February 3, 2011


Besides the little sketches and quick exercises I’ve been posting here, I’ve been working on a painting which will hopefully be the beginning of a series. The image above is the final drawing before transferring onto canvas and painting. The building is entirely fantasy but it’s based on some very real things.
After being satisfied with the design of the building, I felt that the volume of the structure was missing and that I wouldn’t be able to indicate its form properly in this very flat, head-on positioning. So, how do you learn about things that don’t exist? You MAKE them exist.
Initial sketch and design of the building
Model created out of foamcore and construction paper.
Yes, that’s a kneaded eraser serving as the rough terrain.

Using the original ‘flat’ sketch, I began to build my model using foamcore and toned construction paper to indicate the roof. I penciled in the lines of the shingles on the roof and quickly indicated with a marker the windows and doors. Lastly, I sculpted a kneaded eraser to act as the natural terrain. Once this was complete, it was ready to be shot with dramatic lighting to use as photo reference in the painting stage. Now all of this may sound like a lot of work, but taking the time to gather the proper reference will only save time and mistakes in the long run. The Old Masters have done this for centuries and animators today routinely consult a maquette to aid in their drawings.
Photo reference of the model in various lighting.

Dinotopia creator and illustrator James Gurney, covers this process in his book,  Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn’t Exist. Order your copy here and have it signed by the artist/author. Jim also maintains Gurney Journey, a daily blog sharing years of experience and practical advice to artists everywhere. If you haven’t been reading it, you should be.