James Gurney - Fantasy in the Wild

James Gurney’s latest digital offering, Fantasy in the Wild: Painting Concept Art on Location, is another fantastic resource for budding and professional artists alike.

In some ways, Fantasy in the Wild is the natural follow-up to three of his previous productions, How I Paint Dinosaurs, Watercolor in the Wild and Gouache in the Wild. It combines aspects of using various mediums and composition, along with integrating maquettes (scale models) on location, in the wild. That said, the primary medium in focus is Casein, which is a milk-based paint.


Of particular interest to me is James’ inventiveness. In the opening section he uses a sighting grid in order to help him better understand the scene he is going to represent. James’ solution for maintaining a stationary viewpoint is deceptively simple and yet effective. You can see this in the screenshot above, which was taken from the video.

In the next image, James has affixed a maquette to his easel in order to see it in the same lighting as the actual scene being depicted. Also notice his homemade light diffuser. This is used to control the natural light hitting his work surface.


The main focus of the video is Concept Art, something which Richard Lack and R. H. Ives Gammell would have called Imaginative Painting. This is where the artist invents a composition and then brings together real objects in order to paint what he or she imagines, while literally seeing a modeled version of it. Doing this helps give the painting more verisimilitude than would be likely when solely painting from one’s imagination. In James’ case, at times he brings his props out to nature, rather than bringing plein air sketches into the studio to combine them with maquettes. Seeing this was an “a-ha!” moment for me as I’ve always done the latter.


For me, that’s the fun of all this, of doing fantasy in the wild. To create something real, that’s a creation of what I have in my head, imaginatively, and what’s here in the real world around us.
-James Gurney, from Fantasy in the Wild

As James explains, “The challenges are, it’s hard to hold onto a mental image, to an imaginative idea while you are on location. Seeing the details of a real scene – it’s like a tsunami of information that you have to digest, and that tsunami can swamp that little idea you have in your head. But as long as you can hold onto your idea, through sketches and rough ideas, there are huge benefits to being on location. You can meet experts who know about what you’re sketching, who can advise you and react to what you are doing. But you can also move around and pick up all kinds of details, and lighting ideas that you could never get from photo reference.”


Fantasy in the Wild is available as a digital download here and as a DVD here.