Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Painting Draft Horses

Sketches of the draft horses at the county fair. Gouache, watercolor, and fountain pen, 5 x 8 inches.

These horses didn't pose, even though they always had handlers, because they were getting ready for their events. That's why I kept the sketches small and started several of them in different poses.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Jervis McEntee Exhibitions

Jervis McEntee, The Woods of Asshockan, Catskills (1871), St. Johnsbury Athenaeum
Jervis McEntee (1828-1891), was a painter of the Hudson River School who has been largely overlooked until now. His work is being featured in two different museum exhibitions this fall, one in Kingston, and the other in New Paltz, New York.


The first exhibition is called "Jervis McEntee: Kingston’s Artist of the Hudson River School" and it's at the Friends of Historic Kingston gallery.


The Kingston exhibit is a small show, but it has a variety of attractions, including easel paintings, location studies in oil, pencil sketches, photographs, letters, and other documentary material, all of which puts McEntee in a historical context.


McEntee began studying with Frederic Church in 1850, and learned from him a love of painting faithful small studies of forest scenes, sunsets, and trees. They traveled together on painting junkets to Mexico and other locations throughout their lives. 


The son of an engineer who helped develop the bustling D&H barge canal that terminated in Kingston, McEntee himself avoided industrial subjects, and gravitated instead to the bucolic scenes that were fast receding in 19th century America. 

His circle of friends included notable writers, actors, architects. Among his artist friends were not only Frederic Church, but also Sanford Gifford, John F. Weir, and Worthington Whittredge. 

McEntee and his wife occupied one of the legendary Tenth Street Studios in New York, a fertile meeting ground for artists and illustrators in late 19th century America. 


In addition to his paintings, McEntee contributed a detailed daily journal of his observations about nature, art, and daily life. His journal was recently digitized by the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian, and is available free online. 

He was frequently depressed as his fortunes ebbed. The journal makes for fascinating reading, because he had the same problems with galleries that contemporary painters do. On January 4, 1883, he wrote: "Beginning to be worried with money anxieties. They don't send my money for my picture sold in Brooklyn nor reply to my inquiries. I can't stand being asked for money when I have none."
Jervis McEntee, View Facing the Catskills, 1863, oil, Private Collection
The second exhibition just opened at the Samuel Dorsky Museum on the campus of the State University in New Paltz.

Jervis McEntee, Autumn Reverie, 1880, oil on canvas, David and Laura Grey Collection
It's a larger exhibition with more finished paintings, borrowed from the Metropolitan Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, and many other public and private collections.

Kingston Exhibition: "Jervis McEntee: Kingston’s Artist of the Hudson River School" is at the Friends of Historic Kingston gallery at 63 Main St. in Kingston and will run through October. The museum is only open Fridays and Saturdays from 11 am to 4 pm through Oct. 31, 2015. There will be "Noontime Conversations" by noted artists and art historians held on Fridays during the month of September.
The catalog of the Kingston show is called Jervis McEntee: Kingston's Artist of the Hudson River School. It's 62 pages, softcover, with contributions by Lowell Thing and William B. Rhoads. The exhibit was coordinated by the Friends' executive director Jane Kellar.

New Paltz Exhibition: The New Paltz exhibition is called "Jervis McEntee: Painter-Poet of the Hudson River School" It will be on view at the Samuel Dorsky Museum in New Paltz through December 13.
The New Paltz show catalog is titled Jervis Mcentee: Painter-Poet of the Hudson River School. This 130-page monograph presents new scholarship by exhibition curator Lee A. Vedder along with contributions by Kerry Dean Carso, a scholar of the historic Hudson Valley and professor at SUNY New Paltz; and American studies professor David Schuyler, the leading historian on McEntee.
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Jervis McEntee on Wikipedia

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Corriedale Sheep


(Link to SoundCloud file) At the Dutchess County Fair in Rhinebeck, New York, I painted a portrait of a Corriedale ewe named Iris as her owner described the qualities of this breed of sheep.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Pixar's Free Online Tutorials



Pixar has released a free online course to explain the science and technology behind its approach to making computer-generated animated films. The interactive course covers most of the math-based aspects of the production pipeline, such as character modeling, environment modeling, combinatorics, animation physics, and surface rendering.

Here's the intro video (link to YouTube), which amusingly shows a lot of handmade skills (such as sculpting clay and drawing with markers—and relatively primitive technology, such as an Ektagraphic slide projector.



This video, for example, takes a look at the lighting factors and surface qualities that contribute to the color of an object. (Link to YouTube) The presentation seems intended for school-age learners rather than fellow professionals or mega-geeks. Each segment is presented by someone from the department in question.
Missing from the presentation is the softer science of Pixar's process, such as how they approach story development, character design, and acting for animation. I hope they include those topics in future teaching modules.

Pixar in a Box
Via Design Taxi

Friday, August 28, 2015

GJ Book Club: Chapter 21, Conclusions

For the GJ Book Club, let's consider the concluding chapter in Harold Speed's 1917 classic The Practice and Science of Drawing, and reflect back on the book as a whole.

Lady Diana Bridgeman, Harold Speed (British, 1852-1957).

Speed begins this final chapter talking about the camera, and the merits and dangers of mechanical accuracy. This is an issue that hasn't gone away, and that people in our community still discuss today.

I'll put Speed's quotes in boldface, followed by my thoughts.

1. There may be times when the camera can be of use to artists, but only to those who are thoroughly competent to do without it.
Speed suggests that truth achieved by mechanical accuracy may be a valuable stepping stone toward true art, but we should use a standard other than accuracy alone to measure our response to art. Art is not merely a collection of objective facts, but rather "records of a living individual consciousness." Whether one traces a photo or some other procedure to achieve mechanical accuracy, one must not lose sight of the driving emotion that guides the choice and placement of elements, and that shapes the rhythms of the artistic statement.

2. The training of his eye and hand to the most painstaking accuracy of observation and record must be the student's aim for many years.
Despite his caution to see beyond mechanical accuracy, Speed argues that accurate drawing is an absolute prerequisite to the kind of evolved subjective vision he advocates. Students must strive for unflinching honesty or sincerity. Seeking originality for its own sake is a trap, leaving the young artist chasing the fashions of the moment, or contenting himself or herself with an easy substitute for the fine craftsmanship that is more difficult to attain.

3. Individual style will come to you naturally as you become more conscious of what it is you wish to express.
Speed argues that young artists should be wary of adopting readymade techniques or design conventions borrowed from other artists. More often than not, those outward stylistic gimmicks don't fit the subject you're painting nor the mood you're trying to evoke. Everything must begin with an artist's idea, and style is simply the most direct means to communicate that idea.

4. Appendix: Phi Proportions
I wish an editor had suggested that Speed delete this appendix—or save it for another book, because I think it contradicts Speed's entire argument leading up to it. After decrying readymade compositional formulas, he proceeds to introduce a readymade mathematical formula for design. It strikes me as an afterthought alien to the rest of Speed's argument. Longtime blog readers know where I stand about via the Golden Ratio (also known as "phi"). You can read my thoughts in my blog series "Mythbusting the Golden Mean" or, if you like, another website called "The Myth of the Golden Ratio."

Final thoughts
Looking back on the book as a whole, I'm struck with how much this book is about aesthetics. When I first encountered the book as an art student, I was primarily interested in materials, methods, and techniques but what I take away from the book at this stage in my life is the importance that Speed rightly places on the thinking, feeling, and intention behind the technique.

I have newly marked up my print copy with pencil notations in the margins, and I have been inspired by the many fresh perspectives that you as blog readers have brought to each chapter to deepen my appreciation of Speed's book. For those who discover this book club weeks or months later, please feel free to add your comments. I'll be able to review it and publish your comments any time, and keep this book club constantly in session.

The next book for the GJ book club will be Speed's book on painting, the sequel to this one on drawing. In its original edition, it's called "The Science and Practice of Oil Painting." Unfortunately it's not available in a free edition that I know of, but there's an inexpensive print edition that Dover publishes under a different title "Oil Painting Techniques and Materials." We'll start up with that book in three weeks, on September 18, which gives you time to pick up a copy.
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The Practice and Science of Drawing is available in various formats:
1. Inexpensive softcover edition from Dover, (by far the majority of you are reading it in this format)
2. Fully illustrated and formatted for Kindle.
3. Free online Archive.org edition.
4. Project Gutenberg version
Articles on Harold Speed in the Studio Magazine The Studio, Volume 15, "The Work of Harold Speed" by A. L. Baldry. (XV. No. 69. — December, 1898.) page 151.
and The Windsor Magazine, Volume 25, "The Art of Mr. Harold Speed" by Austin Chester, page 335. (thanks, अर्जुन)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Day at the County Fair

Here's what I pack in my bag for a sketching day at the Dutchess County Fair in Rhinebeck, NY.



It's everything I need for sketching in watercolors, colored pencils, and gouache. There's a 5 x 8 inch watercolor journal, plus devices for capturing video, stills, and audio. The audio recorder is called a Zoom H2n.All of this fits onto my belt.



I start off in the cow barn, where the milkers are taking a morning nap before their judging. Without a chair, I paint standing.  

Holstein named "Jacket," gouache by James Gurney
I use a limited palette of three colors of gouache: yellow ochre (Holbein), perylene maroon (Winsor Newton), and viridian (Winsor Newton)—plus white (M. Graham). Viridian serves as my "blue." I can get a nice black with the maroon and the viridian. 

By the way, this would be a good limited palette to try for the "Paint an Outdoor Palette on Location" challenge (link goes to Facebook page where you can see entries so far).

1. Underdrawing in water-soluble colored pencil.
2. A wet block-in without white approximates the final colors.
3. Introducing opaque white, and defining the forms of the body. 
4. Dark spots and definition of small forms and details.


In this audio clip (link to Soundcloud file), Jeff Pulver of Pleasant View Farm, describes what a judge looks for in a dairy cow.


After the painting session, we watch the draft horse pull. It requires immense power for the team of two Belgian geldings to pull 8500 pounds of concrete.


The Dutchess County Fair will continue through this Sunday in Rhinebeck. If you live nearby, check it out—it's the second largest fair in New York State, with one of the largest displays of farm animals.