Monday, July 22, 2019

Painting an Airliner in Gouache

I've got an hour before boarding, time enough for a quick portrait of this Boeing 757. (Link to YouTube) Here are some questions from Instagram:

DZ asks: "How did you do that in one hour? Doesn’t the paint need to dry between layers?
I was in the sun, and the paint dried right away.

Joshua asks: "Can you reactivate dried gouache?
Yes, you can, but I prefer to get juicy gouache from the tube.

Connor asks: "Did you strap a camera to your head?"
Held a little point-and-shoot in my left hand.

James says: "I would love to hear some tips on how to travel with tube paint on your blog if you have time!"

James, I haven't had a problem with tubed gouache and watercolor as even the large white tube is just 2 ounces, under the TSA limits. Of course I keep them in the little plastic bag going through the checkpoint and I try to keep the number of tubes to six or seven. Be sure to call them "artists' colors" instead of "paint." 

Sunday, July 21, 2019

David Webb's book "Painting in Watercolor"

I'm pleased that David Webb included my little donut-jar painting in his instructional book on watercolor painting.

Watercolor is a subject that demands both practical information and guiding theory. Webb starts out with a thorough chapter on tools and materials, and then he shows a variety of techniques, such as gradated washes, wet on wet, wet on dry, and drybrush.

He demonstrates each of these techniques using step-by-step examples, and includes a few sidebars explaining troubleshooting solutions for problems that can happen, such as the paint smearing when the masking fluid is removed.

In the back of the book he invites well-known watercolorists such as Thomas Schaller, Jane Freeman, and John Lovett to explain their unique approaches in more detail.

Throughout the book, the text and captions are thoughtfully integrated with the visuals. Webb lists materials used in a given demo and gives helpful examples of each painting strategy.

The artwork is well photographed and the 256-page hardbound, 9x12-inch book is attractively designed and printed.

The emphasis is on a loose, colorful, and relaxed approach to the medium. Both the beginner and the experienced painter will find much inspiration and useful advice.

Painting in Watercolor: The Indispensable Guide

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Natural Science Exhibition in Binghamton

An exhibition of natural science art opens tomorrow in Binghamton, New York.

"Focus on Nature XV" will be on display at the Roberson Museum and Science Center. The show features 87 illustrations by 69 artists, including two oil paintings by me: Triceratops Hatchlings (above) and Repenomamus.

More info from the show:
A five-member jury of artists and scientists select the artwork for each exhibition based on the illustration’s scientific accuracy and uniqueness, educational value and artistic quality. Artists featured in the exhibition are from countries around the world, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Unfortunately I won't be able to attend the artists' reception tonight, as I'm just returning today from a long trip. The show will be up through January 20, 2020.
Free exhibition catalog online the State Museum website
Press release about the opening 

Friday, July 19, 2019

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Your Face as an Old Master Portrait

A new website lets you upload a photo of yourself and it will modify it to look like an old master painting.

This is not an example of style transfer that we've seen before on the blog. The AI erases smiles and changes lines, colors, and shapes, and it decides on which period art style to use. 

With this system, according to their website, "anyone is able to use GAN (Generative Adversarial Network) models to generate a new painting, where facial lines are completely redesigned. The model decides for itself which style to use for the portrait. Details of the face and background contribute to direct the model towards a style. In style transfer, there is usually a strong alteration of colors, but the features of the photo remain unchanged. AI Portraits Ars creates new forms, beyond altering the style of an existing photo."
See a gallery and try it out at AI Portraits
Article about the algorithm on Fast Company: AI Portraits
Thanks, Armand

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Scene in Sebastopol

We’re in Sebastopol, CA and I painted this street scene in gouache. I captured lots of video. Later, when I get around to doing the edit, we can play that game where you can ask a question now and I’ll try to answer some of them in the voiceover.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Baths of Trajan by Haseltine

Baths of Trajan (Sette Sale, Villa Brancaccio, Rome),ca. 188215 x 22 inch gouache, watercolor, and charcoal on blue paper
William Stanley Haseltine's daughter, who donated this gouache painting to the Metropolitan Museum, described the villa as a favorite resort of the family and recalled joyful memories of her father sketching nearby ruins while the children played in the garden and the elders talked.

Monday, July 15, 2019

The Stag Wagon Chased by Hounds

Lord Orford and His Stags, by Lionel Edwards
Lionel Edwards illustrated this scene taken from the life of the eccentric Earl of Orford. "One day he happened to be driving his team of four stags from his Norfolk country seat, Houghton Hall, to Newmarket, at the same time as the Essex Hounds were out. The hounds by misfortune picked up the scent of the deer as the Earl was nearing his destination, and promptly gave chase. Their 'cry' frightened the stags, who got out of control and galloped hell for leather into the town, and dashed through the gates of an inn into the courtyard. A potboy with great presence of mind banged the gates to, after them, thus cutting off the hounds."
From the book Royal Newmarket, illustrated by Lionel Edwards.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Morgan Hill, California

We're in the town of Morgan Hill, California for a nephew's wedding. It's a hot day, but I found a spot in the shade to paint this gouache streetscape. I'll make a video of the process later after I get back to my editing computer.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Smooth's Force Field

Waves around Smooth are caused by his panting. Each wavelet is a breath. Photo by Frankster.G

Friday, July 12, 2019

Feeding Time at the Barn

At feeding time, the horses gather around the barn waiting for their afternoon hay.

I draw their outline in colored pencil and then begin adding watercolor washes. (Link to video)

The top planes of the horse catch the blue of the sky.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

International Artist, August Issue

The next issue of International Artist Magazine will take a look at the oil painting techniques I used for my recent Tyrannosaurus paintings. 

Two of the original paintings will be on view in September in Cincinatti.
YouTube video: Oil Painting with Textural Effects
Check out the full tutorial video Unconventional Oil Techniques, which is full of practical art instruction for all levels. Review on Lines and Colors
Download at Gumroad:
Download at Sellfy:
DVD from manufacturer:

Wednesday, July 10, 2019


Phosphenes are apparent flashes of of light that appear without any light coming into the eye. They can occur when the eye is stimulated by mechanical pressure on the eyeball, with electrical stimulation of the visual cortex, or just by means of random firing of cells in the neural system.

Here's an explanation (Link to video), along with a way to demonstrate the blind spot illusion.

Phosphenes can be experienced by people who have been blind from birth when their brains are stimulated directly, or by people confined for long periods in darkness (where the effect is sometimes called "prisoner's cinema"), and by people experiencing hallucinogenic drugs.
Wikipedia on Phosphenes

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Getting Watercolor to Flow

Here's a little watercolor landscape of a dawn scene along a quiet stream.

The warm colors disperse into each other as the painting develops. Trees grow, reflections stretch down, and a bird appears. (Link to video)

The paints are watercolor and ink, and I'm using ox gall to aid dispersion. 

Monday, July 8, 2019

How do you develop imagination?

Lawrence Alma Tadema, A Kiss, 1891, 46 x 63 cm
Anthony asks:
I'd like to ask you, though you have plenty of information in Imaginative Realism on the subject, how one develops imagination. How have you stretched or enhanced your imagination? Or has it simply been there all along? What is the essence of that skill and how does one meet it? 

My answer:
It's a fundamental question, and there's no simple answer. I believe the imagination develops from several sources of practice or experience.

First, there's the inspiration you get from enjoying other people's art: reading books, going to museums, watching movies. To consolidate that inspiration, it helps to make copies, sketches, or notes, and think about them afterward.

The artwork of other artists serves your imagination best if it opens you up to appreciating previously unseen potential in the world around you. A pioneer in your field offers you a template for how you can begin to interpret the hazy ideas forming in your own mind.

Pages from the sketchbooks of movie director Guillermo del Toro
If you keep journals and sketchbooks of what you observe, keep another one for what you imagine. Draw designs for what you want to build. Try to capture your mental image of what you remember about an experience you've had.

Another way to develop the imagination is to harness your brain's natural image-making engine. Keep a dream log. See if you can accomplish lucid dreaming. Tap into your REM dreams and hypnagogic hallucinations, which are wonderfully non-directed, evanescent and hard to capture. Develop a meditation practice. I suppose you can also stimulate your imagination with psychedelic drugs, but I haven't explored that direction because I don't want to be seduced by the illusion that any of this comes for free, or in a pill. If you can develop techniques for encouraging your brain to generate images freely, you don't need drugs. As Salvador Dali reportedly once said, 'I don't do drugs. I AM drugs."

Albrecht Durer, Melencolia 1. Link takes you a
discussion of how Renaissance artists thought
about the sources of imagination and art.

Many artists that you may see on YouTube creating worlds from their imagination started out by developing a toolset of relatively standard techniques that you can learn and practice. Comic artists and storyboard artists in particular learn how to draw any situation from any angle. Learning the skills of imaginative figure drawing, perspective, and composition will reliably allow you to draw or paint a plausible image from your imagination, one that you can then take the next step of embodiment, by putting it though the process of sketches, studies, maquettes, models, and the rest.

In the comments, please share your thoughts on how you stimulate and develop your imagination.
Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist
Guillermo del Toro Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions
Oga Kazuo Animation Studio Ghibli Artworks 2 Japan Edition

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Improvising Costume Details

A swashbuckling space captain stands in front of his ship. It's an implausible and silly image, but who cares?

I improvise the costume details with stuff from the closet. There's a stapler on my belt. I'm wearing an Air Force pilot jumpsuit, and that's a Hudson Bay blanket draped over my shoulders.

I switch out the blanket for a green tarp. It doesn’t matter if the color matches or if it makes sense. I'm just looking for fold reference.

Here's what the cover looks like from Salvage and Destroy by Edward Llewellyn.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Sunken City of Poseidos

Here's a glimpse of the sunken city of Poseidos, combined with an excerpt of the ZBS audio adventure of "Dinotopia: The World Beneath"—(turn audio on). (Link to video)

Jeffrey asks on Instagram: "Have any good tips for underwater effects and lighting?"
A: The main thing I kept in mind here was super-soft gradations of tone and a bluish cast to the colors.
Digital download: 

Friday, July 5, 2019

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Mad Magazine Will Cease Publication

Mad Magazine has announced that after the August issue it is going to cease publishing new material and will no longer be sold on newsstands. The beloved satire magazine, now owned by DC Comics, was published for nearly 70 years and gave us Alfred E. Neuman and the movie satires of Mort Drucker and Jack Davis.
More at the Hollywood Reporter

N.C. Wyeth Independence Day

An exhibition at the Brandywine Museum focuses on books, posters, magazines, and other ephemera related to NC Wyeth.
NC Wyeth: A Personal Perspective through September 8, 2019.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

A.I. Generates Oddly Evocative Abstractions


A high school student named Robbie Barat, working with machine learning software, has developed a series of images that is strangely provocative.

He fed the generative adversarial network with hundreds of nude painted portraits from a few hundred years ago. The "generator" AI would then create variations of that dataset to try to fool a "discriminator" network that was primed to distinguish real images from fabricated ones.

Barat told CNET: "'The generator tries to come up with paintings that fool the discriminator, and the discriminator tries to learn how to tell the difference between real paintings from the dataset and fake paintings the generator feeds it."

The way he configured the system, the images lack faces or immediately identifiable human parts, but they still have the feeling of fleshiness and weight.

The resulting images resemble something from modern art, and they remind us of how our visual brains seem to want to unconsciously resolve images into something basic that we can recognize.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Painting an Imaginative Image on Location

Victor Higgins, 1900-1910
William Victor Higgins (1884-1949) proves that it's possible to paint an imaginative image from a model outdoors. The painting is called Indian Girl with Parrot and Hoop. Pueblo people used parrot feathers for ceremonial objects.

William Higgins, Indian Girl with Parrot and Hoop
The challenge is to maintain your mental image in the face of the overwhelming force of observed effects.

Higgins studied under Robert Henri and was associated with the colony of artists in Taos, New Mexico.

The Legendary Artists of Taos
Taos Artists and Their Patrons, 1898-1950

Lines and Colors Review of Oil Painting Video

Lines and Colors has published a review of my recent oil painting tutorial. He says
"Unlike most of Gurney’s other videos, which go through a fairly complete process of painting a series of paintings in a particular medium — usually 5 or 6 paintings — in which process is discussed; the format here is different: highlights from painting three works, punctuated with a series of short, direct demonstrations of particular techniques. These are usually simplified by using black and white paint, followed by the application of the techniques in color on the actual paintings.....In Unconventional Oil Techniques, the feeling is that you’ve signed up for a limited attendance workshop in advanced oil painting, and discover to your delight that Gurney is the instructor."
Check out Lines and Colors for coverage of contemporary artists.
YouTube video: Oil Painting with Textural Effects
Check out the full tutorial video Unconventional Oil Techniques, which is full of practical art instruction for all levels.
Download at Gumroad:
Download at Sellfy:
DVD from manufacturer:

Monday, July 1, 2019

Harry Rountree's Animal Illustrations

Harry Rountree (1878-1950) was a illustrator who was born in New Zealand and moved to England when he was a young man. He illustrated lots of subjects but specialized in animals. 

These pups pulling a carriage of cats are bogging down in the snow. The round shapes of the heads create a strong repeating theme.

In this illustration of young rabbits meeting an owl in the forest, he left out detail to create flat shapes and graphic impact.

Harry Rountree Walrus and the Carpenter

He illustrated many books, including Uncle Remus (1906) and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland  (1908), which produced over 90 illustrations.