Saturday, February 17, 2018

Anna Boberg's Painting Rig

Swedish artist Anna Boberg (1864-1935) was a self-taught innovator, and she developed an unusual design for a plein-air easel.

Anna Boberg
The painting was held in a frame that attached to a waist band and propped up against her right leg.

In addition to her winter landscapes, Boberg was known for her writing and her Art-Nouveau ceramics.
Anna Boberg on Wikipedia
Thanks Ricky Mujica and Gregory Dunham

Friday, February 16, 2018

Google Removes "View Image" Button

Google removed the "View Image" button from its image search results, with the goal of forcing users to visit the website if they want to copy an image file.

Google made the change because of a licensing deal with Getty Images. The change is frustrating to people who want to freely copy images (and many uses are copyright-free), but it's probably better for artists and photographers who want to control their copyrighted images. By going to the website, users will be more likely to see the usage requirements first.

There's a workaround, though. You can right-click the image when it comes up in results, and then select "View Image in a New Tab." Or you can select "Copy Image Address" to get the URL of the image. Paste that URL into a new tab and it takes you to the same place that "View Image" used to.

Another solution for getting better image searches is to use another search engine, such as DuckDuckGo, which gives you more usable image search results and doesn't track your search history for advertisers.
More on "The Verge"

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Ed Vebell's Nuremberg Sketches

Westport illustrator Ed Vebell died last week at age 96. One of his most remarkable experiences was sketching at the 'War Criminals Trials' in Nuremberg in 1945.
Field Marshall Goering by Ed Vebell, 1945
His job was to record the proceedings of the trial and document the key players. From his position in the press gallery, he could see the defendants, starting with Hermann Göring

"Göring still seemed to be in charge," Vebell remembers. "He gave the feeling he was still running the show. He had his uniform on, but he had lost a lot of weight." He looked sunken in, reminding Vebell of a collapsed parachute. 

Vebell’s Nuremberg portraits of Nazis
Rudolf Hess (top) and Wilhelm Keitel. 
Vebell sketched with a fountain pen, which allows no second thoughts or corrections. Since he didn't have any water, he achieved gray tones by using his spit to dissolve the water-soluble ink.

In his written notes, he described their demeanor, with its mixture of a rigid military bearing and a sense of hollowness.

He sketched while looking through a pair of binoculars because he was a little too far to get a clear portrait likeness. 

He pressed the binoculars against his glasses, holding them in position, and then flipped his eyes up and down to switch from the view to the sketch pad. 

In this 2013 interview, he recalls the experience. At 9:00 in the video, there's some archival footage of a Russian artist who also documented the trials, with a more caricatured approach. 

Learn more

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Tips for Selling Digital Products

Sellfy is one of the companies I work with for distributing videos and other digital content. Basically what they do is host the files and handle the payment processing and customer service.

They did an interview with me, and here's one of their questions:

Sellfy: You make a portion of your income from your painting tutorials. What are your tips for selling digital products?

Gurney: I think it’s important to think all the time about what makes a better product that really helps other artists on their journey. When my wife Jeanette (also an artist) and I watch other videos, we always talk about what we liked about it and how it might have been better.

I really try to listen to what customers want, and I study the metrics. With all that said, I go out there to have fun and try new challenges, and it’s OK with me if some of my videos have a smaller audience.

That’s one thing I like about the digital arts economy is that you can niche market to specific groups, and they can get information that used to be unavailable a generation ago.

You can read the rest of the interview here.
You can check out all the stuff on my Sellfy page here.

Illustration Research Center Proposed for Stockbridge

In what may turn out to be a Valentine's gift to illustration scholarship, The Norman Rockwell Museum is considering turning the former Old Town Hall of Stockbridge, Massachusetts into a study center for illustration.

The Town Hall building is currently not in use but it would need a major overhaul indoors to incorporate the Museum's archives, study gallery, library, reading room, and prep space for traveling exhibitions.

Exhibits and public events would remain at the current museum location. The plan would require raising a lot of funds and still awaits approvals.

Read more in the Berkshire Eagle: Rockwell Museum aims to turn Stockbridge's Old Town Hall into National Center for Illustration Research and Education

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Book on Coby Whitmore is in the works

Publisher Daniel Zimmer is taking preorders for a monograph on 1950s illustrator Coby Whitmore coming out this June. Coby is one of my all-time favorites, right up there with Al Parker, Jon Whitcomb, and Harry Anderson.

With this series of books, Zimmer has almost singlehandedly achieved something that mainstream art publishers have failed to accomplish: to document the legacy of the great 20th century illustrators in elegantly-produced monographs. The contribution he is making is so important for future generations who would otherwise never be able to see the work of these masters of illustration.

Preorder Coby Whitmore: Artist and Illustrator 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Painting an Abandoned Factory

Across the tracks from the supermarket is an abandoned factory where people once built mainframe computers. 

Here's a video (Link to Video on YouTube). After IBM pulled up stakes, the new owners renamed the seven-acre complex 'TechCity,' but it has sat mostly empty as the freight trains roll by.

As Jeanette did the food shopping, I set up my easel at the edge of the parking lot. I painted a view of the low building beyond the piles of dirty snow.

On Facebook, Joe Ongie asks: How did you choose your limited palette of colors?

Joe, For an overcast snow scene, I usually choose one blue to suit the subject (such as ultra, Prussian, or cobalt), plus a weak red (like burnt sienna) and a weak yellow (like yellow ochre). In this case I needed full-chroma red and yellow as well for the color accents. Since the subject was well within the gamut of possible mixtures, adding more colors to the palette would have just slowed me down, complicated the choices, and added to the cleanup, and they would have made a harmonious scheme less likely.

On YouTube, ThaBest007 asks: What makes you pick these scenes? Is it the history behind the place or the interesting contrasting colors? You somehow seem to be able to make even the most mundane looking scenes into beautiful and interesting paintings.
Haha! I pick something I can paint within 100 yards of the supermarket parking lot while my wife does the shopping (I distract her if I tag along). So I set up pretty much set up anywhere at random where I won't get run over or kicked out.

Keith E asks: I feel like one of the problems I'll run into though is dealing with hecklers...Do you ever find yourself dealing with issues like this, or do you have any specific strategies to avoid those situations? Like maybe going at specific time of day or on days when you know there'll be less of a chance of things like that happening?

That's funny, I did get heckled on this one but it was from my dear friend and fellow artist Gilles who recognized me at random. He said I was cheating when I brought out the camera. And I said No, I'm feeding the YouTube Monster. But seriously, you get heckled or approached a lot less by strangers when you're painting in one of these out of the way places that artists never go. No one is expecting to see someone painting, so 99% of the time strangers are very kind and supportive.

On Twitter, Maple E says: How come you never wear gloves when you paint? Are you just used to the cold or do you not like how it feels when painting?

It just didn't feel that cold. I think it was in the high 30s, and it didn't bother me—maybe I'm adjusted to winter. If the cold did bother me, I would have used gloves and those hunter hand-warmer packets, which I carry with me.

Turner asks on Twitter: Have you ever considered doing some plein-air livestreams?
Yes, I've done a few live streams on @concertwindow and Facebook Live. It was fun but a bit nerve wracking. I like to do it with Jeanette fielding the questions, but even then at least 75% of my attention goes to the questions, which makes the painting suffer. Painting for the video capture gives me more room to move. 
Previous paintings that I've done near the supermarket.
VW Dealership
Loading Dock
Produce Case
Sunset at the Supermarket
Strange Light at the Tire Place
Traffic Lights
Parking Lot Before the Storm

Sunday, February 11, 2018

E. T. Compton's Mountainscapes

E.T. Compton, Piz Morteratsch,
view from Fuorcla Boval on the northern flank
Edward Theodore Compton (1849-1921) was an English-born German artist who specialized in alpine landscapes.

Better known as E.T. Compton, he briefly attended the Royal Academy, but he was mainly self taught.

Note the flowing water in the foreground of the painting above.

E.T. Compton, The Weisshorn seen from the Furgg Glacier above Zermatt
He was inspired to become mountain painter when, at age 19, he traveled with his family to the Bernese Oberland, where he was impressed with views of the the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau peaks.

He was a skilled mountaineer who made over 300 major ascents, with 27 first climbs. 

E.T. Compton, Study of the Gorner Glacier, Zermatt, watercolor
He often brought his watercolors with him to document what he saw.

Note how muted the colors are in this painting—just subtle warm and cool grays—and how he adds mystery by veiling part of the view in a fragment of clouds.

His son Edward Harrison Compton, shown here, was also a mountain painter. 
Read More

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Garden Party Film

The Garden Party is an animated film where a frog and a toad explore an abandoned mansion. (Link to trailer on YouTube)

It was produced by a team of six 3D artists as a graduation project for school. By doing careful planning and research, they achieved a remarkable level of realism, both in the rendering and the movement. (Link to YouTube)

Video on Jeremy Mann now on YouTube

The film about painter Jeremy Mann by Loïc Zimmermann, called "A Solitary Mann" is now available for free on YouTube.
It's a moody dive into the angry love he feels for the art and act of painting. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Concept Art for the Early Mardi-Gras

Assuri” costume design by Carlotta Bonnecaze for the
“Myths and Worships of the Chinese” theme, Krewe of Proteus, 1885:
Carnival Collection, Louisiana Research Collection, Tulane University — Source
In the 19th century, concept art for the Mardi Gras celebration of New Orleans drew inspiration from an eclectic variety of religions and design traditions—everything from Chinese mythology, to South Asian deities, to dragons from European folktales.

Bat costume designed by Charles Briton for the “Missing Links”
theme, Mistick Krewe of Comus, 1873: Carnival Collection,
Louisiana Research Collection, Tulane University — Source
The theme of the 1873 parade was “Missing Links to Darwin’s Origin of Species,” with a gentle satire of the ideas that were circulating at the time.

Scorpion costume designed by Charles Briton for the “Missing Links”
theme, Mistick Krewe of Comus, 1873: Carnival Collection, Louisiana
Research Collection, Tulane University — Source
The teams of designers competed with each other to come up with the most creative and outlandish  creatures.

“Such Stuff as Dreams are Made of” float design by Jennie Wilde for the
“Familiar Quotations” theme, Mistick Krewe of Comus, 1911:
Carnival Collection, Louisiana Research Collection, Tulane University — Source 
There were also extravagant floats in the early Mardi Gras, and many of them were designed by women, such as Jennie Wilde, who drew inspiration from Art Nouveau and the Symbolists.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Color and Light Deal

If you were thinking of getting Color and Light, I happened to notice that it’s at a really good price on Amazon right now. The price fluctuates on Amazon by some mysterious algorithm.
Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter (James Gurney Art)

How Old Folks Talked in 1929

Old people were lively and well spoken a century ago. (Link to YouTube)

Some of the people in these video clips were born earlier than 1840, with one man vividly recalling an event he witnessed in the Civil War.

Happy Old-Time Photos

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Rhinecliff Dock

Rhinecliff has an active train station and was once a busy ferry terminal on the Hudson River.

Rhinecliff Dock, 8 x 10 oil
An old iron bridge lets you cross over the train tracks so that you can go from the hotel to the dock. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Painting Across Edges

Alexandre asks:
"I heard you mention several times in Gouache in the Wild (including the painting of the liquor store sign) this idea of 'painting across' edges. What do you mean by 'the secret to gouache is to paint across edges?' Why? What does it do? Is it true with watercolour / acrylic / casein? Why or why not?"

Alexandre: Yes, good question and thanks for asking. That advice applies to any opaque paint, whether gouache, casein, acrylic or oil.

A lot of students when they're learning to paint will do a preliminary outline drawing and then paint right up to the lines. That's fine for a coloring book, but in an opaque painting, it looks weak and timid. And it's hard to get a variety of hard and soft edges that way.

The reason people do that is that they're afraid of covering up and losing their careful drawing under the opaque paint.

Instead, I want the painting to look like one form is painted actively on top of, or in front of, another.

So let's say you're painting a house in gouache. You might paint the sky first, and paint that sky a little past the edge of the roofline, feathering the paint so that you can just barely see your guidelines.

Then when the sky is done and you're painting the house, you can paint back over the line a bit. That sequence of background first and foreground second is the normal sequence for illusionistic painting in gouache. I often call it "background to foreground" or "B2F."

Alternately, you can paint the tones of foreground objects first, and then "cut in" the background second, as I did in this demo for Casein in the Wild. For this one, I painted the sun gradation first in the studio across the whole surface of the page and then painted the light sky and street tones over it on location.

(Link to YouTube)

In actual practice, most paintings are a combination of "B2F" and "F2B." But either way I'm painting across the outlines. When you paint one form positively over another, you can soften or blend the edges as you go. The end result is a sense of joyful discovery in the technique, which I sometimes call "finding it in the paint."

Check out paintings by John Singer Sargent or Anders Zorn to see this principle in action.

With transparent watercolor, it's a little different because you can't really cover up something that you laid down first. Let me save that case for another post.
Downloadable video tutorials: Gouache in the Wild and Casein in the Wild.
They're also available as DVDs on Amazon.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Football in an Age of Illustration

American football came of age during the Golden Age of Illustration.

J.C. Leyendecker
Famous illustrators of the time were asked to visualize the game. The talent included superstar artists such as N.C. Wyeth, J.C. Leyendecker, Frederic Remington, Winslow Homer, and Edward Penfield.

How did those classic illustrators interpret the sport visually? That's the question posed by Michael Oriard in his new book The Art of Football: The Early Game in the Golden Age of Illustration.

Arnold Friberg, Rutgers Princeton Game
Many artists played up the physical dynamics on the field. Football was a game where the action was fast and brutal. At first they didn't even wear helmets.

Frederic Remington
The action was mostly far from the observer. Cameras existed, but they didn't have the modern capabilities of telephoto, color, and super-fast shutter speeds.

Frederic Remington

Remington, who had played the game in college, had a natural flair for action.

J.C. Leyendecker focused on compositions with strong poster-like silhouettes to capture the glamorous aspects of the players both on and off the field.

Football was mostly a college game until 1920, when the American Professional Football Association (later the NFL) was formed. Its popularity grew rapidly, enough to get the attention of the major magazines.

Mr. Oriard, himself a player and a historian of the sport, says: "When played, football was always a brutal slugfest; when watched, the spectators were not the cream of American society, but 'sporting men' and their tarted-up female companions."

Some of the paintings in the book by W.T. Smedley and C.S. Reinhart (above), focus on the crowd and their reaction.

The book also includes how the game was reflected in early cartoons and pen-and-ink illustrations. The story of early football is fascinating on its own terms, but what I liked most was learning how the illustrators had to figure out for themselves what aspects of the game to focus on, and how to compose pictures that captured the spirit of the game.

The Art of Football: The Early Game in the Golden Age of Illustration by Michael Oriard.

244 pages, color and black and white, published by the University of Nebraska. Currently $29.05 on Amazon.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

A.B Frost's Characters

My biggest tip for character designers is don't look only at the work of your contemporaries.

If you want your style to be fresh and original, dig up other sources. You might enjoy the pen drawings of A.B. Frost (1851-1928) in his book "Stuff and Nonsense."

Big mouth, little eyes, little nose, and some knobbiness at the joints.

Squatty shapes all built around the round belly. Cross-hatch textures add interesting flavor. 

Long, flappy shoes on the old guy. Hat drawn with lots of wear. Stick legs on young makes them look fast and light, but the payoff to this joke was that the old guy beat them in a footrace.

Long legs and clear silhouette on this old codger. The opaque glasses fit with this artist who doesn't believe Muybridge's photos and still paints the hobbyhorse pose:

Said this artist 'Now don't you suppose
An intelligent man like me knows
How a horse ought to go
Yet you say I don't know
And believe what a photograph shows.
A.B. Frost's Stuff and Nonsense is available in a reprint edition.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Thesleff's 'Echo'

Ellen Thesleff was a Finnish artist with a feeling for lyricism. Her painting "The Echo" shows a young woman calling out in the morning or evening. 

Ellen Thesleff (Finnish 1869-1954) The Echo
Because the tones of her shirt are treated simply, the artist keeps the emphasis on the head, which is surrounded and infused with warm light.

Thesleff studied in Paris at Académie Colarossi.  Her portraits (self-portrait above) evoke the atmospheric lighting and edges reminiscent of Eugène Carrière. The photo of her is from 1890. 

Thesleff is featured in a new book Women Artists in Paris, 1850-1900 from Yale University Press. 

Here's a preview of the book (Link to video) and it's available on Amazon.

The book is a catalog for an exhibition called Her Paris: Women Artists in Paris, 1850-1900, which also includes Cassat, Nourse, Beaux, Bonheur, Morisot, and many more. The show just finished in Denver, but it will travel on to:

The Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky (February 17–May 13, 2018)
The Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts (June 9–September 3, 2018).