Build a Pterosaur ma­que­tte

James Gur­ney shows how he re­cy­cles a plas­tic en­ve­lope to make the wing mem­brane for a cheap DIY pterosaur ma­que­tte

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Creative Space Denver Illustration Salon -

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!

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