Thursday, September 30, 2010

Chromatic Shadows, Part 1

The painting below shows a warrior standing on a ledge. He is lit by a slanting bar of light that shines from below.

Note that the cast shadow from his arm is red on the bottom and blue above.

The colored shadows suggest that the scene is lit by two adjacent spotlights, a red one below and a blue one above. This is typical of theater lighting, where two or more colored spotlights cast shadows with chromatic edges.

Tomorrow we’ll take a closer look at chromatic shadows.
I painted the image for "Witches of Kregen," 1985, Daw Books. The painting will also appear in Color and Light.

October 18 Lecture in Phoenix

Here's an announcement for an upcoming lecture at the Art Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. It's open to all at no cost. Click on the image to enlarge.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Talking Raven

If ravens can talk like this, imagine what dinosaurs could do.
Via Best of YouTube

L-ptop Dis-ste-

OK, I admit it, I was pretty stupid. I shouldn’t have been sipping tea near my MacBook laptop. It was even more foolish to spill half a cup of Irish Breakfast into the keyboard.

The tea sank down into the cracks. I turned it upside down and let some of it drip out. Then I tried drying it out with a hair dryer. I shot hot air through a FedEx envelope to force hot air into the vents.

Then I stood it up in front of the fireplace—never mind that it was 80 degrees outside. After a day of drying it out, I powered it up. The screen flickered a few times and then lit up.

The good news is that the moisture apparently didn’t get into the logic circuits. No files have been lost.

The bad news is that the “A,” “R,” and “F” keys don’t work anymore.

It’s h--d to come up with blog post without using those lette-s. They show up in -lmost -nything you t-y to wite. Dogs c-n s-y “bow-wow” -nd “woo-” but not “---.” Whe-e does Sh-ek live? The L-nd o- ---, ---, -w-y!”

I’ve ordered a new MacBook Pro. My makeshift solution with the old one is to put an old G3 keyboard right over the laptop keyboard, and I’m more or less back in business.

I still drink tea, but I park it farther away.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

First Human Powered Ornithopter

Engineers have succeeded in a short sustained flight by an ultra-lightweight human-powered ornithopter. Instead of using a propellor, the machine propels itself by powered undulations of the wing.

Previously on GJ:
Insect Vehicles
Butterfly Flight Mechanics
Ornithopter Zone
YouTube video of machine-powered "UTIAS" ornithopter

Step-by-Step in International Artist

The new October/ November issue of International Artist magazine has a four-page feature on the making of the painting “Old Conductor” for Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara.

The reproduction of the various steps are shown larger and in more detail than what appears in Imaginative Realism, and I included some of the reference photos.

This issue has other step-by-step demos, including an alla prima oil portrait by Tony Pro. “The Art of the Portrait,” a regular feature of the magazine by Gordon Whetmore, shares news about artists such as Jeremy Lipking, Michael Shane Neal, and Everett Raymond Kinstler.
International Artist magazine
Previously on GJ: the Washin Stage

Monday, September 27, 2010

Panel Roo

Jason Daniel Jackson has come up with a simple and lightweight way to store wet oil panels, two at a time.

It's called "PanelRoo," and it's made of wood molding with four spring clips on each face, which hold each painting facing into the middle. They're available in most standard sizes on his website, but he can also make custom sizes.

Jason Daniel Jackson

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Maker Faire: New York 2010

At the New York Science Center yesterday we visited the first annual MakerFaire, a celebration of the Do-It-Yourself movement.

At the Smooth-On sculpture products booth, I checked out a character made from “Dragon-Skin” silicon by Lone Wolf Effects.

If you sign the legal waiver, you can strap in and ride the Jet Ponies or Thundersteeds, a pulse-jet powered carousel. There was also a big-wheeled chariot and a motorcycle using the deafening fire-spitting jet technology.

There were bicycles dressed up as fish, as well as innovative recumbents and tricycles. One maker constructed giant beetle-like creatures using old inner tubes and used truck parts.

For the computer geeks, there were radio control robots, 3D printers, and tutorials on soldering simple circuits.

A range of traditional hand skills and child crafts were well represented. People of all ages were invited to learn knitting and crocheting with expert help. We saw a full size car covered in green fuzzy knitting.

The coalition of the handmade world embraces a wide range of people, from steampunk guys with hand-wound pocket watches, to goth princesses in gold spandex bikinis, to families led along by their awestruck grade schoolers.

A few large corporate players had a presence, such as Ford Motors, showing off its brand new 25 mpg Taurus Assault Vehicle. Martha Stewart’s organization had a slick living room set decorated with fake bones that you could make out of paper maché for Halloween.

At the close of the day, Make magazine editor and BoingBoing founder Mark Frauenfelder gave an illustrated talk on his personal odyssey to raise chickens and vegetables, carve wooden spoons, and build guitars out of cigar boxes, an experience he chronicles in his book “Made By Hand.”

It’s a striking irony that the faire takes place at the epicenter of both the 1939 and the 1964 World’s Fairs. You can look up from the tents and booths to the tawdry hulks of yesterday’s fading vision of the future, a vision that included a prosperous industrial America with gleaming flying cars and moving sidewalks. If Maker Faire is a glimpse of the future, it will be more like a computerized medieval marketplace.

The faire continues through today at the New York Hall of Science,
Maker Faire New York website
Make magazine
New York Hall of Science
Mark F’s book “Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World.”
YouTube video of Jet Ponies or Thundersteeds
Smooth-on sculpting products

Folded and Gathered

The unbound proofs of Color and Light have just arrived. These are the final pages, with all the folded and gathered signatures, but it’s not yet bound into the final softcover book. The production run is just finishing, and will soon be on a boat crossing the Pacific.

The book has over 300 color reproductions, with my plein air work more strongly represented than in Imaginative Realism.

The publisher, Andrews McMeel took great care with the reproduction, going through four rounds of color proofing, and reshooting a whole bunch of pieces to make them even better. I’m very excited with how it’s looking. We expect that the books will be in stores around the end of November.

Color and Light book

Friday, September 24, 2010

Turnip Cart

“Turnip Cart” is the last of three original oil paintings that will be offered for sale in the fantasy and comics auction in Paris on October 16.

It shows Bix walking alongside a Triceratops while Arthur Denison hitches a ride with a farmer named Ilya Shinshik. That last name is an anagram of “Shishkin,” one of the Russian painters who influenced the paintings published in Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara.

The painting also was reproduced in Imaginative Realism to illustrate the compositional device called “spokewheeling.”
Emperors_Offer & Imperial Palace
Galerie Daniel Maghen is the expert adviser in the sale. For more information, please email Olivier Souille at ""
Tajan’s October bande dessinée auction (the final online catalog is still in preparation).
James Gurney Original Art blog
Dinotopia website
James Gurney Original Art blog
Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara

Thursday, September 23, 2010

How to Blog

Don't miss Issue 61 of ImagineFX magazine, which is on the newsstands. It has a free "Color and Light" poster inside previewing the upcoming book.

It also has a feature called "The Fine Art of Blogging," about IFX's pix for Five Great Art Blogs: Art Order, The Art Department, Drawnk, Charlie Bowater, and Knuckle Deep.

They asked me for my Seven Secrets of Blogging:

1. Keep things brief. 2. Employ a simple design. 3. Variety is the key (funny stories, obscure videos, geeky factoids and practical studio tips). 4. Try to stay positive. 5. Favor information over opinions. 6. Compose offline. 7. And look for those three things that always drive traffic: a well-framed debate, a bizarre true story, or a post entitled "How to..."

But I don't always follow my own advice. I composed this post in a Barnes and Noble.

Philip de László Paints Venice

Philip Alexius de László (18691937) was a dashing portrait painter of a hundred years ago, a contemporary of Sargent. In this video, narrated by his son, we can watch him paint a plein-air study of the bronze horses in Venice, while fending off the friendly ribbing of his wife. Clicking the "play" link takes you to American Artist Daily.
Via Allison Malafronte of American Artist Daily.
Gallery of works at the de Laszlo Archive Trust
More about de Laszlo at JSS

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Atelier Marchant October 10

For those of you in the northern Los Angeles/ San Fernando Valley area, I'll be doing a three-part lecture series October 10th, 2010 from 1pm-5pm at the Atelier Marchant.

The lectures include "Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist" at 1:00, "Color and Light: Tools for Mood and Atmosphere" at 2:30 and "Plein Air Pioneers: Tradition and Technique" at 4:00.

The fee is $30 for each lecture or $65 for the entire day. Call 661.350.1579 or email to register.

Marchant Atelier Blog with more info.
Earlier GJ post about other upcoming workshops in California

Clouds: Growth and Dispersion

Clouds have a life cycle. They grow and they decay. We don’t really perceive the process because it happens so slowly.

If you speed up the action, you can see the growth side of the equation as the clouds emerge in tight, convex cells.

Watch the top of the frame, and you can also see the dispersion. Clouds break into fragments, called “fractus” clouds, and then melt into the sky. Because the water vapor is less dense, fractus clouds are never as bright white as the growth cells.

Artist James Perry Wilson included both phases of a cloud’s life in this detail of a painted diorama backdrop at the Museum of Natural History in New York.
Fractus clouds on Wikipedia
Earlier GJ Posts: “Capturing a Cumulus”
"James Perry Wilson's Dioramas"

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Red Cube, Pink Cube

The chroma, or saturation, of a color should be carefully considered as an object transitions from light into shade. Making the shadow color too intense can create a false effect.

It’s a common mistake with beginning painters, who sometimes use pure tube colors for middle values and add white to lighten them and black to darken them.

The diagram is by Andrew Loomis, from his book Creative Illustration, still one of the best books on painting, color, and composition. Unfortunately it is out of print and expensive to obtain in its printed form.

But there’s good news: You can download a PDF copy of Creative Illustration and Loomis’s other books. They’re all well worth study.
Loomis books from Illustration
Previously on GJ: Color Obtains in the Light
Thanks, Evan!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Imperial Palace

The second of three original Dinotopia paintings for sale in the upcoming auction shows the Imperial Palace of the city of Chandara.

The view looks east across the Zhengtao River. The emperor’s palace occupies a high and remote prominence in the center of the city. Morning sunlight illuminates the top of the gold dome and the flying buttresses, while thunderclouds assemble over Silver Bay.

My approach was inspired by several artists of the past who specialized in otherworldly moods in landscape: Frederic Church, Isaac Levitan, Andreas Achenbach, Hans Gude, and Jean Ferdinand Monchablon.

The painting is in oil, and appeared in Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara, which was published in USA, France, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Greece. It also was published in Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn’t Exist. Other paintings from the book toured museums in Yverdon, Switzerland, Newcastle, England, and Nantes, France.
Earlier post about another painting in the Tajan auction.
Galerie Daniel Maghen is the expert adviser in the sale. For more information, please email Olivier Souille at ""
Tajan’s October bande dessinée auction (the final online catalog is still in preparation).
James Gurney Original Art blog
Dinotopia website
James Gurney Original Art blog
Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Artistic License

I’ve been practicing art without a license—until now.

This Artistic License was made by Rick Allen of Duluth, a master wood engraver and hand printer. Each license has a unique number and makes three passes through the press, one for each color.

Rick Allen, Kenspeckle Letterpress
Thanks, Steve Gilzow

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Steel Bashaw

A new illustrated fantasy story presents the fruit of 15 years of effort by Serbian/Dutch artist Petar Meseldžija.

The folktale, called “The Legend of Steel Bashaw,” presents heroes, maidens, horses, and dragons—all fairly familiar stuff—but Meseldžija puts a new spin on it. He uses thick-paint impressionism, based on his plein air studies, to convey mossy forests and gnarly creatures.

The scene of the two giants hunched over the fire of their cave kitchen is worth the $19.95 price tag. In a “making-of” afterword section, the artist shows his development sketches for the grotesque monsters. He says he “searched for inspiration among old people, beggars, drunkards, and even the mentally handicapped.”
More from Flesk Publications
Petar Meseldžija.
Amazon listing
Lines and Colors post.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Pencil Point Sculpture

Artist Dalton Ghetti has done some amazingly detailed sculptures from the tips of pencil points.

From Trendhunter

Wootton's Lost WW1 Journal

A sketchbook and journal from World War 1, forgotten for 90 years, has surfaced in an attic.

It records the wonders and horrors of battle experienced by Lieutenant Kenneth Wootton.

Full article on the Daily Mail. Thanks, K-tron!

John Collier

At his blog Underpaintings, Matthew Innis has assembled an extensive portfolio of the British academic painter John Collier, along with a biography.

Here is Collier’s take on Queen Guinevere going a Maying.
Link to Underpaintings.
Download a PDF of Collier's book "A Primer of Art," with his thoughts on anatomy, perspective, oil painting, and light and shade.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Upcoming California Workshops

Two upcoming California workshops:

1. October 7, San Francisco
The Art Department, also known as TAD, is an art school—both online and actual—specializing in imaginative drawing and painting.

TAD's online program uses streaming technology to webcast to students in remote classroom "pods." The pods are in San Francisco, Kansas City, Richmond, Austin, and London. Orange County, San Diego, and Amsterdam will be starting pods in January, 2011.

I'll be at the San Francisco pod on Thursday, October 7, meeting with students in person. The live webcast will also be available to enrolled students in other locations, who will be able to ask questions and give feedback.

TAD is closely associated with Founder Jason Manley did a nice introduction with a portfolio on ConceptArt here.

Enrollment has begun for the Jan 2011 semester with part time, full time, and single classes available, and that scholarships (full, half, or quarter rides) are available for students who apply now. Link for the classes.

2. October 15, Encinitas (near Carlsbad) California
Come join me for a special half-day workshop at the Watts Atelier, founded by academic master Jeff Watts. I’ll be offering an information-packed afternoon with two lectures and demos, and lots of discussion and Q and A.

Lectures include:
“Plein-Air Pioneers.” History and modern practice of plein air painting and sketching, with detailed illustrations of my oil, watercolor, and oil set-ups.

“Color and Light.”An hour-long illustrated talk covering the key concepts most useful for realistic painting. I'll have an advance copy of the new book, but sales copies may not be available quite yet.

Plus, a portrait demo using water-soluble colored pencil sketching and water brush technique.

The fee is $45.00. Space is limited and quickly filling, so be sure to sign up soon. Watts Atelier can be reached at (760) 753-5378.

The Art Department
Concept Art / James Gurney
Watts Atelier

Traffic Illusion

Vancouver is trying out the idea of using optical illusions instead of speed bumps to slow down traffic.

Good idea or bad idea? The commentator says: “It’s just kind of flattened out! Almost like it’s painted on the roadway! Wow!”

Via Best of YouTube

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dinotopia Originals to be in Tajan Auction

Some of you have asked if original art from the Dinotopia books will ever be made available to collectors. For many years I’ve kept them off the market so that I can make them available for museum exhibitions.

Until now, no paintings from Dinotopia: The World Beneath, First Flight, or Journey to Chandara have ever been sold.

On October 16, the Tajan auction house in Paris will conduct their first-ever sale of bande dessinée, which includes comics and fantasy art. They have invited me to participate.

The auction will include three original oil paintings from Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara, (published as Dinotopia: Un Voyage À Chandara in French).

The first painting, from page 151, is called “The Emperor’s Offer.” It shows the main characters, Arthur and Bix, with the officials of Chandara. The image is 17.5 x 29.5 cm on a 25.5 x 38 cm acid-free board, and is signed lower right.

This painting is very special to me and I worked hard to capture that other-worldly light and mood.

I posed a variety of models, including myself and my wife, and used a maquette to work out the pale, glowing silhouette of Chandara in the distance.

I’ll show the other two paintings in later posts.
Galerie Daniel Maghen is the expert adviser in the sale, which will also include Moebius, Bilal, Pratt, and Franquin.
Tajan’s October bande dessinée auction (the final online catalog is still in preparation).
James Gurney Original Art blog
Dinotopia website
For more information, please email Olivier Souille at ""

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Caricature and Likeness

If you want a portrait likeness, don’t paint exactly what you see.

John Singer Sargent certainly didn’t copy appearances, as this photo/painting comparison attests. He exaggerated the character of his subject, Coventry Patmore. Sargent made the neck longer, the hair fuller, the face bonier, and the mustache more “twirly.”

To be clear, the painting was done from life, not from the photo, but both date from the mid 1890s.

Patmore was so impressed with Sargent’s interpretation of him that he wrote: “He seems to me to be the greatest, not only of living English portrait painters, but of all English portrait painters; and to be thus invited to sit to him for my picture is among the most signal honours I have ever received.”
From the book John Singer Sargent by Richard Ormond, 1970, figure 21 and 22. Thanks, Barry!

ADDENDUM: Don't miss the fascinating string of comments on the subject of sight-size practice.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Plein Air Winners

Yesterday I had the privilege of announcing the winners of the North Bennington Plein Air Competition.

From left to right, they are Hiu Lai Chong of Maryland, Jane Ramsey of Pennsylvania, and Andrew Orr of Vermont.

Ramsey’s first-place watercolor, “Storm Watch” depicts the roofline of the barn that formerly served as the studio of painter Kenneth Nolan. It’s now part of the Taraden Bed and Breakfast, one of the hosts and sponsors of the event. The artful cropping gives a fresh revelation of a familiar motif, with cool reds and rust colors contrasting with the blue-greens of the slate shingles.

Orr won second place with “Breaking Light,” one of four landscapes he exhibited showing the Vermont countryside near the town of North Bennington. In the painting, the clouds come and go across the far hills, with a variety of crisp and soft edges. His adept handling of chiaroscuro—light-on-dark and dark-on-light—dramatizes the scene.

Chong’s third place oil “Yard Work” captures the close color harmonies in the train depot, with strong compositional lines leading into the design. She simplified what must have been an immense amount of detail of white gravel and cross ties in the foreground.

Congratulations to all who participated, and thanks to the organizers, sponsors, and volunteers who made this a very successful event.
North Bennington Plein Air Competition
Taraden Bed and Breakfast
Post with lots of pictures on Mary Byrom's blog
Jane Ramsey
Andrew Orr
Hiu Lai Chong

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Quick Draw

Frank Costantino, one of the organizers of the North Bennington Plein Air Competition, explained the rules for the Quick-Draw event to approximately 40 participating artists.

Paint anywhere in the grounds of the historic Park-McCullough House, start when you hear the bell at 1:30, and stop two hours later.

I was attracted to a 1938 Dodge Pickup. Besides being a gorgeous old truck, I liked the chiaroscuro: light-on-dark on the front end, and dark-on-light on the rear end to the right. I also wanted to feature the reflection of the illuminated grass on the shadow side of the vehicle.

In preparation for the bell, I premixed batches of color with the palette knife to save time later (that was legal).

One half hour into the painting, I drew in the big shapes with a bristle brush and blocked in the grass and background.

Halfway through, I knocked in the basic shadow color of the truck and the building. I was really sweating it at this point, thinking “I’ll never finish!”

I tried to look for similar planes, muttering to myself such things as “upfacing planes in the shadow of the truck.” The goal is to hit all of those similar tones at the same time when I had that color on the brush, rather than wasting time going back with the same thought.

Only a half hour left, I softened some edges, such as along the hood and the top of the cab.

Here is how it looked as the bell rang, with final details: highlights, headlights and hubcaps. Two hours went by in a flash; it’s hard to believe that’s the same amount of time as watching a movie.

Breathing a sigh of relief, we all put our results on easels. Here is Vcevy Strekalovsky, who did a gorgeous painting of the house. I was really inspired by everyone else’s work, and would love to come back again and paint the gardens or the carriage house.

North Bennington Plein Air Competition Quick Draw
Frank Costantino
Vcevy Strekalovsky
More about the 1938 Dodge
Park McCullough House and Estate
Many more pictures of the Quick Draw at Mary Byrom's blog

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Powers Market

The North Bennington Plein Air Competition began with a motif tour for the artists. We rode around town on a wagon pulled by draft horses.

The horses were a rare breed called American Cream, with amber eyes and pink skin.

About two dozen invited artists fanned out through the small town of North Bennington, Vermont. They set up on grassy hillsides, beside ponds, and in back streets.

Jeanette and I looked across to Powers Market, a Greek Revival building that served coffee and sandwiches, and conveniently had wi-fi and a bathroom.

My foot is on the C-stand to keep the white umbrella from blowing over (because I forgot the weight bags to hold it down). I'm using the umbrella not for rain but to cut glare and to diffuse light into the work surface.

I laid in the painting with a bristle filbert using burnt sienna oil paint. It was forecast to be cloudy, and I expected to be working with a lot of gray tonalities, so I wanted those warm colors to peek through in a few places in the finished painting. After stage 2, I drove into Bennington to buy the tube of white, which was missing from my kit yesterday.

That building in the back is a lawn mower repair shop, and the wood structure is leaning wildly, a fun contrast with the straight regularity of the market.

The owner of the lawn mower shop, Ron Nadeau, came over to tell us the history of his building, which used to be a blacksmith shop. He described what the town was like in his father's day, when there were working factories here that made hand mirrors, shoes, and rocking chairs.

Come today (Saturday) to the Park McCullough House in North Bennington, Vermont, for the Quick-Draw event between 1:30 and 3:30. Anyone can join, and there are over $500 in prizes. Also, there will be an exhibition of works tonight and tomorrow at the Taraden Guest House.
North Bennington Plein Air Competition
Quick-Draw Event
Wikipedia on American Cream Draft
Taraden Guest House
C-Stand on Wikipedia
Previously: White Umbrella, Traffic Cones

Friday, September 10, 2010

Uh-Oh! Forgot Something!

I opened my paintbox yesterday, ready to start out in the North Bennington Plein Air Competition, when I had a horrible sinking feeling.

Something was missing! It was a "gamestopper." Can you guess?
Addendum: The answer was white paint! (I had the turps, medium, and rag in another part of the kit).

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Leyendecker’s Method

In December of 1950, Saturday Evening Post cover artist J.C. Leyendecker outlined his basic method in a letter to a student.

“My first step is to fill a sketch pad with a number of small rough sketches about two by three inches, keeping them on one sheet so you can compare them at a glance.

“Select the one that seems to tell the story most clearly and has an interesting design. Enlarge this by square to the size of the magazine cover, adding more detail and color as needed.

“You are now ready for the model. First make a number of pencil or charcoal studies. Select the most promising and on a sketch canvas do these in full color, oil or water with plenty of detail. Keep an open mind and be alert to capture any movement or pose that may improve your original idea.

“You may now dismiss your model, but be sure you have all the material needed with separate studies of parts to choose from, for you are now on your own and must work entirely from your studies.

“This canvas will somewhat resemble a picture puzzle, and it is up to you to assemble it and fit it into your design at the same time simplify wherever possible by eliminating all unessentials. All this is done on tracing paper and retraced on the final canvas.

“Your finished painting may be any size to suit you, but is usually about twice the size of the reproduction.

“As a rule, I start work with a round or flat sable using a thin wash, with turps as a medium. Keep shadows very transparent, and as the work progresses, apply the paint more thickly on lighted areas, adding some poppy oil or linseed oil if necessary, and using a larger flat bristle brush for the heavier paint, but still keeping the shadows thin and vibrant.

“When the work is dry, apply a quick drying retouching varnish either with a brush or an atomizer.

“Sometimes because of prohibitive model rates or other reasons, one is forced to use photography, but try and avoid it if possible.
Thanks, Keita!
Lots more Leyendecker Lore at Lines and Colors
Bio and more samples at BPIP
Many originals on display at the Haggin Museum in Stockton, California