Saturday, April 28, 2018

Beside a Triassic Pond

The scene is a forest pond, with several croc-like metoposaurids called Koskinonodons basking in the shallows, absorbing the warmth of a patch of sunlight.

Triassic Pond, casein, gouache, and acrylic, James Gurney, 2018
The flora is a mix of cycads, tree ferns, horsetail ferns, ginkgo, and other Triassic plant forms. Meanwhile, a small group of dinosaur precursors emerge tentatively from the shadows, hoping to get a safe drink. 

The giant amphibians usually eat fish, but they'll snatch an unwary dinosaur. Dinosaurs don't rule the world—they live at the margins. 


It's mid-winter as I prepare for this painting, which appears in the current (May, 2018) issue of Scientific American Magazine. There's a foot of snow on the ground, and we're hit with a total electrical blackout that lasts for days. 

But since my methods are mostly old-school, I'm able to sculpt a maquette using Sculpey for the metoposaurid and Model Magic for the bank. I fill a take-out container with muddy water, and set the creature in a basking position. The maquette helps me understand where light turns to shadow and where to place the highlights.
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Check out my DVD How I Paint Dinosaurs
Also available as a download from Gumroad

6 comments:

Some Person said...

Hello James, I'm a current student majoring in illustration. I learned a lot from "Imaginative Realism" and "How I Paint Dinosaurs" and would like to know what other resources you used to learn sculpting maquettes and anything else you would recommend.

Fred said...

Hi James, I’m always fascinated to read about the process behind your commissions for Scientific American Magazine. Is it possible you might produce a sequel video to How I Paint Dinosaurs?

Warren JB said...

You even make the maquette look effortless! Perhaps not the most refined finish, but that adds to the natural pose that makes it look like it's about to turn or lunge or slide back at any moment.

Philip Newsom said...

Do you get feedback from a paleontologist on your maquette before starting the painting?

James Gurney said...

Philip, Yes, I worked with Stephen Brusatte, who wrote the article, and showed him the development of the sketches and maquettes.

Virginia Rinkel said...

Love how you can work through an electrical shutdown, and I like using the old school methods too.