Wednesday, October 24, 2018

When to do a detailed preliminary drawing

Peel away the paint, and you’ll find a detailed preliminary drawing. (Link to Facebook video)

For this cutaway view of the mountain settlement of Thermala in Dinotopia's Forbidden Mountains, I work out the perspective and the architectural geometry before going in with paint. It's much easier to figure out intricate forms like this in pencil than it is in paint.

I do the pencil drawing directly on the illustration board, and I make a photocopy so that I have a record of it. Then I seal the drawing with workable fixative and acrylic matte medium. I build up the oil paint in two or more layers over that underdrawing. 

The drawing gets covered up, but I have the photocopy to check against if I need to, and I can always remove the paint with solvent to return to the drawing if necessary.
From Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara, available signed from my website or from Amazon.


Lou said...


Have you ever made use of acetate film to lay over an oil painting, or part of one, to test making changes before painting them on the actual painting? I vaguely recall reading of artists using that technique.
I have a painting that I thought might benefit by adding some trees in the foreground on one side. I'm really reluctant to make significant changes to the original and then try to wipe it out if i don't like the changes.
I've also considered making a color print (or two or four) and experimenting on the prints.

James Gurney said...

Lou the acetate method would work, keeping in mind that the painting has to be fully dry if you're going to put something on top of it. I usually use cutout paper masks to test elements. A color print is a good idea, and you can also use Photoshop of course.

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Kessie said...

Lots of times, I did a super detailed drawing and painted over it ... and then forgot what the pencil drawing looked like. Wish I'd made a copy of it, or even taken a photo!