Saturday, June 30, 2012

Plein-air painting in New York City

Plein-air painting on the sidewalks of midtown Manhattan is a baptism by fire. You're jostled by the crowds, hustled by street people, choked by diesel fumes, and deafened by sirens. Shadows from the high rises sweep rapidly across any scene you choose.


(Link to video) On Thursday, Jeanette and I joined our friend Garin Baker to paint New York City's landmark Grand Central Terminal. Garin's summer intern, Sean Oswald, visiting from Ohio, accompanied us on the expedition.



Here is my oil painting (left) next to Garin's on the right. This is the second painting that Garin completed within the four hours that we allowed ourselves. The video finishes with a sketch that I did of a passenger on the train. More on that tomorrow. 
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Garin Baker Fine Art
Sean Oswald teacher interview

25 comments:

Andrew Wales said...

I LOVE to see things like this! How one artist interprets the same thing differently. They used to do them a lot in American Artist.

Dan Kent said...

Totally impressive. I enjoyed the video, and love the results. (And the watercolor sketch too!)

Robert Ellefson said...

James- are you the one talking about limiting the pallete, and were those the colors you ended up using?

Ezra said...

Awesome video! Really enjoyed it!

Ray Greaves said...

I wonder how many people assumed you were some no name street artist that just picked up a paint brush. lol Amusing....and the amount of moving objects in the scene would drive me crazy! That takes some kind of focus..

Robb said...

I just want to add to everyone else's sentiment and say that I really enjoyed the video. I appreciate the heck out of it and hope you can do more of them despite the fact that I'm sure it took a lot of effort and time - It gave a whole new level of intimacy and understanding to both your life and workflow - thanks for sharing!!
X O X O X O
-Robb

kwm said...

Occupy Wall Street.

kwm said...

Occupy Wall Street.
People before Profits.

Industrial Serendipity said...

Great video! The experience of going out and drawing or painting a person or a landscape is one of the reasons that I want to become a good artist. It just looks like so much fun!

Lane Brown said...

Very inspiring, thank you!

David J Teter said...

James... yeah, what Robert Ellefson asked?

If so the yellow of the taxi would have to be.... raw umber and burnt sienna?

Al... I can't believe they let you leave your Mobile gas station job to paint!

Florante Paghari-on said...

They are all beautiful and the video is wonderful too. Garin and Sean are amazingly quite fast enough to finish their artworks and I like how careful and patient James bring his paintings to life.

Tom Hart said...

Fantastic video. One of the many highlights for me was your great Mobil shirt James. I'm jealous!

Those high buildings brought to mind a question about something you (I think) mentioned long, long ago. That is, the effective field of vision angle (i.e. measured vertically) that one can - or should - hope to include in a landscape. Can you please review that?

Also, what was Garin's support for his larger piece - was it paper, or canvas taped to board? It appeared to be buckling a bit in one of the later shots.

Thanks for a great post!!

James Gurney said...

Andy, I remember those great old American Artist articles (and books) that compared how different artists interpreted the same subjects. I loved those, too.

Tom, I think Garin was using a gray-primed canvas taped to a super-thick piece of foam core board. About the "pyramid of vision," I usually try to keep to about a 20 - 30 degree sector, and match the panel size to that size view. Here's the post: http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/search?q=cone+of+vision.

David and Robert: Yes, that's me talking about the colors. I'm using a "starved" or limited palette of burnt sienna, pyrrole red, raw umber, and white. I left out yellow and green in order to keep the focus on the red-blue dynamic. You're right: I had to try to force yellow out of tints of raw umber or burnt siena. Color is all relative. If I were to use all the colors, there's a risk of the picture getting "jangly."

The shirt is a remnant of my days painting animation backgrounds. It's an old gas station shirt that I got at a second-hand uniform store. It reminds me of the days when gas station guys used to give you maps and clean your windshield.

KWM: We were a long ways from Wall Street, but I was thinking it would be fun to be down there or down in Union Square painting the people there.

Robb, Florante, Dan, Ezra, Industrial: Glad you enjoyed the video. It was fun and not that hard to put together. Ray, I was trying to capture the craziness of being on location there.

Lester Yocum said...

Just wonderful stuff, Jim. I love the imagination it took to conceive the project, travel, allow for variations to the plan, and produce the video, allowing for all variations. So well done. And great examples of plein air work. And, yes, "Al" -- I loved the shirt. :-)

Magnus B said...

Thanks a lot for a truly inspiring video. Love your books and the blog very much as well.

I should really start painting more with "real" paint.

Tom Hart said...

Again, great video, a wonderful and typically generous gift to us all.

James, it struck me this morning that the video points out how thickly you work in oils when doing plein air, as opposed to your illustration work, in which you generally work thinly, with Liquin as a medium - if I have that right. What, if any, medium do you use in plein air (and why that choice)? I see two cups, but of course one could be empty.

suzanne hill said...

loved your small painting!

Loved the man with the large painting, too!

always a challenge with chatty passers-by (my aunt paints; my mother did watercolors etc etc) you were wisely in the middle where they could not get to you so easily.

great stuff

suzanne on st. simons
love your blog!

Bajaringan said...

I love it...:)

John Fleck said...

Great video, James!
(How much do you want for your painting?)
I love the use of atmospheric perspective to enhance the GC entrance being forward in the scene.
Limiting your palette is a great concept I must remember to employ myself more often.
Cheers - John

Diana Moses Botkin said...

Wow! And I think plein air painting out in the quiet countryside is a challenge just to capture a scene before the light changes. The noise and bustle in NYC's belly of the whale must take super-powers of concentration.

Ezra Suko said...

Hey James - How often should the studio painter get out of his studio to do plein air painting? What is a good way for him to fit plein air painting into his schedule when he relies on studio paintings for income? What percentage of your painting time is outdoors as opposed to indoors?

James Gurney said...

Hi, Ezra, Great to hear from you. Those are hard questions for me to answer, because I don't know what works for other people. It all depends the individual and their goals. My own sketching practice isn't a regular thing, and I don't do it according to any schedule.

Adam Hirsch said...

Hi James!

I noticed that your panel seems to have been prepped. Is that just a few more layers of sanded gesso or lead white priming? What's your prep method for plein air panels?

James Gurney said...

Adam, I use the Gamblin titanium white oil priming, usually tinted with burnt sienna or some other priming color.