Saturday, January 19, 2019

Simplification in Cartooning

The Famous Artists Cartoon Course uses a lawn mower to demonstrate the importance of simplification.

"Here is a photo of a power mower, straight from your morgue [photo reference file]."

"Here it is drawn in pencil and ink line. It has been simplified a bit, but it's still not as simple as it could be."

"Ah! This is what we have been working for—your reader will have no doubt as to what this is, even though we have cut out about seventy percent of the detail — and it will reproduce better."

"Of course you could spend hours copying every detail, putting in every nut and bolt. This would be great if you were selling lawn mowers — but you are not. All you want is to let your reader know that it is a lawn mower. Maybe you're the type that's just nuts about drawing lawn mowers — don't get carried away. Simplify, simplify and let your reader's imagination fill in the details. If you draw the lawn mower in complete detail, and the other props in the panel are simplified, your lawn mower will be out of key with the rest of the drawing."

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Sad Fate of Konstantin Kryzhitsky

Konstantin Kryzhitsky (1858-1911) Early Morning in the Fields, 1897
A Ukrainian-born Russian painter named Konstantin Kryzhitsky (1858-1911) killed himself when it was found out that he copied from a photo.

Konstantin Kryzhitsky Early Snow
According to art historian Natalya Gorlenko: "It turned out that Kryzhitsky used a still [photo] in his painting called “A Whiff of Spring.”

Konstantin Kryzhitsky, A Whiff of Spring, 1910
"Another painter, Yakov Brovar, used the same still in his piece “A View in Bialowieza Forest”. The resemblance in both images struck the eye, and a debate in the newspapers ensued."

Konstantin Kryzhitsky Early Spring
"Kryzhitsky was accused of plagiarism and, unable to withstand the disgrace, killed himself." Wikipedia says: "His maid found him in his office, where he had hung himself and left a suicide note."

Konstantin Kryzhitsky Before the Rain
Gorlenko continues: "Usually, artists were disinclined to reveal that they made use of photographs in the course of their work on paintings, and even mentions of photography with respect to their art are hard to find. It became a matter of general consensus that the painter disgraced himself when resorting to photography. And yet photography was a permanent fixture in artistic activities, and painters could no longer ignore it."
Wikipedia on Konstantin Kryzhitsky
Read Natalia Gorlenko's full article in Tretyakov Gallery Magazine: "Anticipations of Photography. Notes on painting and photography in Russia" 
The info about Kryzhitsky comes from Grigory. "The Fate of the Artist: Remembering Konstantin Kryzhitsky." Kiev, 1966. Pp. 62-64.)

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Skyfish Rods

"Skyfish rods" are strange visual artifacts that have appeared on people's digital photos. 

When you enlarge them, they appear to be some sort of multi-winged flying fish. Sometimes they appear to have a dark body and four or six diaphanous wings. 

In reality it's a familiar insect whose wingbeat action is stretched out along their path of movement.

Wikipedia says: "Some paranormal proponents claim them to be extraterrestrial lifeforms, extradimensional creatures, or very small UFOs. However, these artifacts appear naturally in video and outdoor photography as the result of an optical illusion due to motion blur, especially in interlaced video recording, and are typically afterimage trails of flying insects and their wingbeats."
Rods (Optics) on Wikipedia
More examples and explanation

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Wilhelm Simmler's Paintings

Wilhelm Simmler (1840-1914) was a German illustrator and easel painter.

Wilhelm Simmler (1840–1914) Mountaineers.
Oil on canvas, 48 x 58 cm
Here, two hunters in the Alps pause for a smoke after shooting a deer. Simmler trained at the Düsseldorf Academy, which emphasized a theatrical, storytelling approach to picture-making.

Wilhelm Simmler, A Flower Seller in Cairo
He was known for military paintings, panoramas, storytelling illustrations, and exotic paintings of the Near East. This flower seller in Cairo wears a tight, striped dress and calls out her offer of flowers.

Wilhelm Simmler, A Sunny Day at the Beach, 1900
60.6 x 98.7 cm | 23 3/4 x 38 3/4 in.
Simmler was also a plein-air painter, and was skilled at capturing people in everyday situations. In this one a mother knits in the shade as her kids play in the sand.

Wilhelm Simmler, Poachers Surprised
Two mask-wearing poachers stop dragging a deer through the forest when they think they have been spotted.

Wilhelm Simmler, On the Tightrope, 1914, 11 x 11 cm.
This gem of a sketch, about 4.5 inches square, appears to have been done from life as a tightrope walker moves and dances in front of him.

The Crossing of the Curonian Lagoon, 1679. Fresco for the Ruhmeshalle Berlin
by Wilhelm Simmler, ca. 1891. 
Here's a mural painting of a sleigh ride across a frozen lake. Unfortunately, this painting and many of his murals and original works were destroyed by bombing in World War II.
Wilhelm Simmler on Wikipedia (German language)
Wikimedia Commons on Simmler, including engravings of his illustrations

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Dinosaur Art in International Artist

In the next issue of International Artist, I wrote an article on creating dinosaur art. Paleoart is really a branch of wildlife art. The challenge is not just to visualize what an extinct animal looks like, but to imagine how it behaved in a realistic setting.

Here's a YouTube video taking you behind the scenes. Watch on YouTube
International Artist Magazine, issue #125: Feb-March, 2019

Monday, January 14, 2019

What is "Poetic" in Art?

Ann asks: "I hear paintings described as “poetic.” What does that mean?"

Oscar Droege, woodblock print
Answer: I take "poetic" to mean that a picture expresses quiet and dignified emotions by means of understatement and suggestion. A picture is likely to be poetic if it leaves out detail or conceals information or conveys the passage of time or if it achieves a mood that is harmonious, delicate, elegant, majestic, or melancholy. 

Henry Ward Ranger, (1858-1916)
There's no pictorial formula to achieve a poetic feeling. You know you've got it by the result. The goal is that feeling of mood which Germans call "stimmung." A picture is not likely to be poetic if it's too literal, didactic, or obvious. 

John William Tristam
Studio Magazine in 1896 said: "To call a thing poetic is to state the feeling it evokes; there can be no praise beyond that, and perhaps no criticism....For the fact remains that the painter who can succeed in conveying to others the feeling that he himself has felt, must always be an artist of true power, and that is enough."
Previous posts about Oscar Droege and John William Tristam and Stimmung

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Paul Meyerheim

Paul Meyerheim (1842 - 1915) was a German artist known for his animal paintings, particularly lions and monkeys, as well as his paintings of humans interacting with them.

Paul Friedrich Meyerheim - 1891
Here, a performer does a sideshow trick of giving a treat from her mouth to a monkey. This painting will be sold at an upcoming Sotheby's auction in New York, and it can be previewed between January 25th and 31st.

Here's the preliminary study for the painting above. I did a previous post about how Meyerheim taught animal painting in Berlin.

Meyerheim was fascinated by interactions between humans and animals. Here he paints a woman reaching through the bars of a circus wagon to caresses the male lion as the lioness snarls in jealousy.

Friedrich Eduard Meyerheim "Guten Morgen, lieber Vater" (Good morning, dear Father) 1858
Meyerheim's father Friedrich was also a painter. The younger Meyerheim spent time in Paris studying the work of Courbet and the Barbizon painters, but his closest friend and mentor was Adolph Menzel, who excelled in capturing the realistic psychology of human interactions.

Meyerheim Menagerie/In der Tierbude,1894
In his painting Menagerie, a ragtag audience watches with fascination as an African stage performer shoulders a crocodile and the other man pries the jaws open. In the foreground, an older sister comforts a child who is frightened by the croc. Though this may seem inhumane to modern eyes, such traveling menageries raised awareness about exotic creatures among the general public. The painting won a gold medal at the Salon.

Wilhelm Kuhnert
Meyerheim's students included Wilhelm Kuhnert (above) and Heinrich von Zügel.
Biography of Meyerheim on Kunkel Fine Art Auctions

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Did Nuns Paint Medieval Illuminations?

Scivias, a 12th-century book written by the nun
Hildegard of Bingen and painted by two anonymous artists.
Who painted the illustrations on medieval manuscripts? According to new archaeological evidence, some of them may have been nuns rather than monks.

The evidence comes from deposits of ultramarine or lapis lazuli pigment in the tartar of the teeth of a female skeleton who was associated with the convent that produced medieval manuscripts.  

The suggestion is that she may have ingested some of the pigment into her mouth while licking her brush to give it a fine point, or perhaps she inhaled some of the pigment while grinding it.

Researcher Christina Warinner has "found everything from insect parts and the pollen of exotic ornamental flowers to opium, bits of wool, and milk proteins—all of which tell stories about what people ate and how they lived. The detritus of everyday life accumulates in the gunk that modern dentists are so vigilant about scrubbing off."

Friday, January 11, 2019

Controlling Light and Depth in Landscape

What makes me want to paint this scene is the way the light and atmosphere work together to create depth. Here's what I'm thinking as I paint it.

Farm in Harlem Valley, oil, 12 x 16
The cloudy sky has a low ceiling. The tops of some of the hills are lost in fog. Also the far horizon is enveloped by the low clouds, so the warm colors in the farthest fields are greyed down before they disappear.

The fields are illuminated in the lower left foreground. Then as you go back across the perspective of the plowed field, you travel through the shadow area and back into the light again.

The principal area of illumination is not on the farm buildings, but a little beyond them. The light is coming through a breach in the clouds with very subtle rays. 

Concealing both the source of light and the effect area adds to a sense of mystery. One way to make a striking light effect is to downplay and conceal most of the scene to set up for the accent area.  
For more on light and atmosphere in painting, check out my book Color and Light can be found on Amazon or signed at my website.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Road by the Far Hayfield

I take a walk alongside the far hayfields with my son's dog Smooth.

Church Bells, watercolor and gouache, 5 x 8 in.
There's a little snow left over in the tire tracks, but it's disappearing, since it's above freezing. I'm fascinated by the way the tractor tracks wind back and ascends the hill. The far sky is framed by the delicate branches and deep woods. 

Smooth sits by me quietly, listening to the sounds of the sparrows flitting in the bushes, the geese flying over, and the faraway noon sirens and church bells (link to video on FB).

I'm using a Pentalic Aqua Journal with a few tubes of gouache (M. GrahamUltramarine Blue, Titanium White, and Terra Rosa) to supplement my portable watercolor kit.