Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Arthur Guptill Renders a Window

In 1935, Arthur Guptill demonstrated a sequential method frequently used by architectural illustrators for painting a window. 

Guptill first draws the subject in pencil, giving careful attention to the perspective. 

He rules the lines of the shutters very evenly. Then he lays down a warm wash in watercolor over the wall and the curtains, and sets up variegated flat colors for the stonework. He washes in the shutters in green.

The dark interior spaces are painted over the mullions, but not the sash. The dull orange color of the interior gives a feeling of depth and transparency.

Next come the shadows cast on the curtains and the shade from the sunlight coming from the upper left. He then adds the darks of the mullions and the outer moldings with a ruling pen.

If you're not familiar with a ruling pen, it's a tool for drawing a line of constant width, usually guided by a ruler that's raised a bit off the surface. It has two sharpened metal tips that taper together. The spacing of the gap between the tips governs the width of the line.

That gap is controlled by an adjustable wheel on the side. Ink or watercolor, applied by an eyedropper (Edit: or a brush), sits in the gap and flows by capillary action.

Guptill then draws mullions with the ruling pen filled with opaque white watercolor, slightly yellowed. The consistency has to be just right. Too wet and it puddles out; too dry and it won't flow at all. When a ruling pen works well, it's a joyful feeling.

Edit: After reading the post, blog reader Glenn Tait got out two of his old Kern ruling pens, ran some tests, and sent the photo, saying: "By rote, after so many years, I filled the pen by loading my brush (using M. Graham watercolors) and pulled it across the open side of the pen to fill it then, after adjusting the tip width, dragged it a bit along my left forefinger to get the flow started. The watercolour works great."
Thanks, Glenn. I'm going to throw one in my sketch kit, too.
Arthur Guptill's classic book about rendering architecture in watercolor is called Color in Sketching and Rendering.


Elena Jardiniz said...

I am fortunate to own a very fine ruling pen that belonged to my grandfather. It must date from the late 1800's to the early 1900's and using it is a joy. The modern ones, if you can even find them, are NO comparison! You want the blade edges, especially the points, to be thin and sharp but very smooth. Emery paper wrapped around a hard surface will work to refine and clean up a new pen and it's worth buying a couple to practice on.

Tom Hart said...

It's true that these are a real joy. I learned to use them in a scientific illustration class, before computers ruled the roost. I inherited a set, along with some drafting compasses. I haven't pulled mine out in a while but this article tempts me to. (Never tried watercolor in them, just India ink.)I do recall that a raised ruler is a must.

Glenn Tait said...

I had my 30 year old college drafting set out recently and was looking at the two ruling pens in the set. One came with the set. The other was a Kern ruling pen, a Swiss made instrument that is beautifully engineered and still in great condition, which got me thinking if I would ever have the opportunity to use it again. We used it with ink and gouache at college but not with regular watercolours. I'll be getting it out again today :).

Thanks James!

Glenn Tait said...

Meant to ask if you use one much in your work or sketching?

Kasey Snow said...

I saw your posts on elementary schools and would LOVE to incorporate some Dinotopia stuff into our curriculum. I am an art teacher of 500+ and it would be great to hear any activity ideas that you have. My school e-mail is ksnow(at)nisdtx(dot)org...or if there is a better way to get in touch with you, perhaps you could let me know?

James Gurney said...

Hi, Kasey, I've got some Dinotopia ideas for you. Best way is to email me or send me a letter by post. You'll find both addresses at the bottom left of the blog.

Amelia Edmond said...

Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no help at all.~Dale Carnegie

Motivational Quotes

Monika Baum said...

I am so happy about all the things I learn from your blog! Will need to get a ruling pen now. :-)


Terry said...

This comes at the perfect time for me! I just got out an old drafting kit of my late husband's, and I was looking at all the instruments - there are about 15, I think - and wondering what those (ruling pens) were! I wish I could find a web page that has labels on these different instruments. They're cool.