Thursday, July 30, 2009

Woodstock 4: Maquettes

The creature design class at Woodstock School of Art continued with Day 4 today. Eric Millen bulked up the muscles of his SuperPan.

Eric and Mike loaned the oven in the on-campus barn lodging to cure the Sculpey maquettes.

Lester Yocum decapitated "Fluffy," a stuffed animal he bought last night to use its fake fur. He's actually a really nice guy.

That beige fur was perfect for Lester's lady, a female Pan character with a red glitter dress and plenty of attitude.

Mike Marrocco decided to do a self portrait with Flynn's horns.

Maureen Rogers laid in watercolor washes on her Pan.

All of these maquettes will guide the final painting, which we'll at least start tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Woodstock 3: Goat Day

This morning, Billy the goat from Southlands Foundation Farm climbed into Trusty Rusty and rode with us to the Woodstock School of Art where he served as the star model for the goat half of our Pan characters.

Clockwise from lower left: Billy enjoys the attention from David and Eric, Billy checked out Shawn Field's computer, Eric Millen built up his Sculpey Pan figure maquette, and Shawn and Michael Marrocco worked out their character concepts.

Christina Neno showed the relaxed style of maquette building, while David Troncoso sculpted away with Flynn nearby for reference.

Left to right: Lester Yocum came up with an awesome matronly female Pan character, which he sketched on a board and sculpted in 3-D; As David worked, Jeanette (in background) watched Billy, who stayed on his tarp indoors because it was pouring rain outside; Michael gets the Hero's Badge for doing the end-of-day cleanup.
Thanks, Lenny, for letting us borrow Billy!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Woodstock 2: Characterization

If you think yesterday was scary, today was even worse! Those are taxidermy goat eyes, and horns made by Lester.

Yesterday we looked at the comparative anatomy of sheep, goats, deer and humans.

Today we brought in the model, who was directed in a half hour pose by each of the students based on their thumbnail sketches.

We set up Flynn on the C-stand in the exact angle of the model's head, so that you could see the the correct angle and lighting on the horns.

That allowed us to explore how to morph the human and sheep/goat together into a satyr.

It was fun, but challenging for all of us, because it's a different way of seeing than you usually do in art school. We were trying to observe closely, but always be guided by the imaginative ideas we started with in the beginning.

Thanks, Eric!...and forgive me for showing only my own work! Jeanette and I just didn't get photos of the student work. We'll try to remedy that next time. Tomorrow: Goat Day.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Woodstock 1: Sheep Skulls

The first day at the Woodstock School of Art's creature design class was great fun. We had a congenial and talented group of people who came from as far away as Michigan!

The Woodstock school itself has a great tradition leading back to the 1930s, when it was a summer school for Art Student's League instructors, so I was thrilled to be there.

We started off looking at the history of how Pans and satyrs have been portrayed from Greek and Roman days all the way to modern movies and video games. We had a snack of goat cheese and crackers to get us in the mood (thanks, Jeanette!)

Then I brought in five skulls of deer and rams, so we could really study out the anatomy and the variety of horns. I'm holding Flynn, a ram I used to sketch from life years ago when he lived on the farm of a good friend.

We all did thumbnail sketches of a variety of character and compositional ideas, and then tried to "flesh them out" with studies from life.

One of the things I tried to do was to morph the ram's skull with a human skull to see what it looks like. Hmmm...a little to work on that.

Pan and Satyrs

Today we start our week-long workshop on creature design at the Woodstock School of Art.

We’re going to create the most famous satyr, Pan, based on studies of a human and goat model, some skulls, and other props.

Here’s some background info about the creature we’ll be trying to bring to life:

In Greek mythology, Pan is the protector of flocks and shepherds. He lives in Arcadia, the region of rustic mountain folk. He is a satyr (in Greek, Σάτυροι — Sátyroi), half-human, half goat or ram. (“Satyresses” were a late invention of poets). In mythology they are often associated with male sex drive and vase-painters often portrayed them with uncontrollable erections. The early Greek respesentations of satyrs often showed them as balding and bearded, with human legs and a horse’s tail.

Their chief was called Silenus, a minor deity associated (like Hermes and Priapus) with fertility. These characters can be found in the only remaining satyr plays: Cyclops by Euripedes and Sophocles‘ The Searching Satyrs. The satyr play was a lighthearted follow-up attached to the end of each trilogy of tragedies in Athenian festivals honoring Dionysus. These plays would take a comic approach to the heavier subject matter of the tragedies in the series, featuring heroes speaking in tragic iambic verse and taking their situation seriously as “straight men” to the flippant, irreverent and obscene remarks and antics of the satyrs. The groundbreaking tragic playwright Aeschylus is said to have been especially loved for his satyr plays, but none of them survived.

Satyrs acquired their goat-like aspect through later conflation with the Roman Faunus, a carefree nature spirit of similar temperament. Hence satyrs are most commonly described as having the upper half of a man and the lower half of a goat. They are also described as possessing a long, thick tail, either that of a goat or a horse. Mature satyrs are often depicted with goat’s horns, while juveniles are often shown with bony nubs on their foreheads. Attic painted vases depict mature satyrs as being strongly built with flat noses, large pointed ears, long curly hair, and full beards, with wreaths of vine or ivy circling their balding heads. Satyrs often carry the thyrsus: the rod of Dionysus tipped with a pine cone.

Satyrs are described as roguish but faint-hearted folk — subversive and dangerous, yet shy and cowardly. As Dionysiac creatures they are lovers of wine, women and boys, and are ready for every physical pleasure. They roam to the music of pipes (auloi), cymbals, castanets, and bagpipes, and love to dance with the nymphs (with whom they are obsessed, and whom they often pursue), and have a special form of dance called sikinnis. Because of their love of wine, they are often represented holding winecups, and appear often in the decorations on winecups.

Some satyrs are depicted as old. On painted vases and other Greek art, satyrs are represented in the three stages of a man’s life: mature satyrs are bearded, and are shown as fat and balding, both a humiliating and unbecoming disfigurement in Greek culture.

This text is adapted from
Wikipedia and LOS Blog. and

Sunday, July 26, 2009

New Poortvliet Museum

Goed nieuws voor fans van Rien Poortvliet. After the previous museum of Dutch illustrator Rien Poortvliet was forced to close, a new one has opened.

There's a video with a walk-through of the new space at this link.
Thanks, CeGeBe, Nathalie and Erik

Waterfall City Gliders

One of the first paintings that led to Dinotopia was Waterfall City which I painted in 1988. At the time I hadn't thought of dinosaurs or pterosaurs yet. When I imagined how people should cross the gorge to the city, I imagined them flying hang gliders. These sketches show how the designs for those gliders evolved.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Egyptian Mummy Portraits

Long before realistic portrait painting developed in Europe in the Renaissance, Roman-Egyptian artists did striking likenesses in wax on limewood. These Fayum funeral portraits date from around 100 years A.D. According to the Metropolitan Museum:

The finely executed portrait depicts a youth with large, deep-set eyes and a down-turned mouth. His downy moustache indicates that he is no older than his early twenties. A number of mummy portraits represent youths with their first facial hair, a feature that had particular connotations in the Greek-educated society of Roman Egypt. The incipient moustache was both an indicator of the young man's entrance into important social groups and a signal that he was at the prime of sexual attractiveness and vigor.

Flickr source, link.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Pop Culture Blender

We are what we eat, visually speaking. Each of us has absorbed through our eyeballs a mind-boggling array of images.

My Influences from Dan Meth on Vimeo.

Dan Meth has created a compelling film that presents all of those visual inputs in a rapid-fire presentation. What’s funny is that Dan's list would be pretty much the same for any American (and to an ever larger extent, anyone in the world) in the same generation.

Todd Schorr has brought these images together in his large and complex paintings, warping the elements a bit and tossing strange things together, the way things tend to bounce around in our heads.
Schorr's work is currently being exhibited at the San Jose Museum of Art. Follow this link for more about the "American Surreal" exhibit and a nice series of videos about Schorr's work produced by the SJMA.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My Mac Lazarus

A few years ago my G3 Macintosh computer decided to crash. No matter what I tried, I couldn't get it to start up. I lugged it into the car and brought it to Jerry, a computer repair man.

"Lazarus and I are going to have a little chat," Jerry said. He took the covers off everything and hooked up a tangle of wires.

"Will it ever work again,?" I asked nervously. "Hummmm, oh yeah," Jerry said.

I thought of all the letters I had written and all the photos I had taken. Down the drain. Stupidly, I hadn't backed up in a long time. Jerry mumbled a few incantations and fell into a deep reverie.

Then for the next two hours, as he contemplated the carcass of Lazarus, I did what I always do when I'm deathly anxious: I sketched.

Eventually my computer came back from the grave. It made some nice noises and some lights came on. Narrow escape this time, I told myself.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Plein Air and Poetry

Some great painters, such as John Sargent and Anders Zorn, did their most memorable work when they were face-to-face with their motif. Nature is so rich in her inspiration, it's reasonable to ask: how can anyone improve on a plein-air painting?

Isaac Levitan (1860-1900) painted this perfectly competent study on location. It shows a log bridge at the end of a millpond. It is well observed and executed. But it leaves no impression on the imagination.

Back in the studio he refined the image and transformed it into poetry.

He simplified the background row of trees and added a ragged patch of evening clouds. He eliminated the floating log and developed the row of timbers in the lower left. He brought more attention to the uncertain footpath leading from the foreground plank across the three logs to the thin distant trail.

The image suddenly takes on a new interest, not because it is more finished, but because it is better composed. By sifting his direct impressions through the filter of memory and imagination, his work touches the emotions. We stand at the crossing point between our frail human pathway and the downward journey of the falling water, as the sunset prepares to cast us into darkness.

By the Millpond (1892) is one of Levitan’s most beloved works, and it is one of the touchstones of the Russian landscape tradition.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Call for Entries: Focus on Nature XI

Those of you who create science-based images of nature might be interested in this call for entries.

The New York State Museum hosts a biennial exhibition of natural history artwork called Focus on Nature. Artists all around the world are eligible, and the show has grown to be one of the most prestigious in natural history art.

The upcoming 11th edition will be held April 29- October 31, 2010. The deadline for entries is October 1.

The show includes images of plants, birds, insects, geology, paleontological, and archaeological restorations. All media are considered, and the exhibition is free to enter. Follow this link for the entry form.

Here's my blog report on the last exhibition.
Art above is "Spear Lily" by Mali Moir.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Cronkite in Dinotopia

The legendary newsman Walter Cronkite (November 4, 1916 – July 17, 2009) attended the release party of Dinotopia in 2002. He is seen here holding the animatronic hatchling "26."

Thanks, Stefan.

Cast Shadows, Part 2

As the Apollo astronauts observed 40 years ago today, cast shadows are nearly black on the moon, because the sky above the moon’s surface is nearly black.

I say “nearly” because there’s a little bit of starlight and there’s a little bit of reflected light trickling into moonshadows.

On Earth cast shadows are flooded by various sources.

To understand those sources, try to imagine yourself as a little eyeball mounted on an the back of an ant. As you walk across the shadow, imagine yourself looking around at all the bright patches of light shining down on you, not just the blue sky, but also white clouds, buildings, or other bright objects. Those patches of light determine the brightness and color temperature of your shadow.

Here’s a shadow cast across a rooftop by a dormer. An ant walking across the shingles would look up and see a sky with high clouds. But he would also see a large white wall just off to the right, the illuminated side of the second dormer. That white patch is brighter than the sky, and it pours light into the right half of the shadow.

Beneath the photo are samples of two areas of the shadow. You can see how much the cast shadow changes as the sources of infilling light change in relative intensity.

On Earth, cast shadows tend to be blue only because they’re normally thrown across surfaces that look up to the blue of the sky. But be aware the ant doesn’t always see blue patches. On overcast days, the fill light is white. And sometimes the sky patch is small and other patches are bigger and stronger.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cast Shadows, Part 1

When a form intercepts a parcel of direct light, it projects or casts a shadow onto whatever lies behind it.

The resulting cast shadow can be a striking design element, as it was for Frank Brangwyn in one of his famous bridge paintings.

Sometimes forms outside the composition cast shadows onto the subject. The movement of the morning sun shifted the shadow fairly quickly over the Flatiron building.

Samuel Prout effectively used the cast shadow in this watercolor of the Palazzo Contarini in Venice.

The edge of the shadow shape follows the bold relief of the building. It also sets up opportunities for tonal design. Some figures are seen in light against shadow shapes, while other figures are in relative darkness against a bright background.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Mazza Summer Conference

Since its inception in 1982, the Mazza Museum of International Art from the Picturebook in Findlay, Ohio has always been devoted to its mission as a teaching museum.

For schoolchildren, artists, teachers, and librarians, it’s a pilgrimage destination. Above: Raul Colon.

Students at the adjoining University of Findlay can earn a degree in children’s book illustration and can work at the museum on an internship.

Over the years, Mazza has invited over 300 children’s book artists and authors to visit and speak. Every summer the museum invites about 15 picturebook artists to a weeklong conference attended by a few hundred librarians and teachers.

I was privileged to take part this year, along with Peter Brown, Raul Colon, and Keith Graves (above), and M. Sarah Klise, Will Moses, Jan Wahl, Bruce Langton, Julie Downing, Stacey Schuett, Brian Pinkney, Grace Lin, and William Low (not pictured).

Peter Brown shared how he was inspired for his recent book The Curious Garden.

Each of us gave a visual presentation and a workshop session to a smaller group. Hey, that's blog commentator Steve Gilzow in on the right! Good to meet you, Steve.

Thanks to all the staff and volunteers at Mazza and the conference attendees for such a memorable time.

Conference information and full list of 2009 attendees, link.
Daily blog from this week describing each of the presentations, link.

Mazza Museum of Picturebook Art

When I was compiling a list of museums of illustration, I overlooked the Mazza Museum of International Art from Picturebooks.

It is located on the campus of the University of Findlay in northwest Ohio.

The five adjoining rooms display hundreds of original children’s book illustrations, drawn from a collection of approximately 3400 works. The collection has grown from just four original works purchased a little over 25 years ago.

Displayed beneath the originals are copies of the books for which the works were created, along with black binders with more information about each of the creators.

When I visited last week, they let me add to the Artist's Wall, right next to C.F. Payne.

The museum is free of charge, but accepts donations.
Wikipedia on Mazza.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Midday Near Moscow

Russian landscape painter Ivan Shishkin (1832-1898) painted Midday in the Outskirts of Moscow after doing countless plein-air studies in the countryside.

According to Henk Van Os, “In it laborers are seen returning home through the fields of rye at the close of day. In the distance we see houses, a country church and a winding river….The painting is an awesome experience of the liberating effect of space.”

The painting dates from 1869, soon after the group of painters called the Peredvizhniki (Itinerants or Wanderers) declared independence from the constrictions of the academies, and brought their work to the common people by means of traveling exhibitions.

Few in Russia had painted landscape on such a grand scale before—and rarely with such deep feeling. The work had a galvanizing effect on later generations of Russian landscape painters, who realized all at once the potential for landscape to be the vehicle for expressing the deepest stirrings of the human soul.
160 images by Ivan Shishkin at The, link.
Essay by Henk Van Os appeared in in the exhibition catalog Russian Landscape, (2003), edited by David Jackson, link.
Wikipedia on Ivan Shishkin, link.
Illustrated essay, "The Immortal Itinerants," link.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

ABC: Dots

The 15th of the month is the day for a group sketch game called "Art by Committee." The way it works is I share an excerpt from a science fiction story and you come up with a picture to go with it.

This month the quote was: “But when the dots did not vanish even after he scrubbed his fists across his eyes three times, he shouted hoarsely…”

You came up with some funny and creative solutions. Dots, it turns out, can be all sorts of things and can create all sorts of problems. You can click on the creators’ web links to see bigger versions of their pictures and to find out about their other work.

Andrew Walker

Mark Oftedal

Mario Zara

Mark Wummer

Marisa Bryan Flickr Image

Andy Wales

Mei-Yi Chun

Michael Geissler
Michael says: “A big shout-out to the freeware fractal program Apophysis, with which I was able to generate the freaky sky (& heaps of other great images)”

Here's my solution.

Thanks to everyone who participated.

Now here’s the quote for next month:
Have fun! Please scale your JPG to 400 pixels across and compress it as much as possible. Title it with your name, send it to: jgurneyart(at), subject line ABC. Please let me know in your email the full URL of the link to a larger image or your blog or website so people can see your image in all its glory and learn more about your other work. Please have your entries in by the 12th of August. I'll post the results August 15.
Previous Art-By-Committees