Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Eye: Simplicity and Softness

The nice thing about working very quickly is that it forces you to make decisions favoring big truths. I painted this portrait during a 20 minute sketch group session.

Because I was moving fast, I didn’t have time to see too much detail in the eye and the eyebrow. Simplicity and softness is the secret to eyes anyway even if you have a lot of time to work on them.

There's a a tiny bit of finger-blending at the outside corner of the eye and just below the lower lid. I don't like to put my fingers into the paint, but in a quick-painting session, I don't always have time to reach for the right brush.

The eyebrow is modeled in just two planes. It all looks fairly “strokey” close up, but when you back up from the 9x12 inch painting, the detail appears to be all there.

21 comments:

Jason Peck said...

Hey James,

Nice portrait. I have to agree that simplicity and softness is key when painting eyes. In fact, even the bottom plane of the nose can be suggested with only a few gentle strokes.

Jesus Estevez said...

I Agree with softness for the eyes, simplicity is ok for some paintings, many artist I Know will put a lot of work on the eyes, mostly if the eyes are the most important part (most expressive)of the portrait. I think that is what it works for each artist. El Greco does the eyes very much like you did them. a few brush stroke and there you are visioning the holly spirit

Erik Bongers said...

The painting could have been by Eakins (I think of the Maud Cook portrait) and the girl could have been Jane Morris (I think of Gabriel Rossetti's drawings).

Steve said...

Once again, I agree with the guy with the Belgian-sounding name. The model is very Rossetti-ish. Striking jaw, nose, brow.

And man, done in 20 minutes? Amazing! Am I the only one who doesn't know whether to be inspired or whether to just quit altogether?

Michael Dooney said...

nice, please tell us that you painted this in several twenty minute sessions, not in twenty minutes total, we are only human after all.

Jesse said...

Great painting.

What is it you don't like about getting your fingers in the painting? It seems like lately I've been using any clean finger or thumb to blend quite a bit. I'm sure the police could get some very nice prints off of any of my recent paintings.

Munchanka said...

Masterfully done, Jim! Even the highlight on the top lid is noticeable (or feel-able) at a distance.

Dave Lebow said...

Created in 20 minutes.. wow, an amazing and beautiful portrait. Really well painted.
20 minutes of work and a lifetime of experience behind this as well.

Tristan Alexander said...

Nice but a bit to impresionistic for me. And while you don't like to touch your paints, I use my fingers as much as I do a brush on some things. They are just another tool that can help me "feel" the shape and get the sculpted look I try for many times.

20 minutes is amazing, I work fast but not that fast usually.

Matthew Gauvin said...

I'm wondering if you had pre-mixed flesh colors to enable you to focus more on the laying down paint rather than mixing colors. I would end up taking 20 minutes just to mix colors.

Gregory Becker said...

You're a Rock Star

James Gurney said...

Matthew, yes, the only way to do these super quick paintings is with insane preparation. It's like Chinese cooking. If you don't have all your vegetables cut up first, you're dead.

I keep separate brushes for each color and spend the whole first 20 minute pose mixing color strings for the skin and hair-- about three values in the lights and two in shadow. Also, light and dark tones for the background.

About three out of four paintings done this way are complete duds, candidates for the Gallery Flambeau.

Mark said...

The Gallery Flambeau! I love it. May we all have fewer in that particular exhibition!

Narender Kundra said...

>great job,looking good...

>see my blog.
>http://artofnaren.blogspot.com/

Jacob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
eric said...

amazing painting!

but man...i REALLY dont like hearing about the "Gallery Flambeau"....all those great paintings that could be on my walls are getting torched! NO GOOD!!

i hope you are putting as much effort into thinking how you will preserve your work. such as blue prints and plans for the Gurney Museum!

Jacob said...

Hi Jim,

Exceptional twenty minute portrait. I used to think I could paint fast sometimes, but this is astonishing.

Could you explain the session a bit more? I am inspired to try this with my friends. It sounds challenging and fun. In your response to Matthew, you seem to say that you make a series of twenty minute paintings using the same prepared palette, each one perhaps benefitting from some of the insights gained in previous efforts. Is that right? How many twenty minute ptgs will you make during one of these sessions? Is this a three or four hour afternoon with eight-ten paintings? Would you paint the model from the same view or would she face different directions each twenty?

Thanks,
Jacob

James Gurney said...

Jacob, you de MAN when it comes to fast painting---I saw your awesome suite of sunset paintings on the Grand Central Academy blog. 20 minutes each, right?

For this I was working with 20 minute poses in a 3 hour session only because 20 minute poses were what everyone wanted at the group session. I would have preferred longer.

I do mix my strings from observation during the first pose, and don't use some premixed flesh tones, which I don't agree with. The model was doing a variety of nude figure poses, and I just pulled close to do head studies. So I did about six or seven head studies during the whole session, and as I say, most of them were strikes rather than base hits.

Dave P. said...

Many years ago I got a book on sketching from the library, and the art in it blew me away. I hadn't heard of the author/artists and their names didn't stay with me, but now I discover it was you in your pre-Dinotopia days, and apparently Thomas Kinkade in his pre-Painter-of-Light days! I just found it again, and it still impresses.

Jacob said...

JIm,

Thanks for the props. Those sunsets were quick, but I am not sure 20 min quick. Maybe some of them. Thanks for the explanation of your super fast portraits. I can't wait to try my versions.

You must have made up the shirt collar?

J

Frank P. Ordaz said...

very nice Jim