Thursday, October 20, 2016

Moby's new video

Here's a new music video called "Are You Lost In The World Like Me?" by Moby & The Void Pacific Choir with animation by Steve Cutts in a 30's retro style. The subject is a little depressing—how people are all hooked on their devices—but it's incisive satire, an apt commentary on our times.

(Link to see the video on YouTube)

Peludópolis: A Lost Animated Film

Peludópolis was an 80-minute animated film by Argentine director Quirino Cristiani. Released in 1931, it was the first animated feature film with sound.

Unfortunately, all copies of the finished film were lost in a fire, so the film is best known from this making-of featurette. If you get this post by email, you might need to follow this link to YouTube to see the video.

The film was made by a novel paper cut-out process. 

The characters and background elements were drawn with white paint on black paper. The paper cutouts were then laid out, and shot with a reversal process.
Peludópolis on Wikipedia

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

DVD Set on Sale

Here is the ultimate gift for yourself or the artist in your life. 

At the GurneyJourney store, we've got the full set of eight art instruction DVDs on sale for 25% off the list price. The set includes four popular titles about plein-air painting: Portraits in the Wild, Fantasy in the Wild, Gouache in the Wild, and Watercolor in the Wild. 

Plus you get all four behind-the-scenes instructional documentaries The Mammal that Ate Dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurs: Behind the Art, Australia’s Age of Dinosaurs, and How I Paint Dinosaurs. 

You get eight full hours of running time, helpfully divided into chapters, plus slide shows, special features, and printed card inserts. Plus we'll include a signed door-hanger for the studio or art room. Save $50 off the combined list price of $200.00.  

(Meanwhile, I'm working on the final edit of Casein in the Wild....should be out in less than a month.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Canaletto Up Close

In honor of Canaletto's birthday today in 1697, let's take a look at one of his paintings. His method of painting is quite unusual.

Canaletto, The Bucintoro at the Molo on Ascension Day
Nowadays most oil painters would go for a general overall impression first and refine it further and further with spots of paint. 

Canaletto is rhythmic and precise, like visual music. The way he achieved this look was by painting the big background tones first. When those tones were completely dry, he would go back in with paint on a long thin brush and define the smaller forms almost like calligraphy. 

Because of the drying time, I would guess that he would have had several canvases going at the same time. 

Overlapping forms like figures and boats were painted from background to foreground. So those stairs going down to the water were painted all the way across and allowed to dry before the figures were added over them. 

As the paint has transparentized slightly over the centuries, you can see the earlier layers through the figures.

This method of painting takes some faith and some visualization, because you have to anticipate many steps ahead. The procedure would not work very well in oil on location unless you painted it in a two day session. But it would work extremely well with casein or gouache, where the drying time and opacity encourage such handling.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Forsberg's "Death of a Hero"

A secret to good composition is to group and simplify the tones. But the tonal organization must serve the story. 

Let's look at an example, along with my pencil sketch.

Nils Forsberg (1842-1934) La Fin d’un héros (Death of a Hero) 1888
Oil, 300 x 450 cm, Stockholm, Nationalmuseum

At the moment of his death, a war hero is slumped on his improvised bedding. The setting is a church. A priest gives him last rites. His wife or mother grieves at the foot of the bed. His fellow soldiers pay last respects. On the left are other wounded patients laid out on other beds.

Tonal structure
The dying hero is the crux of the design. He is a light shape surrounded by the light-toned bedding. Those light patches are shape-welded to the illuminated vertical column behind his bed. 

I don't know if it was intentional, but that column ascends like an elevator to heaven. The only other light-toned figures are the altar boy with the candle and the attending priest. 

The rest of the mortals are mostly dark. The ailing figures on beds on the left are enveloped in darkness. Wherever possible, dark tones are grouped into large shapes to simplify the design. 

Perhaps I'm reading into it a bit, but the light seems to be associated with spiritual life or afterlife or redemption, and the darkness seems to be associated with mortality and suffering. The point is that tonal organization isn't just a design issue, it's also a story issue
Previously: Shape Welding

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Small Landscapes at the Morgan

This alpine landscape by Calame is one of the early plein-air studies currently on exhibit at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York.

Alexandre Calame ( Swiss, 1810–1864)
oil on paper/ canvas, 17 3/4 x 12 in. (45.1 x 30.5 cm)
Calame's painting has a lot of depth and variety of paint handling, from generous impastos on the tips of the rocks in the foreground, to thin, delicate vapors of paint in the far atmosphere.

Carl Morgenstern (1811–1893), Jungfrau, Mönch, and Eiger
This little study by German artist Carl Morgenstern is just 10 x 14 inches, painted on paper and later laid down on cardboard. Early on-location painters often pinned the prepared paper into the lid of their paint boxes, and conservators later mounted the paper onto canvas or board.

Gilles-François-Joseph Closson (1796–1853) View in the Dolomites
Closson's painting is even smaller, just 4 1/4 x 9 5/8 inches, painted over a careful line drawing in pencil The pencil drawing is still visible in the lower right.

The landscape show is very small, just 12 paintings. So on its own, it's not worth a trip to the Morgan—except that there are a couple of other fascinating shows going on.

One of the major exhibits is Charlotte Brontë: An Independent Will, which includes examples of her elegantly handwritten manuscripts. I was also impressed with her early artwork, which was accomplished and diligent.

Charlotte Brontë's watercolor painting kit.
The curators explain how Brontë would have used her watercolor kit. She would have taken one of the cakes of pigment and rubbed it in water in the porcelain saucer. The brush is made from squirrel hair glued into the end of a goose quill.

As an added bonus, there's a portrait of Mrs. J.P. Morgan, Jr., by Sargent.

Also at the Morgan:
Word and Image: Martin Luther's Reformation
Dubuffet Drawings, 1935–1962
Hans Memling: Portraiture, Piety, and a Reunited Altarpiece
Morgan Library and Museum is at 225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street.
The best book on early outdoor painting practice is The Painted Sketch: American Impressions From Nature, 1830-1880
There's also an exhibition catalog called Alpine Views: Alexandre Calame and the Swiss Landscape (Clark Art Institute) about Calame and his contemporaries, based on a show at the Clark Art Institute.
Just a short walk from Grand Central and Penn Station