Friday, February 15, 2019

Bouguereau Exhibition Opens Today

A major exhibition of William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) opens today at the Milwaukee Art Museum.
"Bouguereau and America showcases more than forty masterful paintings by the French academic painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825–1905). The exhibition explores the artist’s remarkable popularity throughout America’s Gilded Age, from the late 1860s to the early 1900s. During this period, owning a painting by the artist was de rigueur for any American who wanted to be seen as a serious collector: the artist’s grand canvases brought a sense of classic sophistication to newly formed collections. Their chastely sensual maidens, Raphaelesque Madonnas, and impossibly pristine peasant children mirror the religious beliefs, sexual mores, social problems, and desires of that period. Moreover, the exhibition offers an opportunity to examine how society’s perspectives can shift over time."

Catalog: Bouguereau and America
192 pages, Yale University Press, 10 x 12 inches----

Exhibition: "Bouguereau and America" at Milwaukee Art Museum: February 15–May 12, 2019
The exhibit continues in Memphis (June 22—Sept. 22, 2019), and San Diego (November 9—March 15, 2020.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Creating People Who Don't Exist

Have you ever seen this person before?

There's no chance of it because she was just created by a computer.

A new website called "This Person Does Not Exist" uses generative adversarial networks (GANs) to make a new face from scratch, a face that no one has ever seen before. 

Each time you refresh the page on the website, an entirely new face appears. The software outputs a variety of ages, ethnic backgrounds, settings, and lighting scenarios, and the faces are specific, not "average" or generic looking. 

And each one seems relatively consistent and logical, but if you search long enough you'll find problems with ears, jewelry, hair, or glasses.

The creator of the page is Phillip Wang, a software engineer for Uber, who wanted to demonstrate the potential of GANs.

This technology will transform many aspects of computer graphics, such as video games, visual effects, and 3D modeling, and it has more unsettling implications for generating convincing false news, sham celebrities, and fake art.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

James Sharples, Traveling Portrait Artist

James Sharples was born in England and trained in France. He came to America in 1798 and built a portrait business by traveling from town to town.

"His mediums were crayon and pastel. Seeing that the market for his wares was scattered, he devised a special cart that would comfortably hold his wife, two boys and a girl and their clothes and food and his painting gear. It was drawn by one large sturdy horse." (Source)

"In this menage ambulant he travelled all over the country, going from town to town, and city to city. In each city he would obtain letters of introduction to people in the next city—military, civil or literary worthies. Sharples would present the letter, beg the honour of doing a portrait for his 'collection,' and, if this was granted, he would set to work."

"And he was a good artist. He could manage to make a faithful likeness in about two hours. Having seen himself so faithfully portrayed, the sitter, of course, was easily induced to buy the picture. The charges were $15 for a profile and $20 full face."
Quotes from Hawkers and Walkers in Early America: Strolling Peddlers, Preachers, Lawyers, Doctors, Players, and Others, From the Beginning to the Civil War, 1927.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Jonah Asks about Process

 Jonah asks:
"I was just curious about your personal approach as a creative towards developing an abstract idea and constructing an outline into a complex, detailed, finished product. I'm not a visual artist, but I'm currently a college student who enjoys producing electronic music as a hobby."

Hi, Jonah,
My approach varies depending on whether the final product is an illustrated book, a video, a magazine article, or a single painting.

For example, my step-by-step process for painting a realistic image of an imaginary scene is outlined in my book Imaginative Realism, and it involves research, sketches, maquettes, models, and photo references, all completed before I attempt the final painting.

I've found that following these planning steps leads to the best results and saves time. More importantly, taking all those steps helps me through moments of doubt that inevitably accompany the middle stages of creating something. Almost every project goes through a phase where it looks ugly or trite or uninspired. Having a process, and trusting it, keeps me on track and gives me the best chance to deliver on the potential of the original idea.

I'm not sure what the process is for creating electronic music, but if you haven't already done so, I'm sure you'll figure it out. Study the process of the electronic musicians you admire, and follow it until you have developed your own methods.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Painting Smog — Six Secrets for Creating Atmosphere

(Link to YouTube)

It's time to paint that parking lot in Kingston, New York. It was a nice clear day, but I added warm, smoky air to add more atmosphere and depth.

Six tips for creating depth
1. Face the view into the sun.
2. Limit values to: a) light areas (sky and highlights), and b) dark areas (everything else).
3. Save darkest dark to a few small areas in the foreground. 
4. Raise the value of the darks. 
5. Gradate the color of the darks from warm colors near sun to relatively cool colors at edges.
6. Eliminate detail in the dark silhouettes. 

The paint is casein in a Pentalic watercolor sketchbook
Richeson Travel brush set:  
Canon M6 (time lapse, video, and stills)

Video tutorials and books:

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Anna Airy's Industrial Art

Anna Airy (1882-1962) painted plenty of genteel portraits and delicate flowers, but she also portrayed gritty industrial scenes, and that's what I want to feature in this post.

Anna Airy, Shop for Machining 15 inch Shells
She was born in Greenwich, London in 1882. Unfortunately her mother died soon after she was born. Her father, an engineer, supported her interest in art.

At age 17 she enrolled in the Slade School of Fine Art. Slade offered art classes to men and women working in the same classroom, unusual at the time. Teachers such as Henry Tonks and Philip Wilson Steer encouraged a form of Impressionism founded on good drawing and accurate perspective.

Anna Airy, An Aircraft Assembly Shop, Hendon
In 1914 she was one of only four women artists commissioned by the British Government to work as a war artist. She focused on portraying the activity inside the munitions factories, where female workers were crucial to the war effort.

She often labored under dangerous conditions. In painting a shell forge, she faced the extreme heat of red-hot shells. "No matter where I stood," she said, "I'd have some rolled to within a few feet of me. I never felt such heat." The ground became so hot that her shoes were burnt off her feet.

Anna Airy, A Shell Forge at a National Projectile Factory,
Hackney Marshes, London, 
The men of the factory floor rigged a shield of corrugated metal to protect her from the heat, "but the red hot shells would be rolled right against my screen —which acted like an oven, with me inside! Often, too, the shelter would fall over and send me and my easel flying."

Anna Airy 
She wrote two books: The Art of Pastel in 1930 and Making a Start in Art in 1951, and she exhibited in the Royal Academy Exhibitions and the Paris Salon for many years.
Anna Airy  on Wikipedia
Online article: The First World War Art of Anna Airy, Imperial War Museum
Online article: War art: Shop for machining 15-inch shells
Thanks, Blair Updike for your article in the Portrait Society Journal

Related post: Heinrich Kley's Demons of Krupp

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Hitler Watercolors at Auction

Vienna State Opera House, Adolf Hitler, 1912
Before Adolph Hitler's rise as the Nazi dictator, he was a struggling art student. During his stay in Vienna between 1908 and 1913, he painted up to three watercolors a day.

Some of those paintings will be auctioned today in Nuremberg, though experts warn that the authorship may be in doubt in some of them, since there are so many forgeries.
"It is difficult not to read Hitler’s crimes back into his artwork, though its mundane and mimetic quality resists such interpretation. The prosaic pieces suggest that his ambitions were once starkly different from what he ultimately carried out, observed Deborah Rothschild, who curated a 2002 exhibit on Hitler’s early years at the Williams College Museum of Art in Massachusetts.
“I want to take him down a notch,” she said that summer in an interview about the exhibition. “He’s not an evil genius. He wasn’t born evil. If things had gone his way I think he would have been quite happy to be an academic art professor.”
Read the rest in the Washington Post. 
Wikipedia: Paintings by Adolph Hitler 

Friday, February 8, 2019

Teaser for "The Real T. Rex"

Here's a teaser for “The Real T. Rex” coming up in the April issue of Ranger Rick Magazine. (Link to video on Facebook)
Karin Spijker asks: Is that varnish over a handmade gouache painting?
James Gurney I'm varnishing an oil painting, though I did some gouache studies before starting the oil.

Edison Coronado Vallejo asks: Will there be a making-of video of this painting??? Please
James Gurney Yes, I've got extensive coverage of behind-the-scenes, and will release a free YouTube version and a longer Gumroad tutorial about unconventional painting techniques.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Dinotopia Paintings in Denmark

Here are some Dinotopia paintings at the entrance to the science fiction exhibition "Into the Unknown" in Odense, Denmark, through February 17th. The show includes original art by Ray Harryhausen, Willis O'Brien, and H.R.Giger, plus concept art for Alien and Blade Runner.

"This exhibition is the ultimate genre-defining exploration of science fiction, delving into its storytelling beginnings to discover how visionary creators have captured imaginations around the world. Visitors will encounter rare pieces, such as vintage comics and advertisements promoting Soviet visions of space, alongside well-loved classics, including miniature sculptures from Jurassic Park and the original Darth Vader and Stormtrooper helmets from Star Wars." (Image and quote: Visit Odense)
Into the Unknown at the Brandts Museum
Thanks, Christian Schlierkamp

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Eyvind Earle Video Bio

This short video (Link to YouTube) tells the story of Eyvind Earle, who overcame a troubled childhood to be one of the most productive and style-setting Disney background artists. 

His gouache method for the Sleeping Beauty backgrounds involved placing a blob for a bush or tree and elaborating it with smaller and smaller leaves.

(Link to YouTube) When Disney was still alive, the studio produced a video called "Four Artists Paint One Tree" about how each artist brings a unique approach to observational painting.