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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.