Saturday, October 31, 2015

Graveyard Painting Results

We received an overwhelming response to the challenge to paint a graveyard on location in a limited palette. There were dozens of entries on the Facebook event page from all over the world, including Taiwan, New Zealand, South Africa, Europe, Mexico, and all over the USA and Canada.  

Some of you painted outside for the first time, or with gouache for the first time, or it was first time out with a limited palette. Some went out with other painters or with members of your family. Some of you painted the graves of your relatives. Some overcame real fears and found a peaceful mood.

Congratulations and thanks to everyone who took part! Following is the Grand Prize winner and the six Finalists. It was really hard to decide because there were so many excellent entries. 

Grand Prize Winner: Garrett Eaton
Location: Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, CA, which was designed by Fredrick Olmsted (the guy who designed Central Park). 
Palette: Gouache -- Cadmium Yellow Lemon, Ultramarine Light, Burnt Sienna, and Permanent White. 

Artist's comment: Because of its age, many stones are broken and haphazardly lie about; this is what I chose to paint. The light changed significantly over the course of the painting and as a result, my sketch is an amalgam of multiple lighting conditions. Didn't quite get the shadow depth completely.

My comment: Wow, when I was a student I lived just a few miles from this graveyard and never knew about it. Really nice job of color, composition, and lighting.

Location: "Stadtgottesacker", Halle/Saale, Germany
Palette: Gouache -- black, Paris blue, raw sienna and white.

Artist's comment: I always liked a certain sculpture on a cemetery in the middle of the city called "Stadtgottesacker". The whole place is beautiful, but it had to be this sculpture. Today I went there to paint this challenging motif. It took me around four hours. The text says: Aliis inserviendo consumor - In serving others, I consume myself.

My comment: Beautiful design and color, well drawn, and fascinating text.

Artist: Karen Winslow
Location: Mountainview Cemetery in Cambridge, Vermont. 
Palette: Oil, cadmium yellow light, Perylene red, and Delft blue, plus white. 

My comment: I liked the mixture of soft edges and crisp details, and the beautiful grays you got in the background, and the shadowed foreground. Also I was so impressed by the other painting you did by moonlight, Karen! 

Artist: Ian Bosworth
Location: Mabe church in Cornwall, UK.
Palette: Gouache--Ivory black, Raw sienna and a touch of Indian red.

Artist's comment: Never painted a cemetery before but I quite enjoyed it!

My comment: Super job. It was a good choice to go with the black to get that maximum contrast. I don't miss seeing the blue colors at all. Wonderful depth between the cropped foreground and the far fields.

Location: Non-Catholic Cemetery of Rome, Italy.
Palette: Watercolor -- Burnt sienna, French Ultramarine blue and Yellow ochre.

My comment: Sargent palette! I like the way you blended the colors wet-into-wet in the shadows.You added so much life and energy to what was there.

Artist: Michael Mrak
Location: Basking Ridge, New Jersey
Palette: Gouache-- Gamboge, Vermilion, and Ultramarine Blue. Plus white.

Artist's comment: I had never been to this graveyard before but I was looking for one that was 'historic'. The big maple hadn't started turning yet, but the light was great. Next time I'll need to remember to dress warmer.

My comment: Your painting really gives the feeling of standing there. I like the way the stones seem to be congregated around the tree. The tree looks as ancient as the graves.

Artist: Ed Mostly
Location: Decommissioned crematorium oven on display at Arnos Vale, a large cemetery in Bristol, UK.
Palette: Noodlers Lexington grey ink, Permanent Rose and Quinacridone Gold.

Artist's comment: It was installed in the 1930s, and is a grimly fascinating object to study, an industrial 'memento mori'! It provoked a range of reactions from the other visitors, including an awed 'Wow' from a Goth couple. My wife's family is from the area and there's a possibility her granddad might have passed through its portal.

My comment: Yikes, it has a face! I love the subtle grayness of your color and value choices.

To the winner and finalists, please email me your mailing address so that I can send you a "Department of Art" embroidered patch. You can find my contact info on the bottom left column of the blog.

To all who participated, and who added likes and comments to the pages, thank you! It really had the feeling of camaraderie that comes from a group paint-out, without the distraction of entry fees and auctions.

Check out all the entries on the Graveyard Painting Facebook page, and leave a comment.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Refillable Fountain Pens

Greg Shea asks: "Do you have experience drawing/sketching with a refillable old style fountain pen? (The kind where you draw ink into the pen to refill it, not the kind that uses cartridges). I'd like to fill a pen with walnut ink, so I can use it to to do drawings with addad watercolor. I usually use dip pens with crow quill nibs, but they can be a pain to use and to carry around."

I've tried a bunch of different systems for through-the-nib refills, including a twist-knob-piston type, the squeeze-bulb, and the lever-action on the outside of the handle. I remember using one called a Pelikan 120 that was popular as a drawing pen about 30 years ago, but I haven't seen them around recently. Many of the Chinese brands, such as Jinhao and Baoer are both inexpensive and refillable.

My favorite is the piston cartridge that comes as an accessory with Waterman pens, such as the low-end Phileas brand. You can get the converter as a separate item if you already have a Waterman pen. You can also refill the cartridges with a hypodermic syringe, which is cleaner than through the nib refills.

Previously: How to Refill a Fountain Pen

Philadelphia Visit

Thanks to everyone who came to my presentation yesterday in Philadelphia, including the students from the University of the Arts and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

Sorry we ran out of Dinotopia books, but you can get them signed at our web store if you live in the USA.

Gallery director and illustration professor Ralph Giguere hosted us, and Senior Lecturer Dominick Saponaro joined us for supper.

The exhibition of original art from Dinotopia will be up at the UARTS gallery at Anderson Hall, 333 South Broad Street, 7th Floor in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania until November 16.

Meanwhile on YouTube

Street Painting in Indiana is my first YouTube video to pass 100K views. If you missed it, it's embedded and linked below.

(YouTube link) Thanks everyone for checking out my videos. 


Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Perfect Sketchbook, Perfected

Last night at 9:00, Erwin Lian launched an Indiegogo campaign for a new version of "The Perfect Sketchbook." He sent me samples, and I have to agree, they are perfect.

(Link to YouTube)
It has a very heavyweight Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper that is robust enough to stand up to any technique, with a recycled leather cover that will be custom embossed with the names of backers at the slightly higher levels.

The book is more than twice as large as the first pocket sized Perfect Sketchbook. Being vertical in format, it's ideal for doing portraits.

I can recommend this sketchbook for anyone who wants to pass down a treasured keepsake of their visual encounter with the world around them. Here's the link to the Indiegogo campaign, which has just launched.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Article on Dramatic Lighting

I wrote an article appearing in the current (November) issue of ImagineFX magazine about painting bizarre lighting on location. The article opens: "Who says you have to copy mundane reality when you're outside plein-air painting?"

I'll share more about the making of this painting on the blog in November. It will be one of the subjects of an upcoming tutorial video called "Fantasy in the Wild."

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Painting a Hearse in a Limited Palette

When a hearse pulls up in front of your house, paint it! Because you can't paint it once you're inside it.

1967 Oldsmobile hearse, gouache, 5 x 8 inches, by James Gurney
This is the classic dead man's limo.

The limited palette is brilliant purple, cadmium yellow deep, raw sienna, and white. This is really a complementary palette, using two values of yellow against purple. The short new video on YouTube shows the sequence of steps.

This wraps up our visit to Colorado. On Thursday we'll be at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia for a lecture and book signing in connection with "The Art of James Gurney" exhibition.

Today is the deadline for the Graveyard Painting Challenge, and I want to thank everyone who joined in. The results (and stories) are amazing, and they're from all over the world. It's going to be really hard to choose the finalists.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Painting at a Wolf Sanctuary

In this new video, we visit a wolf sanctuary to feed the wolves and paint their portraits. (Link to YouTube video)

Wolves are silent most of the time, and they bark only when they're scared. When occasional visitors like us appear at the sanctuary, the "ambassador wolves" are curious to meet us. 

They're hungry and restless at first because it's feeding day, which happens only twice a week. After feeding them donated livestock, we enter the enclosure and sit down with our backs straight.

I'm not scared, really, but more intensely riveted, especially when they bring their noses right up and press them against mine, with their yellow eyes looking right through me. 

Portraits of wolves by James Gurney, casein, 5 x 8 inches
Once they have checked us out to see we're not a threat, they're no longer interested in us. They're ready to take a nap, and we set up our easels just outside their enclosure. 

Here's a video with more about Mission: Wolf (Link to Vimeo)

Mission: Wolf allows visitors, and you can even stay there for a couple weeks if you're willing to volunteer your time.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Alleys in Salida

In Salida, Colorado, we wake up early and paint in the alleys. I use a limited palette of titanium white, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, and Prussian blue (also called iron blue).

I choose those pigments because they're enough to mix anything in the scene, and I am guaranteed that the overall effect will be harmonious.

Here's the same alley at sunset, facing the opposite direction, and painted with a different set of colors. This one is cadmium yellow deep, raw sienna, and brilliant purple. It's basically a complementary scheme with two values of yellow on one side and violet on the other.

Finally, here's Jeanette's sketch of the same alley earlier in the day, using transparent watercolor and a Micron 02 pen. "This is line and wash," she says. "I lay it in with pencil, then put in the washes, then finish it off with pen. I like having a pen to define forms with lines and dots."

Glenn Tait had a couple questions after yesterday's post:

Would you or have you done a two page spread like this using gouache?
Yes, gouache works fine for a double page spread, too. Sometimes colored pencil will rub off on a facing page, but the paint stays down pretty well. You just want to be sure the closed book doesn't get too much heavy pressure after it's finished. Painting panoramas in open spreads is a common practice among Urban Sketchers. You can set up a special frame to make a changing home display of your open books.

What is the "open" time on the palette with casein compared to gouache?
All things being equal, I believe casein stays wet or open on the palette a little longer, though I haven't done a systematic experiment. But the more important variables are: 1. Humidity, 2. Whether you're in the direct sun, and 3. Whether or not you squeeze the paint on a damp paper towel. Given those variables, gouache or casein can set up on the palette in anything from 20 minutes to three hours.

The good thing is that the texture of the paint changes as it dries from runny to thick, and that's what you need at various stages of the painting. I like to have runny, wet paint at the beginning as I'm laying in the big areas, and thicker, goopier paint for highlights and accents at the end. If I want to paint for more than a couple of hours, I just wipe off the palette and squeeze out new colors.
Video tutorial: "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 (Region 1 encoded NTSC video) $24.50

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Speed Painting in Colorado

The cottonwoods in the Gunnison River Valley of Colorado are lit up with autumn color, and I decide to paint the view as a double page spread. Check out the speed-painting video: (Link to YouTube Video

Gunnison River Valley, casein, 5 x 16 inches.
Video tutorial: "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 (Region 1 encoded NTSC video) $24.50

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado is a deep cleft in the ground with almost vertical cliffs of rock leading down to a whitewater river thousands of feet below.  

Black Canyon of the Gunnison, casein, 5 x 8 inches
Rudyard Kipling described an 1889 visit: "We entered a gorge, remote from the sun, where the rocks were two thousand feet sheer, and where a rock splintered river roared and howled ten feet below a track which seemed to have been built on the simple principle of dropping miscellaneous dirt into the river and pinning a few rails a-top. There was a glory and a wonder and a mystery about the mad ride, which I felt keenly..."

The sun disappears behind clouds, so I try to reconstruct the light effect from memory. A thunderstorm is coming, so I pack up quickly and run back before the rain and lightning comes. 
October 27 is the deadline for the Graveyard Painting Challenge. Check out the amazing paintings that are already appearig on the Facebook Event Page.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Upcoming Appearances

I'm excited to announce some upcoming public appearances. They're all gatherings that I would recommend, so come on by, say hello, and get your book signed. 
October 29, 2015: University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA.
In connection with the museum exhibition, "The Art of James Gurney," I'll come to Philadelphia for a digital slide lecture, booksigning, and reception.
Public Presentation: Thursday, October 29: 1 - 2:30 pm, Levitt Auditorium
Reception: Thursday, October 29: 3 - 4 pm, 
at the Von Hess Gallery, Anderson Hall, 333 S Broad StreetPhiladelphia, PA 19107

April 14-15, 2016: Portrait Society Conference, Washington, DC
I'll be doing an opening lecture, a breakout session, reportorial sketching, and other surprises. This is the best convention if you like head painting from life.

September 11-17, 2016: SKB Workshop, Dubois, Wyoming
I'll be a featured instructor, with lectures, demos, and camaraderie. This is a week-long intensive workshop with multiple instructors, and an emphasis on outdoor painting and wildlife art.

October 28-30, 2016: Spectrum Fantastic Art Live, San Francisco
I'm thrilled to be a featured guest, with lectures, book signing, sketching. They're still announcing the other guests, but one will be Bruce Timm. The event will be hosted by Arnie & Cathy Fenner, John Fleskes, and Academy of Art University, one of my favorite art schools.

Down from the Mountain

We make it safely down from the mountain to Animas Forks, Silverton, and then Durango. I celebrate by painting a view of Durango in casein.

People from Colorado are so lucky to have the mountains around them, and everyone seems to embrace the outdoors.

Engineer Pass

According to the website Dangerous Roads, the rough gravel road from Lake City to Silverton over Engineer Pass is "mostly a first gear ride because the road is rough and rocky.  The road is difficult and it’s a nightmare in the wet or dark (or both). It's really too narrow for a 4WD pickup truck."

At 12,800 feet, Engineer Pass is one of the highest mountain passes in Colorado, and winter is rapidly closing in.

We stop for a packed lunch in an alpine valley as the road heads farther and farther up.

The abandoned Ute-Ulay Mine beckons us to explore.

The forge was recently used by miners. Core samples drilled from deep underground lay in boxes all around. A letter on the floor, sent from a brother in the Iraq War, says that life wasn't so bad in boot camp: "It does suck, but everything here becomes a custom. Only thing I miss is listening to my music."

Miners lived up here year round, despite avalanches that cut them off from civilization.

We find an open mine shaft and explore deep into it, turning back when we hit water. This is close to the area where the EPA released a flood of toxic water into the Animas river. 

Here's what it sounds like inside the mine (link to Soundcloud file)

The road leads higher and the snow gets deeper. We're above the tree line and higher than most of the adjacent peaks. The road is just a narrow shelf along the mountain face. It divides into multiple forks, with no signs or maps. Which way from here? The only way seems to be up. Somehow we've got to get over and begin the descent....