Sunday, March 16, 2014

Giant insect mech vs. T. rex

In this concept art study, a crab-like mech, surrounded by a cloud of drones, tackles a tyrannosaur, while two archers try to take it down. 
It's painted in gouache, using white and black, warmed with yellow ochre and raw umber. I chose monochrome to evoke the look of an old photo. The gouache gives me more precise control over the recession of values in the dense, backlit atmosphere. 

Detail of Tyrannosaur's head in "Grapple Hold" from Dinotopia: First Flight by James Gurney

I reserved the darkest values (though still not black) for the dinosaur's tail. The darks on the dinosaur's head are much lighter, closer to 50%. 

To give it a photographic look, I tried to paint each section with just three values: a light value, a dark value, and a much brighter edge light. Those values step back together as you go back in space, like paired notes in music.

This painting is part of the new backstory development for the Dover edition of Dinotopia: First Flight coming out next month. 

The new edition has more than 40 pages of new supplementary material: character sketches, vehicle designs, cinematic story treatments, and backstory notes--all of which is published for the first time. This material fleshes out the tumultuous ancient origins of Dinotopia, which predates its utopian recent history.

I also just wrote a special article about painting in monochrome for the April/May issue of International Artist magazine. The article is illustrated with six of these steampunk mech pieces.


Janet Oliver said...

Congrats! Just pre-ordered. My grown son has a copy of Dinotopia, but it's packed away somewhere under a huge stack of boxes and I needed a copy for myself anyway.

Rob Howard said...

Gouache rules.

Anonymous said...

Gladly preordered....The adventure continues!! I'm amazed at the bravery of those archers! A whole Davey and Goliath thing going on... And, I actually feel bad for the T-Rex... this is counter-culture stuff!!

Dino... said...

Hello I am a young Brazilian fascinated by good literature, I searched their books to three years, and I have obitido success in my quest, not the encounter in Portuguese, my search led me to a single book in poor condition in a library Portugal in my country we do not find good literature like yours, I'm desperate to be able to read all his books. With love your Brazilian fan.

Ps: Sorry for grammatical errors, I used the google translator.

Jim Douglas said...


Since gouache always seems to dry a different value then when it is wet, do you have any advice for predicting the eventual value of gouache while painting?

Your insights are always appreciated.

James Gurney said...

Dino, perhaps if you have a friend or relative living in the US, you could have a book sent to them, and perhaps they could bring it to you.

Jim, the value change can be a problem, but the more you work with gouache, the more you get accustomed to those changes and after a while you hardly think about them.

jeff jordan said...

I haven't painted gouache for awhile, but it reminded me of acrylics, as I recall, darkening slightly when it was dry. Very predictable with a few paintings behind you.
Almost finished with a large oil for a quickly approaching show, thinking seriously about taking a break with a few small gouache paintings---nice break.

Bohlen said...

Another triumph of great imagination :-)

Tom Hart said...

Hi James - Just curious about the size of this study. I'm guessing it's maybe on the small side , not unlike some of your Moleskine paintings...(?) Do your studies all tend toward a similar size?

James Gurney said...

Tom, yes, this one's small, about 5 x 10 inches.