Thursday, October 23, 2014

Banana Demo

Yesterday I painted a half-hour still life demo in gouache for the Painting 1 class at Texas A and M, where I'm here this week as artist in residence. 

James Gurney at Texas A&M, photo courtesy Felice House
The subject is a banana sitting on a red piece of paper. Painting a high chroma object strongly lit against a high intensity background is the same assignment that the students have done earlier. So they get to see me wrestling with the same issues that they have faced. 

Every color that we see is a combination of the color of the light and the actual color of the surface (or "local color"). In this case, the down-facing planes in shadow are receiving reflected light from the red paper, shifting those color planes toward orange. 

As the top planes turn toward shadow near each end of the banana, they catch the blue window light, which mixes with yellow to make green. 

I make an effort to vary the edges around the form from soft to hard to soft. Nearly the whole painting is done with 3/4 inch and 1/2 inch flat brushes. I turn the brushes edge-on for the thin lines, and use the corner of the brush for the dots.

Painting by James Gurney. Photo by Felice House
Gouache colors include: white, lemon yellow, cadmium yellow medium, cadmium red, burnt sienna, ultramarine blue, and cobalt blue.

These are the only colors I have on the trip. Traveling with carry-on luggage means cutting back the colors so that they fit in the 3-1-1 TSA bags.

The palette surface is a metal pencil box primed and then painted white with enamel spray paint. The palette is held to my lightweight sketch easel with Neodymium magnets.

The students ask great questions throughout the session. Many of them are using what they're learning from these painting exercises to inform them in their 3D digital lighting projects.

Seated to my right is the professor of the class, Felice House. She says that the assignment "The Banana on Red" is a teaching project that originated with her first painting teacher at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, named Sheila Provazza.  

Whew! After that it's time for lunch and art talk with some of my student pals from the Department of Visualization. This week is going so fast for me and Jeanette and we're having a blast. 

If you can, please come on by College Station tonight for my Dinotopia lecture. I'll be glad to meet you or sign whatever books you bring afterward. 


Mary Ciani Saslow said...

Thank you for coming to the Viz Department painting class at Texas AM. I taught that course for two decades until I recently became a full-time artist again. When I taught color theory I had students do two opposing assignments– just as they had learned through 3 short, early monochromatic assignments of the significant oppositions of contour and gesture line, 2D shape and 3D form (picture plane and ground plane, composition and perspective and sighting in both) - they needed to learn low chroma and high chroma too. One assignment was to use only two complementary oil colors and white to create the painting. These are the nameless colors of realism, mood, and distance I told them. They spent time mixing with their palette knife, making colors they had never seen before. Wonderful paintings. They also did the opposite, pushing themselves to use intense colors they would not usually use, and seeing how colors pushed each other. This was a beginning.... If you don't push students they will find a middle path to harmonious, boring, useless work. I used your book on color and light as a reference. Thank you for your thorough, thoughtful explanations. A fan, Mary Ciani Saslow

Mary Ciani Saslow said...

Oh, forgot to mention that Felice House, who teaches the painting course now, is an excellent artist and teacher. I really wanted her to take over!

Glenn said...

These are great types of painting exercises. I first came across this approach in Arthur Stern's book "How to See Color and Paint it".

In regards to air travel how much of your kit/pochade are you able to carry onto the plane (various tube colours, pan warercolours, water brushes, inks, etc.) and what goes in with your checked-in luggage? Do you print out safety sheets for the colours? Other recommendations...

Rich said...

You just keep turning me on, James.

"I turn the brushes edge-on for the thin lines, and use the corner of the brush for the dots."

Great large-brushed banana-achievement here; without even resorting to any thin-lipped tool;-)

Max West said...

You have one hell of a composition here, James, and the primary colors really work wonders at drawing the viewer. Personally speaking, gouache is my favorite painting medium; it's amazing what you can do with gouache.

d.r. gurney said...

Hey - while you're in Texas, are you giving dubya George some painting lessons?

Maywyn Studio said...

I'm glad y'all are having a great time.
The last photograph...I was looking at the students when I unexpectedly see you there at the table in the middle. Its was LOL moment.