Born in California in 1958, he taught himself to paint by reading books about the Golden Age American illustrators and French academic painters. 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, using charcoal studies of posed models 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. Dinotopia sold over two million copies in 18 languages.
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 over 20 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.
Please note: All images copyright James Gurney. Dinotopia is a registered trademark of James Gurney. For use of images in traditional print media or for any commercial licensing rights, please email the artist for permissions.
Permission is automatically granted to show Gurney's images on your non-commercial blog, website, or Facebook page as long as you give a credit and link back to jamesgurney.com or dinotopia.com. Students and teachers can also quote images for their non-commercial school activity.
Books Available On this Artist (signed by the artist with original hand sketch)
Dinotopia: 20th Anniversary Edition
Journey to Chandara
Color and Light