James Gurney is the artist and author best known for his illustrated book series Dinotopia. He specializes in painting realistic images of scenes that can’t be photographed, from dinosaurs to ancient civilizations. He is also a dedicated plein air (outdoor) painter and sketcher, believing that making studies directly from observation fuels his imagination.
Born in California in 1958, the son of a mechanical engineer, he taught himself to draw by reading books about the illustrators Norman Rockwell and Howard Pyle. He studied archaeology at the University of California at Berkeley, receiving a degree in anthropology with Phi Beta Kappa honors. Prompted by a cross-country adventure on freight trains, he coauthored The Artist’s Guide to Sketching in 1982. During the same period, he worked as a background painter for the animated film Fire and Ice, co-produced by Ralph Bakshi and Frank Frazetta.
His freelance illustration career began with paperback book covers, where he developed his characteristic realistic renderings of fantastic scenes, often using posed models and handmade maquettes for reference. His has worked on more than a dozen assignments for National Geographic magazine, painting reconstructions of Moche, Kushite, and Etruscan civilizations. The inspiration that came from researching these scenes of ancient life led to a series of lost world paintings, including ”Dinosaur Parade” and ”Waterfall City.” With the encouragement of retired publishers Ian and Betty Ballantine, he committed two years’ time to writing and illustrating Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time, which was published in 1992.
Solo exhibitions of his artwork have been presented at The Smithsonian Institution, The Norman Rockwell Museum, The Norton Museum of Art, The Delaware Art Museum, and other venues. He is a popular lecturer at art schools, movie studios and game companies, and he teaches occasional workshops. His most recent book, Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter (2010) was Amazon’s #1 bestselling book on painting for over 52 weeks and is based on his daily blog gurneyjourney.blogspot.com.
Books by James GurneyClick here for more information
Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter, Andrews McMeel, 2010
Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn’t Exist, Andrews McMeel, 2009
Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara, Andrews McMeel, 2007
Dinotopia: First Flight, HarperCollins, New York 1999
Dinotopia: The World Beneath, Turner Publishing, 1995
Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time, Turner, 1992
The Artist’s Guide to Sketching, (coauthored with Thomas Kinkade) Watson-Guptill, 1982
Selected Illustration Work
National Geographic Magazine articles:
“Jason’s Voyage: In Search of the Golden Fleece.” September 1985
“Humboldt’s Way.” September 1985
“Central American Map.” April 1986
“The Quest for Ulysses.” August 1986
“Sealed in Time: Ice Entombs an Eskimo Family for Five Centuries.” June 1987
“The Prodigious Soybean.” July 1987
“Wool—Fabric of History.” May 1988
“The Eternal Etruscans.” June 1988
“Discovering the New World’s Richest Unlooted Tomb.” October 1988
“Attic Scene, NGS Centennial.” February 1989
“Did Neanderthals Speak?” October 1989
“Kingdom of Kush.” November 1990
“Uncovering Patagonia’s Lost World.” December 1997
“Battle of Hampton Roads.” March 2006
U.S. Postage Stamp Art
“Sickle Cell Awareness,” commemorative stamp, issued Sept. 30, 2004.
“The World of Dinosaurs,” commemorative pane of 15 stamps, issued May 1, 1997 in Grand Junction, CO. 219,000,000 produced.
“Settling of Ohio, Northwest Territory, 1788,” postal card, issued 1988.
Selected Lecture Venues
Schools: Vassar College, Otterbein College, Academy of Art University/San Francisco, Hartford Art School, Ringling College of Art and Design, Columbus College of Art and Design, Syracuse University, California College of Art (SF), Art Center College of Design, San Jose State University, Otis College of Art, CalArts, Cal State Fullerton, Art Institute/Phoenix, Fashion Institute of Technology (NYC), Rhode Island School of Design, Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, Laguna College of Art and Design, The Art Institute/Boston at Lesley University, Rochester Institute of Technology, SUNY Fredonia, University of the Arts (Philadelphia), University of Toronto, Seneca College (Toronto), The Hotchkiss School, The Millbrook School, St. Alban’s School, Grand Central Academy, The Academy of Realist Art.
Museums: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, New York State Museum, National Geographic Society, Delaware Art Museum, Norton Museum of Art, The Eric Carle Museum, Norman Rockwell Museum, Oshkosh Public Museum, Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences, The Mariners Museum, Mazza Museum at The University of Findlay (Ohio)
Movie Studios: Lucasfilm, DreamWorks Animation SKG, Sony Imageworks, Blue Sky Entertainment, Rhythm and Hues, Disney.
Game Companies: Blizzard Entertainment, Trion World Network.
Annual Meetings: American Society of Architectural Illustrators, Guild of Natural Science Illustrators, World Science Fiction Convention, Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators.
Articles by James Gurney
“James Gurney Masterclass: Atmospheric Effects: Part 1,” International Artist, Feb./Mar. 2011
“James Gurney Masterclass: Part 10,” International Artist Magazine, Dec./Jan. 2011
“James Gurney Masterclass: Part 9,” International Artist Magazine, Oct./Nov. 2010
“Terrible-Lizard-Happy-Dream-Kingdom: The Origins of Dinotopia,” Phi Beta Kappa Magazine, Fall 2010.
“The Science Behind Visual Perception,” ImagineFX Magazine, September 2010.
“James Gurney Masterclass: Part 8,” International Artist Magazine, Aug./Sept. 2010
“James Gurney Masterclass: Part 7,” International Artist Magazine, June/July 2010
“James Gurney Masterclass: Part 5 & 6,” International Artist Magazine, Apr./May 2010
“James Gurney Masterclass: Part 3 & 4,” International Artist Magazine, Feb./Mar. 2010
“James Gurney Masterclass: Part 2,” International Artist Magazine, Dec./Jan. 2010
“25 Steps to a Lived-In Future,” ImagineFX Magazine, December 2009
“James Gurney’s 10 Tips for Realistic Dinosaurs,” Prehistoric Times Magazine, Fall 2009
“James Gurney Masterclass: Part 1,” International Artist Magazine, Oct./Nov. 2009
“Asher Durand: Plein-Air Pioneer,” Plein Air Magazine, Apr. 2005
“Recreating History for National Geographic,” Step-By-Step Graphics, Volume 6, Number 7, 1990.
Selected Articles About James Gurney
“Artist in Residence: James Gurney,” ImagineFX Magazine, June 2010
Yu, Anavel, “Return to Dinotopia,” cover feature, Fantasy Art Magazine (China), People’s Republic of China, January 2010
Zimmer, Dan, “The Imaginative Realism of James Gurney” Illo Magazine, October 2009
Haber, Karen, “Listening to the Dinosaurs,” Realms of Fantasy Magazine, April 2008
“Return to Dinotopia,” Ranger Rick Magazine, April 2008
“Legend: James Gurney,” ImagineFX Magazine, April 2008
Bielby, Matt, “Land of the Giant,” DeathRay Magazine (UK), January 2008
Maltby, Anna, “Back to Dinotopia,” Time Magazine for Kids, October 26, 2007
Fredericks, Mike, “Dinotopia’s James Gurney,” cover feature, Prehistoric Times Magazine, Fall 2007
Parks, John A., “Fact and Fantasy: The Paintings of James Gurney,” cover feature, American Artist Magazine, November 2006
Zeit, Tom, “Fine Art of Fantasy,” The Artist’s Magazine, February 2006
King, Jennifer, “The New Hudson River School,” Plein Air Magazine, April 2005
“James Gurney: The New Hudson River School”, New York State Conservationist Magazine, Dec. 2004
Halls, Kelly Milner, “My Father Made Me…,” U.S. Kids Magazine, March 1997
Maronie, Sam, “The Earth’s Heartbeat,” cover feature, Dinosaurus Magazine, June/July 1996
Meyers, Ric, “Return to Dinotopia,” Realms of Fantasy Magazine, December 1995
Jackson, Donald Dale, “Dinotopia: The Magical World of James Gurney,” cover feature, Smithsonian Magazine, September 1995
Churchman, Deborah, ”Dinotopia,” Ranger Rick Magazine, May 1994
Kahn, Toby, “Prehistoric Pals”, People Magazine, Dec.14, 1992
Bensimhon, Miriam, “Living with Dinosaurs: Inside the Mind of a Man Who Makes Fantasy Seem Real,” Life Magazine, October 1992
3 Gold & 2 Silver Awards, Spectrum Annual of Contemporary Fantasy Art.
Best Artist, Hudson Valley Magazine Awards, 2006.
Finalist, Art Renewal Center Salon, 2005.
Gold Medal, Creativity 28 (Dinosaur Stamps).
Merit Award, Art Directors Club, 67th Annual Exhibition, 1988.
Silver Medal, Society of Illustrators, New York.
World Fantasy Award, World Fantasy Association.
Colorado Children’s Book Award, (Best Junior Novel).
2 Hugo Awards, World Science Fiction Convention.
7 Chesley Awards, Association of Science Fiction Artists.
Selected Solo Museum Exhibitions
2011 Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara, the Paintings of James Gurney,” The Alden Dow Museum of Science and Art, Midland, MI
2010 Da Chandara al’ Antico Egitto, Palazzo Ducale, Lucca Comics & Games, Italy
2010 Dinotopia: The Fantastical Art of James Gurney, Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL
2010 Dinotopia: The Fantastical Art of James Gurney, Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, Delaware
2009 Retour à Dinotopia, Festival International de Science-Fiction De Nantes, France
2009 Return to Dinotopia, Centre for Life, Newcastle, UK
2008-9 Retour à Dinotopia, Maison d’Ailleurs, Yverdon, Switzerland
2007 Return to Dinotopia, Oshkosh Public Museum, Oshkosh, Wisconsin
2006 Dinotopia: The Fantastical Art of James Gurney, Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Massachusetts
2006 James Gurney’s Dinotopia, The Alden Dow Museum of Science and Art, Midland, Michigan.
2004 Dinotopia: A Land Apart From Time, Oshkosh Public Museum, Oshkosh, Wisconsin
2004 Dinotopia:Un Pays Hors Du Temps, Palais Granvelle, Besançon, France
2003 Dinotopia et les Mondes Perdus, Maison d’Ailleurs, Yverdon, Switzerland
2002 Dinotopia, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC
1998 Dinotopia, Carnegie Public Museum, Three Rivers, Michigan
1996 James Gurney’s Art of Fantasy, Richmond Children’s Museum, Richmond, Virginia
1994 Dinotopia, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Ohio
1994 Tiffany Windows, Tiffany & Co. Jewelers, Fifth Avenue, New York, New York
1993 Dinotopia: The Art of James Gurney, Buffalo Museum of Science, Buffalo, NY
1993 Dinotopia: The Art of James Gurney, Royal Tyrell Museum, Drumheller, Alberta, Canada
1993 Dinotopia: The Art of James Gurney, New Mexico Museum of Natural History, Albuquerque, New Mexico
1992 Dinotopia: The Art of James Gurney, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, California