Sunday, February 5, 2023

Passenger Portrait

Here's a watercolor portrait done live on the train.

flandelacasa asks: "Did he see it?" No, I was ready to show him but he took off when we got to the station.

Friday, February 3, 2023

Keeping it balanced

 My career as a professional fashion model was short but well balanced.

Charles Bargue Plates Reprinted

Making copies of Charles Bargue plates have become a standard part of academic practice in the ateliers, but it can be hard to find high quality reproductions of the original lithographs.

Fortunately a dedicated team of artists and technicians has reprinted many of the best plates, including this one of Faustina, using a painstaking process that included careful photography from the original Bargue set and printing on a historic press using a heavyweight light gray stock.

According to the creators, this plate represents "a horse's head, from the east pediment of the Parthenon showing the miraculous birth of the goddess Athena. This figure was carved like an isolated horse's head, pulling the chariot of the goddess Selene during the night."

"It captures the very essence of the stress felt by the animal. The ear is flattened back, the jaw gaping, the nostril flared and the eye bulging."

Available from our store, Bargue Horse Print, lithographed plate on gray-blue tinted art paper, 350 g, ideal for charcoal copying.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Venice Beach

Venice Beach, plein-air oil, 9x 12 inches.

I had fun with this one putting most of the detail way up in the upper right, and letting the rest be open spaces.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Cats Juggling Balls

Cats Juggling Balls by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861)

According to the Ōta Memorial Museum of Art, "Kuniyoshi was an ukiyo-e artist who was active in the late Edo period. Kuniyoshi made his debut as an ukiyo-e artist in his late teens. After an unsuccessful period, he made a big breakthrough in his early thirties with the series “One Hundred and Eight Heroes from Tales of the Water Margin.” 

"Since then, he worked energetically on all kinds of genres of ukiyo-e including “musha-e (warrior pictures)” of heroes, “giga (caricatures)”, landscapes, “bijin-ga (pictures of beautiful women)”, “yakusha-e (portraits of kabuki actors)”, and pictures for children."

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Botanical Art or Plein-Air Painting?

Is there a difference between botanical art and plein-air painting? 

While both may result in attractive images of plants, the botanical artist is more concerned with portraying individual specimens with a scientist’s perspective, removing a plant from its context to understand the structure and exploring the beauty in that way. 

The plein-air artist pays attention to the whole living ensemble as influenced by light, air, atmosphere, spatial depth. It’s possible to combine the two visual approaches—and the thought process behind them—to see both the forest and the trees.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Manu Forti

The Mackays of Scotland have a clan badge that says "Manu Forti," which means "with a strong hand." When I was just 13 years old, I realized I had Mackay ancestors, so I drew this bookplate on scratchboard and printed it out as a bookplate for my graphic arts class. 

Thirteen years old is the age when I started to figure out who the heck I was. I discovered it was possible to make a living with my hands in graphic arts, calligraphy, animation, or illustration. 

All my heroes—Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, Norman Rockwell, Preston Blair—had their heyday between 1900 and 1940. They were long gone before I got started. But that didn't matter to me. They were all people in books, anyway. I just saw the glimmer of a path out of the thicket of teenager-hood into the possibility of an adult life.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Black Umbrellas

Susan asks: "Do you recommend black umbrellas for plein-air artists?"

No, I really don't. Here's why I don't think a black or silver umbrella is useful. The goal of any sun-modifying system should be to transform direct sunlight into soft (indirect) light. The amount of light on the artwork—and the color of that light—should be as similar as possible to the amount and color of the light on the subject. 

The problem with blocking the light entirely with black or silver material is that the level of illumination will be too low on the work, making the eye have to adjust from one to another. Worse yet, the only light shining on the work is whatever bounces up from the ground. This light is often highly colored, especially if it’s grass, bricks or dirt, making accurate color judgments almost impossible. 

All that doesn't even take into account another issue that all umbrellas face: wind! They're wind traps, and lead to blowdowns.


Instead I recommend you make your own white diffuser system. They give good soft diffused light, they're easy to use, and they don't lead to blowdowns. I've made several variations and I demonstrate them on YouTube and my Gumroad video about sketch easels.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Alice in Larvaeland

No, it's not AI art—not digital either. I painted it for fun in acrylic during lunch break while I was a 22-year-old working as a background painter on the animated movie "Fire and Ice."

I suppose I was tapping into some weird corners of my subconscious mind, trying to figure out how to adapt H.R. Giger's biomorphism to landscape painting, and tossing some story possibilities out there for Ralph Bakshi's team to play with.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Shadow Letters

Sign painters and show-card artists in the golden age of penmanship had a variety of styles of applying shadows to make letters stand out.

According to Atkinson, "All letters must be shaded on the same angle, and every characteristic must be indicated.

"On letters A, Y, V, W, M, the shade is narrower in width on the diagonal "letter strokes" that are affected by the shade at a forty-five degree angle.

"On ordinary work and Card Writing, the relief shade is most commonly used, as it permits of quick execution, and in most cases is rendered in single stroke, using a brush that will accommodate itself to the width of the shade desired.

"Where extremities of letters are close together, the stroke can be left disconnected, which liberty is legitimate and permissible, especially on card work.

"On the relief shade leave "relief space" quite wide—i. e., the space between the edge of letter and inner edge of shade; it gives the letter better emphasis and is more professional."

From A Show at Sho'-Cards by Atkinson