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Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist
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Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  4,144 ratings  ·  35 reviews
An award-winning fantasy artist and the creator of Dinotopia, James Gurney instructs and inspires in Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist. Renowned for his uncanny ability to incorporate amazing detail and imagination into stunningly realistic fantasy settings, James Gurney teaches budding artists and fans of fantasy art step-by-step the techniques that won ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published October 20th 2009 by Andrews McMeel Publishing (first published 2009)
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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 topic
My first 5-star book of the year.

James Gurney is most famous for creating the Dinotopia books, but he's a painter who has also done a lot of Science Fiction and Fantasy book covers as well as a ton of work for National Geographic.

Imaginative Realism is aimed primarily at artists, but if you have an interest in art and the nuts and bolts of creating it, you'll probably like this book as it is akin to the behind-the-scenes features on a DVD. By the equivalent of Coppola or Kubrick. It's amazing to
Diane Kistner
I got this book because I thought my talented artist son (of Tunnel Sun Studios and Geek Fight design/illustration fame) would enjoy adding it to his reference shelf. Now that I've been through it, I know he will absolutely love it--but I loved it, too! I was absolutely enthralled by the book. I had no idea what goes into producing effective fantasy artwork, and now I can better appreciate my son's skill--and even remark on his technique instead of just saying "that's really nice."

Reading the bo
I Read
An interesting insight into how an artist creates fantastical worlds.

This book isn't really a tutorial book on drawing, but much can be learnt from it. You will gain endless tips from it's study and it will fill you with ideas and inspiration.

I think essentially Gurney breaks down the fear of stepping away from the'copying' of life and photography, supplying the reader with techniques which free them to put down their imagination with confidence.

Some of the suggestions such as making marquees ma
Ben Chandler
Gurney's guide to painting the imaginary is thoroughly detailed, carefully put together and covers an exhaustive list of topics. The methods and materials he documents, the techniques, disciplines and theories he covers and the examples he provide are not only educational the first time, they're also excellent sources to reference after reading.

I highly recommend this book to anybody who has learned the basics of painting and wants to begin incorporating some advanced ideas and principles into t
Angela Sasser
Dec 27, 2010 Angela Sasser rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: aspiring artists
"There is no line between fine art and illustration; there is no high or low art; there is only art, and it comes in many forms."

I knew I would love this book the moment I read this line from the section "Art in the Twentieth Century" detailing the shift from demand for original art to printing and publication. There is a progressive attitude here that treats all forms of art as a means to an end, tools to aid in the expression of a vision. Leave all your doubts and fears at home because you are
Really great book. It covered some broadly applicable principles, debunked some myths regarding composition with recent research, showed lots of process things, showed tools for solving problems like maquettes, lighting and plan sketches, thumbnails, and lots of dinosaurs.
Admittedly, some parts got rather dry and boring. But overall, I'd say this is one book that should be in every artist's library— regardless of their style and purpose.
This book alone won't make you a great artist from scratch
Of the many books I've read on drawing and painting, Imaginative Realism by James Gurney is the most conversational and practical in terms of realistic approaches to creating science fiction, fantasy, and other creative scenes. Drawing on a wealth of diverse experiences including the memorable work Dinotopia and his many National Geographic illustrations, James Gurney provides useful insights on a wide range of topics from setting up a studio to plein-air studies. I was encouraged by his use of ...more
Anyone who is seriously interested in art needs to have this as part of their studio reference book collection. James Gurney (creator of Dinotopia) puts "imaginative visual art" into perspective and practice. Many artists get caught up in trying to create worlds of their own without wanting to draw from life; Gurney explains that this is 100% necessary if you want to create your own worlds. You must create color studies of landscapes (from life), you must draw figures (from life), you must ask p ...more
Shane Evans
I had seen a few illustrations from Dinotopia by the author previously but really had no idea how truly amazing his work is. Gurney takes you step by step through his process. I was under the misconception that artists and illustrators just sit down and draw worlds straight out of their heads. They don't. Gurney shows you all the intermediate steps from start to finish (e.g. thumbnails, color studies, models, maquettes, etc.).

He has also drawn beautiful illustrations for publications like Nation
This book...well, read Parka's review if you like the kind that actually tells you about what the book covers.

tl;dr: My mind exploded after reading this book.

This volume blew me away, even though the cover was dog-eared and damaged after its journey from the States to where I live. This is not just for fantasy artists: what Gurney shares in this book can be applied to any form of image-making in any medium. Anyway, where was I? Get this book if you are even remotely interested in art. The number
I grabbed this book on sale from Strand Books a few years ago. It is one of the BEST books out there on artwork, in preparing your work, researching, designing characters and costumes, compositions, and so on.
And from what Gurney discusses in the book, he backs it up with information, examples, and photographs. The confidence projected in the text is one that reveals Gurney's faith in his method of working. I had the honor of meeting James Gurney at Anthrocon in 2010; he definitely knows what he
An excellent reference and one that really didn't exist before. Much like "Color and Light" Gurney finds ways to answer the questions we didn't even realize we needed to be asking.
A great guide for starting artists. Mainly emphasizes how you create a visual library for yourself from life studies so you have it to pull from when creating the fictional world.
A wonderful survey of technique. Not at all what I expected, and I mean that in a good way :)
Bree Clausen
James Gurney's illustrations in the book are incredible. He paints at a level of imagination that not many can emulate. I have a Master's degree in painting and drawing and was able to take a few of his techniques into practice. However, I do feel that his level of painting is so advanced, that a lot of what he is teaching went over my head and was not useful to me. All in all, it is a really interesting book and reveals the techniques of a master. It could be a very helpful book for someone loo ...more
Gurney's instructional books are always superb. For me, not as information laden as Color and Light, his other book, but offered a much more in depth look at Gurney's process and how he visualizes the non-existent. Not much else needs to be said, except that if you are an illustrator, you need to read this! If you love art in general, or fantasy art in particular, you need to read this. If you like looking at pretty pictures, you don't necessarily have to read this, but if you look, I predict yo ...more
Void lon iXaarii
The artwork is great, and the stories are very interesting, but as per the subtitle I was honestly expecting a bit more on the techniques and teaching rather than showing off his great works. Still, much food for thought and a lot of inspiring work ethic. Way cool!
PS: on the criteria above I liked his "Color and Light" book better, though even that suffers a bit from that... or at least I would hunger more to not just know the man but learn the craft of the man!
This book provides great insight into how an excellent painter works. What didn't appeal to me was that an essential part of his process for virtually every painting was first building a maquette (small model) and working from that. There is tons of information about working with clay, foam, etc. This doesn't interest me, as I prefer to go more purely from mental imagery rather than from models.
Serge Pierro
Yet, another excellent book on painting by James Gurney. I was a bit surprised by the topics covered, and was delighted by the depth he pursued in explaining his work process. He uses models and maquettes, for almost all of his work - going to the extent of sculpting some of them himself! Great insight into the methodology of one of todays great illustrators.
Such a well written and comprehensive book! There's so much more in here than I hoped for, I loved it, and I will definitely keep referring back to it.
Greg Tatum
This book has some great practical advice. I like that he actually delves into the practicalities of working in a studio and working on doing commercial illustration. The cover is ridiculously embarrassing as well as some of the sections on the alien characters. However the rest of it is great.
This book inspired me to seek training in sketching, hopefully to build a capability to convey ideas (satire?) While learning how the author approached painting what doesn't exist, the reader gets some really cool, pretty illustrations.
Based on Gurney's excellent art blog, this is one of the most useful art guides I've ever come across, with practical advice on many aspects of planning and creating realistic representations of imaginary or historical subjects.
Kayann Legg
This artist is definitely old school but he is also a really good artist. It was interesting to see his methods. I lucked into his method books because believe it or not I never even looked at the Dinatopia series.
Loni Edwards
James Gurney did a fantastic job writing this book. It was informative and inspiring. Many of the tips he gave could be easily used in a variety of mediums. I highly recommend it to my fellow artist friends.
Beautiful book filled with lots of great ideas and tips. Not really a step by step how to, but it's very inspiring and Gurney offers quite a bit of techniques for any artist to try.
Granted, this is an excellent source for painters who want to hone their craft, but you don't have to be one to enjoy Gurney's artwork and comprehensive approach.
Just as serious as the previous book. Gurney knows his stuff. Again this is not for the feeble hearted or the beginner.
Michael Thom
One of the best how to art books ever published right alongside Loomis's work imo!
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Born June 14, 1958 in Glendale, California. Raised in Palo Alto, the youngest of five children of Joanna and Robert Gurney (a mechanical engineer). Earned a B.A. in Anthropology in 1979 with Phi Beta Kappa honors from the University of California at Berkeley. Studied painting at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena,California, where he met his wife Jeanette. In 1984 they moved to the Hudso ...more
More about James Gurney...
Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter Dinotopia: The World Beneath Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara Dinotopia: First Flight

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“There is no line between fine art and illustration; there is no high or low art; there is only art, and it comes in many forms.” (p. 12)” 6 likes
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