Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Here's a sketch I did of a gentleman who was sitting in front of me at a concert.

I loved the way his tendons showed up on the back of his hand, the way his fingers bent slightly backward, and the way the skin of his cheek wrinkled up as he pushed on it.

Of course he didn't hold this pose for the whole time, but he returned to it a few times through the concert.

Here are the tools I used: Yasutomo Niji WaterbrushCaran D'Ache watercolor pencilsMoleskine Watercolor Notebook


Truepinkas said...

Hello James,

After seeing your wonderful little watercolor pieces from your Moleskine for a while now I finally decided to make a more concerted push to improve my own watercolor skills (I even started a blog to document my successes, failures and stuff like that. No sense keeping any neat things I learn to myself after all).

I’m really enjoying myself, but I was wondering how do you go about protecting your sketchbook watercolors? Aside from the obvious of keeping them in a cool dry place and not throwing them into lakes, ponds, or bathtubs, are there any special precautions you take or products use to extend the life of these little gems?

Thanks for all the great advice and inspiration,
Joshua Pinkas

zs said...

Hi James,
I`ve always wanted to ask you if you actually use whiteout of some kind[White pencils, white poster paint, white watercolour etc] to paint in the highlights and rimlights or do you actually plan it in advance and leave that part unpainted?

It`s baffling how you get such nice rimlights and white areas. This question also applies to all the white areas in the painting, like his hair, and to a certain extent, his shirt.


Keith Parker said...

I recently bought a brush and moleskin just like the ones you mentioned and a Small set of derwent water soluble pencils. It's a fun new medium for me. The black is overpowering though. How did you create the freckles/sunspots on the man's skin?

James Gurney said...

Good question. Truepinkas: to protect the sketches, I just keep the sketchbooks up on a dry shelf. But even if I took the pages out and put them in the sun, they'd be pretty lightfast. I've tested the materials on long exposures to the light, and even then I haven't had any problems with that.

Good eye, ZS. I used a touch of white gouache for those rim lights hair highlights. I also used a white Supracolor II pencil for the hair. The rest of the light areas in his skin and shirt are handled transparently.

James Gurney said...

Keith, glad you're enjoying them. The freckles and wrinkles are done mostly with a brown colored pencil. I agree that the black (in the waterbrush) can sometimes be overpowering as a background color, so I also have a waterbrush filled with a dark cool blue-gray.

Ravi Gupta said...

amzazing study. :)

Bob Renaud said...

Always enjoy taking a break and enjoying some good gurney art.keep on creating. Blessings my friend
Bob r.

Elaine Chen said...

The simplicity yet detail in this piece is astonishing. Knowing that it was done during a concert and a moving model. Was much of this done based on your familiarity with the paint? I assume the lighting during the concert must have been pretty dim. I have always had trouble wanting to paint a late night scene yet I cannot see what I am painting myself.

I don't know if the question makes sense. But thanks for sharing and taking the time to answer people's questions. They are all very helpful

Connie Nobbe said...

This is probably a dumb question, but...How did you do this during a concert? Surely you didn't have your watercolors out during the show?? Did you take a photo and paint it later?

Dan Kent said...

Heh. I went to a concert, and brought a mere pen and moleskine. They lowered the lights and my drawing was completely wonky, but it has character.

I am totally and utterly blown away by this sketch. Generally I use pen and watercolors - have to consider those colored pencils - but I hae a sick feeling that it is not the materials. ;)

Keith Parker said...

I'm willing to bet he painted at least 85 to 90 percent right then and there. Might've added the highlights later at home.

James Gurney said...

Sorry it took me a while to get to your questions. Yes, this was all done at the concert. It was a very informal one held in a brightly lit public library. My son was playing accordion up front and the audience was mostly kids and old people. They had a big bin of popcorn in the back of the room and kids kept hopping up during the concert to get more snacks. So no one noticed me drawing pictures.

The skin tones are just transparent tints of various ochre, red-brown and brown watercolor pencils.

Matthew Zikry said...

Absolutely incredible James!
So much detail, in such a small drawing! I wish one of these days to follow you on one of your drawing adventures, and see a true master at work!
I didn't even know that that watercolor sketchbook existed, and for so cheap! Would save me the time of making them :p Thanks for the image James!

mcahogarth said...

How beautiful people are. :)

Carol Scown-Raynal said...

You surely must have read that book "Color and Light - a guide for the realist painter" to use colors and make such a neat painting ! :-))