Friday, June 13, 2014

Allen Williams, Painting

I asked Allen Williams if I could paint him while he worked at Illustration Master Class in Amherst, Massachusetts yesterday. He said yes, so I set up my little casein easel. 

I love Allen's artwork, which has infinite depths and the quiet rhythms of Nature. I was attracted to him as a subject because of the joyful, focused attention he brings to his work. 

Allen Williams, painted by James Gurney. Photo by Lauren Panepinto.
Cool window light flooded his work area from behind, and the room lights were relatively warm. I had to decide between framing his profile against the dark painting or the cool window, and I think it could have worked either way.

Over a colored pencil lay-in, I washed in some warm and cool tones and started to establish the darks with a half-inch flat synthetic brush.

Now I'm blocking in big areas. I want the profile silhouetted against the light, but that dark edge of the painting is too hard.
I soften and cool that edge. I rub out and repaint the ear a couple of times, and sort out the big plane changes on his back. I switch to a smaller round as I paint details of his face.

Next I define the hand, add more detail in the hair, and a little more resolution in Allen's painting.

Scroll back up to the top for the finish, where I add the glasses, the mahl stick and I rework the bottom edge of the vignette.

I used the following colors of casein:
Titanium white
Allen Williams' website


Drew said...

Allen Williams' work is breathtaking, for sure. I really enjoyed his contribution to Pacific Rim.

Also, I got a bit of a laugh out of his mahl stick being just a 2 x 4. Rather ingenious though! I imagine it's a much more comfortable hand rest than a skinny rod.

Jeff Lafferty said...

Thats a really nice little painting, excellent work.

Robb said...

Hey Jim -
What set off your alarms that the edge of the painting was too hard? I've been focusing lately on really trying to get crisp silhouetted lights against darks against lights, and this would have made my day to get such a nice crisp dark on the lighter blue background. How did you recognize that it was too dark and why? As always, thanks for such an informative post, and for continuing to have the fire in your belly to keep this thing running and so informative!! Much love to you! Cheers, -Robb

James Gurney said...

Robb, thanks for the kind words. I'm not sure what set off the alarm, but I just thought the shape of the profile was crowded by the other line, and the whole thing looked too flat.

Dan said...

Nice portrait, James. I love how this kind of sketch records a moment in a simple way--the artistic equivalent of a snapshot. Your remark about the hard edge of the painting, and seeing how you softened and cooled it with some of the light from the window, was very interesting.

Thanks for introducing me to Allen Williams' work. It's inspiring to see him getting so much depth and expression with graphite and paper. There seems to be such a palpable rhythm in all his work.

Beth said...

Softening that edge was terrific. You took an area that was ok and showed how to make it really work. Thank you so much for the step by step.

Phan Helen said...

Like this!

Jeff adams said...

That is a really very nice small painting, good Jeff Adams

feeb said...

I've been trying casein and I love it. You've cited portability and its somewhat oil-like properties. Regarding that: do you typically paint fresh from the tube, or work from dried pigments in your palette? As ever: thanks so much for sharing your substantial knowledge.