ImagineFX is the premier magazine for fantasy art instruction. In the new April 2008 issue, there is a special feature on dinosaur art. Alongside Greg Broadmore, Daryl Mandryk and Bob Eggleton, I offer 25 of my most helpful tips for reconstructing dinosaurs.
On Gurney Journey every Thursday for the next five weeks, I’ll be sharing those dino-art tips five at a time. To get the full impact, go out and pick up the magazine, which comes with a free DVD tutorial disk. Here are the first five dinosaur art tips:
1. Go to museums
If you live near a natural history museum, start there to gather your research. Sketch and photograph the skulls and the mounted skeletons. Most photos in books show the standard side-views of skeletons, but if you’re standing next to the real things, you can choose unusual perspectives, as well as getting a true sense of scale.
2. Talk to paleontologists
Paleontologists are nearly always willing to share their expertise with artists. In my experience they’ve been very accessible, and they’ll answer any questions you might have. Call the natural history museum in your area, or the local university’s paleontology or geology department for contacts.
3. Learn from animal analogues
Use wildlife photos laterally rather than literally. Even though the basic anatomy of modern animals is totally different from dinosaurs, you can glean a lot of information from pictures of elephants, rhinos, crocodiles, and birds. Start a reference collection, either digitally or from photos torn out of wildlife magazines. Stick up a lot of related photos to give you ideas for wrinkles, scaliness, and specularity.
4. Study wildife films
It helps to visualize a pose as a part of a continous motion. Looking at still wildlife photos helps to a degree, but there’s no substitute for studying a slow-motion action sequence on a DVD or YouTube. The recent BBC documentaries are a treasure-trove. They will give you fresh ideas for things like nesting, parenting, flocking, flying, and attack and kill sequences.
5. Feathered friends
Putting feathers on dinosaurs is a fad these days. How could it not be, with the incredible fossil material coming out of the Liaoning Province of China? But sticking feathers on every dinosaur is an understandable pet peeve of many critics. If you want to be conservative, you’re safe feathering most of the small theropods. There’s less likelihood that the larger-bodied animals and the plant-eaters were feathered.
Wildlife photos from Wikipedia Commons
Tomorrow: The Windmill Principle