Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Thunderstorm Coming

A hard rain is coming. If I don't finish soon, my gouache painting will be ruined. (Link to video on Facebook)

Thomas Fluharty's Blue Drawings

I don't often recommend Kickstarter campaigns, but this one looks irresistible. Thomas Fluharty has an original vision for caricature and exaggeration, especially in his Indigo blue Prismacolor pencil drawings. He's doing his first Kickstarter campaign to produce a book that showcases his blue drawings, along with the joyful wisdom that drives them. I'm a backer.
(Link to Kickstarter)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Stop-Motion Short "Burnt"

“In a scorched desert forest, three damaged plant creatures encounter something green.”(Link to Vimeo)  Via Cartoon Brew

Deep Structure of a Horse's Leg

“It’s amazing to watch him get right in there and start drawing with his brush. After that, the looseness of his blocking is wonderful because he knows where it’s going and he’s not afraid to just let the process play itself out.” 
—Aaron Blaise, co-director of Disney’s Brother Bear and founder of

69 minutes Widescreen, MP4 video. 
Digital download:


Monday, August 13, 2018

Exhibit Review of 'Frederic Church: Painter's Pilgrimage'

In 1867 Frederic Church and his family headed east across the Atlantic to Europe and the Near East, looking for new inspiration. After painting volcanoes in South America, jungles in Jamaica, and icebergs in the North Atlantic, he turned his epic vision to the old world.

Evening on the Sea, oil on canvas
He brought his oil paints and sketchbooks with him to capture the color and drama of what he would encounter. 

The grand cities of Europe such as Rome and Venice had been painted by many artists before him. He was looking for vistas that hadn't been thoroughly documented. That led him to Athens, Jerusalem, Syria, and Petra.

View of Baalbek, 1868, oil and pencil on board
The exhibition "Frederic Church: A Painter's Pilgrimage" explores this late chapter in Church's career, and it is currently on view at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford. 

It includes over 70 objects, including pencil sketches, oil studies, large studio canvases, architectural studies, costumes, sculptures, and bric-a-brac, all of which evoke the exotic romance of the life of the artist-explorer.  

Travel to that part of the world was not easy. A steamship line had just been opened up to Athens from Rome, and the road from the port of Jaffa to Jerusalem had just been built to accommodate wheeled vehicles. To get to the rock-cut city of Petra, Church hired local guides and traveled by camel. Church wrote that he nearly fell off when the animal rose to its feet and pitched forward. 
Standing Bedouin (probably February 1868)
Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum
Church's guides helped guard him against zealots who were suspicious of artists making graven images of the sacred sites. An artist in a previous expedition had been killed. Church stopped to make a quick sketch of the Roman-style architecture "but our guide was much exercised thereby and made significant motions that it was unsafe I might be fired at." (Quoted from book "The Painted Sketch")

The Urn Tomb, Silk Tomb, and Corinthian Tomb, Petra, 1868, oil on paper mounted to canvas
Church only spent a few days in Petra, but he worked from sunup to sundown. His studies of the architecture are marvels of close observation, precise detail and efficient brushwork.

Parade Entering the City, Jaffa, 13 x 20 1/16 in. (33 x 51cm)
Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum
He painted his studies in oil over a careful pencil outline on the paperboard surface. Most of them are relatively small, painted for his own reference, and were not intended for exhibition.

Erin Monroe, Associate Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture at the Wadsworth Atheneum, said the response to the exhibition has been fantastic. She included some sculptures, costumes, and ephemera from the Atheneum's collection to the exhibit to bring the 19th century ambiance to life. 
If you haven't been to the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut, they also have a strong collection of Hudson River School painters in their permanent collection.

The show Frederic Church: A Painter's Pilgrimage was organized by the Detroit Institute of the Arts, and this is the last stop in the tour, ending August 26th. The softcover catalog is 228 pages long and has large color reproductions and an informative text. The book The Painted Sketch is the best one to get if you're interested in 19th century oil sketch practice.
Previous and related posts:

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Irish Fiddler Dylan Foley

At a house concert in upstate New York, I open my gouache sketchbook in my lap to paint Irish fiddle champ Dylan Foley.

(Link to video on YouTube)

Here's what I try to do at each stage:

Step 1. The watercolor-pencil drawing locates
the elements. A big gray wash lowers the tone.
There's a moment of hesitation as I worry that 
the wash will erase the drawing.

Step 2. I place the features as spots, as if
I'm seeing the scene out of focus. Next, the
big darks establish the poster-like pattern.

Step 3. Interpreting the tones of the face in two 
values first, then finding halftones and variations.
Because Dylan is in constant motion, I can find
the most characteristic aspects that would not 
show up in a static pose.  

Step 4. Bringing in some background color, I
now have all the basic tones and colors worked out
and can begin focusing on nuances. Things like
glasses and details of the fiddle can wait.

Step 5. Gouache lets me get small details but 
also I can go back and soften edges. I want the
blow hand blurry because it's always in motion,
so I soften the paint and set up a blur. 

Finish. I letter his name with a fountain pen in the Irish 
Gaelic Alphabet. Some of the action lines on the 
far left are done with a gray watercolor pencil.

On Instagram, vjoy1 asks: "How do u fix a pose when subject is moving...??. and what is your motive to achieve extreme likeness or a representation?"

jamesgurneyart@vjoy1 Musicians reliably return to poses. As they move around, you seek after the most characteristic aspects of the person. You can’t get that with a static pose, which is why 19th century portrait painters like Sargent, Sorolla, and Zorn worked from dynamically moving or talking subjects.-----
Previously: Gouache Materials List
Dylan Foley / Deliriously Happy 

Dylan Foley and Dan Gurney / Irish Music of the Hudson Valley
Amazon Music

Portraits in the Wild / Painting People in Real Settings
DVD from manufacturer
DVD from Amazon

Saturday, August 11, 2018

"Winter Sunset" on The Line

Honored to see my painting “Winter Sunset” as the topic of the ultimate painter’s TV talk show, “The Line."

The show is run by King Art Nerds Louis Carr, Michael Klein, and Joshua LaRock of East Oaks Studio, and it features a different painting for sale each time.

Link to East Oaks Studio "The Line" 
Watch on Vimeo

Friday, August 10, 2018

Backlit Draft Horse

Here's a mini video about a mini sketch of a backlit draft horse. (Link to video) I demonstrate using the paint wet and dry for various effects.

Painting Animals from Life

69 minutes Widescreen, MP4 video. 
DVD at Amazon (Releases Aug. 10)

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Donald Colley's Dog Sketches

Animal Week continues with a spotlight on the "Going to the Dogs" project by Chicago artist Donald Colley. He used Faber-Castell Pitt Artists pens and fountain pen to draw portraits of dogs in an animal shelter. I asked him some questions about how the project came to be and how he approached the challenge.

Gurney: What got you started sketching portraits of dogs from the animal shelter?
Colley: Bruce Velick, friend and owner of a gallery in Santa Fe, and lover of dogs, was looking to help a local animal shelter he said was well run and doing good work. So, he asked if I could pitch in. The concept was to help promote the shelter and aid in fund-raising by having a month-long exhibit of art about dogs during which myself and a local artist drew portraits of fund contributor’s pet dogs, with 80% of the proceeds going to the shelter. I would be there for the opening weekend of the exhibit to draw donor’s dogs. The shelter was really terrific to work with and very appreciative for the money we raised. Bruce felt the event lived up to his hopes. 

How did you prepare for it?
I’ve drawn cats and dogs from time to time, but to prepare for the challenge, I drew some friends' pets and my building’s resident cat from life to start timing their restlessness. I also reviewed some dog anatomy illustrations, looked over the drawings of dogs by other artists as well as executed drawings of photos of various breeds that I would download from online sources. The blue-grey drawing of the schnauzer nicknamed Azzurro and poodle head were drawn from photos.

You had a lot of different kinds of fur to draw. 
What was helpful and made drawing dog fur more familiar to me was the pretty near daily commitment I have to drawing in public so I have drawn umpteen hundreds of furry parka hood trim, wooly scarves and shawls, shaggy coats, dozens and dozens of fuzzy winter hats, and all manner of hair cuts and beards.

How did you select the dogs you drew? 
For the fundraiser I first went to the shelter and walked thru some of the facilities to see a goodly number of dogs. There was an Australian Blue Heeler that was the current darling of the staff who had been brought in with its muzzle full of porcupine quills that had to be surgically removed. That dog, Calico Jack, was healing nicely in the three weeks since his surgery and was socializing rapidly. He was quite sweet and a gorgeous fellow with great markings. An easy choice.

They put me and Calico Jack in a small room they called a cuddle room and left us alone with a few treats I could give CJ. It was my desire to draw CJ so I didn’t play with him and tried not to get him excited. I sat cross legged briefly, let him smell me, got licked a bit, spoke very softly to him and petted him in easy, long strokes. I only sat there a couple minutes before rising to sit in a chair ready to draw the minute he calmed down or got bored. I looked in a small holding room at a Beagle and a beautiful and delicate Pomeranian waiting to be picked up for adoption and chose the little Pomeranian as a contrast to the Blue Heeler.

Did you try to get to know your subjects first? 
While the staff at the shelter was enthusiastic about my involvement, they all seemed to have plenty to do so I was left to manage Calico Jack who calmed down and held a sitting position for a few minutes tops, during which I knocked in his basic profile and a few general areas of his markings and then it was off to the races as his curiosity and restlessness took over. The treats were of little help because he then kept trying to find the source and if there were any more. I got about 20 minutes with him. The Pomeranian I just watched thru a window and tried to be inconspicuous so as not to be a source of intermittent inquiry. I got a handful of quick studies of her.

How did the people who worked in the shelter help out? 
On the first day of the exhibit, the animal shelter set up a mobile adoption center in front of the gallery with a number of dogs that were up for adoption and volunteers to tend them. That day I drew Dorito the Chihuahua twice, Molly the black Pit, and a second drawing of Calico Jack as a volunteer and new owner completed paperwork for his adoption. The dogs were getting lots of attention so I just did my best to capture them. 

Did the volunteers help out by giving them snacks?
I took advantage of the time one volunteer was giving Dorito little treats. Some of the people who contributed to the fundraiser by commissioning portraits of their dogs, held their dogs. That didn’t always go according to plan, so I started the drawings and had to take some photos to later add information. Some donors couldn’t make the exhibit and chose to send several photos by email. The two Ridgebacks were very restless, so I kept changing my position to maintain a similar vantage point as they moved. But I also took some photos to work from later in order to make the colors and details richer. I preferred to get as much as possible on site even if the dogs moved. There was a lot going on with a half dozen dogs at times and several people coming and going. We tried to contain the dogs' energy by having a big cushion in the corner as the portrait setting, buuuuuut.......

What information from the pose do you try to establish right away when the dog is in the pose?
As with people, so much character is carried in the head structure and face as well as in the defining body structure and how the animal carries itself. I couldn't help but want to get a likeness as these were definitely leading to owners purchasing a drawing of their dogs. Short-haired dogs’ shoulders and rump I cut in with medium-valued broad gestural strokes that can be amended if my first assessment is off or if the animal shifts. I treat the furrier dogs like topiary with the indication that form is buried within. In the earliest moments geometry is my friend if I can see it clearly. And, while I don’t expect exactitude from the outset, if I happen to be warmed-up and fluid and hit a precise contour, so be it. 

How does your approach change after the dog is out of position? 
Not centering the sketch and reserving enough page for multiple figures means I can begin again and again with a restless subject figuring to add more info as the dog returns to similar positions. However, if my initial drawing is solid and contains coherent contours and principle body features, then I push on with surface markings, sprays and tufts of hair being almost like flourishes that are easy to add with some amount of arbitrary license. The beautiful silken haired dog named Remy was done almost entirely on site as his owner held him with a small amount of set up for his owner’s knees and hands in about 30 minutes and then later finished the jeans, cushion, and hand from photo. 

Do you ever shoot photos and work from them later at home? 
If you go to my website  Buttnekkiddoodles, the post Gone To The Dogs has most of the Dogs plus I added a couple of a friends’ Dogs - Dude! and Sluggo from much earlier. The two Huskies - Strider and Yeti, the Boston Bulldog - Lazy Bones, the Reptile and the White Terrier - Diogo and Bella Luna, Azzurro, and the two more finished drawings of Bruce’s Jack Russell - Olivia were drawn from photos.

The Ridgebacks were begun on site and polished up later. The rest were drawn were drawn from life. The one of Olivia curled on the tan rug face to the right was begun with her in that position but she kept swirling around repositioning herself. I worked on the tiles and rug while she did that. Then, she grabbed the rug, fought with it a minute or so, then got on top and curled into the identical starting pose and exact orientation to me. A bit of patience with some dogs, as with public sketching, pays off.

Watch Don Colley and his Pitt pens in action in this YouTube video (Link to YouTube)
Donald Colley's website
Winnow Gallery Santa Fe
Santa Fe Animal Shelter
Painting Animals from Life 
(Instructional video by James G.)
Digital download from:
DVD available at Amazon 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Von Zügel's Animal Paintings from Life

Heinrich von Zügel (1850-1941) made oil studies of cattle from life, rather than painting from dead animals, as Rungius and Stubbs typically did.

This required the assistance of young farm hands who could hold the cattle more or less in position. Frank Calderon, in his book Animal Drawing and Anatomy, talks about how he set up live cattle for his student painters:
"I generally selected a shady spot and had the cattle fastened to a crate that was full of hay or fresh cut green food. Sometimes I had a small box placed on the ground in front of the crate in which were a few pieces of oil cake as a tidbit to start upon. This I found always resulted in the animals hurrying up to their places and quietly submitting to be tied up."

Von Zügel said in his autobiography: "To simply paint an animal was always easy for me. But placing it into an atmosphere of air and light, and depicting its appearance in the moment where it is most beautiful, isn't always possible to achieve, because it's not always easy to focus on the form along with these other qualities. To capture both form and color was always my highest ambition."  

Heinrich von Zügel also made more informal drawings in his sketchbook, often with the goal of capturing a momentary pose or expression.

Because his memory was well stocked with knowledge and observation, he was able to compose imaginative action scenes that would be impossible to stage or pose, such as this boar hunt.

Book: Animal Drawing and Anatomy by Frank Calderon
Wikipedia: Heinrich von Zügel in German and in English
Free 1909 article: Studio Magazine on von Zügel
Bio of  Von Zügel in English
Previously on GJ: Rosa Bonheur ram studies
Thanks, Christoph Heuer and Christian Schlierkamp

Painting Animals from Life 
(Instructional video by James G.)
Digital download from: