James Gurney's primate portraits


Dinotopia creator James Gurney just posted his 1000th entry on his art blog, Gurney Journey, and to celebrate, he posted a list of his most popular blog entries.

One of them is about his trip to the North Carolina Zoo in 2008, where he drew portraits of the great apes there.


We got there early in the day when the gorillas were just waking up.

I remembered something I learned in my primate social behavior class. I approached the glass with a submissive posture, looking down at the ground and backing up with my hand out.

The gorilla loved it. He had never seen a human act like a polite ape before. He came right up to the glass and posed for me while I did this half-hour portrait from just two feet away. It was like sketching someone on a subway. I tried to just glance at him discreetly out of the corner of my eye.

James Gurney's Gorilla Portraits


  1. A portraitest must know how to get the most out of his subject. James’ gorilla approach should be taught in art school.

  2. When I saw the picture I thought “That has to be the NC Zoo!” and was really glad to find out I was right :) The NC Zoo is such a fantastic zoo — lots of space for the animals. If you live in NC or visit NC, I really recommend making the trip to Asheboro and spending the day at the zoo.

    Great portraits and great stories. I particularly love how the chimp wanted to see his portrait.

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