Monday, October 26, 2020

Can Reënactors Match a Battle Painting?

Anton von Werner (German, 1843-1915) painted this battle scene.

A group of reënactors tried to match the painting pose for pose as closely as possible.
Anton von Werner on Wikipedia
Winners of the Sunny Still Life Challenge will post tomorrow.


Sunday, October 25, 2020

Voter Line

Yesterday the line for early voting went on for two blocks. The line moved very slowly because poll workers had to disinfect the stations between each voter. 

Still, from the point of view of people-sketching, I could only capture only an impression of each person. I used watercolor with a brush, no pen or pencil. I think I got the spacing wrong—folks were spaced apart responsibly. 

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Return of Spitting Image

Political satire has a vibrant tradition in Britain, and one of the most dynamic recent programs was a puppet show in the 1990s called Spitting Image

From the point of view of puppeteering, the characters are caricatures come to life, with a tremendous range of hand, mouth, and eye movements. The scripts and performances are crisp, over-the-top, and rude.

Spitting Image has returned with all new episodes lampooning the current crop of politicians, including Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, Prince Charles, and Meghan & Harry. 


New Season of Spitting Image, Episode 4


Thursday, October 22, 2020

Waldmuller Study

Tree Studies from Rome by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, 1846

Thanks to everyone who entered the Sunny Still Life Challenge. I'm going through the results now and am impressed with what you've all done. Results will be announced on the 27th.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Rose O'Neill: Kewpies and Monsters

Rose O'Neill (1874-1944) was an illustrator, cartoonist, and writer who created hundreds of drawings of cute babies and young animals, and she invented the Kewpies. 

She called them "Kewpies," a term she invented as a variation on "cupids." 

They became immensely popular as illustrations, paper dolls, and then actual dolls

O'Neill became famous and rich, living a rather eccentric life and sponsoring a variety of artists to live in her grand house. 

She read widely from literature and mythology; she imbibed the work of William Blake and Gustave Doré and she studied with the sculptor Rodin, and was acquainted with Elihu Vedder, and Kahil Gibran. All that exposure inspired her to produce a series of charcoal drawings of monsters, which she described as "a different kind of fun."

For the most part, they were not horrific or cruel monsters but rather androgynous, sensuous creatures who lived lives of passion outside of the strictures of religion and civilization. 

Her friends urged her to publish these works, and finally she shared them with the world but didn't want to intellectualize them. According to 41 Masters of American Illustration, "these things were made for the maker's own delight, and are given to the public only under pressure of people who think it should be done, so the maker feels that she should not be put to the trouble of justifying her whimsies."


Toy collector Mel Birnkrant's Kewpie collection and bio

Rose O'Neill on Wikipedia

The Story of Rose O'Neill: An Autobiography

Kewpies and Beyond

Masters of American Illustration: 41 Illustrators and How They Worked

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

My Taboret Top

Here's my taboret setup for oil painting.

1. The tube colors are squeezed out on the floating bar at left, but I don't use them straight from the tube.
2. Instead I pre-mix value "strings" of five colors and only draw from those colors . That way I stay inside the gamut (triangle in color wheel, above)
3. I use Liquin for a medium, which speed drying, plus mineral spirits, but I may do away with the latter for health reasons.
4. The brush wash tank is a peanut butter jar with a little plastic cup dropped in the lid, with holes drilled into the bottom of the cup.
5. The whole thing sets on a rolling cabinet. In the top drawer are pencils, lots of pencils.
6. A take-out container with a slot cut through the lid holds paint scrapings, discarded on hazardous material days.
7. Old cotton T-shirts make great paint rags. A wiggly wire holds the handles up a little.
8. Paint mixing area tips up on hinges. The polyethylene-coated mixing paper is hidden behind the left edge. I tear off old mixtures as I pull the paper through.
9. Brushes: Nylon flats, long bristle filberts, and watercolor rounds are my favorites.

Sunday, October 18, 2020


The giant ovoid heads have toothy grins, but they have no eyes. 

However, I wasn't primarily interested in the forms of the monsters when I did this little on-site painting. (Watch the YouTube video)


It's mainly a study of mise-en-scène. The term comes from the world of theater and film, and it means literally 'putting on a stage.' Informal workspaces like this one are an ideal place to find interesting examples of mise-en-scène because of the elements are placed without aesthetic intention. 

Mise-en-scène is a crucial element of picture making. Traditional theory defines to include many aspects that a director, production designer, or cinematographer would deal with, such as point of view, framing, cropping, placement of props and characters, lighting, and color. In film, it also includes how elements move throughout the shot, and even frame rate and lens choices. 

Such a broad definition waters down the meaning for me. When I think of the term in relation to painting, I usually think more narrowly of the original sense of how elements are arranged in relation to the viewer. Are there foreground elements? Are some things cropped off the edge? Are they neat or messy? 

Here's a video that explores the topic from the point of view of film. (Link to video)


Wikipedia on mise-en-scène

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Painting in the Wild Things Workshop

In October, 2019, giant 'Wild-Thing' puppets participated in the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade. 

 (Link to YouTube video)

They were created from simple materials in a barn in the Hudson Valley, and that's where I set up my easel to paint the workshop where the Wild Things were created.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Spectrum 27 Flip-Through

This year's edition of Spectrum presents a juried selection of contemporary fantasy art, including dragons, warriors, monsters, trolls, angels, and dinosaurs. 

This YouTube video takes you through all 304 pages in less than a minute. 

Spectrum includes fantasy and science-fiction artwork in several categories, including book, comics, film, horror, illustration, sculpture, conceptual art, fine art and video game genres. 

Chris Dunn, illustration from Wind in the Willows 
 9x12 inches, watercolor and gouache.

While most artists create their art with digital media, there are plenty of examples painted in watercolor, gouache, and oil. The book contains 350 works by over 220 diverse artists, including Tommy Arnold, Wylie Beckert, Rovina Cai, Dan dos Santos, Jesper Ejsing, Cory Godbey, Iain McCaig, Daniel Zrom, Tran Nguyen, Greg Ruth, Cynthia Sheppard, Yuko Shimizu, Claudya Schmidt, Terryl Whitlatch, and me. 
The book releases November 10, but you can pre-order at this link: Spectrum 27: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art
If you like fantasy art, you'll also enjoy the new book Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Atmosphere in Pencil Drawings

Frederick L. Griggs was known for his etchings of architecture, but he was a notable pencil sketcher too.

Hitchin Church from the South-East by F. L. Griggs

In his book "The Art of Drawing in Lead Pencil," Jaspar Salway praised his technique of suggesting distance and atmosphere. Salway suggests that the artist needs to have a plan in advance for lightening the values as you go back in space, rather than relying on erasing or "wiping out."

He says: "No process of wiping out at a later stage will give the quality here needed. It is desirable when working to 'hold tight' to the mental impression of the effect, and to visualize sunlight, haze, shadow and so on, as it was associated with each feature in reality."

"Here we see a masterly drawing by F. L. Griggs in which a sense of light pervades the whole aspect. There is obviously no process of 'wiping out' in this successful work."

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Making Brushes

It's surprising how many deft hand skills it takes to produce a paintbrush. (Link to video)

(Link to video) This video shows some of the steps.

(Link to Part 2) The manual dexterity and expertise explains why brushes cost as much as they do.

Previously: How to Clean Out a Brush

Article on Brushes on The Artist's Road website

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Skybax Rider Print


Will Denison flies on his Quetzalcoatlus high above the city of Sauropolis. 

Signed copies of the art print "Skybax Rider" are now available in the Dinotopia Store

Monday, October 12, 2020

When Parents Oppose Your Choice to Be an Artist

Many young people have faced opposition from their parents when they've decided to be artists or musicians, but not many had it as bad as Hector Berlioz (French composer, 1803-1869).

When he was still a teenager, he started training in Paris for the medical profession. But he realized that he loved music too much to follow that path, and told his parents so.

"My parents called upon me to choose some other profession, since I did not choose to be a doctor. I replied that my sole desire was to be a musician, and that I could not believe they would refuse to let me return and pursue my career at Paris." 

The young man "fell into a sullen silence, but father eventually relented and agreed to let him go, saying 'You shall go to Paris and study music; but only for a time. If after several trials you fail, you will, I am sure, acknowledge that I have done what was right, and you will choose some other career. You know what I think of second-rate poets; second-rate artists are no better, and it would be a deep and lasting sorrow to me to see you numbered among the useless members of society." 

Portrait of Berlioz in 1855 by Richard Lauchert

His mother became angry when she found out his father had allowed him to pursue music.

"She was convinced that, in adopting music as a career (at that time music and the theatre were inseparably connected in the minds of Frenchmen), I was pursuing a path which leads to discredit in this world and damnation in the next."

She said "'Your father has been weak enough to allow you to return to Paris, and to encourage your wild, wicked plans; but I will not have this guilt on my soul, and, once for all, I forbid your departure." 

When she kneeled before him and begged him not to go, he insisted "'Well, then, go," she said. "'Go and wallow in the filth of Paris, sully your name, and kill your father and me with sorrow and shame! I will not re-enter the house till you have left it. You are my son no longer. I curse you!"

Berlioz later reflected that he could never forget that "painful, unnatural, horrible scene," and it solidified his resolve to overcome many obstacles later.
Book: The Memoirs of Hector Berlioz
Wikipedia: Hector Berlioz

Sunday, October 11, 2020

With Bierstadt on a Painting Expedition

In 1859, Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) organized a painting expedition in the high country of the Rocky Mountains. He sought out the help of William Byers, editor of the Rocky Mountain News, a "mountain tramp" who knew his way around. 

Byers recalled how the artist "said nothing, but his face was a picture of intense life and excitement. His enthusiasm was badly dampened, but the moment he caught the view, fatigue and hunger were forgotten. He said nothing, but his face was a picture of intense life and excitement. Taking in the view for a moment, he slid off his mule, glanced quickly to see where the jack was that carried his paint outfit, walked sideways to it and began fumbling at the lash-ropes, all the time keeping his eyes on the scene up the valley."

Byers waited patiently for Bierstadt to finish the color sketch, which the artist thought had taken fifteen minutes. Byers said: "You were at work forty-five minutes by the watch!"

The artist produced one sketch after another, each time exceeding his estimate of how long it would take.

“Wait twenty minutes while I sketch this storm.” They waited, but twenty minutes flew by, and he was still at work. Thirty, forty, and fifty minutes, and then an hour was gone, and the artist, absorbed in his work, was earnestly engaged in transferring the natural sublimity before him to paper. At the end of an hour and a half the artist completed his sketch."

According to Eleanor Harvey in her book The Painted Sketch

"'It was claimed that the artist’s recording “every detail of so wide a view in time—sketches, each limited to twenty minutes, and each noting the time of day, and consequent relative position of the sun, is one of the secrets of M. Bierstadt’s success.' He also developed a reputation early in his career as a prolific artist in the field, evidenced by the weight of his accumulated materials.”


Albert Bierstadt: Witness to a Changing West 

The Painted Sketch: American Impressions From Nature, 1830-1880 by Eleanor Harvey


Saturday, October 10, 2020

Gérôme Study of an Angel

Here's a pencil study by Jean Léon Gérôme (1824-1904) of a model with drapery . 

The study is very carefully observed, but it's surely not a copy of what he saw. Instead he edited the forms to fit with his sense of flow and make it look right for an angel. Most academic studies were propelled by narrative choices away from literal truth.

He probably executed another study of the nude figure, and traced the hands, face, and feet from that study as a basis for this one.

The sketch was a gift to one of his students, illustrator André Castaigne.
Books on Gerome
Jean-Leon Gerome 

Friday, October 9, 2020

The East-West Fusion of Giuseppe Castiglione

Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766) was a Jesuit monk who received art training in Italy and traveled to China at the invitation of the emperor. 

His adopted name in China was Láng Shìníng.  His portraits were mostly frontal, with frontal lighting. He avoided strong shadows or chiaroscuro in his portraiture because "the Qianlong Emperor thought that shadows looked like dirt, therefore when Castiglione painted the Emperor, the intensity of the light was reduced so that there was no shadow on the face, and the features were distinct." 

He is best known for florals, animals, and portraits, typically painted over a gold or linen background.

Quote via Wikipedia on Giuseppe Castiglione

Thursday, October 8, 2020

The Iron Triad

One of my favorite limited palettes is the Iron Triad, which is composed of Prussian blueyellow ochre, and light red, plus titanium white.

Prussian blue is made of ferric ammonium ferrocyanide, and yellow ochre and light red are iron oxides, which gives them that rusty color. Together with titanium white, they made a harmonious limited palette.

Watch the full video on YouTube, where I also explain my thinking about the perspective.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Painting in a Parking Garage

I have a couple of hours to burn in Poughkeepsie, so I set up my sketch easel in a parking garage. I like the way the sunlight cuts across the ramp.

I limit the palette to just three colors (plus white.) yellow ochrePrussian blue, and light red. I call it the Iron Triad because each of those pigments contains iron.

In this video, I explain the perspective with a diagram on tracing paper and take you through the making of the picture. 

More resources

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Lighting a Sphere

In this diagram from his book Successful Drawing, Andrew Loomis (1892-1959) shares some tips for lighting a sphere.

Sunlight and overcast light present different challenges In overcast light, there's no clear light side and shadow side, nor is there a sharply defined edge to the cast shadow. In the sun, the cast shadow is an ellipse that represents the intersection of the lines drawn in perspective toward the antisolar point.More about fundamentals of drawing and perspective in the book by Andrew Loomis called Successful Drawing, which has been republished in a new edition.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Stevan Dohanos Paints a Post Cover

Stevan Dohanos (1907-1994) shared his process for painting this cover for the Saturday Evening Post.

The image shows a mother and daughter lifting newly hatched chicks into the brooder. How did he come up with the idea, find props and models, and execute the finish?

The following vintage behind-the scenes film (YouTube video) dramatizes the process by re-enacting it in a filmed skit. 

The style of the video is a little corny and artificial by today's standards, but the method Dohanos uses is consistent with the process outlined in the legendary Famous Artists Course binders.  

Thanks to the Norman Rockwell Museum for uploading this video. 
Book about Dohanos: American Realist