I was shooting photo reference for a series of games in Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara, and I had some young friends of mine posing for a game called “graces.” This was a popular game in early America. It involves launching a wooden hoop from two dowel rods.
After I shot a bunch of photos of this hoop game, the girl told me she was pretty good at making faces. Yeah, sure, I thought. Every kid likes to make funny faces, but how many are truly gifted at “gurning?”
Gurning, by the way, is the art of using your face to look completely ridiculous. I’m something of an expert on this. Being a Gurney I come from a family with genetic advantages for making silly faces (although I'm waiting to lose all my teeth to achieve the truly championship-level gurns).
My young friend demonstrated a few of her best gurns, and I realized I was in the presence of a master.
Then her brother, no slouch himself, launched into a few of his best gurns, including the famous “pig nose,” “mouth-stretch,” and “super-pucker.” These take more than just practice. They take instinct and artistry.
I had no choice but to change my idea for the picture. I discarded the idea of graces and went for a gurning contest instead. Since this was Dinotopia, there had to be a dinosaur gurning as well. I believe this is the first painting in history of a “Gurnasaurus.”