Friday, May 29, 2020

Schoonover Recalls Howard Pyle's Nature Excursions

Howard Pyle and Frank Schoonover
Illustrator Franklin Schoonover said that it was Howard Pyle's custom to take his students on frequent excursions through the low hill country of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.

 "Upon these gentle voyages through field and woodland, there was the subtle pointing out of a purple, of broken color in a whitewashed wall, of all the delicate gradations of tone and value, the knowledge of which is not always accredited to the varied equipment of an illustrator. I recall most vividly an October day, clear and cool, with a touch of winter in the hazy air. 

Frank Schoonover at the easel
"With easel and canvas within the shadow of a barn Mr. Pyle had been working from the models — a team of white horses and a plough-boy, posing in the autumn sunlight. As the light of afternoon faded and the chill of a frosty air crept up from the valley, the artist laid aside the brushes and called some of his pupils to go with him in search of adventure. 

"We were glad to relax and to enter into a short interval of, perhaps, well- earned rest. We followed the windings of a small stream that brought us finally to a broad opening and the summit of a hill. On the crest of this gentle knoll stood an oak — a wonderful, radiant picture, silhouetted against the sky. Mr. Pyle stopped and drank it in as one athirst. 

 "'Look,' he said, 'just look at it!; 'It's like the exquisite creation of a worker in metal, a great yellow thing with plate after plate of burnished gold towering up against the arch of heaven.' 'Yes, that is it,' he continued, with a tenderness and reverence so characteristic of him. 'After all, it is not a mere inanimate tree with its leaf turned yellow, it's fashioned as a human being with a trunk, arms and fingers, all clothed in shining garments, standing there to reflect the glory of the Divine Maker.'" 

"How, simple and how true it was. I doubt if a single one present that October day has forgotten the translation of what might otherwise have appealed as commonplace, into a world of divine purpose, leagues beyond the shell that surrounded our own feeble efforts."

Exploring nature together with reverence and common purpose was a central part of Pyle's teaching.
From "Howard Pyle" by Schoonover

Thursday, May 28, 2020


Heiligenschein, is an optical effect where a bright spot appears to surround the cast shadow of the head of the observer. The glowing spot is caused by rays of sunlight reflecting back from individual dewdrops, and the effect is best seen on a cool, clear morning.

The word translates from the German as "saintly illumination" or "holy light." The effect was described in the memoirs of Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571), so it's sometimes called "Cellini's halo."
Photo courtesy New York Times, which published the article "How to become an angel in the morning dew"
Heiligenschein on Wikipedia

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Preservation of Fire

At our forest campsite: roasted hot dogs, French potato salad, a sketch in gouache, and a thought about continuity.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Quick Landscape Impression Alongside the Hudson River

In this YouTube video (Link to video), I paint a quiet estuary from the edge of a forest.

I'm using casein paint, a gouache-like paint that was popular before acrylics. Along the way I share tips for capturing that simple first impression. Here are the colors I'm using.

The forest is shadowy, and the light increases as we go out into the fringes of the estuary. This painting is a fairly quick one, about 45 minutes altogether.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Adolph Menzel's Hochkirch Painting

Adolph Menzel (German 1815-1905) undertook this ambitious painting without a commission. It was a battle scene, but it didn't glorify the war.

Adolph Menzel, Frederick the Great and His Men in the Battle of Hochkirch
(Night Attack at Hochkirch),
1856, oil on canvas, 295 x 378 cm,
destroyed during the Second World War
It shows Frederick the Great's soldiers engaged "in a crushing defeat suffered during the Seven Years War, and, to make matters worse, a defeat that could be laid entirely at the feet of the king and that cost the lives of a sizable number of his leading generals, not to mention those of nine thousand soldiers, was not a painting that lent itself to propaganda purposes or the the glorification of the Hohenzollern dynasty."

Nevertheless, the painting was much talked about, and eventually it was bought by the king. What helped sell it was the argument, which Menzel made in a letter to the king, that the painting shows Frederick's nobility in the way he accepted defeat.

The work took Menzel a long time to complete. It come down to us in photographs of poor quality, because the canvas itself was destroyed in World War II.
Quote from the book Adolph Menzel: The Quest for Reality by Werner Busch.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Grouping Heads in a Composition

"Alas, poor Yorick," scene from Hamlet by Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret
Compositional tip: If you're staging a scene with more than two figures, overlap two of them, especially if those two are reacting to something.

This illustration from Emma by Jane Austin by Charles and Henry Brock
In this scene from Jane Austin's Emma, the two characters have been whispering to each other, and the tale is told from the point of view of the woman on the left. By bringing two of the faces close together, it's easier to see their reactions.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Luis Jiménez Aranda, Capturing Everyday Life

Luis Jiménez y Aranda (1845–1928) painted moments from ordinary life in Spain.  

Luis Jiménez y Aranda The Bibliophiles, 1879
Here he shows book lovers from various walks of life surveying the wares. To paint scenes like this, he used models, and he would have set up the actual costumes on lay figures. 
Luis Jiménez y Aranda, The Artist's Studio
Here he paints of an artist's studio, showing the artist with his palette standing behind a wealthy patron, as a model lounges in a festive pose on the far right.

 Luis Jiménez y Aranda, Self Portrait
Luis Jiménez y Aranda was part of a worldwide artistic movement using realism to capture the detail of everyday life.
Previously on GJ: Costumbrism

Friday, May 22, 2020

Attacked by a Bugling Elk

Wildlife artist Ken Carlson (born 1937) learned to draw animals at the zoo." Eventually the director gave him the keys to the animal cages so that he could go there at night after work."
Bugling elk by Ken Carlson
"'At night I would turn on the lights in the zoo and sketch. I worked in the pens, wearing a keeper's jacket. One day I went into the elk pen to get photographs of him bugling, and the animal charged and almost killed me."

"After that,' Carlson says wryly, 'I lost my zoo privileges and spent a week in the hospital. I had paid my dues as a wildlife artist."

Thursday, May 21, 2020

What's in Your Kit?

Charlie asks: What’s in your kit?
Everything I need for drawing or basic painting lives in a belt pouch which I bring everywhere. It's small enough to take everywhere and big enough to hold a whole painting kit.

What are your favorite watercolor art supplies to use? 
I have a 12-color watercolor pan set and a small, changing set of gouache. 

What brands do you prefer in watercolor and gouache? 
I keep coming back to M. Graham and Winsor and Newton, but I have samples of most brands. I keep a several different brands in play at any given time, and combine colors from more than one brand in any given painting. Holbein makes a good starter set, and Shinhan Pass makes a watercolor/gouache hybrid set that is quite reasonable with a wide variety of colors. People who watch my videos know I also use Richeson casein occasionally, both for doing finished paintings, and for underpainting. 

What brushes do you use?
I use flats and rounds the most. A good starter set is the short-handled travel brush set made by Richeson.

What kind of paper do you recommend? 
I use a Pentalic watercolor sketchbook, which has heavyweight, medium-textured watercolor paper that works for all my water media paintings and sketches. I use illustration board and linen canvas for my separate framable oil paintings. 

What cameras and audio do you use to capture your videos?
Lately, I've been using a Canon M6, which is great for video, stills, and onboard timelapse. I keep a compact point-and-shoot Canon PowerShot Elph on a belt holster. For a digital audio recorder, I use a Zoom H2N, and that's handy for capturing voiceover and for room tone. I also include a Rode Video microphone.

What else do you carry?
I also carry a couple of water cups with lids that hold on well. In the metal box I carry a water-soluble colored pencil set, plus graphite pencils, a few pastels, a fountain pen, erasers, and water brushes, which work with the colored pencils in tight spaces. And of course I need a paint rag. 

Where can I learn more about your easel?
I use a homemade sketch easel and a tripod. Here's a link to a tutorial on how to make one, and here's a link to a Facebook group of other builders.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Alfred Munnings Paints a Horse

Here's Alfred Munnings painting a white horse while a stableman holds the subject roughly in position.

Scenes like this could have been painted in that way, by having each horse pose with an assistant.