How do you make a maquette of an ancient-looking tree for a fantasy painting? Trees are such complicated things that it would take forever to make all the branches and leaves from scratch.
What I did for Treetown in Dinotopia was to start with a real branch and use that as an armature for the tree. I attached the branch to a wood base, and then beefed it up with plastiline modeling clay modeling clay. Clay is cheap and can be reused when you're done with the maquette. I built the treehouse structures in the tree out of other sticks and cardboard held together with a hot glue gun. Chunks of styrofoam from a packing box served as rocks, and a mirror stood in for a lake.
The final painting didn't look much like the maquette, but building the miniature helped me to really imagine the world in three dimensions.
Order the original Dinotopia book signed by the author with a "making-of" afterword.
Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time from Amazon
Previously: Treetown (Part of the series on the making of Dinotopia)