Monday, January 16, 2012

Really Rough Maquettes

How quick and rough can a maquette be and still provide useful lighting information?

The Oviraptor maquette on the left is sketched in plasticine modeling clay, with a marble stuck in for the eye. It took me less than an hour to sculpt. I set it up with a strong rim light and a weaker frontal light source.

You can see those two sources reflected in the eyeball, both in the maquette and the final painting.

I was looking for how the two sources would interact with the form. I didn't choose to follow the reference exactly -- I didn't bring the edge light as far into the form.

A maquette like this is not a keeper. The clay goes back into the primordial mud for next time.
More on maquettes in Imaginative Realism. (Amazon) (signed from my store)
The painting is from Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara (Amazon) or (signed from my store)


Kessie said...

I've stared at this painting in your book. Did you use emus as reference for the feathers? The oviraptors even have emu eyelashes and it makes them SO cute.

daylily fan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
daylily fan said...


I'd have been so entranced by the warm under the chin coloring and reflective quality I probably would have insisted on incorporating it - your image is much better without it.

Maquettes make so much sense. I just wish I'd been told about building them when I was working on my BFA. I'd make a bunch of sketches about that I thought the lighting would do but it's not a substitute solution. An hour with clay would have been much faster and more accurate, plus allowing one to explore different angles and lighting options.

Unknown said...

I keep telling my students that this approach is time well spent. The few that actually do it are always surprised how easy it is and how great the results are. I am not.

Gonzalo said...

How much clay did it take to make the model?

zzz said...

Thank you for blogging this post. I read it with pleasure.



Unknown said...

I love your books, Imaginative Realism in particular. I got to the section on maquettes and you described a flexible brass tubing. I have not been able to find such a thing at the hardware store. I asked, and they thought it might be some kind of plumbing speciality. Do you know what it's called. I tried calling a plumbing store but they put me on hold with Rush Limbaugh, and that was the end of that.

James Gurney said...

Hey, Joshua, I checked and apparently they don't make that kind of tubing anymore. It's all flexible plastic and braided stainless I guess. I'll keep an eye out of a substitute.


Unknown said...

Thanks, and thank you for the quick reply. I thought maybe some armature wire of the right thickness.

Chris G said...

Never thought of using sculptures as aids for creating volume using light and shadow. It is one of the best tips I've seen.
I am just in the process of reading your books Color and Light and Imaginative Realism. A search for tips that newcomers in illustration could use brought me to your Dinotopia Site, and your blog.
Thank you for your useful tips and comments, they will help me find a way back to illustrating after some years away from drawing and painting.

James Gurney said...

Thanks, Edith, and welcome. You can find all sorts of topics if you click on one of the search tabs in the Index.