Friday, October 5, 2012

Part 2: Pteranodons / Maquette

Ranger Rick's design director, Donna Miller, chose sketch #3 from the thumbnails I showed yesterday, and she had the inspired idea to flop the design so that the Pteranodon faced right.

Meanwhile I had been doing lots of research. I looked at photos of fossils and reconstructions of skeletons (both drawings and sculptures). I also studied lots of photos and videos of modern aquatic birds to learn how they take off, land, and hunt. 

Next I needed to build a quick maquette to see how the forms looked in 3D.

I started with a skeleton out of aluminum armature wire,  matching the size of all the parts to scale drawings. Then I bulked out the body parts with Fimo Effect polymer clay. I've found this kind of oven-hardening clay has a bit more flexibility after it cures in the oven compared to other brands.
For the wing membrane I used the Tyvek material from a FedEx envelope. Tyvek is much stronger than paper, and less prone to wrinkling. I ran a very thin wire along the back edge of the wing to hold it in position. Everything was glued with a hot melt glue gun. Then I sprayed the whole assembly outdoors with gray spray-on primer, and painted it with acrylic paint

Where I needed a little more specularity on the beak and head, I painted some gloss medium. Now I had a reference tool with posable wings that I could take outdoors into real sunlight to study the effects of light and shade.

Every photo was full of little surprises. For example, who would have thought of the cast shadow of that cranial process on the far wing?

Tomorrow I'll show how the final painting went together.

The Pteranodon series:
Part 1: Pteranodons / Thumbnails
Part 2: Pteranodons / Maquette
Part 3: Pteranodons / Step by Step


Matthew Meyer said...

This is wonderful! I love seeing and reading about your process!

Elaine Chen said...

This is quiet surprising! the shadow would make it such a nice touch. Thank you for sharing this process!

Anonymous said...

"Ptop Pten" ...LOL!
- Margie

Anonymous said...


First of all--thanks so much for your continued sharing of your process and expertise. You are truly an inspiration.

I am constantly amazed at how you consistently approach your work with so much thought, care, & discipline. Have you always been that way? Or is it a quality you've had to cultivate? Maybe a combination of both? Do you fight the demons of distraction that are more and more persuasive nowadays with the advent of the internet? Or are you immune from their temptations?

If you have any tips for how you are able to maintain such a high level of quality work output, I'd love to hear them.

Thanks again!

James Gurney said...

Anon, thanks for the kind words. I'm just as prone to internet distraction as the next guy (Huge sucker for funny animal videos). As far as making maquettes, I have to silence the little voice that always speaks up after sketch stage that says: 'No need to bother with reference on this job--just get out the paints.' I'm always glad when I put in the extra effort because I believe it makes a difference in the final result.