Friday, September 8, 2017

Planning Stages

Here are three stages in planning Dinosaur Boulevard for Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time

The first one is a grisaille study in oil, about 3 x 6 inches. I wanted to organize the values of the scene— a very light sky, a pale row of buildings, and then deep darks unifying the foreground elements.

The purpose of the second study is to work out the perspective and overlapping.

For any scene this complex, it's a big help to break down the planning stages into several discrete stages, with the goal of solving a different problem with each sketch.

The original painting is on its way to Athens, where it will be on exhibit as part of the big science fiction exhibit that was most recently in London (link to video overview).
The painting appears in the book Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time
Signed from my website store and Also available from Amazon


Bob said...

Seeing the picture's elements adjust as the whole takes shape demonstrates the wisdom behind solving one problem with each iteration. Thus you're applying the Seventh Code of Dinotopia (Do one thing at a time) to a Dinotopian painting!

Luca said...

Thanks a lot for this step by step! I'm a bit curious about the long necked dinosaur we see far away, isolated. The composition puts it in a very important place (the perspective, the other dinosaur and the chariot pointing towards it, the "rule of thirds" , the shape of the road and of the crowd, the negative space around it getting bigger at each step, etc etc), but since i doubt that you wanted to focus on something so far away, did you use it as a "filler" to occupy an important place you couldn't leave blank and lead the eye back to the center of the scene? Or, on the contrary, did you stage all the composition to focus on something very far away to give the feeling of a very long and crowded road?

James Gurney said...

Luca, I see what you mean about what the Rules of Composition would say about the importance of that brachiosaur down the avenue. I suppose that registers for a second and helps the viewer realize—hey, this street is full of dinosaurs. B

ut immediately after that I would suppose the attention goes to the human stories: the figures and dinosaurs in the middle ground—the women directing the Stegosaurus, etc. The only way to know for sure would be to do an eye tracking heat map study with a group of people. My guess is that human stories will always win the eye over compositional determinism.

Bob, that's funny, and really true. I learned that practice of "one problem at a time" from Rockwell's books on his process.

Luca said...

Thanks for your answer, James! You are right, of course: something i really love in your paintings is the story behind little details here and there. Something i love too in many Rockwell's illustrations and Tom Lovell historical paintings, for example (and i see a lot of them in your works, which is a wonderful thing in my opinion).

Anyway, i know that your warned many times against the risk of relying too much on "rules", but i've got a scientific mind and i'm always trying to find a logic, a reason, an universal law in everything, ah ah!
But in this case i think that i unintentionally obtained a "squinting" effect. At small resolution,colors and shapes simplified and the composition was more evident, so the brachiosaur caught my attention. But i found an higher resolution image of the painting and i could finally appreciate the details, the stories of characters, their personalities, etc. For example, at higher resolution i noticed that in front of the famous brachiosaur there is a very romantic couple hugging that i totally missed at small resolution.

What i learned from this story is that a smaller image is good for understanding the masses, the big shapes, the blocks of values, etc, but also that a painting should be seen at the right size to be fully appreciated. Otherwise is like reading the plot of a novel: you understand what happens in the book, but you miss all the poetry in it.