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The artist behind Dinotopia started his career riding the rails

The first of many Dinotopia books.
The first of many Dinotopia books.
Phil Edwards is a senior producer for the Vox video team.

Artist James Gurney is best known for the gorgeous, nearly photorealistic illustrations that appear in his Dinotopia books, which imagine a world in which humans and dinosaurs live together. But his artistic career began riding the rails, sketching gritty scenes from around the country.

In a recent interview with the Norman Rockwell Museum, he describes how his art career began after college, when, inspired by Charles Kuralt and John Steinbeck, he and a friend traveled around the country hopping trains and sketching, "sleeping in graveyards and on rooftops."

That friend was his roommate at UC Berkeley: Thomas Kinkade. Yes, that Thomas Kinkade, the notorious "painter of light."

One of Thomas Kinkade's paintings

One of Thomas Kinkade's paintings. (Thomas Kinkade)

The resulting product of their trip was this 1982 book, The Artist's Guide to Sketching:

The Artist's Guide to Sketching by James Gurney

The Artist's Guide to Sketching by James Gurney.

Open Library

You can watch the full interview here, in which Gurney describes his lost world of Dinotopia, which was in part inspired by his childhood fascination with dinosaurs (he majored in archaeology).

Gurney is active online as well. You can visit his website, where he blogs, and his YouTube and Facebook pages.