Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Why is Old Glass Wavy?

Old glass has wavy imperfections because of the way it was made, not because it continues to flow. That's a commonly repeated myth.

Plein air painting from Montgomery Place, New York
Very old glass was made by spinning a glass crown disk from a central rod, flattening it, and cutting rectangular pieces out of it. Later, in the early 1900s, glass was made in tall cylinders which were reheated and flattened. After the mid 20th century it has been made by floating molten glass on molten tin, which results in perfectly smooth glass. Whichever way it's made, it doesn't change shape appreciably after being installed in a window.

Antique glass, with its wavy imperfections, distorts both the view through the window, and the reflection of anything behind the viewer. Those distortions are minimal if objects (like the bust) are close to the glass, but the ripple effect grows as objects are farther from the glass. 
Read more:
The Craftsman Blog All About Wavy Glass
Corning Museum of Glass Does Glass Flow?

Monday, January 20, 2020

Foveated Rendering

In this new study, a neural network compresses video data by concentrating the fine detail only in areas where we're looking with our foveas, the central area of our vision where we perceive more information. (Link to YouTube)

There are two ways of achieving foveated rendering. One ways is to use an eye tracking system connected to a virtual reality headset to guide the reduction of rendering data by focusing the detail only where we're actually looking. 

A more primitive method is to make educated guesses about where people are likely to look in a scene and put the detail there.

Obviously this has strong applications to what we do as painters. We don't need to put detail everywhere in a picture. A painting will look super detailed as long as the fine-grained information is concentrated in the faces or other key areas. 
Facebook research paper: DeepFovea: Neural Reconstruction for Foveated Rendering and Video Compression using Learned Statistics of Natural Videos

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Leibl and Sperl: Artistic Team

Wilhelm Leibl and Johann Sperl teamed up on nine paintings. Sperl (1840-1914) painted the landscape....

Detail of painting above
...and Leibl (1844-1900) contributed the figures. Here, a local man tells a hunter where to find his quarry.

This little grouping of figures worked so well that they placed them into another landscape.

According to a catalog of German painting, "Leibl and Sperl met when they were students, but a strong friendship developed only in 1873. Leibl left Munich that year and lived in a succession of Bavarian villages. After joint painting campaigns in 1875 and 1878, they lived and worked in Bad Aibling from 1881 to 1892."

In 1914, Sperl collapsed while painting a blooming meadow and died a few days before the outbreak of World War I. His final wish was to be buried next to his friend Leibl.
Book: German Masters of the Nineteenth Century
Wikipedia: Wilhelm Leibl
Johann Sperl

Saturday, January 18, 2020

"Through the Water" by von Zugel

"Through the Water," by Heinrich Zugel, is an excellent example of the Modern German School," writes the Magazine of Art in 1911

Study for "Through the Water" 1908, by Heinrich von Zugel,

"The dominant notes in the color scheme are blue and gray. The canvas is large and the pigment held in big, ample masses. The oxen are great, strong brutes, well drawn and admirably painted. The little boy on the back of the off-ox seems more of an incident than a factor in the composition. He is, however, a real boy, vital and with definite personality."

"Through the Water" 1908, by Heinrich von Zugel, formerly at the Metropolitan Museum
This is one of a collection of paintings by contemporary German artists which was exhibited in New York, Boston and Chicago in 1909, having been brought to this country through the efforts and generosity of Mr. Hugo Resinger, of New York, with the object of increasing here the knowledge and appreciation of German Art of which he is both a connoisseur and patron. It was acquired then by the Museum."

The painting no longer appears to be at the Metropolitan Museum.


Friday, January 17, 2020

Featured Artist on Dutch Art Box

I'm the featured artist this week in Dutch Art Box, along with a short interview.

Question: What inspires you to paint?
Answer: Dinosaurs and parking lots. One is beyond our imagination, the other is beneath our notice.

The website was founded by a mother / daughter team in the Netherlands who wanted to feature emerging and established artists, and share tips about art supplies and methods. Anyone can sign up to be featured.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Wall Street Journal's Hedcuts

Top row: hand-drawn portraits; Bottom row: computer-generated versions.
The Wall Street Journal has developed an artificial-intelligence system for creating its distinctive 'hedcut' portraits.
Human-created hedcut of Grumpy Cat, 2013, courtesy Wall Street Journal
Hedcuts have a wood-engraving or scratchboard look, made up of dots and dashes.

Left: human-created 'hedcut' of actress Chloë Grace Moretz
Right: AI-created hedcut, courtesy Wall Street Journal
The AI learned the style and produced adequate results in most cases. But there were difficulties. One challenge was "teaching the tool to render hair and clothes differently than skin, which was often a matter of whether to crosshatch versus stipple."

Error cases caused by AI working with too limited set of data,
courtesy Wall Street Journal
"The most harrowing issue of all was overfitting, which happens when a model fits a limited set of data too closely. In this case, that meant the machine became too satisfied with its artistic ability and began producing terrifying monstrosities like these."
Read more on Wall Street Journal: What’s in a Hedcut? Depends How It’s Made.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Herminie Waternau's Gouache Studies of Paris

Herminie Waternau (1862 - 1913), Courtyard of the Auberge du Cheval blanc in 1898
gouache and watercolor, Carnavalet Museum, History of Paris
Herminie Waternau (1862 - 1913) painted detailed architectural scenes around Paris using a muted palette of watercolor and gouache. She achieved convincing textures with a combination of transparent and opaque watercolor.

I found these images at the Paris Musées website, which recently released a trove of over 100,000 high-resolution images online. Since they're in the public domain, you can download the large files and look at the details.

Herminie Waternau (1862 - 1913), Port-Royal Hospital in 1909, 

gouache and watercolor, Carnavalet Museum, History of Paris

You can search for works by your favorite artists or discover lesser-known people.

Herminie Waternau (1862 - 1913), 34.4 x 25.4 cm (13 x 10 inches)
gouache and watercolor, Carnavalet Museum, History of Paris

According to Wikipedia, "She died of a heart attack together with her maid Ermunde Serre, and their bodies were discovered by authorities when neighbors were alarmed by their absence."

Herminie Waternau (1862 - 1913), Courtyard of the
Petit Séminaire de Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet in 1908.
gouache and watercolor, Carnavalet Museum, History of Paris
Paris Museums Collection Online
Article about the release of images in Smithsonian Magazine

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Vogue Italia's Illustrated Issue

The fashion magazine Vogue Italia used a series of illustrated covers for its January, 2020 issue in order to reduce the magazine's impact on the environment.
 January 2020 Vogue Italia Special Issue on newsstands
January 7th 
They explain: "All of the covers, as well as the features of our January issue, have been drawn by artists, ranging from well-known art icons and emerging talents to comic book legends, who have created without travelling, shipping entire wardrobes of clothes or polluting in any way. The challenge was to prove it is possible to show clothes without photographing them." 
@MiloManara_official featuring @OliviaVinten in @Gucci
They continue: "This is a first, Vogue Italia has never had an illustrated cover: and as far as I know no issue of Vogue in which photography is not the primary visual medium has ever been printed. Thanks to this idea, and to these artists' process, the money saved in the production of this issue will go towards financing a project that really deserves it: the restoration of @FondazioneQueriniStampalia in Venice, severely damaged by the recent floods.”

Whether there's any real environmental benefit to this decision, or whatever their motivation in choosing it, a side benefit is that they're hiring more art. They say having art on the cover is a first for Vogue Italia. Perhaps so, but it's not a first for Vogue itself, as a quick search of 1930s-era covers will attest.
Comments on their Instagram post include:
Obsessed with this!! We need to see more of this as us illustrators are very under appreciated in the fashion industry.
fawxden Surprised you kids have not done this concept before. It’s pretty fabulous. Do an all black and white edition next!! 🖤
begasquish Supporting artists is also a wonderful idea again! Bravo !! 👏💙🙏

Monday, January 13, 2020

Watson on Sketching in Public

Ernest Watson, in his book The Art of Pencil Drawing, says "One has to become accustomed to a reasonable amount of attention from curious pedestrians."

Pennsylvania Station, Pittsburgh, pencil drawing by Ernest Watson

"You become a public entertainer as soon as you establish yourself in a public place. You have no right to privacy. You get used to this, in time, and should not be disturbed by respectful onlookers. When possible, seek a semi-secluded nook or at least a wall, against which you can sit and enjoy a degree of privacy.The famous Rialto in Venice is a very busy thoroughfare," he continues. "The artist is practically forced to seek a reasonably quiet spot out of the traffic flow. When I went to draw the Rialto, there was but one such place for a favored view of the bridge, and this spot seemed constantly occupied by other artists. I found it vacant after three or four visits to the place."
From The Art of Pencil Drawing by Ernest Watson

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Frank Brangwyn: Color and Tone

Frank Brangwyn (Anglo-Welsh 1867-1956) typically worked with a relatively limited palette that included flake white, yellow ochre, raw sienna, burnt sienna, cadmium red, Venetian red, vermilion, and French blue.

Frank Brangwyn, Market Scene Jaffa, 1890 50.5 x 61cm (19 7/8 x 24in).
Biographer Walter Shaw-Sparrow said, "The thing that counted as the saving grace of style was tone, which may be described as a unifying mystery of colour that permeates a picture, and binds all its parts together, giving a sort of inner depth and richness....Nature is a vast unity with scattered parts, while art is a limited harmony; and it is tone that helps us to resolve profusion into a definite whole, true to the same key in every plot of colour."