Get a tour of Dinotopia artist's studio

Fantasy dino maquettes and budgies abound as James Gurney shows you around his work space.

Get a tour of Dinotopia artist's studio

James's studio is a cross between a toy shop, a creature FX lab and a curio cabinet.

I specialise in painting realistic images of things that can’t be photographed. My imagination only takes me so far, so I sculpt 3D reference maquettes.

In the foreground of the photo are a butterfly ornithopter, an elf alien, a BoarCroc and a satyr.

Get a tour of Dinotopia artist's studio

Maquette of Pan, made during the creature design class I offered last summer, where students worked from a live goat, a human model and three ram skulls.

The day starts with a few cups of coffee, or sometimes tea from the pot I found on a research-sketching trip to North Africa in 2008.

Not all of my sketching junkets are so exotic – I also sketch in fast-food parking lots and farmyards. Some of the oil sketches on the back wall are from observation – the cloud study was painted in July, and the two head studies come from a figure-drawing class.

Get a tour of Dinotopia artist's studio

On the slanting drawing table is an oil painting of a gryposaurus for the National Wildlife Federation.

I need music: Bach for perspective, Mozart for figure work, Brahms for skies and Tuva throat music for mixing paint. My pet budgie sings the loudest when I play Verdi.

Get a tour of Dinotopia artist's studio

Playground for my budgie, Mr Kooks, who keeps me company while I work.

Beyond the Aladdin's lamp is a set of dip pens. I used to be a calligrapher, and I still love to write in the copperplate style. Maybe it's a reaction to the blandness of email.

Get a tour of Dinotopia artist's studio

Brushes include bristle filberts, nylon flats and sable watercolour rounds.

The skull on the counter is a drawing aid and a memento mori. Behind it are architectural maquettes made of cardboard and styrofoam.

The hand-painted colour wheels and optical illusions were for my (then) upcoming book called Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter.

Get a tour of Dinotopia artist's studio

Colour charts, colour wheels and optical illusions for my art book.

The dinosaur painting is surrounded by skull photos, sketches and a reference maquette. The premixed strings of oil colours on the freezer paper palette help me control the mixing gamut of the colour scheme I want.

All in all, this studio is a cross between a toy shop, a creature FX lab and a curio cabinet.

Words: James Gurney

James is the creator of Dinotopia and a cosmopolitan seeker of the fantastical. This article originally appeared in ImagineFX issue 57.