Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Elin Danielson-Gambogi

Elin Danielson-Gambogi (1861-1919) was a realist painter from Finland.

When she was still a pre-teen, her father faced financial ruin and he committed suicide. By age 15, she entered the Finnish Academy in Helsinki.

She went to Paris to study at the Académie Colarossi, and was inspired by the work of Jules Bastien-Lepage to capture the daily life of rural people. She traveled to Italy to paint and study.

Having grown up in a land where sun is scarce, she reveled in the beauty and warmth of sunlight.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Two-Sided Paintings on Transparent Paper

Caspar David Friedrich, Mountainous River Landscape (Night Version)
Caspar David Friedrich (German 1774-1840) experimented with painting landscapes on translucent paper that could be lit up from behind. 
"In 1830 Friedrich was commissioned by Alexander, the heir to the Russian throne, to produce four transparent pictures. Executed on transparent paper and lit from behind in a dark room, the pictures would be viewed as an ensemble to the accompaniment of music. In 1835 the four transparent pictures were dispatched to St Petersburg together with the equipment needed to display them - unfortunately, they are now lost. In Kassel, however, a similar example survives, a Mountainous River Landscape painted on both sides of a single piece of transparent paper. When correctly lit, one side reveals itself to be a version of the composition seen in daylight, while the other side portrays the same scene at night."
Caspar David Friedrich, Mountainous River Landscape (Day Version)
Here's the day version. Presumably, one of them is flopped.
Via: Web Gallery of Art
Caspar David Friedrich on Wikipedia

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Camera Gear for Art Videos

After reading an earlier post called How to Video Your Art, Part 1: Camera Guide, blog reader Heather asked "I was just wondering if you had any new tech to film your videos or if you are still using the same [gear]?"

Heather, the most important new tech is the Canon M6 camera. This camera is now my main workhorse for art videos.

I use my other three cameras for secondary angles or for additional coverage (the GoPro, the Canon PowerShot Elph, and the Canon Vixia camcorder).

One of the features of the M6 that's helpful for art videos is the time lapse function. The way it works is that a built-in intervalometer silently captures one frame per second and automatically compiles the individual frames into a video file.

Because it's a mirrorless camera, it's a smaller profile and lighter weight than a regular single-lens-reflex camera. It also captures video at High Definition 1080p at either 30 frames per second or 60fps. It's also a good camera for shooting high-res stills of artwork.

Related blog posts
Video Downloads and Apps
"Living Sketchbook" app for Android
"Living Sketchbook" app for Apple iPhones and iPads
DVDs from the manufacturer Kunaki

Other photo gear
The GoPro is compact, so you can see past it when you're painting
Canon M6 mirrorless camera is excellent for time lapse, video, and stills.
Shutter release timers (or intervalometer)
An external hard drive helps because video files are so big

Saturday, November 17, 2018

What is the complement of blue?

Chris says: "James your explanation of the Yurmby wheel in your book Color and Light changed my life. It's such a great way to make cohesion in the palette as well as knowing how to move a color. What always gets me though is how do you make grey from yellow and blue, that part of my mental wiring is the last hold out."

Chris, you're right to wonder about that. If you mix yellow and blue paint, you get green, not gray. However, in the machinery of the eye, a royal blue is opposite to yellow (not orange). You can test this for yourself by looking at a blue square for 30 seconds, and then let your eyes move to the white area below it. 

 What color did you see in the white box? Most people see yellow, not orange.

It turns out that complements are different in additive mixtures (the realms of visual perception, theater lighting, digital art, and camera sensors) than they are in subtractive mixtures (pigments).

J.M.W. Turner, Norham Castle, Sunrise
The argument for thinking in terms of the additive (blue-yellow) complements when painting is that you might as well optimize your final image to the behavior of the eye rather than to the behavior of the pigments, because that's what matters to the viewer's experience.
Read More: 
Previously on this blog: The Color Wheel, Part 3: Complements and Afterimages
On the excellent website: HueValueChroma: Additive Complementaries
On the excellent website: HueValueChroma: Subtractive Complementaries
Color and Light

Friday, November 16, 2018

Casey Childs Interview

Utah-based portrait painter Casey Childs has released his first video tutorial called "Painting the Direct Portrait." 

The video is a little over three hours long, and it covers the process of painting a head study of a young female model. 

The audio consists of the artist describing what he's doing and what he's thinking to a small studio audience, who occasionally ask questions.

He starts right out talking about materials, color choices, and how he lays out his palette. His first step is to tone the canvas with a light grayish brown color, and then block in the simple impression of the light and shadow pattern. He then builds the form by modulating the values and detailing the individual features. 

At a few points throughout the process, he clarifies his points with special graphics, such as as the high contrast image at left. 

For most of the video, you see a split screen, with the model on the left and the developing painting on the right. Whenever he pauses to mix a color, the edit cuts to a down-facing camera showing what's happening on the palette.

After watching the video, I asked him a few questions:

Gurney: Why did you choose that model, that pose, and that lighting? 
Childs: The model is the daughter of our good friend and neighbor. I chose her for her fair skin and red hair and thought it would be a great combination for a portrait. When setting up the pose, I'm simply looking for an interesting design—how the abstraction of light and dark shapes together make a compelling image. Part of the reason of this particular pose was that I knew I wouldn't be able to work as fast while explaining my process, so I made it easier on myself to not have to paint the other eye! Ha!

Would you have used a similar approach with a different model under different circumstances?
The approach would be the same for any other circumstance because this is how I'm always thinking about painting, although color choices and finish may differ depending on the finish and mood I'm trying to create.

Many other portrait painting teachers (such as Nathan Fowkes, Scott Waddell, Cesar Santos, and Jeff Watts) emphasize the importance of doing a careful structural line drawing before embarking in paint. In your approach, you start right out mapping tonal shapes and considering the edges between them, without defining the form or the structure. 
We all know that correct drawing is the most important aspect of any work, so I love how the structural method focuses on that first and foremost to make sure the drawing is sound before anything else is considered. But I feel like my art heroes—Sargent, Sorolla, Zorn, to name a few— considered all aspects (drawing, value, color, edges) that make up a great painting at once. 

What do you have to say about the structural foundation method? Why do you recommend your method? What are the advantages and limitations of it?
I'm constantly thinking about structure and form while painting, but trying to be more efficient in the application. I believe this method helps maintain an energetic freshness as well as being easier to create atmosphere. The danger is, that if not careful, the drawing can lose structure and forms can become too generic.

Casey Childs self portrait
How would you chart your confidence level throughout the process of doing this demo? Are there points in the course of the portrait where your confidence is shaky, or are you sure of yourself throughout? (My confidence level hits a low after the lay-in, and I find it takes a lot of faith to get me through, especially when I'm in front of an audience). 
If I'm not freaking out at least once during the process, the painting probably isn't any good. I think you need to take some risks to keep the application fresh and interesting. I've gained confidence in my process to the point where I have a pretty good idea what my painting will ultimately become with enough time. But I think doubts come when you stop trusting the process. 

How does filming and narrating your approach affect your confidence? What do you tell students who are blocked by fears or doubts? Is overconfidence a hazard?
There was definitely moments during this demonstration where I wasn't sure if I could bring it together into something resembling a human, but I got there by trusting the process.

Since this is your first major tutorial video download, what made you decide to shoot and edit the video in this way? What advice would you give to other artists who want to produce a tutorial download?
Well, you can't teach what you don't know, and I really feel like I've gained an understanding of foundational skills and a knowledge of seeing in this way (mass vs. line) to be able to explain it. I also feel like watching someone paint can be quite boring, so I knew I didn't want to produce a long video. I've put together a video that I think is informative with many key concepts demonstrated in three short hours that explain the basis of my approach. I felt it important to see the model in split screen to really show how I'm simplifying the complexity of the information I see on the model.

What are you trying to accomplish with your portraits? Are you trying to capture a specific likeness of your individual model, or are you going for more of a type or a character? Do you make any conscious changes or enhancements to express your personal impression of the model, or do you try to paint exactly what you see?
The basis of my approach to painting is capturing what I see. And I feel that is very beneficial in portraiture. It's not like I'm always going after a likeness, but it usually appears as a result of a careful search of the relationship of simple shapes and forms that are the characteristic and impression of the individual I'm painting. The question I'm often asked is how do I get a likeness, there's no secret or formula, it's just more accurate seeing and drawing.

For your studio compositions or portraits, do you use photographs for reference?  
Yes, I use photos. I think photos can be a great resource and tool for the artist, many of the great artists use(d) them. 

How do you feel about using photos?
With a solid knowledge of drawing and form, an artist can use photos with great results. Photos are not as useful when the artist is not using them as a reference and merely copying. 

Do you ever project or trace them? 
I don't have a problem with projecting or tracing. It's way to speed up the process, but its damaging if used to skip the training of learning how to see.

How does your thought process change when you use them?
We all know that photos can't replicate the values and color range our eye can see, so when using them I have to be aware of those differences. And along with that, I try not to copy exactly what I see in the photograph but instead use them as a reference to what I've observed from life. 
"Painting the Direct Portrait" is 192 minutes long. The digital download is $34.95. A combined package with DVD + digital is $69.99.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Farm Road in Gouache

It's autumn on the farm, a few warm days left before the snow and ice will make it difficult to paint in water media outdoors. This one is gouache over a casein underpainting.

We're celebrating 100k subscribers on the YouTube channel. Thanks to all of you who have subscribed, and if you haven't done so yet, please click the subscribe button, so that you're notified when a new one comes along. (Link to YouTube)

Hopper's Chop Suey Sells for $91.9m

Edward Hopper's painting "Chop Suey" sold for $91.9 million at auction on Tuesday, an auction high for the artist.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Paint a Cell Tower Challenge Results

Thanks to everyone for entering the "Paint a Cell Tower Challenge." We had entries from all around the world, and many of you overcame difficult challenges ranging from cold air, to suspicious police, to annoying guys on tractors, to weird dudes riding up on small bicycles.

I was impressed with the range of styles of cell towers, and how you incorporated them into the landscape or cityscape. Some seemed to belong in the setting and even look attractive; others made a point of emphasizing the alien quality of the structures in their surroundings. 

It was hard to choose just five winners, so I picked seven. Here they are:

Kevin Jones 
"Acrylic in watercolour sketchbook. I couldn’t resist painting these masts up on Mendip in the UK. I was staying near an artist friend so we went out painting. About 2hrs. Vin Jelly Fine Art."

Sandy Derrick
"Painted at the railroad tracks in Pearland, TX (518 and Hwy 35). It depicts three cell phone towers because this is TX. Painted in acrylics, started on location, but finished at home."

Aljoša Vidmar 
"Water mixable oil on canvas panel, 19 x 29 cm. Location: Slovenia, Upper Carniola region. 
This was quite an adventure. I was painting a few meters away from a railroad and every 10-15 min. a train would pass by. At first the noise and the gust of wind that followed a train passing by was a bit overwhelming, but when I got used to it I began to enjoy it. Later a local "hillbilly" got drunk and decided it would be fun to drive his tractor up and down the dirt road where I was painting, so I had to move my painting gear a few times."

Wendy Line
Australia. "This communication tower and aerials sit atop an 11-storey port building that overlooks the city and harbour. I began by drawing the scene in graphite pencil, washed in watercolours then added gouache. After two hours much of the painting was done but the light had changed. So I returned the following day to complete the painting and add in all the details. Thanks James for hosting this challenge, which encouraged me to sketch something a little different."

Neve Ellis, Gouache
"Sutton British Telecom radio mast, UK. This tower is a standout part of the landscape when you're driving around Wincle. Think the hardest part was actually getting there - lots of winding satnav-confusing country roads. Great phone reception when you get up there though.

Karl Fuchs, 16" x 20" watersoluble oil paints 
"This celltower in Bavaria is a huge thing, on the picture you see only half of it. I actually wanted to paint the evening light shining on these farm buildings and autumn trees for quite some time, of course without the ugly tower... But this challenge changed the game."

Karl continues: "I needed two sessions for it because the sun went down way faster than I expected. I chose to paint the scene in warm evening colors and with loose and playful brushwork to show that no matter how idyllic the scene is, this thing up there on the hill will always feel wrong and out of place. The tower gives me a dystopic feeling, it could be an alien spaceship disguised as a human building...Probably the farmers living there have already mutated into slimey, mind-reading creatures."

Philippe D'Amours, gouache

"Here is my antenna. I started to paint it on the spot but I finished it at the studio because here in Quebec City, in November it is very cold already and my hands and my gouache did not want to stay outside anymore. Thanks to James for this challenge. I am not a person who loves the city so much but I love to paint it. The lines that are created by architecture inspires me a lot."
Each finalist receives a "Department of Art" patch and a free tutorial download. Please email me with your mailing address, and I'll get those to you.

Now that we've seen all these artistic interpretations of cell towers, I wonder if more of us will allow them into our field of vision. I remember reading that the Eiffel Tower was first regarded as as an ugly monstrosity, a “metal asparagus” by the artists of Paris, but now most people regard it as a beloved icon. Perhaps something has changed in us.
Check out the rest of the entries at this Facebook link: Paint a Cell Tower Challenge

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Oldest Figurative Art Discovered

The Smithsonian says: "This painting of a cattle-like animal in a Borneo cave has been dated at at least 40,000 years old, making it the oldest-known figurative rock art in the world." (Image via: Luc-Henri Fage)
Read more: World’s Oldest-Known Figurative Paintings Discovered in Borneo Cave

Monday, November 12, 2018

Stan Lee, 1922-2018

Comics writer and editor Stan Lee died today at age 95. He was best known for co-creating many of the famous Marvel characters, and he appeared in cameos in most of the Marvel movies.

I first became aware of him through his how-to book How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way. It is still one of the best books on drawing figures from imagination.

In the closing chat at the end of the book, Lee says:
"To be a great artist, you've got to draw! Draw! Draw! Wherever you go, whatever you do, whenever you have a spare minute—draw! Sketch everything you see around you; sketch your friends, your enemies, relatives, strangers, anyone and everyone. Become as facile with a pencil, pen, or brush as you are with a knife and fork. The more you draw, the better you'll be. And we want you to be—the best! Excelsior!"

How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way
Stan Lee on Wikipedia

A Gouache Landscape by Moran

American painter Thomas Moran (1837-1926) used gouache for many of his landscape paintings.

Thomas Moran, Summit of the Sierras, 1872–1875, 360 x 250mm, about 14" tall.
Gouache over graphite on cream laid paper, Chicago Art Institute
Typically he worked over a tan or cream colored paper. Because he covered most of the surface with darker or lighter washes, it's not always easy to see the paper through the paint.

Up close you can see a few of the pencil guidelines showing through the delicate washes. 

Thomas Moran, Summit of the Sierras (detail)
Moran loved the convenience of watercolor and gouache for his field sketches. His primary intent wasn't to exhibit or sell them, but rather to use them for reference in his studio work. But as the 19th century progressed, watercolors became a popular medium for collectors too.

A pamphlet on watercolor painting from 1867 said that "for luminous qualities, for purity of tint and tone, for delicate gradation especially in skies and distance, their favorite style of painting has decided advantages over oil."
Book: Thomas Moran: Watercolors of the American West
Wikipedia: Thomas Moran

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Armistice Day

Italian-born British illustrator Fortunino Matania captured the frenzied joy as news of the end of the "Great War" echoed through Europe on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, one hundred years ago today.

Resources and Links
Previous posts: 
Fortunino Matania on Wikipedia

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Adventure Illustrators at the Rockwell

Left: Frank Schoonover (1877–1972) Canadian Trapper
Right: Greg Manchess, Above the Timberline (detail) ©Manchess
Two exhibitions have opened at the Norman Rockwell Museum which highlight illustrators of adventure. One focuses on Frank Schoonover, a Howard Pyle student who painted scenes from history and outdoor life, and the other show features the oil paintings by Greg Manchess for his recent book Above the Timberline
Books: Above the Timberline and Frank Schoonover, Illustrator of the North American Frontier
Speaking of adventure illustrators, the recent Tom Lovell book is going into a second printing if the publisher can get enough subscriptions on Kickstarter.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Rico Lebrun teaching animal drawing

Rico Lebrun (1900-1964) was an Italian-born painter / sculptor who made important contributions in teaching animal drawing. 

He studied mural painting in Naples and Florence before coming to America. He taught at Chouinard Art Institute and then at the Disney Studios. 

Joining another great teacher, Don Graham, he helped animators understand animal anatomy as they worked on the film "Bambi."

To help Disney's artists, Lebrun created model sheets simplifying the skeleton to a mannikin. He put the mannikins through their paces, emphasizing the flexibility of their spines and the line of action of the poses.

Lebrun was concerned that the animators ground their work in reality. He said, "You really have to go to nature. The little fawn is a pretty big handful in the sense of grace. It's all there. . .the real thing has got it. What you have to do is make a poetical translation of it."
Previously: How to Train an Animator/ A Memo from Walt Disney
Two good books: Walt Disney's Bambi: The Story and the Film
and The art of Walt Disney
Rico Lebrun Model Sheets at Michael Sporn Animation blog
Bio at Rico Lebrun website
Oddly enough, Lebrun's Wikipedia page makes no mention of his time at Disney