Tim Powers Meets James Gurney

When you buy art technique books there is usually one thing or another you browse to or try out as you skim the pages and familarize yourself with the contents and attendant photographs and illustrations. In the James Gurney book Imaginative Realism, I am reading every page, every snippet of it, that’s how fascinating it is, and he has packed it with informative lessons about art techniques but it’s also a window into one man’s creativity, attention to detail, and care in composition. My husband picked it up too and is as impressed as I am with Gurney’s skill and obvious love of making art.

I have a fondness for artists who create book and magazine covers, so I was delighted when reading this book to come across the pages describing the book cover James Gurney made for the Tim Powers book On Stranger Tides which inspired the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. (Click to enlarge)


I bought a used paperback edition of Powers’ book a decade ago and have it here. I always look for the illustration credit for the cover of books, but that was before I knew who James Gurney was and followed his blog. I was chuffed to see this bit of a tie-in, a connection to something I own and enjoy. It makes the techniques more personal and interesting.

Who am I kidding? I wasn’t just chuffed, I rocketed out of the chair, burbling with excitement. Art and books, can you beat them for excitement?

The second painting is from the same book by James Gurney and is called Shipwreck, 1989, Oil on board, 16 x 24 inches. This looks like an idea he submitted for the cover of The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers. In the book there is a famous scene with the poet Shelley, who drowned in real life while sailing, but with an alternate explanation for his death due to a vampire he encountered, the Her of the title. I think Gurney has captured that scene so well in this painting, although the Lamia is not quite fierce enough. My paperback has a cover by an artist (no credit given) that seems to be an echo of Gurney’s idea. (Click to enlarge)


The opening scene in that book with a statue and an old carriage has got to be one of the most frightening in any book, and the terror comes because nothing dramatic really happens, it’s the way Powers wrote the unease of it and the storm and light.

Shiver me timbers.



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2 Responses to Tim Powers Meets James Gurney

  1. murielmakes says:

    Fascinating, sounds like you really hit on a very interesting, inspiring and information book here. How lovely that you could tie it in with one you already own as well. I can feel the excitement! I hope your ankle heels quickly, but while it is healing enjoy those great books.

    • JJ ColourArt says:

      Books ALWAYS generate excitement. I did cancel the one on drawing insects as there seemed to be a problem with the publisher releasing it, but at least I got the photo reference book for insects.

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