Sunday, May 22, 2022

How Oberhardt Achieved a Speaking Likeness

William Oberhardt (American, 1882-1958) was known for his charcoal portraits, always drawn from life, always of men. 

How did he achieve such convincing likenesses, where the subject seems animated and on the verge of speech?

The answer is that he engaged his subjects in a spirited conversation. He wanted to make sure that the sitter had a delightful experience, and he tried to bring out their best in the conversation. 

Most of his drawings were achieved within an hour. After laying out the overall gesture he would focus on completing the eyes early in the process, because he knew he needed to get them right or the whole effort would be futile and he would have to start over.

Sidney Dickinson by William Oberhardt

To convey an individual likeness, he focused on the unique attributes of the person's face. He preferred to portray celebrities because "they are free from the inhibitions that the average man is heir to. The celebrity usually realizes that lines, plans, and wrinkles cannot be removed without loss of individuality, the individuality that has made him prominent...The trouble is that some people don't like their own faces. When that happens, I admit, the cards are stacked against you. No matter how much of the milk of human kindness you mix with your pictorial effort, you're fighting a losing game because a portraitist cannot redesign a face and still preserve a likeness."

The new issue of Illustration Magazine has a 23 page article with dozens of examples of Oberhardt's portraits, both in charcoal and oil, together with many notes about his process, including extended excerpts from several articles by Oberhardt himself. 

There's also a very detailed article on pulp illustrator Earle Bergey.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Motor Grader


A motor grader from the 1970s, sketched on the job site in gouache.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Is Opera Rose Fugitive?

Is the pigment called opera rose lightfast or fugitive? I had always heard it was extremely fugitive, but experts don't agree. 

Opera rose is a quinacridone pigment defined as PR122. According to the authoritative website Handprint, it's very reliable. In fact Handprint rates it as a "Top 40" pigment. They say: "after 800+ hours of sunlight exposure, the samples show no fading or discoloration."

Here's how they explain it:

"Quinacridone magenta PR122 is a lightfast, semitransparent, staining, dark valued, intense violet red pigment, offered by more than 20 pigment manufacturers worldwide. The ASTM (in technical report D5067-99) rates the lightfastness of PR122 in watercolors as "fair" (III, "may be satisfactory when used full strength or with extra protection from exposure to light"), but other manufacturer and independent tests rate it higher. My 2004 lightfastness tests of the nine paint brands listed above, which show color variations that suggest several different pigment particle sizes or pigment suppliers, revealed very little or no color degradation, after 800+ hours of direct sunlight exposure, in both heavy and diluted applications. This puts the pigment solidly in the "excellent" (I) category (BWS 7+)."

"For context, compare these samples to naphthol red (PR170), a pigment with a well established "very good (II)" rating, or with quinacridone rose (PV19), which is considered to have "excellent (I)" lightfastness. This is such a glaring discrepancy that the ASTM test must be flawed or unrepresentative in some way. Because Michael Wilcox relies on the ASTM documents for his pigment ratings, he has been critical of this pigment without any corroborating evidence of its fallability. I suggest you do your own lightfastness test on PR122 paints until a consensus emerges, but at present I see absolutely no reason to avoid this splendid pigment." 

I haven't tried it yet in a controlled fade test, but I've used the color in a painting. You can watch the whole 12 minute YouTube video here.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Painting Peonies at NYBG

In this new video on YouTube I paint tree peonies at the New York Botanical Garden. 

I use transparent watercolor and a little gouache to capture the delicately gradating pink and red tones of these impressive flowers. (Link to YouTube)

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The Kitchen by Carl Larsson

Two sisters operate the butter churn as the clean dishes are laid out to dry under an open window.

Carl Larsson The Kitchen (1890s), watercolor

In his book Ett Hem, Carl Larsson says: "The kitchen is the only room in the house that still 'makes sense.' You see, this kitchen is extremely plain but it's clean and arranged pretty attractively for its purpose."

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Signing with a Paint Bottle


Impressionist Lisa Palombo signs her paintings with acrylic paint in bottles.

She says: "I use a variety of bottles like this one and fill with acrylic paint that is watered down. Sometimes I drip and splatter with them too."

In this video at 10:50, you can see how it looks as she applies it.

Thanks, Lisa

Monday, May 16, 2022

An Artist in His Studio

View from an Artist's Studio by Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret

 "Paris spreads away to the horizon her great seed plot, sown with innumerable houses, so small in the distance that one might hold them in the palm of one hand. Paris, vision at once monstrous and sublime, colossal crucible wherein bubbles increasingly that strange mixture of pains and pleasures of active forces and fevered ideals." —Paul Gsell


Charles Bargue and Jean-Léon Gérôme

The Lure of Paris: Nineteenth-Century American Painters and Their French Teachers

Series on GurneyJourney:
"Beaux-Arts Instruction" Series: Part 1Part 2Part 3

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Dandelion Study

Taraxacum oficinale (dandelion) in various growth stages painted in gouache yesterday for the Plein-Air Invitational event at the New York Botanical Gardens.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Wind in Stone

One of the joys of the art of sculpture is conveying invisible forces with the medium of solid rock.

With his sculpture "West Wind," Thomas Ridgeway Gould (American, 1818 – 1881) achieved the impression that thin fabric is stretched over a human form and blown by the wind. 

According to Wikipedia, "His West Wind, originally sculpted in 1870, stirred controversy in 1874 when it was denounced as a copy of Canova's Hebe (below), with the exception of the drapery, which was modelled by Signor Mazzoli."

"Animated newspaper correspondence followed this charge, and it was proved groundless. Gould declared that his designs were entirely his own, and that not a statue, bust, or medallion was allowed to leave his studio until finished in all points on which depended their character and expression."

"West Wind was later shown in the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876, and all told Gould subsequently made seven copies in two sizes."

Friday, May 13, 2022

Pre-Priming with a Color Blur

You can pre-prime a page with casein in a sort of abstract color blur, then make it into something.

New YouTube video: “Painting Skunk Cabbage.”