Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Studio Shot in ImagineFX

ImagineFX magazine asked me to take a picture of my studio (click to enlarge), and to add a few comments about the work environment:

“I specialize in painting realistic images of things that can’t be photographed. My imagination only takes me so far, so I sculpt 3D reference maquettes. In the foreground is a butterfly ornithopter, an elf alien, a BoarCroc, and a satyr.

The day starts with a few cups of strong coffee, or sometimes tea from the pot I found on a research sketching trip to North Africa in 2008. Not all of my sketching junkets are so exotic. I also sketch in fast-food parking lots and farmyards. Some of the oil sketches on the back wall are from observation. The cloud study was painted on a July day. The two head studies come from a figure drawing class.

Beyond the Alladin’s lamp is a set of dip pens. I began my art life as a calligrapher, and I still love to write letters in the Copperplate style. Maybe it’s a reaction to the blandness and transience of email.

The human skull on the counter is a drawing aid and a memento mori. Behind it are architectural maquettes made of cardboard and Styrofoam. The hand-painted color wheels and optical illusions are for my upcoming book called Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter, a companion volume to Imaginative Realism.

The dinosaur painting is surrounded by skull photos, sketches, and a reference maquette. The premixed strings of oil colors on the freezer paper palette help me control the mixing gamut of the color scheme I want.”

Pick up a copy of ImagineFX at your local bookstore, and check out their website at

More about that painting of the dinosaur on the table: Gryposaurus Part 1, Part 2
Interesting post on artists' studios on David Apatoff's blog Illustration Art.


Steve said...

Fascinating environment. Looks like Mr. Kooks was uncharacteristically shy with his back to the camera.

Will Kelly said...

The maquettes are great.. the section on making them in Imaginative Realism is one of my favorites. It's something I really want to try my hand at making.
Hope I can get a copy of IFX soon...

Mary Bullock said...

I love seeing other artist's studios - yours is fascinating!

Ray Lederer said...

Difficult not to be inspired in that studio James:)

JonB said...

if it's not too personal a question, what kind of chair do you use, and how do you like it?

RP said...

Wicked studio! If you don't mind, where did you get the skull model? I am looking to purchase one to help me study anatomy.


Claire Vrabel said...

Fantastic models- Great little environment!
Thanks for sharing! :)
I love seeing how other artists work.

Markus Bühler said...

Really nice to see a photo of your studio with all those wonderful maquettes. It would be great if you could anytime post some more photos of the Kaprosuchus head.

josembielza said...

Gee... a lovely place to work in. I need to clean up my workspace everytime I want to draw :)

Jean Wogaman said...

What an exciting workspace! The colors on your palette are making me eager to get my hands on your upcoming book.

James Gurney said...

Thanks, everybody!

RP, I got the human skull about 30 years ago from Carolina Biological Suppy Company, back in the days before India's export ban on human remains, when you could get one for about $35.

Jon, I forget the brand of the chair. It's just a fairly basic office chair.

Markus, thanks, I'll do a post on the Kaprosuchus project when it's out in the magazine.

Markus Bühler said...

Thanks James, that would be really great! BTW, do you have also any animal skulls in your studio?
I think Kaprosuchus was really an enigmatic beast, and it shows very well how extremely diverse crocodiles were in the past. Its whole head with those huge tusk-like teeth looks really exorbitantly, like a monster from a B-Movie, but it was yet a real creature. Crocodiles are always good for surprises.

RP, there is also the possibility the purchase a skull cast for medical teaching. I have such a skull too, because it is much easier to learn the positions of all those little foraminae and canals and the structures passing through them if you have a skull you can take in your hands (I had to learn those structures during a medical anatomy course...and I think I have to learn them now again for another course about facial surgery). As this are not only models, but casts of real skulls, every single detail is like those of a natural skull, and you can learn a lot about anatomy, and they are also nice objects for drawing studies. Of course the structure and the colouration is yet different, and the light reflects in a different way than on real bone.
Just two days ago I had the opportunity to handle several real human skulls, including really old ones from medieval times, and I´ll work a lot with them in the next months. Real skulls can also tell you a lot of stories if you know how to read them, and it is really interesting and sometimes quite shocking to see from what injuries, diseases or deformations some people suffered.

Joseph Miller said...

We all love "looking over your shoulder". Thanks so much for sharing this stuff with us.

I was curious about the type and size of your drafting/drawing table. I have an old Hamilton 3.5' x 6' table which is much too big and I'm in the market for a smaller sized drawing table.


James Gurney said...

Joseph, please check out this post: