Tyran­nosaurs: Be­hind The Art

Mas­ter illustrator James Gur­ney ed­u­cates and de­lights with an in-depth look at how he cre­ated two paint­ings for Sci­en­tific Amer­i­can mag­a­zine

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

Pub­lisher James Gur­ney ven though dinosaurs have been ex­tinct for 66 mil­lion years we’re still dis­cov­er­ing new species. Twenty types of tyran­nosaur, all cousins to the iconic T. rex, have come to light in the past decade-anda-half, for ex­am­ple.

When the mag­a­zine Sci­en­tific Amer­i­can com­mis­sioned James Gur­ney to cre­ate a cover and in­te­rior il­lus­tra­tion of th­ese ‘new­com­ers’ he de­cided to film his process. The re­sult­ing pro­duc­tion joins a small but high-qual­ity se­ries of videos James has built up over the past few years.

Tyran­nosaurs is less a train­ing video, more a fully fledged doc­u­men­tary – though there are plenty of tech­niques to glean. James cov­ers themes that will be in­stantly familiar to devo­tees of his books and other videos. Chiefly, the chal­lenge of tak­ing an imag­ined scene, whether from an­cient his­tory or purely from your imag­i­na­tion, and con­vinc­ing the viewer it could be real.

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You’ll see, for ex­am­ple, how James refers to mod­ern an­i­mals to de­duce how long-ex­tinct crea­tures might have looked. More dinosaurs than we’d pre­vi­ously thought had some feath­ers, so James makes a de­tailed com­par­i­son of fur and feath­ers in to­day’s world to es­tab­lish where they might have been and how they may have looked.

James has per­fected the trick of pack­ing in lots of in­for­ma­tion with­out ever mak­ing his pre­sen­ta­tion feel heavy. Given that his var­i­ous videos cover broadly sim­i­lar ground (this is his third about paint­ing dinosaurs), any­one who’s bought all his videos to date will in­evitably find less new in­for­ma­tion here – although it’s frankly so en­joy­able to watch that it’s de­bat­able to what ex­tent this mat­ters.

If you’re less familiar with James’s work, you’ll gain in­valu­able in­sights into mak­ing colour and value stud­ies, paint­ing with oil- and wa­ter-based me­dia, re­search­ing your scene and much more – and have fun do­ing it.

Thumb­nail and value stud­ies lead to a colour study James can show to the art direc­tor. Af­ter a plein-air study of a nearby tree, James adds edge light­ing to the woods in his pic­ture. The video re­veals the days of re­search and prepa­ra­tion that went into th­ese pieces. An ex­ten­sive cat­a­logue of ref­er­ence helps James to achieve more re­al­is­tic re­sults.

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