Dinotopia: A Land Where Humans and Dinosaurs Coexist

Dinotopia is an illustrated fantasy book series written and illustrated by James Gurney as well as the name of the island where shipwrecked people and dinosaurus live together. The first book (1992) has been a great success with translations into eighteen languages and sales in 30 countries. Moreover, Gurney won Hugo Awards for the best original artwork with the first two books: Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time and Dinotopia: The World Beneath.

Although the series have a very interesting adventure story, this post will focus on the illustrations. In the video below, James Gurney explains what inspired him, and the creation process of his realistic illustrations.

As Gurney explains, he made use of real life models to paint such realistic scenes for his books. He even built a 3D model of the structures to adjust the proportions, perspective, shadow, etc. in his paintings. The fact that he traveled around, analyzed and sketched dinosaur skeletons, and built models for his imaginary creatures make his work even more impressive. Here are some of Gurney ‘s illustrations posted on his instagram account, jamesguirneyart that reflect his great artistic skills.

the cover of dinotopia

The Map of Dinotopia

map of dinotopia
cover of Dinotopia: the World Beneath

From maquette to illustration

Dinotopia maquette
dinosaur maquette vs the illustration

Will Denison riding Quetzalcoatlus

Will Denison riding Quetzalcoatlus from Dinotopia

The round table of Dinosaurs

Dinotopia: the world beneath

High Rider Ulf Jensen of Sauropod Clan from Dinotopia: The World Beneath

High Rider Ulf Jensen of Sauropod Clan from Dinotopia: The World Beneath

Feathered dinosaurs appearing in Chandara’s Imperial Palace. This is one of the best illustrations showing the interaction between humans and dinosaurs.

Feathered dinosaurs appearing in Chandara's Imperial Palace.

The dragoncopters flying over the Waterfall City


Gold statue of the Ogthar who, according to the legend, has the body of a human and the head of a ceratopsian.

Gold statue of ogthar

Dinotopia on the cover of Smithsonian magazine in 1995

Dinotopia on Smithsonian magazie

Skimmers floating in Poseidos, the high tech capital of Dinotopia. In this universe, people and dinosaurs challenge a dystopian community involving drones and AI-powered robots.

skimmers flying in Poseidos

A scene from Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara

from journey to chandara