Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Cult of the British Naturalists

A group of British artists of the nineteenth century hung out with the painters living in rural France. They were especially inspired by Jules Bastien-Lepage, who painted working people in real settings.

Painting by Stanhope Forbes
British painters Stanhope Forbes and Henry LaThangue (below) settled in the fishing community of Cornwall and formed what came to be known as the Newlyn School.

Photo of Henry LaThangue
A 1906 biography, quoting Forbes, describes the working principles of this group:

"To paint the picture entirely and absolutely out of doors, braving all difficulties, and relying in no way upon sketches or studies, with which, later on, the work could be comfortably finished within the walls of a studio—such was the creed to which they pledged themselves.

"Nature was to be respected and followed without question: to be blindly obeyed. Models might grumble and dislike having to sit in the street under the very eyes of the whole village, but the cult demanded it, and its exponents gave an example of self-sacrifice, for they spared themselves no trouble, and worked out their principles with admirable conscientiousness."

"'It may seem somewhat of a paradox, but I have often found the success of the picture to be in inverse ratio to the degree of comfort in which it has been produced. I scarcely like to advance the theory that painting is more successful when carried on in discomfort, and with everything conspiring to wreck it, for fear of rendering tenantless those comfortable studios the luxury of which my good friends in the Melbury Road and St. John’s Wood so much enjoy. At the same time, I do seriously think that there is a certain quality of deliberateness most valuable in painting, which is undoubtedly encouraged where the conditions of one's work are not over and above enjoyable.

Painting by Stanhope Forbes
"In his eagerness to get the work done, the painter is careful not to waste time or linger over the job, but to go straight at the mark and make every touch tell. I have never painted with such directness as on those fortunately rare occasions when I have worked at sea, and I have carried large pictures right through to the last touch in smithies, stable-sheds, and amid all sorts of queer surroundings under conditions which when starting seemed absolutely hopeless and prohibitive. It is much discussed whether it is better to work directly from Nature or to make innumerable studies or notes and paint the picture from them. I believe no rule can be laid down, and that it is entirely a matter of individual temperament.

"My own custom has always been to work as much as possible on the spot, and practice has taught me that this offers certain advantages over any other method. There is a quality of freshness most difficult of attainment by any other course, and which one is too apt to lose when the work is brought into the studio for completion."
Quotes from the 1906 book: Stanhope A. Forbes A.R.A., and Elizabeth Stanhope Forbes, A.R.W.S. by Mrs. Lionel Birch

More recent book with color reproductions: Stanhope Forbes and the Newlyn School

Online article: Henry Herbert La Thangue – the pictorial documenter of rural life

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Oil Painting with Textural Effects

Pre-texturing is a way to achieve textural impastos without having to use a lot of slow-drying oil paint. If you add texture first in a faster drying material, you can then use oil thinly over it and the whole passage will be dry within 24 hours. The above video (Link to YouTube) shows how it works.

I use two different kinds of pre-textured impasto. The first one is using acrylic modeling paste at the stage of the preliminary drawing. The second way is to use white or light oil paint with a couple drops of cobalt drier added in to accelerate drying. After letting that thoroughly dry, I can place
YouTube video: Oil Painting with Textural Effects
Check out the full tutorial video "Unconventional Oil Techniques", which is full of practical art instruction for all levels.
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DVD from manufacturer:

Friday, June 14, 2019

The Peaceful Watercolors of J. J. Hilder

Jesse Jewhurst Hilder (1881-1916) was an Australian watercolorist who was adept at softness and simplicity. 

Here he groups together the dark values into a single interconnected shape. The boards of the structure that are in light are also grouped into a simple light shape without too much texture or definition.

These log-haulers are presented with an emphasis on atmospheric feeling. The far trees are rendered with a simple flat value, and the cool shadow in the foreground melts into the light. There appears to be some scrubbing out of the tone in the right area.

In addition to the softness and the lack of textural rendering, his palette is extremely restricted, with just a hint of warm and cool.

According to Wikipedia, "Hilder was modest, shy and affected by illness; this sometimes led to estrangement from his best friends. He was fortunate in his wife, in the admiration of his fellow artists, and in finding early buyers of his paintings. He was very critical of his own work and tore up much of it; sometimes the final result was the third or fourth effort to capture the subject. He was not afraid of empty spaces and everything in the drawing was beautifully placed. His colour was always excellent, though some of his later work is painted almost in monochrome washed in on very rough paper. The treatment generally is broad, yet full of refinement and poetical feeling."

He died of illness in 1916, as the world was being dislocated by WWI. Fellow artist Julian Ashton wrote in a memorial catalog of his work: "Often, in a disturbed mood, wrapt in black thoughts, I go to our National Gallery and sit in front of the Hilders, and by and by I come away filled with peace."
Jesse Jewhurst Hilder on Wikipedia
Related post: What is 'Poetic' in Art?
Book: The art of J. J. Hilder 1918
Thanks, David Webb

Thursday, June 13, 2019

First-Hand Gleanings from Sargent

In his memoir, painter and sculptor Emil Fuchs said he asked John Singer Sargent for permission to paint in the master's presence in order to learn from him.

John Singer Sargent, portrait of Edwin Booth, detail, 1890
Sargent wasn't particularly verbal about his painting philosophy or his technique, but Fuchs was able to glean some helpful insights anyway.
"He never said much, but what he did say, one might do well to engrave upon the tablets of one's mind. One of the great man's teachings was the dominant importance of values over color. 'Color,' he said, 'is an inborn gift, but appreciation of value is merely a training of the eye which everyone ought to be able to acquire.' "
"Value in art, as everyone knows, simply means the relation of light to shade. Sargent referred to this idea over and over, and it occurred to me that perhaps he meant value not in pictures alone, but fundamentally in all the realms of life. His work demonstrates his ingrained belief in this. I can think of nobody who can see and render values with such delicate distinction as does Sargent."  
"His palette was to me a marvel. His enormous wealth of color he produces with a few simple hues, mostly earth colors — white, yellow ocher, light red or vermilion, burnt sienna, cobalt blue, emerald green and black. His is a rare skill in using and combining them." 
"Some mornings he would come in and, without saying much, would help me in painting a difficult passage from the model. While the direct way of painting appealed to him, he fully appreciated the more subtle methods, especially that of grisailles and glazing, by which many masters obtain their effects of brilliancy. This method, perhaps I should add, consists in painting first in black and white, and then laying on a thin film of transparent color."   
"Sargent's veneration for the work of the old masters was profound. But Velasquez and Franz Hals were the gods of his Pantheon. He copied both freely. Of Velasquez he had in his studio a facsimile of the dwarf Don Antonio el Ingles, and of Franz Hals several groups from his large pictures at Haarlem copied by himself. If my recollections of our discussions about artists are correct, Van Dyck seemed to appeal to him the least."
"About technique it was always difficult to make him express himself in words. Rather than explain a serious problem, he would take a brush and paint that piece and the difficulties would vanish under his touch. When I worked at his studio he offered me the free use of his colors and even his palette and brushes which lay about in profusion. Few artists can bring themselves to lend these objects without feeling it to be sacrilege."
With Pencil, Brush, and Chisel by Emil Fuchs
Emil Fuchs on Wikipedia
John Singer Sargent on Wikipedia

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Joe De Mers, American Illustrator

Joe De Mers (1910-1984) was a style setter in the mid-20th century illustrated magazines.

He painted glamorous women in romantic situations, in a style reminiscent of Coby Whitmore, Tom Lovell, or Harry Anderson

He typically combined abstract areas of flat colors with carefully rendered faces and hands. Large heads in illustrations were an exciting innovation borrowed from the closeup in movies.

He painted often in gouache. Note the crop marks at the corners, the registration marks on the left, and the brown stain of rubber cement around the outside edges. The rubber cement probably held a presentation mat board on the front.

Illustrator Joe De Mers is the featured artist of the new Illustration Magazine #64. In over 38 color illustrations, some full page, the article chronicles his development from Hollywood concept artist to a star in the Charles Cooper Studios in New York, where top illustrators created advertising art for all the leading accounts.
"Illustration Art" blog posts: Joe De Mers and the "Big Head" School of Illustration
"Art Contrarion" Joe De Mers: Mainstream 1950s Illustrator

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Hsieh Ming Chang

Hsieh Ming Chang is a Taiwanese watercolorist born in 1955. 

This painting has an upshot angle of a doorway with carvings and decorations. The illuminated area bleaches out to white. The colors are muted versions of warm and cool colors except for that red accent, which is echoed in the lower right. 

The textures of rust and peeling paint are so loving reproduced. I haven't seen the original, but I'll bet it's looser than it appears.

There's a big variety of shapes and edges throughout the image. If you follow along the edge of that canopy from the top down, you can see how it goes from soft to crisp.

A limited palette gives a sense of permanence and age to this simple rendering.
More examples by Hsieh Ming Chang

Monday, June 10, 2019

Before and After Morphine

Spanish painter Santiago Rusiñol (1861-1931) painted a young woman before and after taking morphine.
Santiago Rusiñol — Before Morphine, 1894
In the first painting she's sitting up in a bed, her head lost in the shadow. Her arm looks thin and emaciated.

Santiago Rusiñol — Morphine's Girl
After she falls under the influence of the drug, her head sinks back on the pillow, and her fingers clutch at the covers. Her change in mental state is expressed mainly with the pose of her arm and with her surroundings.

According to the Museu del Cau Ferrat, which includes one of the paintings: "The morphine addict in the painting is Stephanie Nantas, the painter’s favourite model during the months he was staying in the apartment in Quai Bourbon. She appears in nearly ten works that Rusiñol produced anonymously during that period."
Museu del Cau Ferrat
Santiago Rusiñol on Wikipedia

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Clebsch Maps

Clebsch Maps are a way of visualizing the pattern of dynamic movement within fluids, such as air or water.

They're particularly useful for creating images of what happens in the air around flapping wings.

Here is a hummingbird in flight with a Clebsch Map showing the air velocities around it.

Each flapping wing is surrounded by tube-like vortices of quickly spinning air. Here they're rendered to look like glistening plastic wrap or glass tubing.

This YouTube video shows Clebsch Maps in various applications. This research will have practical applications for understanding the flight of insects and drones, as well as for creating new CGI techniques in the visual effects industry.
Study by Ren. Y Dong, H. Deng, et al.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Friday, June 7, 2019

Beginner's Drawing Kits

Toy Collector Mel Birnkrant shares his copy of the Donald Duck Paint and Crayon Set (Skip to 2:45). It came with a paint brush, mixing cups, 8 wax crayons, a blackboard, chalk, die-cut figures that could stand up, an elaborate "parade of characters" and a set of premixed colors that included "sky blue," "sea blue" and "blazing red."  (Link to video on YouTube).

I didn't have access to anything like that as a kid, but my mom let me try out her oil painting kit, which always sat in a closet as a reminder that she once had painted. The idea that both my parents had at one time tried painting impressed me greatly, even though they didn't do it any more.

My mom's wooden box had some stiff brushes and little tubes of colors, some of which were dried up, and the labels were soaked in oil. Her kit didn't have bottles of oils and solvents, so I couldn't really use it, but the lingering smell of the linseed oil symbolized to me the life of an artist.

I also had a set of Crayola crayons. They had evocative names like "grass green" and "peach." I still think of those names when I think of those colors. I never liked crayons very much, even as a young kid because they seemed too crude and hard to control.

Jeanette says she had a Jon Gnagy "Learn to Draw" set, which came with everything you needed to draw like he did on TV.

Did you have a beginner's art kit when you were a kid? If so, share your memories in the comments.
Watch the video about Mel on YouTube by Eric Millen
Mel Birnkrant's website