Making reference maquettes
James Gurney recommends constructing a reference maquette to push your image to a higher level of realism, whatever medium you’re working in
Whether it’s an epic panorama or a rush job, I always build a reference maquette to help visualise imaginary vehicles, creatures or architecture. Why? Well, for me the answer’s pretty obvious: the extra work saves me time in the long run by clearing away uncertainties.
A hand-made maquette yields surprising insights that my imagination would never have dreamed up, because
Take the sketches as far as you can
my imagination, like everyone else’s, is shackled by habit and convention. As the great French filmmaker, poet and novelist Jean Cocteau put it: “True realism consists in revealing the surprising things which habit keeps covered and prevents us from seeing.”
The insights revealed by maquettes include overlapping, foreshortening, cast shadows, secondary light sources and nuances of organic textures used in its construction. Natural lighting effects are especially important, because convincing
I’m asked to do the poster for Utopiales, a fantasy, comics and sci-fi festival that takes place in Nantes, France, the birthplace of Jules Verne. I flash on the idea of a huge insect aircraft departing the town, set at the time of Verne. I work up three colour sketches in oil, working from my imagination. lighting is the key to realism. Without a maquette, I’m hesitant to commit to definite light and shadow, which in nature are vividly contrasted.
This article, the first in a series, presents a case study, showing how the maquette pushed the finish beyond the sketch.