Saturday, August 24, 2019

Harry Anderson Techniques

Harry Anderson still life, casein, 1980s
Illustrator Harry Anderson  painted floral studies casein and tempera paint. Here's what he said about how he made a picture:

"When I put brush to paper, the final composition is reasonably clear in my mind. Picture boundaries are determined by boxing the hands or by using a cardboard viewer with a rectangular opening. Starting to paint, I like to lay in all color areas as quickly as possible, so that the arrangement becomes clear for a second study. In this stage, little attention is paid to detail—only the general shapes are indicated. Values and colors are made as true as feasibly consistent with hasty application.

"Frequently I use my fingers or, more accurately my thumbs in manipulating the color for different effects. I am always watchful for desirable 'accidental' passages which, when found effective, I am careful to retain."

"Another practice, which I am told is uncommon, is the use of two different colors on a single bristle brush in painting objects whose color might run from light to dark—as a cylinder. First I load the brush with the lighter hue and then with a section of the brush I pick up the darker paint so that, when the stroke is made, very interesting accidentals result. This works very well on small objects. To lighten or change a painted tract, I would hesitate to use solid opaque color, applying light on dark. I would prefer first scrub out the expanse and then repaint it."
—The quote comes from in the book The Art of Harry Anderson and was originally published in American Artist, May 1956.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Meme Propagation

A lot of people sent me this meme, and said it was going around. I did the painting, but I don't know who contributed the quote. 

I think the idea is kind of fun, especially since the word balloon points to the dinosaur. It makes me wonder how you launch a meme, and how it spreads. Does anyone know? Is it just via 'word of mouth' and sharing on Twitter?

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Paint Technique: Bravura vs. Patience

Painting Atelier in the École des Beaux Arts
American mural painter Edwin Blashfield (1848-1936) recalled that when he was an art student in Paris, all the students on Léon Bonnat's atelier wanted to use a lot of paint and to make sure their paintings looked vigorous and not labored.

Leon Bonnat, Roman Girl at a Fountain
One day Monsieur Bonnat arrived to survey the student work, he said: "Gentlemen, why do you use so much paint? You are only tripping yourselves up. I do not use a great quantity of paint for its own sake, but because my temperament is such that I can get my effect better in that way."

The comments quenched the students' enthusiasm for obsessing with thick paint and technique in general. According to Bonnat, the technique didn't matter so much as effort and patience.

Bonnat said: "It has often been told us that Michelangelo said, 'Genius is eternal patience,' and there is no doubt that Michelangelo was an expert in the definition of genius if ever a man was. Thomas Carlyle, too, defined genius as a 'transcending capacity for taking trouble.'"

"Students may remember then, when they wish to work vigorously and powerfully, and when they disdain what they call labored painting — may remember, I say, that two of the most rugged and original personalities that ever existed, the one in literature, the other in art, have averred that patience — careful, painstaking patience — is the crowning virtue which shall furnish the basis to the brilliant and captivating vigor which is so desirable an achievement."

"And do not mistake my intention. I am with the student. I sympathize in his wish. The skillful manipulation of pigment is a capacity to be struggled for and to be proud of when obtained; it makes the surface of the canvas attract at once. But if the canvas is to be made vital-looking and lastingly solid as well as attractive, behind and under the lively manipulation of pigment there must be construction and knowledge, the fruit of hard work."

Edwin Blashfield, Trumpets of Missouri
"Idolatry of mere dexterity is peculiarly dangerous in America because it assails us along the lines of the least resistance. Dexterousness comes naturally to the American, and in its favor he is sometimes only too ready to suppress hard thinking, which is the one invaluable kind of hard work and discipline in any profession. Technical excellence is at its very best only a means to an end, and art stands for something much finer, greater, and deeper than even the very skilfullest and most brilliant handling of one’s tools." 
Read more:
Wikipedia on Edwin Blashfield (1848-1936) and Léon Bonnat (1833-1922) 

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Damascus Gate

Damascus Gate is an entrance to Old Jerusalem built during the times of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century. 

I sketch this with a simple black watercolor wash, painting around the white shapes of figures on the bridge.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Tombs of the Kidron Valley

This watercolor sketch depicts the tombs of the Kidron Valley outside of the walls of Jerusalem. The Jews left their dead in tombs made outside the city walls.  

Tombs of the Kidron Valley
I made the sketch on location while researching a story for National Geographic (never published) about the interaction of Roman and Judaic cultures during the days of Jesus

According to the website Jerusalem 101, these tombs were present during Jesus' time: "He would have walked past them many times and constantly viewed them whenever his eyes scanned the Kidron Valley or the Mount of Olives. He even spoke about them in the Gospels, calling them “beautiful” when he addressed the religious leaders on the Temple Mount:
'Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.' - Matthew 23:27"
Sketching these rock-cut tombs helped inspire Canyon City in Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Focusing Light on One Part of the Painting

Olana is the Hudson Valley home of 19th century landscape painter Frederic Church (1826-1900) (Link to YouTube video

My goal in this plein-air gouache/watercolor study is to focus light on one part of the painting.

Frederic Church himself inspires me to try this kind of lighting, given that he distributes the light in his paintings in a theatrical way.

Frederic Church designed his home, inspired by his travels in the Holy Land. 
Frederic Church on Wikipedia

Glories of the Hudson: Frederic Edwin Church's Views from Olana (The Olana Collection)

Sunday, August 18, 2019

R.I.P. Richard Williams, Animator and Teacher

(Link to YouTube)
Richard Williams has died at age 86. He animated Pink Panther, produced a 1971 adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and developed the animation for Who Framed Roger Rabbit? 

Perhaps his biggest contribution, though, was as a teacher. He had a huge base of knowledge, which he shared freely and cheerfully with a younger generation.

He learned the craft directly from Disney greats like Milt Kahl and Art Babbitt, as well as Warner Bros. talents like Ken Harris, who animated Bugs Bunny during the golden years, and later came to work with Williams in London.

All of that information is compiled in his excellent instructional book The Animator's Survival Kit. The book contains a wealth of drawings illustrating all the principles of animation and is considered the classic instructional text in that field.
Book: The Animator's Survival Kit: A Manual of Methods, Principles and Formulas for Classical, Computer, Games, Stop Motion and Internet Animators
BBC: Roger Rabbit animator Richard Williams dies at 86

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Serov's Fable Illustrations

Though better known for his portraits, Valentin Serov (1865-1911) illustrated the animal fables of Ivan Krylov with expressive line drawings.

In "The Monkey and Her Glasses," an older monkey with poor eyesight buys some eyeglasses. Unfortunately, she doesn't know how to wear them. Since she can't see better, she breaks them in anger. 

In "The Quartet," a bear, a goat, and donkey, and a monkey decide to play music as a string quartet. Having no luck at playing the instruments, they keep trading instruments, but still they can't make a good sound. Finally a musically inclined nightingale appears to remind them that you can't play music without skill and talent.

It's interesting to see how a great portrait painter explores gesture and character in loose line drawings that blend the real with the imaginary.

In the book Valentin Serov, Dmitri Sarabyanov says: "This combining of the imaginary with the real was something Serov always tried to achieve, whether in his portraits or drawings for Krylov's fables or historical themes."

Some of Serov's later paintings explore mythological themes such as "Rape of Europa" (left), where his stylization departs from naturalism and becomes more expressionistic.

According to the Ancient History Encyclopedia: "Europa was charmed by the docile animal and decorated him in flowers. Then, thinking she might ride such a gentle beast, she climbed on his back. The bull swam with her into the sea, soared into the air and carried Europa far away from Phoenicia."

Book: Valentin Serov: Paintings, Graphic Works, Stage Designs 
Wikipedia: Valentin Serov

Friday, August 16, 2019

A Street in Ravenna by Signorini

The street is half in shadow and half in light, with an irregular shadow edge cast from the building tops across the cobblestones. 

A Street in Ravenna by Telemaco Signorini (1835-1901).
To pull off the idea, Signorini must have been very conscious of grouping the values. The tones in the illuminated side of the street are well organized as a single light shape. And the values of all the forms in shadow never go above a middle range. The sky is kept fairly flat, and he didn't overplay the warm and cool effects.
Wikipedia on Telemaco Signorini (1835-1901).
Book: The Macchiaioli : Italian Painters of the Nineteenth Century
Previously: Mezza-Macchia (painting impressionistically in two tones)

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Challenges Faced by Women in Art Academies

There are quite a few photos of female art students in 19th century academic ateliers.

Female art students at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts, Stockholm, Sweden
So women had it good, right? But according to academic teacher Sadie Valeri, circumstances for women weren't as ideal as they appear:
"Women were not allowed into the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris until 1898. Until the very late 1800's, women were not able to become professional artists. They could paint as a hobby, but they could not accept money for commissions or sell work. Until the very late 1800's women could not study the live nude model. The small commercial studios that allowed women (like the Academies Julian in Paris) charged women double the tuition men paid, and so those schools were highly profitable." 
Maybe the reason there were so many photos of female students was that the photos served as a form of advertising, inducing wealthy families to send their daughters to study in the expensive ateliers in Paris.

Marie Bashkirtseff, In the Studio
Berthe Morisot
Women were strongly encouraged to pursue flower painting, miniatures, still life, portraiture, or landscape, which were considered minor genres.

Once they had access to live models, they could begin to pursue paintings from history and mythology, which were considered more important.

According to Nicole Myers of NYU, "women artists were virtually excluded from state commissions and purchases as well as from participation in official competitions such as the coveted Prix de Rome, a prestigious scholarship offered to history painters for continued study at the French Academy in Rome."

A woman pursuing an independent career in art was a destabilizing threat to upper-class society. The private instructor to the young sisters Edma and Berthe Morisot told their mother:

“Considering the characters of your daughters, my teaching will not endow them with minor drawing room accomplishments, they will become painters. Do you realize what this means? In the upper-class milieu to which you belong, this will be revolutionary, I might say almost catastrophic.”  
Read more:
Book: Women Artists in Paris, 1850-1900
Previous related posts:
Thesleff's Echo
Studying Art in Paris, 1902
The Ups and Downs of Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz
Juana Romani, Artist and Model
Advice for Anna Ancher
Nicole Myers. “Women Artists in Nineteenth-Century France.”
Sadie Valeri atelier