Tuesday, September 18, 2018

World's Oldest Drawing?

Colored marks on a stone found a cave in South Africa may be the oldest drawing in the world. National Geographic reports that the red-ochre lines are 73,000 years old, nearly 30,000 years older than the oldest cave art.
"Inside the cave, scientists have found other evidence of Homo sapiens being crafty from as far back as a hundred thousand years ago. Discoveries so far include perforated shells that archaeologists think were used as beads; tools and spear points; pieces of bone and ocher with scratched faces; and a group of artifacts that seems to point to production of a liquid form of ocher pigment. The discovery shows 'that drawing was part of the behavioral repertoire' of early humans, the researchers write. If people were making paints, stringing beads, engraving patterns on bones, and drawing, then they were behaviorally modern as early as 70,000 years ago, and perhaps earlier."

Nat Geo: "73,000-Year-Old Doodle May Be World's Oldest Drawing"

Monday, September 17, 2018


Costumbrism—or Costumbrismo in Spanish—is a movement of painting in Spain that emphasized scenes dramatized from ordinary life, with a focus on the customs of common people.

Penitents at the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, 1874 Museo del Prado
José Aranda Jiménez (Spanish 1837-1903) was an example of the trend, which was inspired by photography and the movement for realism.

José Jiménez Aranda, A Disaster, 1890
Jiménez studied in Spain, Rome, and Paris. He staged his scenes like a movie director would, with a sense of drama and mystery.

Conversation in a Sevillan Courtyard
According to a Armand Gouzien, writing in 1930: "In the folklore paintings of Jiménez Aranda we admire the knowledge and cleverness of the composition, the acute study of the types, the truthfulness of the attitudes, the elegance of the finish, and the perfection of the drawing."

"His pictures are masterpieces of observation, with the serenity of descriptive works”. 

Aureliano de Beruete said of him: "the most important thing “(…) even more than technical execution, (is) the clarity of the scene represented." 

Figure study by José Jiménez Aranda
Costumbrismo on Wikipedia
José Jiménez Aranda on Wikipedia

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Julius C. Rolshoven

Julius C. Rolshoven, Model Reclining and Reading a Sketchbook
Julius Rolshoven (1858-1930) was a Detroit-born artist who studied in Europe. He is best known for his paintings of women and Native Americans.

He joined a group of high-spirited artists called the "Duveneck Boys" in Florence, enchanted by Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto. He bought and fixed up a dilapidated Tuscan castle known as "The Tower of the Devils."

He bounced around Europe for a while, studying in Paris, and finally landed in the Taos art colony in New Mexico.
Read the biography at the Gerald Peters Gallery
Wikipedia article on Julius Rolshoven

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Carlos de Haes

According to Wikipedia, Carlos de Haes (Belgian/Spanish, 1829–1898) "believed that the end result of art should be the truth found in the imitation of nature, the source of all beauty."

"The painter should imitate nature as closely as possible, and to do so, you must know nature and not rely on imagination. Leaving behind Romanticism, he was early to embrace the en plein air style, working from outdoor preparatory sketches which were completed within a workshop."
Carlos de Haes on Wikipedia

Friday, September 14, 2018

Summer Foliage

Summer foliage by Aaron Draper Shattuck (1832-1928)
I'm out painting today, but I'd like to offer a study by A.D. Shattuck, one of the later Hudson River School artists:
"Described as affable and inventive---he held several patents, including one for metal stretcher keys found on the backs of paintings---Shattuck was also sensitive to his environs, capturing the subtlest nuances of pastoral landscapes in his oils."
Aaron Draper Shattuck (1832-1928)
Best book on Shattuck and his contemporaries: The New Path

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Gruger on Composition

Following are some thoughts about composition by Frederic Gruger, from his 1929 article on "Illustration" in the Encyclopaedia Brittanica.

"The outward form given to an inward vision depends upon composition. Technical skill merely develops that outward form and is governed by composition which, in its character, must possess the emotional meaning of the vision and speak directly to the emotions. It has been said that the artist struggled with nature to learn the laws of composition, and after that he devised rules for it. One should know, then, the fundamental natural law so that he may, at need, disregard the rules.

"The meaning of emotional character of form in composition may be illustrated by referring directly to human experience. Mankind has looked with awe upon the mountains for countless generations. The effort to cross them taxes his utmost powers and has cost much in pain and death.

"The vast pyramidal forms of mountains stand in his imagination as a sign of majesty. In composition the pyramidal form is used sparingly, only when the emotion of majesty, of grandeur, is to be conveyed.

"Man has long looked upon tall trees with respect and has endowed them with personalities; he has bowed low before temples stately with tall columns. Tall lines in composition are used to express dignity.

"The sombre greys of storm clouds, full of thunder, have terrified us since the infancy of the race Cloud forms, subtly introduced into a composition, suggest impending evil.
Quote is from The Encyclopaedia Britannica 1929 - 14th Edition
The main monograph on Gruger is: Golden Age of American Illustration: F. R. Gruger and His Circle
Memory Games of Artist-Reporters
Gruger on Illustration

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Tyranny of First Decisions

Heather, a fine-arts student from Oklahoma, asks:

How have you overcome roadblocks in your creative process to create works that meet your artistic goals?
Almost every artistic project has roadblocks. Some are from the outside and hard to control, such as a requirement from your publisher, a demand from your gallery, or if you're painting outside, bad weather. Some are internal, such as doubts or bad habits or other psychological barriers you have to get beyond.

The hardest roadblocks to overcome are initial creative decisions that seemed good at the time, but which turn out to be flawed thinking. I call this problem the "tyranny of first decisions." That might be as simple as choosing a vertical 36" x 24" linen canvas for your portrait, or it might be as bad as the decision to make a live-action adaptation of Popeye. The final product will be the offspring of the very first choice that you make, and nothing later will fix it. Those problems are hard to address because they're hard to recognize. The problems that issue from the first decisions aren't evident until later in the process. Until you recognize the problems and face them, you can't correct them. 

Sometimes getting past a roadblock means starting over entirely. Sometimes it means fixing something mid-stream. Knowing what can be changed and how it can be changed isn't easy, even for an experienced artist. You have to be honest with yourself, or ask a friend to give you feedback at various stages. Most mistakes can be fixed if you catch them in time.

What is something (perhaps a habit, a learning experience, or an inspirational figure) that you feel has helped you on your road to be a successful professional artist?
At an early age, I ran across a book about Norman Rockwell, where he described his process in great detail. He showed his thumbnail sketches, posed models, comprehensive drawings, and color sketches leading to the final painting. I realized that every big task can be broken down into meaningful steps, solving one problem at a time. If you approach the making of a picture or the development of an illustrated book in that way, you're almost guaranteed of a successful result. As Rockwell did, I put up in my studio a little sign that says "100%" to remind myself to make a full effort on every step and to trust the process.
Best two books on Rockwell's process, by the man himself:
Rockwell on Rockwell: How I Make a Picture
Norman Rockwell Illustrator

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A.I. systems that generate photo-real video

Computer networks are getting pretty good at synthesizing video from fragmentary sources, as shown in this latest production from Two-Minute Papers (link to YouTube).

Photo-realistic expressions at right are generated
purely from the line drawings at left. Source
The generative adversarial networks can effectively create video from animated line drawings, as in the still frame above. They're also getting better at classifying the elements of a scene into its various components and translating one class of objects into another. So, for example, a tree-lined street can be changed so that it's lined with buildings instead, or vice versa.

This latest iteration does so without as many weird jumps or gaps.
Read the scientific paper here as a PDF

Monday, September 10, 2018

Cowboys, Tractors, and Robots

I transform a tractor into a robot with the help of Wyoming cowboys Tom Lucas and John Finley. (Link to YouTube video).

I start the painting in gouache and finish in casein. 

Farmwife on myYouTube channel, says:
"Nice work. I like that you see the value and beauty in the workings of the farm. We have a gifted 1945 Massey and my husband did some work so it works for cutting and such. Ours isn't painted yet, next summer. We also have a 1950 Farmall M that he overhauled, not repainted but that old work horse is road and farm ready. He'd love to get hold of that diesel Farmall. My husband is a retired farmer if there I such a thing, farmers do not retire but our horse stable did. He is also a farm machinery mechanic so our property sports all manner of old tractors and parts. As soon as one tractor moves on out, another appears, seems to be no end to old farm machinery since farmers do not scrap their tractors no matter the condition. I have to admit though that I wish some of them would transform into robots and make their way down the road!"

See it in print
This painting will be featured in the upcoming book, Nuthin' But Mech 4, which releases on September 15. So if you want to see it in print, that's the place to get it.

More Resources
Web article about the actual autonomous robot cowboy "Swagbot" 
YouTube Video: Making robot maquettes from foam
Video tutorial: "Fantasy in the Wild: Painting Concept Art on Location":
Digital download (HD MP4):
DVD (NTSC Region 1)
DVD on Amazon

Canon PowerShot Elph (point-and-shoot)


Thanks to the SKB Workshop, where I did this painting.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Motion Blur in Old Master Art

Did any artists from before the era of photography capture the effect of motion blur?

Diego Velázquez, Detail of Las Hilanderas (The Spinners)1655-1660
A good place to look are images of spinning wheels. The spokes dissolve into a blur when it really gets spinning.

Esaias Boursse, Interior with an Woman at a Spinning Wheel, 1667
Painting the spokes that way is a remarkable choice, because it means allowing the impression to  overrule the knowledge of the actual structure. Once the era of photography arrived, artists were fascinated by motion blur, but only a few have used it in their paintings.

It has shown up as a joke in this Charles Dana Gibson cartoon, and it also appears in the wildlife art of Manfred Schatz.
Previous posts that mention motion blur
Manfred Schatz: Wildlife in Action