Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Titanoboa, Part 1

For the next week or so, I’ll be sharing the story of the making of six recent paintings that will be appearing in the upcoming October issue of Ranger Rick magazine.

If it’s not on the newsstand already, it will be very soon. The article is about six of the strangest recent discoveries in fossil science.

One of the subjects is the giant snake Titanoboa, the largest snake yet discovered, known from its remarkable vertebrae, which dwarf that of a modern anaconda, shown beside it for comparison. All we really have to start with are a few bones like this.

The rest I had to conjecture by extrapolation from living snakes. How do you show it was over forty feet long? I thought it would be cool to show it in a death match with a crocodile.

There are videos of anacondas killing and swallowing crocodilians called caimans. This usually happens underwater, but I wanted to show the Titanoboa lifting part way out of the water.


So I sketched it over and over again in several pages of thumbnail sketches like these. I liked the one in the upper right, and tomorrow you’ll see that the final painting follows this mental conception fairly closely.

This was the comprehensive sketch I showed the art director. It’s about the size of a trading card, and it's made with water-soluble colored pencils and a water brush filled with black ink. Tomorrow I’ll show you how I went from this comp to the finish.

12 comments:

Erik Bongers said...

upper right is what cought my attention too. I guess the victim's hand helps here.

It shows that the simplest of sketches - scribbles and doodles really - are enough to pick a strong composition or pose.

Kendra Melton said...

Wow I haven't heard Ranger Rick Magazine in years. I'm glad its still around and hasn't been taken off the market.

That comp looks intense, can't wait to see the final! The size ratio is working really well it almost looks like a snake and its toy alligator.

Glendon Mellow said...

I remember deciding to live in the tree in our backyard when I was about 7 years old, and taking a knapsack full of Ranger Rick magazines and a peanut butter sandwich up the tree with me.

Glad to see it retains high standards with you James! I'll have to watch out for that one.

Allison said...

That's amazing! I love the working out sketches...these are so full of life!

Allison

www.allisonlowepaintingdiary.blogspot.com

Steve said...

For virtually every one of my 30 years teaching elementary school, I subscribed to Ranger Rick for my classroom. It will be strange to have to track one down in a bookstore, but I certainly will!

James Gurney said...

Kendra, Steve, and Glendon: Ranger Rick is just as great a magazine as it was when we subscribed for our kids, who are now in college and beyond.

It's still my favorite magazine for animal reference photos for the illustrator, and the writing is compact and accurate, as writing for children always must be.

Drew said...

Wow, Ranger Rick! I was always excited to get a new copy when I was a kid...I'm quite surprised (and happy!) to see it's still around.

There's other incidents of snakes fighting crocodiles (or, in this next case, alligators), mostly right here in FL. Pythons escaped into the wild years back, and have become an invasive species, living comfortably at the top of the food chain, though it puts them in direct competition with the native alligators in the area.

So naturally, fights between the species break out, over food, territory, etc. There's been quite a few times where the python miracuously wins, then proceeds to devour the gator...in the end, the gator always gets the last laugh: Either he kills the python in the deathmatch and lives to hunt another day, or HE get's killed and promptly swallowed by the python, which causes the python the python to explode just from the sheer size of the gator being too large for the python.

If you ever see photos of it, it always looks like those cartoon renderings of snakes eating things far larger than them: there's always a perfect outline of the gator inside the snake. The only difference is the snake has practically split at both ends from overeating...

C B Sorge said...

I also loved Ranger Rick as a kid! I'm very excited to see the work you did for the magazine- giant reptiles and prehistoric creatures always grab my attention!

Eric Braddock said...

I remember reading about this a short while back, so awesome that you'll be doing an illustration for it! Cannot wait to see the finish!

Munchanka said...

Fantastic sketches, Jim, The video is amazing! I like how you captured the hand silhouetted against the negative space, suggesting a last plea for help.

Tyler J said...

As always, I'm enjoying the process steps, so thanks for sharing.

Do you always work tonally? Even for roughs they have a fair degree of sophistication so I wonder if that is just the master hand from years of experience or if you flesh each them out more to help give you a better idea of where to go next.

asdy said...

wow....
That's amazing!