Thursday, October 4, 2012

Part 1: Pteranodons / Thumbnails

Earlier this year, the National Wildlife Federation asked me to do a couple of paintings of Pteranodons for their magazine, Ranger Rick. The final artwork appears in the current October issue.

Here are some preliminary sketches. The first painting they wanted was a double-page-spread title opener, with the giant pterosaurs skimming low over the edge of the surf, looking for fish. I started by studying photos and videos of albatrosses and pelicans, watching how they fly, land, and fish.

I did all these small thumbnail sketches in watercolor, water soluble colored pencils, and white gouache, about 1.5 x 2 inches each.
Here's another batch of sketches. I find it helps to consider the whole effect of the page from the very start, because eventually the art director and I will need to come to terms with headlines and type, and there's no point falling in love with a composition that won't serve its design purpose.

They're numbered from one to ten. Can you guess which one the art director picked?

Tomorrow I'll show you how I made the maquette.
Ranger Rick October issue
Previous posts about Ranger Rick paintings
Mega Rodent

The Pteranodon series:
Part 1: Pteranodons / Thumbnails
Part 2: Pteranodons / Maquette
Part 3: Pteranodons / Step by Step


Susan said...


James Gurney said...

Suzy, you guessed it, right off! The art director liked that one best, and had the inspired idea to flop it so that the action faces right.

Andrew said...

Ooo, I like that one. I'm also really partial to 10, but I think that's just because it's such a different scene to see for Pteranodons. You see them for so long as leathery winged reptiles that it's peculiar to see one posed like a pelican. I love it though, it's so naturalistic.

Daroo said...

I have the issue it looks great.

Is the circle indication in your prelims for Ranger R himself? I like the idea of separating him out more within a frame as you've indicated making the whole thing a separate graphic -- in the finished spread I find the CG RR a little distracting -- it looks like they tried to match your lighting direction but the inset has a different value range and a different "frequency of detail".

Love the hatchling illo too -- great light.

Anonymous said...

I'd pick #7 using #3 colors. Show more of the belly and under wings, as if it just caught its prey, with head cocked to the side, flashing that beautiful red dorsal.

Kessie said...

Oh boy, I love it when you do these step by step painting progressions! Like some others have said, I love seeing the pteranodon floating in the water like a pelican. I also agree that #3 is the most interesting for a kids' magazine. But I like them all.

nystudios said...

6 and 10

Erik Bongers said...

Yep, I also picked 3 instantly.
Popular choice, apparently.

Joni said...

Have your book "color and Light" Excellent, but packed away as having an art studio built. Any advise as to wall color of an art studio?

James Gurney said...

Joni, I'd suggest a light, neutral gray. Gray makes your whites stand out a bit, but doesn't influence the balance of other colors.

K_tigress said...

I prefer the first two at the top. To me they have the most pleasing layout.

Kimberly M Zamlich said...

I also like #5. It has a wonderful natural flow to the lines. It's graceful. And how generous of you to show your process and to answer your comments!