Thursday, June 21, 2018

Church's Parthenon Sketches

An exhibition at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut features the on-location paintings that Frederic Church (1826-1900) did while traveling.

When Church ventured to the Old World in the late 1860s, he decided to visit Athens to paint the Parthenon, "the finest edifice on the finest site in the world."

His studies are on paperboard, with thin, deftly applied semi-transparent layers of oil over a careful pencil drawing, resulting in an almost photographic level of capture.

Church was experimenting with night painting in 1869, and his view of the Parthenon at night captures the contrasts between the reddish light outside the structure and the cooler light inside.

The main focus of his study was this view of the Parthenon, which presents the ancient monument as a noble ruin, surrounded by wild rubble. In fact, he would have had to screen out the bustling city of Athens that crowded many views of the site. 

The structure itself had been almost perfectly intact until 1687, when a Venetian mortar shell hit the building and touched off gunpowder that was being stored there by the Ottoman Turks.

Most of the original paintings in this post are currently on exhibit in the Wadsworth Atheneum show, along with Church's paintings (both sketches and big studio works) portraying Jerusalem, Petra, and other exotic places. The exhibit will be up through August 26.

There's a handsome oversize catalog "Frederic Church: A Painter's Pilgrimage" if you can't make it to the exhibition.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Book Review: Homer and the Camera

A new exhibition called ‘Winslow Homer and the Camera: Photography and the Art of Painting’ opens this Saturday at Bowdoin College in Maine.

The show and the associated catalog examine the longstanding engagement of Winslow Homer (1836-1910) with various aspects of photography: its purely visual effects, its usefulness as a picture-making tool, and its role in shaping the artist’s public image.

"Winslow Homer, Charles S. Homer, Sr., and Sam at Prout’s Neck,"
ca. 1884, albumen silver print, by Simon Towle. Bowdoin College Museum of Art.
I had always assumed that Homer was camera shy and there are few photos of him, but recent scholarship has turned up new discoveries, many of which are included in the exhibition.

Homer’s interest in photographs gained momentum during his time as a sketch artist covering the Civil War. He collected photographs that were taken by others, which helped him visualize the scenes he portrayed for the popular magazines.

By the 1880s, he sought fresh inspiration for his artwork, so he traveled to Europe, and he bought the first of three cameras.

Though he never wrote about his use of photographs as reference, the authors explore the various ways his art was shaped by the camera, a tool that could simultaneously capture accurate information and deceive the viewer.

His painting of a fish in mid-leap was his painterly response to the ability of the camera to freeze action. Though probably not based directly on a photo, the very idea of painting a moment from fast action was unusual in the nineteenth century, when most other artists would have painted a fish as a still life object.

The exhibition and book contain other insights into Homer's process, including doll-size mannikins with simple costumes, which he used for reference when drawing and painting working-class women.

The exhibit ‘Winslow Homer and the Camera: Photography and the Art of Painting’ is the product of years of study by Bowdoin art historian Dana E. Byrd and museum co-director Frank H. Goodyear III. Bowdoin College hosts the first showing of the exhibition, which travels in November 2018 to the Brandywine River Museum.

The catalog is 208 pages with 138 color illustrations, hardbound, and published by the Yale University Press. The exhibition will be up from June 23 - October 28, 2018.
Other books that explore the relationship between painting and photography:

Art and Photography by Aaron Scharf, 1968. Covers the influence of photography on portraiture, landscape, realism, and impressionism.

Shared Intelligence: American Painting and the Photograph, Edited by Barbara Buhler Lynes, 2011. Chapters on Eakins, Remington, Steiglitz, O'Keeffe, and Bechtle. In this book the main emphasis is on modern painters.

Painting and Photography, 1839-1914by Dominique de Font-Réaulx, 2012. Textbook-style coverage of the intersection between realist painters and the photographic image, with chapters on genre photography, photographing the nude, portraiture, and painters who were also photographers.

The Artist and the Camera: Degas to Picasso. Oversize book with features on key artists who used photography.

Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera. Shows Rockwell's reference photos compared to his finished illustrations, as well as information about how he took photos and how he changed them to suit his purposes.

Previously on GurneyJourney
Using Photo Reference

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Waterfall City demo

Here's the demo painting of Waterfall City, painted while looking at a rough maquette. 

I did the painting for a workshop audience at IMC (Illustration Master Class) in Amherst last week. (Link to video on Facebook)

Photo: Irene Gallo
Total time: 1.5 hours.
Camera: Canon M6 camera positioned on second tripod.
Medium: Casein over a green-gray casein underpainting in a Pentalic sketchbook.
Colors: White, light red, yellow ochre, ultramarine blue.
Final glaze: Payne's gray watercolor with acrylic medium.
Varnish: Acrylic spray Crystal clear.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Art Talk Podcast: Studio Ramble to Ron

The Golden Palm Tape Network was a 1980s precursor of podcasting, where a small group of far-flung artists kept in touch by recording circulating ideas and readings via tape cassettes. (Video link

This one is addressed to my friend Ron Harris of southern California, a comic artist, collector, and art historian who still comments on this blog.

Sandor Bihari -- Before the Judge
Listening to the tape is a reminder to me of how it was in the 1980s. Discovering obscure information required sleuth work at libraries and used bookstores, plus the cooperation of friends with similar interests. 

The primary members of Golden Palm Tape Network were: 

Here are links to some of the books and artists referenced.

Books (links mostly go to Amazon)
The History of Modern Painting by Richard Müther 

Artists Mentioned (links mostly go to Wikipedia)

Sunday, June 17, 2018

How to Apply the Warm-and-Cool Approach

Gary asks about the warm-and-cool approach: 

"I can not see if there is, or should be, a rationale for when a warm or cool tone is used. I believe that this approach brings life to a drawing but do not understand how to best apply it."

Jim asks: "I would also love a good explanation of the warm/cool approach. Obviously the value must be correct, but how does one decide to use a warm or cool color? Is it based on local color of the object? Is it based on light vs. shadow? Is it based on a combination of both? If so, which trumps the other when they conflict? That is, what color should be used to depict a cool shadow on a red ball? What elements are portrayed as gray (an even mix of warm and cool) within a picture? It's worth figuring out, because it's amazing how much "color" can be achieved with just Burnt Sienna (warm) and Ultramarine Blue (cool)."

Richard Parkes Bonington
Gary and Jim, The way I think of warm and cool is that I'm basically doing a value study, but just taking the first step toward color. The warm pigment might describe an area lit by a warm light source, or you might use the warm color to suggest a local color that is intrinsically warm, such as an orange building. If the warm-cool exercise is a preliminary study for a painting that you intend to paint later with full color, the study will give you an impression of what the final will feel like. The limitations of chroma and hue choices keeps you from straying too far away from making primarily value-oriented decisions. 

It's very similar to the way musical composers will figure things out on the piano and then build their orchestration. A composer might work out the melody, rhythm, and chord structure before deciding on the instrumentation.

A simple warm and cool palette such as ultramarine vs. raw sienna is also a worthy approach for finished works. Many painters of the past sought the muted harmonies of warm and cool to achieve a feeling of quietude, dignity, or austerity.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Keepers of the Flame

NC Wyeth, illustration from Treasure Island
The new exhibition at the Norman Rockwell Museum explores the lineage of academic painting and how its branches connected to the Golden Age of American Illustration.

The show, called "Keepers of the Flame: Parrish, Wyeth, Rockwell and the Narrative Tradition," traces teacher/student lineages going all the way back to the Renaissance.

Dennis Nolan is the curator of the show and the author of the 216-page catalog. A teacher himself for half a century, he is interested in how the skills and knowledge needed to make storytelling pictures were passed from one generation to the next. 

Maxfield Parrish
The Art Students League and the Philadelphia Academy were important schools for training American illustrators. Many teachers there had spent time in Europe under the tutelage of French academic masters. 

For example, Maxfield Parrish studied under Thomas Anschutz, who was a pupil of Thomas Eakins, who enrolled with Jean-Leon Gérôme, who was taught by Paul Delaroche, who learned from Antoine-Jean Gros, who studied under Jacques-Louis David, who was in the studio of Joseph-Marie Vien. 

Gerome, Bouguereau, Laurens
It takes a lot of concentration to keep track of all the didactic genealogies, which call to mind the begetting streaks in Genesis and Matthew.

Mowbray and Benjamin-Constant
The teacher-student lineage story leaves aside important forces that shape and define an artist. Nolan ignores other formative influences, such as the inspiration that Rockwell took directly from artists he never met, from his contemporaries, and from Modern movements. 

When Rockwell listed the artists he studied in his student days and who he admired later, he didn't mention his teachers (George Bridgman and Thomas Fogarty):
"Ever since I can remember, Rembrandt has been my favorite artist. Vermeer, Breughel, Velásquez, Canaletto; Dürer, Holbein, Ingres as draftsmen; Matisse, Klee―these are a few of the others I admire now. During my student days I studied closely the works of Edwin Austin Abbey, J.C. and Frank Leyendecker, Howard Pyle, Sargent, Whistler.” (from My Adventures as an Illustrator by Norman Rockwell)
Jules-Joseph Lefebvre, The Language of the Fan
The curatorial approach of focusing on these teacher/student lineages also unfortunately leaves out a lot of women artists and self-taught artists, and it leads to the impression of all this art being created by a stodgy, backward-looking old-boy's club, when it's really not true.

American illustration was inclusive, inventive, popular and progressive. It embraced new technologies such as color printing, gave birth to new art forms such as comics, movies, and animation, and expressed the drama of contemporary life.

But these minor quibbles don't get in the way of appreciating the extraordinary artwork on display in this exhibition.

"The Byzantine Emperor Honorius" - Jean-Paul Laurens, 1880
The artist/teachers William Adolphe Bouguereau and Jean Leon Gérôme are central to the story and they're well represented in the exhibition, and there are many lesser-known artists who are worth seeing.

Nolan and the museum worked for years to negotiate loans of the paintings and drawings from both public and private collections. Unfortunately the show won't be able to travel to other venues, and will only be at the Norman Rockwell Museum.

NC Wyeth

Nolan dedicated the catalog "to my teachers, who taught me how to be an artist, and to my students, who taught me how to be a teacher." For visitors who are either students or teachers of art, this exhibition will be particularly affirming.
The exhibition will at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts through October 28, 2018.

The catalog "Keepers of the Flame: Parrish, Wyeth, Rockwell and the Narrative Tradition"
Previously: Dennis Nolan and the Hartford Art School

Thursday, June 14, 2018


Edweard Muybridge perfected the technique of capturing motion in a series of separate photographs.
Chronophotograph by Étienne-Jules Marey
But around the same time, Étienne-Jules Marey pursued a slightly different photographic technique  for representing movement called chronophotography. We might call it stroboscopic photography today.

Instead of breaking down the action into a series of separate images, he superimposed all the phases of the action into a single image. That makes it harder to study each pose, but it's easier to see the overall path of action and the arcs of movement of the smaller forms.

Marey also created sculptures that show the pattern of movement in three dimensions.

Chronophotography was a big inspiration for Duchamp's "Nude Descending a Staircase" and it also inspired the emerging field of animation.
Wikipedia on Étienne-Jules Marey
New Scientist: Art and science in motion
Marey's Movement Sculptures

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Salon des Refusés

The Palais de l'Industrie
The Salon des Refusés (Exhibition of Rejects) was held in this building in Paris in 1863.

Among the works exhibited was "The White Girl" by James McNeill Whistler. The painting had previously been rejected by both of the more prestigious venues, the Royal Academy and the Paris Salon. 

Other artists who exhibited in Salon des Refusés included Gustave Courbet, Édouard Manet, Camille Pissarro and Johan Jongkind.

There's a related story in the news today. Anonymous-English-graffiti-artist Banksy, using the pseudonym Bryan S Gaakman, entered an Brexit-themed piece in this year's Royal Academy. It was rejected. When the show coordinator contacted Banksy about entering the exhibition, he resubmitted a revised version of the rejected work under the Banksy name. This time it was accepted, and it's hanging there now.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Waterfall City Demo

Photo: Irene Gallo
At the IMC workshop, I'm painting an impressionistic color sketch of Waterfall City using a rough maquette made of styrofoam.

The sketch is in casein over watercolor paper. I'm casting a shadow over the far side of the city with a piece of cardboard.

Monday, June 11, 2018

IMC-Illustration Master Class, 2018

I'm at Illustration Master Class in Amherst, Massachusetts, a week-long workshop for about 90 attendees. 

The students arrive with sketches and the team faculty are critiquing them today. Here's Greg Ruth and Kent Williams, painted as they talked in gouache over a green casein underpainting.

Other faculty include Tara McPherson, Greg Manchess, Dan Dos Santos, Julie Bell, Boris Vallejo, Scott Fischer, Irene Gallo, and founder Rebecca Leveille Guay. Students will be working on their projects throughout the week: refining their compositions, shooting reference, and launching into their paintings (both analog and digital) by mid-week.
Illustration Master Class (IMC)

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Meredith's Sketch Easel Innovations

Meredith Moles shared her build of a sketch easel:

"I wanted a perfectly flat easel made from only two pieces of wood. I chose 1/4" cherry plywood, which was a fraction thicker than the oak plywood at my local store. The T-nut for holding the quick-connect plate would have protruded, so I cut it shorter with a Dremel. It still holds the quick-connect quite securely.

"My solution for the hinges is inspired by the one on your blog from Paul Savoie. I used nylon flat head screws, and deepened the holes for the screws with a countersink drill bit (very gently, with a hand crank drill, after breaking a hinge with a power drill!). Here they are installed.

"The combination of countersinking and the give in the nylon allows the easel to close, even without recessing the hinges. The easel sits a bit open naturally, but closes all the way with gentle finger pressure, which I figure means that whatever happens in my backpack will be fine.

"Here is the easel all set up. Two cup-holder binder clips hold five things: Brush cup, water cup, paper towel, test paper, and cloth towel. The cup-holder clips happen to fit 4 oz and 8 oz Nalgene containers perfectly. A modified merchandise sign clip, using the wide parts of two clips, holds a light diffuser. It's probably not sturdy enough for windy days, but works great otherwise, providing a completely adjustable angle. I built the easel with a tab for holding the diffuser clip, so the rest of the panel fits my sketchbook precisely and the clip doesn't get in the sketchbook's way. The diffuser itself is made from translucent corrugated plastic, which lets more light through than white corrugated plastic.

"This easel -- and probably most other folks' builds as well -- can simply be turned 90 degrees to work in portrait mode, using the two panels side by side."

Thanks, Meredith!
Check out our Facebook group, "Sketch Easel Builders"
Download the video "How to Make a Sketch Easel"
DVD: How to Make a Sketch Easel