Thursday, July 30, 2015

Diner Portrait in Gouache

This guy eats his bacon at a diner table near me. 

Gouache, 4 x 5 inches
There's a soft light from the right, and a bright edge light from behind. He has a dark mustache, dark eyebrows, graying hair, no teeth. Maybe he's on his way home from the Hemingway Lookalike Contest.

Art Sperl Disposal: "You propose it, we dispose it."
I lean over my coffee and shoot a glance from under my hat brim. This is portrait painting in the wild. The guy never looks up. He doesn't notice me painting him.
Previously: Portrait Noir


HNK said...

Fantastic, James! I like the monochromatic look. Does this hard to paint in that way or not? Thank you. I know that I will sound very annoying to you now, but this will be the last off - topic in this week/ 2 weeks. I have to say that first you should practice with constructing the head, then without it. I guess that everything is about practice, right? And the same practice should be used in foliage and in other things? But, for example, if someone will commission you to do the painting of what you never drew, what will you do? The last: will there be new videos coming this year and about portraits in wcs pencils and new full - length videos this year? Thank you for your blog and patience.

Charles Johnson said...

Portrait painting in the wild? Do I smell a new video coming?

A Colonel of Truth said...

Bravo! I, too, hunt (people, places, things) with a paint brush these days. Andy Weddington, Southern California (

gyrusdentus said...

Do you do the left part in shadow with a grisaille or do you paint/glaze the dark parts under the cheekbone and on the side of the left side at the end of the painting?
I generally am always undecided if one does the big shadows in the end with a glaze or by physical mixtures in the beginning.
There seems to be a bit of blue mixed in the left side.

James Gurney said...

HNK, about practice, I would answer the same way Adolph Menzel did when someone asked about what sort of drawing they should practice: "All drawing is useful, and drawing everything as well" “Alles Zeichnen ist nützlich, und alles zeichnen auch". In other words, it's good to practice drawing heads, but drawing foliage requires a different set of skills. The more things you draw, the more methods you will improvise to represent reality under different conditions.

Gyrus, I tried to hit the exact values as I painted every passage, but inevitably I misjudged or needed to correct. I did add the cheekbone accents later on in the process, and blended them in with a wet finger. Some of the soft edges on the outside of the head came toward the end, also. There's no glazing, because that's not really possible in gouache.

Charles and HNK, I'm working on several different new full-length videos. I'm sure I'll release at least one of them before the year is over, but I don't know which one yet.

Doug B said...

> I'm working on several different new full-length videos. I'm sure I'll release at least one of them before the year is over, but I don't know which one yet.

As Charles suggested, perhaps Portrait Painting in the Wild? Could be the next big thing-portraits of chipmunks. Or if you wanted even wilder, you could go to a night club?

(Or perhaps not!!! :-) )



Fabio Porta said...

Simply amazing!
How long did it take? I tried about the same (pencil only) a few weeks back while I was waiting for my lunch in an open terrace restaurant, but the person kept moving so much that I wasn't able to achieve the least likeness.

Krystal said...

fantastic !
I wish I could paint that way, especially without being noticed !

When I draw in coffe shops or restaurant, and when it's credible, I use to wear sunglasses. That way I can have my head toward the paper and glance at people without being seen. That works for pencil but I am not sure I could do it with paint...

Steve said...

That's a fine, vintage shirt, Mr. Gurney. A quick search indicates Art Sperl Disposal is a LLC that was "Merged Out" and has been "Inactive" since Dec. 29, 1999. Would double nicely as a bowling shirt.

James Gurney said...

Steve, good detective work. I got the shirt and a few old patches from the uniform store. They have a bin of patches from businesses that no longer exist.

HNK, can we call you Николай? Off topic question: Какой художник портрет вы предпочитаете, Илья Репин или Valentin Серов?

HNK said...

Wow, James, you can talk to me in English, I understand it more than Google Translate. You can call me like you want. I can't say that i like one of them, I love their paintings. So I could say both.