Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Matt's Questions

Blog reader Matt Jungmann asked me a few questions:

What are the biggest mistakes that novice artists make when starting out?
• Everyone makes mistakes. That's OK. The only mistake is not recognizing them.

What technical aspects of creating art do you still struggle with?
• Cleaning brushes. I run a death camp for brushes and they always end up stiff and dead.

Do you have a favorite instructional book or resource?
• The Andrew Loomis books. He delivered trainloads of gold from the Golden Age.

If you could offer a young artist only one book or resource to take them as far as it could, what would that be?
• The Famous Artists Course binders. If you go through that and put it to practice, you'll go far.

What’s the one thing you wish you would have spent more time developing as a young artist/student?
• I don't worry about that. I got a good mix of experience early on, and I'm still always learning.

Who was your most impressive teacher?
Ted Youngkin, perspective teacher at Art Center, gave good info and set high standards.

Are there common mistakes you still see among artists at the highest level?
• I'm not looking for mistakes from my fellow artists. If anything, I'm amazed by the quality that's out there.

If you had only four weeks to train a young artist to win an art competition, and $1,000 of your own money was on the line for them to win, what would the training process look like? Would the training process look any different if you had eight weeks?
• Just alternate between 1. Sketching from life, 2. Working from imagination, and 3. Copying from masters.

(Links take you to earlier blog posts or Amazon pages)

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

What do you draw to loosen up?

Tom May, writing today in Creative Bloq blog, asked a bunch of working artists what they draw to warm up or loosen up. My choice is the "diner still life."

Tom writes: "When you're eating out, the time you spend waiting for your food is a great opportunity to get creative," says artist and best-selling author James Gurney

“Diner still life is my favourite thing to draw to get my mojo on,” he says. “With the variety of surfaces, such as chrome, glass and paper, it has all sorts of reflective and refractive qualities, which transfer to my imaginative work. Plus I'm working with a time limit, as it only takes them 15 minutes to bring the scrambled eggs.”

This involves a combination of drawing and painting in a Pentalic watercolour sketchbook. “I start with water-soluble coloured pencils, and add washes of watercolor and gouache, often with a limited palette. I generally add final accents and written notes with a fountain pen filled with brown ink, and sometimes I come back into it with the colored pencils, or even chalk. 

“With the matte surface of gouache, you can draw over it and get the best of all worlds,” he continues. “This combination of tools allows the linear marks that the pencils can provide, as well as the accurate values and light effects that you can get with paint. Also, unlike oils, this technique is unobtrusive, has no odor, is small enough to fit on a diner table, and is fast.”

Other artists say they like to start off by drawing: eyes, passersby, grasses, geometric blocks, and fan art.
Read More: Drawing ideas: No more staring at a blank canvas: Struggling for drawing ideas? Leading artists and illustrators offer their suggestions by Tom May

Monday, January 21, 2019

A Baby Who Draws and a Horse Who Paints

In this video a baby appears to draw cartoon animals. Link to YouTube.

In my household I'm in the minority in believing this video is real. My wife and son think the video is fake, and that it's an animatronic hand with a baby propped up just watching the animatronic hand draw.

I disagree. I believe it's real. She has an unusual pen grip, but she makes micro movements with it, and she seems focused and deliberate, checking new shapes against the shapes she made on the other drawings. For a moment she's distracted by an onscreen noise and she pauses the drawing before refocusing. There's no way you could design an animatronic that sophisticated.

Most kids don't draw this well until they're five or six, but this kid appears to be two. It's hard to tell for sure. If you had a four year old who was precocious at drawing, and you dressed them up to look a few years younger, you could make people think she was just a toddler. What do you think?

This video tells the story of a horse who paints with the help of his owner / trainer. The horse was an injured race horse who was rescued.

He learned to hold a brush between his lips and make abstract marks. The sales of the paintings funded the horse's medical care and gave meaning to the man who cared for him. Link on YouTube

The video is beautifully produced on every level, well shot, with good audio and thoughtful editing. It gives us a window into the stories not only of the horse but also of the people around the horse.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

A Sunlit Interior by Carl Holsøe

Carl Holsøe (Danish 1863 - 1935) captured a remarkable feeling of light in this interior. 

Carl Holsøe, The Sunlit Room, 54 x 48 cm. (21.25 x 18.88 in.) ©Bonhams
What strikes me is that he did so with a very limited range of colors. There appears to be very little blue. Essentially it's just black, white, and brown.

The enlarged image below shows how impressionistic the painting is in its close-up detail.

 The light dissolves the forms in the window, on the table. And the light overwhelms the local colors on the rug and on the floor tiles. The base of the chair and the little table are soft and downplayed, and the darks are not too dark in the far room.

Holsøe was a friend of Vilhelm Hammershøi, who did similar subdued interiors.
More about 
Carl Holsøe on Wikipedia
Thanks, Christa Zaat

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Simplification in Cartooning

The Famous Artists Cartoon Course uses a lawn mower to demonstrate the importance of simplification.

"Here is a photo of a power mower, straight from your morgue [photo reference file]."

"Here it is drawn in pencil and ink line. It has been simplified a bit, but it's still not as simple as it could be."

"Ah! This is what we have been working for—your reader will have no doubt as to what this is, even though we have cut out about seventy percent of the detail — and it will reproduce better."

"Of course you could spend hours copying every detail, putting in every nut and bolt. This would be great if you were selling lawn mowers — but you are not. All you want is to let your reader know that it is a lawn mower. Maybe you're the type that's just nuts about drawing lawn mowers — don't get carried away. Simplify, simplify and let your reader's imagination fill in the details. If you draw the lawn mower in complete detail, and the other props in the panel are simplified, your lawn mower will be out of key with the rest of the drawing."

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Sad Fate of Konstantin Kryzhitsky

Konstantin Kryzhitsky (1858-1911) Early Morning in the Fields, 1897
A Ukrainian-born Russian painter named Konstantin Kryzhitsky (1858-1911) killed himself when it was found out that he copied from a photo.

Konstantin Kryzhitsky Early Snow
According to art historian Natalya Gorlenko: "It turned out that Kryzhitsky used a still [photo] in his painting called “A Whiff of Spring.”

Konstantin Kryzhitsky, A Whiff of Spring, 1910
"Another painter, Yakov Brovar, used the same still in his piece “A View in Bialowieza Forest”. The resemblance in both images struck the eye, and a debate in the newspapers ensued."

Konstantin Kryzhitsky Early Spring
"Kryzhitsky was accused of plagiarism and, unable to withstand the disgrace, killed himself." Wikipedia says: "His maid found him in his office, where he had hung himself and left a suicide note."

Konstantin Kryzhitsky Before the Rain
Gorlenko continues: "Usually, artists were disinclined to reveal that they made use of photographs in the course of their work on paintings, and even mentions of photography with respect to their art are hard to find. It became a matter of general consensus that the painter disgraced himself when resorting to photography. And yet photography was a permanent fixture in artistic activities, and painters could no longer ignore it."
Wikipedia on Konstantin Kryzhitsky
Read Natalia Gorlenko's full article in Tretyakov Gallery Magazine: "Anticipations of Photography. Notes on painting and photography in Russia" 
The info about Kryzhitsky comes from Grigory. "The Fate of the Artist: Remembering Konstantin Kryzhitsky." Kiev, 1966. Pp. 62-64.)

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Skyfish Rods

"Skyfish rods" are strange visual artifacts that have appeared on people's digital photos. 

When you enlarge them, they appear to be some sort of multi-winged flying fish. Sometimes they appear to have a dark body and four or six diaphanous wings. 

In reality it's a familiar insect whose wingbeat action is stretched out along their path of movement.

Wikipedia says: "Some paranormal proponents claim them to be extraterrestrial lifeforms, extradimensional creatures, or very small UFOs. However, these artifacts appear naturally in video and outdoor photography as the result of an optical illusion due to motion blur, especially in interlaced video recording, and are typically afterimage trails of flying insects and their wingbeats."
Rods (Optics) on Wikipedia
More examples and explanation

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Wilhelm Simmler's Paintings

Wilhelm Simmler (1840-1914) was a German illustrator and easel painter.

Wilhelm Simmler (1840–1914) Mountaineers.
Oil on canvas, 48 x 58 cm
Here, two hunters in the Alps pause for a smoke after shooting a deer. Simmler trained at the Düsseldorf Academy, which emphasized a theatrical, storytelling approach to picture-making.

Wilhelm Simmler, A Flower Seller in Cairo
He was known for military paintings, panoramas, storytelling illustrations, and exotic paintings of the Near East. This flower seller in Cairo wears a tight, striped dress and calls out her offer of flowers.

Wilhelm Simmler, A Sunny Day at the Beach, 1900
60.6 x 98.7 cm | 23 3/4 x 38 3/4 in.
Simmler was also a plein-air painter, and was skilled at capturing people in everyday situations. In this one a mother knits in the shade as her kids play in the sand.

Wilhelm Simmler, Poachers Surprised
Two mask-wearing poachers stop dragging a deer through the forest when they think they have been spotted.

Wilhelm Simmler, On the Tightrope, 1914, 11 x 11 cm.
This gem of a sketch, about 4.5 inches square, appears to have been done from life as a tightrope walker moves and dances in front of him.

The Crossing of the Curonian Lagoon, 1679. Fresco for the Ruhmeshalle Berlin
by Wilhelm Simmler, ca. 1891. 
Here's a mural painting of a sleigh ride across a frozen lake. Unfortunately, this painting and many of his murals and original works were destroyed by bombing in World War II.
Wilhelm Simmler on Wikipedia (German language)
Wikimedia Commons on Simmler, including engravings of his illustrations

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Dinosaur Art in International Artist

In the next issue of International Artist, I wrote an article on creating dinosaur art. Paleoart is really a branch of wildlife art. The challenge is not just to visualize what an extinct animal looks like, but to imagine how it behaved in a realistic setting.

Here's a YouTube video taking you behind the scenes. Watch on YouTube
International Artist Magazine, issue #125: Feb-March, 2019

Monday, January 14, 2019

What is "Poetic" in Art?

Ann asks: "I hear paintings described as “poetic.” What does that mean?"

Oscar Droege, woodblock print
Answer: I take "poetic" to mean that a picture expresses quiet and dignified emotions by means of understatement and suggestion. A picture is likely to be poetic if it leaves out detail or conceals information or conveys the passage of time or if it achieves a mood that is harmonious, delicate, elegant, majestic, or melancholy. 

Henry Ward Ranger, (1858-1916)
There's no pictorial formula to achieve a poetic feeling. You know you've got it by the result. The goal is that feeling of mood which Germans call "stimmung." A picture is not likely to be poetic if it's too literal, didactic, or obvious. 

John William Tristam
Studio Magazine in 1896 said: "To call a thing poetic is to state the feeling it evokes; there can be no praise beyond that, and perhaps no criticism....For the fact remains that the painter who can succeed in conveying to others the feeling that he himself has felt, must always be an artist of true power, and that is enough."
Previous posts about Oscar Droege and John William Tristam and Stimmung