Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Treetown Technique

This overview of Treetown from Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time (1992) is drawn using a fairly unusual technique. 

I drew a fairly comprehensive pencil drawing on a smooth-finish heavyweight illustration board. Then I sealed the drawing with workable fixative and then with a thin layer of acrylic matte medium.

Over that, I scrubbed on a very thin layer of oil paint (yellow ochre, burnt sienna, and ultramarine blue) thinned with solvent. The more detailed and comprehensive the drawing, the less rendering or modeling is needed with the paint. All I needed were some big gradations and light overall tones. I didn't want the paint to compete with the line work.
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Previously on GJ: Treetown
For a fuller discussion of the Dinotopia oil technique, see the post "Technique Nuts and Bolts"


The Art of Kim Kincaid said...

It almost looks like watercolor to me. Do you have any photos showing the process of putting down the thin oil layers? As always, thank you for sharing your techniques so generously.

Debbie's Imaginary World said...

Very interesting! Thank you! (What is an original size?)

Fehr said...

I always loved the atmosphere conveyed in this image. It has a very "old timesy" sort of feel with that use of ochre and burnt sienna.

I find you can save a strong drawing with minimal rendering
but no matter how much you render a weak drawing- it can't really be saved. There will always be something "off" about it.

Your work always blows me away :)

James Gurney said...

Kim, this link will take you to a GJ post that shows a painting in progress:

Deborah, the original was about 14x29.

I agree, Fehr, the drawing has got to be right. And the tone can be quite neutral. My inspiration for this kind of look was Arthur Rackham. If you took away the linework on a lot of his pictures, the color would be very simple and hazy.

scruffy said...

Two different kinds of sealer. Thinned paint over pencil...How in the world does someone learn to do that?

bill said...

I used to love working this way until I found that I draw better with paint than with pencil. It's still fun to do for a certain feel. Thanks!

Carl Springer said...

i love this, its the type of style/way i hope to work one day

i love the line art and washes feel to it, great work

RL Nice said...

Ooh. I love Treetown, although the basket beds and swinging seats hanging over empty space with no railings always freaked me out.

Keith Parker said...

It kind of reminds me of the old Disney Winnie the Pooh cartoon. I'm now wondering if they used a similar technique to create the backgrounds for those films.

Mike Garvey said...

What was the solvent you used to thin the oils? I've used liquin to make thin oil glazes, but I've been told that can become brittle. Maybe that's okay since it's on board. I'd be worried that turpentine would eat away at the matte medium and fixative.

Vladimir Venkov said...

I would love to leave in such place. Thanks for sharing your technique James.

Lester Yocum said...

This may have answered my question about how to get straight edges and line in my work.

James Gurney said...

Scruffy--How did I learn it? Trial and error. You need the workable fix to keep the matte medium from smearing the pencil.

Mike, I used Gamsol for the solvent. For a fuller discussion of this method, see the post:

Keith, not sure if the technique on Winnie was the same--they may have had the linework on acetate over a soft watercolor BG, but the effect was the same, to let the line work show through the washes.

RL Nice, yeah, you wouldn't want to roll over in your sleep there.

Bill, I haven't returned to this technique for a while, but may want to try it again.

J. Bustamante said...

Donato Giancola paints like this. There's an excellent video of him published by that shows his process. It is unusual at first, but after trying it a few times paintings seem to fly by!