Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Olga Lehmann at the Slade School

Olga Lehmann (1912-2001) was a Chilean-born painter who studied at the Slade School in Britain.

While going through the Slade School archives, some 1992 audio interviews with Lehmann turned up where she describes her experience at the school. They've been uploading those interviews to Soundcloud so now we can listen to the Slade oral history: Olga Lehmann.

Lehmann describes arriving at the Slade School at age 17 in 1929, and meeting the instructors Henry Tonks, (who first told her she should take up knitting instead of painting), and Randolph Schwabe, who had done war art in both World Wars.

Sketch by Olga Lehmann
She said that in the life rooms, men and women never mixed. The instruction was in the form of suggestions. When she talks about Slade teaching in the 1930s, she remembered the exercise of doing a painting from life using only black, white, and red.

Thanks to Stephen Chaplin and the Slade School for putting these online.
Wikipedia on Olga Lehmann

Monday, June 29, 2015

Bruno Liljefors and the Fox

The Swedish wildlife artist Bruno Liljefors (1860-1939) spared no effort to achieve a lifelike quality in his paintings.

He skipped social gatherings so that he could rise early and go into the countryside to lie motionless for hours, hidden behind reeds at the water's edge.

Occasionally he brought a gun, saying "Sometimes I have to kill these birds and animals in order to dissect and study their structure." But he needed to see them up close and alive to understand their postures and movements.

He tried sketching at zoos, but found that "the modified captivity of the animals distorts their character and changes their habits."

He created his own menagerie in Uppsala, Sweden with more free-roaming spaces, but even there he found they acted unnaturally—especially the fox, who he wanted most to observe.

So one day he decided to set the fox free.
"When he turned his fox loose he gave him a fair start over his hounds, intending to have a fox-hunt all to himself; but the fox waited quietly for the dogs to come up with him, and then they played together. It was a failure, even from an artistic point of view."  
Quotes from Brush and Pencil, Vol XV, June 1905.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Kickstarting a Will Davies Art Book

Will Davies was the premier Canadian illustrator of the Mad Men era. He's 91 years old now, not painting anymore, but he's still going strong, sharp as ever. (link to video)

Leif Peng, right, created the Today's Inspiration blog which spotlights illustrators from the mid-century era. He has been working to create a full-color, hardbound art book celebrating Will Davies' career.

With three days to go, The Kickstarter campaign is already funded, but Leif and Simon want to get the word out to make sure everybody is aware of the project and its rewards. 

Their dream is to put this book in the hands of Mr. Davies and let him know how much we all love his work.

Final Questions about Gouache

James Gurney, Calla lilies, watercolor and gouache
Joseph Gyurcsak, an artist and brand manager for Utrecht art supplies, wrote to me in the middle of Gouache Week offering to answer any remaining questions. He told me that he worked on developing Utrecht's line of gouache for more than two and a half years, and that he learned a lot about the medium during that time. 

[Gurney]  How would you define gouache compared to other water-based media?
[Gyurcsak/Utrecht] "Firstly, I would like to say by definition gouache is OPAQUE watercolor for those who are confused. Gouache colors were not intended to have the same vibrancy as watercolor because the formulation properties are entirely different. They can be permanent and long lasting; just look at the works of John Singer Sargent or Winslow Homer's wonderful interplay of transparent washes (watercolor) with semi-transparent and opaque passages of gouache. There are times when this interplay (transparent, opaque and impasto) is done as masterfully as an oil painting!

"One more truth: opaque colors in any medium and any brand color line will never carry the vibrancy of color intensity compared to any semi-transparent or transparent color when mixed with white! I preach this color mixing law to all students in my demos and lectures."

[Gurney]  When you helped develop the Utrecht line, what qualities did you want to achieve in the paint, and how did you do it? 
[Gyurcsak/Utrecht] "Gouache colors are very delicate formulations. They need to be opaque, even with pigments that don't want to go this way because of their nature. [They should have a] Flat to satin sheen, [and should] lay down flat, continuous washes without striking [Ed. streaking?] when dry, if possible (mainly for designers), flash dry (for rapid layer build up) and have the ability to create thin detail lines if needed. This is complex and demanding, and that is why the formulations are so very delicate in the pigment-loading ratios compared to all other ingredients.

[Gurney]  What's different about Utrecht gouache? 
[Gyurcsak/Utrecht] "Utrecht gouache is different in way of price. We try to be affordable for all level artists to enjoy professional level materials."

[Gurney]  Is there any way to retard the drying time in gouache, especially when using it in arid conditions? 
[Gyurcsak/Utrecht] "This is opposite to its flash dry [Ed. quick-drying] properties but if an artist must, ox gall or glycerin (with eye dropper) used sparingly will buy some more time."

[Gurney]  Is there any way to eliminate the value changes as gouache dries?
[Gyurcsak/Utrecht] "The shift is going to happen especially more when colors are opaque in gouache and acrylic. Artists develop a sense for working with various mediums and know how to mix in anticipation. Most good instructors advise a test scrap, or as we have seen in artworks from the past at museums, this testing done on borders outside the picture boundaries. I especially love seeing this, as it shows the artist thinking in color notes! Frederick Remington comes to mind."

[Gurney]  Are there any grounds or surfaces that should be avoided when using gouache?
[Gyurcsak/Utrecht] "Slick ones, gouache wants to peel from these more plastic type surfaces."

[Gurney]  Can gouache be used as a substrate for other painting media, such as oil?
[Gyurcsak/Utrecht] "Yes, watercolor, chalk pastel, acrylic and oil color. It must be sealed with a Krylon clear spray for oil, to avoid oil bleeding and staining the colors."

[Gurney]  Do you recommend varnishing gouache to get more depth of color and glossiness? What sealers or varnishes would you recommend using or avoiding?
[Gyurcsak/Utrecht] "Krystal clear Krylon is excellent for this, but beware, it is permanent, so rework may be difficult after application. But it will bring increased depth, and many illustrators and designers use this. Believe it or not, a simple non-museum glass in framing gives it depth."

Painting Calla Lilies in Monterey, Calif. 
[Gurney] again. I thought this would be a good time to answer some of the questions that we weren't able to get to during the live-stream painting last week.

4:29 NatalieBarahona: Do you always do an underpainting for gouache plein air studies?

[Gurney] No, I generally paint directly on the watercolor paper. I use an underpainting either to provide some interesting color possibilities or to seal up the fibers of the paper. Burt Silverman often worked in gouache over gesso, or he primed watercolor paper with a thin layer of white gouache underneath watercolor. It's good to experiment with lots of variations to see what kind of surface you like. In the case of the calla lily sketch at the top of the post, I underpainted the whole image with yellow except for the white areas.
4:38 miaomiao: Hi James! are you usually saving your most saturate colors at end? or it depends?

[Gurney] I do often save the most saturated or highest-chroma accents for the end, especially if they're small accents. But other times I start with high chroma in the underpainting and cut back on the color by covering it with low-chroma layers, such as the passage at right.

4:50 ludicrous-sin-filtro-scriptus: how many camera guys do you use to film your dvds?
[Gurney] I don't use any crew. I shoot them all myself. Sometimes if I'm lucky I can convince Jeanette to operate a camera, but she's usually busy sketching. The moving camera shots are done using geared-down Lego motors on homemade dollies.

4:45 Kozart: any major tips for mixing colors/ getting the colors that you're looking for?
[Gurney] Yes. When you go to mix a color, mix the HUE first, then the VALUE, then the CHROMA. Exercise: Get a bunch of color swatches from the paint store and try to mix a patch of paint in less than five seconds that you can dab onto the swatch for a perfect match.

4:49 nickgoeslife: What are some things you did when you were new at plein air to really push yourself and grow your skills?
[Gurney] Painting outdoors speeds up the decision-making because of the pressure of the circumstances. I did a lot of that, switching media, and working in black and white from time to time.

4:49 dirktiede: I find that when drawing or painting outside, I have a tendency to rush. Any tips on how to stay calm and focused and give the drawing/painting the time it needs?
[Gurney] I think that's one of the most important things to keep in mind. It's not just a matter of time; it's a matter of concentration. We all tend to rush too much and to be too distractable. Going back a second (or third) day when the light is the same is a good practice, just to see how far you can push an outdoor painting.

4:52 arturo-ramirez: Is this being recorded and available for later watching. I would love to watch it again and see the whole process.
[Gurney] I was hoping to have a highlight video at least, but we've had some audio problems. Best thing to do is to press the "follow" button on my ConcertWindow page to make sure you don't miss the next one.

4:53 andreasipl: can you put more pencil on top of gouache? keep building detail?
[Gurney] Yes, because of the matte surface, gouache accepts pencil, pastel, water-soluble colored pencil, or pen. It's a nice way to put in accents and definition at the end.

5:03 MikeA: Do you get kicked out of places often?
[Gurney] No, not too often. But I (and the readers) tell lots of "gamestopper" stories at this previous post.
Own the 72-minute feature "Gouache in the Wild"
• HD MP4 Download at Gumroad $14.95
• or HD MP4 Download at Sellfy (for Paypal customers) $14.95
• DVD at Purchase at Kunaki.com (Region 1 encoded NTSC video) $24.50

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Banana Pudding Cake

After finishing my scrambled eggs this morning at the diner, I painted the still life on the counter in front of me. And then I made a one minute video about it (Link to video)

The banana pudding cake sits on a paper doily in its covered cake stand. This little painting is mostly transparent watercolor from my pan set. I used a little bit of gouache for the doily and for the highlights in the cylindrical cover. 

Some of My Favorite Gouache Masters

Over the years, gouache has attracted some brilliant painters. Here are some virtuosi:

Menzel, The Interior of the Jacobskirche at Innsbruck, 1872, 15 3/4 × 10 5/16 in.

Adolph Menzel (1815-1905) This long-lived German artist made important contributions in oil, pencil, watercolor, and engraving, but it was said of him that he expressed his greatest truths in gouache.

Wm. Trost Richards Moonlit Landscape, 1862, gouache, 6 7/8 x 13 3/8 in.
William Trost Richards  (1833-1905) American landscape painter who often painted small works on tone paper. He was equally competent in oil.

Thomas Moran (1837-1926) Moran painted in oil in his studio work, but brought gouache on location to the American West with some of the first survey teams.

Leaves watercolor and gouache 8 5/8" x 6 3/4"
Fidelia Bridges (1834 - 1923) American student of Trost Richards, who painted sensitively observed close-ups of plants.

Albert Beck Wenzell (1864-1917) Belle Epoque illustrator of society life who often worked in black and white.

Stepan Kolesnikov  (d. 1955) Russian painter of solid peasants and spindly trees.

Eugène Galien-Laloue (1854-1941) French boulevard painter during la Belle Époque. He painted scenes of bustling streets at twilight. They may have been painted by formula, but it was an impressive formula!

Albert Brenet (1903-2005), a French illustrator specializing in trains and ships.
Coby Whitmore, 1950, For the story Heartbreak by A. Barke
Coby Whitmore (1913-1988) Mid-century style-setting illustrator, always innovative with his compositions.

Harry Anderson (1906-1996) known on this blog for his magazine illustrations of women and children, he painted in tempera—here's one of his plein-air landscapes.

Freshwater Pond Life, ca. 1970. 12 ½ x 28 ½ inches
Ned M. Seidler (d.2007) was one of the natural history illustrators for National Geographic and the U.S. Postal Service in the 1970s, often compressing a whole ecosystem into a single picture.

Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman. Known as "Fitz and Van" this team painted car ads for Detroit, with consummate control over craft.

Carl Evers (1907-2000) German-born artist specializing in ships and water.

Leynnwood ‘Memphis Belle’, a Boeing B-17F.
Jack Leynnwood (1921-1999) painted many of the best covers for the Revell plastic models. He painted both in gouache and casein.

Ralph McQuarrie (1929-2012) concept artist for the original Star Wars series.

Syd Mead (born 1933) The combination of Ridley Scott's dystopian vision and Mead's sense of believable detail made the art for Blade Runner some of the finest concept art of all time.

I know I've left out a lot of others, but go ahead and mention them in the comments. Thanks, Charley Parker, Armand Cabrera, and all the others on Facebook who reminded me of some names I had forgotten.

Friday, June 26, 2015

GJ Book Club: Chapter 12, Unity of Line (Part 2) Curved Lines

On the GJ Book Club, we're looking at Chapter 12: "Rhythm, Variety of Line" in Harold Speed's 1917 classic The Practice and Science of Drawing. The following numbered paragraphs cite key points in boldface. If you would like to respond to a specific image or point, please precede your comment by the corresponding number.

This is part 2 of the chapter, about curved lines. Because I've been so busy with Gouache Week, I've barely looked into the chapter, I'll just present some of the main points and images. I'll pass on my own responses and leave the discussion to you in the comments.

1. Curved lines have not the moral integrity of straight lines....without the steadying power of straight lines and flatnesses, curves get out of hand and lose their power....We recognise this integrity of straight lines when we say anybody is "an upright man" or is "quite straight," wishing to convey the impression of moral worth.

2. Always be on the look out for straightnesses in curved forms and for planes in your modelling.

3. Illustration showing the "Power of Curved Lines to Convey Energy."

4. Illustrating the flow of lines (in Botticelli's Venus) on which the Rhythmic Unity of the Picture Depends.

5. Rhythmic Lines in Veronese Rape of Europa.

6. Diagram of "Clash of Lines" from Uccello's Battle of St. Egidio

7. Showing how Lines unrelated can be brought into harmony by the introduction of others in sympathy with them (also below)

8. Indicating the sympathetic flow of lines that give unity to this composition.

9. Illustrating the effect on the face of putting the hair up at the back. How the upward flow of lines accentuates the sharpness of the features (left), and fullness of the features (right).

The Practice and Science of Drawing is available in various formats:
1. Inexpensive softcover edition from Dover, (by far the majority of you are reading it in this format)
3. Free online Archive.org edition.
and The Windsor Magazine, Volume 25, "The Art of Mr. Harold Speed" by Austin Chester, page 335. (thanks, अर्जुन)
GJ Book Club on Pinterest (Thanks, Carolyn Kasper)
New GJ Facebook page, credit Jenna Berry

Painting Dan Gurney's "Pepsi Challenger"

When I was in southern California last fall, I painted the "Pepsi Challenger," a Formula 1 race car designed and built by my cousin Dan Gurney and his team back in 1981 (link to YouTube video).

Dan let me set up my sketch easel in his museum, and I interviewed him about the car. The edit mixes my voiceover about the making of the painting with clips of him talking about the design of the car.

Note that the car doesn't have rear view mirrors. They were taken off for some reason, but we joked that when you're way out in first place, you don't need rear view mirrors.

I've been intrigued by this kind of edit, which juxtaposes two different ways of looking at the object being painted. My viewpoint is that of the naïve observer, trying to translate my outward impression into paint, and his is the expert who knows the object inside out.

The expert's perspective is a reminder to me not only of the importance of accuracy, but it also helps to push me beyond the limitations of the moment and the surface, where so many plein-air paintings become stuck.

For this video, we also have the third element of my great-uncle John Gurney's operatic aria playing in the soundtrack, which connects the art of painting with the unusual heritage of my family. I hope it also expresses the kinship between the arts of painting, engineering, and music.

What I tried to accomplish with "Gouache in the Wild" as a whole is to explore the magic of seeing the world firsthand through paint, and to let each painting hinge open like a doorway into new worlds.
Own the 72-minute feature "Gouache in the Wild"
• HD MP4 Download at Gumroad $14.95
• or HD MP4 Download at Sellfy (for Paypal customers) $14.95
• DVD at Purchase at Kunaki.com (Region 1 encoded NTSC video) $24.50

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Painting "Brownies" Comic Characters

In this mini trailer segment from "Gouache in the Wild" (Link to YouTube) I visit the antique toy collection of Mel Birnkrant to paint his "Brownies" candy containers in acryla gouache in a Pentalic 5x8 inch watercolor journal.

I'm fascinated by the character design from a century ago. They have a sort of eager mania with their big eyes and effervescent smiles. Who can resist those cute Kewpies with their eyes coyly turned aside, and the bouyant little Brownies. No wonder, they were designed by top artists of their day. 

The Brownies were created by Palmer Cox (1840–1924) starting in the 1880s. They were all little men, and they included standard types of that era: Uncle Sam, the Cowboy, the Policeman, the Sailor, the German, and the Chinaman. Brownies were some of the first mass-merchandised characters, and the Kodak "Brownie" camera was named after them.

It's one thing to look at these antique toys, but quite another to paint their portraits. Painting physical character toys is one of the best exercises for artists who want to get better at character design, especially for 3D CG animation. 

Read more
The next best thing to sketching a real museum of toys is to check out Mel Birnkrant's phantasmagorical website, starting with the page on Kewpies and Brownies.

Own the 72-minute feature "Gouache in the Wild"
• HD MP4 Download at Gumroad $14.95
• or HD MP4 Download at Sellfy (for Paypal customers) $14.95
• DVD at Purchase at Kunaki.com (Region 1 encoded NTSC video) $24.50

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Gouache demo today on ConcertWindow

Here's the gouache landscape I painted "in the wild" today during the hour-long live webcast on ConcertWindow. Thanks to the 150 of you who joined in from as far as Australia, Russia, Argentina and all over the USA!

Len Nicholas asked the type of sketchbook I was using. It's a Pentalic 5x8 inch watercolor journal, which are now back in stock.
Own the 72-minute feature "Gouache in the Wild"
• HD MP4 Download at Gumroad $14.95
• or HD MP4 Download at Sellfy (for Paypal customers) $14.95
• DVD at Purchase at Kunaki.com (Region 1 encoded NTSC video) $24.50

Meet Cameron the iPad Holder

Meet "Cameron" the iPad holder with a little sculpted face on the side. (I made the face out of Model Magic). The pupil of his eye is really a hole above the iPad's camera to remind me to "look the viewers in the eye" and also that the CAMERA-is-ON.

I'll be using him for my gouache painting live webstream today at 4:00 NY time on ConcertWindow.

You can follow this link to my broadcast page and be there when I go live. The show will last for one hour. It's totally interactive, with Jeanette reading your questions while I paint.

There are also special tip rewards show here, such as signed, hand-remarqued first day covers of the Australian dinosaur stamps, and a customized doorknob hanger to put on your studio door.

 Gurney gouache painting live webstream today at 4:00 NY time on ConcertWindow.