Thursday, March 17, 2016

Painting the Giant Bird Pelagornis



The April issue of Scientific American magazine includes a feature on Pelagornis, the largest known flying bird with a 21 foot wingspan. You can see the artwork being created in this free six-minute video. (Link to YouTube)


In the sketches, I focus on the bird taking flight, since flight dynamics is the emphasis of the authors of the scientific study. These birds were specialized for soaring flight, not flapping. Taking off would be a big moment. Design director Michael Mrak likes the basic design of #1, with the warm color scheme of the one in the lower right.



I make the "2D to 3D" maquette out of paper, armature wire, and two-part epoxy sculpting compound called Magic Sculpt. It's stronger than Sculpey, and doesn't need to go in the oven. The YouTube video shows the construction method.



The final art is oil on illustration board, about 12 x 18 inches. It appears in the April, 2016 issue of Scientific American magazine.
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Read more about 2D to 3D maquettes on a previous post.
Materials: Magic Sculpt epoxy clay, Tacky glue, armature wire, Acryla Gouache

12 comments:

Steve said...

Great video; always inspirational to see how you work your way through the steps -- including repainting the tail. Hearing Pelagornis preyed on squid, I'd have been deeply tempted to do a painting that included a wriggling squid. I know, I know.. this has to be all about the bird achieving lift-off but the image of a squid clenched in that toothy beak would be hard to pass up...

Sesco said...

I wonder if there were more giant squid swimming near the ocean surface back in those days, or is this dietary preference how the Pelagornis became extinct... Thanks for another look into your process. It's amazing to me the number of steps involved in one scientific painting.

Steven Powers said...

I love the way you create a simple maquette to obtain your pose. Again thanks for the great video. I find them very inspiring and informative.

Tobias Gembalski said...

It is a beautiful painting.
Thank you very much for letting us participate on doing this painting through your video, which probably took also some time and effort to be created.

Emmanuel Laverde said...

James, you are the genious of light!

Emmanuel Laverde said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bobby La said...

Wow. The Lockheed Martin U-2 Dragon Lady of birds. Great work, great vid.

Krystal said...

Once again, the picture is impressive. The feeling of light stricking. Thank you so much for sharing your process with us. Every time I am watching one of your video, it gives me such an urge to paint my own subject.

HNK said...

I will agree with Krystal, but not only your videos, but the whole blog gives me an urge to paint. It is a knowledge and inspiration source.
Thanks for the video.

Matt Dicke said...

Great Video. Always inspiring. Love the model part and how you built it from flat 2d print outs. might have to try that and the modeling epoxy. THanks for the tip!

Warren JB said...

In addition to the other comments, I get a kick out of that second photo. Looks like a very persistent birdwatcher...

Rich said...

Thanks for that Super-Albatross. The smaller birds I enjoyed as well, reflecting this perfect warm orange-tinted lighting of a late afternoon.

You spare no effort in your workings...nuff said: the result thereof speaks for itself.