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More than an instruction book, this is a guide for fans of science fiction and fantasy. (Sue Brettingen, Model Retailer)
About the Author
James Gurney’s unique blending of fact and fantasy has won Hugo, Chesley, Spectrum, and World Fantasy Awards. His work has been featured in one-man exhibitions at the Smithsonian Institution, the Norman Rockwell Museum, the Delaware Art Museum, and the U.S. embassies in Switzerland and Yemen. He lives with his wife, Jeanette, in the Hudson Valley of New York State.
James Gurney is the author and illustrator of the New York Times bestselling Dinotopia book series. He designed the World of Dinosaurs stamps for the U.S. Postal Service and has worked on over a dozen assignments for National Geographic magazine, painting reconstructions of Moche, Kushite, and Etruscan civilizations. He has won the Hugo, Chesley, Spectrum, and World Fantasy Awards. Solo exhibitions of his artwork have been presented at the Smithsonian Institution, the Norman Rockwell Museum, and currently at the Lyman Allyn Museum of Art. He has recently been named a "Grand Master" by Spectrum Fantastic Arts and a "Living Master" by the Art Renewal Center. His most recent book, Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter, was Amazon's #1 bestselling book on painting for over 100 weeks and is based on his daily blog gurneyjourney.blogspot.com. For more information, visit www.dinotopia.com or www.jamesgurney.com .
If you are a regular reader of James Gurney's blog, Gurney Journey, you would expect nothing less. This book is as good as I expected. He dispenses his knowledge as freely as he does on his blog. Here's what he says about his own book from the introduction:
"This is not a book about figure drawing, anatomy, or perspective. It's not a step-by-step guide on how to draw dinosaurs. It's also not a recipe book for a particular paint technique, although all these topics are addressed in passing. What this book contains is a distillation of the time-tested methods that I've found to be most helpful for achieving realism in imaginative pictures."
If you haven't got the hint from the title, this book is about making your art real and believable. In every chapter, James Gurney shares with us what he learned when creating his paintings. There are topics on people, dinosaurs, architecture, vehicles, composition and his step-by-steps (not techniques but process). The tips he gives can be applied on other subjects as well.
The importance of research is emphasized and the amount of research he does really shows. While creating an illustration on ship wreckage for National Geographic, he talked to survivors to get an accurate account. He found out there's a drummer boy who used his drum as a float and drew that in. He also acted out the various poses of sailors in distress, rather than drawing them from imagination. The result is a painting that tells its story convincingly. The same goes for many of his other paintings.
Another interesting read is the story of him trying to design a Dinotopian fire engine. When he presented his concept art to a professional fire engine designer, it was critiqued to have form but not function.Read more ›
I have been a long time reader of James Gurney's blog. My interest was not in sci-fi/fantasy, but rather, his insights into painting 'what's not there'. I have studied representational painting - the training is indispensable, but (obviously) focuses on painting a model or still life. The academies do not teach the lost art of painting realistic but imagined scenes - of course you can find classes about painting 'abstractedly' or from 'imagination' but not painting, say, an historic scene or creature that no human has ever seen alive (like a dinosaur) - and that's the gap filled in by this book.
The book offers a wide range of topics - from pleasant surprises like created imaginary maps that look 'real' to extensive coverage of the forgotten use of maquettes and dioramas.
What this book is not: Though this book is fun and interesting to read for non-artists, this is not an in depth 'how to' book on technique (though he does go over some techniques) - so before you set out to paint 'what's not there' you have to have the basic drawing and painting skills to be able to successfully execute the ideas in this book.
overall, its a great overview and practical guide creating paintings from your imagination that look 'real' but it's also just fun to read. Highly recommended.
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An instant classic that really gets into the nuts and bolts of doing professional illustration work. It is a rarity among popular art instruction books that they have both basic information and very professional level information. But this book has both. Great explanations, clear prose, and lots and lots of great pictures demonstrating the principles under discussion. And of course there's lots of amazing fantasy artwork by the author which is all reproduced excellently. In that way its also a Monograph of Jim Gurney's work, as it also includes lots of his other illustration work, besides Dinotopia, including some fantasy paperback book covers and some incredible Historical Pieces done for National Geographic. All of which is deconstructed to show us his thought process while composing and designing his pictures, the building and setting up models, the use of silhouettes, chiaroscuro, and value control, using research to assist the imagination and increase creativity, and many other facets of his workflow. There's also a nice concise history of imaginative art that starts the book off, which includes the best reproductions of a Howard Pyle and Dean Cornwell picture I've seen. I purchased this book directly from the Dinotopia Store, so I got it signed by Mr. Gurney. Well worth it, learned a lot very quickly.
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When I first opened up "Imaginative Realism," the first impression that I formed was that the book reminded me of some of the older texts from the 1970's. There was something about the style of the text and the page layout that made me think of an older text from a used bookstore; I almost felt like I was walking through a hobby store. Though it may sound it, this is not a bad thing - in an age of Photoshop and 3D rendering programs, James Gurney's approach reminds the reader of the traditional approach to illustration.
That being said, this is no novice guide. There is no "the body is made up of shapes" step-by-step guide, this is no "How to draw" book for beginners. James Gurney assumes that the reader has a moderate to high level of skill in most of the areas he addresses. What he does explain are the ideas behind how the real world can provide insight into the fantasy realm. Maquettes, models, architecture, and even workable fixative - this is a great all around book for hobbyists as well as professionals.
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