A maquette of an architectural subject reveals information about form and lighting, giving a fantasy building an unmistakable ring of truth, as explains
James Gurney paints buildings.
Whenever I paint an imaginary building or city, I build a physical miniature first. Making a maquette helps me understand the volumes and sight lines, which all contribute to the success of the final image.
Maquettes help me figure out how to fit a structure on uneven terrain. I can light the maquette with either artificial or natural light, creating cast shadows, reflected light and other interactive lighting effects that no digital simulation can hope to match.
I create mountainous terrain by whitegluing chunks of rigid foam into the rough shape of the topography. After the glue sets, I drape pieces of plaster-soaked burlap over the foam base. When that’s dry, I paint it with acrylic. For the buildings, I cut up cardboard and foamcore scraps, pre-ruled with lines to suggest the stone masonry. I also precut the windows and doorways, matching them to elevation drawings at scale. Sometimes I photocopy an elevation drawing and glue the paper on to the cardboard. I then hot-glue the components together into a cluster of buildings to match my sketch.
Setting the maquette on a mirror panel simulates reflections on still water. Dried moss found outdoors stands in for trees.