Build a Pterosaur maquette
James Gurney shows how he recycles a plastic envelope to make the wing membrane for a cheap DIY pterosaur maquette
One of my clients commissions me to paint a flying Pteranodon for a double-page title spread. I imagine the creature skimming low over the edge of the ocean surf, looking for fish.
I begin the task by travelling to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto to sketch pterosaur fossils. I also study photos and videos of modern birds, such as albatrosses and pelicans. From my research, I’m able to draw a set of small colour sketches to show the art director, incorporating some space for the headline and text.
Next, I build a maquette to see how the forms look in 3D. I take the maquette outdoors and set it up against a simple blue paper background. True sunlight is difficult to simulate using either studio light or computer software. I photograph it with a digital single lens reflex camera. Every photo is full of little surprises.
I use the tough plastic material from a modern mailing envelope for the wing membrane: It’s flexible, strong, and resistant to tearing. This envelope material is just one unorthodox material that I use for maquettes. I also use clear plastic spheres, recycled styrene models, various kinds of packing foam, wooden popsicle sticks, chopsticks, broken twigs, pipe cleaners, and ragged chunks of anthracite coal. Whatever it takes!