Saturday, February 22, 2020

Can You Varnish Casein?

Scottie Jensen in my YouTube channel asks:
"I love watching your videos and have purchased a few of your “In the Wild” series. I am greatly inspired by you and have built a sketchbook easel, started painting in casein and have went out into the wild to paint all thanks to you. I have one question about varnishing casein, I read on your blog you use spray on varnish - is this to avoid smudging once dry?

Also, how long should I wait before varnishing a casein painting? Will a couple days after it is dry to the touch be sufficient or is there a longer curing process to avoid cracking? Thanks so much for your knowledge and infectious passion!"

Incident on Kelly Street, casein on board, winner of the NSPCA Award 
James Gurney: Thanks for the support and feedback. The main reason I varnish some of my caseins is to deepen the darks in an overall dark painting or to protect a painting that I want to frame without glass. It shouldn't smudge without the varnish, and I almost never varnish sketchbook paintings, because I can always deepen the darks in photoshop.

Keep in mind that casein paintings are not usually varnished. The matte surface is an attractive quality, especially in high key paintings. The manufacturers suggest buffing the surface of a dry painting using a T-shirt to add some semi-gloss luster to the surface.

You should wait a couple of days before varnishing and during that time, put the painting in a warm place to make sure the paint is fully dry. The best defense against cracking is to make sure you paint on panel or illustration board. If you paint on watercolor paper, don't use thick impastos, because casein does not have a strong emulsion.

As with any unconventional technique, experiment first on a scrap and make sure it does what you want.
The painting is documented on my feature tutorial Fantasy in the Wild
Free Facebook group: Sketch Easel Builders
Previously on GJ: Painting a Magical Light Effect

Friday, February 21, 2020

John Steel, Model-Box Magician

John Steel (1921-1998) painted covers for plastic model kits made by Revell and Aurora.

He captured the element of fantasy that let builders imagine what the actual vehicle might look like in an action setting.

Steel's work included cars, airplanes, Navy ships, and a few commercial vessels, but the model companies discovered that customers weren't as enthusiastic about commercial ships.

Steel led an adventurous life, serving in three wars, where he was wounded more than once. He also contributed in the field of combat photography and combat sketching.

Along with Jack Leynnwood, who I profiled previously, Steel painted rapidly but accurately in gouache and casein. 

He also was an accomplished hunter, fisherman, and scuba diver, painting many covers to Skin Diver Magazine.
Website: John Steel Obituary
Previously: Jack Leynnwood, Revell's Rembrandt

Thursday, February 20, 2020

The hub of the color wheel

Joshua asks on YouTube: "You said in part 1 of Color Wheel Masking, "... As each of these colors approaches the center, it becomes a neutral gray." Why neutral gray, what is the reasoning or significance for this? I see in some wheels, the use of (outer to inner circles) white, black and saturation centers as well as neutral gray. Same question regarding a center white or black, if you please?"

A color circle created using CMYK Sliders (Source)
Answer: You could use white or black instead of gray at the center of a color wheel, and many people do, especially when they're in the digital realm. Whichever you choose, the center of the wheel should have zero hue saturation. Black, white, and gray all fit that description.

It helps to keep in mind that the color wheel doesn't represent the full color space, which is a three-dimensional volume, where the vertical axis is a gray scale. The Munsell color system charts color three dimensionally, like a tree with a trunk that goes from black at the bottom to white at the top, as the vertical arrays of hues branch out from the central trunk. Note that the colors have peak saturation at different values. Yellow peaks in lighter values and blue peaks at darker values.

So the color wheel is a horizontal cross section of that 3D color volume, sliced through the peak saturations of each hue, with a gray at the center.

Most color wheels don't have a constant value all around the perimeter. I chose to represent the hues at whatever value shows them at peak chroma, and then I put the center point at an average gray value rather than raising it up to white or dropping it to black.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Prohaska's Painting Method

The new Illustration Magazine has a feature on Ray Prohaska (1919-1997) that includes an extended transcription of what he said during a painting demonstration.
"I will start today using the alla prima technique, and drawing with a brush. Right now, I'm going to prepare my palette.... I will use cerulean blue, ultramarine blue, raw umber, ivory black, naples yellow—if I have it—mars yellow, cadmium red light, cadmium yellow light, which I may or may not use. Now Grumbacher's titanium white—which is slow drying. And you will notice I squeeze out a great amount of color, particularly white. Turpentine is the only medium that I will use. Two cans of turpentine—one for painting, the other for washing the brush."

The passage continues on for several pages, offering a detailed glimpse into the thinking behind the procedure of a notable mid-20th century illustrator. Like many of his contemporaries, he was attuned to the abstract potential of his paintings:
"Now there is one particular thing to notice, and that is this. That is how wonderful painting is, the wonder and magic of painting...that practically all of these dabs I'm putting on are in themselves kind of a mosaic pattern, completely abstract, right? You see them abstractly, but they build to a reality as they are held together, and being placed alongside each other is creating a kind of magic."
Read the rest in Illustration Magazine Issue 67, which also has features on Vincent DiFate and Samson Pollen.
Back issues of the magazine, such as Illustration 55, are also available.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Extreme Expressions

This detail of a painting from Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara shows a singer in a millstone ruff.
Detail of Bilgewater Chorus, oil, 

In the photo reference I push the expression to the limit. It's not easy to hold an expression like this for very long, and it's rare to get a chance in art school to paint from a model with an extreme expression.
Photos courtesy Paul Ekman
But faces are highly mobile and expressive, and if you stop-frame a video of people acting and reacting, their faces are constantly changing with brief expressions. 

One of the pioneers of the study of expressions was Paul Ekman, who began his research in the 1950s, and introduced the concept of microexpressions. 
Previous posts:

Monday, February 17, 2020

Online Trove of Natural History Images

From Tortoises, terrapins, and turtles,
London, Paris, and Frankfort :H. Sotheran, J. Baer & co.,1872.
Biodiversity Heritage Library is a free, online archive of more than 150,000 high resolution science-based renderings of insects, birds, flowers, and shells. You can scan through a vast collection of natural history artwork of fauna and flora, mostly created before the era of photography.
Biodiversity Heritage Library on Flickr
Smithsonian Magazine: "You Can Now Download 150,000 Free Illustrations of the Natural World"

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Fire and Ice Original to Be Auctioned March 1-2, 2020

On March 1-2, 2020, Heritage Auctions will offer an original background painting, complete with hand painted cel overlays, from the movie Fire and Ice (Ralph Bakshi / Frank Frazetta).
The description says: "Here's an exceptional original hand-painted cel and background setup from Fire and Ice, an epic high fantasy animated film that was a collaboration between Ralph Bakshi and one of the most important fantasy and science fiction artists of the past century, Frank Frazetta. It was also a collaboration with another artist of note, James Gurney. Mr. Gurney is best known for his illustrated book series Dinotopia; he painted the gorgeous backgrounds for Fire and Ice, his first major assignment. This splendid piece actually has two James Gurney paintings; the vine-wrapped tree at the right, and as an overlay, a foreground of flowers, a wall, and a pond. This scene occurs not long after Princess Teegra and and the warrior Larn first get together, at the ancient ruins; here, Teegra laughs as Larn clowns around after being told to "behave himself."
2020 March 1-2 Sunday & Monday Comics, Animation, & Art Weekly Online Auction #122009

Saturday, February 15, 2020

King Piye Behind the Scenes

1. Kushite pharoah Piye (or Piankhi) traveled north from Nubia to conquer and unite the kings of the Nile, published National Geographic Magazine in November, 1990.

2. Setting up a miniature tableau with clay figures, toothpicks, foam board.

3. I record light and shadow arrangement using white and black charcoal.

4. Mirror studies on tone paper of Piankhy.

5. Quick gesture studies from live models of bowing figures.

6. Refine the scene with charcoal on vellum for archaeologist Tim Kendall's approval.

7. Beginning to block in the palm trees in the distance.

    A reader on Instagram asks: "When do you know you are happy with your underdrawing before you start painting.?I either keep making changes perpetually on the drawing, or get impatient and leave things out and start painting, adding elements as I go."

    Answer: "I probably did 25 different preliminary sketches, most that I didn't show. Didn't spend more than a few hours on each sketch. Each one solves a different problem. Deadline keeps process moving forward."
This process is covered in greater detail in Step by Step Graphics Magazine, Volume 6 #7

Friday, February 14, 2020

How to fool Google's image-recognition algorithm

Google's image-recognition algorithm does a pretty good job of recognizing objects—as long as they're positioned in their normal orientation relative to the background. But these neural networks fail if the objects are positioned upside down or rotated even slightly.
"A fire truck, for example, seen from head on, could be correctly recognized. But once pointed up in the air, and turned around several times, the same fire truck is mis-classified by the neural net as a school bus or a fireboat or a bobsled. The upshot is that the state of the art in image recognition is 'naive,' and some greater understanding of three-dimensional structures seems needed to help them get better. State of the art neural networks such as Google's Inception are good at 'classifying' things in pictures, they conclude, but they are not really recognizing objects, in the true sense of that expression."
Read more: ZD Net: Google's image recognition AI fooled by new tricks

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Turner Sketches Durham Cathedral

During his 1801 trip north toward Scotland, J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851) filled seven sketchbooks. In one of them, he captured the changing light over Durham Cathedral after a rainstorm.

Durham Cathedral with Castle and Rainbow, 6.5 x 4.5 inches 
The castle and cathedral are half in light and half in shadow, with a dark foreground.

Durham Cathedral with Castle and Rainbow, 6.5 x 4.5 inches 
A few minutes later, in the same sketchbook, he notated a different effect, with the light focused on the middle ground.
More at the Tate Museum website
These two sketches appear in the book Turner's Early Sketchbooks: Drawings in England, Wales and Scotland from 1789-1802
Another book on the topic is: Turner's Sketchbooks, a 2018 paperback from the Tate.