Saturday, November 30, 2013

Boxtrolls behind-the-scenes featurette

Laika, the stop-motion animation studio that brought us "Coraline" and "ParaNorman" created this enticing behind-the-scenes video about the making of their upcoming feature, called "Boxtrolls," which is due out next fall. (Direct link to video)

Monsted's painterly suggestion of foliage

If all you saw was this reproduction by Danish painter Peder Mørk Mønsted (1859-1941), you might think it was finished to some fussy level of photographic detail.

But a super close-up shows a joyous riot of thick paint handling.

Realism can be achieved by suggestion, and one of the joys of painting is the balance between the material properties of paint and the illusion of light, air, and depth.
Peder Mørk Mønsted on Wikipedia
Previous posts that mention Monsted

Friday, November 29, 2013

Drölling's advice to a young artist

Michel-Martin Drölling, Portrait of the Artist aged 18, 1804
"What sort of painting can a young fellow do at your age? Generally something mediocre as far as ideas go.... Do sketches, train yourself in composition: whatever ideas you've got, put them on to paper in a single day at one stroke, and even though it's on a small scale, you can put into it anything you like in the way of harmony, elegance, costumes, poetry and so forth: those are the sort of paintings you should be doing at seventeen.... Above all, see to it that all your efforts and studies converge and help you to qualify for the [Prix de Rome] competition. That's your goal and, if you want to reach it, don't waste a day on feeble and useless studies."  —Michel-Martin Drölling (1789-1851)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Best wishes this Thanksgiving

J.C. Leyendecker, "Childhood Thanksgiving," 1927
Among the many things I have to be thankful for are the faithful readers of this blog, and for the ideas, thoughts, and reactions that you share in the comments. Thanks for making GurneyJourney a part of your day.

More classic Thanksgiving covers from Saturday Evening Post

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Color Gamuts in Botanical Illustration

Mervi Hjelmroos-Koski, Ph.D., D. Sc., Manager of The School of Botanical Art & Illustration in Denver, Colorado, recently gave her students an assignment to do a realistic botanical rendering as a way to understand color gamuts.

Mervi says: 
"We recently completed an advanced level workshop which followed James Gurney's book Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter focusing on a botanical subject matter. The students learned about gamut mapping and limited palettes and found it to be extremely helpful in botanical work." 
"The class was very successful and several of the students even suggested that it should be a class within the required curriculum."

 "In the upper image no blue color was used - the lower image shows the same subject matter but without any yellow and blue added."
 Randy Raak was the instructor and the students used colored pencil.
 Please see more images from this course in addition to some other classroom shots by clicking here.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Book Review: How to Draw, by Scott Robertson

Until now, I had to rack my brain to think of what instructional book to recommend for a student who wants to learn perspective.

No longer. Scott Robertson's new book, "How to Draw: drawing and sketching objects and environments from your imagination" lays out all the principles and practices of drawing objects in perspective from your imagination.

The emphasis is on how to draw things in perspective with traditional tools, but the principles apply to digital artists, too. The book begins with basic drawing materials and techniques, and then defines underlying concepts like cone of vision, viewing position, horizon line, and vanishing points, concepts that are often skipped over in other books. The book then goes on to explain exactly how to draw a form with compound curves—such as a car or an airplane—either from observation or imagination.

The book, by Robertson's own publishing company Design Studio Press, is large (9x11 inches), thick (208 pages), and printed on good paper. The book also has innovative video content of the book that can be sourced by a URL inside and on an Android app that is still waiting on iOS approval.

Scott is both a master teacher and a concept artist who has designed vehicles for many feature films. He has been working on this book for most of his professional career, and it benefits greatly from his experience as artist, teacher, and publisher.
How to Draw: drawing and sketching objects and environments from your imagination
Other book recommendations in my "Survival Guide for Art Students"

Monday, November 25, 2013

Quick portrait sketches

Sitting around a breakfast table with other artists is a golden opportunity to practice quick portrait sketches. Here's Ken Laager, drawn with water soluble colored pencils and some watercolor.

In addition to Ken, I was joined by Chad Smith (far left), Garin Baker and Greg Shea (not visible), Richard Scarpa, and my wife Jeanette.

Marc Holmes, a leader in the Urban Sketchers movement from Montreal, also joined us on our trip last week to Massachusetts. I sketched him using black and red-brown watercolor pencils with a little watercolor in the background.

Here's my expedition kit for water media, with casein and gouache in the bags, two watercolor pan sets, a box of pencils, my homemade pochade rig in the upper left, and assorted tripods and camera gear, which I used in the Higgins Armory Museum video.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Video from the Armory Museum

(Direct link to YouTube video) I shot some video last week while I did that little painting of field combat armor, and here's the result.

In the video, you'll see a few glimpses of my friends painting. So that you can see their work a little more clearly, here are some better scans. Please check back later, because there are more images to come.

Sean Murray, study of Papal guard armor, pen and watercolor.

Greg Shea, pen and ink.

Jeanette Gurney, pencil, watercolor, and a little white gouache.

Garin Baker "The Higgins Armory"

Chad Smith, "Romanesque Ceremonial Armor"

And in case you missed it, here's the painting I did of the field combat armor using watercolor and casein, 5x8 inches.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Face-O-Mat: portable portrait device

Face-o-mat Travels the World - 2013 from Tobias Gutmann on Vimeo.

Tobias Gutmann built a portable booth for portrait painting that simulates the working of a machine, complete with coin slot, controls, and a fake printer as he slides out the finished product.

People love interacting with machines, even when they know it's all a game. Gutmann has brought the device all over the world, and has produced over 700 portraits with it.
Direct link to Vimeo. Via BoingBoing

Friday, November 22, 2013

High speed photos of dogs shaking

Dogs make the most amazing faces when they're shaking off water.
Animators will appreciate the extreme keyframe poses and the overlapping action of all the loose forms pulled around by centripetal forces.

(Video link) Slow motion footage shows that different animals shake at different frequencies to maximize the effectiveness of removing water.

See more high speed photos at Thanks, Susan.

Higgins Armory

James and Jeanette Gurney painting at the Higgins Armory. Photo by Greg Shea
Yesterday Jeanette and I joined a group of artist friends to paint at the Higgins Armory in Worcester, Massachusetts, the only museum in America devoted entirely to armor.

I was attracted to this pairing of 16th century German field armor poised for combat. What struck me first was the chiaroscuro: light-on-dark on the left, and dark-on-light on the right.

I also liked the sense of action, and I thought I would develop that idea, imagining the scene taking place with real people outdoors.

I started the painting in watercolor, and finished in casein. It's 5x8 inches and took about five hours. I shot video of the process, so I'll edit that together for a future post.

Our group, from left to right included: Sean Murray, Ken Laager, Jeanette Gurney, Marc Holmes, James Gurney, Greg Shea, Richard Scarpa, Chad Smith, Garin Baker, Joe Salamida (in helmet), John Caggiano.

The Higgins Armory will be welcoming any artists who want to sketch from the collection this Saturday in non-oil media. Although Jeanette and I won't be there, other artists will be gathering. Don't miss seeing the collection before it closes forever at the end of the year. Edit: I have heard that the museum officials have changed their mind and will not be able to allow artists to come on Saturday after all. Sorry for the confusion.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Princess Kaguya Trailer

Filmmaker Isao Takahata helped to create this delightful trailer for the film "Princess Kaguya" about the transformation of a tiny princess into a regular human baby. The watercolor-come-to-life style is different for Studio Ghibli, the Japanese animation company best known for Hayao Miyazaki's films "My Neighbor Totoro" and "Spirited Away." (Link to video).

A commentary by Adam Bellotto in Film School Rejects compares the new trailer to the CGI animation of the big American studios. Thanks, Bryn

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Since I usually paint people who aren't holding still, it's a luxury to work from a posed model for a change. Instead of portraying the model exactly as she appeared in the art studio, I imagined her standing in a forest, turning to listen to a far-off sound.

The study is painted in watercolor with a bit of gouache, and it's very small: 5 x 8 inches.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Dinosaur illustration assignment at MICA

Daniel Iturralde painting a dinosaur in Patrick O'Brien's class at MICA
Patrick O'Brien, who teaches illustration at the Maryland Institute of Art (MICA), came up with an assignment for his digital and oil-painting students. The goal was to paint a dinosaur in a convincing environment using the process outlined in my books and videos.

The classes began by watching my DVD "How I Paint Dinosaurs" and reading my books Color and Light and Imaginative Realism.

Patrick brought in some of his own dinosaur maquettes, and the students sketched them from various angles as they developed compositional ideas in thumbnail form.

Once they decided on their compositions, they photographed the maquettes and gathered images of background environments.

Then they drew comprehensive layouts of their compositions based on their references, before going to finish. Both Patrick's oil-painting students and his digital students followed the same basic process.

Julianne Ostrander portrayed her Stegosaurus on a high ridge with a dramatic view down to a lake. She captured the reflected light of the sun bouncing off the near dorsal plates to the far plates.

Niki Sauter created this digital image of a dinosaur prowling through a moody atmospheric landscape. Kudos to all the students, and thanks to Patrick for working with my books and vids!

If you're an art teacher, and you want to use my books or videos in your class, please send me some photos and I'll try to feature them on the blog. Also if you order a classroom set of my books, I can do dino drawings in them and personalize them with the student's names.
More about Patrick O'Brien
Previously: Painting demo at MICA

Monday, November 18, 2013

Product test: LED hat for night painting

If you like to paint outdoors at night or sketch in dark restaurants, it can be difficult to see what you're doing. Streetlights aren't reliable in color, so there are a variety of options for getting light on your work. One solution is the LED headlamp, which I demoed in New York City in a previous post. It works fine, but the light is rather strong and it can be distracting to people around you.

John and Ann over at the Artist Road website sent me a light-up hat that they've developed and asked me to review it. The hat comes with three LED bulbs tucked into the edge of the brim, so when it's turned off, it looks like any other hat. 

The hat is made of gray microfiber. You can wear it as a normal hat in the daytime, and just turn it on when you need it. The angle of the bill is perfectly aimed at the area where your hands are working.
The switch and bulb are hidden inside the visor and the battery is tucked in sweatband. The switch is operated by squeezing the bill with your right hand. There are three modes: Low (2 bulbs), High (all three bulbs), and Off. The light looks a little bluish, compared to other typical night sources, such as incandescent, so I might try tinting one or two of the bulbs with a little Indian yellow oil paint.

Battery life is rated at 25 hours, though I haven't run it that long yet. The coin-type batteries are removable and replaceable, and you can take them out to wash the hat. 

Once I gave it a try, I started using it everywhere. I tried out the hat in a dark restaurant, where it really helped to see the menu and the sketchbook, though my dining partners reminded me not to shine it in their faces. I also tested the hat in a nighttime sketch group, where it helped me to see what I was doing. I found it very useful in a dimly lit gallery to light up those hard-to-see paintings.  Jeanette has tried it for seeing her knitting and for reading a map on nighttime car trips. 

The Artist's Road LED hat is available at the Artist's Road store site for $25. Comparable LED hats are also Available on Amazon, but I don't think they're as well made. You can also get a Light unit with 5 LEDs that clips to the brim of your hat, in case you like to change hats.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Meissonier on painting from Nature

Ernest Messonier (1815-1891), painted many of his small oil compositions directly from live models in authentic costumes. His paintings commanded the highest prices of any artist in the nineteenth century.

Ernest Meissonier, Standing Man
He had this to say about painting directly from the observation of reality:

"I should have done more perhaps to cultivate my memory. But I infinitely prefer going straight to Nature, the fountainhead. If you want to prevent my consulting Nature, you must shut me up, without any model. If there was a looking-glass in the room I should pose before it, and paint from that. Nature is my favorite and indispensable slave. There is no room for conjecture in my painting, no doubt about the reality of my conception, no shuffling. There it is."

Rembrandt van Rijn, Carcass of Beef, 1657 

Meissonier was a great admirer of Rembrandt:

"Rembrandt, there was a perfect artist ! His Boeuf Écorché in the Louvre ought to be set up as a model to all painters. What unerring precision of touch throughout the frenzy of the handling! Each tone falls into its right place under the impetus. It is painted with fire. Freedom and truth, these are the two most admirable things on earth!"----
from Meissonier, His Life and Art by Octave Gréard
Previous posts mentioning Meissonier
Retrospective catalog (in French, all color repros): Ernest Meissonier: Retrospective : Musee des beaux-arts de Lyon, 25 mars-27 juin 1993 (French Edition)
Ross King's recent book comparing Meissonier and Manet: The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Gerome's Two Demands

Jean-Léon Gérôme in his studio
According to Edouard Cucuel, the great academic master Jean-Léon Gérôme demanded two things of his pupils before they started to paint: "That they lay on a red or yellow tone, and that they keep their brushes scrupulously clean. Woe to him who disobeys."

As the master made the rounds commenting on student work, the model had to hold the pose, no matter how difficult, for up to two straight hours until the criticism was over.

Gérôme was a severe taskmaster, but he was also known for his geniality and kindliness, which appeared after the criticism, when the students showed their sketches and studies made outside the École des Beaux-Arts.
From "Bohemian Paris of To-Day" by Edouard Cucuel, page 52-3.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Woodchuck Lodge

John Burroughs (1837-1921) was a writer and naturalist from 100 years ago whose essays and books helped to establish the environmental movement. He built a rustic house near Roxbury, New York where he spent the summers and entertained guests.

A historic photo taken in John Burroughs' day (top), compared to one taken last summer, shows that some of original wood on the porch has been replaced.

 Last August I did a painting on the porch because the rain kept coming and going. As I dove into the watercolor, I kept in mind one of the quotes of John Burroughs: "Leap and the net will appear."

John Burroughs' Woodchuck Lodge 
More quotes by John Burroughs
Previously on GurneyJourney: The Creative Habitats of John Burroughs

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sargent show in New York

John Singer Sargent, Young Girl Wearing a White Muslin Blouse, oil on canvas, 19.5x 15 inches.
There's an exhibition of over 40 rarely seen original oils and watercolors by John Singer Sargent at the Michael Altman gallery in New York City. The show continues through December 6.

Helpful Bear's Creature Design Contest

Terryl Whitlatch and her colleagues at Helpful Bear Productions have announced a creature design contest. You can enter by submitting to their Facebook event page. Winners receive an online critique and a signed and remarqued copy of Terryl's new book, Animals Real and Imagined. The deadline is December 11.