Wednesday, August 31, 2016

IFX Reviews Portrait Video

The new issue of ImagineFX takes a look at the new Portraits in the Wild video:

"James' latest video shows him doing the groundwork that supports his successful attempts to represent the breadth of humanity in his illustrations."

"The task this time," they say, "is to get figures on to paper while the 'models' get on with whatever they're doing: queueing for food at a country fair, working in a historical re-enactment village, or performing in a choir. There's also a more formal modelling session with a model who, James says, 'We knew wouldn't stay still.'" 

IFX says that my "In The Wild" videos are "creative beacons, informing the way you approach your craft and encouraging you to use the world around you to enrich your work. There's a great deal of enjoyment to be had from the characters that you meet along the way; and the Sacred Harp choir performance, which you'll hear fragments of as James paints, is sensational." 
Portraits in the Wild 
Download (66 minutes, 1080p HD widescreen MP4 video) Available at GumroadSellfy, and Cubebrush.
DVD (NTSC widescreen with slideshow) Available from and from Amazon.
IFX Reviews Tyrannosaur Video

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Painting a Chicken from Life

(Link to YouTube)
When I sit down to paint this magnificent little rooster, I'm hoping for a pose that's a little bit unusual, not just the standard profile. Luckily the bird cooperates by striking a napping pose with his beak tucked backward.

It only lasts a couple of minutes, but it's enough time for me to quickly sketch it in. The rest I reconstruct while observing him in other poses. I use just three colors of gouache: Perylene maroon, viridian, and permanent yellow (Arylide), plus white.
Full length video tutorials: Gouache in the Wild and Watercolor in the Wild

Monday, August 29, 2016

Horse Walk Cycles

Here's a walk cycle of a horse, animated from four angles by Simon Otto in preparation for Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. (link to YouTube)

Whether you're a painter, sketch artist, or an animator, it's helpful to study frame-by-frame breakdowns of walk cycles. Still one of the best sources is the pioneering work of Edweard Muybridge, who took photos of horses in motion as early as 1878.

Muybridge horse walking with rider
Here's one basic observation about a walking quadruped. Typically when one of the front legs passes the other's position, the back legs will be at full extension (first and last frame above). 

Similarly, when the back legs pass each other (frames 6 and 7), the front legs are at full extension. (Note: read the action from right to left starting in the second row.)

Even if you're a painter and not an animator, it's good practice to sketch a few key poses so that you can generate them from memory. This can be a big help later when you're sketching living animals. When they're moving at normal speed it's almost too fast to observe.

Here are some resources if you want to explore this topic further.

More about Simon Otto


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Getting Blur into Stop Motion Animation

You've met the monster named Sprocket. Now watch him eat the trash left on picnic tables. (direct link to video)

I shot this stop motion animation sequence in the food court of the county fair. There's no CGI, and no greenscreen. It's 100% shot in camera at a 1/4 sec. shutter speed.

Those slow shutter speeds put a lot of blur into the background, especially in a busy public place where random people are walking around. 

I wanted the human world to whiz by in a blur in order to convey the impression that the cartoon world exists in a different time dimension.

Blur is something that's hard to get into stop motion characters. The puppet typically holds still during the shot. So unless you blur it digitally in post, fast action is inevitable composed of a series of hard-edged poses. 

That's the case with Otis the Ocelot's walk, which doesn't have any blur. It has a strobing quality since it's shot on 2s.

But blur it's everywhere in live action film. When you freeze-frame any object that's moving quickly in a live-action, the frame is full of motion blur. Speed blur also happens when the camera moves quickly through space.

I've been fascinated by finding ways to get that blur into stop motion. When Sprocket does a fast run, the puppet switches to another one with spinning foot-wheels operated by an overhead wire. 

In the photo above on the right, he's shot with the camera tracking him. The camera is set for continuous shooting at about four frames per second. So there's motion blur and speed blur. 

If your eyes are fast, you might also notice a few frames like the one above, right after Sprocket takes off.

More images like this on the Animation Smears and Multiples blog
Those frames are inspired by the special frames known as "multiples" and "smears" used for fast action in classic animation from the 1940s.

I shot them using this weird sculpt, which I dangle from two fishlines so that it swings back and forth a little during the shot.

Previous posts: 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Eric Pape in Illustration #53

The new issue of Illustration Magazine has a feature on Eric Pape (1870-1938), a golden age American illustrator. He was born in San Francisco and studied under Emil Carlsen before heading to France to study in the academies. Several trips to the Egypt and the Near East cemented his love of Orientalism and exoticism, which became a key part of his work.

The article contains a welcome biography and overview of his career, replete with illustrations that range from his academic studies to his black and white decorate work to his full color illustrations.

There are over 80 images by Pape alone, mostly reproduced in color, and mostly from the original. The issue also includes features on Ellen Clapsaddle and Mel Odom.

You can learn more about Illustration Magazine #53 and preview the issue at this link.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Art Behind the Movie Logos

Behind famous movie branding you'll find hard-working artists and models. Here is 28-year-old model Jenny Joseph resting after posing for the Columbia logo.

Logo ©Columbia, photos  ©Kathy Anderson
Artist Michael Deas painted the original in 1991. It's oil on panel, 21.5 x 40 inches. The painting was digitized and animated so that the clouds move and the light shimmers.

Deas says, "I start with a wooden panel, which is carefully primed and sanded. Then I begin drawing out the image very carefully, in pencil, using a full range of grays — it’s essentially a 19th-century technique called grisaille. Over that I gradually begin applying thin layers of color. It takes forever."

The revamped logo followed decades of earlier versions of the Torch Lady. Deas says: "The concept of draping The Lady in an American flag was dropped, either for legal or trademark issues, I don’t recall exactly."

As a bonus, here is Dario Campanile with his painting of the Paramount's 75th Anniversary logo from 1986. 
Read more: 
The Amazing Shrinking Torch Lady (how her legs were digitally stretched)
via Reddit

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Drawing a Moving Turkey

As you can see from the time lapse video, this turkey was constantly moving. But having a handler bring her around into more or less the same pose made the task of sketching her that much easier.

I just finished writing an article on sketching moving subjects. My article will appear in the first issue of a new UK print magazine about traditional art that will be publishing its first issue soon. More on that later.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Jezebel in the Barn

Jezebel, the 41 year old donkey, is by herself in the barn because all the other donkeys and horses are away being shown at the county fair. She seems a bit lonely and looks out of her stall disconsolately. 

Jeanette goes to the tack room to get her a ginger snap, which is why she makes all the funny faces. 

Curling back the upper lip is called the flehmen response. It's something all donkeys and horses do in the presence of an odor that interests them.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Bosch Parade

In the Netherlands, artists create a parade of floating exhibits in honor of Hieronymus Bosch.
Watch on Youtube
Video by
Thanks, Petros

Sketching Macaws

Binky and Gak, two blue and yellow macaws at the county fair.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Cartoon Tips from the 1930s

Cartoonist Bill Nolan (1896-1954) helped to create the classic rubber hose style of animation when he worked along with Otto Messmer on the Felix the Cat cartoons. 

In 1936, he wrote a little book called Cartooning Self-Taught, which presents the 1930s style.  The heads, hands, and body shapes are based on circles—or really spheres. The pupils are tall pie-cut ovals.

Men's feet are big and clown-like, with a low instep and a balloon toe. Each type of character should have a distinctive shoe: "A tramp needs tattered footwear; a dude requires shoes with spats; a farmer, boots."

Arms and legs get thicker as they go away from the body. Darks are shaded with parallel curving strokes. Poses are extreme and dynamic. Nolan says, "Comics are much more interesting if they seem to be doing something rather than remaining stationary." 

Characters can be created by using circles of different sizes. I like the angry cook with the elbows forward, the fat tycoon, and the cop swinging his billy club.

The dog, bear, and cat are doing a gait called a rack or pace, where both right legs move in tandem and both left legs move in tandem.

An assortment of animals "are all made from combinations of circles," he says. "There is no end to what you can do if you get firmly fixed in your mind the idea of building comics from the basic circles."

You can see the influence not only on the early Disney animators, but also on illustrators like R. Crumb and Dr. Seuss.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Computer translates hand-drawn form modeling

Software engineers have been coming up with tools to make computer-generated forms look less like they were molded from plastic and more like they were drawn by hand.  (Link to YouTube)

StyLit is a new method previewed at SIGGRAPH that lets a user sketch out the light and shadow treatment on a simple form like a sphere. The software then translates that modeling information onto a more complex form in real time. The method could work not only for static illustrations but for animation.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

40k on Instagram

Very excited to reach 40,000 followers on Instagram. If you're on Instagram, please follow out my feed, which includes a new piece of art every day.

Interactive Dynamic Video

Images captured on video contains a lot of subtle movement and vibrations. If the wind is blowing or a heavy truck drives by, objects may shift slightly. This shifting and bending reveals a great deal of information about structure and flexibility.

Image: Abe Davis, MIT / CSAIL
Researchers at MIT have developed a new computer software system that uses the tiny movements recorded from a single camera's perspective and inputs them into a 3D interactive capture of the scene whereby users can manipulate objects in the scene from a variety of control points.

The software has potential not only for structural engineering, but for low-budget special effects, because it allows you to make the environment respond to inputs into the system that you control.(Link to YouTube)

MIT News: Reach in and touch objects in videos with “Interactive Dynamic Video”
Thanks, Michael Stancato

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Food Truck Challenge Results

It was really hard to choose the winners of the Food Truck Painting challenge, because you reported on so many fun adventures and tasty treats. Many of you dealt with weather challenges like unusual heat, blazing sun, or strong wind, or you had to deal with elusive trucks or vehicles blocking your view.

The limited palettes seemed to serve everyone well. Every painting captures a good mix of graphic design, setting, and time of day.

The Grand Prize Winner is Greg PreslickaGreg went out painting with his daughter Leah. 

He says, "It seemed like an easy task to find a food truck on a hot Friday night. We drove to Minneapolis to all the spots we thought would have one without any luck. In Minnesota we have a lot of Brew Pubs that are not allowed to sell food on premise but have food trucks outside for their patrons. That is where we found this one, outside Able Brewing." 

"While painting it a gentleman who was working in the truck approached Leah and me to see what we were painting. He was honored to have his truck in our pictures and offered us food free of charge. We ordered a basket of fries and finished our paintings. It was a good night painting with family and good food. Palette: Cadmium Red, Yellow Ochre, Paynes Grey and white."

Following are the five Finalists, starting with Steve Monske, who showed incredible persistence.

Steve Monske
"I had a semi truck park in front of this entire motif. Last week when I went back to this mobile restaurant it was closed. I started another painting in a different village of a vintage 60's box truck conversion. Then a large pickup parked for 2 hours blocking my view. After the pickup left,..the vintage 60's box truck conversion left early. So I waited a week for the next farmers market, and finish the vintage 60's box truck." 

"But my best laid plans were not to be. Two pickup trucks, both with boat trailers were parked where the 60's box food truck normally parks. Trailers were empty, fisherman were gone, so I scraped that painting. Today was the charm, weather was good, no semi trucks to deal with, and the place was open! Gouache, Aliz, Cobalt bl, Lemon Yel, White"
Nathan Hicks
"Ice cream truck painted outside Smyth's Toy Store. Winsor and Newton Designer's gouache -- Cobalt Blue, Ivory Black, Primary Yellow Deep."

"The photo doesn't accurately convey the hideously windy conditions in that car park... If I had a chance again, I would use Lemon Yellow instead of PYD, because it's almost impossible to mix decent greens with that palette."
The next two finalists were friends who went out together and painted side by side.

Mary Sanche
"Perogy Boyz food truck in Calgary, AB, Canada! Little food truck in the city. Venetian red, naples yellow, payne's gray and white - Winsor and Newton gouache."

"My city has really expanded its herd of food trucks - this one is a good looking vehicle."

Finnegan Matthews
"Same truck as Mary Sanche outside the Calgary Chinese Cultural Center. The sun was blasting down on us the whole time and I wanted to capture the glare of the sunlight reflecting off the metal siding."

"Jack Richeson Casein, alizarin crimson and cobalt blue over a cadmium yellow light underpainting."
Ray Geier
"Wibby Brewing on a HOT day, but found some shade in the one empty parking space. That did not please a few people when they drove into the lot, but they were nice when they came by to see what I was doing."
....and the "Scrumptious Prize" goes to Jeremy Neff. 
Here's his description of one of the chicken dishes served from that red food truck:

"Peruvian Point. Seasonings to reflect that nationality included cilantro rice and chicken with an amazing mustard cheese sauce. The salad was a garden greens salad with home made mustard vinaigrette that took this non vinegar dressing customer to a fan of this dressing. I fell in love and could not stop eating this."
Thanks to everyone for taking part--great work all. Please email me with your mailing addresses, and I'll send you "Department of Art" patches. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Three Steps in Blocking the Hand

The teachers of the Famous Artist's School correspondence course were good at drawing hands, especially Al Dorne, who I believe did these examples. 

They had a useful three-step process for approaching the challenge: 1. Gesture, 2. Construction, and 3. Refinement.

1. Gesture. The first pass shows placement and action, using curving or straight lines. This should be sketched lightly so that you can erase it later.

2. Construction. The second pass conceives the fingers as solid block-like forms. Be aware of relative size of forms.

3. Refinement. Add small forms using lighting that reinforces the structure. Don't lose the large gesture and simple forms worked out in the previous two steps. 

Here are some quotes from the course materials:

"It is helpful to think of the hand as being composed of three masses—the palm, the thumb part, and the mass of the fingers."

"The block method of construction is particularly useful in working out foreshortened views of the hand because it is easier to imagine what happens in perspective to a cube than a finger."

"The nail fits into the top plane of the finger and rises slightly toward the tip. Note how the top plane slants downward from the knuckle to the nail."

"You need never be at a loss for hands to study. Even when drawing, you have another hand to serve as a model at any time. If you place a mirror in front of yourself to reflect your free hand you will have an infinite variety of poses to choose from."
Copies of the Famous Artist School binders appear in the used-book market from time to time. The links below take you to a couple sets on Amazon. Make sure the editions of the binders are from the 1950s, as the quality of the drawings goes down in later versions.

Famous Artists Course 3 binder set
Famous Artists Course Lessons 1 - 24

Many of the same lessons on hands (and heads and figures) were reprinted in a single volume book: The Figure: An Artist's Approach to Drawing and Construction

Monday, August 15, 2016

Menzel's Portraits of Dead Officers

Trigger warning: This post might be unsettling to some people, as it visualizes exhumed corpses.

Because of his knowledge of the military history of the Frederician period, Adolph Menzel was invited to join in an unusual expedition in 1873 into a crypt beneath a garrison church in Berlin, where many military officers were buried.

The coffins had been left in disorder, stacked with no concern for rank, and the bodies needed to be moved to a new location. The explorers pierced the gloom with lanterns, finding the coffins in various states of preservation.

Berlin, Garnisonkirche: corpse of a General
(Friedrich Heinrich Ferdinand Emil Graf Kleist von Nollendorf) in the crypt.
1873. Pencil. 23.8 x 33.2 cm. [9.4 x
13 in.] 
KK. © bpk/ Kupferstichkabinett/SMB/Volker-H. Schneider

As the lids were lifted, recalled Meyerheim, “if there were no names on the coffins, the historians, scholars, and military personnel present had no clue as to whose remains they had before them."

"Menzel alone recognized with great certainty each prince and general by the portions of their uniforms that remained, and only when the body wore simply a plain shroud did his knowledge fail. Of course, he soon made some drawings and came from the scene late that night to visit me and relate many interesting details, after he had washed his hands.”

Menzel drew each corpse urgently, noting the characteristic features in their deathly grimaces, as well as the identifying features of medals, uniforms and boots.

The art and text in this post is an excerpt from my introduction to the new book Adolph Menzel: Drawings and Paintings, available signed from my website store (in stock), and available for pre-order from Amazon (releases Aug. 17). As of today, all of the orders I've received have shipped out.

Today is the final day for submitting your food truck paintings. Check out the Facebook event page to see the impressive paintings that have already been submitted.