Cre­at­ing ma­que­ttes

A ma­que­tte of an ar­chi­tec­tural sub­ject re­veals in­for­ma­tion about form and light­ing, giv­ing a fan­tasy build­ing an un­mis­tak­able ring of truth, as ex­plains

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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.

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