Build a ma­que­tte

What­ever creature you’re paint­ing, a ma­que­tte will pro­vide valu­able in­for­ma­tion about light­ing, tex­ture and fore­short­en­ing. James Gur­ney shows you how

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Contents -

James Gur­ney cre­ates crea­tures.

Pa­le­on­tol­ogy is full of dra­matic sto­ries of life and death, but rarely is an event as vividly cap­tured in stone as in the fos­sils de­scribed by Paul Sereno. Sev­eral ju­ve­nile or­nithomimid di­nosaurs got stuck while try­ing to cross an area of soft mud. They be­came mired in an up­right po­si­tion, sug­gest­ing they even­tu­ally gave up after strug­gling to es­cape. Sci­en­tific Amer­i­can Mag­a­zine com­mis­sioned me to try and recre­ate the tragic mo­ment.

I be­gin my work by look­ing at photographs of the fos­sils and line draw­ings of the skele­tons. Th­ese will be es­sen­tial for keep­ing my ma­que­tte close to the ex­act proportions of the ac­tual fos­sil. I browse the in­ter­net for pho­tos of anal­o­gous mod­ern mud-stranded an­i­mals, to see what hap­pens as they try to es­cape. I also pay close at­ten­tion to the ge­o­graphic ori­en­ta­tion of the fos­sils and make sure that the di­rec­tion of the sun in the paint­ing cor­re­sponds to the sun di­rec­tion at the fos­sil site.

If it wasn’t be­low freez­ing out­side, I would be out in a muddy pond, wal­low­ing around to see what it feels like to die in quick­sand. Any­thing I can do to ex­pe­ri­ence what my sub­jects ex­pe­ri­enced makes my paint­ing more con­vinc­ing.

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