Category Archives: Paleo Art

James Gurney's How I Paint Dinosaurs

James Gurney's How I paint Dinosaurs
Long time readers of Lines and Colors will know that I’m an admirer of the work of illustrator and painter James Gurney. I also love dinosaurs and paleontological art, an area in which Gurney is one of the foremost artists working today, so I was delighted to receive a review copy of Gurney’s instructional DVD How I paint Dinosaurs.

In the hour long DVD, Gurney goes through his process of creating two dinosaur illustrations for Scientific American magazine, from initial concept and composition thumbnails through to the finished paintings.

He discusses and demonstrates the process of working out compositional variations, developing them from thumbnails to initial sketches to be submitted to the art director for approval. From there, he details the process he uses to create a maquette, or clay model, of his subjects for determining lighting. He moves on to the initial block in of the painting, refinement and development of various stages, and the eventual finish. He goes through this process, emphasizing different points along the way, for two different paintings.

As is sometimes the case with good art instruction videos, the techniques he presents go beyond the specific subject, and would be of value to nature and natural history artists (of which paleo art is a subset), as well as concept artists who base their work on realism, and illustrators in general.

If you’re familiar with Gurney’s other instructional material, particularly his books Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What doesn’t Exist (Amazon link, my review here) and Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter (Amazon link, my review here), you will find examples of the same kind of fundamental principles here of methods he has found successful. For example, the use of a limited gamut (color range) to achieve a certain kind of color harmony, and the advantages of pre-mixing piles of some colors in ranges of variation in value and chroma, to allow less distracted focus during the painting process.

Illustrators who have never worked from three dimensional models may wonder at the time devoted to constructing and painting the maquettes used as reference for the paintings here, but when you see Gurney searching for the best value arrangement in his composition by turning the models in the light, you’ll easily see why he and others at his level of expertise often find it worth the effort.

There were places I wanted to ask for more detail — to run the video back and say “Wait! Wait! How did you make the wrinkles on the dinosaur’s neck look so convincing?” or “Let’s hear more about that brush-pen you’re using to block out the thumbnail sketches!”; but there is plenty of detail to be had.

Like many of the best instructional art videos, on a second viewing, you’ll find little nuggets that you may have cruised over on initial viewing (like doing a pencil drawing on illustration board with the pencil held horizontally, so the point doesn’t indent the board, making it easier to erase and move lines). Much of the detail is visual, beyond the verbal instruction, in good close-ups of brush work and paint application.

Depending on your inclinations, you may also find some helpful examples in Gurney’s studio practices.

The video includes a short mini-feature on brushwork (that I would like to see expanded on in the future), and the DVD version includes a beautiful little print of one of the finished paintings.

There is a video trailer on YouTube, and additional information about the video (and a treasure trove of fascinating material in general) on Gurney’s blog Gurney Journey.

James Gurney’s How I Paint Dinosaurs is $32 for the DVD, available from Kunaki or Amazon, and $15 for a digital download through Gumroad.

 
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedin

“Picturing Dinosaurs” on Tor.com

Picturing Dinosaurs on Tor.com: Charles R. Knight, Robert F. Walters, William Stout, Rudolph Zallinger, James Gurney, Zdeněk Burian, Peter Schouten,  Douglas Henderson
As the latest installment of her wonderful ongoing series of themed “Picturing…” posts on Tor.com, Irene Gallo has posted “Picturing Dinosaurs“, a theme near and dear to my heart (or more accurately, near and dear to the fevered brain of the 10 year old kid in me that still holds major sway over what I like).

For someone who is a self professed non-expert on dinosaurs, Gallo has pretty much covered the bases, with nods to paleo art greats past and present, as well as some fun and essential pop culture dinosaur references like Moebius’s Arzach pterosaur, Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes T-rex in a jet and Kirby’s Devil Dinosaur.

What fun!

(Images above: Charles R. Knight, Robert F. Walters, William Stout, Rudolph Zallinger, James Gurney, Zdeněk Burian, Peter Schouten, Douglas Henderson)

 
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedin

New improved blog list (well, updated anyway)

From the Lines and Colors blogroll: John Macdonald Aiken, Ivan Generalic, Duane Keiser, Hans Versfelt , William J Aylward, Bob Eggleton, Kazu Kibuishi, Jacob Stålhamma, Elanor Kish, Mark Hess
In the left hand column of this blog, about halfway down, under the long lists of categories and the longer list of archives, is a list of links under the heading “Relevant Blogs”.

This has long been ignored, both unduly so by myself, and perhaps rightly so by those who have clicked on many of the links only to find they were out of date, broken or otherwise less than useful.

In response to a little recent pestering by a couple of readers (to whom my thanks go out for bringing it up into my field of attention), I squeezed out some time over the past few weeks to weed out the dead links, blogs that have not been updated for a year or more and less interesting destinations that were left over from years ago when the pickings were slimmer.

I’ve also included a number of fresh new destinations, to which I will continue to add.

The list is divided into generalized categories of blogs (which I may also eventually refine a bit) that hopefully make it a little easier to browse.

It may not look like much — it’s just a list of links — but as I’ve tried to demonstrate with a few examples above, there are treasures to be found.

Images above, from the blog list categories:

“Art, Painting & Sketch”: John Macdonald Aiken from Underpaintings and Ivan Generalic from Art Inconnu

“Painting a Day”: Duane Keiser

“Other Painting Blogs”: Hans Versfelt

“Illustration”: William J Aylward from 100 Years of Illustration and Design

“Sci-Fi & Fantasy”: Bob Eggleton

“Comics & Cartoons”: Kazu Kibuishi

“Animation & Concept”: Jacob Stålhammar from Animation Blog and Peggy Chung from Concept Art World

“Paleo & Scientific”: Elanor Kish from Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs

“Tools & Techniques”: Mark Hess from The Tools Artists Use

Considering that many of these blogs are in themselves both extensive resources and jumping off points for even more great sources of art, I’ll issue my Major Timesink Warning should you choose to jump down any or all of these rabbit holes.

Enjoy.

 
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedin

Alfons and Adrie Kennis

Alfons and Adrie Kennis
Dutch artists Alfons and Adrie Kennis are twin brothers who work professionally under the studio name of Kennis & Kennis.

They are highly regarded in the field of paleontological reconstruction art, where their paintings and sculptures portray prehistoric mammals and pre-humans.

What delights me about their paintings in particular is the blending of rendered images of the foreground subjects with graphic background elements, and a more daring sense of design and composition than is usually expected within the field.

In addition, their use of texture is just wonderful — neither slavishly realistic nor deviating from reality. They manage to convey a tactile sense of an animal’s fur or hide, or the skin of proto-humans, within the framework of an expressive technique that has a great deal of visual appeal.

Keep in mind when viewing their work that as artistically vibrant as the paintings are, like all scientific illustration, they must conform to the task of representing their subjects with scientific accuracy.

[Via National Infographic]

 
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedin

Dinotopia: Art, Science and Imagination at Lyman Allyn Art Museum in CT

James Gurney, Dinotopia: Art, Science and Imagination
Long time readers of Lines and Colors will not be surprised that I am an admirer the work of illustrator/writer/painter James Gurney. (Let’s see.. beautifully painted illustration with influences from great 19th century artists and Golden Age illustrators, fantastical adventure stories with lushly imaginative settings, Hudson River valley landscape painting and plein air painting, and of course.. terrific dinosaurs — what’s not to like?)

I was pleased back in 2010 to have the opportunity to see an exhibition titled Dinotopia: The Art of James Gurney at the Delaware Art Museum at which I got to see many examples of his original artwork.

In addition to surprises in scale, his work reveals characteristics up close that are not always evident in reproduction, much of it, for example, is surprisingly painterly. Another aspect that comes through in person even more than in reproduction is the degree to which Gurney’s experience as a plein air landscape painter informs and enlivens his fantasy art.

Gurney also works from life in the form of models for his compositions, and a new exhibition that opens at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in new London, Connecticut this Saturday, September 22nd, Dinotopia: Art, Science and Imagination, not only showcases Gurney’s original art for the well known series of illustrated adventure stories, but delves into the creation of the works and the science behind them. The show includes sketches, preliminary versions, maquettes, photos used for reference and plein air studies.

This show is more extensive than the already large show I saw in 2012; it features 135 works, most of which are not the same as in the previous exhibitions and much of which has not been on public display before.

Unfortunately, the museum’s website, as is usually the case with museum websites, is not good at generating any visual excitement about the show.

Fortunately, as is also often the case, artist and blogger Matthew D. Innis steps in and does a superb job of just that, with an extensive post on his blog Underpaintings that includes links to much larger versions of many of the images I’ve shown above.

You can also see more of Gurney’s work on the Dinotopia website, as well as Gurney’s own website and his blog, Gurney Journey.

The latter has developed over the years into one of the best go-to destinations for art instruction on the web, much of which has been condensed into two superb art instruction volumes (so far), Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn’t Exist and Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter (links are to my reviews, the books can be purchased directly from Gurney’s shop).

Two volumes of Gurney’s classic Dinotopia adventure stories have been rereleased in deluxe, expanded 20th Anniversary editions by Dover Publications’ Calla Editions imprint. I reviewed the Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time 20th Anniversary Edition in 2011.

The new Dinotopia: The World Beneath 20th Anniversary Edition has just been released this month and I was delighted to receive a review copy from Dover.

James Gurney, Dinotopia: Art, Science and Imagination
In themselves, these Dinotopia editions have reframed my impression of Dover books, which used to be “terrific because they were inexpensive art books with fairly decent reproductions”. Now they are making inexpensive art books with very good reproductions.

The new version of The World Beneath, in fact, is better looking than my copy of the original edition — the colors richer and more vibrant, and, according to Gurney, truer to the original artwork.

If you’re not familiar with these books, they are wonderful adventure stories, profusely illustrated (I love that phrase) with Gurney’s lush and imaginative portrayals of a fantastical city atop a waterfall (which served as an uncredited inspiration for the the city in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace), adventure heroes, engaging steampunkery and, of course, a cornucopia of dinosaurs.

Adventure stories, yes — but heavier on illustration than text, they also serve as coffee table art books, showcasing Gurney’s terrific paintings in large spreads.

The new edition, in some ways analogous to the current exhibit a the Lyman Allyen, features an additional 25+ pages of behind the scenes drawings, painted sketches, photo reference, maquettes, and other goodies. The book also features an introduction by noted paleontologist Dr. Michael Brett-Surman.

I will take some consolation in this edition for the fact that I don’t know if my schedule this season will let me get up to the exhibition, though it runs to February 2, 2013. For those who can make it, you’re in for a treat.

 
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedin

Dinosaur Art: The World’s Greatest Paleoart

Dinosaur Art: The World's Greatest Paleoart:  Raul Martin, John Sibbick, Douglas Henderson, Mauricio Antón, Raul Martin, John Sibbick, Mauricio Antón, Douglas Henderson, John Sibbick, Raul Martin
Dinosaur Art: The World’s Greatest Paleoart is a new book edited by Steve White and with a foreward by Phillip J, Currie and an introduction by Scott D. Sampson. It is published by Titan Books, who were kind enough to send me a review copy.

The premise of a book like this is relatively straightforward — assemble lots of dazzling paleontological reconstruction art by top names in the field, add commentary in the form of interviews with the artists, print it as a deluxe oversize coffee table book, and everyone will love it, socks knocked properly off.

In reality, though, the process is not so simple, and the application of a subtitle like “The World’s Greatest Paleoart” (even with the understanding that the book is about contemporary artists) invites reaction from paleo art aficionados, who as a rule hold strong opinions about the subject — myself included.

Because of the expectations created by the subtitle the first thing I noticed was the glaring lack of some of the names that I would have immediately expected under that banner — notably John Gurche, James Gurney, Robert Walters, William Stout, Mark Hallet and Michael Skrepnick.

However, I also understand the reality of publishing this kind of book. While it is generally considered an honor and good public relations within the field to be included in compendiums like this, the artists are asked to prepare their images and supplementary material for inclusion, and publishers rarely give the editors funds to even compensate the artists for their time, let alone have them share in profit on a book for which they are supplying the basic material.

Having been asked to contribute to a number of books on webcomics and digital comics creation, I can attest to the work involved; and after asking around, I’m not surprised that some artists who were asked to participate in this particular project felt they had to decline.

The editor, then, was left to compensate, and the result is mixed. Here is where my differences of opinion with the editor’s curatorial choices come to the fore, both in terms of artistic values and the concern for scientific accuracy.

Amid the dramatic presentation of these fantastic prehistoric animals, next to which most fantasy monsters pale in comparison, it’s easy to forget that these are real, if extinct, animals.

The images are more than illustrations, they are meant to be scientific reconstructions, akin to botanical or medical illustration, except that for prehistoric animals and plants, the information the artists must work from is based on fragmentary evidence and scientific inquiry that is incomplete and subject to controversy.

To create paintings and drawings that are dramatic, work well as artworks and are still true to the science involved is quite a challenge, but those who do it well do it exceptionally well.

So, while there are some artists the editor has chosen that I would not have included, I will emphasize those on which we agree — and that I certainly consider worthy of placement under the banner of “World’s Greatest Paleo Art”.

Notably, these include:

John Sibbick, whose detailed, textural portrayals of dinosaurs and pterosaurs are one of the high standards in the field,

Douglas Henderson, whose atmospheric landscapes put the animals in a real world context better than almost anyone,

Raul Martin, who brings a high level of drama to his interpretations of the animals, without feeling the need (as some do) to defy the laws of biomechanics and gravity in the process

and Mauricio Antón, who is a bright light in the often overlooked portrayal of prehistoric mammals.

Regardless of my difference of opinion with the editor on some of his other choices, the inclusion of these superb artists, and the fact that their chapters make up a significant portion of the book, make it well worthwhile in my eyes.

The book itself is beautifully produced, with nice book design and good reproductions (despite a few less than sharp examples). Impressively, given the production values, Titan has kept it very reasonably priced ($35 U.S.).

Don’t let my griping about who’s who discourage you from checking this volume out, or detract from the fun of holding a big book in front of you with lots of gloriously large images of what is indeed some of the world’s greatest paleoart.

(Images above: Raul Martin (cover), John Sibbick, Douglas Henderson, Mauricio Antón, Raul Martin, John Sibbick, Mauricio Antón, Douglas Henderson, John Sibbick, Raul Martin)

 
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedin