Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Getting an Oil Change, So Let's Paint

It's a few degrees above freezing, so while they give my car an oil change, I'll paint a streetscape in gouache and watercolor.
If I had remembered, I would have brought chemical hand warmers and fingerless gloves. (Link to YouTube video

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Painting While Facing the Light

How can you capture light in a painting while facing toward the light? I've got a new video that you can watch here or on YouTube.

The technique uses watercolor, gouache, and pastel over a casein priming to capture the feeling of objects against a bright sky. I also discuss whether it ‘breaks the rules’ to combine gouache, watercolor and other mixed media.
Should Watercolors Be Purely Transparent?
Contre Jour Lighting
Light Spill

Monday, November 11, 2019

Fortuny Watercolor Study

Mariano Fortuny's father and mother had died by the time he was 12, so he was raised by his grandfather, a craftsman who showed the boy how to make wax figurines. He took his grandson on the road from town to town, presenting the figures they sculpted.

Watercolor study by Mariano (or Marià) Fortuny (1838-1874)
Young Mariano showed early promise in drawing and painting. In Paris, he studied with Ernest Meissonier and Jean Leon Gérôme, both of whom made careful studies from costumed models with watercolor.

Fortuny died young, but his influence was felt by many younger artists, who carried on his tradition of traveling and adventuring, painting people in exotic costumes.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Most Museum-Goers Spend Just 10 Seconds Per Painting

In his new book First Blush: People's Intuitive Reactions to Famous Art, Dan Hill examines how we look at artwork, using an experimental approach that combines eye tracking with facial coding.
Image Courtesy Dan Hill, Sensory Logic

Facial coding involves the careful tracking of minute facial expressions that animate the face of a viewer while reacting to a stimulus. As we process images through our brains, the information passes through an emotional filter before we can rationalize what we're seeing.

Hill uses a market-research approach to analyzing our response to art. In a controlled experimental setting, he invites viewers to respond to a variety of famous paintings and photographs. The book is an informally written summary of his experimental results.

Image Courtesy Dan Hill, Sensory Logic
He makes some observations that should interest curators and us museum-goers. First, viewers have short attention spans. The best chance to hook someone's attention is in the first three seconds. After that there's a dramatic fall-off that never really bounces back.

Hill says: "an art work's window of opportunity for creating an emotional connection is typically super brief." After spending many hours in many different museums carefully watching how people interact with the art on the walls, he concludes that the average viewing time per painting in an art museum is about 10 seconds: "Most often, you're likely to look at an artwork for four seconds before taking five seconds to read the plaque (i.e., "tombstone") describing the work's title, the artist's name, and so forth. Then if still interested, you'll glance back at the artwork for another second, before moving on. The vast majority of museum viewers, he observes, read at most twenty words of the museum caption before their attention falters.
On Amazon: First Blush: People's Intuitive Reactions to Famous Art

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Eisaku Wada's Fuji Studies

While looking into Japan's tradition of European-influenced Yōga painting I ran across the work of Eisaku Wada (1874-1959).

He did a lot of plein air studies of Mount Fuji, which were evidently painted on location. 

Eisaku Wada was chosen by the Ministry of Education to study in France.

He also learned from Kuroda Seiki, who had studied in Paris.

He returned to Japan and became a professor of Tokyo University of Arts.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Yōga Painting

Old Woman (1908) Wada Eisaku
At various stages of Japan's history, artists have been interested in trying out European approaches to shading, perspective, and color.

Flower basket of Takahashi, 1879
After the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the Western style became known as Yōga painting, distinguished from Nihonga painting, which is a more traditional Japanese approach.

Shoemaker by Harada Naojiro (1863-1899)
According to The Art Story, "These new techniques introduced the employment of perspective, a push toward oil painting, lithography, pastels, watercolors, sketching, and the practice of plein air painting, and the incorporation of decidedly Western motifs and subjects."
Yōga painting on Wikipedia (in German)
Previous post on Nihonga painting

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Sargent Images from NGV

The National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne has in its collection nine examples of paintings and drawings by John Singer Sargent.
Hospital at Granada (1912) John Singer SARGENT oil on canvas 56.2 × 71.5 cm
One of them shows patients recovering at a hospital in Spain. The scene appears to be painted completely on location, with the artist focusing on each person or grouping in turn.

At the NGV website, you can zoom way into the paintings and see the economy of strokes that Sargent used to describe the forms.

The website also has 64 works by Arthur Streeton, 34 works by Charles Conder, and 77 works by Norman Lindsay, with similar zoomable features.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Repin in Old Age

"When [Ilya Repin] got old and his hand withering, he should have stopped on health grounds, and his family tried to stop him. They took his paints away, and when they came back from a walk one day and found that the artist dipped a cigarette in an ink well and painted on the wall. So, they gave him his paints back." --"David Jackson Talks About Ilya Repin"

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Loopy Reflections

Detail of Sommarnoje by Anders Zorn
In his 1903 book "Light and Water," Montagu Pollock describes reflections that create "a chain of loops or a series of disconnected rings. Such rings are amongst the commonest features of gently moving water in the foreground of a picture. The reflexions of a boom or bowsprit, or of any conspicuous horizontal line, often assume this form."
Light and Water by Montagu Pollock on Amazon
Digital copy on

Monday, November 4, 2019

Loading Lights

Detail of a portrait by Peder Krøyer
The term "loading" is sometimes used to refer to the application of a thick impasto on the light areas of a painting. According to an 1845 painting manual:

"Loading—is a term applied to laying colours in thick masses on the lights, so as to make them project considerably from the surface, with the view of their being strongly illuminated by the light that falls on the picture, and thus mechanically to aid in producing roundness and relief, or in giving a sparkling effect to polished or glittering objects; this artifice however, must be had recourse to sparingly, otherwise it defeats its own object, and gives the execution a coarse and vulgar air."