Friday, January 25, 2008


Tomorrow the Allentown Art Museum in Pennsylvania will open an exhibition of artwork from the National Geographic magazine. The show includes over a hundred paintings from the magazine’s 120-year history.

I’m very excited to have three paintings in the show, especially since the show contains the work of some of my all-time heroes, like Tom Lovell (see post on Lovell on the blog Lines and Colors).

One of my pictures shows the giant meat-eating dinosaur Giganotosaurus, which made a stir in the paleo universe because it was said to be larger than T.rex.

I met the Argentinian paleontologist Dr. Rodolfo Coria on October 7, 1994, a few short months after he had uncovered the bones, and before he had even come up with a name for the creature.

But even before I painted the Geographic piece, I did this rendering of Giganotosaurus for Dinotopia: The World Beneath (1995).

When it came to coloring the dinosaur I called Dr. Coria: “This is your dinosaur,” I said. “What color do you want him to be?”

“Color?” he replied. “That’s your problem.” So I took the artistic liberty of giving the dinosaur a bright color scheme to make him look as impressive as possible.

A year after The World Beneath was published, National Geographic asked me to do a couple of illustrations for an article on Argentinian dinosaurs. One painting shows the skull of Giganotosaurus compared with “Sue,” the famous giant T.rex.

Here’s a cast of a tooth from a Giganotosaurus.

The second painting shows Giganotosaurus running at a thundering pace. This time I used a slightly more conservative coloration. To accentuate the motion, I used shallow depth of field (see earlier post on the subject), blurring the distant trees, and kicking up a splash and a dust cloud from the feet.

This painting was done over ten years ago. Since then, John Hutchinson of Stanford University has convincingly argued that giant dinosaurs like T.rex or Giganotosaurus probably didn’t have the leg muscles to be able to run at the kind of speeds we imagine.

So if I were to do this painting again, I’d show him at a fast walk. A walking dinosaur may not be quite as impressive as a running dinosaur, but as long as he’s walking faster than his prey, it’s fast enough.

For more info:

  • YouTube video with interview clips of artists: Link.
  • Lines and Colors article on the exhibit:Link.
  • Art Department post by Irene Gallo: Link.
  • Allentown newspaper story: Link.
  • Related events: Link.
  • Collectible print available as part of Home Planet Portfolio. Link.

Tomorrow: Lorrain Mirrors


Anonymous said...

As always, it's a pleasure to tune into your daily blog, Mr. Gurney. It's just a shame that I won't be able to attend this phenomenon, being somewhat far removed from Pennsylvania (Berlin, Germany, to be exact) -I've also been a colossal fan of National Geographic and alongside your work, I would have also enjoyed seeing some more of John Gurche's paintings (I still have poster of his ultrasaurs, being held together with tape :})
Thank you for putting so much time into the Gurney Journey every day, I can only recommend it to all of the art -and dinosaur- enthusiasts I know.

Daniel Hardesty said...

Thanks for all the background on this piece, very cool. Ahhh, research-schmeesearch...I'll always picture that huge dino crusin' at top speed after some helpless Gallimimus! Heh heh!

Started the plans today for an Allentown-Art Department road trip to see this exhibit! Can't wait!

The Warrior said...

*drools* of my favorites!! Speaking of my favorite, have you ever a painting of Tarbosaurus bataar?

As to the Hutchinson study, I don't think it's that big of a deal. I mean, every year there's a new paleo study that comes out with a "new" perspective on something once thought true, or vice-versa. I mean that's good, of course it's good, but it's still all debateable, right?


The Warrior said...

P.S. It just occured to me; that painting is one of my favorite paleo documentaries!

Shweet! 8-)