|Outsider Artist, oil by James Gurney|
This oil painting of a frog-like alien artist currently appears in the museum exhibition "The Art of James Gurney." He holds a palette and a paintbrush loaded up with paint, while behind him is a dark fabric background.
But he didn't begin life that way. The earlier version of the oil painting was commissioned for a paperback cover about intergalactic war. It had a tighter cropping on his face, with a row of warriors painted in front of him.
I didn't really like the montage or the tight cropping or the warrior theme. I wanted to explore the little guy's character more. I figured that with those amazing eyes he would see the world differently from the rest of us. Maybe he could be an artist, the ultimate outsider artist.
Luckily I painted him on a white canvas panel with quite a bit of extra margin. So I sanded out the figures and the edge where I had taped off the rectangle.
To understand that froggy hand better, I sculpted a reference maquette out of Sculpey polymer clay over a framework of aluminum armature wire. I also sculpted the half-figure of the creature (below).
I could have just invented the hand from my imagination, and it might have been 95% as good, but it was that last 5% I was determined to get.------
"The Art of James Gurney is an exhibition of about 25 original paintings on the UARTS campus in Philadelphia, through November 16.
The finished painting was published on the cover of Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist. The original paperback was called The Fleet: Sworn Allies by David Drake.
Previously on GurneyJourney: Elf Alien (Sketches and head maquette study)