subsiding and coming back in waves.

The Swedish landscape painter Birger Sandzen lit a creative fuse in Lindsborg in the early 1900’s. Lester Raymer fed off that heat in the Fifties and Sixties and left his legacy to the town. Mike Hartung’s powerful body of work has only recently exploded into sight and I trust that its impact will be felt for decades to come. All of that artwork can still be found in Lindsborg, in public and private collections, and out on the streets.

The art endures.

News from the Ray Troll Universe - Category: Ray Troll in the News

Juneau Empire article about Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline exhibit

Dig this: Art and science collide in new Ray Troll exhibition

Ray Troll and friends’ work comes to Alaska State Museum

Juneau Empire, May 4, 2019 by Ben Hohenstatt

Ray Troll is a paleo hipster.

The Ketchikan artist many in Southeast Alaska know for his fish pun T-shirt designs liked the Earth before it was cool and is keenly interested in underground rocks.

“I’ve been a paleo nerd for my entire life,” Troll said in an interview with the Capital City Weekly. “I never gave up loving dinosaurs. Everything prehistoric. For me it’s kind of a mission to get people turned on to a prehistoric past. I think it’s really important for people to know the history of the Earth.”

Troll is willing to go to the mats for lesser-known prehistoric creatures, such as the Tully monster — a confusing ancient aquatic animal that defies easy classification — and desmostylians — a line of marine mammals that went extinct. Desmostylians’ range included Alaska, and the animals are thought to have resembled a hippo-walrus hybrid.

“We call them desmos for short,” Troll said.“Only the connoisseurs of paleo nerdom know about them. Some of them were the size of elephants.”

Troll’s interest in paleontology goes as far back as he can remember. He said his earliest artistic memory is drawing a dinosaur with a crayon at age 4. “I’m 65 years old, and I’m still drawing dinosaurs,” Troll said.

That lifelong fascination helped lead to a 26-year-and-counting friendship with paleontologist Kirk Johnson, now director of the Smithsonian National Museum of National History, and an expansive fossil-hunting road trips along North America’s coast.

That 10,000-mile, 250-day trip led to “Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline,” a traveling exhibition organized by the Anchorage Museum that will be in Juneau at the Alaska State Museum through Oct. 19, and a book of the same title.

“This is the second book with Kirk,” Troll said. “We’ve probably driven around the Earth together. We’ve done trips to the Amazon and all over the west. He shared a lot of his knowledge with me and vice versa.”

Troll is an artist with evident exuberance for ancient plants and animals, and Johnson is a scientist who was once an art major.“He’s the scientist I always wanted to be, and I’m the artist he wanted to be,” Troll said. “It’s a melding of two disciplines.”

The cross-pollination of science and art is evident in the pieces in the “Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline.” During a docent tour previewing the exhibition, Troll was able to point out era-appropriate plants in his work and explain the anatomy of the long-dead creatures the pieces depict. Troll said the exhibition has been tailored for its Juneau audience and most of the pieces on display are related to animals that millions of years ago thrived in Alaska.

“This represents about 10 years worth of work, and there are about 60 pieces of art in the exhibit,” Troll said. ” Thirty of them being original framed pieces and the other 30 being digital outputs. “Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline” also features some works not made by Troll, including a pachyrhinosaurus statue made by Gary Staab that depicts the triceratops-like dinosaur bursting through the museum wall that seems destined to be a selfie backdrop.

The exhibition also included a handful of fossils, including bones from ichthyosaurs — an enormous marine reptile that swam the waters of Southeast Alaska. “They were the size of dinosaurs, but they were in the water,” Troll said. “We’ll show some massive ribs and some vertebrae from those. I think it will blow some minds that we had these right in Southeast Alaska.”

The collection also includes what Troll considers the pinnacle of his fossil-hunting exploits: the tooth of a Nanuqasaurus. Nanuqasauruses were a tyrannosaur that lived around the North Slope, and Troll found a tooth from one of the carnivores on the banks of the Colville River.

“It was a big moment for me,” Troll said. “When I found it, I cried.”

Know & Go

What: “Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline.”

Where: Alaska State Museum, 395 Whittier St.

When: The exhibition will be up through Oct. 19. Summer hours are 9-5 p.m. daily and begin May 6.

Admission: Admission is $12 for adults, $11 for seniors and free for those 18 and younger.



News from the Ray Troll Universe - Category: Ray Troll in the News

Alaska Airlines Magazine article, May issue 2019

It was cold for an August afternoon, but then again this was Alaska, and we were in the far north, above the Arctic Circle, high on the banks of the Colville River. A foggy drizzle spattered off our heavy raingear as we carved our way with shovels and pocketknives through mudstone hiding dinosaur bones by the hundreds.

This 2012 expedition was part of the Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline book project that I had embarked on with my paleontologist pal Kirk Johnson, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, who I’ve known for more than two decades. I call him “Doctor J” for short. The ambitious undertaking, resulting in our 2018 book, had us looking at the fossil record of the West Coast of North America from Baja, Mexico, all the way up to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.

Next to me, Kirk dug an amazingly precise hole, with exact edges and a clearly defined square shape to it—he is a scientist after all, and that’s just the way they do things. My hole was far less organized. But I’m an artist, so I’m easily distracted by things such as screeching peregrine falcons circling overhead or my own imagination which runs wild with dreams of finding a tyrannosaur fossil. I’ve had this crazy hope my entire life, ever since scrawling my first crayon drawings as a little kid. In the great hierarchy of dinosaurs, there is nothing bigger or nastier than a T. rex, and I’ve always craved the personal thrill that would come from  discovering one of my very own.

Any paleo-nerd can tell you that T. rex lived 66 million years ago in the late Cretaceous period. We were digging in rocks that were thought be 69 million years old, so there was little chance of finding an actual Tyrannosaurus rex. But there was the possibility that we could find its Alaskan relative, Nanuqsaurus hoglundi, a member of the tyrannosaur family that was just as terrifying as its cousin.

The problem was that we’d been on the Colville for a week, our adventure nearing its end, and none of the five members of our expedition had found a single bit of a meat-eating dinosaur fossil. All we had discovered were hundreds of pieces of juvenile duckbilled dinosaurs, Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis, an Inupiat name meaning “Ancient Grazer.”

Then Kirk yelped, “Check this out!” He held up the tooth of a raptor called Troodon. The tooth was beautifully serrated, like the finest of steak knives. I was thrilled for Kirk. Really I was.

Fossil envy can be a powerfully motivating force, so after celebrating Kirk’s find, I looked over at his tidy mini-quarry and thought that if I dug along the same level, maybe I could make my own discovery. A few minutes later, I flicked open a dark clod of dirt with my knife, and there it was: a large tyrannosaur tooth, broken at the base, as if, perhaps, it had just snapped off while chewing on the bones of an unlucky baby Ugrunaaluk.

Tears welled up in my eyes in a weird mixture of joy, exhaustion and relief. I was 58 years old at the time but I felt like I was five again, touching my beloved monster for the first time in the real world.

The next day, I stayed back at camp to draw in my sketchbook. The act of drawing helps me solidify the images playing through my mind’s eye. Ever since moving to Ketchikan in 1983, Alaska and its vast wonders have been an endless source of inspiration for my “scientifically surreal” art. At first it was fish and the state’s vast fishing culture that fired my creative energies, but as I spent more time with people like Kirk, I rekindled my lifelong love of all things prehistoric. Working on our book opened my eyes to the astounding fossil riches of my home state. I had learned about mammoths in Fairbanks, ammonites in the Matanuska valley, palm fronds near Sitka, extinct marine mammals from Unalaska, and even a 15-million-year-old tapir from Homer. Along with all of those wonderful finds, I had developed a true appreciation for deep geologic time and our precarious place here on the planet.

At camp I thought about my tyrannosaur tooth, which I had found amid a jumbled field of baby duckbills. What act had played out on this spot so long ago? Perhaps a flood or tsunami wiped out an entire flock of the young herbivores, and then the scavengers had arrived to clean up the carcasses. Or maybe a pack of raptors did the dirty work and the tyrannosaur merely came along later and picked at the scraps? Pencil and tooth in hand, I got to work.

From Ketchikan, Ray Troll creates fishy images that swim into museums, books and magazines, and onto t-shirts worn around the world. Troll’s drawings from the Colville River expedition and the tyrannosaur tooth are displayed as part of the “Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline” exhibit at the Alaska State Museum in Juneau showing now through October of 2019.    

News from the Ray Troll Universe - Category: Ray Troll in the News

Seattle Times, Pacific NW Magazine Cover Story on “Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline”

In the department of “Hot off the presses”, The Seattle Times just published a Pacific NW Magazine cover story about Ray and Kirk’s “Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline” collaboration, written by Kirk Johnson himself! Read it here: The real Seattle Freeze: ‘Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline’ explores the compelling topography of the Puget Sound landscape.

News from the Ray Troll Universe - Category: Ray Troll in the News

I Am a Herring!

Some say “Mea Culpa”, I get to say “Mea Clupea” or “I am a Herring!”

Italy’s Dr. Giorgio Carnevale has honored me by naming an extinct genus of Eocene “round bellied” herring after me. The paper was published earlier this spring, so I did a small drawing of my extinct fish and sent it to Giorgio in thanks.

 See :


News from the Ray Troll Universe - Category: Ray Troll in the News

Guggenheim Fellowship

On April 6, Kirk Johnson and Ray Troll were awarded a joint Fellowship in the Science Writing category from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to support their book project entitled, Cruisin’ the Eternal Coastline: the Best of the Fossil West from Baja to Barrow. In 2011, Guggenheim fellowships were awarded to 180 scientists, artists, and scholars (there were only two awards in the Science Writing category). The Fellowship will provide Troll and Johnson with $50,000 that will support the completion of their project.Here is a description of their project:

We propose to write and illustrate a book entitled, Cruisin’ the Eternal Coastline: The Best of the Fossil West from Baja to Barrow. This 75,000 word, full-color book will be 204 pages long and will feature 20 paintings, hand-drawn maps for each state, more than 100 small drawings, and over 100 photographs. This book will cover the West Coast, reaching from Baja, California to Barrow, Alaska with a focus on the population-rich areas of California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska. Our goal is to create a widely distributed book that is accessible to a broad range of audiences and that opens their eyes to the vast span of geologictime and evolutionary history that surrounds them.

This is a collaborative effort that combines the science writing of Kirk Johnson and the art of Ray Troll to create a popular book about the geology and paleontology of the West Coast of North America. Johnson is a geologist, paleontologist, science writer, and the Vice President of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Troll is a fine artist and musician who is widely known in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest for his iconic public art, books, t-shirts, and imagery.

Our previous collaborations have included the award-winning 2007 book, Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway: An Epoch Tale of a Scientist and an Artist on the Ultimate 5,000-mile Paleo Road Trip and its associated hand-drawn Rocky Mountain wall map, as well as museum exhibits, music, and magazine articles. Our collaborative style is colorful, fun, and engaging. We seek to make art and science work together to help our readers grasp the magnitude and significance of the biggest story of all: the evolution of life on our planet.

Kirk and Ray horsing around with Pliocene aged Mega-Scallops from the sediments of San Diego ( Patinopecten healeyi ). These beauties are in the collection at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.

News from the Ray Troll Universe - Category: Ray Troll in the News

Rasmuson Award

When I was given the Rasmuson 2011 Distinguished Artist Award they also announced it in the online world of Second Life. Here’s my stylin’ avatar hanging out in the Ray Troll Gallery section.

Ketchikan’s Ray Troll receives 2011 Rasmuson Distinguished Artist Award

press release courtesy of the Rasmuson Foundation

May 18, 2011 – He may be best known for his fishy images on T-shirts, and popular books and publications on aquatic life, but Ketchikan Artist Ray Troll joined an elite group of Alaska artists today by receiving the 2011 Rasmuson Foundation Distinguished Artist Award. Troll is the eighth Alaskan artist to receive the award, which was announced at a morning ceremony in Anchorage. The Distinguished Artist Award recognizes artists with stature, and a history of creative excellence and accomplishments in the arts with $25,000 in unrestricted funds.

“Ray Troll has brought a unique blend of art and science to museums, books, magazines — and even clothing,” said Diane Kaplan, Rasmuson Foundation president and CEO. “This award recognizes Ray’s long history of creative excellence and accomplishment in the arts worldwide.”

Troll moved to Alaska in 1983 and he operates the Soho Coho Gallery in Ketchikan. His wildly imaginative work combines serious scientific study, a unique artistic esthetic, and a love of cheeseburgers for a style that is unmistakably his own.

He is an Alaskan ambassador to the world. He has mounted four nationally touring exhibits, published six books, and has received dozens of commissions including those from the Smithsonian, Greenpeace, and Tokyo’s Museum of Science and Nature. Most recently, he and science writer Kirk Johnson were awarded a $50,000 joint fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to support a book project Cruisin the Eternal Coastline: The Best of the Fossil West from Baja to Barrow.

Troll has served as art director for the Miami Museum of Science, appeared on the Discovery Channel, lectured at Cornell, Harvard and Yale and has shown work at the Smithsonian. He is a 2006 recipient of the Alaska Governor’s Award for the Arts and won a gold medal for distinction in the natural history arts from the Academy of Natural Sciences in 2007.

About the Individual Artist Awards

In December 2003, the Rasmuson Foundation Board of Directors launched a multi-year initiative to make a significant investment into the arts and cultural resources of the state. Designed with the help from artists and arts organizations from around the state, the initiative prioritized support to practicing artists themselves as a key strategy to ensure Alaska enjoys a vibrant art and culture community.

This is the eighth year of the Individual Artist Awards program, and as of today, the program has awarded 230 grants, totaling $1.7 million dollars, directly to Alaska artists. The purpose of the awards is to allow artists to seek a variety of creative opportunities, including providing them with the time necessary to focus on creative work.

About the Foundation

The Rasmuson Foundation was created in May 1955 by Jenny Rasmuson to honor her late husband, “E.A.” Rasmuson. The Foundation is a catalyst to promote a better life for all Alaskans.

News from the Ray Troll Universe - Category: Ray Troll in the News

Crusin’ the Fossil Freeway in the News

Signed Copies now available in the Ray Troll online store.

Listen to our online interview with NPR’s Weekend Edition.

“In Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway, Kirk Johnson and Ray Troll recount their rollicking road-trips through the Rocky Mountain region, and their writing and artwork tell the tale of the fossils, food, and friends they meet along the way. Paging through the book is like being chauffeured by a pair of paleontological prestidigitators across America’s prime fossil real estate.

Kirk’s writing conjures up multiple layers of history from the landscapes they pass through: the ancient environments where sediments accumulated and hardened into rock, the processes that brought these rocks to the surface and shaped the current scenery, and, most of all, the ongoing stories of discoveries made by scientists, collectors, and fossil fanatics throughout this geologic wonderland. Ray’s artwork brings each of these histories to life and mixes them together in a sort of deep-time gumbo: dinosaurs rise from the dead and amble alongside pickup trucks and gas stations, prehistoric mammals pose for portraits, and wide-eyed ichthyosaurs and half-coiled ammonites dreamily float alongside monster movies and cheeseburgers.

Ultimately, Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway is like getting several books in one: geology primer, road-trip travelogue, collection of scientific-surrealist art, and exposé of the “paleonerd” subculture in the American West. If you’ve ever driven down an open highway, looked out at the rocks around you and briefly wondered if there might be dinosaur bones buried there, then you’ll definitely want a copy for your bookshelf.”

Matt Celeskey – Paleo Artist and Chief Curator of the Hairy Museum of Natural History

“ No one- not even the Steven Spielberg- can explain the magic of the Jurassic as cleverly and comprehensively as America’s current Master of the Mesozoic, Kirk Johnson. Now, together with the magnificently eccentric fossil-artist Ray Troll, Kirk reports on a paleontological odyssey that manages to be informative, witty, educational-and enormous fun.”

 Simon Winchester – Author of The Map that Changed the World, Krakatoa, and A Crack in the Edge of the World

“ Johnson relates the stories of the great discoveries in paleontology and peoples them with a rogue’s gallery of parched academics and mercenary treasure hunters. In the end, the reader is holding the strongest, most delightful of texts- an adventure story, a memoir, a handbook, a history, a guide. And a refreshing sense that Earth is resilient and enduring.”

Peter Heller – Contributing editor for Outside and National Geographic Adventure Magazines. Author of Hell or High Water and The Whale Warriors

“ I hereby nominate Ray Troll and Kirk Johnson for the 2007 Monty Python Razzle-Dazzle Paleontology Prize for excellence in communicating the joy of fossil hunting. By the time you finish this book you will know more about dinosaurs, trilobites, and ammonites than you ever wanted to, and you’ll never even realize that you were learning all this great stuff! ”

Richard Ellis – American Museum of Natural History research associate, author of The Empty Ocean

Signed copies of the book can be found in our webstore.

News from the Ray Troll Universe - Category: Ray Troll in the News

Ratfish Wranglers in the News

From The Anchorage Daily News

You got the T-shirt — now plug in the CD
Published: February 24th, 2008 02:00 AM

From The Ketchikan Daily News
March 1st 2008

Also Alec Dickinson with KRBD FM does an audio interview with Ray about the Wranglers


“Troll and his band take over where the B-52s ‘Rock Lobster’ left off in the late 80s/many years ago. Living the artist’s life in Ketchikan, Alaska for 25 years, Troll has swum far below the currents of modern art and music, and surfaced for air with a net full of images and songs about such underwater oddities as the ratfish, the sex life of the salmon and the legendary Bombastodon.Set to a hypnotic beat that pounds like a fishboat diesel, and backed up by a loose-knit set of friends including a champion fiddle player and siren-like back-up singers, his songs reach out to the spirit of the fisherman in all of us!”

Peter Marsh – Freshwater News


Jeff Bown’s  audio interview with Ray about the CD (Jeff is from KTOO, FM Juneau). Click here.