Dinosaurs have been extinct for 66 million years, however, 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-and-a-half, for example.
When the magazine Scientific American commissioned James Gurney (opens in new tab) 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 Gurney has built up over the past few years.
Tyrannosaurs: Behind the Art (opens in new tab) is less a training video, more a fully fledged documentary – though there are plenty of techniques to glean. Gurney covers themes that will be instantly familiar to devotees of his books and other videos.
Watch the Trailer
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.
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 Gurney 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.
Gurney 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 Gurney'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.
The video is available now to download here (opens in new tab).
About the Artist: James Gurney
James Gurney specialises in painting realistic images of scenes that can’t be photographed, from dinosaurs to ancient civilisations. He’s also a plein air painter and sketcher, believing that making studies from observation fuels his imagination.
Gurney taught himself to draw by reading books about Norman Rockwell and Howard Pyle. He received a degree in anthropology at the University of California, but chose a career in art. Gurney has written the instruction books Imaginative Realism and Color and Light.