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Video Review: James Gurney’s Tyrannosaurs: Behind the Art

June 5, 2015


The other day, James and Jeannette Gurney were in town, for the Benjamin Constant show at the Beaux Arts and he happened to mention his new making-of video: Tyrannosaurs: Behind the Art.

I’ve just received a free download from him – and am glad to give it a very positive review!

In this 40 min video, James takes you inside his studio – giving you an over-the-shoulder look at his painting process. He shows tools and materials, his painting methods – from the ideation and initial drawings, through the under painting in casein and eventually the finished effect in oils.

Here’s a great bit (below) where he selectively textures the surface with acrylic modelling paste, so the passages of color to follow can be worked in glazes and scumbles over top. A very efficient method of painting.


Much of the film is on ‘how to be an illustrator’ – more so than how to paint. He gives valuable tips on research and scientific extrapolation from living animals, shows his rough designs and color mockups, as well as the client’s feedback and his final choices. We get to see a plein air study done for authenticity – and even go with him to the client as he delivers the finished paintings. Something that is becoming a rare event in this world of digital art and email.

This kind of first hand career advice is great stuff for someone trying to figure out the profession of illustration.


But you’ll also find plenty of close up demonstrations of his painting method.

In the video he creates two paintings – showing bits of the work from start to finish. Jumping through time to give us the best parts – rather than long stretches of potentially repetitive ‘watch me paint’.

This is not a class for the raw beginner – he is making a real illustration, not taking time to simplify steps for students. So, besides some talk about materials and color choices, you are going right into the real deal.

While he will not explain every brush stroke for you – there is a lot to be learned from careful observation of his painting. It’s well worth watching multiple times. You’re seeing him work up close and personal. If you wanted to paint exactly like James Gurney – the method is here for you to learn from.

I’m always impressed with how efficient his paintings are. You can really see the weight of his experience. No stroke is wasted – every part builds on what went before to a rapid conclusion.


It’s impressive how well he directs himself – painting and shooting the film at the same time, he knows when to set up the cameras and get a great shot. My favorite part being a daring correction where he blithely paints out a finished dinosaur face to make a change he felt improved the storytelling.

His reasons are sound  – but it’s a bold change many artists would have shrugged and hand-waved over. A perfect example of what makes a great illustrator. Commitment to getting the story right – even if that means giving up a great bit of painting.


You can purchase the video – entirely shot and produced by James and his wife Jeanette – from his online distributors at Gumroad (credit card) or Selfy (paypal). It is well worth the moderate $15.00 fee. If you are a fan of his work, and would like to see more of the great content on his excellent blog – order your copy today!


2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 5, 2015 8:16 PM

    Esta super….

  2. June 6, 2015 9:20 PM

    Great review! Beautifully written, to boot.

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