Monday, April 13, 2009

Deleted Scene from Dinotopia

Once in a while a picture idea goes all the way from the storyboard to the finished illustration before you realize it’s a dud.

Here’s a deleted scene from Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time (1992). Norah, the matriarch of Treetown is supposed to be having a conversation with a dinosaur.

There are a lot of problems with this picture. Both Norah and the dinosaur are talking at the same time. They don’t seem to exist in the same light or space. You can tell that I was looking at a snapshot of a model (Betty Ballantine) for the person, and I let the photo snuff out my imagination.

I didn’t have a clear idea of two characters driven by a real, emotional situation. I wasn’t sure what I was trying to say; I was just pushing paint around. When that happens, be merciless. Put the picture aside, or stick it on the Gallery Flambeau.

17 comments:

Erik Bongers said...

...or use it on a blog as an example for the 'not making off'.

Thanks for sharing the self-critical analysis. Very helpfull.

Drew said...

I forgot about the Gallery Flambeau! A medieval torture device, or a Rube Goldberg method of disposing artwork? You be the judge.

Judging from the piece, it looks like you lay on your paint pretty dryly, or at least you did in this one. I don't know if you ever covered it, but how much paint do you end up laying into a piece? I know some artists who use globs of it and paint really wet, while others do the thinnest of glazes.

Andrew Wales said...

It is strangely encouraging to know that you make duds!

:::Julia Lundman::: said...

I've always been curious about how you figure out lighting and color choices for your paintings. So, you use models? I think it's the big epic scenes that especially blow me away. How on earth do you figure those out? I would love to see a demo or any other information sometime about your process, especially in regards to models and posing the figure. (I have trouble with this myself)

Jon Hrubesch said...

Thank you for this. It makes me feel better. I've just begun painting on my new WACOM tablet. Eager to get started I found myself diving straight into painting the subject and the lighting for it before creating a background from which the light source would be directed. I put a fair number of hours into it before I realized it felt all wrong. It's nice to know everyone can mess up.

Steve said...

A burning question (about Gallery Flambeau): does "laser-mounted" mean something like a red laser pointer was reflected off each mirror to a single convergence point?

Great post!

r8r said...

It can be very hard for an artist to let go of a failed picture. The preciousness of it all, you know...

Any advice for how to concsciously develop the callous detachment that allows one to commit the ill-made object to the fireplace?

It took me years to figure out, but eventually I managed it, and heated the house one winter with a roomful of old stuff...

Victor said...

Have you considered re-purposing this piece as a Christmas card? It sort of looks like Mrs. Claus is singing carols with a dinosaur!

:::Julia Lundman::: said...

or have a caption contest!

Rod said...

At the risk of impertinence, I think the root problem in the painting is that the dinosaur isn't actually looking at the woman it's supposedly talking to, and if that were changed the other issues wouldn't look nearly as daunting. If you were going to work on a seventeen-year-old painting whose context is a book that it's already been left out of, that is!

Emma Kirsopp said...

I have just posted about the Gallery Flambeau ( with image from your blog) with full credit of course. Is this ok to do?

James Gurney said...

Emma, yes, that's quite OK to put content from GurneyJourney on any non-commercial blog or website with a link back. Thanks for asking.

Julia, I love your idea of a caption contest. I'll try that sometime.

Rod, you raise a good point on eyelines, a difficult problem both in painting and in CG animation; grist for a future post!

Victor: I suppose the Christmas carol would be something about "Deck the halls with boughs of ginkgo."

Andy: Yes, there are plenty of duds. As John Sargent said, "Painting is making the most of an emergency."

Drew: For this kind of picture I put the paint on very thinly and dryly. The nice thing about this oil technique is that you can slather in on thickly too if you want or anything inbetween.

Julia: Thanks, but it's too big a question to answer here..though I think I've covered parts of it on previous posts.

Nathalie said...

Mr Gurney,

Would it be possible to have a 'caption contest' or 'whats the story' writing contest at the OMB for this picture?

Breathe Deep Seek Peace, Nathalie/ Vorchia

James Gurney said...

Hi, Nathalie,
I think a caption contest is a wonderful idea. I wish I had thought of it before posting! If you'd like to do that on the Official Message Board, that would be great. Thanks for thinking of it, and say hi to Azonthus and everybody.

Nathalie said...

Well that was a very fast reply, thank you! The caption contest has been posted in the 'art' section of the OMB. ^_^
((http://ombdinotopia.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=art&thread=992&page=1#10449))

By the way, the OMB surpassed the 'magical' boundary of 10.000 posts this week!

Breathe Deep Seek Peace, Nathalie/ Vorchia

Bayard said...

We only got into dinotopia recently but are now loving it! We've gone completely dinosaur mad at home and even been making dinosaur masks from papier-mache! There is competition on this month from www.adventureboxbooks.com which we've had fun doing, as you have write a pangram and try to win a dinotopia dvd. The kids had a lot of fun entering anyway! Anyway, off to play dinosaurs with them in the garden now - the weather is so lovely! x

dinogrl said...

Thank you for showing your mistakes. It's a great teaching tool. Is Norah of the finished book modeled from Betty? She is such a gracious and classy lady, and as it pains me to say it, that painting does not flatter her at all! Of course the dinosaur is great as a stand alone piece.
I got the book and the other goodies safely too. Thank you so much for the map as well! Hope to see you at WorldCon in Montreal this year!
-Spring AKA:"Dinogrl"