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James Gurney (born June 14, 1958) is an American artist and author known for his illustrated book series Dinotopia, which is presented in the form of a 19th-century explorer's journal from an island utopia cohabited by humans and dinosaurs.
Gurney is also a paleoartist who depicts and restores in his paintings extinct fauna such as both avian and non-avian dinosaurs.
Gurney grew up in Palo Alto, California, the youngest of five children of Joanna and Robert Gurney, a mechanical engineer.
Encouraged to tinker in the workshop, he built puppets, gliders, masks, and kites, and taught himself to draw by means of books about the illustrators Howard Pyle and Norman Rockwell.
He studied archaeology at the University of California, Berkeley, receiving a bachelor of arts degree in anthropology with Phi Beta Kappa honors in 1979. He then studied illustration at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, for a couple of semesters.
Prompted by a cross-country adventure on freight trains, he and Thomas Kinkade coauthored The Artist's Guide to Sketching in 1982.
Gurney and Kinkade also worked as painters of background scenes for the animated film Fire and Ice (1983), co-produced by Ralph Bakshi and Frank Frazetta.
Gurney's freelance illustration career began in the 1980s, during which time he developed his characteristic realistic renderings of fantastic scenes, painted in oil using methods similar to the academic realists and Golden Age illustrators. He painted more than 70 covers for science fiction and fantasy paperback novels, and he created several stamp designs for the U.S. Postal Service, most notably The World of Dinosaurs in 1996.
Starting in 1983, he began work on over a dozen assignments for National Geographic magazine, including reconstructions of the ancient Moche, Kushite, and Etruscan civilizations, and the Jason and Ulysses voyages for Tim Severin.
The inspiration that came from researching these archaeological reconstructions led to a series of lost-world panoramas, including Waterfall City (1988) and Dinosaur Parade (1989).
With the encouragement of retired publishers Ian and Betty Ballantine, he discontinued his freelance work and committed two years' time to writing and illustrating Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time, published in 1992. The book made The New York Times Bestseller List, and won Hugo, World Fantasy, Chesley, Spectrum, and Colorado Children's Book awards. It sold over a million copies and was translated into 18 languages.
Sequels of Dinotopia that are both written and illustrated by Gurney include Dinotopia: The World Beneath (1995), Dinotopia: First Flight (1999), and Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara (2007).
Original artwork by Gurney from the Dinotopia books has been exhibited at the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution, the Norman Rockwell Museum, the Royal Tyrrell Museum and is on tour to museums throughout the United States and Europe.
Most recently, he has written two art-instruction books: Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist (2009), a book about drawing and painting things that do not exist; and Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter (2010). These books are based upon Gurney's blog posts, in which he gives practical advice to realist and fantasy artists.
On February 21, 2012, Gurney was inducted as a Living Master by the Art Renewal Center.
The dinosaur Torvosaurus gurneyi was named in honor of Gurney in 2014.
Gurney lives in Rhinebeck, New York, in the Hudson Valley of New York State.
Dinosaur Hank Williams, Jr. Written by: Bob Corbin, Hank Jr. Williams Album: Habits Old And New Released: 1980
Hey man, them ain't high heel sneakers And they sure don't look like cowboy boots And that ain't rock and roll you're playin' And it sure ain't country or rhythm and blues
You're singin' a song about making love to your drummer Well, gay guitar pickers don't turn me on And we don't all get into Donna Summer Do you happen to know any old Hank Williams' songs?
'Cause you see I'm a dinosaur I should've died out a long time before Have pity on a dinosaur Hand me my hat, excuse me, man, but where's the door?
Used to be, I had a lot of fun in this old hang-out We'd get stoned at the jukebox and stay out of fights Now and then, we'd light a little smoke in the truck out back Ah, then a little old Jim Beam, and we'd get right
And you know these flashin' lights sure make me dizzy And this disco's very strange to my ears It looks like they've turned The Longhorn into a spaceship And I'll be leavin' just as soon as I finish this beer
'Cause you see I'm a dinosaur Should've died out a long time before There's a whole lot of dinosaurs So give us our hats and excuse me, man, but where's the door?
Get us our hats, 'scuse me, man, where's the door?