Sunday, November 30, 2008

Waterfall City Concept 2

When I first designed Waterfall City (detail, above) I hadn’t dreamed up the idea of Dinotopia yet, with its partnership of humans and saurians. The logical way to travel across the chasm was by a giant pterosaur, but at the time I was thinking of hang gliders.

These design sketches imagine configurations for hang gliders a little different from the ones Otto Lilienthal and the Wright Brothers came up with.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Waterfall City Concept 1

Over the next few days, while I'm assembling some of my trip sketches, I thought I’d show you some of the early concept sketches for Waterfall City (1988). Here’s one from 1987 showing the water emerging from two big arches, like something at the edge of the world. The lighting is from below, which gives it a strange feeling, and the architecture is reminiscent of the early skyscraper architecture of Hugh Ferris.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Manhandled by Apes

Two days ago I climbed to the top of the rock of Gibraltar to observe the wild Barbary apes in their natural habitat. They're really tail-less macaques, the only wild monkeys in all of Europe, and they're known for stealing food from tourists.

I followed a narrow trail near the summit and found myself surrounded by a small group. They were busily chattering, nibbling on fruit, and grooming each other. I pulled out my sketchbook and started drawing them. They're awfully shy about eye contact, so I used the sidelong glance technique that had worked earlier with gorillas (see previous post).

One of the juveniles perched behind me, watching over my shoulder, commenting on my technique to his compatriots. All of the sudden he leaped onto my shoulder. I held my breath. He watched every move of my hands, and then started grooming my neck and reaching down my shirt with his little cold fingers.

He dug into my pockets and found a couple pieces of a cracker. Then his friends came over. The guy on my shoulder must have wanted to mark me as his own, because he sent a little jet of pee down my neck.

When they realized I didn't have any more food they scampered off and left me with their memorable aroma.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Return Flight

I'm back from Malta, Tunisia, Morocco, and Gibraltar. Here's the reaction of my Yorkshire airline seatmates to my three-week old unwashed clothes, scraggly beard, and monkey urine aroma.

I'll explain the monkey urine tomorrow. Happy Thanksgiving holiday to all, Americans or not, and thanks to Jeanette for keeping the blog going during my rambling.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fountain Pen and Marker

Fountain pen and marker is a good combination for doing concept art sketches. The pen is an inexpensive Waterman pen from an office supply store. You can fill it with any color ink that you want, as long as the ink is watersoluble. Markers can then give the sketch a touch of color without dissolving the pen line. If you want to melt the penline, you can use a water-based pen, like the waterbrush I’ve mentioned on previous posts.

This thumbnail sketch was made for Dinotopia: First Flight

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Antiquities Dealer in Tangier

Hello to the blog folks from Jim in Tangier Morocco. The trip is almost over and I will be home soon to with a lot of posts. Here is a portrait I did yesterday of an antiquities dealer in a cafe in Tangier.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Dean Cornwell, Illustrator

“An important difference between a fine artist and an illustrator is that the former goes through life painting the things that he sees before him, while the latter is forced to paint something that neither he nor anyone else has ever seen, and make it appear real. The true measure of an illustrator is his ability to take a subject about which he may have neither interest nor information, tackle it with everything he’s got, and make the finished picture look like the consummation of his life’s ambition.”

Friday, November 21, 2008


This little storyboard sketch from Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara is one of many that didn’t make the cut, mainly because the idea evolved from this point. At this point I thought of having a Therizinosaurus ridden by a Chandaran border guard. As I thought about the character, I thought it would be far more interesting to have a more sympathetic character connected with the dinosaur, and the idea for the retired conductor Cornelius Mazurka developed.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Portrait of Jeanette

Here’s a painterly approach to charcoal drawing. On a piece of tracing paper taped to a drawing board, I established a tone with vine charcoal and brushed it smooth with a soft rag. Then, without touching the surface with my hands, I drew the basic lines of the picture. I then lifted the light tones out with a kneaded eraser. You can also use a piece of white bread for erasing. That’s what they used in the old drawing academies. Finally I added the last dark accents with a charcoal pencil. The surface is very fragile. Even the fixative left white dots along the top, and a couple of stray fingerprints are visible at right.
(Needless to say, but this drawing is by James Gurney)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pyle Study

Here’s a small gray wash drawing of a costumed model by Howard Pyle. According to illustration historian Walt Reed, this was probably not a preliminary study for an illustration, but rather a drawing exercise or a demonstration for his students. Howevery, if anyone knows of a finished illustration related to this study, please let me know.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Industrial Pasadena

Here’s a plein air study of an industrial landscape from Pasadena. I have no idea what all those tanks and tubes are for, but I enjoyed trying to convey the variety of forms and colors.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Colored Light and Depth

An interesting way to add a sense of depth to a scene is to bathe different regions of the scene in different colors of light. This cave scene from Dinotopia: The World Beneath is lit in the foreground by a reddish light, and in the background by a complementary-colored greenish light.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Jim did this large pencil sketch while sitting amid the jangle of the midway at the local county fair. The carnival barkers were curious and came by to check out what he was doing. He was surprised how many of them were artists and poets and musicians.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Jim watercolors a landscape in Malta

Jim has sent a very short video of a watercolor townscape-in-progress. He reports that he and Alan Foster took wonderfully colorful 1950s-era Maltese buses all over the island. It looks like good weather for plein air watercolor painting, too.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

John William Godward

“John William Godward (9 August 1861 – 13 December 1922) was an English painter from the end of the Pre-Raphaelite / Neo-Classicist era. He was a protégé of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema but his style of painting fell out of favour with the arrival of painters like Picasso. He committed suicide at the age of 61 and is said to have written in his suicide note that "the world was not big enough" for him and a Picasso. His already estranged family, who had disapproved of him becoming an artist, were ashamed of his suicide and burned his papers. No photographs of Godward are known to survive.” —Wikipedia.
Thanks, Jason

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Shapewelding Sketching

Here’s a handy way to practice shapewelding, the linking of light-to-light shapes and dark-to-dark shapes. Next time you’re at a classical concert or a penguin convention, where everything is either black or white, bring a Marvy brush pen (or equivalent) and a sketchbook. Lightly sketch in the shapes, and then draw in the blacks as one big shape. Try to avoid drawing lines around the white shapes; just let them blend into the white of the paper. If you need to define a white shape, like the white jacket at lower right, use a black shape behind it.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Initial Caps

Here are a couple of the initial capital letters that I (Jim) designed for The Hand of Dinotopia by Alan Dean Foster, with whom I’m currently traveling in North Africa. Initial caps are an old fashioned device in book design. I used them to open up chapters with little pictures.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Fields from Mill Road

This oak tree stands in the middle of a field near Rhinebeck in the heart of the Hudson Valley. The painting is 14x18 inches, painted in oil on location. If you’re interested in acquiring an original oil by me, you might be interested to know that this work has just now being offered by the Windham Fine Arts gallery in the Catskills of New York State. For more information, please contact Victoria or Marie at 518.734.6850

Friday, November 7, 2008

Light Sketching Supplies

Recently one of you asked to see a photo of all the gear that I (Jim) take on the spot for field sketching.
Here’s all you need for the watercolor pencil sketches: a few pencils, a waterpen, and a pocket drawing sketchbook. They all fit in two pockets of a jacket, so you can take them anywhere.

The complete watercolor/drawing sketch kit fits easily into a fanny pack or a briefcase.
1. Paper towels in a plastic bag.
2. A plastic pencil box
3. Assorted pencils and erasers.
4. A sharpener with a shaving catcher.
5. 60 ml (1/4 cup) wide-mouth Nalgene water container.
6. Bound watercolor book (Moleskine, Cass, etc)
7. Schmincke (or Winsor Newton or Lukas) small watercolor box with half-pans, with larger pans of white (used only for special effects) and of sepia

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Painting in the Car

On a rainy day, one of the only options is to run the heater and the windshield wipers while you prop your work on the steering wheel. The problem I had at this paintout a few years ago in Rye, New York, was fogged-up windows. The painting was a dud, and I ended up rubbing it down and doing another once the rain cleared in the afternoon.

Hi, everyone, Jeanette here. Thanks so much for all of your encouragement. Since this post is about sketching from the car, I thought this one might fit. I did this ballpoint pen and watercolor sketch from the front passenger seat on a cold day in the Catskill Mountains. We were waiting for our younger son to finish skiing with his friends. We had an hour to ourselves (sans teenagers) and Pine Hill is sort of a forlorn and ramshackle little town, our preferred locale for sketching.

Since all I had with me was a sketchbook with laid-finish paper, the paper buckled a little. The color is from my palm-sized Windsor&Newton bijou box, bought in Los Angeles 27 years ago when Jim and I were dating.

Speaking of Jim, he called from Malta, and helped me with my technical problems. I also appreciate all of you who explained the quirks of Blogger for me. Jim is fine, sketching away, and hasn't yet been able to find an internet cafe from which he can upload photos. Something about the software being correct. I'm sure he'll have plenty to show when he gets back.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Spectrum Annual of Fantastic Art

The 15th Spectrum Annual is now available in bookstores and online retailers. This collection of the imaginative artwork features artwork from all over the world and includes a new concept art category.

The jury included Justin Sweet, Daren Bader, Frank Cho, Tim Bodendistel and Kelley Seda (photo by Arlo Burnett). Directors Cathy and Arnie Fenner say that the hardcover version, which will be distributed to accepted artists was held up a little bit in customs, but should arrive within a month or so.

More information about Spectrum, along with application forms for next year’s competition (Deadline January 23, 2009), can be found at the official Spectrum Website:

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sketch to Finish

When Logsdail went from the smaller version (above) to the larger finished version (below), he added a dog and a kid to the lower left of the composition. He brought the vehicle at the left edge and the man with the newspapers closer up.

He made the street more slick and shiny, and to judge from the reproductions, he warmed up the colors from the gray of the sketch. Which is better? It’s a tough call.

(Note from Jeanette:
I am not computer literate, and I'm sorry to say that I don't have any idea how to move the pictures around on these posts that Jim has prepared. Sorry, and thanks for your patience.)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Track Excavator

I’m attracted to sketching unlovely subjects, not to make pretty pictures, but just to understand how things are made. As I did this watercolor study of a track excavator, I was thinking how much the mechanical arm is like the anatomy of a human arm.

The main difference, I guess, is that the hydraulic “muscles” work more by pushing, while human muscles work by pulling.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

North Africa Trek

Today I’m leaving for a month-long sketching expedition to North Africa. My traveling companion is the writer/adventurer Alan Dean Foster. I first got to know Alan over 20 years ago when I painted covers for his science fiction novels. Later he wrote two novels in the Dinotopia universe.

Over the years Alan has sent me postcards from places like Timbuktu, Pitcairn Island, Great Barrier Reef, Papua New Guinea (above) and Oouagadougou. This time I’m thrilled to be joining him. I’ll be researching a couple of different projects and sketching in watercolor and gouache. We’re going first to Malta, and then Tunisia and Morocco.

I’m leaving the laptop home with my wife Jeanette, who will be posting regularly to the blog, using content that I worked up in advance. Maybe she will share a few of her own sketches. If I can figure out the tech, I’ll try to send home some pictures from Internet cafes along the way before returning on November 26.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Picasso Pair-ups

Paris is celebrating three new blockbuster museum exhibitions, where Picasso’s work is paired up with masterpieces from art history.

The Louvre is presenting “Picasso and Delacroix.” At the Musee d’Orsay they’ve got “Picasso and Manet.” The Grand Palais features “Picasso and the Masters.”

These exhibitions are a brilliant idea, and real crowd-pleasers. The only problem with is that Picasso’s work doesn’t look much like the stuff they’re pairing him up with.

So here at GurneyJourney we’d like to propose some more logical Picasso Pair-ups.

Picasso and Masterpieces of Clown Art

Picasso and the Chicken Carcass

Picasso and Motel Tikis

Picasso and Cow Flops