Thursday, June 30, 2011

New X-ray technique reveals traces of color in feathered dinosaurs

Scientists at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory reported today that they have developed new techniques which show chemical traces of pigments in the feathers of 100-million-year-old birds who lived at the same time as dinosaurs.

The pigment, called eumelanin, is what gives color to hair and eyes in most animals, including humans.

The new technique shows features not apparent in the recent discoveries of melanosomes-- pigment producing structures which implied certain coloration patterns. These new findings are based on X-ray evidence of the pigments themselves, not just the pigment-producing structures.

This is exciting news for dinosaur watchers. So much of our identification of modern birds is based on the way they are colored. It’s as if a few pages of our Field Guide to the Dinosaurs suddenly morphed from x-rays to full-color plates.

X-Rays Reveal Patterns in the Plumage of the First Birds (SLAC press release)
X-Rays Illuminate Fossil Pigment (Nature News)

Color Workshop Tomorrow

Tomorrow we'll be beginning the three-day "Painting in Colored Light" workshop at Garin Baker's Carriage House Art Studios in Newburgh, New York.

The workshop will be held in the gallery room of Garin's renovated carriage house/barn. On his blog, Garin has been describing the vision and effort that went into fixing up the structure, which was in bad repair when he bought it.That's the "before" picture on upper left.

Look forward to meeting all the attendees!

Garin's Art Blog
More about the Workshop
More about Garin's mural work on Stapleton Kearn's blog

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Share One Planet Results

The judging results of the digital wildlife competition "Save our Planet" have been announced. You can see all the winning entrants at the Share One Planet website.

This piece, called "Loris Planet" is by Antonio Javier Caparo.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Which is your favorite Ophelia?

The character of Ophelia was a popular subject with 19th century painters. I’d like to ask you to vote for your favorite image in the poll at left. 

In the poll, 678 people cast a vote, and the number of votes for each painting follows each artist's name.

Above: Jules Joseph Lefebvre. 74 votes
If you’re not familiar with Ophelia, she is the tragic young noblewoman in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. Her story has it all: beauty, insanity, death—and flowers!

Above: Alexandre Cabanel. 8
Heartbroken by Hamlet’s apparent madness and rejection of her, she gathers wildflowers, climbs a willow, which slants over the river, and falls into the water, where she drowns.

Above: Arthur Hughes  45
She’s generally shown in 19th century paintings with mussed-up hair, a white dress, a garland of flowers, and a wild look in her eyes.

Above: John Everett Millais.   282

John William Waterhouse was fascinated by Ophelia. He did three versions:

Here’s John William Waterhouse (1)  30 votes

John William Waterhouse (2)  56 votes

John William Waterhouse (3)  44 votes

Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret  21 votes

Frank Dicksee  Thomas Francis Dicksee  13 votes

W. G. Simmonds  13 votes

Antoine-Auguste-Ernest-H├ębert 35 votes

Paul Steck   57 votes

OK! Now that you’ve seen all the images in this post, please cast your vote for your favorite interpretation in the poll at left.

Wikipedia on Ophelia 

Related books:
J.W. Waterhouse
Against the Modern: Dagnan-Bouveret and the Transformation of the Academic Tradition
Sir John Everett Millais (Pre-Raphaelite Painters Series)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Light-Field-Capture Camera

Usually when you take a photograph, you have to select the focal distance and commit to it.

Either the foreground is in focus, or the background is sharp. When you click the shutter, you get one focal setting, and you can’t change it later.

A Silicon Valley start-up company called Lytro has developed a new technology called a “light field camera.” According to the company’s website, it has a completely different lens and capture system, allowing you to take a photograph of a scene and then fiddle with the focus afterward.

Try clicking on different parts of the image below and see the focus change.

Unlike a regular camera, which captures only the light quantities that intersect a single focal plane inside the camera, the light field camera captures the intensity, color, and vector direction of all the rays of light. It replaces many of the internal components of a traditional camera with special software.

The video below gives the pitch:

A website promoting the new technology gives a gallery of images where you can rack the focus to any distance.

If you combined these image interfaces in stereoscopic 3D with eyetracking technology to input the focus changes, I believe you'd get a very powerful 3D illusion.

 More on Engadget 
More on Kurzweil News
Thanks, Carl James Holley and Dorian Iten

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Valdemar by Tuxen

Here's a painting called, "King Valdemar the Great and Bishop Absalon topples the god Svantevit at Arkona, the Wendish capital during the conquest and Christianization of Pomerania in 1168."

 It's by Laurits Tuxen (1853–1927), a Danish painter who studied in the Royal Danish Academy and under Bonnat in Paris.

Another version by the same artist, perhaps a sketch. From Inspirational Art Works

Hugh Ferris Drawings

There’s a Flickr set of 341 drawings by Hugh Ferriss, the early 20th century American architect. The drawings come from the collection at the Avery Library of Columbia University.

The Metropolis of Tomorrow by Ferriss (Dover Books on Architecture)
Wiki on Hugh Ferriss
Via Arkinetblog
Thanks, Kosmograd

Saturday, June 25, 2011

VW Bus

This magnificent old Volkswagen bus was parked in my mechanic’s lot.

I couldn’t resist doing a miniature watercolor portrait of it while I waited around for my car inspection.

My family used to own a VW bus, a slightly newer model. It was terribly underpowered, and gave an earnest whine as it struggled slowly up even the smallest hill. People would pass us, laughing.

Previously: Mud Puddle
Book about the VW Camper

Deciphering an Artist Statement

We artists tend to paper over the lameness of our work with inflated nonsense. Charlotte Young has done us the favor of deciphering the gobbledegook.
Via Boingboing.
Previously: Artist Statement Generator

Friday, June 24, 2011

Meissonier Costume Study

Costume study by Ernest Meissonier, (1815-1891)
Previously: More about Meissonier's costumes

Star Wars Bop Bags

For kids who couldn’t decide whether to hug or slug that crazy new character ARTOO-DETOO™, a 1978 Kenner toy catalog offered inflatable Bop Bags. “Bop ‘em! Love ‘em! They come back for more!”

Thanks, Dave, for the catalog!

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Engrossing was a form of artistic writing popular during the Golden Age of Ornamental Penmanship, which flourished from the 1870s to about 1920.

Engrossers created decorative lettering used on resolutions, certificates, testimonials, memorials, and manifestos. The example above is by Patrick W. Costello (1866-1935). Costello’s engrossing work was often executed in limited tones of Payne’s gray or umber.

Engrossers such as Costello, Dennis, and Sickels often used decorative block letters that influenced cartoonists and poster designers of the 1960s.

Originals were as large as 22 x 28 inches, often illustrated with flags, portraits, flowers, or other pictorial devices. They reflect a culture that placed a premium on congratulatory or memorializing messages, usually presented publicly to formally recognize an individual achievement.
More about the lettering of this era at the IAMPETH website
An Elegant Hand: The Golden Age of American Penmanship and Calligraphy
The Zanerian Manual of Alphabets and Engrossing (Thanks, William!)
Previously on GurneyJourney: Offhand Flourishing

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Iain McCaig’s 1990 Visit

On February 23, 1990, a young fantasy artist named Iain McCaig visited my studio, along with my friends Barry Klugerman (center) and James Warhola (seated).

Iain was on his way to California to find work in the movie business. As one of the most able character and creature designers on the planet, he was quickly snapped up by Lucasfilm, where he designed Darth Maul and Padme. Meanwhile, I was just beginning my illustrated book project called Dinotopia. Note the maquette of Treetown on the far left.

Iain pulled out his sketchpad and drew Warhola, Klugerman, and me.

I got out my sketchbook and drew Iain and Klugerman. We became immediate friends, and I’ve been an admirer of him ever since.

So it was a real pleasure to see Iain again at Illustration Master Class.

Iain McCaig’s book, Shadowline
My book, Imaginative Realism
James Warhola’s book: Uncle Andy’s
Iain's blog, with great face drawing tips
YouTube interview with McCaig
Previous G.J. posts:
Back in NY at a restaurant with Klugerman
Klugerman on illustrated books
Tone paper portrait of Warhola

Speed Painting with Glue

This performer goes before the television cameras with a cool painting stunt.

He uses two hands to paint an image with glue. When doused with white pigment at the end, the image magically appears.

Direct link to YouTube video
Thanks, Best of YouTube

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Robot Hand Design

Attention robot designers: check out the speed and agility of this robot hand, with sophisticated guidance by optical and tactile feedback systems.

The geometry of the hand is very different that of our human hands, and yet capable of lightning dexterity.

Direct link to YouTube video
Thanks, Best of YouTube
Robot Builder's Cookbook

Annigoni’s Egg Tempera Recipe

Eggs, oil, wine, and ground cadmium. Yumm! Sounds good enough to eat. Watch how portrait painter Pietro Annigoni (1910-1988)  mixes his egg tempera.

Direct link to YouTube video
Wikipedia on Annigoni
Painting with Annigoni: A Halcyon Decade
Thanks, Keita

Monday, June 20, 2011

Flying Fish

Herbert James Draper (1863-1920) was another one of those lesser-known Victorian painters who combined good drawing with a romantic sensibility in his painting of mythological subjects.

He based the painting “Flying Fish” on a charcoal study from a live model. The figure’s pose, with the foreshortened near arm, is delightful. He keeps his tonal masses simple. The light mass is kept light throughout, allowing much of the upper figure to read very delicately as light-against-light.

Images from the “Inspirational Works of Art” archive (which contains some artistic nudity). Thanks, Keita!

If you like Draper, you’ll like Waterhouse, Leighton, Tadema, Solomon, and Dicksee.

And there's a 2003 book on Herbert Draper.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ilya Shinshik

Many Dinotopia characters went through various stages until I was happy with them. The mountain farmer from Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara was one example.

Normally I try to catch problems in the sketch stage, but this time I was nearly finished with the transparent oil rendering when I realized that this character looked too similar to other characters in the book. Also, the potato he was feeding to the dinosaur looked sort of like a rock.

So I took the pose again and repainted him as a bearded man of Russian descent, made his outfit red, and changed the potato to a Burmese turnip. His name Ilya Shinshik evokes my two favorite Russian painters: Ilya Repin and Ivan Shishkin.

When it comes to such corrections, oil is very forgiving. Naturally, I had to restate everything more opaquely and paint white over the parts I needed to cover. But the change only took a day, and the first character was never seen again--until now.

Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara from Amazon
Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara signed from the Dinotopia Store

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Restaurant Talk

Here are fourteen universal standard lines used verbatim by table servers in the USA.

1. Table for four? (...and until recently: “Smoking or non?”)
2. Can I start you off with something to drink?
3. Our specials today are...”
4. Can I take your order?
5. How would you like that?
6. Your order will be right out.
7. Fresh ground pepper? (Holding grinder over salad) Tell me when.
8. How's everything?
9. Are you still working on that?
10. Can I take that out of your way?
11. Room for dessert?
12. Warm up on your coffee?
13. Are you ready for your check?
14. I’ll take that when you’re ready.

Explaining Summer Solstice

Summer solstice comes to the northern hemisphere on June 21 at 1:16 P.M. Eastern time. Here's a clear explanation of the sun's behavior in relation to the tilted axis of Earth.
Direct link to YouTube video

Thanks, Michael

Friday, June 17, 2011

Loomis’s figure drawing book is available again.

One of the classic books on figure drawing by a master illustrator from the mid-20th century is available again.

Figure Drawing for All It's Worth was one of my favorites when I was starting out, and I copied many plates from it. For a long time it was out of print and very expensive. The new edition from Titan books is very well produced with good paper and accurate tonality.

 Figure Drawing for All It's Worth by Andrew Loomis
 Thanks, Charley!